Wednesday, September 7, 2011

bliss landing

is closer
than you think

seventeen minutes

this journey
towards bliss
begins with four taureans
in a black vehicle
a grey and white cat
a ferryman named pete
in a red cap

cross the water
pass the ragged islands
to a dock
with four totem poles
where sun smacks the ocean
blue mountains
in the distance


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One gay day in July (2011)

Walter Quan's delightful rainbow sushi candles! divine!
Sometimes it’s nice not to be a cancer patient. Some days it’s great not to be on chemo. To have some energy, to go out! To do just what I want, just what I like. Go where I want, eat what I want, see who I like. My motto these days, go late, come home early.

The day started a little oddly with me making a hole in the wall during a sharp turn of my chairiot in the hallway. Then my prayer beads bracelet broke as I was trying to get off the bus on Commercial. The bus driver and passengers helped me pick them up and I stowed them safely away in my bag. Uncharacteristically for me I refused to consider either of these misfortunes as omens of anything. The sun was finally shining and I was determined to have a good day.

Soon I was licking a pina colada popsicle at the Dyke March Concert. I saw, U, and V. C and J, L, B, C. I had a great time catching up with everyone in the sun amongst the rainbow festivities. Enjoying the music and the inimitable Morgan Brayton as the ever present effervescent MC. Eating a Sweet Cherubim’s tofu rice samosa I wended my way past blooming flower gardens back to Commercial drive. Where I bumped into M and N. I called out to Y from my poetry class and we walked down Commercial drive and took the bus in to town, chatting animatedly about writing all the way.

I got off at Oppenheimer Park and went to the centre of all things Japanese, the Powell St Festival craft market where hundreds of people were enjoying the day. Browsing amongst the tents, I was taken by the variety and quality of the wares. I wanted to buy everything! Settling for a range of beautiful cards, layers of fabric, paper, pressed flowers, burgundy and pink. One with the word ‘laugh’ written in gold in the centre of a ring of tiny blossoms. A blue and gold fridge magnet with the symbol for ‘dream’ on it. Some copies of Ricepaper literary journal, always a good read. A small green pottery bowl for A, and the best from W from BC Arts Council who has managed to combine 3 of my favourite things, sushi, art and rainbow pride. In the exquisitely subversive gay pride colored centres rolled beeswax candle sushi. Divine! He was cheerfully crocheting a purple eggplant at the time I dropped by! So fun!

After another short bus ride, I rolled up Seymour St to where my friends G and D, are staying while their flooded apartment is repaired. Bearing a gift of a blue and gold fridge magnet with the symbol for ‘friend’. D and I had a refreshing swim in the outdoor seawater pool with a vista of the city skylines, me mostly just floating, relaxing. D gives me a lemon meringue from today’s farmers market, to take home and share with A, so sweet and thoughtful. She’s off at a gathering dancing the light fantastic with Lucie Blue Tremblay.

To my final festival of the day on my way home at Canada Place, next to the seabus, with a view of the breathtaking blue on the horizon Northshore Mountains across the inlet. The Public Dreams Society Illuminaires lantern festival. Cute to see the children in their fairy costumes carrying homemade lanterns. Alas my camera ran out of batteries at the pool so no more photos of things and people seen and heard. ( But here is some one else's photos ( : ) Like the giant heron lantern to be carried by several people. Meandering amongst the crowds munching a Sweet Cherubim’s aptly named chocolate bliss ball. Saw J from A’s choir running past, late, with green glitter lipstick and a drum, and D and D stopped to chat. Grooving with the festive mood I had my photo taken at a booth with dressup clothes, in an decorated ‘alladins’ type hat. Time to head home. All on accessible public transit. Grateful ( ;

Perhaps today reminded me of a summer’s day in early February in NZ. When we would go me, and A, and J and J, to The Big Gay Out, in Point Chevalier park, and bump into people we knew. Later we would pile into a car with my manual collapsible wheelchair and J’s walker and go to the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival that always seemed to be on the same day. J’s daughter, J, would be so good about pushing my wheelchair, and we would find good food to eat, and wander in wonder amongst the lanterns hanging in the trees. The young, the old, and the crip, the queer, like the strange little family that we are, and have the best day ever.

Friday, July 29, 2011

east of cambie

astride a wharf pile

cormorant feathering

her neck

pair of canada geese

head under wing

 in a row

pecking at wet barnacles

in cleft of log

a crow.

 (some photos to go with it ( : )

Monday, April 4, 2011


after the cancer
ate in to
her left humerus
she lost her
sense of humour

she had avoided
node removals
as a writer
never sure
she could give up
the use of her left arm
for any length of time
6 weeks, 6 months, a year

what now?
destined to become
a one armed bandito
tip tap typing

she thought often of Frida
the operations, amputations,
corsets, perambulations,
angles of beds, mirror, paints
being transported to her exhibition
triumphant in a small bed

don’t speak to me
about radiation poisoning
afraid it may reach you
from Japan
put the iodine back on the shelf
send your money to the red cross
who will surely help the survivors
my head throbs
skin burns hot and cold
bones ache
insides shake

this is radiation ‘treatment’
to save, salve,
salvage, stave, stove
my spinacular molecules

i pray for the people of Japan
new zealand
living and dead
offer a moment
of peace
into the uncertainty
of our

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Barbara Hammer and eating popcorn

The day started out ordinarily enough. All I was trying to accomplish was to record my writing classes  from the yearly schedule in to my Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986) paintings datebook. Which took several hours of meticulous careful work - interrupted  by many phone calls. The home care nurse to change their calls to monthly instead of weekly - given that I am nearly better I expect this is a good idea. The technician to tell me they don't have any extra-tall seat backs in stock right now for the electric chairiot ....hmmmm. To try to get a yearly bus pass for me and the chairiot instead of special transportation subsidy - it's too complicated to explain, call back in March. My GP to tell me she is on it with the bone density tests, but despite recent boney events, she is worried I don't qualify, there is not a box to tick for me - even if treatments leave me with the bones of a 60 year old. A different nurse to make a time for a monthly injection - the one that leaves me with the bones of a 60 year old. The new supervisor, of the home care workers came by in person to meet me. Now don't get me wrong I am mighty grateful for health care and whatever kind of assistance I receive, and the people who give it. I just never realized how complicated my life is in one day! 

barbara hammer with camera  as younger and older woman
Come evening time, things got way more fun! I went with  two friends (the same two as from the chairiot coast adventure) to the movies! We were going to see the Barbara Hammer (1939 - ) touring retrospective show Making movies out of sex and life. I saw some of her movies in the 1980's in Aotearoa. The fact she has been making experimental films - some 80 in 40 years is remarkable  reason enough to get dressed up on a winter night and head out in to the sleet. I had tried quite hard online the night before to find out how to buy tickets in advance with no success. All information said tickets at the door, doors open at 6pm. I wasn't taking any chances, we were there at 6pm on the dot. There were already 20 or so people waiting in the freezing cold of the ticket line up. The show was sold out in advance, the ticket booth was not open and would not be open until 6.45pm, no we could not go inside in the meantime. Things looked grim. It was starting to snow.

We did not have any of the mysteriously reserved tickets, nor the yellow arm bands of the many participating organizations. My charming companion miss brain face stuck close by one of the organizers of a group she has participated in, stuck like glue. Miraculously one arm band appeared   - we each insisted the other should go in, and then two spare yellow arm bands materialized, very very grateful! Alas no more could be found, our faithful companion was sick of standing around in the cold, and had been wanting to see the movie The King's Speech for some time, she would just make a 7pm screening at a nearby cinema. She graciously departed for it post haste.

barbara hammer smiling
 I schmoozed a little on my way in to the theatre, my companion, miss 80, thoughtfully found us seats at the back just in from the aisle. While I was off chatting with a friend, my companion discovered the black jacket on the seat next to us belonged to none other than the filmmaker herself, Mz Barbara Hammer. They chatted and became instant buddies. I was very excited to meet her, we talked some about filmmaking, our common history of cancer, the Guerrilla Grrls and having your career pick up when you are 80! (She is 71). She was so down to earth and approachable. How typical of a filmmaker to sit at the back -  you can observe unnoticed your audience's reaction to your work - which is always fascinating to see. 

After introductions, we watched Dyketactics (1974), No No Nooky TV (1981), SYNC TOUCH (1987), and A Horse is not a metaphor (2008), the latter about her journey with ovarion cancer.  There were times I wanted to take both her, and my companion's hands, knowing what each had been through as survivor, and witness, but I was too shy. At the end of the show before Mz Hammer was called down the front for an illuminating Q and A, she turned to us and said, 'I bequeath you my popcorn'. If I had been a different kind of person I would have kept it and sold it on e-bay. But I am not, and so I did as she had intended in giving it to us, and ate it!

Hammer! book cover
Barbara Hammer is a great public speaker, warm, almost theatrical. I was very interested in her decision on noticing her early work was picked up by lesbian audiences but not mainstream art houses, to make work not focused on lesbians and women in her mid career work - and it was then picked up by galleries. Her later work bringing it all back in to focus. She answered audience questions with honesty and gusto. Finished by reading from her recently published memoir Hammer! Making movies out of sex and life, a beautiful piece to her partner, in the lyrical repetitive style of Gertrude Stein. Alas all her books were sold out in the foyer, so words about that remain for another day.

of Desires book cover
Our faithful companion arrived to transport us home through the falling snow, having thoroughly enjoyed her movie The King's Speech, it made her weep and learn much. On the way home we picked up the mail, which included a debut book of poetry from my dear gay compatriot Billy Darlington. We were all a little giggly from the evenings wondrous events, so we ate pancakes and honey with lemon, when that was not enough we moved on to fruitcake with sherry and read aloud from Billy Darlington's book of Desires, appropriately enough starting with the erotic poem 0359.

Ellen Galford and The Fires of Bride

book cover with Celtic knotwork
For writing class we had to write about a work of a writer we like.  I  chose Ellen Galford’s The Fires of Bride for its no-nonsense style, which evokes both a down to earth pragmatism, and an as given magical realism, whether she is writing about kippers or ghosts. Galford (1947 - )writes with a sensory physicality in the present tense: to describe recent remote rural Scotland, an ancient nunnery, pagan or Viking times, with an immediacy that transports you there. Her approach is to use small practical details to create a sense of place, time, and character. She is very good at writing from a range of characters point of view in terms of their language and attitudes. Whether that be a stroppy sculptor Maria, playful blind weaver Isa, or a career driven archaeologist. Something I need to work at – getting inside different characters heads and voices. Ellen Galford's approach makes a range of cultures accessible, fun, and funny, so that you want to go there.

One of the characters Mhairi, is a nun in a scriptorium some centuries ago, learning the illustrated arts of writing as a pictorial calligrapher. To me it is a metaphor about writing generally. In part it says ‘there are 17 different shades of blue’ and then she goes on to describe some of them from calligrapher Mhairi’s point of view. This challenges me to think how I could describe each one, and how to create mood by precise creative distinctiveness, choosing each word carefully.

Galford’s narrative of Mhairi’s apprenticeship as a calligrapher under the tutelage of the stern Bloduedd who for a year only lets Mhairi trace letters others have formed, is a metaphor for me of writing as a hard task master. To begin with you may copy the forms of others, say in poetry using rhyming couplets and writing on topics dictated by teachers. As you gain confidence you may develop your own form, style, rhythm, and narrative. Writing, like all arts may require a period of apprenticeship, it continues to require discipline, dedication, creativity, patience.

In one section Mhairi collects flowers, berries and shells to make the colors for her illustrations, burns her hand on the acid of a red berry while preparing it, which leaves a scar. Hints at the power of writing to change you, not just mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, but also physically. It changes your muscles, how you hold your body, how you sit, how you read. 

As testament of the power of a book to change us, over twenty years ago the Scriptorium in which this scene is set became a kind of magical place referred to among other writers who had read the book. In honour of me going to writers school this year, a fellow writer from far away, had a sign made for my room and mailed it to me, it says: Scriptorium.

In the late 1980’s when we read Fires of Bride, a roommate made a beautiful painted coat based on one of the other main characters in the book – Catriona, a GP who paid her way through medical school by working as a fortune teller. Fires of Bride is full of such  wondrous contradictions which appeal to me. I still have this coat.

So intrigued was I by the remote Scottish Isles where this book was set, I once traveled there just to be amongst the standing stones, the people, the Gaelic, the heaving north sea, and the windswept landscape.  

I can aspire to writing words that could evoke: creative imaginative spaces; artwork; or journeys in others; and speak to the future. 
standing stone circle isle of lewis


Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy New Year!

I celebrated the end of 3 months in a hospital bed by taking off in an electrified vehicle! New years even went like this: I had to go in my manual wheelchair to have some blood tests, it's a regular event. Breaks the monotony of the past months at home in an electric hospital bed, staring out the window and dreaming about the future. 

It seemed like 30 people arrived in the waiting room and took their number form the line-up ticket dispenser right after I arrived, glad I had avoided the news eve rush. When I was done and they had stuck the plaster on the puncture in my arm I wheeled the few feet in to the waiting room to free up clinic room 2.  Perhaps from the exertion of getting there, my veins were really pumped. I was about to press down on the plaster for the required 2 minutes when I saw blood coming through the tiny holes in the plaster and and dripping down my arm. Two staff rushed to patch me up so as not to alarm the other patients. I really don't like the sight of blood, especially my own, makes me kind of squeamish and nauseous, prone to fainting. 

Which may be why I was vomiting down the toilet at home when the guy called to say he could drop off the electric wheelchair after all. I hadn't been throwing up with any regularity since the early days of this recent medical adventure, when I stopped taking the morphine. He was still working when so many people had taken the afternoon off.

I got cleaned up and 20 minutes later I had my new wheels; electric, tilt, chair; nice!  To match, and get me out of, my electric tilt bed! All rented of course, but hey, its' progress. As my friend joke with me recently, it's all about the gadgets with you.

To familiarize myself with my electrified human transportation, did I take a trip to the local shops? No! I grabbed my already-packed-for-the-weekend-just-in-case backpack, took 3 buses and a ferry and went to visit friends! I had a bit of a wait at the ferry terminal for the last bus to my destination. I reclined back in the chair in comfort as dusk fell over a panorama of snow capped mountains. A family of otters swam by.  The arms open wide welcome I got from my friends as I arrived off the bus in the glow of the one street lamp was definitely worth the trip! They had worked with others in the co-operative community to line the path between the houses with lights. Paper bags with pebbles and tea lights in them glowed all the way up the hill in welcome. 

I had a rest, snacks were put put, people dropped by. When midnight arrived I played my thumb piano, and our host distributed musical instruments to the willing. Some one played a harmonica, rather well, there were shakers and drums. We all joyfully, musically, noisily rang in the new year, complete with auld lang syne

After a sleep, the next morning, a pancake breakfast materialized in the common room, off the guest suite I was staying in. Thanks to a fellow disability artist who cooks up the feast with a compadre every year. Pajamas were expected attire, so all I had to do was splash water on my face, hope in my chairiot (more about that later) drop in my donation, and wheel up to the pancakes! 

Post breakfast, I was so excited to be up and about in the morning and on a sunny day, I bundled up and cajoled my sleepy ambulatory companions to go for a walk. I zoomed down the road to the beach yelling 'I'm walking, I'm walking!" Although clearly I was not. I was however going somewhere with no effort just for the fun of it, which obviously to me means taking a stroll. There were eagles in the tree tops, a beach full of ice covered logs, loons on the silken blue water, and clear sky's. 

I did get stuck in a freshly graveled area of the path. The wheels dug in, spun, finally the chairiot stopped and the spanner light flashed. My friends went to find help, wood to put under the wheels; and brute force - I was concerned for their backs, the chairiot is REALLY heavy. By the time the first helper arrived I had freed the chairiot from the deep gravel and was back on firm ground. Having used a combination of patience, determination, and ingenuity.

Chairiot - chariot is self-explanatory, this is a big sturdy regal vehicle, quite dignified.  Wheelchairs used to be made of wicker chairs, with big wheels and were called bath chairs. 

I am going to school next week -writing school. I spent the new years eve ferry ride over chatting with a fellow artist I know who has also recently returned to school. As is one of the new years eve neighbors who dropped by, about to be. We are all excited, hopeful, eager to learn.

After months feeling stuck in bed and thinking like I may not be able to go anywhere, to a rural weekend adventure, telling tales about remote Scottish Isles we had been to. I feel much more ready to face 2011!