The Fear Scale

 I’m partial to pieces that tell a story in some way. In poetry that narrative can be fractured in many ways, often ways that force the listener, reader, to help build the story. One of the structures I use at time is the ‘list poem.’


A top ten list is a good example, though one of favorite books may not tell a story it can tell you something about the reader – but if all the titles are about serial killers, famous unsolved murders, the dummies guide to poisoning, success though off shore banking – then a story can write itself around the titles plus one gets an interesting notion about the maker of the list. Are they a crime writer doing research or someone wanting to bump off an unloved one?


The imagination will start to make connections between random data, items even if the writer intends none. Sort like word association. As random as I may try to pick the photos I post they always inform one another in some sort of narrative. Though often a single photo will have such a subtext I don’t have to say anything about it.


When I do the first draft of a list poem I’m pushing get the ‘items’ on the page. Later drafts I change sequence, pacing, and allow a gentle layer of plot to settle. There’s an excellent Joyce Carol Oates piece that tells a story through notes on contributors. It inspired me to tackle various list structures. Hence the ‘Fear Scale.’



The Fear Scale

on a scale of 1 to 10

10 being the more fear inducing

please rate the following:



TV infomercials


brain surgery

pop music

Alice Cooper’s golf score

broken glass on the highway

heavy breathing behind you at the movies

the store not having your favorite breakfast cereal

finding a finger in a hamburger

losing your wallet

breaking a nail

breaking a finger

breaking a heart

being seen with me in pubic

finding a dollar in your shoe

getting out of bed in the morning in an empty house that was once filled with our supposedly everlasting love

taking the garbage out

throwing out old shoes

throwing out someone

getting a birthday card

getting a bill

getting a notice from a collection agency

getting married

giving blood

bleeding on the dance floor

bleeding in a hot hot bath

heavy breathing beside you at the movies

getting a wrong number


NSinc reunion


a cd that skips

our favorite song on the radio

getting a tattoo

having a tattoo removed by laser

having open heart surgery

meeting a stranger

meeting the stranger you now live with

losing a job

losing a reason to live

being sorry

not being sorry

not giving a shit about anything

saying the wrong thing

saying the right thing

not saying anything

being blind

having your eyes plucked out by sparrows



re-runs of Judge Judy

facing Tyra Banks

dark basements

thunder storms

strange noises in the next room

sudden laugher on an empty street

your mother

your father

my mother

my father

telling your father

telling my mother

writing a cheque

being told your credit card has been cancelled

ice cream

peanut butter sandwiches

children playing

having children

not having children

being a child

missing school

missing the mark

cutting the cake

having cancer

being inattentive

cell phones

telemarketers at supper time

colouring books

broken crayons

sweeping the floor

sweeping it under the rug

sleeping alone

waking alone

repeating yourself

being told to shut it

not know when to say what

being belittled for being

heavy breathing coming from you at the movies

wearing the wrong shoes

not wearing shoes

too much after shave

looking too long at the sun

counting all the stars


toilet stalls

wet floors in restaurant washrooms




dinner wear

mashed potatoes

over-cooked pork chops

free bonus offers

lingering regrets

timid apologies