Mummy Wrappings

In the continuing pandemic lockdown I’ve been using some mornings to clean up & clean out the basement, which has become as cluttered with relics as an Egyptian tomb, only no mummies (yet). A repository of what is essentially junk saved for a rainy day. So donning a set of sweats dedicated to housework, & for the basement, a face mask to deal with the dust, I’ve been venturing down for an hour or two at a time.

Here are choice items that have been holding their own (as well as dust & cobwebs) for some time. These first are laundry room decor. This portrait of  H M Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) is by Salomon van Abbé. Yes, I did a bit of research. It was in the basement when we moved into the house over forty years ago. It was in the remains of frame & already water stained. There is probably a companion portrait of the King. These were found in nearly every school across Canada at the time. I remember a similar one of the current Queen in Sydney schools. Every class room had one.

Beside her is a paint-by-number I picked up, framed, at a yard sale. Paris? in the rain. At least Chez TonTon suggests Paris, as does the shape of the kiosk with the posters on it. I’m not sure of the horse-drawn cart in front of TonTon – it does suggest a time before autos. Where they getting a delivery of bread?

Under Paris is this marvellous velvet painting that I found on the street in Montreal in the late 90’s. I used to visit Montreal a week or so every summer for a bilingual AA round-up. Even though the painting is signed ‘Ramon’ (I think) it is clearly out of a painting sweatshop where ‘artists’ would go from one canvas to the next – one artist specialized in clouds, another in water ripples etc.

Finally, for this visit to the underbelly, I found this placemat. It was wrapped around some plumbing fixture & held in place with an elastic. I guess there was a mummy after all 🙂 I unwrapped the fixture & was happy I did. I love this prime example of late sixties graphics. Coarse fabric, no makers tags, & it washed up a treat. I had never seen it before but my partner had a very vague memory of it. The mummy was tossed but its wrappings were resurrected.

resurrected from the vaults – from October 1978 – I moved to Toronto in May 1978 – I was living in an apartment on Sherbourne near Isabella.

The Pause

the pause


not to reflect

but to hesitate

even here

where the cards are on the table

where it’s all below the belt

we use

the pause

for eyes to flash away

for eyes to consent 

even

after the rite of second glancing

after the facts of being here

there is

the pause

the fear

the guilt the frustration the fury

fury that descends to depression

depression that fears

the pause

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Recap February 2021

Over the past month my TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 463! The WordPress map shows my hits in February have come from 91 countries around the world. Mainly USA & Canada with South Africa in 3rd spot! Bangladesh & Malawi remain in the top 10. The most viewed (non-photo essay) was The Thieving Slut, https://topoet.ca/2021/02/15/the-thieving-slut/, with F**k Gratitude, https://topoet.ca/2021/02/11/fk-gratitude/ close behind. Both are personal faves.

My Tumblr following is at 304. Twitter 229 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along with 56 sections, about 84,500 words, posted so far, with 101,000 words approx to be edited, then posted. This month I was at the point where I got sidetracked in the rough draft so I did major cut of about 5000 words. The cut removed a scene I didn’t need but a character I did need so re-invented him keep the flow. A fun challenge.

I watched some interesting movies including O Ébrio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Ébrio_(film)). Out of Brazil,1946, starring popular singer Vicente Celestino – who co-wrote it with Gilda de Abreu, who was also his wife. Imagine an Elvis film set in 1946 – fame & faithless women & songs & redemption. Eye-catching costumes for the women. A fascinating look at the culture of the time. The music & lyrics are idealized romantic, religious & dripping with sincerity. Performances are good to adequate, with some sweet silent-movie nods.

Another, an even wilder musical, is the Polish film The Lure (2015) directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska. One critic calls it “the best goth musical about man-eating mermaids ever made.” I wouldn’t call 80’s EuroDisco Goth but … the music is sublime, the visuals at times are stunning & performances good. Plotting uneven but well worth watching. I saw both of these as part of TCM series of women directors.

A couple of books I’m currently reading. Paper: Coming Out Under Fire by Allan Bérubé about gay men and women in the U.S. military between 1941 and 1945. This quote ‘ … being a homosexual, I had that constant compelling need to prove how virile I was.’ still remains one of the male gender identity struggles. The book is stunning – easy to read, easy to understand & at time heartbreaking & frustrating.  Read it asap.

Kindle: Fairs’ Point: A Novel of Astreiant by Melissa Scott book 4 in the series. I read the first in this series a few years ago. It was part of a StoryBundle of 10 lgbtq fantasy/horror novels & I loved it. I’ve read the pervious in the series. Amazing world building, sweet male lovers & understated sex scenes. Set in a magic Mediaeval land. Only one more in the series after this one though 😦

in clearing out an archive of old writing in a file cabinet I found this piece from the early 80’s. It is about HIV fears but some of the lines about ‘a virus more virulent than love’ echo the current covid19 pandemic where a stranger’s breath could be deadly. Replace roses with masks & it’s ready for today

war/mist

1

i’m pressing the mirror

to my face

not looking for contact

not seeking any content

needing any slight

sign of mist

to reassure me

i’m still alive

i’m still breathing

<>

hey! it’s alright everybody

i’m still breathing

there’s nothing breeding in me

hey! you guys

don’t you hear me

I’m still breathing

2

something in the blood of lovers

has brought this war

to my attention

to my very front door

to my one & only bedroom

sullen pillow whispers

imploring an unwilling caution

for this angry end to innocence 

<>

‘so, we don’t meet again’

a thought

in the corner of my eye

catching you

wandering through the throng

of sights unseen

untouched

a man missed again by me

a stranger in your mist

<>

a kiss is no longer a kiss

it’s an affront to our political awareness

it’s flirting with a virus

more virulent than love

a disease befuddled by language

leaving us

untouching

unflinching

imploding

& afraid

<>

so i’ll send you roses

yellow green black

olive drab camoflage

for our war of wait & see

our war of hide

then die

<>

a lift of the hand

a nod of the head

a thin smile of acknowledgement

i practice the arts

of indifferent recognition

so i can cast them upon

unobtainable flights of obsession

‘is this the wave of the future?

or just an unobservable mannerism

by this stranger in your mist

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Rocky Road Toronto

During the Spring days of the pandemic lockdown these painted pebbles began showing up on front lawns & gardens. Clearly parents with kids stuck at home were finding fun ways to keep them busy.

cute mask
bee happy
strawberry patch
dots nice
donuts with sprinkles?
red e
hello snoopy
lady bug coven
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Misanthrope – Me?

“A misanthrope is a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society. Misanthropy is the general hatred, dislike, distrust or contempt of the human species, human behaviour or human nature.”

Over the past pandemic months I have been taking in zoom recovery meetings. Invariably some members share effusively how much they miss the face-to-face contact with other members, how much they appreciate seeing the familiar faces on their screen & they can’t wait for ‘real’ meetings to start up again. 

I don’t miss any of that. As for familiar faces I minimize my zoom feed most of the time to audio only, to reduced the distraction of all those faces as they eat, drink, pick their noses, nervously flip their hair around, or, all to often, rub their faces in their pet’s fur. What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel this same emotional longing for folks?

So I looked up the meaning of misanthrope. but I neither dislike or avoid human society. I do enjoy my own company & don’t feel this emotional longing for group contact. But I don’t live alone, nor have I seen the lockdown as an excuse for not spending limited, face-to-face social distant time with friends in recovery. To be perfect freak, & shallow, what I miss about recovery meetings is the opportunity to wear a great shirt/tee-shirt to brighten the day for people.

What I don’t miss are colds & people thinking I am ‘weird’ because I refuse to join hands in closing a meeting.

Boundary 

if I could change the boundary

of what you want 

to what I have

then we might be on an equal footing

<>

your ideals are set too high

for anyone to approach 

if you could see

beyond the narrow margin of victory

you demand

perhaps it would be possible

for you to vote me into power

<>

not that I want power over you

for long

forever would be fine

but if it doesn’t work

you can reassign the boundaries

to keep me out for good

but as it is 

you keep in only what you want

to provide a tentative sense of security

<>

safety isn’t in walls or numbers

but to fearlessly let yourself be exposed

perhaps the natives 

will not attack

maybe we will be the attackers

you only have energy to lose

and nothing to gain

<>

what is holding you back

from letting us swarm all over

the body politic

all over the sacred hidden territory

free yourself of these encumbrances

this sense of inviolate sacredness

that doesn’t allow for growth 

only stern sameness

<>

surely you welcome change

or is it that you only welcome

change you can control

yet those boundaries

seem to change with each decision

letting this

disallowing that

<>

if the unwashed creep to close

push them away

draw that line in the sand

they roll around in

they won’t cross it

except with a finger or two

off with their hands

into their cups

down with their wants

up with your arms

shoot to thrill

missing isn’t half as bad

as a bullseye

even stray bullets can find a target

why bother aiming at all

the ballot awaits 

your trigger finger


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F**k Gratitude

The lockdown is loosening up or is it? Information is unclear – am I in a grey zone or a red zone – maps are no help but it is clear that the risk levels haven’t gone down because the numbers going down – or are they. More contagious strains are being flown in to make sure the case loads remains steady. Big Box stores are given tax breaks while smaller merchants are being given eviction notices. Let’s face it take out bacon & eggs is not worth the effort. The travel mug industry needs a bail out.

I do have a lot to be grateful for – actually I’m not fond of the self-help notion of gratitude. You know being told to make of the things you are grateful for if you are feeling down or stressed. It is usually done begrudgingly  – oh great the stress of making another fucking list 🙂 I’m grateful that I can walk, I can breathe etc. 

It becomes another way of berating oneself for not being satisfied & fulfilled by the obvious. One is not not only unhappy, they are now guilted for not taking joy in each breath. I express gratitude for being able to see by actually looking a things. Each photo I take is gratitude, I share it by sending those pictures to friends – I’d rather send a picture than tell them to make a gratitude list.

I prefer a mental bliss list – things that bring me bliss. This winter my indoor orange tree had a morning glory vine wrapped around it, which has give me delicate morning glory blossoms every couple of weeks. Seeing a certain someone walking up to my house is joy. Chopin’s Scherzos & Ballades are sheer bliss. I make sure there a moment of bliss every day – moments that are easy to find without being forced or guilted into searching for them. 

Increase your bliss & gratitude will flourish.

Tired In My Skin

I start this day

after a good night’s sleep

tired

tired of going through the motions

tired of

changing the motions

yet getting the same results

the endlessness of it all

is boring

it is no longer a challenge

to resist the temptation

to go back to bed

<>

my skin is tired

of holding my body together

of holding everything in

my bones are tired

of holding everything up

joints find movement tedious

eyes see the same old same old

the spirit is weary of

the the search for purpose

the search for fulfillment

when going back to bed

is so alluring

more alluring

than moving in any direction

<>

not that I’ve been everywhere

not that I don’t dream

of the end to this lockdown

an end to the weaponization of breath

but to dream

I have to go back to bed

breath deep 

drift off

get a good night’s sleep

wake up

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2020 Umbrella Blues

Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew from 363 to 445! That’s over 80 new followers without me going out of my way beyond blogging regularly. The WordPress map show my hits have come from some 85 countries around the world. India still tops the list is interest but that Italy & Japan are in the top 10 is a surprise. Kenya still in the top 20 – but Malawi! Still no hits from North Korea 😦

The 2020 post that got the most hits was https://topoet.ca/2020/06/10/catholic-girls/ but a post from 2014 made a surprise showing too https://topoet.ca/2014/01/24/born-to-be-blown/. The post with the most all-time hits is also from 2014: https://topoet.ca/2014/06/06/there-was-the-word/. My Tumblr is at 295. It would be much higher but I frequently block follows for buxom babes, porn slam (shooting up crystal meth) sites. Twitter 229 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along nicely with 48 sections, just over 73,000 words posted so far with about 116,000 words to be edited & then posted. Editing it is fun &though I recollect most of the plot I am getting to expand somethings & fill in others. I need a cheat sheet of names at all times though.

In this has been the year of the pandemic, I never expected to be living in a scifi movie. The threat is real but the stress comes from not knowing when or if it might strike me. I take all the precautions, masks, hand washing & social distancing – which have all proved to be enough so far. Zoom has become one of my best friends 🙂

Getting to AA meetings is simple & no having to deal with winter wear has been an additional plus. Members there frequently mention how they miss all the face-to-face contact but you know I’m indifferent to it. I have never been one for social gathering , of any sort, of more than four or five people. Another bonus is this lack of social contact has resulted in no colds or flu, so far, this winter. I’ve quickly embraced face masks & have amassed a nice collection with fun patterns. a few solid colours, that allow me to feel less medical when I put one on. One way of making masks work is to make them fashion. But I’m not enjoying the realization that going to the store for a loaf of bread is actually playing Russian roulette without knowing who is holding the gun.

My 2020 plans for Capturing Fire in Washington never materialized & I doubt if I’ll be visiting the US, or anywhere else, even in Canada, until 2022. With the travel industry decimated even in country travel will be a challenge. No boats, trains, buses or airplanes to the Maritimes  might bring back the car 🙂 It isn’t clear what will happen with the Stratford Festive, they have planned a season but social distancing requirements may scuttle it even if the vaccine roll out goes well. Maybe one will need a proof of vaccine to get in to see a show? Maybe a return to classical Greek theatre style where all the performers wore masks?

Umbrella Blues

that rain is wet

comes as no surprise

it’s just that sometimes

I’m bored of the rain

tired of its endless fall

the sound of the drop

the feel of it on my skin 

by rain

I mean life

<>

not that life is wet

but it’s just that sometimes

I’m weary of it all

even more so these covid days

<>

so far

I’ve dodged that bullet 

as the numbers of infected

go up & up 

I’m not yet in that number

I say a prayer of gratitude

but I’m tired of dodging that bullet

to go the the store

to walk down the street

<>

peeved by walking into on coming traffic

to create social distance

between me and others

on sidewalks narrowed by patios

I’m weary of the worry

of the avoidance

of the feel survivor’s guilt

<>

have you seen my umbrella

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Stratford photos taken a day trip earlier in 2020.

MISSING: 2020

I miss the smell of the restaurant – of food cooking, of someone serving the meal & taking away my dirty dishes, of being able to ask for suggestions. Taking your chicken souvlaki out of a paper bag and finding out it is pork isn’t the same as seeing it on the plate & sending it back right away. I miss plating – the art of someone else arranging food on your plate.

I missing being able to give your order at a coffee shop without having to shout through your mask & over-enunciate words like ‘sweet & low’ & having to repeat yourself as they still don’t hear clearly over the music. I miss paying for things with cash. What do people without plastic do?

I miss wearing shirts to public events, because there are no public events to wear them to. I have a wardrobe based on public appearances, even if the appearance is meeting someone for lunch or doing a feature in front an eager audience of poetry fans. The face mask has replaced the shirt, the t-shirt for now.

Shopping has changed here in Ontario. Not that I spent a lot of time in stores but I miss the sense of destination, of discovery as I browsed the aisles looking. When I do shop I am focused on what I want but there are times when going through the tables of remaindered books at Book City, or even Indigo, results is amazing discoveries. 

Not that I mind online shopping for most things & I sure do love packages showing up at my door but I miss the hunt. No more impulse shopping. No more checking every aisle in the grocery store for specials, now it’s all about following the right arrows to maintain social distance. 

I missing not knowing what day of the week it is because I’m no longer doing what I used to do every Wednesday that took me out of the house. My cell phone now tells me what day of the week it is. I think this is Monday.

Old Feet New Shoes

it’s never a fresh start

there is no clean page

no expanse of innocent white

to start in on

there is always a past 

something to remember to avoid 

lessons learned

something to escape from

to forget

to write over scribble out 

<>

new shoes always go on old feet

we stand on what we are familiar with 

bring the same skill set 

to each fresh opportunity

to do the same thing in a different place

yet how different is the place 

a chair is always a chair

lights are always lights

<>

different shades fabrics 

but new jeans are still jeans

same hair changed style

anxious for the new

as if the old 

was worthless inferior

<>

why should things last at all

the longer cars last 

the fewer cars get sold

the fewer cars get sold

the economy grinds to a halt

people are out of work

it’s all your fault

you fucking pedestrians

we’ll make narrower sidewalks 

to discourage all that walking

<>

nothing new in this same old rant 

about the same pointless crap

words won’t fuel the economy

who reads 

who listens 

who cares

nobody wants a fresh start

just new shoes

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Decking The Covid Halls 2020

Over the years the decking of my house has become more elaborate. Every room  had its share of holiday decor – figurines, snow globes, even action figures. Of course there was also the tree, the lights, the porch ‘treatment’ & of course festive towels & linens. Friends would add ornaments to the magic. Much of it was done for our Christmas feast guests or friends who would drop by. Thanks to covid19 restrictions that isn’t going to happen to the same extent this year.

Perhaps that’s just as well so that I could give some of those things a rest. Let’s leave the snow globe collection in the box for change, what’s the point of that kitch crèche? As a result things remain in their bins & boxes. In fact as I sorted what to put out this year I tossed things. Thanks for the memories but bye bye.

Opting for simplicity meant less staple gun noise 🙂 The lights went up, the tree went up, the linens got washed & will be used but the bulk of the treasure remain in their bins & boxes. You know not having all that hanging tinsel is fine. Next year maybe they’ll get hung in the trees on the front lawn. 

The festive lights remained a must though because they aren’t just for me, they are for everyone & anyone who sees them. This year, in out neighbourhood, they seem to have gone up sooner & gotten fancier. I’ve going out some nights after supper to do a walk around different blocks to enjoy them. I stopped to talk to one woman about her lights & she said, what I figured most people are thinking, ‘we need lights in this dark covid climate.’

https://topoet.ca/2016/12/16/lights-delight-2016/

Yes, let there be less interior clutter & more external light.

Christmas 1983

The Word Is 

this was this word 

I knew a child

it was Welsh or Gaelic

it meant love

a kind of love 

I no longer experience

<>

I learned it from a neighbour 

of my grandmother’s

when I was visiting Wales 

one summer

she gave me toast 

with mayo and tomatoes

she baked the bread herself

I’ve never tasted bread like that again

sort of burned and peppery

<>

I didn’t really like it

but I liked her

she taught me all these words

how to say things

I don’t remember

about plants playing 

the in sunlight

about kittens saving puppies

she made me laugh

<>

then I came back to Canada

all I could remember was that one word

the word I’ve forgotten

for love

not just any kind of love

I used to feel for a boy in school

he wasn’t even in my class

I would feel it whenever I saw him

but when I didn’t see him

I didn’t even think of him

I never even knew his name

just the way his eyes would make me feel

even if he wasn’t looking at me

I’d spot him

and feel this yearning

not to know him

but just to look at him

to watch him

playing with the other boys

they would run shout tackle each other

<>

if you asked me what I was feeling

I couldn’t tell you

I might have said that word 

I no longer remember

for a feeling I no longer have

for someone 

I can’t in my mind

beyond his eyes

<>

all I see is this scramble of bodies

tussling in the school yard dirt

then us lining up to go back into the school

sitting in rows in the class room

trying to learn math 

spelling

that feeling gone in the terror

of being asked to answer the teacher

I didn’t want to be there’

wanted to be lost in the feeling

in that yearning

<>

what was 

that word

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A CanCon Christmas

I’ve been reading some great CanCon that is worth adding to your Christmas shopping or reading lists. 

 ‘The Dame Was Trouble’ is a collection of ‘the best female crime writers in Canada.’ This is a fun, culturally diverse collection, that spans genres: noir, supernatural, interplanetary & hard-core crime – edited for an excellent flow of styles & lengths.  Some read like perfect 30’s noir movies & some deserve to become star of their own novels; Kelly Armstrong’s Indispensable Ivy for one, & M.H. Callway’s hard-driving Grace is another.

Rosemary McCracken’s ‘Uncharted Waters’  continues the saga of Pat Tierney: Financial Planner. Much like Jessica Fletcher, murder & deceit follow Pat wherever she goes 🙂 This time she is opening her business in Toronto’s Annex & is confronted with … well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. Nicely plotted, it moves quickly with some humour & lots of Toronto. 

Peter Unwin’s ‘Written on Stone’ is also humorous, Parkdale is one of its Toronto location but the bulk of it happens in buses out of the city & in the wilds of Northern Ontario. One element of the plot is the nature of ‘authentic voice’ as perceptions are spun by various characters to support their view point. The language is richly imagistic, the characters tend to blend into each other & events flow in a non-linear way. Unlike ‘Unchartered Waters’ this is not a murder mystery and leaves the reader with unanswered questions.

I’d be remiss not to mention Heather Babcock’s “Dirty Sugar.’ Read all about it here:  Dames – Wiggles and Bates https://topoet.ca/2020/09/13/dames—wiggles-and-bates/ . All of these can be found on Amazon.

Finally a non-book recommendation. The song ‘Toronto’ by Bloodstone surfaced in my Tumblr feed. From the 60s it was well-produced with a semi- Chicago sound. I did a bit of a search & found it & the flip side on band camp. Apparently this was the only release by the band lead by Dee Long. The lp is a sweet collection of his song, some are polished, some are demo. If you treasure Canadian pop history you’ll love this set. https://deelong.bandcamp.com/album/1235

Do You Breathe

do you hear what I hear 

even when I’m not listening 

when I walk unawares 

through the streets

through the crowds

through the malls 

do you hear the infinite variations 

of footsteps clothing rustle whispers

cellphone chatter

do you hear something in that burble 

people being people

something that gives you reassurance 

life is worth while 

<>

or do you hear

dispirited distracted unfocused clatter

people looking for a way out of

something they don’t fully understand

yet feel they have no other option

than consuming depleting the bounty of the planet

<>

bounty of the planet

who do I think I am

drivelling out such a tired reflection

do I hear myself 

when I say such things

do I find it profound silly 

I’m not expecting to change any minds here

another shopping opportunity

another listening experience 

where I’m not fully attuned to anything

except the sounds of

cars slipping through slush dogs barking

glass breaking doors opening closing

coffee being poured

masks lifted for a smoke

<>

do you see what I see

when I look around 

dimly aware there are people around

the focus is on not bumping one another

but avoiding at the right distance

finding a safe place to look

that isn’t already an advertising nook

wrapped in earbuds mask

magazine on the subway

fearful someone might think

that casual glance at their shoes

is a violation of their person

stick to what is safe see nothing hear nothing

except what one can control

<>

if you hear what I hear

see what I see

you are too close

I don’t want to breathe

what you breathe

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Epic Ripple

I’ve been reading & thinking about the epic economic ripples of covid. Luckily I’m on a fixed income so I have no real concern about earning an hourly wage. I recently read about a shopping mall declaring bankruptcy because its tenants have lost so much revenue due to necessary covid restrictions they can’t pay the per-square-foot rent. Seems the only ones making $ are food delivery services & labs processing covid swabs 🙂

When a restaurant closes – as many have along the Danforth here in Toronto it is easy to see the direct results: waiters, cooks out of work. But this ripples out, as the restaurant also has supplier such as laundry service, bakeries for breads & desserts, equipment (broken dishes have to be replaced), butchers, fresh produce. 

So the providers of those supplies have less customers. Bakeries have suppliers too – flour, dairy etc – suppliers who now have less demand for their goods. The restaurant has less income to tax & so the actual tax base our country runs on is gradually reduced too – less taxes effects the services we count on – health care for one. 

I’m not an economist just an occasional diner. I sometimes buy coffee on my morning walks but I can’t drink enough coffee to save any indy coffee shop, or even a chain – Starbucks has been closing stores. I suspect the economic structure is going to have to be restructured because once the low income base crumbles there’ll be no money to bail out the billionaires.

Walk Away

I walked away

didn’t look back

I would have if

as in the legend

it would have sent you back to Hades

then again maybe not

I wasn’t that invested in revenge

just in getting out of there

freeing myself of what wasn’t working

even though you seemed to feel it was working

each step away became easier

each hour away was easier

each day each week each month

now years later

there’s almost a sense of nostalgia

not that I miss you as a person

but as an emotion

<>

I didn’t return your calls

there was no point

especially as they decreased in frequency

even when you got me on the phone

or waved to me in the street

I didn’t invest more time that necessary

didn’t open that door any wider than I had to 

didn’t want that old cat sneaking back in

between my legs

as you did with such grace and dexterity

no done is done

<>

I didn’t want to be friends with you

you never understood why

which was one of the reasons 

I walked away

each step another one 

back to myself

the apologies and promises

stopped meaning anything

they weren’t worth the air they were uttered with

<>

I supposed it would have been easier for you

if had gotten angry

stormed and raged

but I left in quietness and security

one step after the other

no regrets no hesitation

I walked into silence

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