The key to this fun piece is “I minimize my risks.” I’ve buried that line in the middle so that what this starts out as – a sort of display of paranoia – becomes about well, actually, it is pretty much about paranoia. It’s also a list poem – running through variations of what the ‘dangers’ might be – some quite real, others on the silly side.
Some come from my own past – I hated silt in lakes, wouldn’t go in the ocean if there was too much sea weed. I did see someone cut their foot on broken glass on the beach. Lake Ontario water is often deemed unsanitary for swimming. Even if they say is is ‘safe’ today I wouldn’t risk it on any day.
This is also about the paranoias in general – I have a friend who won’t take the subway alone, just in case it stall between stations. Thanks to the corona virus I am being smothered on line by ads for face masks. Costco runs out of toilet paper & bottled water as people prepare for the end of time. I’m pricing disposable plastic gloves for wearing in transit.
‘my trousers rolled’ is a reference to T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in which his narrator is walking along the beach, musing on the risks he has taken or avoided in his life. The nature of the risks we take today are often as banal as this. Skin cancer didn’t seem to excising when I was a boy frolicking in the sun – now I use a 110 sunscreen.
The piece takes an even more sudden turn with that last line – drowning in a sea love.
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The Seven Mercies came up on the TVO series Baroque when discussing Caravaggio’s painting The Seven Works of Mercy. I love lists of things like this. The Seven Fold Path, the Seven Deadly Sins. I also love obscure writing prompts of connected things such as the seven mercies. I had no idea what they were and did my research.
In the past I’ve written pieces based on the titles of Montaigne essays, on each canto of Dante’s Inferno & Purgatory – his heaven was too dull to inspire me. So I was excited to tackle yet a new list. Better yet there was two lists – Corporal and Spiritual.
Usually the way I write is in an intense ten to twenty minute burst that is littered with typos as I fling everything out. The faster I write the less my inner editor gets in the way. Sometimes I repeat a phrase to re-stir the pot and keep things going if I run out of steam.
New Wives’ Tale is from the second of the corporal mercies: ‘To give drink to the thirsty.’ This was also my second run at that mercy. The first was okay but the writer in me got too in the way. I let it simmer more overnight and gave it another go. This version is relatively unedited – fixed the typos and smoothed things out a bit but it is still a very rough draft.
A recent overheard conversation played into it – someone was going on about how buying bottle water condoned and further encourage the privatization of water. The playground bit comes from a visit to Stratford and walking though the playground to get to the washroom and to find out that there was a covering of thick rubber over the entire area – under the swings, the slide etc. I was tempted to go on a bit about how dangerous soil is – full of bacteria – so we better cover all of it to protect our innocent, fragile children from contamination – but I’ll save that for another day.