Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Haunting of Selma Park General Store

Ella set us the coolest prompt at Real Toads for this All Hallow's Eve: to tell a ghostly tale. As you may know, I have no shortage of material, being Irish and ghost-prone. I will try to be as brief as I can. But every word of this is true. We are to use a line from a ghostly poem in our writing. I selected Longfellow's "All houses where men have lived and died........." Here we go.


"All houses where men have lived and died"........are peopled by ghosts. When we found the abandoned Selma Park General Store, on the ocean  just outside of Sechelt, it had been sitting empty for years, and the older couple was anxious to sell. It was going cheap, even for those days (1976), at $42,000. The store had everything it needed to open, coolers, refrigerated cases, even an antique cash register, which worked. It had living quarters downstairs, looking out on the ocean, and there were bedrooms upstairs from the store as well. We began to dream, and then, excitedly, to plan. I sold my townhouse, used the profit as a down payment, we managed to secure financing from the Federal Business Development Bank, and we moved in.

People began to come by, as we readied it for our grand opening, and we began to hear about the store being haunted by an old woman who had been highly unsociable, when she operated the store years ago. She had died in the store, and her presence had been felt by everyone who came after. 

She did not like us moving in at all. We were young, and we turned one part of the store into an arcade for the local kids, which increased our business, but meant there was considerable noise. 

I got up at six a.m. to be ready for store opening, and to get the kids looked after, and I closed at 11 p.m. After I finished washing the floors, I would go downstairs and Tom (who is a frightening story all by himself, for another day) and I would have a cup of tea. So many nights, we would hear footsteps walking across the floor upstairs. We would look at each other, and Tom would go up and check things out. No one was ever there.

One night, when we heard the footsteps, I said "I'll go up". I was standing at the end of one of the aisles, when a chill went up my spine and I felt her right behind me. I went back down. She was there, she was not happy with us, but there was little we could do, we lived on a shoestring and this was our chance to make a living. We werent going anywhere. I had to hope we could uneasily cohabit, that she would let us stay.

I would notice things moved around on the shelves - something from aisle one would be placed on aisle three. This happened so often I knew it was the ghost. Customers would have no interest in moving things around.

And we kept hearing the footsteps. Tom would joke with the customers about the place being haunted. Things went from bad to worse. One day a supporting beam cracked from top to bottom when we were standing beside it. Tom convinced me the store was going to slide down the sandy hill it was built on. It seemed feasible.

One night, I woke to feel a tremor shake the building. "Tom, it's an earthquake." "Go back to sleep," he said, and rolled over. The store stayed standing.

We were buying supplies for the store in Vancouver once, and I was drawn to a plant that I really liked the look of. Then I saw the name of the plant: a wandering jew. My grandma had always told me that those plants brought bad luck, and she would recount instances she knew of where the plant had brought misfortune to a family that only reversed once they got rid of it. I told Tom this, and he scoffed and insisted we buy it.

I hung it in an archway between the dining room and kitchen. One day I had run downstairs to get something and found the plant swinging wildly - no one was there, and no doors or windows were open. I told Tom, he scoffed again, and said that was ridiculous. 

One night after closing the store, one of the kids who hung around the arcade came downstairs with us after we closed. Tom was talking about the footsteps we would hear so often at midnight crossing the floor upstairs. The kid's eyes got rounder and rounder. 

All of a sudden I said, "Look at the plant!" All of its branches had moved from one side of the plant to the other - they were all pointing at the door.

"I'm getting out of here!" the kid said, terrified.

I knew I had to get rid of the plant.

Next night, it was dark and windy, pretty spooky actually. I took down the plant and went out the door. The plant was wrapping its vines around my arm. "It's just the wind," I told myself, but I was freaked out. I walked a ways down where there was an empty hillside with no houses around, tried to peel the branches off my arm to toss it. But it was hard to make them let go. Finally, I hurled it down the cliff, and went back home.

There is more of a story here than I will tell right now. It did not end well. Let's just say the store burned down mysteriously, under suspicious circumstances. So the insurance company  refused to pay, and I lost everything I had. At the time of the fire, I was eight months pregnant with my fourth child. By the time she was seven months old, I was on my own, to start my life over, as a single mom with four kids. 

I know the store was haunted. But the kids and I often say how different our lives would have been had Tom left while we still had the store, to earn our living. Our lives would have been very different from the difficult years that followed.

I could have more easily lived with an angry ghost than with him. No problem!

Watch those footsteps after midnight, kids. And dont trust a plant that wraps its arms around you and wont let go!!

Wild Woman: A Cautionary Tale

google image

Young maidens: listen up!
Wild Woman has learned
a thing or three about

(Too soon old,
too late smart.)

Come sit by me
and I'll tell you what I know
about Love.

When some dude
gives you the eye,
before getting all
OMG, he thinks I'm pretty,
check him out.

Is he smart?
Is he kind?
Does he kick his dog?

DO NOT think:
oh, he just needs love
and I can make him change.

Run screaming
in the other direction.
Find someone
who doesnt need
to change.

I'm serious.

Dont let dudes
just Happen
to you.

You are more wonderful
than you can 
even begin to know.
The gift of yourself
is a priceless treasure.

Before you give it,
make sure you can trust
the one you give it to.
Make sure the person
is worthy of
that most precious

Mary set us the prompt: Choices this week at Poetry Jam. I could have gone in a kazillion directions as my choices in life have, if often ill-advised. But Wild Woman is feeling rather feisty, it being Hallowe'en and all, so I let her zoom around on her broom a few times and dictate this poem.

google image

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thank You to Dani

Kids, like everyone else,  I am distracted by the terrible disaster that has befallen the eastern seaboard, and it is hard to drag myself away from the news. But the most lovely thing happened today. Wonderful Dani, over at my heart's love songs, featured me on her blog, in her ongoing series, which spotlights poets from the blogosphere. 

It is quite lovely to find people like Dani in this wonderful 'sphere, directing her time and attention to supporting and encouraging fellow poets.

Thank you, Dani. On a heartrending day, you provided some sunshine, and sent a little tune of sisterhood across my heartstrings.

Stay Safe

Like everyone in North America, 
I am heartsick at what is happening 
along the eastern seaboard. 
My thoughts are with all of the brave people 
trying to help each other in the midst 
of shocking devastation. 

Stay safe, everyone. 
Every heart on this continent is with you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Mansion of Memory

In the mansion of memory
there are goblins and ghosts,
invisible wings flapping 
down the hall
presaging a death,
hoofbeats galloping 
the twisted lane 
under a midnight  moon,
no horses in sight,
whose riders 
never come home.

A little old gnome
sits at the foot of the bed
and points a gnarled finger
at Ivy,
who dies in a week.

The madwoman shrieks
in the bathroom
and rends all the towels.
A heavy tread stomps 
up the stairway,
stair after stair.
Pure dread
and shivering
under the blankets:
the Monster is here.

There is a long dragging step,
and chains,
above the ceiling.
Bats perch on the windowsill,
looking fierce:
Let us in! Let us in!

A pale ghostly woman
appears on the 
second floor balcony 
and peers through the glass.

And somewhere between
the earth and sky,
a soul books passage
to Eternity,
finds herself walking across
a barren landscape
There is a river ahead
and, around the bend,
she can hear people 
dipping their oars
and singing.
They are coming to get her,
but then she wakes up
and comes back from the dead.

Whoo. Nearly scared myself! The Sunday mini-challenge at Real Toads asks us to write using a form with a seven-line stanza. For those who prefer freestyle, we could select and write about any of the offered photos. I chose Isadora Gruye's spooky looking mansion, and decided to go with a Hallowe'en feel. However, all of the events described above actually happened to our family, except for possibly the bats, the chains in the attic, and the Monster's heavy feet on the stairs. OTHER feet on the stairs were definitely scary though! Check out Real Toads  for some other offerings "with an October feel".

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Strange World

On the news this morning, they informed us  
North Americans spend 8 BILLION dollars 
on Hallowe'en. 

I can't help but think how many people 
in the Third World we could feed 
with that much money.

We are an odd species.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


"and where does the phoenix go,
singing its stricken lament of terrible beauty,
its music coming from inside us,
our grief turned magically to song,
soaring away on flame-bright wings?"

from Long Game Ended, Time to Leave the Air,
Half-Blood Poems Inspired by the Stories of J.K. Rowling
by Christine Lowther

At Real Toads today, Kenia's Wednesday Challenge is to borrow a line or lines from a friend's poem, and use it as the leaping off point for a surrealistic poem of our own. My friend Chris Lowther is a highly gifted poet living on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. She has several books to her credit. I have been a fan of her work for a very long time. Chris can be found at The Natures of Christine Lowther. The lines I have drawn from , above, are italicized in my poem. I feel quite brave, putting her words in a poem with mine, so long have I admired her amazing talent.

Christine's mother was noted Vancouver poet Pat Lowther, her work highly esteemed at her untimely death in the 70's, and highly regarded still. In her daughter's gift, her talent still lives.

Where has it all gone,
scattered like pebbles
from a toddler's pail,
as if there will always be More,
until, suddenly, there isn't?

Look back
down all of those sun-bright years,
the dark and the light,
the bitter and the sweet,
such a terrible beauty,
mixed in the crust of parched earth,
slaked by a madman's draught
at the very last moment
before expiring.

The dying's last request
is always for water,
my grandmother's long white finger
pointing at the glass
when no more was she
able to speak.
And water,
that single tear
rolling down her cheek,
as she said goodbye to it all
and began that slow slow walk
on the mountains of the moon.

The older one grows,
the heavier that backpack of grief,
an endless well
we can draw from at random,
our grief turned magically to song,
a heartbreaking lament
that catches in the throat,
prickling, like cactus,
a lump of regret
that can never
be swallowed,
as the hot tears
roll down one's cheeks
because it is too soon,
too soon,
to be faced with leaving.

Too fast it all goes.
Towards the end life 
begins to gallop
like a willow-whipped horse,
frothing and frantic 
to escape the lash,
hooves relentlessly pounding,
carrying us off,
all unwilling,
with still so much to do,
doomed riders
in a race
to the unknown
on which we wager
the biggest long shot
of our lives:
that somehow
we will still continue on
after death.

My kit bag of memories
is filled to the brim
with all I was given:
more laughter than tears,
more challenge than ease,
more gratitude
than can be expressed
for this magical realm
where a leaf is a miracle
and a red fox sheer brilliance,
where the gray wolf howls
through our very souls,
where loneliness
and fullness
for the very same square inch
of living space
in the hearts of the solitary,
and where 
daybreak and hellfire
alike streak the sky
with Van Gogh's palette,
whose stars set us dreaming
into the dark
of that welcoming Night.

World Wide Web

beautiful web found on google

As Grandmother Spider
sits in her corner,
spinning her web,
to see
what morsels
she might catch,

one day
I tossed a line
out into
a wider web.
Tapping on the keys,
I began to weave
my life
with words

that slowly
brought you to my door:
that I never would
have dreamed,
a world wide web
of friendship,
that opened
the whole wide world
to me,
and, at the same time,
brought me home.

Ella's prompt at Poets United's Wonder Wednesday is: webs. As the web, and all of you, dear friends, has enriched my writing life beyond belief, I gratefully take this opportunity to thank you. It means more than you can ever know that people are reading my words. My friendship with each one of you - these most amazing connections - means all the world to me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wild Woman, Dancing in the Rain

google image

Gray skies,
rain tapping
on porch roof,
a faint throbbing hum
from the wind chimes.
Parched trees 
drinking gratefully,
the last curled golden leaf
on its gnarled branch.

The horse is sheltering
under the dripping pines
and, if you look
through the mist,
you can see
Wild Woman,
dancing in the rain.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Waiting For the Magic

image is from google:

All the World's a Stage,
with me bumbling 
about on it,
like Ms Magoo,
tripping over my feet,
slapping myself 
upside the head,
muttering to myself.

Curtains get stuck 
on the draw-ropes,
opening and closing
at random moments,
dust thick
in the old theatre.

The audience 
grows restless,
shuffling their feet,
and rattling 
their programs.

They are
for the magic
to begin.

Me, too!

It appears my first posting of this came out in what can only be described as blank verse: white strips of what should have been printed words, but werent. Which just underlines the trouble I have with performing, hee hee. If there's a way to screw it up, I'll find it.

Mary is hosting at dVerse tonight and the topic is Shakespeare's All the World's a Stage. Do pop over. A lot of very talented people will be stopping by the bar. There is sure to be some very good reading.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Zen Beach

My Wickaninnish Waves

Wave upon wave,
rolling in to shore,
wipes my mind clean.


Heart lifts in joy,
adjusts its rhythm
to the song of the sea.


Head in the sky,
feet on the earth :
at one with it all.

Radar Hill at sunset

At Real Toads this morning, A Word With Laurie offers us the word: Zen, and asks the question: how do you achieve peace? Definitely my cup of tea, and make mine Oolong, please.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wolf Women

Wolf Woman by artist Carole Bourdo - Ma-Ew-Yakee-
as found at the website

Ella's prompt at Poets United's Wonder Wednesday is : the Wolf, and how he or she "leads us to the whispers of the wild." Definitely a prompt right up my alley!

Wild Woman carries
the heart of a wolf in her chest.
Its rhythm pulses in time with
her wild sister, who runs,
through the forest,
stopping under a midnight moon
only long enough
to tip back her head
and howl.

Her true being
only comes alive
within sight and smell
of the sea:
the hackles rise
along her spine,
as she raises her nose
to scent the wind,
determining her direction
by the keening call of the wild.

Wild Woman
belongs to each of us,
and to us all.
She lives in the space
between heartbeats,
and in the thoughts
between words.

Listen for her knowing voice
at your right ear,
"Come, this is the way."

Then follow,
with perfect trust,

for no one knows
better or truer
than the Wild Woman 
Watcher Within.

Wild Woman
moves through
worlds seen and unseen,
emerging at daybreak
to slake her thirst
at the River of Solitude.
At the close of day,
the forest rolls out
a soft carpet
to form her bed.

In between,
you may follow her
when she is Wilding,
but not too close.
Be respectful of her space
and her growl.
And when she shape-shifts
out of sight,
look down quickly -
you may just see
the pawprint
she has left behind.

Wild Woman is the one
that we run from
when we are young
and run home to
when we are old.
She is an ancient singing
through our bones, 
a wise smile,
the Knowing eyes of a
Watcher in the Woods.

If you are quick enough,
you might just spy
the furry tip of her tail
peeking out from
under her billowing robe,
and trailing behind
like moondust.

Follow her,
Embrace her,
for without Wild Woman,
our spirits shrivel up
and begin to die.
With her,
our vision
we learn,
and unfathomably,
to fly.


Izy's Out of Standard challenge over at Real Toads this week is to consider the mechanical harvest. This coincides with my sister having recently seen the documentary Fresh, about a grassroots movement away from industrial agribusiness, back towards whole foods, small local harvests and kind conditions for the food and animals we grow to eat. This movement understands that Wall Street bankers have taken over determining how the world's food is grown, and the impact is detrimental to our lives. To put it mildly.

The last 50 years has been all about pesticides and mass production, toxic-contaminated "soil", pesticide-related cancers and salmonella,  trauma endured by the warehoused fowl and animals we "grow" in cages.  Not to mention GMO's and processed/refined "foods" that have no nutritive value whatsoever. And we are ingesting all of this when we eat. No wonder illnesses have spiked as a result. Check out Izy's eerie description of driving past a mechanical harvest, over at Toads. 

The bottom line seems to be that we have spent fifty years moving away from whole foods and small farms, only to realize our future health depends upon our return to the ways of our grandparents. The Fresh movement is encouraging us to do just that, to return to  production  of whole foods which will be locally distributed and consumed.  We can grow our own in our backyards, or support local small farmers and buy local. Thankfully, we have this choice.

Take me back to the land
of my ancestors,
out to the barn in the early dawn.
Cattle softly lowing,
milk in glass bottles
clinking on the porch,
with an eye on the sky,
to make sure we get the corn in
while it's
still dry.

Tanned men tossing bales of hay
as if they were pillows,
kids catching them
up on the truck-bed,
stacking them high,
to store in the hayloft,
putting another season's
cattle fodder by.

Let me and my sister walk through
the cornstalk rows,
as we did
when we were small,
green fronds way over our heads,
as the water trickled down
the dusty rows
on hot summer mornings,
those days when the skies
were always blue,
and the peace
of the land
was all
we knew.

I will wander through 
the green pastures,
and the cows will start
to lumber after me,
clumping downhill 
in the loam,
thinking I must be there
to sing them home.

The pig in the paddock
snorffles our table-scraps,
rooting happily in the mud.
We call him Bacon,
which horrifies me,
and puts me off  breakfast.
They try to convince me 
that rabbit is chicken
at supper,
though I sit, suspicious,
in my place.
I never did like eating
that had a face.

Take me back 
- take this whole world back -
to times when 
I was young,
when the world
and our food
was whole,
when Wall Street didn't
make our food unreal,
and we didn't ingest chemicals
at every meal.

We have come so far
from our grandparents' day,
only to discover
they had 
the prescription for living 
doing it their way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shadow Elusive

Sometimes I see
a black shadow,
slipping along a wall
at the farthest edge 
of my peripheral vision,
so elusive
I can barely catch it
out of the corner 
of my eye.

I never turn my head.
I don't want to
look too close.
I'd rather believe
that it is you.

Peggy's prompt over at Poetry Jam tonight is: Shadows. For fourteen years, I had a big black wolf shadowing me everywhere I went. The last two years without him I have so felt his absence. But every now and then, barely glimpsed out of the corner of my eye, sometimes there is the hint of a black shadow...........

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Light Shines Through My Broken Places

Daybreak over Tofino Inlet

Kids, the prompt over at Real Toads Friday was to take inspiration from the music of Waylon Jennings, his song "I've Always Been Crazy", or the topic  Outlaw Country. I  am behind, as usual, and decided to further complicate things by trying to write a pantoum......the crazyness enters in when I look back at the wrong places I once looked, hoping to find love......and needing to repeat the lesson, till I finally "graduated" into single bliss some decades ago. 

Light shines through my brokenness in sweet relief .
All  my shattered dreams bore visions new -
Heart honed in fire, molded in pain and grief,
Unworthy lovers taught me what is true.

All my shattered dreams bore visions new -
fashioned from rubble, newly forged from pain,
unworthy lovers taught me what is true.
I rose from ashes,  was made new again.

Fashioned from rubble, newly forged from pain,
Love, my wandering soul began to teach.
I rose from  ashes,  was made new again,
Heart open wide, and Heaven within my reach.

My wandering soul did Love begin to teach,
Heart honed in fire, molded in pain and grief-
Heart open wide, and Heaven within my reach
Light shining through my brokenness in sweet relief .

Am adding a link to the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, as it is gray and rainy today and am too tired to look thru the archives. This is a brand new poem:) 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Candle for Peace

Light a Candle for Peace at 

May this candle of peace
in my heart
light a candle for peace 
in yours,
that lights another
candle for peace
in its turn,
until, all over the world,
the candle of peace
in our hearts, 
burning brightly,
shines enough light
to illuminate
and unite
the whole world
in the peace and justice
all beings 
long for.

The prompt at Poets United's Wonder Wednesday is: Wax. I am a huge fan of scented candles and incense. When I have those, I feel truly rich. We also always have white candles in the cupboard for winter storms, when trees fall across the hydro wires and the power goes out. But I thought of another kind of candle today.

On Diminished Capacity

image from

At Real Toads, Kerry set us a task: to tell a tale by an unreliable narrator. Some of the prompt words offered were impaired memory and diminished capacity and I perked right up! Topics I know a LOT about :-)  given my own diminished capacities. For this poem, I chose the everyday ramblings of a dear little old lady for whom I provide home support. 

Well, I know for certain that
I handed him the keys in his hand
because I dont have them any more.
Do you suppose he is
getting copies made?
Do you suppose he 
has designs on me?
Because I love the man 
for his kindness,
but I have no thought 
of anything with him,
his wife can rest easy.

I keep calling and asking him:
Have you found the keys?
and he says "No keys,
I gave them back to you,"
but I dont have them,
so he has lost them.
The man is in another world,
the poor bugger,
and I wont ask anything of him again.

And Those Idiots called,
saying I owe them money.
What this?
I paid them the money,
and now they say
they need more money?

Well, after I looked through 
all the papers in my filing cabinet
(I left a big pile of paper 
all over my desk, not to worry,
sweetheart, whenever you have time,
rest yourself,
dont exhaust yourself),
and reconciling the statements
because, thank you, God, 
for giving me a brain, 
I discovered a discrepancy 
of five dollars.
They are trying to steal 
from the People,
what this? They are Idiots.

And you remember,
I switched from Shaw to Telus
because the tv was not working
and Shaw was charging
too much money?
Well, Telus is an Idiot,
and I am switching back to Shaw,
and Telus said I signed a Plan
and I did not sign a Plan so I am
filing a complaint 
with the Better Business Bureau
and now I have to find all the Papers
from Wherever I Put Them
and thank you, God, for giving me a brain
to keep all this paper from all the years,
I just have to find Where I Put Them.
Can you bring up the boxes
I told you to put in the basement,
so I can Review them?
Whenever you have time,
Sweetheart, dont exhaust yourself,
but the man is calling me in half an hour
and I have to find them by then.
I love you, God bless you,
but the world is full of Idiots,
making us tired.

I have to go see the doctor,
That Idiot,
who does nothing to help me,
since three years now,
loooong time, I am aching
and my legs not holding me up,
and he asks me
"What can I do for you?"
and I say "You're the Doctor!"
What an idiot.
What this?
They take our money
and they dont look after
the People?

And that woman - the Twit -
we wont even say her name,
Lord, keep the Bad Energies from us,
and protect us forever, Amen,
she said to me
How are you?
and I said Fine Thank You Very Much
and just kept walking
because I want only good energy
and she is bad energy,
and her, I dont need.

For the sale, I got
half price for the chairs:
two chairs,
they bought, 
for the price of one.
People, they dont want to pay,
I paid so much money,
the chairs have hardly been sat on
in fifteen years,
and there they go walking out the door,
may God bless the people who sit in them,
and this poor little widow
left here to cry, alone.