Saturday, March 10, 2012

The wind blew into the seams, inflating the stroller bag into a quilted purple hot dog. He squirmed inside. The extra flap of fabric flipped up onto his face; I tucked it away to reveal his skeptical expression, patiently absorbing the fact of the wind, the turmoil. The guilt flapped within me: it's worth it, I'm taking him out in the cold; he's tired, he'll learn something; he needs to be around other kids instead of  alone with me in the dark messy house, trapped between want and no, waiting for bedtime.

Inside the museum, he sat calmly, exhaustedly in that same stroller, the fabric unzipped so he wouldn't overheat. We walked between stuffed wolves, birds and polar bears (Where did they get them from? How did they die? If I look more closely will I find the bullet hole, the diseased fur?). Of us three he noticed the whales overhead first, made to appear as though swimming above our heads--a dry little moment of Toronto-museum-aesthetic ('This is a whale. Look, it is swimming. Look, we have made it appear as though it is swimming, as whales swim. It is above your head') straight out of Margaret Atwood's imagination.

We let him loose among the dinosaur skeletons. Every skull we passed, he roared, a tired little baby roar. "WOW...," he kept repeating, slowly, drawing the vowels out. "Wow....., "gazing up at the vast dead beings, pointing at the air, at the scale. Pointing at the pterodactyls hanging in the air, he classified triumphantly: "BIRDS!" followed inexplicably by: "MINE!"

A kind-faced, messy, bald white man asked us to choose the colored box with the scenario we found most appalling. One of them stated 'the number of severe storms in your area has doubled in the last few years.' "Is it cold outside?" he asked me, looking at the baby. "Yes," I said. Flap flap.

90 per cent of sharks and other large predator mammals are gone from the oceans, he told us. Worldwide. I stared, at him, shocked. It's as though someone has casually told me that 90% of humans are now dead. How bad are things for the loss to have climbed up this far up the food chain?

We read stupid little animal books to the baby; they are filled with pictures. We patiently teach him their names. The animals are matched axiomatically to their pristine environments; they are counted off like numbers, days of the week and colors, building blocks to learning the world, a nostalgic fantasy world. Suddenly social change feels selfish; the fight for appropriate and accessible social services short-sighted, like an only slightly broader version of hankering after gems and gold, dead and useless minerals, fruit of destruction.

The animals, dead and stuffed, behind glass. The still whales, hoisted far above us. The ROM, as boring as I remember it, with the same old displays as when I was a high school student, unchanging history. Death in the real world outside, change, destruction. As with babies, the days are slow but the years go fast; the loss builds, insurmountable.

Outside, bent over in the wind, we ran down into the earth, and took the subway home. Shocked outside of want. Shocked into no.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Loblaws Valentine's Day flyer:

berries (pesticides),
tenderloin (animal industry cruelty, abattoirs, hormone and antibiotics),
lobster (getting boiled alive?),
roses (environmental destruction; water-intensive),
Ferrero Rocher (plastic packaging),
tiny cupcakes (sugar and white flour).

This is my poem for today.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Kafi (by Rifat Abbas)

In the bowl of this world
look at the rose of our passion my friend

even if we don’t eat together
even if we don’t sit together
we can at least dream together my friend

even if we don’t drink together
even if we are strangers
at least look at the color of our wine my friend

the sun is setting on the lanes
the river is almost at my door
at least look at our restless hearts my friend

Translated from the Siraiki by Nukhbah Khan and The Poetry Translation Centre.

Rifat Abbas born in 1957 in the ancient city of Multan represents its classical verse form Kafi in this poem. Abbas joined “The Revival of the Kafi Movement” introduced by several contemporary poets. Among other works, he is the author of Ishq Allah Saen Jagya (The Love of God or Allah Awaken). Abbas teaches Urdu in the Civil Lines College of Multan and heads a Siraiki literary organization, Suvail.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Baby Nap Circuit Training

The moment I successfully tiptoe out of LittleGorilla's room, asleep in his crib and covered by a light blanket, the race is supposed to begin. Usually my mind has already begun planning as he falls asleep. How urgent is the laundry today? Dishes? Is there anything to eat? Have I had breakfast yet? Walking up and down the hall, singing, I cope with the mind numbing routine by speculating I could do to the hallway to brighten it up, thinking back to pictures on my hard drive, frames packed away in the basement.

Out the door, I may zone out for the duration of his nap. That's ok. That usually happens when I'm just over my limit. It's good to pull back and just rest like a tired-out zombie, sometimes.

Other times I may actually get a few things done. At my peak I've actually cleaned the whole house before he wakes up, or weeded the backyard, or something equally ridiculous.

Stations on the Circuit: Bathroom! Teethbrushing! Get dressed! Eat breakfast (or lunch)! Put in a load of laundry! Do the dishes/start the dishwasher! Start dinner! Clean the fridge! Write a poem! Answer student emails! Put up art! Mop!

I'm getting tired writing this post. Excuse me while find something to eat and zone out.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Standing in the kitchen drinking water and reading a poorly pixelated printout "Basic Concepts in the Methodology of the Social Sciences" to teach my students tomorrow, I can hear the baby monitor: static, distant singing, the periodic click of the rocking chair coming to rest on the ground, occasional squeaks from the floorboards. Babygorilla sleeps better in his own crib, but when he wakes up he wants to get into our bed, between us. Once there, he'll flop violently onto his side, so completely asleep mid-flop it's like a switch has turned off. He'll lie comatose, the end of one limb touching either of us, slowly rotating until he's at such an odd angle I wake up periodically to make sure the blanket isn't covering his head. But sometimes he gets baby-insomnia and then watch out. No amount of water drunk the night before will stave off dehydration of such magnitude that by morning, my fingers are wrinkled.

The truth is that I drink in those moments stolen out of the norms of baby-parenting strictures and structures we resignedly follow, for all of our ultimate well-being (out of experience: babygorilla needs routine and daily structure to sleep well). But no bedtime routine substitutes for offering one's curved stillness and warmth as nearby comfort, watching the pretty black crescents his eyelashes make over his closed eyes, following the slow sideways droop of baby cheeks as his sleep deepens, while his hand snakes out, mid-sleep, and hangs onto my shirt.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baby-gorilla, held in his father's arms, stares open-mouthed at me as I towel my wet hair. Something looks different to him; something has struck him. His wide eyes slowly wander over my face with a complex expression: his eyes are soft yet glued to my face, his expression a few shades gentler than shock. He is absorbing something, but what? The steam clouds the air around us; his hair and skin are damp. He has seen me like this before. A smile plays over his face, he comes close to me, but not just to jump into my arms; he needs to continue looking into my face, his eyes luminous with something new (in me? in him?) before he rests his wet face on my shoulder and relaxes into my body, his nose finally running clear.

"How does a child develop into a person who, as a parent, is able to recognize her or his own child? What are the internal processes, the psychic landmarks, of such development? Where is the theory that tracks the development of the child's responsiveness, empathy, and concern, and not just the parent's sufficiency or failure?"

Benjamin, Jessica. "An Outline of Intersubjactivity: The Development of Recognition."
New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 1990, 7 (Suppl.), 33-46

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Teetering between babyhood and toddlerhood, littlegorilla sits on my lap breastfeeding, in the wooden rocking chair on which each cousin fed in turn. He sucks, eyes wandering, feet kicking against the slats, then disengages and sits up. He arches his back to slide down my lap and takes a few directionless steps on his thin blue and red wool carpet. Turning back to me, he steps his way beside and then behind the rocking chair, into the corner of the room. Each lurch forward is a trick, a funny game. He laughs at his own joke in going someplace he hasn't been before and that is obviously not intended as a place to walk. I follow him, eying and ignoring the dust, raising the curtain before he can pull on it and bring down the unstable rod, mentally adding to my list of things to do, but outwardly staying calm and receptive to his baby-on-the-margins moment, smiling. He ends up circling the chair clockwise. I sit back down and he climbs back into my lap, and feeds from the other breast. After a few minutes, he disengages, sits up, slides down my lap, and this time steps around the rocking chair counter-clockwise, returning once again to feed, this time from the first breast.

Right breast, clockwise; left breast, counter-clockwise, over and over again.

He has mastered breastfeeding; he has no idea there is such a thing as weaning. Walking is a brand new accomplishment. Making unusual paths is fun and funny; these become circles, which are games. Littlegorilla cuddles and feeds, leaves and comes back, works and rests. He has drawn the circle, and he is inside; he is the drawer and we are the drawn. I let him draw me inside the circle. I let him leave. I let him come back.

The chair rocks, the broken spring a slanted squiggle pointing into the room and outside the circle of the moment. My list of things to do glows in neon letters just outside the circle, turned to their lowest by a dimmer switch (installing which is also on the list), but which I cannot fully turn off. This year, like all new mothers, I have found paths of mother-work and they have become my circles of routine, so that we can have these moments--so there is a chair, there is milk, he is fed and changed, there are curtains keeping out the light--but it is never enough; there is also dust, there are unstable curtain rods. Each moment is also time we don't have together. Around we go, around each other, until the darkness falls and sleep puts an end to it for the day.