drawing, Poetry

Threshold

The heat wave has now broken, but we had hot and extremely hot weather in Toronto over the past while.  During that time, I took to walking in the streets in the evening to listen to the cicadas and crickets.  I discovered, to my surprise, that I was present to listening to the sounds of the insects, birds, cars and people instead of shutting out the sounds of the city. This led me to record one of my walks, which then led me to listen to some forgotten recordings. One was of the poem in this post.

Several years ago, I spent a lot of time writing and I’d read versions of my poems out loud and record them to hear which version sounded best to me. Here’s a poem which will explain itself, followed by a recent drawing.

Threshold 

It’s October two thousand ten

and I’m to apply for the Old Age Security Pension,

a task made more difficult

by my originally being an immigrant

and having four different names on my papers.

These burrs that I’ve transported across borders

I now scatter on the table

as I decide which ones to carry with me,

in the hope I will be recognized

as the thread that links the different words

by which I have been known.

In the process, I contemplate my various selves,

the changing names silently

eliciting my youth and middle age

not so much in sadness as in a survey of absences.

 

At City Hall, I sit in a crowded room

under fluorescent lights.

I have anticipated the long wait

and help manage boredom and an undercurrent of rage

by doing crossword puzzles

and half listening to the reassuringly incomprehensible

what-I-assume-to-be-Japanese

that two young people are speaking

as they wait, likely for their marriage licence.

All of us, including the staff,

are in limbo

holding this edifice of record keeping in place,

keeping tabs on ourselves, faithlessly

leaving trails of our scant existence

on dry forms and flickering screens.

 

I am rescued, however, by the relief of drama.

Some people, no longer compliant, have bolted

or gone missing.

Three couples cannot be found

when their names are called for their marriage licences.

Perhaps they have broken off their engagements while waiting

or decided to live common law or

have merely gone outside for a smoke.

 

The staff person I eventually see is contained though cordial,

takes me for who I am

and needs few of my compiled documents.

 

I leave knowing I will soon receive

the form letter of approval for my pension.

Not a joyous occasion

but a quiet rite of passage

into the realm of official old age

that strange pale land in which death befriends us

whether we like its attentiveness or not

a land made more rich by its limits

and on the threshold of vast amounts of time,

oneness with ancestors human and non

and the blinding light that shields us from an unknown world.

©Lily S. May 2010 – 2014

 

If you’d like to see some of my other artwork, click on the image below to go to my etsy shop:

Observers Linocut by Lily S. May

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