Monthly Archives: February 2013

Beauty and the bees.


So, pesticides are generally a way of life here, and I’m trying not to judge, since I’m only a visitor. But the bees. An open air house that gets sprayed for termites, and the bees fly through and are almost instantly incapacitated, but not killed. At night they are on the floor, sometimes one or two, sometimes a dozen. Sweep them up and whisper an apology.

I’m getting to the part of my novel where the bee hives were coming into the honey house faster than our little team could keep up with. Stacks on pallets every day, and yeah, the bees were supposed to have been blown out of them, but many weren’t. And by many I mean hundreds. Bees everywhere, now exhausted or injured, crawling on the floor, the walls, the ceiling. Pieces of bee from the honey comb-filled frames gone through the de-capper, mixed with splintered wood and wax. At the end of the day, I swept them into piles, and down the drain. Our tiny co-workers. Expended. When I left that place, I didn’t ever want another bee to die by my hand.

The Family Carrière (excerpt)


After my Grandma Carrière died, I inherited her Tortière recipe and her Polaroid camera. Polaroid stopped making the film for the camera, which is a shame, but I’ll get plenty of use out of the Tortière recipe. It’s typed-with a real typewriter!-on a gravy stained four-by-five inch recipe card. The ingredients would horrify any hippie-yuppie hybrid Grouse grinding Vancouverite: two pounds of ground pork, breadcrumbs, spices, and pastry dough for the pie crust. The early French settlers were clearly more interested in survival than looking good at Pilates. There’s a few spelling mistakes on the card, the kind of mistakes a young French-speaking woman would make in the process of perfecting her English. I love that recipe card. I laminated it so it wouldn’t fall apart.

If only Grandma Carrière had been as easy to love as her cooking. She was a nasty drunk, although I seldom saw that side. I remember her calling on Saturday afternoons; she’d talk about things that didn’t make any sense and people I didn’t know. She’d ask-again!- if we received the commemorative Expo 86 video she’d sent. Had I watched it? I had. She was SO sorry that Mom hadn’t taken us to Expo, because of her goddamn socialist beliefs. I never knew what to say to that. Eventually Mom or Dad would get on the phone, and there’d be yelling. After that, my parents would disappear for a bit, to the basement or the back yard, and they’d have one of the arguments they never had in front of me.

There were many years that we didn’t speak to Grandma Carrière at all. We blocked her phone number, and sent her Christmas gifts back unopened. When I complained about the gifts, Dad told me about a Christmas from his youth. He had opened all his presents, and Grandma Carrière had opened a bottle of Sherry. As guests dropped by for a Christmas day visit, she was so far into the holiday spirit that she gave away his gifts. That shut me up. She had lots of brothers and sisters, most of whom didn’t want to speak to her either. They must have kept my dad at arm’s length too, because I didn’t meet any of them until my grandma’s memorial service a few years ago.It was a small gathering at the Maple Ridge Ramada, which wasn’t far from where Dad had grown up in Haney.

There was no use in feigning sadness, Grandma Carrière had pushed everyone who loved her away and drank herself to death at age 93. Instead, the feeling at the memorial was one of relief. The older, more Catholic generation talked about how happy she’d be in heaven. Their children, now in their 40’s and 50’s, wished her better luck in her next incarnation. When my dad had rolled up his pant legs and waded into the Alouette River to spread her ashes, Auntie Jo, who leads a church choir in Maillardville, sang Amazing Grace. We all joined in. That was in July, and the Salmonberry bushes on the river bank had been laden with fruit; the same Salmonberry bushes my dad had robbed of their bounty when he was ten years old.

A funeral is not a very good place to get to know people. So when Dad had suggested that we all meet again for a family reunion, everyone agreed.

Corner of Davie and Bute.

Is a greasy spoon too familiar? Does romance
still share milkshakes on Arborite counters?
You on a break in your greasy cook’s jacket, blood
on your sleeve. Me with coffee refills, apple pie, heartburn

This is minimum wage date night in the slow hours:
twenty questions, take bets on what people will order
Side of fries. Piece of strawberry pie
Buddy Holly burger. And Sonny and Cher trite
on the jukebox. They say our love won’t pay
the rent, before it’s earned the money’s all been spent
Home when the sun’s up, give your roommate five bucks
to go to the grocery store
to buy us the time. Next Sunday it’s the same,
a table of twelve want omelets at midnight
We thought you’d get out early

I can hear you singing from the kitchen
while you blanch onions and I know
you’re singing to me

New Ricepaper.

ricepaper 2

Ricepaper’s new double issue: Aboriginal Asian Canadian Writers is available now. This issue is a product of the collaboration between the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop and the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast. Includes a note by guest editor Joanne Arnott, Canadian Métis writer and all-round literary powerhouse. Also includes poetry by yours truly.

Be sure to check out Five Elements, an evening of poetry and music and fundraiser for SFU’s Indigenous Poetry and Poetics class. Friday Feb 23rd at 7pm at Rhizome cafe. Readings by Larissa Lai, Jonina Kirton, Janey Lew, Wanda John-Kehewin, Joanne Arnott, Janet Rogers, Kelly Roulette, Larry Nicholson, Laiwan, Arlene Bowman, Alex Jacobs, Annie Ross, and Michelle Sylliboy.

Douglas Coupland wrote my dream.

me as a behbehRe-occuring Douglas Coupland-esque dream. I live in a shopping mall, still functional but not very busy, with lots of empty space. Like Tinseltown. In some dreams my dwelling is in a junk jewelry store like Claires, sometimes it’s in one of those dead space areas: between the food court, washrooms, and maintenance. I’m furnishing the space with second hand and giveaway furniture; usually someone is helping my collect it from newspaper ads and back alleys.Several friends have played this role on separate occasions. Last night it was my dad.

He had a big 70’s wood paneled station wagon, and we were driving around town with the buy and sell. We found a desk that looked just like one he had when I was a kid. I used to hide under it. Last thing I remember was marveling at all the stuff we’d been able to fit in that wagon.