Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #40

In which Your Humble Blogger writes a love letter to her youthful idealism, the personification of which has seems to have taken up residence across the border:

“The Canada of My Dreams”

See, in the distance, that perfect arc
That's binding the shape of the heavens?
That's not the horizon. That, my friends,
Is Canada, bridge of ice and light
And tempered growth, meticulous bridge.
Up north there, even the blacktop's snow white,
And after walking it for a while,
A potential expat becomes blessed
With Canadians, darling bundles
Of flannel and warmth who present her
With hot chocolate and evidence of
Overwhelming literacy. There,
Everything beams, and though the d├ęcor
Depends largely on mounted deer parts,
Everyone knows that those were procured
Through conservation measures; the effect
Is responsibly charming. Often,
For those reasons, I've gazed at the span
That is Canada, and on lucky days,
I've even see my younger self there.
Normally, she sends me angry notes
Through the mirror, while I'm up weighing
The circles under my eyes or dropping
My bulk onto the scale. Or washing
My hands after doing nothing with them.
When I see her in Canada, though,
That young me seems happy, probably
Because she's going to the doctor's,
And in Canada, health care is fun.
Sometimes, however, she regards me
With such sadness that I almost feel
Sorry for the snow that finds her cheek.
It's all I can do to tell her
Not to worry, because she forever
Has Canada, and its glittering
Promise, and because of that, she will
Never be the one who's cold.

* * *

Ah, my fellow doe-eyed liberals here in the U.S. Raise your hands if, at some point in your youth (or, hell, even at some point recently, probably before the hockey riots), you found yourself thinking, "Screw it, I'm sick of how they do things here, and I'm gonna move to Canada, where they do things right!" ;p

And to everybody reading this: Raise your hands if you think about the way you are now, compare it to the way you believe you used to be, and wonder, "Man, what happened to me?"

Stereotypes can be interesting to play with, if treated carefully and not assumed to be absolute reality. I think the best comedians can use them successfully to make us think about how we behave as members of society at large, and that usually means that they use such exaggerated forms of the stereotype that we know they don't really feel that way. (I also think the problems with stereotypes arise when someone assumes that people are going to behave like a stereotype before she even knows them, or when someone assumes that stereotypical behavior is all that an individual has to offer.) My belief is that we all engage in stereotypical behavior at some point; the question, I guess, is what we do knowing that.

The image of Canada that I think a lot of people have conjured is a little different from reality. My youthful idealism is a bit detached from my current reality. That doesn't mean that I didn't find it worthwhile to spend some time thinking about them.

What's interesting to me about this poem, looking back at it, is the way that it came about. This is one of the few poems for which I had the title before I had anything else; normally, I struggle for a title after I've already laid out the basic elements of a piece. The night before I wrote this one, though, I had had a dream about visiting Toronto, and that's where this explanation gets weird: The world of my dreams has a consistent alternate geography to it. For example, I've repeatedly visited San Diego in my dreams, and while it's the same every time -- there's an old blue house smack in the middle of the downtown area -- it looks nothing like the real San Diego. I was thinking about the fact that there's a certain Canada in my dreams, and lo, there a poem took hold.

So... does anyone else do that?


  1. (raises hand)
    (raises hand again)
    I was just discussing the joy and beauty and ethereal... something... that is Canada on Saturday, with my good friend Gary Reed. The talk made me ache to experience this beautiful, mysterious country. Then I forgot all about it. Until just now...

  2. It's so hard to type with my hand raised! But again,
    what a great blog this is.

  3. Raf: *cue Twilight Zone music* Whoa, the timing! But yes, everything I hear about Canada suggests that it's shiny and sparkly, maybe because of the cleanliness, maybe because of all the snow. How could it not attract the interest of writers?

    Dan: Aw, thanks, man! I didn't know you were hanging around here -- thanks for the comment! (And don't forget to put your hand down eventually, especially if it happens to be your drawing hand.)