Poem Portal #36: Higher Education

B&C LOGO (teal-purple)In the summer between my high school graduation and my first year at UNBC, I was working on my Alternate Animorph Ending, making mixed music cassettes, expanding my book collection and going on long walks to my favourite bookstore/café (Books & Company) to write. I remember thinking I would have to get every project of real importance done before September: my life as I knew it was about to be over. But my first attempt at novel writing was not quite finished by the time classes started. My head was full of my Animorph Ending, and my first all-original series “Drescopata” was starting to creep up in its wake. I knew writing novels was far from over, but I pretended I could juggle. I took notes mechanically, and reassured myself I’d catch up on comprehension closer to exams. The only class that managed to get my undivided attention was Children’s Literature. Assigned reading was about a dozen children’s novels — only two of which I hadn’t already read (“A Royal Ransom” and “A Cricket in Times Square”). The most major assignment was a choice between writing an essay or a children’s story (why anyone chose essay is beyond me). I think I could have juggled four classes like that, no problem. But of course, my other three were math, anthropology, and introductory teaching. daydream AnimorphI never knew until then that I could be so disconnected from what I had to learn. I had never excelled at math or science, but I’d always kept up with every required course in high school. Keeping up was supposed to be second nature, but now, I felt lost and very intimidated by everyone else’s concentration. I found I also lacked the will power to seek help or try harder. I used to sit with a history major in the same study corner. We’d chatted enough to know she was a dedicated textbook reader and I a distracted fiction writer. Once I sat with her for about five minutes staring at a math worksheet; then I put it away and pulled out my laptop. She smirked at me and said, “you didn’t last long.” And I didn’t. I dropped out of university, and enjoyed my starving artist lifestyle until years later when I discovered ECE. During the months I tried university, I naturally wrote a poem to angst about it:

I have a brain, but it’s not quite the same as what everyone here seems to have.

They’ll study for hours, but I can’t keep pace; I hate it when life is a race.

Sixteen years old, you don’t know how to drive

You’re coffee and cappa deprived

Now you’re eighteen and it’s no wonder you

Want to live like there’s nothing to do.

Let go of the past; childhood’s been abolished

Get back to life when you’re standard and polished

You’ll read, write and highlight ’til you get it done

Only lazy bad slackers have fun.

I’ve always been one who would much rather stay

Smelling the roses until they rot and decay

Than plowing through fields, just the end in sight

Letting every sweet sidetrack pass by in the night

By jcmlott

Poem Portal #35: Hesitant Heroes

I can’t think how this poem came to mind except through word prompts, which would make it circa age twenty. It seems to describe the introverts who have noble aspirations but too little gumption to force them into the open. I’m certainly an introvert, and a believer in the power of good.

How best can grin flee?flying_angel

How best wings take cover?

Angel can hide,

Smile can run,

Love shatter steel;

How best can be done?

Regroup, reconsider,

We shelter, protect

Best good things fragile

To put-down and jest

Weak, but they’re peeking,

Sneaky, they see

How best they can rise,

Because the world needs them strong.

By jcmlott

Poem Portal #34: Happy Ending

coverAge 17-19, my writing obsession found its roots in my burning desire to fix the Animorph ending. When one has a writer for a mother, one doesn’t accept a beloved book series’ integrity thrown out the window as a done deal. My mother, however, entrusted the salvation of Animorphs to me, thus allowing me to discover that I was a writer myself. In the beginning, much of my process was hyping myself up for the big job ahead. I came up with a little song, the tune for which is essentially the chorus line “so much for my happy ending” (from “My Happy Ending” by Avril Lavigne). It wasn’t important that the song feel good to anybody but me. The fact was that singing it made me excited about my project, the same way that dancing inexpertly to loud music made me energized for writing. Bear in mind that the following lyrics are meant to be accompanied by the righteous rage of a motivated teen and her imaginary rock band:

Pessimists can stop pretending;

So much for their crappy ending!

(echo) Oooh-oh…so much for their crappy ending…

(Instrumental / random ‘ooo’ing)

Life need not be condescending;

I’ll make it a happy ending!

(echo) Oooh-oh…I’ll make it a happy ending…

(Instrumental / random ‘ooo’ing)

There’s a mess here that needs tending;

So much for their crappy ending!

(echo) Oooh-oh…so much for their crappy ending…

(Instrumental / random ‘ooo’ing)

Optimists don’t need defending;

I’ll make it a happy ending!


Poem Portal #33: Happiness

Happy MeI’m gonna say circa age 13 for this one, but if you think I became less of a happy-go-lucky teen age 14 onwards, you’d be wrong. I could see myself writing this glaringly optimistic song at any point before my school-hating phase at age 17. This was before I even  knew I was a writer, and yet life was evidently wonderful;-) I think I still had more steam for the occasional angry song, because only two verses of this got written. I found abandoned notes for four more. Verse 3: a relaxing activity/a good conversation, verse 4: excitement/thrills, verse 5: good news/something to look forward to, verse 6: compliments/success. Definitely not going to write those verses now, so enjoy an unedited hurtle fourteen years into the past…

Chorus: A bright, something new in a typical day,

              Makes life worthwhile in every way,

              The day goes on, but anyhow,

              I can’t stop smiling now!

Verse 1: A laugh that gives you earnest glee,

              Leaves you working happily,

              A thought that lets you drift away,

              To a place where dreams dance night and day,

              You are safe from the world’s solemn stare,

              You are free to breathe in fragrant air, 

              When you’re alone in a world of your own.


Verse 2: Something sweet to thrill your tongue,music notes

              Glorious notes are beautif’ly sung,  

              There’s something new to intrigue you,

              When each day brings sounds and tastes anew,

              The world is wonderful when all around you,

              There are sunsets, mists and haze,rainbow

              With rainbows, stars and shimmering waves,

              The world smiles at you, always!

Poem Portal #32: Handling Poor

This poem reflects the financially naïve twenty-year-old brain I possessed when I first started living away from home. I moved in with my roommates in Abbotsford, sitting on $6,000 that I’d saved from working in fast food in Prince George. I intended to use my savings for living expenses until I became an independently wealthy author. jen1I figured I could keep my savings afloat by sticking to the bare essentials: rent, food and any opportunity to further my writing career. To help replace money that had to be spent, I did get part-time jobs almost right away (Blockbuster for a couple weeks and Apple Betty’s for three months). I didn’t expect to stay at $6,000, but I expected to fluctuate at a nice safe height for as long as I needed. To my credit, I did last about six months before I had to start living paycheck to paycheck. The cold hard truth hit me when a cheque I’d sent for a writing contest bounced (never play writer-lottery on writing contests that aren’t free; the getting-published lottery is hard enough without that extra stress).

Anyway, now that I’ve had seven years to improve my life balancing skills, I’m not too embarrassed to share how I used to be. Welcome to my first home away from home:

There’s a filter on the kitchen tap, instead of a water cooler.

Two garbage bags balance against the dining room wall.internet

An internet cord coils across my bedroom door,

So I must lift my feet, going in, going out.

I bought my bed at Value Village—it’s a mattress in literal speak.

I lift it each night off the carpeted floor and tuck my blanket ends underneath.

My clothes come from a friend who lost weight.

They’re big on me too; I have a good belt.

A couple nice shirts shut up in the closet, so the cat can’t pull them down.

One suitcase is my dresser; the other, laundry basket.

I don boots and coat to do my laundry.Over-Packer

Carry the load out our front door, to the front door of the boarders below.

Two washers, two dryers; one of each works,

Five people share; two I don’t consult with.

Never leave laundry ’til no clean clothes left. 

Broke the blinds in my room; I’ll change in the bathroom.

For the soap there I thank every Body Shop gift, until now unused and unneeded.

No fan after a shower; I open the window a crack.

Remember to close it, so the house won’t get cold.

My legs are cold in my room; I wrap a quilt around them where I sit,

Warm my hands in the sleeves of my sweater, against my mug of tea.teabag_used

I use every tea bag twice; sealing first-used in a ziplock.

Behind, on my mattress, my boom box is singing.

My laptop’s a treasure—no cable; it plays DVDs.

There’s no home telephone, only “Skype” and my cell.

No alarm clock; my cell phone does that.

No car, so I walk.  Buy what I can carry.

On my own two feet, I’m affording my life,

Though outside it, my savings sound small.

Families paying down debts on their houses and cars

Can’t see six thousand lasting a month,

But it lasts, even grows, I don’t slip below five.

And always I can pay

The next flight I have to make,

The next chance I have to take,

No excess, no waste in my day-to-day things,

My future, as well, is my own.


My roommates’ cat.

By jcmlott

Poem Portal #31: Hall Light

hall light This poem reminds me of how angry I got with my printer yesterday. When technology frustrates us humans, we tend to crave an emotional object to punish. Suddenly, my inanimate printer has tender feelings and if I yell at it and call it names, it will be so sorry it ever made me mad. This is how I explain my behaviour anyway. And I’ve seen other people do it too. Oh, but if objects really could care, what trouble we’d all be in! “Hall Light” circa age twenty for my online poetry course:


The hall light cracks, explodes, throws sparks,

The hall light, yes, sets house on fire.

The hall light, no, we can’t suspect,

For years it looked so innocent.

Foolish, I know, trusting so long

Objects enslaved would not rebel.

The hall light obeys no one now.

Poem Portal #30: Haiku

I wrote this one for an English assignment when I was fourteen. She was my favourite English teacher, and when she got my Haiku lamenting my current condition, she wrote with a little smiley face on my paper: “but not forever”:-)

Teeth behind tight bars

Sit wondering aimlessly—

What did they do wrong?


Poem Portal #29: Gooey Shoes

Slime00This poem has no special, life significance and I’m not going to pretend it does. One of my goofy word prompt poems, circa age 20. Have you noticed how much I love word prompts? I’m thinking of writing a dramatic poem based on phrases I’ve made with my Shakespeare Insult Generator (awesome souvenir from Bard on the Beach). Maybe I’ll even build a poem around the words my husband and I played in a recent game of Scrabble. Hey, just be glad I don’t write my novels this way…

We slick our steps in goo
Since just the other day
An unfriendly shoe or two
Came up that easy way

Our guests arrive,
Stamp their feet,
Though we lower ladder;
Climbing up that wretched thing
Is such an awful bother

“Coat those rungs, good goo!”
I cry, “If our pals fuss fun away,”
Really, what would they do
In our shoes and mayday?

Poem Portal #28: Gold Swirl Free

goldpanThis was for a contest to rewrite the lyrics of the song “Four Strong Winds.” I remember that my aunt Holly put me onto it. She’d heard about it on the radio or something, and since anne_of_green_gablesI was a writer in full contest mode at the time, she suggested that I enter. Judging by what I came up with, the objective was to make the song very Canadian. Probably a Canada Day contest. This was long before I actually did go to Prince Edward Island on my honeymoon. Anne of Green Gables was the major appeal of the place. I still love all of L.M. Montgomery’s fiction, perhaps more consistently than any other author’s work. Circa age twenty, here is my Canadian “Four Strong Winds” renamed “Gold Swirl Free.”

I’m a-goin’ cross the country
From B.C. to farthest shore
Got to see those forests
Stretching everywhere
You’ll pine for P.E. Island,
If I bring you some red sand,
Anne in her green gables
Born of beauty there
Gold swirl free from pan soil,
Rocky Mountains climb skies
Far as all tomorrow, what’s to be,
Beavers build homes in nickels
Prairie grass scratches ’n’ tickles,
 I will show you if you venture forth with me.

Poem Portal #27: Gift Train

This was one of my word prompt poems circa age 20. “Train” and “mouse” were two of the words. With most word prompt poems, step 1 for me was finding all the possible contexts for the random words I’d chosen. Step 2 was choosing my favourite idea; step 3 to build a poem around that idea. I guess this is one of my lazier pieces, because I didn’t move past step 1:

I asked for a train

From father, from mother,

                                                A big train, a long train,

                                              And that was not all.

                                             I wanted a mouse;

 A white mouse, a smart mouse,

A long-tailed, fun mouse

That felt good to touch.

I should have drawn pictures,

I realize too late,

Of locomotives and rodents;

They’d see what I said.

My dress doesn’t have wheels,

Though its train is real long

Mom trains me to curtsey without falling down

rodent mouseMy train of thought runs wild round the railscomputer mouse

When dad trains cameras on me

And tells me to smile

As for the mouse, it’s a pet like no other

 They gave me a white one for my computer.