Imagining Genius

Imagine befriending genius –
accepting social awkwardness
embracing habitual quirks as
incubation for enlightenment.

If I could strip down, release
preconceived notions, agendas,
lie naked, exposed, in shallow
waters, intimately entwined,

unencumbered by sexuality
or gender protocols, I would
shake this sensual impotency –
become one with creativity.

As my father, wounded, I
am inhibited by my feminine,
opting for compliance over
strength, a conditioned identity.

His mystery extends, flawless
sculpting, archetypal secrets,
pretense proclaiming normalcy,
usurping vitality, genius stifled.




A splash of icy water –
first personal assault
on an adopted persona –
marked each day’s start.

With military precision
the lie, perpetuated since
childhood, was carried out –
a ritualized euthanization.

Starched collar, tightly
knotted tie (hangman’s
accomplice), solidified
the tortured charade.

A stray, unyielding curl
atop neatly cropped hair –
lonely vestige – belied
the woman locked within.

Stiff comportment channelled
inner rage, buried beneath
driven pursuit of monetary
success professing normalcy.

Behind the mask, a gentler
soul watched, agonizingly
lonely – abandoned authenticity
imprisoned, denied expression.

Alcohol, sought to numb twisted
reality – exacerbated tensions,
propelled acts of violence, drowned
unwitting co-conspirators, diminished

hope – no viable solution – society
uncompromising – fantasies of death –
swift release – defined behaviours,
created a legacy, a prayer adopted

by a child left behind, incapacitated
by father’s anguish,  smothered
by ashes of incredulous tragedy,
awaiting the phoenix’s rising.

In Remembrance


I stare at the photo of my father,
that last Remembrance Day,
in awe of a person we never knew.

Just fifteen, the awkwardly tall
figure joined ranks with an elite
squad trained for unarmed combat.

He’s wearing his Commando’s beret,
medals proudly adorning his breast,
symbols whose meaning are now lost.

They were the best and the brightest,
sleuthing out enemy stores, carrying
imperative data to oncoming troops.

He cried that day, as candles glowed –
symbols of lives lost – “Good men,”
he muttered, and squeezed my hand.

A suicide mission, he’d called it,
armed only with a knife and hands
of steel – a black pill if caught.

By day, he never spoke of war,
at night, he screamed in terror,
Why such a mission? I asked.

He’d had his own secret cause,
a war waging within him – bent
on eradicating his heroic flaw.

War made my father – a disciplined,
regimented man of iron, intimidating,
fearless – machismo at its best.

He returned a hero, celebrated
with his hometown, and left again –
the lie still alive within him.

My father was a valiant soldier –
counted himself as privileged –
to serve alongside the honourable.

At fifteen, a girl whose body
belied her existence, enlisted
in a fight to become a man.

* * *

In remembrance of the countless men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom – every one of which has a story.



For You, Dad

and flower power
formed the backdrop of my youth.
Women burning their bras,
Hippies holding sit-ins,
War in Vietnam.

Ideals began to form.

Beatles and Rolling Stones
were household names,
and school children took
the Pepsi vs. Coke challenge.
Twiggy and Mary Quaint
set the fashion stage.

I lived in creative times.

A flower-toting leader,
dating well below his years,
wooed his lovers and his nation
with a French accent,
and called in the army when
the FLQ threatened peace.

Passion awakened in my heart.

Open concept was my classroom,
education free-style.
We had a Wong and a Suzuki,
and watched the Black Panthers
on a sometimes-coloured TV,
and learned that we were WASPs.

I was on the edge of compassion.

Talk shows revealed infidelities,
and debated homosexuality –
criminal or mental instability?
Equal rights meant equal pay
while Country Clubs posted exclusions
and institutes housed the nonconforming.

I started questioning.

Home-made prevailed over store-bought,
and a Valium suppressed mother
kept my father’s castle,
and we went to church on Sundays
and practiced perfect smiles
and learned to pretend.

Enlightenment comes at a price.

Too young to understand the dynamics
of my brooding inner turmoil,
I raged at the discrepancies,
and swung with a fast right,
fighting for a justice
I could not articulate.

I learned to hate.

The consideration my father preached
was a one-way street.
He spewed racism, and sexism, and abuse;
over-worked, over-drank, and
railed against a world
where he could find no acceptance.

I discovered we had secrets.

Teen pregnancy, LSD,
and schizophrenia invaded
our patriarchal fortress,
internal combustion threatened,
yet we held fast to our façade –
happiness and solidarity.

When Dad came out I wasn’t ready.

High school came, along with disco;
Barbie dolls were traded
for platforms and menthols.
While Rocky Horror gained a cult following
my father revealed his own cross-dressing
ambitions and asked us to call him Liz.

I learned to run away.

Halter-tops and tight blue jeans
attracted adverse attention,
the police told me after the rape.
I crawled back home and began to cut
unable to feel through the armour
of numbness I had donned.

There was no way out.

Donahue paraded real life transvestites
before a disbelieving audience,
while psychiatrists spoke of deviant addictions.
Electric shock treatments broke my father,
he begged but I pushed him back in the closet.
We would not speak of it again.

I steeled myself against life.

Landlines, now, are disappearing,
Televisions smarter: Reality the new fiction.
Songza picks my playlists.
Integration and differentiation
are the educational goals I seek
to fulfill in my role as teacher.

Relief followed my father’s death.

LGBQT is on the forefront
workshops teach about sexual orientation
and gender identity,
and I learn that it is hormones –
not addiction – that decide,
and the realization pierces my heart.

There’s been a tragic misunderstanding.

My liberated, forward thinking mind,
strangled by a self-serving heart
slammed the door on possibility
eclipsing the brilliance and creativity
of the soul that was my father.
I never knew his authentic self.

There is no going back.

The river runs within me now,
a deep and endless stream.
The shards of my former reality
too shattered to mend; I stumble
humbled by the inadequacy
of this human existence.

I write for you, now, Dad.