It’s an Ambush!

July 21, 2022


A good novel is an invasion;
it marches in and you try
to resist, to put it down
but eventually you surrender,
and it burrows every word
into the thickest parts of you,
deploying characters
in an ambush of emotion
so that years later,
you think of them
not as characters at all,
but your own memories
of a life you got tricked
into believing
was your own.

~ Samantha Reynolds


Long time readers will know I’ve long been an enormous fan of bentlily, the daily poetry project by Samantha Reynolds. My first post featuring bentlily was on May 12, 2013 and I’m so pleased to report that all this time later, she’s still going strong with daily inspiration, laughs and, well, heart-sprongs, for lack of the right word. Poet I’m not. There is a rumour a book will soon appear. You can bet I’ll be back to report on that. In the meantime, couldn’t resist sharing this gem with you, fellow readers. I know you’ll get it!

Been ambushed by anything special lately?

Long time readers will know I have a special place in my heart for poems and have been inclined to share a stand-out with you now and then. I couldn’t resist gifting you this one.

A secret indulgence of mine has been to tune into the charming, and inspiring, “bent-lily” blog for a poetic perk in my day. Samantha Reynolds is a Vancouver-based entrepreneur and a mother who, desiring to be mindful of the moments in her baby son’s first year, decided to write a poem a day capturing the essence of even the tiniest events. (Some of us just aimed to take a shower!) Samantha has compiled a wonderful archive of poetry, along with other creative thoughts and opportunities, at My secret is no-more, I encourage you to visit!

And so, I share this little gem with you in honour of Mother’s Day. As a mum of boys, I remember all too well, moments like these. My boys are now long past the toddler stage and it’s my actions causing the embarrassment (they tell me) so I loved this little trip back in time. I marvel at how simply Samantha creates the scene.

We sneak into the elevator before it closes
us with our cart full of groceries
her with just one cloth bag

I blurt out would you mind
if my son presses the button
but her face doesn’t move
so that I wonder if she is deaf
or sad or just as austere as she looks
her hair grey as stone
her potato-coloured raincoat
her sensible shoes
which is when my son
turns to me and asks

does that lady have a bagina

which had been a topic over breakfast
who does and doesn’t
the mention of certain people
making us both giggle

but in the confines of the elevator
and the brittle twitch of her old cheek
his question turns my brain to mud
and I am trapped in the boiling
heat of awkwardness

then the doors open
and with a voice as light as a moth
and a look that absolves me
she says

would you believe
I left it at home.

(Bagina, by Samantha Reynolds, April 27, 2013)

The Gardener

Happy Mother’s Day


March 15, 2013


I just planted some baby daffodils and it put a spring in my step. Spring! Get it? Happy spring break to you … Here’s an oldie but a goodie:

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee: —
A poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing company:
I gaz’d–and gaz’d–but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

William Wordsworth Poems in Two Volumes: Moods of my Mind 7 (1807)




This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

(from New And Selected Poems by Mary Oliver)

I discovered Mary Oliver through this interview with Maria Shriver and have been a fan ever since. Today we’ll post about peonies; Mary will have a post of her own another day soon!

I, like most Canadians, was enthralled with the spoken word performance of Shane Koyczan at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver. Click here if you are not familiar with it or if you just want to wander down memory lane. Mark Grist (link below) is also a Spoken Word artist and has performed the following poem. I couldn’t resist including the written version. It’s tremendous!

(Saucy language ahead – consider thy sensibilities and thyself warned)


by Mark Grist

“So, what do you go for in a girl?”
He crows, lifting a lager to his lips
Gestures where his mate sits
Downs his glass
“He prefers tits
I prefer ass.
What do you go for in a girl?”

I don’t feel comfortable
The air left the room a long time ago
All eyes are on me
Well, if you must know

I want a girl who reads
Yeah. Reads.
I’m not trying to call you a chauvinist
Cos I know you’re not alone in this

I want a girl who reads
Who needs the written word
& uses the added vocabulary
She gleans from novels and poetry
To hold lively conversation
In a range of social situations

I want a girl who reads
Whose heart bleeds at the words of Graham Greene
Or even Heat magazine
Who’ll tie back her hair while reading Jane Eyre
and goes cover to cover with each Waterstones three for two offer
but I want a girl who doesn’t stop there

I want a girl who reads
Who feeds her addiction for fiction
With unusual poems and plays
That she hunts out in crooked bookshops for days and days and days
She’ll sit addicted at breakfast, soaking up the back of the cornflakes box
And the information she gets from what she reads makes her a total fox
Cos she’s interesting & unique
& her theories make me go weak at the knees

I want a girl who reads

A girl whose eyes will analyse
The menu over dinner
Who’ll use what she learns to kick my ass in arguments
so she always ends the winner
But she’ll still be sweet and she’ll still be flirty
Cos she loves the classics and the classics are dirty
So late at night she’d always have me in a stupor
As she paraphrases the raunchier moments from the works of Jilly Cooper

See, some guys prefer asses
Some prefer tits
And I’m not saying that I don’t like those bits
But what’s more important
What supercedes
For me
Is a girl a with passion, wit and dreams
So I want a girl who reads.


Shel Silverstein

October 26, 2011

Shel Silverstein is an icon of the written word – poetic, lyrical or prosaic. Collections of his poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up and A Light in The Attic, are nostalgic favourites of several generations now. Award nominations came his way for writing chart-topping songs like A Boy Named Sue and The Unicorn (bet you know the words yourself to those classics!) as well as many other more serious ones performed by musicians like Johnny Cash,  Loretta Lynn, Marianne Faithfull, and Peter, Paul & Mary. While the words captivate and amuse in his written collections, the charming illustrations are just as entertaining. Silverstein began his creative life as a cartoonist and only well into that career began to add writing for children.

Leaving behind an astounding legacy of words, written, sung, and performed in theatres, Shel Silverstein died in 1999. In 2005,  Runny Babbit: a Billy Sook, was released – apparently Silverstein had been creating this collection of spoonerisms for over 20 years. Another posthumous release, and only very recently, is Everything On It – again combining over 100 poems with delightful drawings. Prophetically perhaps, one of the poems in this collection reads:

“Although I cannot see your face 
As you flip these poems awhile, 
Somewhere from some far-off place 
I hear you laughing–and I smile.”

A reviewer of this latest production wrote: “It should come as little surprise that I thought Every Thing On It was really great, setting my brain’s wonder-and-glee-meter off the charts many times.” 

And so if you’re not familiar with the legend of Shel Silverstein then I hope you’ll make yourself so by reading one of his beloved books, listed below. (Unintentional poetry!) If you only know him by his poetry then be tempted to listen to compilations of his music and be entertained. If you are a devotee already then share your favourite poem with us in the comments. I’ve always been partial to this one:



I’ve been collecting ideas here and there for an overdue acknowledgement of poetry in our reading . . . plenty of poetry we can chat about one day soon. I discovered this more unorthodox approach to the poem today and just had to share. I love it when someone plays outside the lines!

Austin Kleon was a writing student suffering from writer’s block when he was inspired to take a black marker and stroke out words in an old newspaper. The words he chose to leave visible became his poetry. The hundreds of poems he created while commuting to work on the bus have been collected in the volume, Newspaper Blackout.

I have a few favourites (many available to read or even buy as posters on Austin’s website) but this one is particularly sweet. Especially when you read its source below.

How it works: I will give you whatever you want for all the cartwheels you're doing for me.

Kleon’s personal comment about his poem:  “How It Works” is part of my ongoing series of Newspaper Blackout Poems: poetry made by taking an article from The New York Times and blacking it out with a Sharpie marker, leaving only a few choice words behind. It’s rare that I find poetry in the business section, but this one came from an article about hedge fund investing. Like many of my poems, it’s about my wife.

Do visit the website and feel inspired. You never know – a rainy weekend ahead might involve a Sharpie and the recycled weekend papers!

Here is a PBS interview with Austin Kleon if you’d like to see him in action.