The Bare Necessities

We need three mangrove trees,
a bamboo hut,
and a shoreline.

We need a little supply boat
to putter into our bay
of half dreams
every other day.

We need one bald gentleman
with skin like an oiled glove,
one old lady
in a thong,
and one Frenchman
with a young local

We need the ginger parts
of our bodies
to remain untouched
by the sun, and for the moon
to wash under our huts at night.

We need to go without running water,
to nap anytime we want,
and to bathe in the sea.

We need
to miss things, occasionally
to be the spoiled princess,
the boyish villain.

We need to know
but for our money,
we are hated here
and love
every minute
of our stay.



As appeared in Catching Dawn’s Breath, 2008 (Lyricalmyrical Press).

Canada Needs a Life

As soon as I saw the headline, I knew there was no turning away. The truth is, Canada, America isn’t into you, by Washington-based author Eric Weiner. I know, I know, I should have stayed away, but as a Canadian, the masochist in me forced me to the read the tongue-in-cheek editorial.

As it turns out, the article is nothing new. Every once in a while Canadian newspapers deliberately run such articles because their editors are cruelly aware it will turn a Canadian’s head quicker than a school girl hearing her name in a cafeteria.

Eric Weiner pushes all the right buttons. On the eve of Obama’s visit, just as Canadians are getting ourselves all ready and excited, America gives Canada the brush-off. “We’re just not that into you,” he writes. He then goes on to address the reasons for the ‘break-up,’ which turns out to be a list of stereotypes: Canadians are too nice, too self-effacing, too agreeable and simply too boring to hold any interest for a long-term relationship. “What can I say, Canada?” he states. “Our amusement threshold is very high.” The last line of the article has probably sent thousands of readers scrambling for emotional validation “Hey, let’s do coffee sometime. We’ll call you.” Oh, the exquisite agony!

I want to break here by saying that Weiner, in this satirical article, also chastises himself (America) for being selfish, self-absorbed and quite blundering with parts of the world that does hold its interest. “We were very much into Iraq (still are) and look how that turned out.” As a whole, the article is balanced. While it pokes fun at Canadian stereotypes, it addresses many of America’s harsh realities.

But still, why aren’t they interested in us? Why not!?

Even before I finish reading the article, I do what I always do in such situations: make a mental list of all the major Canadian contributions to the world – the telephone, penicillin, the zipper, and so on. This list inevitably winds its way to our gifts to Hollywood: Mike Myers, and John Candy, which it shouldn’t. I think of Stuart Smalley’s mantra: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough…and feel only slightly better about myself afterwards. Then I think, “just try and accept myself as I am.” One of the commentators on the article feels the same way: “I am happy to live in a boring country. It’s relatively safe clean and prosperous. Isn’t that what most humans desire?”

But is that really it? Simply admitting that we are the duller, more bookish and responsible sister of the US? I’ve travelled and seen much of the US, and I know for a fact that it’s not the daily circus people like to think it is. Anyone who has been to middle America should know that. Americans have their boring day jobs as well. We all laugh at Borat when he falls under Pamela Andersons spell, but are we all victims of the same witchcraft? Despite our proximity and knowledge of our neighbours to the south, are we, like Borat, mesmerized by their media?

I may be onto something because even now, despite the fact that I have little respect for her, I feel compelled to remind everyone that Pamela Anderson is Canadian. For crying out loud, I read literature, keep up on world events, listen to classical music and write poetry, and although Pamela Anderson has contributed nothing to what I hold dear, I feel pride in the fact that a fellow Canadian has “made it” in the eyes of millions of Americans who adore her breasts.

The fact of the matter is that the whole thing is so high school, which makes me feel even worse about this insecurity. Americans, even during the Bush years, have always been the most popular kids in school, and although we know that he is a shallow jock, and she is a brainless bimbo, we can’t help but be all a-twitter when they give us the slightest bit of attention. We harbour hateful feelings towards them, but if they ask us for help with their calculus, we’ll clear our schedule; if they invite us to a party, we’re there early, helping to set up the kegs.

It’s been years, we’ve come to know Americans better than anyone else, and we should be over this by now. As another commentator put it: “Any nation that worries about what another nation thinks of it doesn’t have enough to worry about.” We can take two things from that comment. Firstly, it’s true: we need to get a life; but, secondly, if that’s the largest of our problems, then worrying about what other people think isn’t such a bad thing.