1994: Taking Flight


we got the job, now we are Jets

we sing that song from West Side Story

and go out for sushi by way of research


the friend who arrived on my doorstep

from russia, with her fiance

has stayed, married, run out of patience

with immigration hoops, and needs a job

her logic has herded me into this

the process included a panel interview

of which i remember only teeth and eyebrows


we go by charter bus to the consul’s house

i watch leafy west end streets unroll

think about my road til now; i’m twenty seven

were i one sort of stereotype, i could have

a teenaged child

another sort, scarred arms and that shiny

over-watered skin, a whole face blister

cheating my reddened eyes of view

yet again, i could have been

a doctor, a lawyer, not a chief.


but i am none of these

i am free, also untethered

resigning from the clinic was easy

i’d learned i’d never be a rockstar therapist

which is to say, would never want to market

like the rockstar therapists expanding into

snake oil territory.


i say i will never forsake the knowledge

nor the commitment to healing, which must

include me, single again

and so, i have turned east


i am a Jet, about to take flight.


at the consul’s house, we the new recruits

the chosen, queue for refreshments

on the lawn. i am unfurling like a leaf into the feel

of this miniature garden, and the prospect, when

the teeth reappear, exclaiming in my ear

oh how glad she is that i got the job.

good for everyone, but especially

that they got to hire a Native, she is proud

because i am so much more… she draws breath

while finding the right word… Canadian.

what i am is stuck. my heels have taken root

in the newly watered lawn. there is no escape

from her proclamations. no way to explain

graciously on the lawn, that her patent surprise

and my novelty do not inspire joy. i know better

than to rudely reply, ‘wait til i get my heels unstuck

and i’ll jump for joy, maybe do you an indian dance.’


to crumple her gleaming smile would not serve.

she does not know, and i cannot teach her here.


i’ve had a couple decades practice in consciously

choosing to quietly gloss, seek inner stillness

deflect conversation; this could not be solved

on the consul’s lawn. in time she moves away.


the consul makes a point of bearing through the crowd

a cloak of graceful stillness. when he brings that to me

i unfurl again, and we sip tea under gathering dusk

murmuring about curiosities.


when i get to Japan, i’ll be one of the few

not reeling from culture shock.





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