Author: Monna McDiarmid

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Bon Voyage

Bon Voyage

When I was a girl
travellers wore their best clothes
on airplanes.
Family and friends
wished them
“Bon Voyage!”

Have a good trip.

Airplanes now
are filled with passengers
in sweatpants and flip flops.
We send them off with
“Travel safely.”

is the very least
of what’s been lost.



The plant lasted a week.

{not the drink
The Global Issues Network}
wanted our school to be greener,
with plants.
They emailed the teachers
and offered a choice:
I looked up the plants on the Internet
(as one does when free plants are offered)
and the hyacinth
seemed easiest
to keep alive.
That’s the sum of my criteria
where plants are concerned.

Hyacinth is also the name
of my partner’s fierce-wonderful 
She’s 94.

The plant arrived while I was out
of my office.
Planted in a white plastic pot
with a little sign
that said “Hyacinth”
along with instructions
for watering.

Our first two days
were fine.
One might even say boring.

Then my colleague
who works in the adjoining office
noticed small bugs
orbiting the plant.
She hunted them down,
pressing their grey-black bodies
into small squares
in the wallpaper.

She said: “It’s an infestation!”

I said: “I’m Canadian
and until you’ve seen
blackflies in August,
you can’t talk about infestation.”

She said: “My day
has been filled
with tiny murders.”

The next day
was one of peace.
Either she’d killed all the bugs
or some,
the wise survivor-bugs,
had moved on
to safer plants
and classrooms.

in a riotous act of purple-beauty
Hyacinth bloomed.

Her corner of the office
was heavy with tropical daydreams.
She whispered the names of warm places
that end with an i.

The following morning
a colleague couldn’t enter my office.
Allergies stopped him
red-eyed and sneezing
at the door.

Later that day
my friend with the adjoining office

We had to send Hyacinth away
to live with another teacher.

I want to say that we took time
to mark this transition,
that we sent her away
with sad hearts
and words of advice.
We didn’t. We sent an email.

I’m starting to think that schools
are tricky places for plants.

Maybe I should have asked for a tulip.

The Garden

thought garden

What if you learned
that everything you said
one day
grow up
to be a poem.

What thoughts
would you
to yourself
or stash inside an old coffee can
hidden beneath the porch?

Which ones
would you plant
in your garden?

*For Aynne Johnston who wrote, “a thought that might one day grow up to become a poem” in response to a writing prompt for Geography of Now.

I forgot to tell you


I forgot to tell you
I finished my novel
the one I was writing
my crappy first draft.

I never thought it possible
to love such a deeply flawed book.

Every awkward phrase
every uneven scene,
every place
where I “told”
and definitely
shouts out,
“You did this!
You didn’t think you could
but you did.”

I didn’t think I could.

That’s been true
about other things.
Climbing the Great Wall.
Travelling alone.

I’m living
my life backwards
and now,
in my forties,
I’ve slid
into adolescence
like a trombone.

Late, loud and fearless.

My teenage years are gonna be awesome.

Waiting for the light at Ebisu Station

saturday morning
{Listen to the soundtrack for this poem.}

Waiting for the light at Ebisu Station
listening to Gregory Porter
on my headphones
and across the intersection
on the other side
of the white-striped concrete sea
stands an eight-year old girl
in a red coat
and her mother
classic in caramel
and they are laughing
and the sun is shining
like apple cider
and it’s cold
end-of-February cold
the kind of Tokyo cold
that says,
“Hey, you! Isn’t it great to be alive?”
and I wish I had my phone out
to take a portrait of the sun
as it brushes the girl’s
as she turns towards her mother
and I think how lucky I am
how lucky we are
to be here
in this moment
overwhelmed by the sun
Gregory Porter
the freshness of the morning
when a woman on a green bicycle
a bike too big for her
speeds by
blowing up my hair
like a bomb
missing me by centimetres
missing the girl in the red coat
by a distance too small
to measure,
missing her by a thought
and the girl looks up
in the direction
from which the cyclist came,
she looks at me
where I am standing
and we look at each other.


The Elevator


We rode the elevator
from the park
down to the metro station
which feels surreal anyway
like Alice in Wonderland
plunging down the rabbit hole.

On the second floor
we stopped for
four young teachers,
each of them leading
three toddlers
in red baseball caps.

I tucked Damien behind me.
We’re a little scary to Japanese children.
So round and pink.
So tall and brown.

As each teacher entered,
she moved her three children
to make room for the others.
I thought of those
primary coloured
snap lock beads
from when I was a kid.
The pieces snapped apart
to make the necklace
or longer.
You could bend it around.

The doors kissed closed
and we were six adults
and twelve children.
The car heaved
with cuteness
and although
we were descending
the air got thinner.
I started to laugh.

Some of the small heads
turned up
towards us.
Their eyes were large with
“What are they?”

The bell dinged.
As the doors slid open
I thought we might spill out
like marbles
onto the concrete floor,
rolling past groves of shiny black shoes
and dogs straining on their leashes.

The teachers unsnapped the necklace,
led the children off
in their tiny groups
and down into the metro
where I imagine them riding still
in Tokyo’s basement.
Small superheroes
in red baseball caps.