Tea and Poetry in the Ides of March - PART ONE

Written by: Elaine George


Beneath a misty veil of ‘Euphoria’ by Calvin Klein, she dares to dream of acceptance in a world of wanna-be Literary Giants who are members of an elite writer’s group, as she drives along a winding road studded with potholes smaller than most of the ones that have rutted most of the roads she has traveled in the past—

Potholes created by a harsh environment that made it impossible for her to move in a straight line. Potholes so big, that at the age of 16, they forced her to detour from University Row to the foot of King in Saint John, New Brunswick, where at the end of the road, she found a way to earn a living working in a tea factory; where her ring finger was nearly severed as her dreams of a better life gushed red streams, high into the air with every beat of her heart.

Where through the eye of a needle, her life hung by a thread, a life-line that pulled her back from blackness as pain radiated in that pulsating flesh, as those rough edges were forced back together behind a fence of snipped, spiky, black barbs (remnants of that thread), left to remind her there was no escaping from the foot of King.

Yet she was grateful. 

Grateful she had survived.

Grateful she was able to return to work the following day to operate a machine that required using her feet instead of her hands.

Grateful  she still had a job and a roof over her head after the door to the place she once called home locked her out and left her to lie in a lumpy bed in the seediest part of the city in a dilapidated rooming house with all the luxuries a minimum wage could buy.

 It was winter and the room was cold. 

With her can of stove-oil having long-since gone up in smoke, she put her coat on and pulled the thin bed-covers over her. 

In the gloom,  she saw a ray of light (a small white slip of paper) lying on the rickety nightstand (a doctor’s prescription) yet unfilled that would have to wait until next payday. 

 Eventually those black barbs were pulled out, one by one, from their crusted, ***** pockets, by a doctor who told her not to be such a baby as her screams ran out into the waiting room. 

She relives these visions, as she has a thousand times before as she rounds the bend on Regional Road 45 that runs between soggy mud-clad fields covered in pig manure from where a willow weeps tiny green leaves in this record-breaking heat of March. And she wonders how something so beautiful can grow from something so ugly. 

And she knows why the willow weeps as she contemplates this strange phenomena in the Ides of March and chooses (like Caesar) to ignore the warning signs. And like the willow, she bends in order to follow the winding road; her hands gripping the steering wheel until…

The wide shank of her wedding band (designed to cover the past), catches on the thick, calloused scar tissue of her ring finger, reminding her again of who she really is. 

 And she asks herself, how she dares to dream of acceptance in a world of intellects, when the truth is she never even finished high school.

But she did graduate from a Bookkeeping program at Vancouver City College, when she was 22, and took all those night school courses while she worked during the day.  

What about all those correspondence Law courses she took when she was in her thirties (graduating with honours) and the night courses she took while  working in an insurance office to become a Licensed Insurance Broker? Surely they must count for something? 

 Yes! But you didn’t graduate from University; no prestigious initial follow your signature, and the only Master’s degree you can claim is ‘A Master’s degree in Disguise,’ says the little voice inside as sweat begins to leak through the foundation of the Revlon mask she wears today in an attempt to cover the thin skin these intellects will otherwise surely see through.

“But I have proof I am worthy of their acceptance,” she replies. Sitting there on the seat beside me, in my briefcase is my self-published book of poems; some of which have won International Poetry Awards and money, some that have been published in other books and magazines. Surely that is enough.

Up ahead, an enormous metal, hexagon-shaped, red flag wearing white letters says STOP. She stops and looks in all directions and, seeing no danger, crosses the point of no return to an afternoon of tea and poetry with what she hopes are birds of a feather.

***
CONTINUED IN PART TWO...