Saturday, June 8, 2019

Bedside Manner

Dear ER doctor,

Do not tell me that you refuse to admit my mom
Before you have even seen her.

Do not tell me that there is no medical reason to keep her in
When she’s had nothing to eat or drink for four days.

Do not tell me that other people need the bed
Like she is a waste of space.

Do not tell me that her care is a family matter
When I am the only family here.

Do not leave your abrupt manner smeared around the hospital room
For nurses to mop up with apologies and bright smiles.

Never mind doctor. I know you’re not listening anyway.

Conni Cartlidge

June 8, 2019 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Call to Action #73

We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action)

Not yet two, he sleeps
Cozy on his grandma’s bed
Under star blanket cover

Does he dream of his busy morning play group?
Spoon music
Bracelet beading
Singing “I’m a little Metis from head to toe”

Does his great grandmother’s spirit visit him?
Reminding him
That he is lucky like her
Fair skinned
Able to pass

Just a toddler, he naps
Unaware of the search
For unmarked graves of 
Dead children.

His missing family.

Conni Cartlidge
May 15, 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018

Cherry Lessons

When your daughter wants a cup of cocoa at bedtime
You don’t just make her a cup of cocoa.

You pull up the tall red metal stool to the kitchen counter so when she perches on it she can reach and you get out the yellow Fry’s cocoa tin, the sugar bowl, the salt shaker, the quart of milk and the boiling water and you explain to her that you will put two spoons of cocoa, two spoons of sugar and just a sprinkle of salt into her mug and she will have to stir thoroughly so all the different colours and textures blend into one brown powder and then you add just a few drops of milk and tell her to blend it all till it’s creamy smooth and then she watches as you slowly add the boiling water almost to the top of the cup and she stirs it ever so gently so as not to burn herself and you tell her she did it just right.

When you love your wife
You don’t just tell her you love her.

You paint “Mary loves Al” in a huge heart with arrows through it on one wall during that spring break when you decide to surprise her with a mustard-yellow ketchup-red redo of your bedroom and you paint “Mary loves Al” in a gigantic heart with arrows through it across the front of the three-bedroom bungalow you share with her and you paint “Mary loves Al” in a small heart hidden under the mattress on the built-in bed frame and no one sees it till it’s time for you to move into a seniors’ apartment together.

When your children want you to read a bedtime story
You don’t just read a story.

You create bossy voices and grouchy voices and high squeaky lady voices and belligerent child voices so the old-fashioned poems about knights and nannies become real and the sound of you reading is so clear that when your child grows up and reads these lines to a tiny baby boy in her care your voice comes through her mouth and she starts to cry as the wide-eyed infant in her arms gazes up at her and she has to put the book down and let her tears drop quietly while the baby pats her back and looks over her shoulder and beyond.

When someone in your family has a birthday
You don’t just say happy birthday.

You phone that person first thing in the morning even though they might want to sleep in or they might be at work or they might not be taking calls and you get their voicemail and you sing happy birthday while you play the ukulele and you always finish with tiddly pom.

When you sponsor a foster child in another country
You don’t just send a cheque.

You write monthly letters and you send family photographs and you buy a plane ticket to the Honduras to visit the child and their family and you travel alone because nobody else is brave enough to go with you and three days before you die you still try to write a letter but can only scratch the date at the top of the lined paper on your desk.

When your lips are dry
You don’t just apply Chapstick.

You ask your wife for some lipkissy and when she finds a tube you smooth it on your lips and then ask for a little kiss and she always gives one.

When you are taken for an evening stroll in your wheelchair
You don’t just sit passively in your wheelchair.

You comment on the smooth ride and the flickering leaf shadows you notice along the new walking path by your personal care home and you ask what the solid brick building is that you see across the lawn and when you are told that it used to be the student nurses’ residence at the mental health centre you exclaim “the stupid nurses?” and when the words are clarified for you there is much laughter before you are taken back to your room on that final Tuesday evening in July.

When it’s time for dessert
You don’t just eat dessert.

You clean your plate because that is what your mom taught you to do and you have a cup of tea and if dessert is simple vanilla ice cream you put a maraschino cherry on top. 

Or maybe two.

In memory of Dad.

Conni Cartlidge
December 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fall Prune

As I branch out

I feel pinched back

Clipped into silence

My words run through the chipper

My thoughts shredded

Mulch spread to help others grow

My confidence lost.

But I can root around

To unearth it again.

Conni Cartlidge

October 28, 2018

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Rhubarb at 8:00 PM

Dim twilight 

Only three residents still

One woman in a wheelchair
Eyes look in different directions
A struggle to see me
I am not hers

Another woman on the leak-proof vinyl couch
Eyes peer through round wire glasses
And past me
I am not hers

And one man wheeled up close to the round dining table
His seatbelt fastened
His fall alarm clipped to his red Terry Fox t-shirt
A survivor

I am his youngest daughter.

A Steve Martin movie plays
As the nurses complete their charts

His eyes jump as I touch his shoulder
What are you doing here?
Did you get the car fixed?

Yes Dad
My usual answer 
And I brought you some rhubarb cake
For a bedtime snack

He grabs the spoon in his fist
Shakes the cake to his mouth

I would like another piece for breakfast
With a nice glass of coffee.

Okay Dad.

He doesn’t remember that The Jerk was his favourite movie
But he knows that rhubarb grew in the garden at his childhood home.

And that I am his youngest daughter.


Conni Cartlidge 
June 10, 2018

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Chocolate brown corduroy jumper
Over pale blue button down shirt
Stiff collar

New knee socks that don't yet need pulling up
Squeaky suede shoes
Blisters and pride

Scribbler unmarked
But for my name on the cover line
Now in cursive

Ready for grade four

I stand in the driveway
Next to my big sisters
Smiling for the camera

Brisk anticipation
Anxious beginnings

September crisp.

September 6, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

March Walk

When the culverts gulp slush.
When I avoid the noise of screens.
When the chickadees giggle around the feeder.
When cleats steady my feet on sheets of ice.

When winter disintegrates.
When the baby girl cries till the sunshine surprises her.
When it is not pouring buckets.
When the brisk wind wakes our spirits.
When the darkened leaves melt the snow where they lay.

When I have no direction but the gravel road ahead of me.
When the bare trees look feeble.
When I stomp through the prairie muck.
When the maple seed helicopters touch down.
When the skinned coyote carcasses transform into skeletons with furry Ugg boot paws.

When the creek climbs over the cracked bridge.
When the clear sky brings open hopefulness.
When a steady routine stabilizes.
When we walk softly. Together.

©Conni Cartlidge    March 27, 2017