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

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Her first text arrived at 6:47 pm on November 8th, 2016.
“Hi Mom. We probably have a female president to look forward to.”
To my daughter, I replied, “Do you think so?”
“Yes,” she wrote, “not that I have the ability to predict these things but I think she’s taking it. She’s ahead right now.”
Her confidence in Hillary’s win was heartwarming. I did not feel so certain.
And as the evening progressed, hopelessness set in.
At 12:33 am on November 9th, I wrote, “ I give up. I’m exhausted and going to bed. Will see what the morning brings.”
Her response: “I’ve already cried twice. I don’t think I can sleep without knowing the outcome….The crowd outside the White House is really freaking me out. Wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes violent before the night is over.”
“I know. It’s all getting crazy. Glad you have not moved to the States….Anyway, I will say good night. I love you lots. Wish you weren’t dealing with this alone.”
“Love you too Mom.”
The next day, she phoned me in tears. “How could so many people vote for a rapist?”

How indeed?
How could I reassure this twenty-seven year old, living far away from home, that things would work out?
That it was not our election.
Not our country.
That her aunt had several strong feminist friends working in the Canadian government. That these women would stand up.
That we could rise up.

How could I tell her it would all be okay?

My life had shown me slobbering middle-aged men molesting teen girls at bus stops. My world included catcalls and invitations to “Sit on my face, baby” from fellow students at college. I knew of doctors admiring young female patients as they undressed for physicals and dentists rubbing their dicks against women as they shoved needles into their palates.  I knew of brothers raping little sisters. Baby girls being whisked away to safe homes, far from their violent fathers. Husbands raping their wives, still healing from childbirth. 
My daughter’s life has already been invaded by online trolls looking to silence her with crude and violent comments. Men telling her on the subway to smile more so she will be prettier. Strangers telling her she is pretty.
And now our lives will include a United States president who laughs about grabbing pussies.

What reassurance can I give my daughter?
And how?

©️Conni Cartlidge
January 5, 2017

Sunday, December 18, 2016


I look right
I say welcome!

To a bruised infant
Named Marc

A newborn family

Wide-eyed parents
Awestruck grandparents
Aunties and uncles
To dote and devote
Their time and arms and kisses


For a remarkable baby
For Marc.

Hello and welcome!

I look left    
I say farewell.

To a glittery being
Named Glamdrew

A bereaved family

Tear-stained parents
Defeated grandparents
Nephews and nieces
To hold and behold
His heart and body and lipsticked smooches


For an indomitable spirit
For Andrew.

Goodbye and farewell. 

©️Conni Cartlidge       December 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Week: In Loving Memory of Andrew "Glamdrew" Henderson

It was a week of death.
On Monday, death tried sneaking past my house to hook up with a young woman hiding in her truck, just around the bend in the muddy road. Hidden by amber autumn trees, she waited with the refreshments: a large bottle of iced tea and a pile of pills. It would be a final secret fling.
But as I wandered down my gravel road with my tiny grandson sleeping peacefully in his stroller, the cops came roaring off the highway, straight towards me. And as the flying Vs of Canada geese shouted directions at each other overhead, I pulled over to the shoulder with the baby and the dog to let the police zoom passed.
“I wonder what’s happening,” I said to myself. “I guess it’s nothing dangerous because the cop just waved at me as he went by. But let’s take you home, just in case,” I reassured my napping babe. We turned and headed west as two more police cars and a truck flew past us. I stepped up my pace and as I turned into my driveway, my husband and son were headed out to see what all the commotion was about.
They returned ten minutes later, not really knowing if it was a drug bust or perhaps a stolen vehicle. But the tattooed girl was taken away by the police, her iced tea left unopened.  We were all surprised her vehicle was deserted in the mucky ruts. The mystery was solved that evening when two distraught, exhausted parents came to retrieve the truck. They explained to us that their daughter planned to commit suicide. She had tried before. The secret tracking device they installed saved her life. And she was sent to the hospital for help.
So on Monday, death was stood up.

 I remembered my first exposure to suicide. I was five when Marilyn Monroe died. She committed the crime of taking her own life. My child’s mind clearly reasoned that she chose to die, so how was it criminal? Had she lived, would she be charged and put in jail? Was that better?

“She just wanted to go,” I thought to myself.
It made perfect sense to me.
Until thirty years later, when my uncle shot himself in the throat. And his granddaughter hung herself in the basement. And my friend’s son intentionally completed his meeting with death, too. I thought of the four little girls in a Saskatchewan First Nations community who voluntarily died. Such a loss. Such a waste. Such a crime.
Thankfully suicide has been decriminalized in Canada. But does a ten year old understand her actions? Did my family members? Did Marilyn? Should we intervene? Or are there some obstacles that just can’t be overcome?  Is that what the twenty-year-old in the truck felt? Is death ever a positive partner or always a bad date?

On Wednesday, death got lucky and met my high school friend.
I sat at her funeral, listening to her son sing a favourite song for her. It was a quiet, acoustic performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Alleluia”. Everyone cried. She had been very sick and her boy sat with her in the hospital till death cut in. I knew the feeling of waiting, remembering back to my grandmother and I sitting patiently together till her last exhale. Vibrations filled the room as her energy dissipated and transformed into the air and out to our universe. Sad but comforting.
Sometimes death is an expected guest.

On Friday, death got to be popular. A living funeral, hosted by my daughter’s friend, Andrew Henderson, covered death in gold glitter and champagne. Andrew has known for some time that his cancer is terminal, so he has been living with death lurking around. Why not invite death to the party? As Sia and Rihanna songs got people up dancing, others shared secrets with him that he could “take to the grave”.
“ I love you,” I whispered to him. “We all love you. We always have.”
“I know,” he said. “I know.”

He has shown me that life can be fabulous. And that living is always finished with dying.

A one-night stand we can all count on.

It was a week of life.

October 25, 2016

 Post Script: Andrew Henderson died this morning. I thank him for including me in his life and his death.

October 26, 2016

©️Conni Cartlidge