"By the time you listen to this, I’ll be gone" by Chelene Knight
Side A. 1999
I never wanted to get married. Two friends gave it a shot. I admired them. I missed them. I watched them do things like tuck their shirts in, iron jeans, put the kettle on, set the table, burn bridges, build new ones. I watched them leave their lives behind. Sit down in prayer, hands clasped together, Lord grant me the strength. We are only young once. But when you’ve barely left high school and your old seat at the back of the class is still warm and even your mother had her doubts, do not worry about your fear of the sexless existence between two people whose loose lips spew pleasantries over a mashed-potato dinner, keep secrets in their tailored pockets, permanent-marker foreheads with the usual: how was your day, the kids are asleep, what time are you coming home, shopping lists, soccer games—falling into a dark pit of societal expectations, noose around the neck, ball and chain games, you’d never play—
Side B. 2017
by the rules. Pull the sheets up around my chin. Another wedding. I didn’t want to be like them. Open bar. I’ll sit at the back tweeting about how amazing her dress is. Long lace sleeveless sheer back, empire waist—she’s slamming champagne and smiling. I post a photo for proof. Thirty-four likes and sixteen retweets later, the first dance slaps me in the face when I realize they were playing my song—I did want to be like them, absorbing speeches, future blessings. I want them to be happy but this isn’t how I pictured myself at thirty-five. The bus ride home forces a handwritten story to slowly tattoo itself somewhere on my body that I cannot see. Eyes shut. Three shots of whisky before sleep comes. Morning coffee blacks my tongue. Jeans too tight—a reminder that my old tricks no longer work. Dim the lights. My eyes brighten. Watch me part my hair in the other direction while three grey hairs shake their heads. Tick tock. Maybe I just wanted someone to ask me. Tick tock. And mean it. Maybe I just wanted someone to not leave. Stay. I’m OK now. I’m OK with my choices. I’ll sit under the sun bare-legged and smiling. So go ahead and pour me two shots of gin to erase my thighs, stomach—a folded and used road map for the places I’ve been. I’m free here and content with never staying long enough to learn their names.
Chelene Knight is a Vancouver born-and-raised graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU. In addition to being a workshop facilitator for teens, she is also a literary event organizer, host, and seasoned panelist. She has been published in various Canadian and American literary magazines, and her work is widely anthologized. Chelene is currently the Managing Editor at Room magazine, and the 2018 Programming Director for the Growing Room Festival. Braided Skin, her first book (Mother Tongue Publishing, March 2015), has given birth to numerous writing projects including her second book, memoir, Dear Current Occupant (BookThug, 2018).
Fiona Tinwei Lam is a Scottish-born, Vancouver-based writer whose work has appeared in literary magazines across the country, as well as in the Globe & Mail, and anthologies in Canada, the US and Hong Kong. Her work has also been featured as part of B.C.’s Poetry in Transit program. Her book of poetry Intimate Distances (Nightwood 2002) was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Twice short-listed for the Event literary non-fiction contest, she is a co-editor of and contributor to the anthology of personal essays, Double Lives: Writing and Motherhood (McGill-Queens University Press, 2008). Her work also appeared in the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2010 (Tightrope Books, 2010), edited by Lorna Crozier. Her new collection of poetry, Enter the Chrysanthemum (Caitlin, 2009), depicts the journey into single parenthood, exploring themes of family, love and loss. She is a former lawyer.
Jane Silcott’s first collection of essays, Everything Rustles, was published in 2013 with Anvil Press and shortlisted for the 2014 Hubert Evans Nonfiction award in the BC Book Prizes. Her writing has appeared in several Canadian literary magazines and anthologies and been recognized by the CBC Literary Awards (in 2005 she won second place for an essay about motherhood and writing); the National and Western Magazine Awards, Room Magazine, and the Creative Nonfiction Collective of Canada. Jane is a mentor in the MFA Program in Creative Nonfiction at the University of King’s College in Halifax and Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and a BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Victoria.
What keeps us together? What breaks us apart? In Love Me True, 27 creative nonfiction writers and 20 poets explore how marriage and committed relationships have challenged, shaped, supported and changed them. The stories and poems in this collection delve deep into the mysteries of long-term bonds. The authors cover a gamut of issues and ideas–everything from everyday conflicts to deep philosophical divides, as well as jealousy, adultery, physical or mental illness, and loss. There’s happiness here too, along with love and companionship, whether the long-term partnering is monogamous, polyamorous, same-sex or otherwise. From surprise proposals, stolen quickies, and snoring to arranged marriage, affairs, suicide, and much more, the wide-ranging personal stories and poems in Love Me True are sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing, and always engaging as they offer their intimate and varied insights into the complex state that is marriage.
Arrived February 2018.
Purchase from the Caitlin Press website or at your local bookstore. $24.95.
Delving deep into the mysteries of long-term bonds.
The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.