Debbie Sawczak

I am a lexicographer by profession and write poetry on the side; both activities express my wonder and love for language. What I especially enjoy is the opportunity I often get to read or recite my poems publicly, so that I can look my audience in the eye and try to establish a two-way connection. I am currently polishing a first collection for publication and collaborating with a composer friend on a recording of music and poetry. I live in Georgetown, Ontario with my husband and three sons.

I had been commissioned by a Christian artist friend of mine to write and perform a poem for an event she was holding to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her studio. A composer and I collaborated; he wrote music for the poem to be read to. When my artist friend's husband heard the resulting 'musipoem', he said, in mock petulance, "When are you going to write a poem about my work? Maybe it's not much to write about. There I am in my truck all day, delivering people's food to grocery stores. Nobody even thinks about how their groceries get there!" That idea kind of appealed to me, so I took him up on it!

Shoemaker's Elf at the Wheel

Like thread on a spindle, the landscape winds past my truck cab window,
unrolling over my shoulder,
crowding my brain with thanks:
        thank you for skeleton trees in fall,
        red sumac on wavy hills and the quicksand below
        by the slick 401;
        and in winter, the snow not quite hiding the corn stubble,
        sliding off soundless from evergreen boughs to the ground
        as I hiss past in salty spray…
A sideways glance
gives a freeze-frame view in a squint split second,
between checking mirrors and guages,
and the taillights ahead.

It is soon interrupted by factory walls,
the screeching of brakes,
crazed streets,
flying papers and clogged sewer grates,
the crackle of the CB,
green rusty Dumpsters spray-painted with insults;
then the grey squares of warehouse and loading bay,
towers of cartons and crates
and the shouting of men in plaid flannel shirts on forklifts…

In the city I notice my muscles, sore from sitting,
the buzz of my skin from the endless vibration of hands on the wheel
        and feet on the pedals;
wish I could walk in the quiet,
wish this sky were spread out wider,
wish I had got more rest last night
and had time to see.

And inside the grocery stores,
blocking the aisles and checking their lists,
and reaching for bologna in rolled-up slices wrapped in waxed paper
        for their kids at the deli
are people who don't think twice
or once,
as they swipe their cards,
about where their bread comes from.

But it's good,
it makes me feel more like magic,
like toys that move from their places at midnight
when no one is watching or listening;
like the shoemaker's elves.

Copyright 2003 Debbie Sawczak