A poem about life, still life, and celebrating the small things.


This is a still life.

And shafts of dusty, yellow light

stream down

on vibrant, yellow lemons

in a pale, blue, porcelain bowl.

Shadows recoil

into shadow

into the recesses

into forgetfulness.

Your hand,

like a heron flying,

breaks through the shaft of light,

and flits



Your voice,

bright and lemony yellow,

speaks my name,

breaks and restates

the bright, warm light.

I am sitting


eyes  now closing.

You are orchestrating

light and love

and lemons

in a perfect still


Of course, it’s



Temporary Spaces

I open the curtain. Planes fly overhead. I am in some hotel near the airport. Some hotel with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Some hotel with white towels, stiff with borax. Bleached sheets. Plastic cups in plastic wrap. And a glass shelf, just big enough for my shaving kit. Heavy curtains and the regular roar of jets. Jets that drop down just past my window. The heating system blasts loudly, echoing the jets.

The cars in the parking lot below are covered in a dusting of snow, making each car a pale tint of its original colour. A snow-white and patches-of-white fleet of vans in a line.  14 of them. A ubiquitous, grey Honda Civic, into which climbs a salesman for the fifth-best selling brand of hand dryers in North America. He sat next to me, last night, having a Coors Lite at the hotel bar. The washroom at the bar had hand dryers from the third-best selling hand dryer brand. Or so he said to the bartender. I’ll have another scotch on the rocks – bar brand, thanks, I said.

The grey Civic backs out and pulls away. An older sedan pulls into a parking space, four over from the now-empty salesman’s spot. Another jet drops. A pause. A gust of wind. Another jet. The heater shuts off and offers a rare stillness. Then jet.

Dropping my shaving kit into my open suitcase, I watch the fleet of vans disgorge, snakelike, from the lot. I close my suitcase. I zip it up. Scan the room. Car keys. Plastic room key. Gather my laptop bag, my coat, the suitcase. Pocket the keys. Down the garishly carpeted hall, and into the elevator. Someone’s job is to clean the mirrored elevator. Someone’s job is to play elevator music. Someone’s job is to sell the fifth-best selling hand dryers in North America. I am leaving some hotel near the airport.

The Secret Life of Bartenders

A poem from the series Seniors Discount Poetry Day. Each poem was titled and written from prompts sent to Rick Webster and I through social media. There are 12 poems by the two poets, written over the course of one year. This one is dedicated to the long time bartender at The Only and Catalina’s in Peterborough, Ontario, Bill Batten. He is also an amazing artist.

Pastel work by Bill Batten

The Secret Life of Bartenders

James Matheson

No one asks.

Not at the two beer buzz,

Not at the last, garbled syllable

before blackout.

There is a lot of telling at the bar;

only one person listening.

3:17 in the morning,

closed sign finally up.

2 cars pass in the frozen streets.

Short cut through a snow-filled alleyway.

Key in lock, slow creak of hinges,

an echoing thunk as the door shuts.

The light above the stove, in the kitchen

Casts weak, blue light

along the silent hallway.

Floorboards each make short, aching reports.

As the fridge door opens

White, antiseptic light bathes the room.

Left-over pasta, eaten cold

punctuated by drags on a Du Maurier.

Head spinning and clattering

with the noise of bar chatter.

Past fist fights. Asshole bosses. Great cars. Adultery. The fawkin’ Leafs.

Hitch-hiking to the Rockcliff in Minden. Pets. Family Deaths.

Racist Jokes. Fucking welfare bums. Incomprehensible Utterances.

Bar chatter.

No one asks.

Not at the two beer buzz.

Not at the last, garbled syllable

before blackout.

No one asks,


the bartender

is loading his brush up with cadmium orange

and carving with colours, a huge canvas

at 4:46

in the morning.

(for Bill Batten)