volume 1 of aphrodite's garden: 1985 may-july  work & days: a lifetime journal project






Part 1 begins in the early morning of the day before Rowen is born. Near the end of part 2 seven weeks later I separate from Jamila.

This volume is hard to read: elliptical, scrappy, exhausted, anxious. (The excerpt-summary below is alright.) There are links to some nice pictures.

Mentioned: Jam Ismail, Rowen Epp, Camille Bush, Michael Voskamp, Cheryl S, Luke Chisholm, Joyce Williams, Robert MacLean, Rhoda Rosenfeld, Sandy Rodin, Trudy R, Andy Wyman, Sara Chisholm, Laiwan, Lauderic Caton, Ed Epp, John Guri, Dr Kuusk, Mary Epp, Daphne Marlatt, Kika Thorne.

824 E Pender St, * Wall Street, the Fairsky, Queen Elizabeth Park, Oppenheimer Park, the Dairy Queen on Hastings, the Tak Kee bun shop, Deer Lake Park, Sweet Cherubim Wholefoods, Loong Foong restaurant, Princess Cafe, Burnaby Mountain.

Kiri Te Kanawa Four last songs, Psalm 139, the Air India bombing off Ireland, Jules et Jim, Jacob's room.

 27 May 1985

Yesterday Sunday lying with him on my chest hearing the Four Last Songs, warm water pouring on my face, twitches, gasping breaths, face freely swept. She wiped hers on my shin to say she's crying too.

2nd June

Three weeks early, 6:50AM, here in the white room, with Jam and a midwife called Camille Bush and her helper, in early morning light, with the scent of lilac and phlox, after a silent night, the two midwives sleeping in kitchen and middle room, Jam snoozing against my back. Breathing alone through acuteness like hot yellow fluid steeping sometimes as far as the knees, concentrating on seeing the shape, and then toward morning feeling another color and texture starting to grip, saying I think you better tell Camille he's coming.

Suddenly the light on and three people at the foot of the bed. I'm on hands and knees being a cow, cracking back there. Camille saying Good work! Jam kissing my bum. I'm letting through amazingly complex pictures of sensation, beyond comprehensible. But this is the way through, allow it. Shaking. They say, Turn over, we can't hear the baby's heart in that position. I hardly know how. They say, Put your hand here, feel the baby's head. Soft, in folds. Crack again. The way it bursts out. Tumbles. Says a little cry. They say Talk to him. He lies on belly looking with one eye back and forth. A very small boy, an elf boy.


In the two days after he was born, when he was jumpy, calming him by wrapping him tight, holding his hands firm on his chest, laying the light bundle on chest or shoulder or between side and arm while we slept. Put us to sleep with its lovely heat. Loving the way tiny person could be comforted directly, understood. Heaven, you're in heaven, I was singing.

Today I hold him, head in my palm, large hand under his back, to nurse. He does so seriously. The wince at the first. How long the nipple when it comes out of his mouth.


Our child or mine. Headache. Bright, dazzling, cold wind. The intersection. Phone line shadows, alley line across Hawks. The beauty lying on my bed with a pulse in her throat, a Thousand Nights mouth. Then when I'm through to looking at beauty after so much nowhere says she'll go.

This hard Sunday. From morning in J's house. She says I'm doing a scam. It looks to me too, but I'll agree to anything that gets me out of her pressure. Lying upstairs thinking of leaving Roy, piling blankets, will I call a taxi?

He grousing all night and morning. She wants me to let her name him, I'll sooner do without her. Ugly business, exhausted. I can't name him because we aren't true about her part. I say: We haven't got lovers, we don't know each other.

She begins to bleed. So do I.

How it was. When she went haywire I sent her away to rest so I could.

Maybe having got the birth made, passed, safe passage paid for, helped, I want her gone. Exhausted night she rivaling him, he not exquisitely newborn now. Already I defend him against her jerky touch and don't want to wrangle near him.

Changing so quickly: I don't want to be distracted.

She insisting on race and gender fidelities, mine.

I suspect myself rather of prostitution.

I suspect her of simply wanting to buy a boy for her folks.

I'm not saying what I know, I'm holding. He said, I want to sleep with you every night. I had butterflies hearing it.

Oh dear one I want to lie down with a man's body. You're more than any and still I want it. Guilty so I can be deceived and so I sell too much. Frightened now.


Going attentively not frightenedly getting what I want. Her kiss in the van. 1 to 3 getting delicately deeper. Then again. House being mended. Happiness this eve. When he begins his transition waking, call her to come, stand weaving him at the north window, singing about the spaces, all the spaces the clouds are making in, all the piles of rooms, grey and orange, the babe in his nightie, sweet in my arm, eyes open listening to the engine (in a body again).

16 Sunday

She sleeps here. When he wakes for the day she takes him into bright morning, I sleep. She comes back 2 hours later and makes tea and breakfast when he sleeps. Mouth kisses, lily mud stirring. She goes home he sleeps I work. She comes back to take him out with Sandy. I fritter. She brings him back, goes to Joe's with S. We go to the Himalaya then her house then the fill area behind the sugar factory. The Fairsky is docked. Walk alongside it carrying the bundle. She in blue jacket or in my bed endless to look at. She drops us home. Joyce Williams comes with a box of baby clothes. Loving one. Hang up the curtains, the beautiful Sunday done. Radiant sky, roses, green plums, foxgloves, love, thanks, gifts (the delight of the little things), a surrounding of love connection.


Didn't say much today but sat with his hands around the little body. Clown hair and such a bright eyed kindly distinguished Dutch father look, new steady eye lines and livest round lip. Plant drawings.


Goes on as these days, run the bath, turn on the oven, cut bread, undress myself and him wondering about the window, swim him, he gazes. Lift him out, he cries, is it the heaviness come on him. Quickly fold the towel over him, dry in the creases and pat the top of the head. Diaper and stretch suit, put him and the pillow under the table. He stops crying and looks. I get back in the water, wash face and armpits with soap, fur bush with hand, splash out near him, dress. Bring him into the kitchen to sit. Make toast and peanut butter. Walk to corner store with him on chest, to buy milk. Come back, make tea, take toast and tea to bedroom. Put him to bed on face, touch his back.

Sit in bed, try again to write Mary, pleased, it seems more from recent selves.


Folds under the eye. Red hair tie. I know what needs, but how to be quiet enough to give it. Body warmth. One hand, on the baby. Something from above the head, from a distance. The hand flat and cold like a metal talisman for healing. Somewhile later she brings her feet. A foot taking heat without warming, like frozen. Meltwater at the eyes. Then remembering talking through the night in the phone booth at the store. The light rain. The couple on a motorcycle, dawn. We come through to laughing. Going home chilled so deep I couldn't sleep, happy. Then, I think that was the morning I found the mouse in the honey. I had to wash it off. It was shaking with cold. Because its fur was stuck down, it was as if bald. I washed it in warm water. Had to make a fire to heat the water. I remember the feel of washing it, it was pregnant, this little swelled body. I used soap too, to melt the honey off. I had to rinse it. Then I put it in a little box in the warming closet. Did it struggle? Yes but it was very feeble, it had been struggling all night probably. Later on when I heard it rustling I let it out.

"Your little stories about mice and moles like wands and medicaments."

The sense beside her of writing possible and beyond what I ever try.


Morning, he's asleep on my chest, I'm asleep too, a page I'm reading, a phrase about a baby, I'm setting it where I see it goes. A small sound, she's coming in, "I was just writing."

That I'd always choose her, my image-voice saying firmly and also -

The most beautiful of her faces, fairy antennas moving, mouth, brown spots on a slope, eastern eyelash.

Little fuck with swirl over.

5th July

J was with T in a café.

M in twilight when I'm going to step into water, wants to care for his baby more. I say don't come. He comes. I say I'm frightened. Why did I do it like this. He says, It is so different for you, you can't expect it to be smooth, you have to go back and forth.

Jules et Jim. I thought she was going to drive off the wharf. I was thinking of being ready to jump out, I didn't know how to save myself and him too.


Time can't be saved. It dies.

"It is hard to let your life diverge unknown."

Am I going to be more with you in another way.

Can I be close to myself now.


What is left is the baby, Michael friendly, Jamila in mind, the day, the night.

A moment on the path weeding when the Chinese girl came out to speak to me and was stopped by my stiffness in pain.

Going on transitionally. Love time, be true in it.


The going-softly summings after separation.

I say the little one has to have Michael because he is slower than we are. If I see Michael I have to touch him. That's the decision, but I feel so sharp her missing the baby. She said today he has new sounds. No one to know that.

"I don't think you're meant to be with men. I think you're meant to be with me. I see myself in China turning and seeing you."

Michael going downstairs with the green umbrella and baby pouch.

Noticing I'm uneasy with the garden this year, the flowering times I've liked, are so brief.

"Jam and I saw a wonderful thing two evenings ago on Burnaby Mountain. A long wide slope that had been seeded to lawn had been left uncut this year, and the patches of grasses in the lawn mix, fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, couch, red clover and others I don't know, were just coming into flower. The different red-browns, greens, blonds, the fine crossings of the stalks, the cleanness, brightness, liveliness, the proportions of the spaces taken by each kind, the sharpness before seed and laciness after, the many ways it could be seen and then the exquisite pattings and bowings of air movement in it, looking to me like the little movements of baby-hands that we watch these days.

And then Jam noticed she was standing in a field of flowering grass with no allergy.

I remembered it was often this time of year when I'd come up north and the ditches would give me so much delight." [letter to Mary]


For the first time since May moving the blue chest, sweeping behind it. Confetti, yellow mauve purple: phlox lilac mock orange.