High at the Border

Close-up photo of bits of vegetable and various food garbage falling between iron bars in the snow. Part of a bag and a labelled plastic wrapping are visible at the top.

I ride a bus across the border,
Into the U.S. of A.,
And they confiscate my clementine.
The flashback from last night’s edible hits
Right as the guard starts in with her questions.
Where do you live? She asks.
I stumble over my response.
I have lived in so many places.
I have had so many little lives this side of the border.
The names of various past-life cities roll through my brain like the reels of a slot machine.
Wait, does she want my street name?
I still haven’t memorized my postal code.
As always, it’s embarrassing.
I hesitate, but thankfully, my survival instincts kick in,
And the right place name comes out of my mouth.
She calls me sweetie.
I look at her like a deer would,
Frozen in front of her Prius on a dark country road.
I hope it’s not suspicious.
She asks more questions, the usual ones about the J-1,
And then she hands me a green strip of paper
That says I have passed this round.
Sage 1, drugs 0.
I sit down and wait for the rest of the coach bus to pass
And try my best not to look high at the border.

Warm November Morning

Photo of a lake with patches of brown vegetation in it, a large coniferous tree in the foreground on the right, and a cloudy blue sky above. A forest of leafless trees with a few conifers is visible on the horizon on the other side of the lake.

I was standing still on a dock soaking in the sun. It was November. It was morning. I closed my eyes and felt my face be warmed by the November morning sun. The sky was blue and so bright it almost hurt. A slight wind made small waves on the water that sparkled. I exhaled. I felt my nervous system settle for the first time in months. All was quiet. There was no one around. I knew I couldn’t hold on to this moment of peace forever. I knew I’d have to leave this place, and life would continue to rock me around, but for the first time in a while, I also knew I would be all right.

That November morning was the last morning of a long weekend in the woods with my mother. It was the first time I felt rested in months. I’d gotten all caught up in my crazy life in the city. I’d been consumed by a stressful relationship that wasn’t working. I had stopped sleeping. So, I decided to spend the weekend in the woods with my mother. We sat around the fire. We roasted vegan sausages on a grate under the arbor. I slept in the loft. I walked up and down the long hill driveway, hauling objects in crates and carts. We played gin rummy and got silly, laughing the evening away before going to bed early. We discovered we were both on the same page of Braiding Sweetgrass (56).

One night, I drove my mother’s car back after a trip into town, bought a dozen multi-coloured eggs on the side of the road, and remembered I lived in Montreal. I lived in Montreal and could go dancing if I wanted to. I came back with a charged-up battery to find my mother sitting in a gradually darkening bunkie. She was relieved and happy that I returned with both light and eggs.

I was moving my body. I was letting the woods hold me. Everything out there takes longer. Boiling water for tea is a whole process. So is preparing dinner. You cannot rush in the woods. You have to move more slowly, which slows your mind down too.

That last morning, I went for a walk right after waking up. That warm November morning, I walked out on a dock and let the sun soak into my skin. I felt rested for the first time in a long time. I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time.

I knew I had to leave, that I couldn’t stand in the sun and silence forever. I knew I had to return to the city, to the stress and the heartbreak, where everything would move so quickly. I knew that life would continue to rock me. So, I turned away from the sun and walked back to the bunkie to begin the long process of making tea. I walked back, but I brought that moment with me.

A Poem About Perfectionism

Close-up photo of a spiky green plant with light pink flowers shot from the side with a field and cloudy blue sky visible behind it.

I don’t remember perfectionism as a child.
I think it began around twelve or thirteen.
I remember making lists. That got me young.
I remember trying to read every book in the YA section.
I was homeschooled, and I think I had something to prove.

I tried to grasp for control wherever I could.
It was with me before school, which became just another mechanism
For my perfectionism to latch onto.

I remember wanting to avoid their anger.
I remember her commenting on the trauma of perfect
As I swept a floor that would never get clean.

I remember being locked in a room until I finished every equation,
But did he actually lock the door? I can’t remember.
If I made a mistake, I would be told: You know this.
You can do better. You can always do more.

They had high expectations. They pushed me toward my potential.
I internalized those expectations, which turned into perfectionism.
I needed to people please, to be the person they saw.
Mistakes were allowed so long as I was giving it my all.

Today, I am often left with a lingering sense of,
I could have done more.

How to Keep Making Art: A Zine for Writers and Other Creative Types

I have just released a new zine! Details are below.

Photo of a cargo train on a set of tracks going off into the distance. There are trees with green and yellow leaves on either side, and a cloudy sky above. White text in the centre of the image reads: "HOW TO KEEP MAKING ART / A Zine for Writers and Other Creative Types."

How to Keep Making Art is a zine for writers and other creative types with advice and musings on the creative process, artistic identities, and the struggles of being a writer. This zine tackles questions many creatives have, like, “How do we keep making art in a world that doesn’t see art as valuable? How do we stay connected to ourselves and our work? How do we create even when we don’t want to create?” How to Keep Making Art is a collection of advice, ponderings, and reassurances I initially wrote for myself and thought others might find helpful as well.

I’m very excited to finally release this zine!! It’s been a long time in the making. For now, I am just selling digital, PDF copies because I will be travelling for a few weeks and unable to fulfill print orders. I’ll make another announcement when hard copies are available. For now, you can check out this 40-page e-zine here: https://sagepantony.gumroad.com/l/hbjnj. Enjoy! And keep making art, friends.

I Come Back Again

Photo of a coffee cup sitting on a counter, shot from above, with latte art of a smiling cat's face on it. White text in the centre of the image reads: "I leave the city in summer, and I come back again." Handle @sage_pantony in smaller transparent text under white text.

I leave the city in summer and return to winter (but do not fear, I was not gone for more than 21 consecutive days).

The snow is here, the leaves are gone, and the moisture has been pulled from the air–frozen.

I buy a great big bag of salt while out with a friend and carry it on my shoulder for the long walk home. She offers to help, but I did this to myself.

I bid on a painting at a Denny’s as a joke, and of course, I win. A Selection of Seagulls will hang above my couch in 10-14 business days.

I start writing again, just to help and without expectation. I realize not writing had also been hurting.

The anxiety eases. The pain lessens. I’m sleeping again. My heart, which had been breaking, begins to mend.

I leave the city in summer, and I come back again.