So, I am moving. Not too far, just down 18 floors in the same building. But of course, unearthing old stuff and memories and ghosts. Here’s an interesting poem I just found, written sometime in the late 1980s, after I’d moved out of the place I lived since I was six, and into my father’s cramped and smoky apartment.


my life won’t fit into these boxes
something will be left behind,
and my grief won’t fit into these cliches
something’s been lost
is being lost
I can’t even write
how I feel
I think about climbing
into a box with my things
like a pharaoh.

Leaves, Weeds, and Flowers

Some of my creative output from the early 1990s is bringing me a certain level of comfort right now. Or maybe the familiarity of these emotions isn’t exactly comfort, but it’s something I know pretty well.

the cruellest month (1994)

the august trees were already
leaving by september
when I autumned into love with you.

I pictured you in green
slipping through the forest
hiding among the oaks
like a frightened deer
or escaping into the woods
with your secrets
climbing into the longrooted branches.

wintering in this cold country
I picked icicles like fruit
looking for a sign of you.
when spring came, my icicles
turned and ran
through my fingers
and my torn hands healed.

the forest in green
ran me through, living
while my small love died.

in the weeds (1994)

In The Weeds (1994) by James McNally

bad flowers (1992)

vomited petals
and the taste of roses
that bouquet I ate
it wasn’t love after all.

The Man Who Doesn’t Fit In

Robert Service knows me:

The Men That Don’t Fit In (c. 1907)

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.

They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.

They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.

And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.

Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

August 22, 1994

Monday August 22, 1994

Andrea’s party was on Saturday night, and I met Brooke, Andrea’s friend from work. She’s been telling me about her for a month now, and I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful she’d be. It was, of course, intimidating. It was worse when Andrea and Sue kept demanding that I go over and talk to her. I’m not a real smooth guy under that sort of pressure, and so it took me a while to talk to her. She’s a teacher, too, and went to teacher’s college in Buffalo. I think she’s working with the Etobicoke board this year, but it’s not permanent. She lives in Malton (near the airport) and she’s 28, but she looks more like 21. I don’t think Andrea thought I was interested, just because I was so casual, but I was actually quite interested, just a little intimidated, and of course, I’m not much of a mover. I’d like to see what (if anything) she says to Andrea about me. To be honest, I felt she was miles out of my league, but I’m flattered Andrea even considered me in the running.


Though I dearly hope this situation won’t last very long, it’s really discouraging and a bit terrifying to note that, as a man with absolutely no family (no living parents, no siblings, no cousins, aunts or uncles on this continent, separated from my only-child spouse, no children) and no full-time job, with automatic bank withdrawals for rent and other expenses, that I could drop dead in my apartment and not be found for several days. I am not even 50 years old yet, and somehow I feel like a lonely and fearful senior citizen. I no longer use my second door lock when I’m inside, and I’m eager to get my second set of keys back to Brooke just in case.

And that’s only one of the fears that I’m currently struggling with. Of course, worse than the fear of dying is the fear of never getting out of the situation I’m currently in. The fear that I’ve run out of chances, run out of good luck and that my life and my social circle and my work opportunities will continue to shrink around me. I saw this happen to my own father at around the same point in his life, and it terrified me at the time.

By putting this out there publicly, I hope to break this fear’s power over me. Or at least to let you know that I’m not isolating myself on purpose. I crave connection and I’m not afraid to put that out there. Thanks to all of you who have been helping me get through this period of my life. When we meet (all too rarely), I may act like everything is just fine, but it’s the actual act of meeting with you that is giving me back a measure of normalcy, and helping me to know (or at least to hope) that it’s all going to be okay.