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Things She Is Afraid to Do in Amsterdam

She cannot enter a coffee shop.
No way could she swim
into dark caverns of leafy decor
where people nibble cakes
and cookies, smoke and drink coffee.

If she smoked a joint she could forget herself,
abandon control and reject the diamond in the carbon.
As a writer she has been rejected enough already.
Too many times her courage has been thrown back,
back into her face.
If chances must be taken, they should be for great concepts
for big pots and leads that count.

She cannot spend $40.00
on an Indonesian rice table meal.
She paints starving Biafrans
into a picture where they give
a life for a grain of rice,
a breath for a crust of fish.
All the same, she eyes for these sumptuous spreads
of thick food where fat tourists guzzle
making sure they get their money’s worth.

There is a man across the bar
in the hotel. He is about seventy
and English. She cannot
force herself to speak to this single
male. No way. He could think
she’s propositioning
him, he could think she wants more
than he’s prepared to give,
he could think her whore.

Better to sit alone
alone and wish for courage,
pray for the ability to stand up
and say “Hi, how are you?
Are you enjoying Amsterdam?”
But no, she is quadriplegic
in this cell, this damned cell.

She admits her cowardly stripe
right down the centre of her back.
Chicken, she just can’t pass the mustard
or cross the damned road.


Originally from India, Jennifer Footman spent most of her life in Edinburgh and is a graduate of that university, coming to Canada in 1979. Her poetry and fiction has appeared in most Canadian literary magazines and many US and UK ones. She lives with cedars and raccoons in Caledon.

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.