Writer in Residence

Our Town, 2009 Edition

By Pamela Mordecai

Come the good
weather folks in
this Portuguese-
Italian neighbourhood
hang their clothes
out to dry
so stirring lines
of laundry
in the breeze
are a sure sign
it’s warming up.

Come fill the cup
the poet said…

Of course,
one or two hardy
souls hang out
even in winter
on clear cold days
but by and large
loaded down wires
say spring’s
tiptoeing in,
them and lounge
chairs on patios,
towels spread
on the grass
and those
tools of the rite:
lotion, a visor or
very big hat,
flip-flops,
sunglasses
and to gently
doze off with,
a paperback!

That’s how it is in the twenty or so backyards into which I can see from up here. It’s not a matter of being nosy: there they are, right in front of me, so I’d have to stop looking out the window in order not to see them, and beyond them, the falling rising contour of roofs, the trains, a set of high rise apartments, then another, and another, a billboard and more, and at the end of this stretched sweep of city, the burgeoning skyline, the CN tower, and just a tiny glimpse of lake. My husband says I’m mistaking something else (he can’t say what) for the water, but I know it is the lake.

More than that, though, a new edition of Toronto – in print in this version since 1793 – comes out round about May every year, its pages crammed with walking tours and wine tasting, sailing and skateboarding, festivals and fireworks, music recitals and motor races, roadside jerk, jazz, parades, street theatre, bookfairs and…

Bee hunting.

I go bee hunting. Ever since the collapse of the bee colonies, I set out nervously searching for bees, poking my face into forsythia bushes and clumps of wildflowers.

“Look, over there! Over there!” I shout at my spouse, gleefully thumping him each time I see one of the drone crew in their black and gold striped uniforms, bee sightings the basis for assaulting him in spring.

“Control yourself, woman!”

A plea to no avail.

“But, without them, we won’t eat!” I squeak, bending into the next bush, ears tuned for the buzz.

I like the handle, Open Book Toronto. It conjures an amiable schoolmarm, tight-curled salt-and-pepper hair furled into a cottage roll at the back of her head, eyes mischievous behind thick glasses, wagging a finger at us city-dwellers, her students, instructing us as we settle into our bus and subway seats, or turn on the car, “Open your books (those with cars may use their audiobooks) to where you left off reading!” It’s not that we need much of a reminder, for we’re a city of bibliophiles, served by the second busiest library system in the world. (Only the Hong Kong system beats the Toronto Public Library for number of users.)

Ah. A barbecue firing up, four yards down. Three lounge lizards. And… yes, there’s a mum with her toddler, reading the first out-of-doors book of spring, in our neighbourhood.

Before I go, a bit of shameless advertising. Arrived in April from the pen of that battered spouse of mine, BLUE MOUNTAIN TROUBLE is a crossover YA novel, about twins (a boy and a girl) who live high in the mountains of a Caribbean island, who, in the course of many adventures, encounter a magical goat. It has been getting great reviews. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, it’s available in bookstores simultaneously in the USA (US$16.99) and Canada (C$21.99). Off you go to buy a copy!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.


Pamela Mordecai has been many things: a teacher, a trainer of teachers, a TV host, a diplomatic wife, an anthologist, a writer of poems, stories and textbooks for children, and a writer of criticism, fiction, poetry and plays for those challenged by age. Born and raised in Jamaica, educated there and in the U.S.A., Pam has lived in Toronto for the past 15 years.

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