“As long as you tried your best,”
he’d say, as though I was fair to middling
and down in the dumps.
But I’d always get the highest grades, and once
a perfect report card: formidable
as Alpine slopes after an avalanche.
A taste of rarefied air.
I tried harder. Gold medals. The important thing,
to try. My best.
I learned to test its heights
and depths. Was prairie sky,
nights before exams, popping Wake Ups,
forty milligrams of caffeine
in a pill smaller than a watch battery.
Laps on an empty stomach. I hungered
for the simplicity
of twenty bucks for each A, the motivation
of venture capitalists, a bottom line.
But I chained myself to trying my best
until the outcome was extraneous,
the effort so pure,
it defined my whole myth.
I, Nadja, and Other Poems (Brick) won the Quebec Writers’ Federation A.M. Klein Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the McAuslan First Book Prize, the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Award and a ReLit Award. Her poems have also appeared in several Canadian journals, anthologies, and in a prize-winning chapbook, When Your Body Takes to Trembling. Her poetry has been supported by Canada Council for the Arts grants for Professional Writers. She has been a poetry Fellow at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and a winner of Arc’s Poem of the Year contest. www.susanelmslie.org
the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan