Image: Liz Toohey-Wiese
Image: Liz Toohey-Wiese


November 19, 2015
by Kaitlyn Boulding


Questions to ask yourself before giving up:

Are you hydrated?
When did you last
glut your thirst
with a handful of spring?

Have you eaten anything
besides emails or your fingernails
in the last three hours? Have you
pulled the protein out of an oak
tree or palmed an avocado
pit this month? Are your forlorn probiotics

languishing on your butter shelf?
Are you dressed? If so, does your skirt
strike matches alight
as you walk by? Can you melt
it a little around your waist
and ribcage? Are you resisting

a dream? Wrestling a dreamless night? Let yourself
take a bath in your bed
clothes for fifteen minutes,
no pressure to fall asleep. But make sure
to turn off all your beehives
first. At least take them out
of your bedroom.

Have you uncoiled the ropes of your legs
and strung them along the length of the city
today? Have you let a lake or a snow bank
sketch silent letters on your back?
When did you last give away

your unworn clothes, your well-fitting
metaphors? Tell a neighbour or a person across
the coffee shop counter how well
they catch the light.

Have you snugged into a seedpod
in the past couple days? Do you need
a massage? Complete something

smaller than a lichen: return
a library book, or a letter, or a look,
or a relationship you regret. Sew
a button on that’s come loose. Crack
a window. Crack an egg.

Do you feel unattractive? Rub your skin
with smooth stones
or strong magnets. Wear sunglasses.
Take your reflection in
on the surface of a puddle.

Give yourself ten minutes.
Give yourself ten years.
Give yourself an orgasm.
Give yourself a change of seasons.
Give yourself a new lover.
Give yourself a to-do list
written with sidewalk
chalk and hopscotch across it.

Have you been working really hard
shovelling all the sidewalks
of your friendships?
Remember it takes time
to recover from exertion,
especially when you are a seedling.

Know that your friends want to send help.
They want to send daffodils and their extra hands
to braid your hair. They all want to be deciduous trees
and long semi-coloned sentences for you.
They want to.

Remember: you are a comma, one
beloved earring, a house
circled on a traveller’s map,
sometimes misplaced,
but never an imposition.

Everyone feels like a hallway
at some point or another.
But you are a room
that people enter to stay.


Kaitlyn Boulding is a poet, a child-care provider, and an adjunct professor in the department of Modern Languages and Classics at Saint Mary’s University on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. She holds an MA in Classics from Dalhousie University and thinks, reads, and writes about women and weaving in the Ancient and Contemporary world.

Image by: Liz Toohey-Wiese

This poem was sparked by reading this article about self-care and wanting to help a friend.

“Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up” is from our FOOD/LAND Issue (fall 2015)

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