Tag Archives: zara’s ink blot

Why Anniversaries Matter.09.16.2012

Why Anniversaries Matter


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It’s easy to fall in love with love. What with the mass media, film, and literature that flamboyantly flaunts its passion and idealism, its drama and extroverted security—especially at the beginning of a relationship.

You know. The first sign of physical attraction, the reciprocated attention, the small talk that evolves into an opportunity that peaks your interest and your chances at those elusive things we all aspire to: connection, happiness, love.

It’s the chance encounter that propels you forward both in emotional surgery, where snippets of information help you to dissect your potential partner’s attributes and flaws, as well as reveal and either accentuate or downplay your own.

It’s the art of dating. It’s the first phone call. The first date. The first kiss. The first of everything new with this “new” person. It’s the clean slate to start over from past regrets in poor decisions and even poorer relationships. It’s the chance to unveil and discover who you really are, what you desire, and what you’re willing to offer and sacrifice for another. Not entirely for your own personal gain, but out of the sheer pleasure of making your chosen partner happy. (Okay, I’ll admit it, it was out of some personal gain.)

And then it’s the evolution of your emotional makeup, your vulnerability, even your inner circle, those closest friends, your territorial, maybe even judgmental family. You open up that circle and say, “Here, this is who I’ve chosen. I hope you see what I do…,” and you take that risk, both in your own family and close network, as well as your partner’s. (And we all know how lovely in-laws can be.)

It’s the reciprocal twirl and dance of trying your partner on, both for yourself, your family and friends; your life. If it gets that serious, that is.

Like all first things, there’s also the first jealousy, the first argument, the first fight. It’s the wilfulness of pride that shouts with megaphone clarity, “This is my territory, this is my claim, my stake in it.”

If you survive the preliminaries, if you’ve checked off your mental list of pros and cons, and move forward as a couple, the eloquent, maybe even creatively planned, yet nerve-racking proposal happens, and a token of yearning and promise comes out of a black velvet box with a—surprise!—a shiny, fat (if you’re lucky) one karat ring. Bling! Bling! Throw that confetti and call your best friend! There are tears and yesss and squeals and shock, maybe even some fainting. I don’t know. This is what we’re told. How the play turns out. The climatic prelude to an eternal commitment. (If you say, yes, of course.)

Ten years ago, on September 14, my fiance and I stood before 30 people in a garden greenhouse and proclaimed our vows with the nervousness and idealism of newlyweds.

It’s partially due to incessant paparazzi flashbulbs, the self-consciousness of wedding etiquette performance, the heat of mingling handshakes, back slaps, and varied forms of congratulations, a wide-mouth smile that’s pasted on from constant coercion of the photographer, which causes your cheeks to burn from excessive strain and overuse, and of course, the beloved and infamous, much-fawned-over wedding dress.

And let’s not forget the raunchy confessionals that slip into last-minute, overly gregarious speeches, the over-inflated liquor bill, the inevitable program mishaps, the tactless uncle, the over-zealous, snarky, and smug ex-girlfriends and/or ex-boyfriends that somehow crash the wedding party, as well as the tearful and superstitious grand-aunt. Not to mention the polka and the chicken dance, wilting flowers, and bunions that make you wish you wore dollar-store sandals instead of Alfred Sung heels.

And that was just the wedding. There’s the rest of life to contend with after the altar (or sufficient, inclusive equivalent of one).

Ten years ago, on September 14, my husband-to-be and I got “dudded” up and professed our vows to a pastor, some of our closet friends, and small parts of our family to commit to this ideal and say, “It’s you and me, forever—against the world.”

And true to the very nature of that act and commitment to that vow, the world indeed came against us. The house, the mortgage (or lack thereof), the bills, the job changes, the babies, the jealousies, the temptations, the petty arguments, the personal dramas that derived from such silly things like closet space, t.v channels, and delegated, but undone chores. Even the sillier things like in-law parties, practices, and time-old traditions and archaic preferences (this, too, ranges from religion, rearing of babies, right down to the colour and make of your first bought family car, or in our case at the time, our sentimental, yet broken down jalopy).

But you survive it. You tolerate it. You make concessions. You sacrifice. You give a little more than when your previous single-self would have shot up your middle finger (maybe even added a few more creative and rather violent hand gestures for emphasis) and proclaimed your God-given rights and selfish desire to “win” at all cost on top of Mount Everest. (Or in my case, the slight slope of the Chinguacousy Park ski hill.)

But no. You stop yourself from regressing back to your self-involved, insecure, hedonistic personality. The one that cried out like a terrible two-year-old, “Me! My turn! I want!”

No. You stop yourself. You soften your tone. You hold the door. You help with the groceries. You get that glass of water. You listen. You cry. You  mourn deaths, job losses, lottery misses, even much-needed “alone time” due to unexpected illnesses, babies, change of plans, and of course, the expectations and neediness of in-laws.

Even then, you caress. You encourage. You stand firm. (You even turn the other cheek when another woman is blatantly flirting with your husband because you trust him to do what’s right by honouring you even when you truly want to scratch the woman’s eyes out with the Bic pen in your purse…or maybe throw the digestive cookies from your baby’s snack cup in a vented display of territorial claiming and rage, but would rather prefer to avoid ending up on an audacious episode of Jerry Springer!—But, of course, you don’t. You keep that Bic pen in your purse for safekeeping and for its true purpose: stabbing her hand instead, the one she used to touch your husband’s shoulder with while she batted her eyes and tested your marriage’s boundaries…)

No. Ten years of marriage matures you into a secure woman of grace. As I said, you caress, you encourage, you stand firm. You sometimes fight against each other, but through wisdom, quickly learn that it’s more useful to fight for each other instead.You even learn how to suck in your stomach as well as your pride.

So, the celebration of an anniversary is more than a time-keeping exercise. It’s not even an excuse for an impulsive vacation to a hot spot (literally, and most preferably somewhere in the tropics). It’s not even meant to be used as a brag card for dinner conversations between rival neighbours and superficial friends with no children, nor an understanding of sleep deprivation or the ugly consequences that result from such a misgiving.

It is in essence an acknowledgement and affirmation of the choice you made when you said as a couple, “I do.” It’s a yelp of sheer gratitude and exclamation. It’s the intentional renewal that says love doesn’t come from a mystical cloud reserved merely for the good-looking, overly charming, ambitious, powerful, or financially secure.

No,—love is a choice. It’s a decision. It’s an everyday compulsion to drive you to the next day, until you reach that “forever.”

For me, it’s a chance to honour my husband and our partnership as something more worthy than the dress and the wedding that our promises came wrapped in. It’s a chance to recommit myself to the “us” that we were and are everyday becoming. It’s a chance to toast the best of who we are (and the worst) and claim it as our responsibility. Our treasure. Our own.

It’s to eat good food and great wine and profess with humility, acceptance, passion, and fervour: “It’s still you and me, Babe. Let’s make the next ten years even better.”

(—And of course, it’s a chance for me to stock up on Bic pens…)

Us, our wedding day, September 14, 2002.



Our new set of rings for our tenth anniversary.

Happy tenth anniversary, Papa! It’s still you and me, against the world!


Are you in a relationship now? Are you married?

What’s the longest relationship you’ve been in?

What’s your best piece of advice in keeping a loving relationship and marriage strong?


Zara’s Ink Blot Thursday: The Widow’s Poem. 04.19.2012

Thursday: Zara’s Ink Blot

The Widow’s Poem

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


I wept because I pictured you dying. Correction—

I wept because I pictured your funeral

and I wasn’t there.


I refused to play the widow

to wear black and look solemn.


Yes, those who

never agreed to me or with me

in the first place

those who are

now curious at what I will do

how deep my sorrow should be to their liking

how I will finally measure up


but I did not go to your funeral, My Love.


You died years before they buried you

before they bought white flowers

and chanted prayers in their tongues.


Today they will give their practiced speeches

and each will profess how they loved you

the most:


the sisters in black veils with tissue

in their hands

dabbing their eyes

for grief, too, must have its show


—that one with the sour expression

whose mouth always remains a straight line


(your death is like a slap in her face finally!)


(though she blames me

she cannot say so out loud

for she loves her righteousness

as much as she loves

her hypocrisy)


—and the brothers who pretend for today

if only for today

that, yes, you were the favourite son

though you did wrong


by not following their path to the end

(leading the choir with your guitar

teaching the children to remember the stories

—Noah, the Flood, obedience—

that sort

and preaching in the pulpit

without tempting the wives or the single

Christian women in the pews.


Oh, but how they loved you!

In your tie, your suit, your brand new shoes.

They loved you

though you denied it

many times.)


Your parents aren’t here to witness the burial

to raise their hands in supplication

to reaffirm that God knows best.


They evangelized the world

even our marriage

though they knew not what it was

to hate and love

and hate

with passion—even to curse


(we cursed as much as we ate—

out loud or in contemptuous silence.)


Your mother so domesticated

in her small kitchen

happy with her cooking

her service

her doting

her love


she made pupusas like they were


while your father

sat king-like

with the Book in his hand.


He was smart enough

to speak enough English

(if only a little)

smart enough to tell you

he loved you

strict and rigid

conservative   bull-headed

but he was kind, too—

he could hug.


But your ex-lovers

how they sneak in

like bad dreams

the nightmare where they have

no faces

no names

(lurking behind husbands and children)


they, too, are here.


Their profession of love for you

is raw and stagnant

wistful at the coffin


of the One-that-Got-Away.



you are glad to see them

to see them finally weep over the loss

a secret triumph to know at last

that you were loved

as you thought

as you wished for…


(the cowboy boots

the secret pink thongs

the flamboyant cousin with big hair…)


it is your last secret

the one that lingers

after you have gone

it resides there

in their faces


you can no longer

deny them

answer them back

walk away or slam down

the phone



you did not love me

but married me instead


for love is for the lovers

and those you claimed

you never had


they are there

skimming the photographs

looking for their faces

resolving to reconcile

old lusts and regret


(there are no pink thongs

no cowboy boots

no young girl in a bright, yellow dress—

I made you rip those photographs

and burn them in our backyard)


for I know I am only half-wife

the rest of you always somewhere

belonging to scars of

secret lips and lingering perfume

and dark Spanish dialect


these women with their made-up, blotchy eyes

their curly, spoofed-up greasy hair

and loud jewellery

these yapping, Salsa-dancing, secret coven

of women

who had their mark on you

who had you between their long, red



with names like



And the sisters with their special mugs and secret spices

their photographic memories

of you

the sweat of your brow after soccer

the names of every girl

you ever dated or loved


how clever and dumb

and boring they were

your sisters

to keep me out


and the brothers with their fists of bravado

and sermons

regretting they never called more

nor visited your firstborn son


they failed to take you out fishing

or listen to you play your guitar

they never arm wrestled you

or bought you a ticket to a baseball


(they prayed for you instead)

but they never called


and the nephews and nieces

who coddled you

clinging to your knees

begging for attention

wanting presents and advice and

sometimes your money or your car


they are grown men and women now

strangers in good clothing.


They all assert themselves in their



they loved you best

like the beat of the chest

of a band of baboons


they will show the visitors

when the visitors come.


And the pastor continues singing

his praises and tells us

to be brave

to be strong

that this, too,

shall pass

(relieved that for this,

there is a God)


the musicians

are making tribute

playing old songs



and more boleros


and the children are running

in the hallway

chasing ribbons on skirts

pulling tight at their neckties

fleeing the grandmothers

who fix and pat their hair


the hosts and the caterers

are polite and kind—and very polite

concentrating on the power

of bereavement

making it light

serving coffee and tea

with biscuits

on white napkins

(they, too, are relieved

it is not them or their family)


the carpet has been vacuumed

the lights are dim and yellow

and people are containing their whispers

nodding their heads

signing the guest book

touching your photographs


work mates are here, too,

the ones you never liked

the ones who never knew you

they shake hands with each other

eyeing the buffet table for chicken or turkey

or soup

a group of them

targeting the bread


the hush is ridiculously thick

thinking they might wake you

if they speak too harshly too happy

too loud


there is regret

not in your dying

but in their relief—

it is not them inside that coffin

it is not them who must face

the wife


they may even ask,

“Where is she? His wife?”


In their minds they have been asking


looking for me in the crowd

following the hearse

certain I am in the front row

of the first pew

—certain of so many things


they listen for loud weeping

marks of mascara that continue to run

black stockings and heels

and the matching purse

—a fainted body

a drama

a hand


but no.


I will not play widow today.

Not commend you to strangers

or tell them our secret jokes

or give myself over to their pity and fussing

let them pass me tissue and cold coffee

or tell my children they look exactly like you

(how brave they are

that there is such a place

as a thing called Heaven)




I will not be at your gravesite

to watch your box lower

into the ground

to drop a flower or a handful of dirt

to say goodbye only to be put

into a car


I will not weep and faint

sign papers

look over a will


I am instead.


Home in the quiet

competing with your absence

looking for you

afraid of the curtains

a door left open

of noises not my own.


I will look at photos

dwell a little

replay the answering machine

of your voice

Sorry, we’re not here right now

to take your call…


Sorry, we’re not here right now

to take your call…



collect all your letters

and put things in boxes

the junk I couldn’t stand

or didn’t buy and didn’t want


smell your cologne—

Azzaro was your favourite

you wore it on weekends

ever since I told you

it made you smell like

my man.


I am instead.


In the closet

hiding from your shadow

your kisses

the voice that always said,

“Come back to me, Baby…”


Instead it is me:

“Come back to me, Baby…”

breathing loudly—

breathing loudly

among your clothes.


Thursday: Zara’s Ink Blot – Sapphire (Poem) 03.22.2012


“The poetic impulse is a seeking of dialogue with otherness, with language, form, emotion and ideas all commensurate. For me, poetry is the desire to touch something undeniable, an attempt to express what is withheld from knowing. The poem is a gesture toward the deep image, what we know as primordial, a locus for rhythm, music, cadence. The poem is a form or prayer, an act of faith, attuned to grace and sacred conversation with another. Writing poetry is a redemptive movement toward the culturally incorrect, the strange, the ineffable. The poet, in order to read and write mindfully, must become a cultural outsider. Writing poetry requires a stubborn practice for which there is no definitive guidebook, no map.”

-Rishma Dunlop, from Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets.



By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

I want that sapphire as badly

as I want something shiny and new.

The blue of the gem,

dark against my finger.

The sapphire is not my birthstone.

I was born to other things.

An empty palm—

a peripheral.

Call my name out loud again

and I will be adorned

in sapphire.

The blue of you

dark against

my hands.


Zara Alexis

HCC March Madness Poem

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

In honour of Round 2 of HCC March Madness, I’ve written a poem:


Do you have room in this Post-Birthday World

in the hour I first believed in the space between us?

I don’t want to kill a mockingbird.

I want to run to a tree that grows in Brooklyn

as a reliable wife, a secret daughter.

But, I heart Paris on this given day.

It makes me spin like death on the Nile.

The next pact is for one more day, the will to live

to speak in our mother tongues,

Marley and me, little princes

our freakonomics predicatably irrational

like Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.

It’s March. It’s madness.

The happiness project moves on.


To vote in Round 2 of the HCC March Madness book event, visit: