Questions to ask yourself before giving up


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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