Sitting on a bench waiting for you to wake up

please don’t dismiss me
while dismissing my inability to come
out of myself
long enough to express
how perfectly you push
all my buttons

i just want to be good for somebody
i just want someone to care about
what is good for me
and since I don’t know
can we build it together?

because the bricks don’t fit and
I like windows but
these ones are freaking me out

are the floors supposed to creak this much?
should the mattress be up off the ground?
the temperature is perfect
and if I close my eyes I can smell you —
so I want to call it home but
I don’t think the water is running yet,

though we know I might try.
I’m far to tempted to say
“go find someone that is what you want
and leave me alone”
for I know that in effigie 
will always outshine
in esse 

A note from the poet: I likened my ideas to matches this morning, and my notebook like a pile of flint. There always seems to be the potential for a spark, but when I’m writing poetry it seems I work through a slew of matches very quickly. So lately, when I’ve tried to consider writing fiction, it feels like I don’t have any matches left. My notebook, these thoughts, feelings, observations that I collect each day, they need a little kindling. Maybe I’m just not quite sure what I’ve got to say anymore. Poetry is my own truth, fiction feels like it should be a little more universal. A raging bonfire that collects people around in a circle. A poem demands less, it can be a small as a lit cigarette being passed between two people.

You’re hearing conversations differently

Everyone thinks it’s interesting to talk about backgrounds
It draws attention to looks
Engrained mannerisms
Impressive not so
Impressive ancestors

In this conversation there is
Always the matter of time
So it’s only a matter of time
Until you’re always aware of your impending death

You don’t want to think about that!
That’s why you binge drink and dance at night?

Letting go of your inhibitions is important
But how about those booze blues?
And forgotten conversations?
And Guilt
PILED ON
GUILT
piled on

I only make bad decisions
Your friend recently said to you

You made your bed. Now you have to
think in it.
Anecdote for crying:
Put your head in a paper bag
Put your glasses on!

You look different with your glasses on.
Yeah?
Yeah. Not bad just … different.
D-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t.
Yeah. Different.
 
You put a paper bag over your head
You cut holes in it
You think better
You turn it around
There are eyes in the back of your head

When you take the bag off there’s a woman
With half an arm
It wiggles like the end is a hand
You wonder if it’s hard for her to pee
No
She’s figured that out by now

You are blessed
You have a body that works
Really well
Pretty well
The only reason it’s not working great!
Is becauseofyourbrain

Your brain is like a trap door that’s stuck open
People and shit keep falling through it

Like this guy over here talking about Visa’s
Just get married! some girl suggests
No! No! he responds. That’s not the solution.
He’s right for him
Everyone has ancestors and opinions about Visa’s

Someone outside of the bar gives you a cigarette
Parliament or Marlboro Light?
            I don’t care.
You look like that girl. That girl …
            That girl?
Frommmmm … who’s the girl everyone always tells you you look like?
            Parliament please.
Everyone has ancestors who look like movie stars or aliens

You work the door at the hotel bar
Everytime you get up someone takes your seat
Yesterday, someone was readings your book
She said, I’m just trying to look smarter than I am
You didn’t like that
Today it is a pre-teen
You ask her if she is taking your job
She looks at you
Pre-teen
You like that

Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself

Children are choreographing modern dances in the hotel lobby
Their bodies move like homemade linguini
Draped over a string
Clipped on a clothesline across the kitchen
Their noodle bodies bend

When one ends
Innocence becomes ones delusion of oneself

Do you take dance classes? you ask one of the girls dancing
Yes, she responds

Innocence is the hallucination that one is a great dancer

What kind? you ask
Modern now
She flips her head
She dances
Away

Innocence ends when variation ceases

She flips her head
She dances
Away

Park on the water

There’s a spot
in south Mississauga
where the branches of the willows
kiss the earth.

Sometimes when I feel the weight
of my reality too heavy
I take out an old bicycle from the garage
and ride the suburban streets
listening to the playlist you made me.

Today I don’t even change out of my old sweatpants
as I mount the machine
desperate for escape.

I steer down the strip
eyeing the early come-homers
in the slant of late afternoon light:
one guy is wearing neon shades
like he can’t wait
for May 2-4.

I veer into the park
park my tires in the sand
pop out my headphones
watch swans dive head first into
B   L   I   S   S

I soothe my own consciousness
turn my bike round
and swerve through the row of trees
with a renewed sense of duty
persistence
the same way nature
doesn’t give into the seasons
but simply
becomes part of the changing
tide.

When I return home
mother tells me the students
studied character traits in stories of
resilience.

IMG_5185

Metaphors for Fear and Indecision

It seems like I’m always on the fence. Whole-heartedly halfway between things. Searching for commitment, then the next commitment, then dreading commitment. Because the c-word sounds a lot like closing doors, and it’s the open road I long for. Set goals along the lines of, by this time next year I’ll have goals, deferring the long term, treating the future like a flipbook of dreams where everyday I have a new one and they are all achievable. It wouldn’t be wrong, except it’s not real if they’re never nurtured in time, and right now I’d rather run sprints than do a marathon. Finding freedom in freedom from the fear of failing. Less risk with less responsibility which I describe as time for self-discovery. Ten years from now I… and it’s always different.

That March – From 2014

No one is something
all the time
he says between
mouthfuls
of breakfast for lunch.

It’s late afternoon
and we’re wrestling
meaning: debating
and debunking the
geometric skeleton
of clichés,
trying to fracture
their sentiment,
feed them zesty
onion sting, the miracle
of broccoli.

Omelette over Hellgoing
and as the sun starts to sink
like a bloody broken egg
I think nothing
will ever be
certain.

Felix: A Short Story

You awake to someone knocking on your door. They aren’t hammering, but nor is it timid, just a solid steady knock. It’s as if the knocker knows that eventually someone will wake to the noise, and has chosen to exercise a certain degree of patience in order to convey a trace of decorum. Difficult to do in the middle of the night. You lie there, wondering if you will soon wakeup again, this time to silence. Then overwhelmingly, you are scared. One does not go visiting unannounced at three in the morning without reason, especially in the country. After a few seconds more you slide your toes to the floor, whisper to the window. The roof of the deck blocks your view of the door, but you can see the worn gravel driveway, empty except for your car. You’re shaking, your ears are hot. Reach for the phone. It’s just as you’re about to dial that he speaks, calling out through the wood of the front door. It isn’t English, but you hear sincerity, necessity, what must, somewhere in the world be a call for help. He’s repeating the plea as you slip down the stairs. It’s his voice, more specifically his register. You read register. You know tone. It’s something you learn alone in a crowd, in a town, in a staffroom. It’s something you perfect teaching children.

You go to the window first, crawling on the floor and poking your eyes over the most shadowed part of the sill. He’s leaning on the doorframe as though one of his legs cannot bear weight. The screen door presses against his back. Blood runs black from his nose in the moonlight. It’s dripped onto the front of his t-shirt and jeans. His right eye is swollen, his hair damp, matted, his arms bruised. His head, like his body, rests against the frame, sinks into it as into slumber. You slip to the door. He collapses through onto the floor as you open it, his sprawled body your shadow in the framed rectangle of moonlight.

The next two days you call in sick to work. Principle Delayney is genuinely concerned, you can hear it in his tone. Your first sick day in over two decades. His muffled phone voice drops as he asks if it’s serious. Not serious, you tell him, still, would he mind arranging the substitute for your kindergartners, you just don’t feel well enough to have another conversation right now. You don’t bother to affect your voice: you don’t fake sick. You don’t fake anything.

**

What you remember most of him that first night is the brush of his pulse against your fingertips, and the scent of his neck as you knelt close, listening for his breath. He held you in the realizing of those sensations, and he held you, softly, limply, as you half-carried, half-dragged him to the couch. He was taller than you, and even though thin, scrawny even, you struggled under his weight. Not a proper bed, but something. You knew you wouldn’t be able to carry him up the stairs. You placed towels under his head, cleaned the blood from his face and throat, ran a damp cloth through his hair feeling the bumps on his skull. Nothing impacted. You removed his shoes, his socks, touched his swollen ankle. Nothing broken. You got a glass of water and placed it on the table by his head. You went to bed. Locked the door and lay awake. Every hour you got up to check on him. Watched for the rise and fall. You waited for him to wake, listened for him to move. Nothing said.

What you remember most from those first two days is that they blurred seamlessly into the next two, and the two after that. The bruises on his eye, his ankle and his arms turned from purple to yellow and then began to disappear. You found his torn duffle of clothes stashed in a corner of the barn. You washed them, you hung them on the line. He spoke Spanish.

You went back to work a different person. People looked at you differently, they smiled, they spoke, and you wondered if all this time it had been you pushing them away, not the other way around. A student, five years old, asked you why you were happy. Then they were all asking you, as though these children read joy in your voice as you read to them, and eagerness in your step as you walked with them out to the yard. You loved him.

What you remember most from those first two weeks is fear fused with zealous joy. You knew what the parents of your pupils already called you. You knew what your neighbours whispered each time you passed. Never leaving your parents home, living there alone after they died, hardly a visitor. This was Southwold County, big sky Ontario, corn rolling for miles around. People talked on front porches, and in front of flagged mailboxes. People talked over beer, and over the grocery counter in town. Old beliefs died hard, and died slowly. The threat that someone would see him, the fear that someone already knew he was there constantly lodged in your throat. You tensed each time he approached a front facing window, froze each time he stepped outside. He read this off you without language, smiled at you, made you smile without words. He understood, and he understood the why, knew your fear intimately as only one who shares it does. He smiled, and you smiled, and the two of you would move inward to where no one could bear witness. In shadows you laughed, knuckles brushed palms, hands clasped. You fell in to him, breath in the heat of his neck, soft bite, tender tongue under his jaw, the prickle of beard against your cheek. You wore his scent in those shadows, his hands under your shirt, pressure and pull on your back, slip of lips and glide of heat enveloping you. There were never words. An unspoken transition, coiled spring unwound and unwound and unwound into bliss.

What you remember most from those two months is the way he was with Felix. The way he spoke to Felix in Spanish, as though Felix might understand. Felix, as a general rule did not like men; if ever a man was on the property, he’d disappear to the barn where he slept. For some reason though, Felix made an exception of him, limping across the back lawn towards him from the barn, tail swaying. He would kneel and extend the back of his hand to Felix, who would sniff it, and proceed to curve around it and twist affectionately through his legs. Whispering something in Spanish he would scoop Felix off the ground into his arms. Felix had never let you pick him up. Despite their mutual affection, Felix continued to refuse to enter the house; he never had, always skittish close to doors, refusing to cross thresholds. You rescued him as a kitten, ear half-torn off, side scratched, tail bleeding.

**

Everyday you wake to coffee, the radio on, him jiving through the kitchen in nothing but briefs, bright white against his skin. You spend the days half-naked in the garden, placing the seeds in even rows and pulling weeds from the soil. Crouched, he is tying a tomato plant to a support. You walk over and wrap your arms around him from behind, slippery sweat, salt in your mouth, heat. You know evenings by the softness of cotton. Sitting out on the back deck with glasses of wine, Felix curled in his lap, your hand lightly turns circles on the back of his t-shirt. The green of the day is cast bronze over the fields you lease to the neighbouring farmer. The geometric skeletons of hydro towers stretch long curves in the sky. He touches your cheek, kisses you gently. He speaks and you swear you understand him. You speak, and he nods and smiles. For two months he barely leaves your side. And then, one morning, he is gone.

You wake to a meow, startled, as it’s not a sound you’ve woken up to before. You don’t know which you notice first, Felix looking up at you from the floor by your bed, or his absence. It’s just after five, the curtains glow pink, and any fascination you have with Felix’s presence inside quickly shifts to concern. You step out of bed, check the bathroom, cautiously go downstairs, call out, tear through the house, stand on the porch and shout his name, run to the barn, then all the way to the edge of the farm. You’re a silhouette chasing crop lines against dawn. He is nowhere. You call to him. He is gone.

Felix is on the steps when you return. It’s a humid morning, your shirt sticks to your back, and your shoes are damp with dew, blades of grass cling to them. You don’t notice Felix when you approach, but he runs up to you and begins rubbing his head against your ankles as you walk. You ignore him, go inside, put the coffee on. You climb the stairs to your bedroom, open the closet door. Felix follows you the whole way. His clothes are still there, dangling on wire hangers, empty two-dimensional reincarnations. He didn’t take his clothes. They smell like him. Felix pushes against your leg. You look down, catching lemon-cut eyes, and are struck by recognition.

Felix holds your gaze. Then, he walks to the bed, leaps up on it, and paws the pillow on his side a few times. You look at Felix, he looks at you. He kneads the pillow with his forepaws, then, seems to change his mind and walks towards the bedside table. On it rests a photo of him. He stands beside a shovel jammed into the earth. The sun enflames his hair, one side of his face is shadowed. He isn’t looking at the camera, eyes downcast, he seems almost shy. His smile, in the instant of closure, is not directed at you. Felix noses the edge of the frame, looks at you, and leaps off the nightstand. His back paw catches the picture, knocks the frame to the floor. The glass shatters.

You consider the vet, but no, this is not something a vet will comprehend, nor will a doctor. You know that the only thing they’ll admit is you, a seventy-two hour hold. They’ll take him away, Felix, him, they’ll take your life. Slit lemon eyes staring at you. You know it’s absurd. You speak to him using the little Spanish you know, the few words of affection you’ve learned from him. He speaks back at you, arcs from the bed to the floor and swoops your legs. You understand him.

**

Gravel crunches in the driveway and a car engine turns off. You look out the window, frozen. Your sister steps out of a blue sedan, dusty from the late summer roads. Afternoon blue fisheyes behind her, light breeze, dry heat. You want her to turn around and go away. You aren’t prepared. Don’t know how to tell her. She knocks on the door, it echoes through the cool, shaded kitchen. She knocks again. You move towards the door. The doorknob is sweaty in your palm; the light catches you off guard. She hugs you, says she’s relieved, glad to see you, asks if you’re all right. One of the neighbours called her, she claims. You ask what it was they said, hating your chatty neighbours for their front facing porches and beer stained banter. She says they told her you pull a cat in a red wagon down the road and back every day. She says she told them straight back that there was nothing wrong with that, she was sure there was a reasonable explanation. There is, you tell her, but she cuts you off. The real reason she came is to meet your Spanish gentleman. You told her about him when you last spoke on the phone, that period of bliss and invincibility. He was from a big family and wanted to meet her, and while you weren’t prepared to arrange that, you had told her about him, or at least mentioned that you had a friend living with you. Her tone had shifted up when she heard that, accelerated into intonations of interrogation. You withheld.

Surprise, she says. She knew you’d never have let her come if she mentioned the possibility of visiting. In her presence your face fades and she reads the fall with such sincere sympathy that you cannot restrain tears. You sit and truth falls from your lips like stones, which she collects as fiction. When you finish speaking you cannot decide if it’s grief or fear in her eyes, moon-cut by the reflection of a window. Felix saunters in through the cat flap on the garden door. He looks at her, lemon gleam, holds it too long, until she breaks. If he was living here, she asks, precisely articulating every word, where are his clothes? Did he take them when he left? You need her to believe you, so for now you ignore that she’s assumed he’s left you. Yes, you have his clothes, you tell her. You’ll show her if she wants. She follows you up the back stairs to the landing where sunlight tilts across the pine floor.

In your bedroom you swing open the closet door. His clothes hang limply. For a moment you can smell him and remember curves of vertebrae through cotton. The flannel collars flap emptily as you brush the shoulders, hangers gently clatter and one squeaks against the curtain rod. Now your sister is the one crying. What the fuck is wrong with you, she yells. You stare at her, surprised. Her voice is shrieky, she’s shaking. Felix walks in, tail raised and swaying every step. She shouts to get the cat away from her. You turn and address him in Spanish, gesturing him out the door. He looks at you lemon and turns his tail. What was that! she screams. You turn and follow Felix out the door. Growing up they had often provoked you; she had sided with them then as well.

Dusk is Venus and purple. You step out into the garden, walk across towards the shed. Pausing by the door, you call out in Spanish: Mrkrgnao! Then you turn the key, and pull out the red steel wagon. He leaps into it, hardly a rattle. There are crickets and the sandy turn of the wagon’s wheels along the driveway. Your bedroom light beams like a lighthouse, solitary into a sky of black leaves and early stars. Still heat. You turn onto the road; it is dark, empty, stretching out of vision into night. From behind you, you hear a purr.