Impinge

October 18, 2017

In that white-quiet panic with which
rain tickles the wooden floorboards,
the way he used to,
cold on your feet, and as wet:
heart racing
from an afternoon bath in a claw foot tub, steaming,
like mugs of bergamot, or
your chimney, or
a low-hanging cloud, or
the soup on the stovetop:
white terrycloth wrapped around you;
the pungency of pine, and what it means
that snow is coming–
even your stories hold the whiteness of the page, with
silence shaping blobs of ink, subject to interpretation,
sentences manipulated by men white as smoke holding cigars,
like architecture, in place:
the reset button only a few earlier evenings away. Now,
you can’t really tell the exact hour at which
the scales tip, and Scorpio comes swimming in,
like a salmon, or a stripper, or the first time he ever
crammed his tongue down your open throat, feeling
his hands, like knives, slide under
your waistband, the stab of dry fingers, and how
he pointed out hair,
and the girls on the internet,
and real women–you had no idea what he meant, but figured
that somehow you
were less of one–
so you went shopping for that fancy Schick razor that
suctions to your shower wall,
some kind of kiss you were made to think you wanted–
some kind of word you couldn’t shout out–
No
became white as the predawn fog on the glasses you took off,
white as the glue he squirted in your hair in seventh grade,
or the cum still caked onto your jeans on your way back home
on Sunday morning–no
became a shower so hot you couldn’t see your reflection,
or the messages you wrote on the glass–
help
was a scream inhaled behind an index pressed to your lips,
and I want to know where I can find the definition for
rape,
but that page has been ripped out of my dictionary,
along with rage, and resistance, and revolution, skipped to
seduction, and sex, and
Sure–
there is a reason my eyes still blur when I step outside,
a reason I still bathe in rainclouds, and why
thunderstorms still soothe me:
like hammering nails into wood, already wet–
I wear the mist of a hot bath like a veil, or a bathroom stall,
like tissues crammed down my throat, like a prom dress,
or my toothy grin in photos with some man’s arm choking me:
when I wake up in the middle of the night to this violence,
I remember him tickling me.
I don’t know why I can’t stop laughing.

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Staple

October 15, 2017

I’m wearing the nostalgia of paperbacks and
Earl Grey tea, the last
sentence uttered on the porous telephone:
wool blanket and what it means
that I still don’t feel
I’ve had enough
coffee, and that
I wish
I had a pair of fuzzy slippers
to go with this glass of chardonnay:
bottle split three ways–
October evening, and the two of you, cooking:
blasting flashes-in-the-pan upstairs.

And you are brothers now.

I am sinking:
paper boat in an eddy of
books and ink toner, the swirling of
not good enough–
the sick feeling of my own words,
swallowed.
I shut down:
clamshell.
Eyelids.
The idea that I was privy to both of your dreams.

Wish I could remember how to enter a room,
as a person, or even as a woman:
paper clip,
thumbtack,
staple.
The two of you certain now
that I am not longer the glue
that holds you together,
but something painful,
and small,
whose presence in the room pierces through
your secret handshakes and
jovial banter.

You don’t know what to do with me.
Maybe it’s the fact that I still compare myself
to an office supply,
or a quart of milk,
or eggs,
whose only responsibility is to hold
the two of you together,
invisibly.

Memory Tricks

October 9, 2017

Blame it on the leaves, sun soaked,
lemony-green, like pears, and
pages kissed with the poetry
of parting,
Japanese tea and the cold in my cheeks,
like rosehips ripe after the first frost,
or the homemade bread,
Thanksgiving weekend, or the open windows with wind
whipping my hair in my face, crisp,
letting the music I ended up liking loose
onto gravel roads, curving, some kind of smoke:
afternoon lovemaking, or
the cashmere sweater you gave to me;
it felt so soft against my arms–
and I wanted to give you that:

a few hours of my heart
unguarded.

Told me you’d wait till I was ready for you.
Told me you knew I was afraid.
Said maybe loving me
was like going down the rabbit hole: Cheshire cat,
Queen of Hearts:
you were afraid I’d kill you.

But even as I was piercing your
pupils, licking moon slices into
the whites of your eyes, like eggs,
pulling and plunging
every dagger I thought
might dig into or bounce off
your bruised and callused places,
you remained a pinecone burned open,
or a woodstove:
porch light left on,
in case I tripped, you said,
or stumbled home drunk in the rain–
you left an umbrella there because you knew
I was stubborn:
wanted me to know you’d lit the fire.

I tried pushing you into pools deep
as I’d let myself see into you, your eyes liquid
brown, looking–I glanced away–
rivers and waterfalls,
as far and deep into the woods as I was willing to go,
but with you there, and you
were a fence,
and a boulder I couldn’t loosen from the roots
of tall trees.
You would have left me
had I known the way back,
I’m sure of it.

I guess you had love on your side.
I suppose that was enough.

The rest of the story doesn’t matter so much.
But that was the first day I noticed
old ladies smiling at us
in the grocery store, as we laughed through the aisles
in track pants and toques, and for once I
didn’t feel self-conscious,
like everyone knew how odd I felt.
Like everyone knew how fake I was being.

Even now, I wish
there was some way I could keep this,
seal it into an envelope, let you know that
I am capable of softening my grip around your neck,
and more, that I want to:
so I wrote this poem for myself,
and my porous memory,
and the anger that will inevitably come
when I tell you you must have been dreaming.

Catty

October 4, 2017

Women like her
(who call themselves girls)
strut
the nail-thin ridge of
kitten heels and emptiness,
the vapid whisper from lips
that purr clichés and heartless
slogans in amber reflections, laugh alone,
and kiss
burning embers
all over your skin,
where you’ve asked her to cut deeper,
where you’ve asked her to bite–
or in crowded rooms when she’s had too much
watermelon juice and vodka.

She denies it later
(and of course you believe her)
and I am left with only melted wax in my throat,
paying rent for an empty room
with no electricity,
and no heat.

Don’t understand
her edges, all the corners she’s made of–
some sort of diamond icicle:
martini glass bedazzled with
her cutting remarks and sarcasm, your inability to see
her seventeen different faces; her confidence
a concrete wall,
with shards of roses hung up here and there,
an afterthought.
And I am a puddle of stale bathwater,
lukewarm,
with all of your
leftover petals scattered there, like empty bottles:
my flower garden picked over, stems and thorns discarded,
like fruit skins.

And despite knowing this I always
find myself trying to be her friend.

Haunting Music

September 28, 2017

Witch-black, the colour of velvet, and roots, and skinny trails in deep violet, and voodoo: the outline of splintered trees, a forest clear-cut and replanted: all that you hoped for, and all that couldn’t happen. Look now, look at the mess you made—embryo on the bathroom floor; gramophone in a yard sale somewhere other than here. Gashed wooden chair in the torn corner, splashed with turquoise, the scrapped burnt edges of your smoked out cigarettes and late-night monologues on the rotary telephone with your grandmother, deceased now, like November. I guess she never did teach you how to make her famous bone broth, or how to bake. And the twins died. Maude and Shelly—lost them in a train crash, with all those high heels clicking on ballroom floors, empty now, except for the whisper of who you used to know yourself as, and who you were: I said I was sorry. And I wonder, even now, if I really meant it. And I wonder if it makes a difference. And I wonder why not being perfect is still that long-nailed queen with a French manicure turning me into photo negatives.

Teacups cracked on the diagonal, like waking up alone from a sweet dream in which you were still alive. Honeysuckle branch in early May, and what it must have meant for her to float down a river at dawn in her wedding dress, alone. All the suspension bridges cut and discarded. And all her decisions. And what it must have meant to turn around and throw the ripped up shreds of her promises into the rain, and how she didn’t stick around to see the tide bring them back.

You know, sometimes I think words aren’t what a poem is about—like music, like painting, like the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals on Tuesday nights when the doors aren’t locked—for beggars, they said. For whores. For anyone wanting to get out of the cold and the rain. For anyone wanting a hot meal and the idea that prayers don’t fall on the deaf ears of an emperor with no heart these days—and that this pine cone of courage blooms in you still, will only crack open for wildfires.

Softly, she sings to me those night-time waves and octaves in the deep well, those fairy-tale goodnight rhymes, you know, when your whole existence makes sense in the rhythm of her breath: the rise and fall of her chest, and the prickles on her thighs in her yellow Bermuda shorts. This idea of creating tea out of the mess of plants that grow in vines over your kitchen window, lock you in: madwoman in the cellar chanting in haunting tones the meshes of all her grasped-for handles and guides with no answers. Our parents are all dead now. Isn’t that what becoming an adult means? Waking up in the orphanage alone wondering where God went, without even a mirror to remind yourself of who you once knew yourself as—and who you were.

Dried roses hang onto twine like blood on life support. This idea of preserving a corpse—for some wished-for fantasy of holding onto what we once knew ourselves as. And what we were. Not even paper will resurrect you now. Not even syllables. Not even rain, or the warm cracked lips that used to kiss you goodnight when you pretended you were sleeping.

Crawler

September 24, 2017

Drank a bottle of
your friend’s recommendation
stayed up until three a.m.
you said you were surprised
it wasn’t sweeter

said it was fun this morning
but we stayed up too late

and you talked about girls
and aloneness
and what it means to not be seen
in darkened rooms where waitresses
only like the charming guys
with a lot to say

and a lot to pretend

and we were sitting at the dining room table now
with both candles burning
black holes into your irises
I thought maybe
you saw through veils

and I talked too much

I mean I think maybe you just wanted to exist
in the space where two humans meet each other
don’t think I had to fill your glass
with artificial stars

you said you wanted to accept beauty as
part of the tapestry that surrounds you and that
kind women could just orbit around you
and you wouldn’t have to attempt
to pin them down

it’s hard even now to know what I wanted
some closeness
some sort of friend
I mean
maybe I was more alone than I thought
swimming in a river of intimacy and still
wanting more

I think we both just wanted some depth
tired of inhaling
I think honestly we just wanted someone to be naked with

and I hate feeling guilty for this
some pointed finger saying I should be
more responsible with my
looks and my radiance
and like I should be alone
like being myself is somehow a sin
like I’m stealing from God

how all that is said clouds what I feel

I guess I just want to see myself as a child again
I guess I just want to believe that somewhere in me
there’s a purity
and a benevolence
someone who gives a shit
someone who isn’t sending pheromones and smoke signals
to anyone who cares to talk
even if I am
there’s an innocence in that

some blue caterpillar asking that same damned question
everyone wants to be asked
someone who cares to find out

today
tired and slow in movement
sipping green tea with
bone broth bubbling upstairs
I feel stuck
between the voodoo of being desired
and the burn marks of desiring

think maybe I ought to live in a cave
in the mountains somewhere in robes
white as snow
like all the nuns did
renounce my hair to the fire

but I am not ready to let go
of all that burns and holds me bound
seems I’m addicted to wrapping my tangled wisps of sandalwood
around your hurt places
some sort of charm that seems charmless
I eat you like an insect

it is a devastating morning
when the spider finally sees her face
in the dewdrops of her silk kimono

Classical Gas

September 21, 2017

Everything makes me cry this morning. Old bearded man sitting outside the co-op playing sad flamenco guitar in A minor: I put a dollar in his case and sit a while—thinking of Vancouver, thinking of you—the town I left so many rains ago now that still haunts me. Thinking about your guitar, and the music that slashed the sky blood-red on my way back East, and how I learned how to breathe underwater then, and how I still do. The dance I never did learn: all of those dark-haired beauties in red ruffles: all of that passion stomping out—the place I brought you to and never could leave.

Now, reading a sad book for class at a little cafe and used bookshop, eating chicken soup, finally a break in the clouds, and I am for once not drunk or hungover. I wonder what it might mean to care for something: money, my home, my body, myself-what it might mean to preserve a seed so precious and capable.

I tried to hold onto you: against everything that was thrown at us, and all the storms that brewed within us—but I couldn’t hold on. You slipped away: like mud. Like all of my old dreams. Like sentences of love and devotion, gratitude and desperation, uttered in vain in my head when I’m already slipping into sleep.

Another Good Morning

September 20, 2017

I was still half asleep when the ladies rolled in: one behind a walker; the other behind a cane.

“Are you with them?” the waitress intuited, pointing behind me at what I knew was a cluster of white hair because I’d seen them hesitate in.

Just moments prior to this, I’d heard one woman ask for decaf, and when the girl stated the only decaf is an Americano, she opted for “regular coffee.”

“Where am I gonna put this lousy thing!” said the woman with the walker.
I had drunk heavily and slept lightly the night before; not even eight a.m. and yesterday only separated by a flimsy four-hour veil of dreamtime smothered by rainclouds and heavy fog, now lost to the wet earth; swallowed.

“Cheers to a good morning!” one of them said. I pictured them all lifting steaming white mugs or orange glasses. After so many years I figured they must have been onto something. They passed around a birthday card then, as a woman’s shaky voice sounded out the rhymes I’d predicted before even the first predictable line hung in the air like an unoriginal pickup line. “Sign it.”

The rest of the room was filled with young people texting and showing each other their screens, always with one eye on their phones, and one hand placed strategically, anxiously, beside it. I wondered if they still passed around birthday cards to sign, or if caring for people was a dying art too, like cursive handwriting and looking people in the eye.

On the street, vendors were preparing for the Wednesday market. “Beautiful cabbage,” said a voice behind me–but I was just noticing my classmates walking by in a pack, thinking about how I ought to get the cheque and go.

Winter Won’t Promise Magic

September 13, 2017

I’m terrified of
fluency and illiterateness across
languages, across realms,
across worlds–and of
cowering in the face of delight: meteorite
in the mirror right beneath
the Major Yin Lung meridian. I’m sick of
trying to sound sane to some, and of
attempting to epitomize strength and
grace in all corners of the room.
And in my hand I’ve got
two Aces and a Joker: the edge
of all of those dreamed-for shadows, and all
that the rain couldn’t resist giving me.

And I am interdependent in a vast cast of
brightly drawn sunrises–curtains closed
from a midnight mix of wax and wane. If I wanted
mediocrity I could have had it. Remember
that one person’s risk is another one’s space at the base
of their closet, and if my dance card remains
empty I may well still find myself
smiling:
taking up the diagonal side of the bed.

In the long alleyways preceding birth I dreamt
of rabbits, and chainsaws, and of the death
of glittering smoke–and I wished
for good looks, and a strain
of bacteria strong enough to capture
the attention of the dentist in the left wing. But you–
you are intermittent in your heartbreak
and scalding in your outtakes: the many
ghosts of a still evening pond against
an orange sky, burnt red with rage–I suppose
even the sun wants something for herself–and
the shrieks of the lonely mallards isn’t enough
to break the spell sometimes.

Taking down the decorations
of all the old Halloweens, and the live
donations for organ transplants, I thought
of egg whites, and thick perfume:
engulfing me like a forest
or a big sister–air and a love thin
as a helium leak, and all of your strange voices: the vague
tonic of realization I held in me
from a sad long time ago.

Illusively, trying
does not take effort. It’s the satisfaction
of a distinct memory, and the
longed-for feeling of
time draining as if through
cheesecloth in my grandmother’s summer kitchen.
Like transitory apple crisp and the slow
crunch of leaves under bare feet, sceptical
of the coming of snow, and the
ruthless disposal of heat, the way
winter never promises anything
other than death-time.

We are not in a desert these days. And my
bicycle still squeals in the early hours as if
chased by transports, or knocked out of bed–as if
falling from the sky, or overlooked
at the school dance. How was I to learn
to ride a rainbow if not
without training wheels?

I wasn’t meant to bring
all my wounds along for the ride. I mean
I was made of them: they were steps upon which
to spring forward, with momentum: the flying arms
of a girl in the wrong.

Take your pack full of dry goods and the lessons
you pickled and canned, and eat them in stride:
this journey is not for chain smoking and
overindulging in cherry pie.
Do you understand now?
Your canvas bag is filled with
everything you need, and your legs
can and will take you as far
as your dreams and your heart can.

You were made for singing hymns and joyous carols
in the early morning sun, with garlands of daisies
around your calves. Do not settle for the rustling of
wished-for fantasies, when something possible and heavy
is on your plate:
practical as fire,
as visible,
and as sweet: some kind of question mark
holding the wake open for more gunshots.

Cherry Street

September 7, 2017

I have run, in sandals and denim shorts at dusk,
dog on a leash, pulling, home
in time for dinner, through neighbourhoods loose with
an intermittent noisy barking of
domesticity reminiscent of
videogames, and kitchen windows
illuminated: twelve years old and
almost-stale bubble gum, or the
tail-end of the magic of childhood still
in my legs, still tanned from summer days spent
in lake water under the sun.

Now, that scarlet ball
of fire burns behind
smoke blurring mountains and sky, clouding
my lungs, making everything
dusty; muted; overcast.
Darkness creeps
earlier and earlier these nights, as we drink
half-empty bottles of gin with flat soda and rotten lemons, eating
free pasta from the restaurant he works at
with pork products–whatever that means.
I’ve never been one to turn up my nose at a free meal.

Now you tell me
the full moon reminds you of me,
and new beginnings, all your big plans–but you
have the stars in your emerald eyes: as luminous
and as deceptive.

I spend my days with my pack flung over my shoulders,
and my hair up in a knot. And you
are as functional as a lunchbox,
or a stack of tissues,
or a bottle full of tap water.
Because the moon doesn’t remind me of you,
and I don’t dream
of a bright starry future with you,
and I don’t get petals fluttering in my chest
when I think of all the things we’re going to do.

Maybe that makes me a bad person.
Maybe that makes me old.
But I am tired of the freshness of dew on the grass,
and of the magic that inevitably happens at moonrise,
and I don’t feel
my heart expand when I think of all the road trips we’ll take,
or all the music we’ll make.

Instead, I feel alive when I’m running down an asphalt hill
with a dog that isn’t mine,
in a new neighbourhood, reminding me
of the flashes of wonder I’ve left behind,
and the smell of melted wax.