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If You Discover a Fire
Excerpt

CARPE DOS AND CARPE DON'TS (FT. PANDA BEAR)

 

Well when you try to seize it, the day
turns to sand. And the moment is too little
living space, a broom closet inscribed
on a grain of rice. You've searched for it
for thirty-two years, but it's buried
somewhere deep in the sand on the beach
of all your wasted days. The only time
that exists is the summer of 2013, a time
so dope that Mayan philosophers glimpsed it
in a collective dream and invented
both paradise and apocalypse. And as for
those lemons, the ones life gave you once--
the summer of 2013 saunters into your kitchen
and takes them from your hands, slices them
into sixths, pulling a bottle of Patron
and a shaker of salt from a pocket.
Out on the porch, between shots, he tells you
things you've always known, how the past
and the future are lovers spooning
in bed, and the present is how they don't
quite fit together. For instance, he says,
take that moon, and then he does,
plucking it out of the sky like a lemon
from a tree. It's not a moon at all,
it never was: it's the prettiest moment
you've ever seen, big as a beach ball,
skin like a nectarine. You could do anything
in a moment like that--you could fall
asleep in a pile of warm laundry.
You could call your estranged mother
or rollerskate over a burning bridge.
And now the summer of 2013 is lifting it
over his head. And now he's bringing it down
across the railing, and now it splits open
and the juice trickles out, the unadulterated
juice of authentic, one-hundred-percent-real
time. And now he's filling his cupped palms,
he's lifting them to your mouth, and he whispers,
Now that's what I call lemonade.

 

 

 

TRANSACTIVE MEMORY

 

We met in a bar the width
of a hallway leading nowhere.
You asked me my sign in a neutral
tone. I covered my mouth
with a placemat when I yawned.
I read to you from a book
of burnt-out matches.

 

You said you didn't want to put
labels on it, but I'd just bought
a label maker. You looked at a fern.
You opened the fridge. You described
your past as a reluctant ode
to Shopper's Drug Mart. I fell
asleep in a pile of sporting goods.

 

For years I worked under the table,
that one from the phrase "farm to table,"
while you wrote a thesis on transit anger.
We argued like agnostics resorting
to prayer. You asked me, "When does
The Wire get good?" I felt complicit
in your library fines.

 

You drifted into your thirties
like a polar bear on an iceberg.
I wouldn't stop yelling "enhance!"
at the view from the kitchen
window. At night I translated
my sorrow bump by bump
from the braille of a bucket of Lego.

 

I pursued an aesthetic impulse
into the suburbs. The train slid
over the rooftops like a runaway
attic suite. I curled up inside my fear
like a tuba player in his instrument.
The sky stripped off its blue negligée.
A voice told me where I was.

 

You waited with your blinker on
for the intersection to clear.
I tended to the campfire of my vices.
On a road trip, you vanished
into the space between rest stops.
When you came back, you spoke
authentic American boredom.
You buried bulbs with a tiny shovel.

 

You scrubbed the floor like a storm
erasing the names from a map.
I invested my bingo winnings
in abstract pornography.
We fought in parking lots
where pigeons shuffled around
like hungry slippers.

 

The campus, at night, was roofed
in blue light. The rain seemed
to fall from a stadium ceiling.
We whispered our WiFi password
to the flowers. At midnight, a thousand
coupons expired in a drawer and ivy
climbed the walls like slow, green flame.

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Glass Float
Excerpt

MORNING GLORY

 

A morning glory slipped into the front hall, climbed the doorframe, and bloomed - white trumpets - inside the old house. I laughed at its wit and trained it over the top of the door the way one of my aunts trained ivy to frame her kitchen window. Ivy, another invasive species: bindweed and English ivy.

 

Commonwealth countries coloured pink on the world map Miss Adanac pulled down over the chalkboard in our third grade classroom. Sprawling Canada, triangular India. England also pink, the mother country.

 

The first time I went to India I felt as uncultured as a toddler. How to use the toilet, eat, dress myself. Even in a sari, I stood out. A mute boy's sign for me was to tap his front tooth.

 

My hair is now whiter than my skin.

 

 

 

Geeta's clues against depression #1

 

Today, Geeta tackles depression. Like a detective, she's been investigating it: her father's death less than four months ago.

 

Keep your eyes on the horizon, she begins. Widen the gaze to take in all your periphery.

 

See it on a big screen across the back of the brain, as if it were projected on the inside of the skull. Notice you can still see the ground - everything - without strain.

 

Immediately, you're with her. You've learned, by trial and error, to do this to keep your balance. It works better than fixating on something in front of you: spotting.

 

Geeta goes on. If you wear multifocal glasses, take them off when walking around. They make you drop your chin to look at stairs or obstacles in your path.

 

Draw your head back and let the neck rise up easily to support it. Lengthen the little muscles between the neck and the skull.

 

Shine like a full moon without dispelling the dark.

 

Did she really say that, you wonder. The last part. Possibly. Or what she said made you think of it. The moon is close to full - you saw it last night when you got up to pee.

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Bones
Excerpt

Under the moonlight
The softness that night gives us

 

the earth rising to meet

 

in snow - or the glow of trilliums, where there is enough sound in a breath

 

in here I speak

 

gently step
and story weave

 

sending out a thread of me

 

like a foot's condensation drying on a summer floor

 

hoping the memory of me survives

 

in the eyes of others

 

I'll speak of blood

 

and wounds and beauty in terrible things

 

the way the wind pulls a thousand leaves down an empty street

 

and when they settle - we look up

 

to trace the direction of the wind

 

 

 

 

 

On your birthday I remember the cake she made

 

that we didn't expect;
our faces masks of fear.

 

(we never liked the unexpected)

 

we sat staring at the cake and her smile, twitching.

 

her dark moments began to show a lot those days,

 

you assured me with a wink

 

something other than me
would break.

 

 

 

 

 

when a child learns
amid the fear of something

 

terrible

 

the fragility of their parent,

 

something shatters inside them,

 

the dual crush

 

of fear and empathy.

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Accretion
Excerpt

APOPHENIA

 

You appeared
to a chorus of
old men's cracking knees and backs
as we straightened up out of sajdah
at Friday prayer,
your face unmistakable
in the mosaic patterns
on the walls of the masjid.

 

Day by day, I stayed there gazing,
longing once again
for the sharp lines of your eyes and mouth.

 

The imam grinned proudly
mistaking my obsession for piety.Fasted, or maybe just forgot to eat
until like you, I became
a shadow of lines and angles.

 

I began to inch my way towards you
on memory's dusty beams.

 

 

 

GRAVITY

 

An insignificant thing
lacks the needed weight to attract,
laws state
it will barely inspire a reaction.
An insignificant thing
will always try to accrete,
even if hate is the only available mass.

 

Let it build
until you collapse alone
beneath your own weight.
Then for a moment
you will become a fire on the horizon,
beautiful
and impossible to ignore.

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Mowing
Excerpt

Relay

 

The days are handed off like bright batons.

 

A runner stutters into dark, the night
ahead. Ahead, dawn tucked beneath her arm,

 

someone else begins to hammer
the pulsing slope of mount grief,

 

while, in her wake, another navigates
the barberry thicket of what might

 

have been achieved. Who she was or will be
keeps her company the far side of the track,

 

winded, lurching forward, looking back.

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Sotto Voce
Excerpt

Into the Humber River

 

Someone tore the hands off a big round clock, familiar
as a classroom compass & abandoned it
to the weeds. It took the time right out of us, poured
it through the small black circle in the clock's
centre & underground into the river.
It was a blessing to watch the hours & minutes
drain away. We didn't miss it the way we'd miss
our own hands. That sudden calm when time
disappears, the atmosphere soupy with fish & bug
& bird busy-ness, the glare of springtime green.
If you spoke into that empty hole, it would hold
your words & breathe them back to you
in the sensible prose of granite & bridge,
in bird vowels, cloud song, river.

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Devil in the Woods
Excerpt

Letter to Cherry from Denis Crowfeather's Garage

 

Dear Don: it's been some time since last time
we saw eye-to-eye on anything. Maybe it goes
all the way back to big pay checks and Rocky
Mountain highs, maybe it's locked up in that
golden eagle strut of your Pow-Wow-infused
fancy dancing outfits showcased coast-to-coast
Saturday nights. Every eyeball busting thread
makes me understand that most all of us share
the need to strut the goods that Creator gave us
as we turkey-step our lives on the old turtle's back.
Old Denis and I were taking in the battle
of Ontario in his Curve Lake garage when you
came flashing through a bad V-hold and started
hollering about Bobby Orr and knowing your past,
and the importance of face punching a guy
when the right moment comes. Damned if we
didn't talk about the time the Odjick boys
roughed up some of Kahnawe fancy dancers
at Silver Lake couple of years back. Cree boys
reigned down snow like it was the last week
of November and did it because they swore
Edna Puskamoose lost the Grass Dance final
on account of a stick left in the circle by one
their boys the previous round. Grapes, you
gotta know that eastern Ontario Pow Wows
play heavier than an Adam Division final.
Intent in any competition is only an eighth
of any penalty. Old Denis and I laughed
like the Pow Wow spectators we are, both
knowing that Edna had the grace of a blind
heron and that it's easier to think well enough
of taking a shot or twelve to the head
so long as your suit makes you look like lake
showing off to the world and best things
you ever did were thirty years before you
started hollering advice into the night.
Always remember, we are nothing without
linesmen who talk quick enough to keep us
honest and ensure that second late game
hits the air before the V-hold breaks for good,
J.W.

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