AT NINETEEN I NEVER SLEPT

If I had something to do I would not do it and neither would I 
give in, betraying myself, punished and stretched, drinking coffee topped 

with ten dollar bottles of whisky, leaving at two or three in the morning 
to do groceries or to take a tour of the neighbourhood

which then was Yonge Street, Dundas Square, Church, 
Carleton. I was always being touched by strangers.

A man in his car followed my roommate home from work, driving five 
per hour for blocks. Someone whose gender was more fluid 

stopped their car on Bloor in the early morning, asking for directions
to the very next intersection. Then asked if I wanted 

a ride home. This isn’t what I’d meant to write. For blocks 
I’d followed some oafish drug dealer (he looked cartoonish,

a fat Chong) as he shook down his colleagues and friends
then disappeared into a faded deli with bleached posters of Mats Sundin,

his eerie whitish Scandanavian smile. Wood panelling, stove topped 
with dust. A place found always locked when I’d tried

to eat what I was sure would not be good. Nothing was. It was
a different time. With disbelief I found that night 

that I was alive. Running to catch a light, closing the careful 
distance. Before I lost him. As if there was some meaning. 

I never got in the car. Rhinestones, a wig, long blue dress, 
two days of stubble, elegant evening wear for a hazy, late,

empty November. But perhaps I might have, if I had known
a little more, had been somehow even hungrier 

Whatever was waiting for me. Eager to be noticed, as when the year before
I’d almost cashed a stranger’s cheque. Instead I pointed 

to the very next set of lights. We could almost read the sign. Didn’t wonder
what was sitting with them. Not until I’d turned away.

Love is a cracking open. Not in the way I think most people assume. It is not necessarily that your beloved makes you fall to pieces, when you fall in love, though this is how it has been represented, time and time again, in art, in literature, in songs. And this can certainly happen, usually not for the best. Instead I think that the vulnerability love requires asks that you crack open. This is a fine distinction. One involuntary, the other voluntary. One is entirely based on the beloved and what they can do for you, the other based on your own availability, your own openness. It is so tricky, knowing whether you can or should trust. Getting over your own wariness, getting over yourself, choosing the one that you love. Choosing them, over and over again—what a risk, to put yourself in that position, walking out on that ledge, trusting that they will be there to balance you. Trusting too, that you will want them there with you.

How much you could lose. 

In the distance and from their great height you can see the long bank of clouds advancing, four seconds of dialogue before the frame skips away. It’s like the nothing, someone says. From the movie. A candied griffin sticker winks in the bottom of the frame, a chibi boy clutching to its back. There is the stream or the highway advancing as you flip forward. As you pause and as you rewind. Late night a psychic living somewhere in upstate New York goes live, smoking a single cigarette on a lit up patio, alone in front of a black and silent house, reading from a book about energy and transfer, about wealth and its generation, 

but also a kind of destiny that comes from feeling what you are meant to feel. Something about her voice, its accent and inflection, the single cigarette, the earnestness with which she reads aloud passages from the book as she is spotlighted in the dark, feels somehow both like God is speaking through America, a deep part of America that you have always known was there, or that you are on a far-off planet listening to sounds that only aliens or angels are meant to hear. How do we know each other, she messages you later, having noticed you among five or six regulars 

clients or poets or energy transferers, and you cannot say exactly how or why you are compelled, how you have let her credulous voice enter you, watching the stream until your eyelids close, drifting easily to sleep as she continues, peering into or out of the darkness. She reads both on the patio and in the interior of her car, with the dash light on and the windows rolled down to let the air out for her smoke. Other days you see the rain collect and run together on the glass, its movement always somehow a reminder of where you have been and where you have yet to go. Like she is speaking from some far off self, like an attendant to memory is touring the gentle siteless moments of your past, the wipers on the windows, the kiss of the door trilling softly when it is left ajar. Stopping on an empty road in the night, long grass brushing the car, cabin light barely penetrating the field. 

BEFORE COMPLETION

Pain in the morning. Ask a question I never ask. The answer is delay. Wait indefinitely, I know it is saying. I know that’s the answer, too. By the afternoon the feeling has faded. A long time since I have asked that question, felt it acutely, vocalized it into the air. Looked for exits. I seem doomed to repeat this movement, over and over again, long after I thought I never would. 

Watching for signs. Waiting for anything. 

Never to receive what I’m sure will never come.  

In windows on my way to campus I look bloated, heavy, weighed down. In a bathroom I see the size I really am—I don’t look anything like I thought. Walking through a fog. Walking in the weight of last year. On my way back this afternoon a ladybug hitched a ride on my shirt, like a bright red stain out of the corner of my eye. I wondered how long it would stay with me. 

Looked up its meaning: happiness, good fortune, true love, innocence. Needing to make the right decisions. 

When I looked back down it was gone. 

If I had not stopped. If I was a child or a dog I would not have. If I hadn’t shouted she would not have. Her window was open. She gaped up at me, deciding her level of outrage. 

—This is a stop sign. 

—Thank you for telling me. 

A moment of doing the calculus. Seeing the collision advancing. And someone totally uninterested in anything but her own shock. 

someone tells you bloodfax is the feeling for god 
without belief—the shoulds, the absences, the doubt

doing mushrooms and coming out of it in a sour mood
because it wasn’t how you pictured it would be

and having a quieter epiphany, long after, once you 
have the chance to turn it over. bloodfax is sighing 

hello. it is the heaviness that comes without knocking
when you think of an old flame. when you think of

anything at all. it is worrying that you aren’t in love as much
as you want to be. it is accepting that nothing will ever

be quite what you expect. nothing comes as easily or as quickly
as bloodfax. it is running on the road, being passed by car

after car, coming home with exhaust on your forehead and
in your lungs. it’s taking your dog to the vet.

it’s working too hard and not enough. it is falling asleep
or your limbs tingling and frozen. the feeling of dread

when you realize it’s time to leave the house. an old German
word long fallen out of use

from X-TRACTS [3:04]

Advancing. Hand clipped into the refrigerator. Towards the door. There is beneath a torso a perfectly smooth surface. Beneath the torso it is so perfectly smooth that nothing may be there. Light itself wishes to leave. From outside the door we see the figure advancing. Advancing. Hour and minute hands set at almost half-past seven. It is always this time, one year or two years ago. Hunting for three thieves the police officer crept in the darkness through the house. A large and dark house. Mug of something? In the hand clipped into the refrigerator. The police officer put a hand to his gun. He could not believe how perfectly some objects in the room reflected light. And I am in the absolute, I am nothing but this darkness, thought the police officer. Squinting through my little window. Now where are the thieves? This body must be thirsty, he thought, reflecting on the mug. Or perhaps it is for someone else. He congratulated himself—an excellent deduction. Crept forward but came no closer. The figure in front of him always advancing. Its hair a tangled octopus. Surely there is no such thing, he thought. Surely I have never seen a figure with the head and hair of an octopus. Still the figure advanced. Still its hair remained a still and silent marine creature. Hello, called the officer. Hello, hello. I have entered a large and dark house, in front of me is a figure with the hair and head of a cephalopod and I will never come any closer, hello, hello, hello. 

Pulling off the cicada crawling up your shirt the cicada screaming until it is released and returns to its perch, crawling up the body of the boy for the TikTok shared on a Sunday in a stream of them on Instagram. Never got off the phone. Reading about decapitation in France and in Algeria, after two generations of French education they were ready for revolution in the colonies, I am excited and disappointed hearing how constrained by their position they made themselves a Soviet satellite and forbade elections. Suspicion of election and money. Whenever I have a banana for breakfast I think of Jerry Seinfeld waking across from the overweight man on the subway whom he has discovered is nude and saying to him, “I’m guessing you aren’t a coffee and a grapefruit in the morning guy.” I never just have the banana and as I realize now it was grapefruit, not banana, but still I always think of this throwaway moment (bad slow joke—the man’s response “I like to have a nice breakfast”) as if it was instructive. Jerry apologizing to the man for the man. Pulling the cicada and letting it scream. What does that mean? The cicada seeks the boy’s shirt even after it has been pulled, embraces it to the obvious delight of the boy, embraces it like a baby returning to its mother. Now why would I say that. Trying to find something this morning, wondering why reading the article about the French terrorism made me feel trapped inside its complication, why that feeling made me sad, thinking about the Bobby Hill filter on Instagram and wondering why it has so much difficulty distinguishing smiling from frowning (it is always a little frown except for the briefest moments). Was it just spending quiet time in the morning alone with the newsprint? Just feeling for a brief moment like a cicada clinging to a T-shirt? A cicada clinging and being pulled off. Screaming and not screaming. Beheaded and not-beheaded. Colonized and colonizer. I’ve already gone too far—not wishing this post this morning to indicate anything political or apolitical, courageous or cowardly, provocative or conformist, nothing beyond a certain kind of unsited feeling and of sadness that found me at the breakfast table underneath the skylight reading the old copy alone. 

The pandemic has changed my relationship to the city. I go down Salem and Westmoreland. Up Bartlett. Never down Gladstone. Stay off the main streets as much as possible. All that walking. Came back from a ten kilometre run with dust on my face. Dust dried to me. And a new tan. I am tired of walking in circles. Tired of new directions. There is nowhere new to go. But there are streets in my neighbourhood which I have only turned down one or two times. Perhaps never. Alleyways I am just discovering now. I feel like a rat in a cage scrambling with his little feet on the wheel. At least every so often I enjoy the scenery as I slide backwards.

I do dips in the park—I lower myself and return again. To equilibrium, to some centre. All of my shopping at the little fruit stand. What more did I once need? I can’t remember now. I don’t have the patience to wait in lines. Less even than usual. Don’t want to wait in the same cramped quarters, breathing air in and out through my mask. How small and fragile are our little breaths. Dips in the park. I tan shirtless. I run in circles, wearing myself into the ground. 

MARGUERITE PORETE

When the soul speaks about God she talks about him 
as if he is a carpet unfurling within her, a spreading that she
will never touch because as it opens she is displaced
she sees by God what she has become but never fully enters
as on full moons I sleep restlessly, waking up every two 
or three hours, like something is trying to burn its way
out or in. But last night it was my own mistake perhaps
not the moon or the heavens, not the celestial movements, 
taking Ashwaganda before bed on the advice of a psychic
who I followed credulously, the powder recommended to me again
as it once was by someone who found sleep difficult 
when I was not around because of the voices whispering
that did not belong to her. Was it the moon? Was it
God? There was always something bubbling up
some revelation that kept whatever complaint or need I had
at bay. Four parts to the prayer that you 
are supposed to say to yourself in the car or in the shower
or in bed or on the street: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. 
Thank you. I love you. As the host explained it works
because these words resonate from millions 
of prior uses, like we are crystals attuned to language’s
past. A bit like drinking the same glass of water 
that was once Caesar’s piss. For twenty-one days
listen to the meditation that followed his eight minute
explanation, which included hierarchical diagrams in which shame 
is at the bottom, next to guilt; anger, surprisingly, in the middle;
enlightenment somewhere among the fleeting emotions
on top. Where is longing? Where is resistance? 
Where is quiet? Where is war? I don’t remember.
But the chart loosely corresponds to the soul’s 
journey towards oblivion, the seventh and final stage
in which God wills all the soul’s will, and which properly 
begins with the soul’s understanding that she is nothing
all of the world’s wickedness, insufficient without
an infinite sufficience. For the final sixteen minutes 
of the twenty-four minute video the meditation:
the host breathlessly racing through the prayer’s
four parts, speaking so quickly it would be impossible
to keep up, though he says you should. Perhaps the speed
he talked was meant to evoke a feeling like the recognition
that nothing you are ever near will ever touch you completely
just like oil and vinegar particles keep their distance 
perfectly in mayonnaise viewed underneath a microscope. 
The first time I took Ashwaganda—once only, 
nine years ago now—I woke up in the middle of the night
gasping from an erotic dream that turned violent
in a bed loaded underneath with a Lousiville Slugger. 
I lived far out, alone and afraid, and someone was coming for me
though she never fully arrived. But in my dreams vacant
uncanny she could come right to the edge of the carpet
just as in daylight she could circle the house 
when she thought I wasn’t home. Now I have 
sympathy for both of us. She was trying 
to touch something just like we all are. Long since 
I have started when encountering her on the street. More
understanding that the end is what we 
all desire but never reach