SPRING

morning the sidewalks still slick
ice thin as cellophane

by noon pitted concrete waxes with tulips
each year opening more of its pebbled surface

shocked by the way the world is bare
wearing mask on mask on mask

don’t mind the rain, what an intimacy
cracking the umbrella’s delicate arms 

finally something happens

the king descends the stairs
“today that would be impossible”
a market without a head

house prices on Degrassi St
award after award after award
without knowing the language

fluent and non-fluent aphasia
pinched nerve from sleepless nights
cracked shutters and peeling paint

Canada kills ambition:
how many ways can you intimidate
awake at dawn with stress

Dream of anger. Conflict—every kind—sometimes settles something else. Banging your head against a wall opens a trick cabinet you didn’t know was there. 

In the dream. Speaking to my father, stating something calmly and clearly. No response. An obvious injustice—I’ve asked for something that is denied that I later discover a sibling gets without asking.

Not a thing but understanding, allowance.  

I present my case again. I am dismissed. To get anyone’s attention I have to escalate, and escalate, until the youngest part of me is speaking.

I don’t like this urgent voice. A toddler’s anger magnified at scale. I grab bread, an entire loaf, tear it, throw it to the floor. I am noticed but now a disappointment—as if it came from me alone.

But I am noticed. 

Provocation as communication. It has served me but it has taught me the wrong lessons.

Now I am the one who hears cases. I do not have to do it distantly—I can have more understanding for the self who wants to erupt. 

What I would have done. We have different ideas about that. I can imagine it so easily, carrying forward the momentum from the summer. Before it moved into its final months. I felt I was seeing with greater clarity than I ever had before. I believe that, though I know you don’t. 

What you thought I would do. Closer to how I have responded. All of the ways I betrayed myself, and you, stuck on the same responses, the same questions. 

Wish this accounting was reversed. 

Writing a letter that I’ll never send—except in a dream. Writing it for the dream.

Remembering rolling out the cracker dough. We needed so much meal. Wish I could send you a text only to say that I made them again. 

There are some things I can’t do. The car feels light on the highway. It leans to the left, where I sit in the driver’s seat. There is a spot empty next to me. I can feel the wheels lift off the road. 

Why do I think of you when I’m driving? You couldn’t be further from me. All of the new carpool lanes—taking them with you to the blue on blue of our hotel. The blue on blue with you. 

Everything feels like a dream. In one I tease you for studying too much. In another I watch you pick up the phone and wince into the receiver—he’s calling again. Why doesn’t he understand? 

But I’m the one who doesn’t. 

SLANTED DUPLEX

With the hope that there is a receiver
Sending writing into nothing 

Reception that never materializes
I check this website for your ghost

Impossible to capture your essence
It doesn’t leave a digital trail 

You followed the crumbs I left
Until you deleted the shared folder

Really I unchecked the Dropbox
That you made me makes me angry

But that rush is only longing—
Sometimes I still think I’m waiting

Writing poetry is killing time
With the hope that there is a receiver

WINTER WAS HARD

snow up my shin, slow 
through the mile of the forest 

come to where I had cut
branches heavy with leaves

they always used to bother us
on the ends of our walks

dipping and kissing our heads
as we crossed the bridge

something alert near the edge
in a crop of brown weeds

machete stuck handle-first 
buried in the earth

flew out of my hands 
cutting too recklessly

thought I lost it last August
trimming the tree ends

couldn’t hold on—
I was thinking of you

searched through the muck
kneeling in the creekbed

swishing my stick
disturbing the glass

nothing—nothing—
tangle of rotting leaves

Wrestling with the sage. Retreat to a stronger position. Act with humility. Maintain your composure. Do not move out of desire. 

Receptive force to enthusiasm (contains a warning). Great treasures to splitting apart (when I see the open lines stack up I always know it is coming). Retreat to bonding (but what is retreat? from which position am I strongest?). 

Answers are also sought in poetry. Lyric poetry a repeated failure. An incapacity to reach the beloved, even if they like the poems. Always reaching toward and always falling short. The failure of language to measure up even as it exceeds its strict bounds (in for instance the sonnet).

In these lines too something is undone. I cast them like the I Ching: hexagram four to forty-four. Inexperience to compulsion. Making up distance that can’t be made up.

IN THE SHAVING MIRROR

waterstained topography
rocking with key presses
dusty drops of distant isles

rays trace the speckled
ceiling. some blood vessel
burst in the peninsula

between brows—
discovered previously
on another excursion

roving spotlight:
screw needs tightening
haloing metal hallooing

don’t always want 
to look on eyes fixed
despite shifts, bumps,

to be stuck there
past its surface, shrunk
within its silver frame

dream of rain, dream of 
violence, dream of couches
burnt, and disappointment

turning its face down 
but hanging still within