Guh

The stoned drummer plays with eyes closed. Shoes
off he can feel the kick drum
with sock feet. Every so often
he winces and smiles
like an orgasm. They’re figure skaters landing

every jump. The saxophonist picks at a seashell
and rolls it in his palm, figures out
what to do with it. Shakes shell
bells ringing
like a tambourine. Guh is more like a brain

trust. The drummer explodes
when he wants
to & the trumpeter raises his hand in

solidarity with the drummer
his explosions. At the table someone drunk
off two pints
muses How can I get the number
of this wiley waittress tapping
me on the shoulder?

Hey what were you
writing in that little book?

Smoke

Recently I passed through the immediate aftermath of an explosion, or chemical fire, at the TTC Hillcrest Barns. Coming up Bathurst, rounding onto Davenport, a dull blue scarf of smoke waving over the sidewalk blocked my path. I was annoyed, because I thought it was car exhaust. To avoid the smoke I crossed the street, onto the north side of Davenport, but by the time I got there the plume of smoke had already dissipated. Where had it gone? Many places. My lungs.

About an hour later I walked back past that same intersection, heading south on Bathurst. Three firetrucks were parked at the Hillcrest Barn entrance, their red lights flashing silently. There may have been more firetrucks inside the compound.

So it wasn’t just my imagination.

How have we become foreign to each other?

I have seen recent pictures of you. Outwardly you haven’t changed. But you never matched well with your photographic representations. Even in my mind’s eye you were fleeting. I have that one memory of you that is like a photograph. You’re standing in your summer dress. We aren’t anywhere special. You stand up, blocking my path. You say my name. You’re smiling.

And that’s it.

There are other moments like that. But the last time I saw you, you looked into me with those dark eyes and you saw something you didn’t like. My inaction. The rest of that night is a blur. But I still carry your dark eyes with me.

Vancouver 2010

Before the Olympics, 258 medals were ready to be awarded. The best result is when the athletes get every one, and no one dies.

“Canadians should be happy
another three
athletes won medals because
their event
just ended.

“The party is just starting
for Canada. I can’t wait
until another event ends and another
three athletes
receive medals.”

Curtains

The neighbours chart time by watching the slow rise of our bathroom curtain. Its loose ends catch themselves on toilet rolls, on faucet handles, on toothbrushes. We take down the curtain, take it in another half-inch, or inch, and put it up again. And when the neighbours return to their windows they see that more of the opposite side of the fabric has slipped down the blank white of their near side, and they look down to check their watches, with surprise, ┬ábecause the day has evaded them and the lowered curtain (the curtain’s lowering) means that it’s already dinner.

Lost in Pennsylvania

In the McDonalds winking on top of the hill like a church spire. The man in front of us, who must be three hundred pounds, orders two Big Mac Snack Wraps and what looks like 48 ounces of Coke. One, or two, members of the kitchen staff aren’t grotesquely overweight, only moderately overweight. The rest shuffle around the kitchen delicately, as if they’re wearing slippers, or have gone lame, arms hanging limp beside their raised asses. As I’m waiting, the cashier eyes me vacantly, as if I’m a building on the horizon, then looks forward again when I catch her. Her checks are covered with a raw, red, rash. The customers seated in the dining area are wearing old, out-of-fashion coats and heavy beards that invoke the region’s Dutch protestant roots. One woman, fat and squinting, squishes a hamburger between her teeth while her buoyant, curly mullet (it would look like a poodle’s haircut, if it wasn’t so dirty) wiggles back and forth.

A found poem

“I graduated.”
Watch Every Night
You Belong Here
don’t do drugs, stay in school
“This day is way too nice to be February.”
WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS

“In my dream I missed the second half of a favourite class because I fell in love. Nothing happened, except the slow realization that we didn’t want to spend time apart from each other, and so returning to class seemed like a gross misuse of energy.”

***

We don’t have the internet at home. More is coming.

The houses large as limestone cliffs, Victorians
invoked by Dickens, transplanted
here. This brown hill stuck
with grey trees.

Between them room enough for a smart coachman to step down from his trap
run to the servant’s entrance, inquire
on behalf of his master. Later, to warm himself
there, rubbing his hands by a thin faggot sunk in ash
joking with the stable boy, windows grey with steam.

Now it’s not so lively,
gone are stable boys, coachmen, servant entrances, exits,
comings, goings. Instead, in a kitchen
across the way, I watch as a man gets up, sits down, alone
in a large bank of lit windows, his movements regular
as dance, or making love.

It was chaos

The court reporter tilts her head into the microphone. “Al Ibn Al-Moody stands charged–”

“Hold on. Defendant, you didn’t wash your hair.”

“That’s right, your honour. Not this morning.”

“I find that incredibly disrespectful. Do you have an explanation?”

“Your honour, it was chaos,” (at the back of the courtroom, one of the police officers is sniggering at this, as he sniggers at every excuse) “this morning as I was trying to get ready, my five children were hollering and carrying about, turning the taps on and off, rubbing jam into the dinner table, pouring the milk out onto the floor for the dog–”

“You have five children?”

“Yes sir.”

“Are they all your dependants?”

“That’s correct, sir.”

“Do you work?”

“No, sir. I support them just through my pension and retirement fund, which, to tell you the truth, isn’t nearly enough.”

“Well. Alright. Will you plead guilty to the lesser charge?”

“Yes sir.”

“And do you understand the consequences of pleading guilty to that lesser charge?”

“Yes sir.”

“Prosecutor, do you accept his plea?”

“I do, your honour.”

“Alright. The fine will be lowered to forty dollars. Take one of the green sheets in front of you. You’re free to go.”

A poem by David Berman

At the end of a day as long and cold as this one, it was nice to come home to this poem by David Berman. Lisa and I are moving tomorrow, and that brings its own challenges. I will try and remember this poem if things get “tough” (for instance, if someone releases the top end of a heavy armchair we are carrying up the stairs and I am crushed beneath it and sent to the hospital).

The Charm Of 5:30

It’s too nice a day to read a novel set in England.

We’re within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,
and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.
Even the headstones in the graveyard
Seem to stand up and say “Hello! My name is…”

It’s enough to be sitting here on my porch,
thinking about Kermit Roosevelt,
following the course of an ant,
or walking out into the yard with a cordless phone
to find out she is going to be there tonight

On a day like today, what looks like bad news in the distance
turns out to be something on my contact, carports and white
courtesy phones are spontaneously reappreciated
and random “okay”s ring through the backyards.

This morning I discovered the red tints in cola
when I held a glass of it up to the light
and found an expensive flashlight in the pocket of a winter coat
I was packing away for summer.

It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses
after a long drive and realize it’s earlier
and lighter out than you had accounted for.

You know what I’m talking about,

and that’s the kind of fellowship that’s taking place in town, out in
the public spaces. You won’t overhear anyone using the words
“dramaturgy” or “state inspection today. We’re too busy getting along.

It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are
in the laws, and it feels good to say this, something that I’m almost
sure is true, outside under the sun.

Then to say it again, around friends, in the resonant voice of a
nineteenth-century senator, just for a lark.

There’s a shy looking fellow on the courthouse steps, holding up a
placard that says “But, I kinda liked Reagan.” His head turns slowly
as a beautiful girl walks by, holding a refrigerated bottle up against
her flushed cheek.

She smiles at me and I allow myself to imagine her walking into
town to buy lotion at a brick pharmacy.
When she gets home she’ll apply it with great lingering care before
moving into her parlor to play 78 records and drink gin-and-tonics
beside her homemade altar to James Madison.

In a town of this size, it’s certainly possible that I’ll be invited over
one night.

In fact I’ll bet you something.

Somewhere in the future I am remembering today. I’ll bet you
I’m remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty,
my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers
of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.

I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up
with a catcher’s mask hanging from his belt and how I said

great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you,
and how he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts
and said, wonderful, how are you.