POEM FROM SOMEONE ELSE

those were blank months
I stayed inside, walked my roommate’s dog
made puzzles on the coffee table
washed my hands every two minutes

I knew you’d gone up north
heard that though I wished I hadn’t
tried not to think of the minute
I’d known you and what that had meant to me

on the street alone I stepped off the curb
to give strangers wide berths
kept my head down or turned to exhale
when traffic made that impossible

I rode my bicycle as far as it would take me
out over the bridge and back
to feel like I was doing something
knowing I would pass your empty house along the way

I imagined all kinds of scenarios
but in the end I thought it best I didn’t know
knowing eats you, whoever you are
best to keep things empty

coming back over the bridge
the river and its tailings, its dip, its drama
I was suspicious—
I didn’t want any part of it to enter in

Saw a woman fall in the park. Took her a long while to get up again. Where I was sitting a little dog in a vest was doing the rounds, yapping at intruders. When his owner called him back he turned to her, skeptically. “He thinks this is his territory,” she explained. 

You said you thought we didn’t work. But first you made such a big deal out of it being something you thought I could work out. Said you were hopeful for the change, wondered what things might be like—even for us, a year from the end. “You’ll move on quickly,” you said. “For me, it will be a while.” 

The walls that you put up—telling me that I had to accept that I hadn’t been hurt in the way that I had been hurt. Months of knowing you were dating someone else. All the little ways you mingled us together, the things you told me that I wish I could forget, even when you knew I was working for you and no one else. 

Maybe you knew you were coming back—that there was something lacking in him, at least then.

But I wasn’t where you were.

Anger grew over me, like briars over fallen trees. And we couldn’t cut it away.

I know you were angry, too. That’s why you thought my bringing it up, in any way, was an attack on you. But it was something that had happened to me, that you wanted to pretend hadn’t happened.

I sometimes wonder how much of that resistance was your guilt speaking back.

We will never know.

Now you’d rather hold me like a sweet dream that turned bad. A distant one.

Coming back across Bloor. Waiting at the light to cross into residential streets. What strange heaviness, what strange dreams. Endless wandering—masks and no masks. We keep leaving them behind, in cramped rooms—we’re in the nearly abandoned lowest floor of some large commercial space, where there is a bar and a coffee shop. Beds on tables. Someone who didn’t want to speak to me—they felt vulnerable because of how things left off. “You have been changed by this.” “It’s opened me up.” Confessions of love. Scrambling in the basement. I can think of many interpretations, contradictory ones. I don’t know what any of it means. Nothing means anything. 

ODE TO EAR WAX

Imagined always as a golden current
incompletely smeared round the rim of the external
auditory canal, a rich brown paste impeding
entrance of foreign objects—but as with human blood
which I was surprised long ago to learn may be of many different hues
until it hits the air, it is impossible to say with 
any confidence what happens in that dark place
where we can’t see inside. When I was in high school 
my brother and my father had theirs candled—someone lit a wick
and in time the wax ran hot and wet, puddling out. 
Saw this wick always as a generous cone, running evenly down
to their patient match heads, wedged in the ear’s entrance, though I never 
looked it up. I know of course that there are cameras
and instruments, external bodies that might be introduced
to chart the course of the canal up close, view
the golden river’s progress. But I don’t count any of that—
how do we not know that when something is inserted it is not changed? 
The body and its hidden circuitry is ever
more mystical than we can ever see. When the results of the ear candling
were poured out in front of them, both my father and brother
reported finding one long-dead insect drowned in the ear’s sticky honey,
a lady bug in one and in the other something
I now forget—perhaps another lady bug, as one year
they flooded us, animated an entire exterior wall, indoors buzzed from 
lamp to lamp as we watched TV—or maybe 
nothing, just more wax, enough of it poured out 
to be its own insect, its own impediment, a foreign object
the body made for itself and no one else

SPRING

morning the sidewalks still slick with ice
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
rivers sealed with concrete
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