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

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

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. 

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

Anger a way of holding on. Anger the substitute. The person that we are angry with is alive to us still, even if they are no longer living. In this way letting go of the anger does not mean giving up on an injustice. It means accepting the way things are. There is so much I don’t want to be. So much that I resist. Turning from anger—I don’t want to perform this here. 

Okay being broken. I wait until the day is almost done to write that. The child, the parent, and the adult: the child demands, the parent forbids, and the adult decides. Unless I am remembering that incorrectly. 

To judge and to blame is neither the province of the student or the master. When anger blossoms it is a return in its own way. 

Close in anger. When he speaks I often become angry. And it is not because of anything he has done or said to me. It is because he reminds me of someone I was once close to—and via his speech I am returned to them.

HAVING IT REALLY GOOD

I want to write a poem called “Having It Really Good” about having it really good
and getting caught in it like webbing—how I deflected whatever you said—
at the end that’s how we talked, as if playing a game of tennis 
a careful game between two people who couldn’t figure out a way to get off the court
now I want to recognize what belongs to me and what does not, want not to move forward
slashing defensively at every advance before I even know where it is going
only after it ended could I ever imagine that
during I was too afraid to know that I was, now I am stubborn—
the game was never that careful—in fact I think we hurt each other 
more than is usual—we were so frustrated, knowing our ideal
angry that the other took it from us—having it really
full stop, holding onto it—believing in what it was 
not what it could be
or was not