Something’s gone wrong. Waiting by the door to the basement where I do my laundry is a large orange cat without tags. I nodded to him on an earlier trip as I watched him cross the street. On my way out, my hands full of clean laundry, he lets himself in to the little hallway, then meows at the basement apartment. No one comes. I knock on the door. Nothing changes. I stand there, looking down on him from the top of the stairs, and wonder if I should put him out again. He gives up meowing and settles on the floor. 

I’m coming back in fifty minutes anyway, so I let him stay. In a book I’m reading I can’t read past a needle. Not immediately. I put it down and find things to do in my apartment. Nothing, really. I’m about to leave, though I’m not going anywhere. Just in a circle. It feels like there is so much on the horizon, in every direction, and I feel as if I must choose just one thing though I have time, maybe, for nothing. Though in my experience the more time I have, the less productive I seem to be, and so maybe it goes without saying that I have gotten a lot done over the last few days. 

You message me and say that as soon as you got on the bike path you received a text and burst into tears, the stress maybe of it being too hot last night, tossing and turning without any hope of sleep. The stress of other things. I didn’t sleep for three hours after getting into bed, during which time I at least had the opportunity to catch up on my reading. Sometime after two am I got up and put ice packs underneath the fan and, briefly, it got cold enough to consider even getting underneath the blanket. 

I kept asking what seemed real. What seems real? During the day sounds from the back of the house make me suspect that a raccoon has entered, as they used to like to do. But there is nothing inside or outside, no evidence of any tampered-with screen door. On Twitter the other day a woman claimed that she saw a stranger walk through the alley to her backyard, but that when she investigated there was only a mother deer and her fawn, no one else to be seen. It’s too much to believe, and yet I believe it, somehow. I’ll believe anything. When I go back to the laundry room the dryer is silent and the cat who was waiting in the hallway is gone. Entered or exited, I don’t know. I guess I’ll keep letting him down the stairs. 

A HILL’S A MOUNTAIN AND YOUR LOVER’S CALLING

Let me speak, for ten minutes
for just ten minutes, let us clear

what has grown up around us, grab the tangled 
green and rip it from the walls

A bird flew through my window without stopping
no glass broke—I saw it was a fawn

gently descending from my comforter
clicking gently out the open door

Before you leave this place let us prick our palms
and face each other across a pool of water

I want to know what it’s like to look at you
so put your bags down in the hallway

Let us press our palms together 
if there is enough blood to run

let us sit in the kitchen
and howl together at the knife

The sprinklers pop out and startle me around four pm, so I move to the centre of the field to dry off. I am done reading Lacan. It’s already the end of the day. No one wants to work, and it’s so hot. “Oh, it’s just been crazy today,” says one employee to another in the empty retail store. In the field I feel as if I have been seduced by the sun, as if it whispered in my ears to take off my clothes. It’s just my shirt. Reading the psychoanalyst made me want to cry, just as it did a few days ago, as I reported to my therapist. “Whose dissertation were you reading?” she asked me. Our wires were crossed. “It was Lacan. Lacan,” I said. I told her about the dream that I recently had, how R. and D. said I was both “seductive” and “manipulative,” in a “dangerous” way. “I don’t see what’s so funny about that,” she said. “It’s just so absurd,” I said. “That they have to work so hard, when I’m the one who was betrayed.” I could work harder. Victoria College has been transformed into a film set. Or maybe it’s the condos across the street. The street is packed with trailers, and on a table outside one of the catering trucks there is salad after salad stacked and sweating in plastic clamshells. A man with his mask around his chin, presumably in the union, is asleep on the grass. The previous night I met with Dmitry, on the Bar Neon patio. We tried Three Speed first, but it was packed. He tells me about a birthday that goes haywire. No one is used to being waited on, and it’s easy to get drunk. “He crashed his bicycle and cut up his face,” he said. As we’re crossing the street, afterwards, we notice a rat that has been flattened into a disc, a perfectly featureless circle with a fat tail. “What a rat!” we exclaim. “What a rat!”

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.

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.