For us it’s fine the forests are empty
And the seas are merely picturesque residue.
We have been taught appearance is everything
And cannot resign our mirrors now.
The train is five minutes away from Oshawa
And on the first Metro of the morning
A man called Raymond ate a sandwich, crumbs
Constellating his overalls.
We are thanked for depositing our garbage
In the bin but have no idea where it goes
And enjoy our beautiful ignorance.
Why not write a Frank O’Hara poem?
Sometimes life is just a series of events
With filaments less than more connecting.
Like now when I am served my soup
In a random Scottish pub and ask for only
A small amount of pepper while it starts
To snow thin as litter and a woman pronounces
Certain as Li Po: “It’s the intelligent people
That are truly dangerous when they’re stupid.”
Good god, your hat is amazing.
Please hold onto it. Please secure
the woollen strings with the baubles
tight beneath your chin. Not too tight.
I know this is a world in which it’s easy
to forget your sneakers at the door
and wander barefoot, maybe naked,
to the corner store to exclaim
that there’s a man inside your neck
licking his one long fingernail, honing
it like a scythe along your spine.
But he won’t barter for a round blue
lollipop, for a two-pack of batteries,
a cigarette, or a small yellow pail.
I know that Wednesday
is as good a day as any to gather
all your underpants and toss them out
the third story window, or the eighth,
the nineteenth, twenty-second, forty-sixth!
What heights these cities will allow.
Please do not hie after them. Please keep
your arms and legs inside the vehicle
so I can seal you in. You and I,
we’re going to take a drive together north
until we’re shadowed by sharp walls
of the glacier-carved valley, until the moon
glows above us like the ancient stone it is.
We will allow the perfect flakes
of snow to asterisk our arms like markings
gesturing to notes we cannot write
or think or say. It is cold. I don’t need
to see your hair to trust that it is there
curling out of you like a sombre animal.
You’ll confess you took your name
for granted, never questioned
the significance of capital letters.
And I will lay upon your shoulder
like a field of emerald grass.
Klara du Plessis
Through my tears
I understand more clearly
isn’t it strange
how the eyes are objects
that one can’t see while seeing through
them, then tears, being another
but supposedly blurring
vision, it’s a lie because right now
tears close off nearsightedness so
I can look into my skull, in reverse
that’s their purpose.
The idea that one eye always
cries shorter than the other
shorter in duration, shorter in the
distance it runs down cheek, shorter
in the gesture of wiping away
with the right hand
in a single swipe from left to right.
Another shooting. Flocks of neighbours turning away.
Plants can grow up without fighting. Listen. Roots of the West Coast rainforest communicate with one another.
Salmon start working a new job after death when grizzlies carry their carcasses into the woods as fertilizer.
My timid father was chased, caught, and hauled in by the U.S Coast Guard for cross-border fishing. Disoriented, he gunned his commercial salmon vessel when ordered to stop.
All the way to the dementia phase of his life. Tangled lines, a torn net. Jailor didn’t care who he was before. He was flight.
Order and precision of fish scales arranged in a pattern. Never caught, never seen. Hundreds of pounds of art rotted in the boat’s hold during the two-week impound. We’d have eaten only the dull inside part anyway, discarded the shining armour. Flash then trash.
Fights can grow long tails.
A memory I carry into the woods to fertilize my prejudice: I never met
the deck hand, but apparently he threw down his gear, jumped off my dad’s shaky wood boat, and made the whirly finger gesture at his temple.
A single act creates your entire character.
Birds move together in unison like schools of fish do. They mime
all the fish we cannot see.
Unity means moving as a single spirit. Knowing when to randomly change direction, a test to keep us in tune. There is no other reason for turning away, again and again.
I ignored my father as much as possible when he was alive. Went out of my way to stay out of his way. Strain to remember his stance, ring of hair around his balding head. Babyish texture, so transitory.
The second childhood, they call it. I say we’re big fat babies in the middle years when we get what we bawl for, if we can pay.
My father shuffled off bewildered into death. When you can’t swallow water, that’s it. Eventually, he dried up in a hospital bed. A fish out of water, invisible under the sheets.
Being thirsty means you want to live on.
Roman soldier held a vinegar-soaked sponge up to Jesus when he said, “I thirst.” After everything he’d been through.
A single act of cruelty becomes history.
Someone made a note of it. Now he’s in the Bible, as an example. The Bible is like social media that way, but social media is not like the Bible.
Dark-faced Jesus would be shot today while walking on water carrying loaves and fish for all. Fishing out of bounds. Mistaken as looter, insurgent.
In the end, my father flew away in search of less hostile waters.