Retrospect

Ocean Admits You (2)

Ages ago you found a well in me;
I only noticed
when it flooded,
pooling over the beaches of the Lethe

I lean in and in
and in,
and the crest swells,
breaks

Ages ago
I licked the salt from your tongue,
your smile hard on my mouth,
me soft, eager

This is what happens
when the river floods.

You go belly-up
like a dead fish
drowned.

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Retrospect

Ocean Admits You (1)

I spend five minutes thinking if I am a ‘perhaps’ kind of girl or a ‘maybe’ kind of girl. I think I am somewhere in between.

I’ve been told that if you drink coffee and you feel tired all the time, you should stop drinking coffee, because the addiction to it tires you out more than anything. That is bullshit. I am much better off with coffee, because if I am without it, I am so soft and sleepy, I will reach out to almost anyone who is warm. I won’t get mad, or frustrated, or ambitious even, I’ll be just sad enough to sleep with my rings pressing into my fleshy cheeks, ignoring all the piles of work I have to do and thinking about all the warm arms I am missing. I am so good at waste. Coffee gives me bitter edges.

I can’t be without my addictions.

*

I met the love of my young life because I had cigarettes when he wanted them:

He called me Anne the first two times we met, and didn’t have cigarettes on him either; by the end of both nights he was so drunk he couldn’t stand up properly. The next time I met him I reminded him about this and he didn’t remember, but we talked for hours after the show. I forgot I’d come there to see friends I hadn’t seen in months.

I liked the way he laughed. A lot. He had an easy way of talking and a brilliant mind that he didn’t use to dazzle like I have been trained to do. He had his arm around my waist and I didn’t think twice about it: I took him with me when I went on my cigarette breaks, and his presence was gentle, and he was laugh-out-loud funny. I thought his soul would smell like mountaintops and leather. I didn’t notice, but he was digging himself into me like a snake.

We talked about music mostly. And then the lights were on again like a pre-emptive dawn and my friends had disappeared and his band was telling him “time to go” and I was busy looking for the evaporated hours and I let him talk me into giving me a ride, but the band had too much equipment in the car and there was no space for me.

I wanted to walk home anyway, but before I left he asked me if he could add me on Facebook, there on the curb, and I, emotional knowitall and feeling analytico, didn’t realize I had a smile on my face the entire way home until I touched my pillow and my cheek ached. There was snow on the ground and I may have forgotten my jacket at the bar.

*

The next week I went on a date with an amateur photographer and film editor who was funny, awkward, and neurotic. I was charmed. This is the format of dating I was used to: accidentally striking up a conversation with the drummer of a band you mildly enjoyed, and who had called you by the wrong name the first two times he’d met you before vaguely suggesting Korean barbecue the next time he was in town, was not a date.

So I dated the editor for months until I realized that he didn’t make me burn, and that he was kind of a wet blanket anyway, and while I empathized, I couldn’t be with someone who made me want to die inside, because I already almost always want to die – inside.

*

I saw him again sometime in November, after the summer and its lovely distractions and the nights I spent with my editor crying in my lap. My best friend and I came to the show late, I remember my knee touching his and flaming from it, and I think this is where I lost myself. He texted me later laughing about eating the pizza I had left in the bar and I was still burning and I did not know why. I began to think about him every day instead of maybe once a week.

I have never been in love with someone when thought I was in love with someone else, but that happened, so I know it’s possible, and I think that was probably my biggest mistake, and that takes too long to say when an employer asks you what your biggest mistake has been.

I kissed a coworker at the Christmas party and went home with him, drunk off my ass, graceless, and still all I could think about was the drummer.

*

The New Year’s of that year was spent at a fraternity house. I didn’t want to step inside at first so I spent forty minutes inhaling toxic fumes and staring at the white letters, wondering if Socrates would have been a frat boy, deciding yes, and wondering why Socrates was the first Greek I thought of. I came inside where almost immediately stepped on a shard of glass, but that didn’t matter, I was holding my best friend on the stained couch as she cried about her love not loving her the way she wanted him to, and the beer brothers threw a table into their TV set, and the drummer’s birthday was that day, and I inundated his phone with birthday messages, because I loved him and I was slow to realize.

I love so easily. It doesn’t make it cheaper, but I understand if people think it does. I also love in degrees, and the feeling I had not then but in November was the silly roller-coaster-balloon-swelling-wave-about-to-crest feeling, like Something Is About To Happen Soon And You Are Very Scared But Also Excited. That feeling kept growing, I nurtured it by thinking about him, so when my best friend’s heart was breaking my heart was breaking with her but the seed kept growing and I felt torn.

He told me he wished he was with me, and I have never missed anyone so much as I did in that moment in the living room, hiding from the group of overdeveloped children who had tried to tend to my wound with a bottle of Absolut, my foot bleeding into the sole of my tights, my shoulder wet with tears that weren’t mine. I went home and talked to him until I fell asleep. I do not remember falling asleep, but I remember dreaming about him.

*

I think it must have been in the following week that he came to visit. I, never early always late, was early in the January evening, two-and-a-half cigarettes deep into staring at the streetcars. He was late, but I knew he was coming, I could feel it in my bones, something quiet beginning to roar. It was amazing: me, sitting on the stones of the street garden (bare) by the church, shivering. I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I remember walking into the Shoppers’ Drug Mart across the street and trying to seem as if I was there to browse and not to thaw, but also furtively checking my phone every ten seconds for a response – and then he was there.

And he held my arms and stared at me like a starving man and I knew I was lost, no perhaps or maybe. I followed him to a Mexican restaurant where we laughed and ate and drank and I remember every shot hitting the table like exclamation marks. I’ve kept mementos of every night we’ve had, beginning with the art I got from here, gratis.

He had his hand on my leg when the bill came, and I thought maybe the night was over but he said it had just begun, that he had to spend all his money in one go and live without luxuries for the rest of the year, that he wanted to expend his bourgeois energy with me, he said this and I felt like I’d been freed, and I loved him for all his easiness, the laugh and the frank self-consciousness, I loved him like a child, because I was a child, and he’s the first man I’ve been with who I’ve thought of as a man.

I never wanted that night to end.

I took him to my favourite place at the time, a bar not far from where I live now, we drank whisky and pilsner and we sat close together at a tiny table by the bar, and I can’t remember what we were talking about but his hand was on my thigh again and I leaned in and in and in and the crest swelled and broke and I tasted the salt from his tongue. His hands in my hair and the hardness of his smile against my mouth, me so soft and eager for him, going back to the hostel he’d dropped his bags off at to get a hotel room because I still lived with my mother, and I wanted him inside me.

This is what happens when you go belly-up like a dead fish.

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Capturing Myth, Retrospect

Further Summer (Sunflowers)

It is a cold end to August,
but the warmth comes out
again in September.
I walk through a field of sunflowers,
little faces dried from tears:
seeds hardening from the left,
petals blooming from the right.

I sit with the sunflowers. I look for the sun.

There isn’t much to do
but wait,
clinging to a rock for nine days straight,
staring at the Sun who chases the river.
He chases the forest, chases the stars,
one side of the heavens to the other.

My hot cheeks beg to be drowned
in a mountain lake
when he burns for days, and chases us.

But when the clouds roll,
when he hides a hemisphere away,
the burns on our lips sting
with salt.

Though the morning dew goes frosty,
and winter starts singing from the hills,
we fight for fire,
growing taller, getting dryer.

The heliotropes lie fragrant
beneath my feet,
and my sunburn grows new skin and freckles
while the sunflowers drop their seeds,
little prayers in hard shells.

It is ending, this warm dream,
dying in my hands.

Snow will come soon
to muffle the harvest
and blanket the trees
while He is far away,
loving a further summer,
and unable to burn.

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Introspect

Yeva

I would rather kiss than learn, or better:
do both,
searching for the forbidden master,
the unclaimed god I want to satisfy,
while he denies.

I want the strength that comes with
ripping roots from the ground,
the sweetness
that comes from biting into
an unripe apple.

I want to know things,
and not grow them,
to leave shaking in my wake
(undisturbed myself) and
watchful.

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Introspect

Meshitihu

We were like Moishe splitting the ocean,
outrunning the darkness,
flying
and triumphant.

My mother carried me
across the world,
putting my feet in the soil here
to grow beside the maple.

You know
we did try, the ice skating
and snow forts,
canoeing in the national park

grow, make your roots, your brilliant leaves
this is for you
this is for you
this is for you

But somehow
the salt of the Caspian Sea found me
a dream away,
left me
with a craving
for apricots and tragedy.

Me in this maple soil:
buried with the bear skulls and wolf jaws,
buried with the arrowheads
buried with the goose shit
buried like a thief on stolen land.

Why won’t you grow, supplications of a mother
who waters with her own
hot tears

I put the Canadian bone in my mouth,
scraped out the marrow,
found myself wanting.

salt from the sea, snow on the mountain,
apricots dropping like stones

I dream of splitting myself,
body here,
blood singing for the apricot,
but leaves with eleven teeth
start to grow beneath my nails.

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Capturing Myth, Introspect

Tantalus

Frightened by learning to live
in vacuums,
hunger is a result
(I am told)
of punishment and penance,
paid humble.
This is why I am kept
spinning on the wheel and crucified
by stars, fed
on the nauseous smoke
and the starving laughter.
I love the green season,
when the fruit hangs low and heavy
on the branches
that I cannot reach.
My fingers shake with little tremors,
fault lines in the joints.

Full and aching to burst
like pears ripening in golden skins,
getting fat,
growing luscious,
dripping with gentle amber.
Down crawls my throat,
pricking with want, as if there are seeds
sowed before the frost
that are waiting to be hatched.
Quickly
I swallow them down.
I know all they grow are nightmares
of fevers unrelenting
and deep, deep hunger,
nights unslept.

Blooming dreams surround me and
I cannot touch,
I watch the pears grow from green to gold.
I watch them ripen
and cannot touch;
while the freckles
on their distended skin
threaten to burst, I cannot touch.
I ache for it,
the slow burn,
I do.
The hunger mounts,
something quiet and inexorable,
and I lie in the waters
I cannot drink,
pears begging for my palm,
my tongue, my teeth,
the hunger I cannot hold.

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Retrospect

I tremble
when he touches me.
The simple answer
is right out of the books,
the riddle of soft petals,
rough oak. I am the October leaf
clinging
to the branch, growing pale
with small deaths,
but the buzz of ozone and cicada
shatters my heart in
a burst, like glass
heated too quickly.
Silence fits the taste
that fills my throat
better than the words
out of the books,
or the touch of forest flowers;
misery makes
a better companion than
the misplaced forever
I have planted
in his arms;
but still I look at him
with lover’s eyes,
wounded by every absence,
the small deaths stacked up
to thousands.

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Introspect

Boreas II: Meditation

Harsh promises come
on an iron ring,
older than the hills,
Norse blood still hidden
in the runes.

This oath,
doused in a steel sky,
is a miser of spring rain;
this is the kind of grey
that hangs over labyrinthine tombs,
keeping the swamp magic,
marsh secrets,
rituals of
the bog.

Virtue counts fortune
in threes,
finger folded against palm for:
every caw of the raven
every gust of northern wind
every knock on hollow tree,
while the old bones whisper
of prophetic doom and death in dreams,
pushing locks of hair down into
cold water.

Metal from the earth
is colder still,
draped over warm bodies,
left buried
with the rest of the mysteries.

Index, middle, fore
flat
on the heart line,
and Ragnarok on a pine tree
that has seen more of winter
than the sun.

 

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Introspect

Often Truth adorns
the mirror,
a vagueness
on the windowpane
but I have sunk
my teeth
in her palm.

She used to feed me,
but now
I starve,
mouth against the pillow
where the feathers eat
my secrets,
and
my heart’s desire.

There is a new
cliché
for the young romantic;
my hair is tangled
rather than tousled.
I cannot afford nightgowns
trimmed in white lace. Sleep
is a surrender
rather than a ritual.

Secondhand bedsheets
make a tombstone for my nose
while I suffocate
in your secondhand scent,
the hand-me-down sweat.

Still I dream
of tenderness, and the guilt
soaks
into the loneliness
like salt.

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