All the Cats are Dying Tonight

On nights like this the cats cry
like babies and the breath in front
of your face is a white figure with a name
and a birthdate, six-hundred stamps
on its passport and a biopic
about its life coming out next fall.

Meanwhile, you are a paperclip.
The headlights make you colder and
there are still one million sidewalk stones
from here to home.

All the cats are dying tonight,
their souls blown away in the suffering
wind and pieces of yourself go with them,
childhood memories you haven’t remembered
in ages that you will never remember again,
sleepovers, birthday parties, learning to ride a bike.

You are faceless in this metal night
as the cold creeps into you. Ashes
in your mouth, the taste of sadness
and the past you will never get back.

We Thought We Were Lions

We Thought We Were Lions
Our bodies were too big for us,
too much skin and strong bones
from drinking our milk
like we were told, back
when we looked like children.
We thought we were lions,
but we were really sparrows,
standing on that hill with a view so sublime
we swore we would haunt it after we died,
to come back as streaks of orange left in the sky
when the duties of being human beings
no longer applied, when we no longer needed
to say the words we’d learned
from television screens, thinking the word
complicated, wondering the word why,
assuming we were lions,
being sparrows instead.

WANTED: Three Legged Elephant

WANTED: Three Legged Elephant

To: Uncle Nelson, Apartment 16, 222 West 81st St, Manhattan, New York, New York, The United States of America, North America, Earth.

I heard on the radio that New York was a concrete jungle, and I know mom said that’s different from a regular jungle, but I thought I’d better write you because New York’s about the biggest place I know and you’re about the smartest guy I know and we need to buy an elephant.

I’ve got eight dollars saved up and Donny always says how he gets two times the allowance I get, so he must have at least sixteen and we can probably get five more dollars each by the end of next month if we keep all the dandelions out of mom’s garden and Donny’s mom’s garden.

Michael looked it up on the internet for us and he says an elephant would cost $10,000, but that’s brand new.  Dad says there’s always a deal if you look hard enough.  He got our car for next to nothing because they were about to bring it to get junkyard for scrap.  A four legged elephant might be $10,000, but I bet we could get a three legged elephant for almost free.

Michael put an ad on Craigslist for us: WANTED: THREE LEGGED ELEPHANT, KING COUNTY. WILL PAY $15. CASH!!! (Dad says it’s best to low-ball.  We don’t want them to know we’ve got $24 right away.)  We haven’t gotten any responses to the ad though, and I was hoping you could look around New York for a three legged elephant for us.

Donny and me are trying to start a circus, see.  Donny’s learning to breathe fire, and I’m working on the elephant, and we’re trying to get Donny’s sister Elizabeth to learn tight rope.  We’ve been doing it in secret mostly, so don’t tell mom.  King County’s not supposed to have a circus after what happened last year.

Last year, they set up the circus in the big field behind the high school like they always do, and all the acts were the same as every year except instead of having The Incredible Bending Woman, they hand The World’s Strongest Man.
The World’s Strongest Man looked just like a normal guy though.  He rode up on a motorcycle instead of in the caravan with everyone else.  He had slicked back blonde hair and a leather jacket and he didn’t even wear a helmet.
All the girls in town thought The World’s Strongest Man was so dreamy, and after he spent all day lifting about 100,000 pounds he’d take the girls for rides on his motorcycle.  He wouldn’t even shower first.  He’d be all sweaty and get the girls to grab around his waist and hold tight.
Well, here’s what happened.  On the last day of the circus, Donny went with his whole family.  Most of them had already been, but they all went again on the last day.  About ten minutes before the performance started though, they couldn’t find Donny’s second cousin Mary-Beth.
The way Donny tells it, it was him that found The World’s Strongest Man and Mary-Beth behind the football bleachers all naked, but Elizabeth told me that her and Donny were in line for popcorn at the time, and it was really Donny’s mom and his Aunt Linda that found them.
When Mary-Beth started getting fat a few months later, I didn’t understand what the big deal was because remember how after Great Uncle Harry died, Great Aunt Mildred got so fat so fast she couldn’t even climb the stairs anymore?
Soon it wasn’t just Mary-Beth getting fat though, it was two other girls in town, too, and that’s when everyone in King County started going crazy.  The circus had only been in town for three days, and The World’s Strongest Man had knocked up three girls.
“A hatrick,” said Dad
“That’s inappropriate,” said Mom.
And now we’re not allowed to have the circus anymore, and Donny and me don’t think that’s fair.  We’re trying to make our own circus, and we figure if we show how fun the circus is, people in town will remember, and they won’t be angry anymore.
So if you hear of any three-legged elephants we could buy, please let me know.  You can tell the seller we’d be willing to pay $15 for one, and if they won’t budge, offer $18.  We’ve got to save some money for peanuts as well as popsicle sticks to make a fake fourth elephant leg out of, but we’d be willing to pay up to $22 which I think is a fair price.
Thank you in advance,

Arachnid Apocalypse

• When the spiders come, our faces will be the first thing they eat.
• The clouds will split and unleash the arachnid apocalypse.
• Every human is an earth and all our tears are raindrops.
• I can taste the sadness in the water.
• After our faces are gone, we’ll all go on living.
• The spiders will destroy the city and rebuild it using webs.
• The skyline will be the same.
• The spiders will use our bodies as bricks.
• We’ll all go on living.
• I sometimes dream in band-aids.
• I sometimes dream in safety pins.
• We will have holes in our heads where our noses used to be.
• While our bodies are bricks, we’ll poke our brains through the holes.
• No one will ever be sad.
• We will eat the faces of our children.
• We will forget the faces of our lovers.
• We will put band aids over the holes where our noses used to be.
• We will all go on living.
• The spiders will eat our eyes.
• But no one will be there to tell us we’re blind.

And Inside Me Was an Enormous Octopus.

When the earthquake hit, the teacups on the shelf in my bedroom started dancing around and there were about twenty minutes there, before I checked google, when I thought that maybe they were possessed or enchanted or something.
That night, I had a dream I was pregnant with a gigantic octopus.  I was the same size I am now, only I knew there was an enormous octopus larger than a skyscraper inside of me.
I woke up and it was still dark out and my legs were aching like they needed to move.  Twitchy legs like old men have.  That’s a thing, right?
It was 5:30, and I waited until 5:45 because I figured the serial killers and rapists would be in bed by that time.
I stood in my kitchen, waiting, opening and closing the fridge door.  I took out an apple and washed it, then I washed it again using soap and a sponge, and at 5:45 I put on my coat and I said I’m going to walk every fucking street in Toronto.  I said it aloud, and I might have woken roommate by saying it so loud.
It was like the earthquake was still going on inside of my body or maybe I really was pregnant with a gigantic octopus only you couldn’t tell from the outside.
I walked east along Bloor and the sun rose like the city was drawing itself in, becoming three dimensional again.
At the used car dealership before Lansdowne, I thought it was raining, but when I looked up, it was just the foil fringe the owner had strung across the top of the parking lot rattling in the wind.
I kept a lookout for the Lansdowne rapist because I don’t think they ever actually caught that guy, and the further I walked, the more people came out of their apartments like they were all coming to say good morning even thought I knew none of them actually cared that I existed, and I guess it was fair because I didn’t care that they existed either.
I got to Korea Town, and the sun was right in my eyes like I was walking into it.  There was a doll’s foot on the sidewalk.  I don’t know where the rest of the doll went.  The earthquake was still going on in my legs and I could feel the octopus tentacles brushing against the inside of my skin.
At Spadina, I went south and started eating my apple.  I started thinking about taking the greyhound back from my parent’s house the Sunday before and how there had been a terrific thunderstorm.  I had kept falling asleep, and every time I’d woken up I’d had no idea what time it was.  It had felt like we had spent all night driving around and around the outside of Toronto, only when we got to Union Station it was just after eleven and the rain had stopped.
I was in Kensington market now, and it was the same kind of feeling as getting off the bus but worse.  I knew I’d walked the whole way there, but I couldn’t piece together how it had happened.  I thought maybe I’d always been in Kensington Market, looking into the window of a cheese store, and maybe I’d always had an earthquake in my legs, and maybe I’d always had a spectacular octopus in my chest, only I’d forgotten for a bit.
I had to work in a few hours, so I took the streetcar home beside eight or ten people with red eyes andtravel mugs stuck to their faces.  I looked out the window at the way people look when they are driving alone in their cars and don’t realize that anyone is watching them.  I thought about how all those people were once babies inside other people.  I thought about how all those people knew tonnes of other people and how we all somehow know everyone.  I thought about how the earth is so big that the sun never sets on it.  I thought about the earth how we’re all balanced on tectonic plates floating on melted rock hotter than anything anyone can ever imagine.  Sometimes the tectonic plates crash into one another, and sometimes they don’t.  I still had the core of my apple in my hand, but I couldn’t remember when I’d finished eating it

Worth It or The Cat Keeps Shitting on the Carpet

The cat keeps shitting on the carpet.  It’s not my cat, and it’s not my carpet, but I pay fifty percent of the rent, and the whole time I’ve lived in our apartment, I’ve never shat on the carpet, not even once.

I keep thinking about that time my friend had manic depression.

“There are ways you can manage this,” the doctor had said.  “This doesn’t have to be a detriment on the rest of your life, the rest of your life, the rest of your life.”

And then it went away.  After a few months she felt fine, and she’s mostly felt fine since then.

“I think I was just sad,” she told me, but I wonder if she wakes up some mornings and looks in the mirror with her hair all messy and last night’s makeup scrolling down her face and really quietly or maybe just in her head she says, manic depression, manic depression, bi-polar disorder, disorder, disorder, the rest of your life.

Sometimes, I look in my mirror, and I ask myself, am I out of control?  Whose control?  Who is control?

I think I’m most beautiful on hangover mornings.  I rub the black from under my eyes, and then it’s just the red that surrounds them.  My eyes look so clear on mornings like that.  I feel delicate like I’ve lost an entire layer of cells, peeled off like a sunburn except off everything, my brain, my heart, my lungs, everything but my teeth when I forget to brush them.

I don’t know what we’re going to do about the cat.  This morning, hangover morning two for this week, although I try to only have one, I saw the cat had shit on the floor, and I just stepped over the shit into the bathroom.  I washed last night’s mascara from under my eyes, then stepped over the shit again and went to work.

Last night, I went to a bar and stood outside to watch my friends smoke.

“Guys, what’s the name of this bar?  Where are we?  How long have you known about this bar?”

“I don’t know,” said one of my smoking friends.  “I think it was always here.”

And then we looked at each other, and then I looked back at the bar, and I could really believe that it had just always been there, not in the sense that Neanderthals had stopped there for a gin and ginger on their way home to their caves, but more it felt like we were the first people, the first people ever, and that this was the beginning of always.

I was woken up this morning by the lesbian mothers who live up the street from me.

They were shouting their children’s eccentric names.

“Garnet and Eleanor, don’t cross the street without us.  Garnet and Eleanor, wait there.”

“Garnet,” I said to myself in the mirror after I’d rubbed the black from under my eyes.  “Your name will be Garnet forever.”  I was so happy that it wasn’t.

On the way home from work, I saw my old landlord out the streetcar window.  We used to call him Toben.  He looks like a guy whose name would be Toben.  His name is actually Doug.

Doug-Toben stepped out of a store and there was a dog in front.  He went up to the dog and he started petting it, and that made me so happy.  It was great to see my old landlord in real life petting a dog and to remember that he still existed and I still existed even though I didn’t live in his apartment building anymore.

I sometimes call the cat Taya even though that’s the name of my dead dog.  I sometimes do it to be funny, as a joke just for myself, and I sometimes do it because I forget.  When I do it because I forget, I get sad because Taya is dead and this cat is still alive and shitting on my carpet.  But then I remember that I will probably live longer than this cat, and most of the problems I have now are not problems I’ll have for the rest of my life, the rest of my life, the rest of my life.

I’ve been wearing my underwear inside out for two weeks now, but one day I will do laundry and one day I will cook a real dinner and one day I will get my haircut in a salon.  The water will be warm on my scalp and the stylist will run her hands through my hair.  I will have a memory that is impossible to have.  It will be of me as a baby taking a bath in the kitchen sink.  I will remember that the soap smelled like oatmeal and that my skin was so soft, and I will know then that it was worth it.

Bookstore Floor Cleaner

At work I keep vacuuming up feathers which makes me think someone keeps bringing birds into the shop.  On the front door there’s a big sign that says No Dogs and a picture of a dog with a red X through it so everyone speaking every language in the world will know not to bring their dog.  The sign isn’t in Braille though.  Blind people can bring their dogs into every store because of something called the No Braille Loop Hole.  They don’t make No Dogs signs in Braille, so blind people are allowed to bring their dogs into every shop in the world and everyone is too ashamed of not having Braille on their signs to tell the blind people that it’s not allowed.
This is probably how people are allowed to bring birds into the shop I work at.  The bird owners probably all say, Well there’s a no dog sign, but there’s nothing about birds, so I must be allowed.
The shop I work at is a bookshop, and maybe birds are the only other literate animal.  No one has talked to me that much about birds, and maybe everyone forgot to tell me that birds know how to read.
No one talks to me much at work in general.  Either they ignore me, or else they talk to me in a very deliberate way because they think they are communists.  It makes the want-to-be communists feel good to talk to me because I am the floor cleaner, and they think I’m doing honourable work.  They think that talking to me proves that we are all equal, but those people are really just talking to me because in a place they’re trying to keep secret from themselves they can’t forget that I’m the one who’s paid to clean the floors they’re paid to stand on.  They’re the only ones who can’t see past that.
Everyone talks to me when they walk muddy footprints across the floors I’ve just moped though.  Everyone apologizes, and they all seem so sorry, and that’s when I feel sorry for them.  I feel sad for them because they must care about their jobs and get upset when something in the bookstore goes wrong.  Why else would they think I care if they track mud footprints across the white tiles?  I’ll get paid either way.  I’m too busy vacuuming up feathers and thinking about birds that know how to read to even notice if the floors get dirty after I’ve cleaned them.

Today You Are Waiting

Today you are eating cold pizza out of a grocery bag.  Not a Zip Lock bag, a grocery bag that you had to pay five cents for because you forgot your re-useable bags at home last week.  You also forgot to shower last night, but you put on extra deodorant this morning, and you’re hoping no one will notice, or was that yesterday morning?  Has it been two days without showering and did you even put on deodorant this morning?
The woman beside you on the streetcar has lobsters instead of hands, and each lobster has its own aquarium.  The sound of the water bubbling makes you have to pee and you’re wondering if she’s judging you for eating cold pizza out of a grocery bag at eight in the morning.  She must have her own problems though, so you think you’re probably safe.
It’s days like this that remind you of that day in grade eleven.  You were sixteen, and you started crying for no reason, and you couldn’t stop.  It was early.  You had gotten ready for school.  You were waiting for your dad to drive you, and then you were crying.  You cried so hard you almost threw up, and you didn’t have to go to school.  Sometimes, you’re sure that that day you stayed home was the day all the other kids were told what it would be like and what to do.  You’ve lived on your own for seven years now, and you still feel shockingly unprepared like one day you will be caught in the rain and simply dissolve.
The woman with the lobster hands is half asleep beside you and her lobsters bob in their aquariums as the streetcar stops at the next set of lights.
You wonder what you’re doing here, not here as in the streetcar, but the existential here, as in why? And you wonder if you’ll start spontaneously bleeding from your neck.  Last week on the streetcar, a man shot blood across half the passengers.  Is it bad you were a little jealous of all the attention he got?  He was at the front of the streetcar and you were at the back.  You didn’t even get hit, and now you’re here again today, eating cold pizza out of a grocery bag and waiting.

Sign Language Ape Interview

I sometimes think how it would be to be a famous journalist writing famous articles for a famous newspaper.  I’d like to go undercover and uncover something really juicy like that cat food is really fish food, and dog food is really cat food, and human food is really dog food, or else I’d like to interview a sign language ape.

I don’t think my famous journalist career for my famous newspaper would work out like I’d want it to work out though.  If I were to actually interview a sign language ape, I’d probably start by saying, Hello Sign Language Ape, thank you for coming to let me interview you.  Would you like a banana?  And by then I’d already know that I’d done something wrong because just because it’s an ape, it doesn’t mean it automatically wants a banana, right?  What is that, racist? Apeist?  Then I’d probably eat five or six bananas in a row as fast as I could so that the sign language ape didn’t get offended about me offering it bananas because we all like bananas and we’re all human even if a sign language ape isn’t a human, right?

By then, I’d already know that the ape didn’t like me.  It would look at me and I would just know.  I’d try to smile at it really big like you smile at babies when you’re trying to scare them.

Just to be respectful, so that the ape knew that I thought it was smart and it wanted more than to just sit around and eat bananas all day, even though that’s really all I want, I’d probably say something really pretentious like: I would like to cordially enquire about the nature of your thoughts, are they organized temporally? If so, what are your ponderings your potential personal future?

Someone would have already told me that sign language apes can only know about one-hundred words, but I’d probably phrase it that way anyway, and the sign language ape would be confused and annoyed and think I wasn’t a professional famous journalist writing professional famous articles for a professional famous newspaper, and I’d wonder why didn’t I stick to writing about shark food really being lizard food, and I’d try to make my smile even bigger like you do to make babies cry.

I’d probably be flustered at that point, and I probably wouldn’t be able to think of any other way to phrase my question about the sign language ape’s desires for the future other than to ask the sign language ape, What do you want?

There was that kind of famous book about the telepathic ape a while back that I never got around to reading, but from what my friend told me, the ape in that book was pretty wise, and so maybe my sign language ape would say something like that it wanted harmony between humans and animals and peace and love and eternal happiness for everyone all the time forever.  That’s what I’d want it to say, but it would probably just say it wanted a banana, which would be bad because I would have already eaten all the bananas, and I’d probably be feeling pretty sick because of it.

I’d probably have a granola bar in my bag though because I always forget to eat until it’s too late.  I’d offer the granola bar to the sign language ape, and it would take it and I would think maybe this isn’t going so bad, and I’d smile big again until my face hurt and until the sign language ape had trouble with the granola bar wrapper.

By then, the sign language ape would probably be just as frustrated with me as I was with me, and maybe it would eat the granola bar with the wrapper on out of spite.  The zoo keeper would have to rush in and save it from choking to death or maybe it would choke to death and either way, that would probably be the end of the interview, and as a famous journalist, my famous newspaper article for the famous newspaper would probably only say, I asked a sign language ape what it wanted and it said it wanted a banana, and we all knew that already.

Two Foxes Eating Each Other

5am, one of those times when neither of us could sleep and neither of us could speak, we looked out her kitchen window and saw two foxes eating each other, each tail in the other’s mouth and the dew making the grass silver and the draft from the back door cold on my bare feet even though it was almost summer.

Each fox gnawed off the other’s hind legs, first the left then the right, as I heard her come up behind me to see, as I heard her breathing, the heat from her body pressed against me in a way it hadn’t for a while.

And then it was the stomachs, each fox eating themselves wrapped in another fox, the early sun glinting off blood soaked coats as the foxes got smaller, right leg then left.  I heard her take another breath like she wanted to say something about the state of living today but didn’t thank goodness.

Two fox heads on the ground and disappearing until I looked back to look at her still staring out the window, and when I turned to face the foxes again, they were gone.

She wrapped her arms around me and whispered something I’ve never told to anyone, something I’ll never forget.

And then we sat at the kitchen table silently debating whether to go back to bed or stay awake and live out the day with those dead foxes as the beginning.