Reminder

Sometimes even when things are okay
you will find yourself crying
about the things that life has taken,
grandmothers and family pets and the rush
of the first time you were allowed to stay
home alone, first kisses and new feelings
and the last time you fell asleep in the car
and your father carried you inside.
It was winter and your new coat bunched
around you as your clung to him,
stubble and the scent of aftershave,
and maybe you sensed this would be
the last time and you tried to remember
as he slid the plastic-footed boots
from your tingling feet.

You will never sleep as well as you used to
or feel the same kind of ache after hearing
a favourite song for the first time,
but there will be moments to come
that you could never imagine, not greater
but different from being four and learning
to do up a zipper or fourteen, wine-drunk
and piercing your best friend’s ears
in the bathroom off the kitchen.

There will be sadness and there will be
beauty and there will be books you only
connect with because you are older
and because you have lived,
and even when living means losing,
crying over old photographs and asking
if it’s worth it just to die like
everyone else has died, know that there will
be other times you cannot see or even
dream of, sunsets and coffee dates
and the way the light comes through
the curtains just so to remind you

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The End of the World

The End of the World

When the world finally ends,
 we will trade forgiveness
for bits of broken mirror.
We will trade forgiveness for buttons
and long sleeve t-shirts, because nothing
will mean anything to us by then.
It will be hate and love that brought us to the end,
and then we will try forgiveness.
When the world finally ends,
we will call crickets, crickets,
even though they act like locusts.
We will lie in fields where they’ve eaten all the grass,
and they will cover our bodies with their bodies.
When this happens,
we will think of the word tenderness,
and we will remember.

Being Good

Being Good
I wanted so badly
to be good, to have beauty and to be loved.
I wanted to hold the whole world
like it was an egg and kiss it
a little bit and whisper things,
nursery rhymes and dirty jokes and the recipe
for the scones my grandma used to make.
Mine was sadness without a manhole cover.
It dragged me to places
where men spoke in isosceles triangles,
and I couldn’t believe that they were human
like I was human like they were human,
but there we all were, so it must have been true.
There were so many things I wanted back then,
answers, answers, answers and to never
be lonely and to always have enough to eat.
I wanted to be an angel with wings made from staples
and soup can labels. I wanted to be understood in a way
that no one is understood.
I brushed my teeth and flossed my teeth and brushed my teeth
every day. I tried so hard to be good.

Sudoku Days

Sudoku Days

It was the last Saturday of the summer,

t-shirt night, 4am, and everyone

we knew was there, and everyone

we didn’t know was also there

to witness a man on a fourteenth floor

condominium balcony rip off

each day of his Sudoku a Day calendar

and throw it into the evening,

July first, July second, July third,

all the way to August 31st.

What are you doing still awake?

What are you doing still awake?

Cars blasting bad rap music down streets

full of people we were about to meet

the woman in a gold gown and white sash

stumbling over the sewer cover, and you and me

and the 24 hour McDonalds

and I think I still have a beer at home,

and the Sudoku days folding to cranes

and flying away.

Small Summer

Small Summer

We do not know what happens
When summer ends, where we will get
Our calories, if not from ice cream, how
Beer will taste if we drink it inside.
We won’t imagine Christmas,
No knowledge of how we survived
The smell of winter coats and bare
Feet in wool socks for seven months,
Snowflakes like dinner plates and something
Called a frost quake. We can only blow
On dandelions, and wish on every firefly
That the earth will somehow slow
And the flowers will stay alive.

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.

Tuesday Poem
This will be the day the sun hits just right, and for the first time this month you’ll have natural light coming through the gutter into the window of your basement apartment.
This will be the day you find the favourite gloves you thought you lost two years ago, and a picture of your dead grandmother wearing a bathing suit.
This will be the day a young woman holds the door for you.  You’ll make eye contact and say thank you like they did in the olden days.
This will be the day your boss is sick and you get to take an hour and a half lunch break.
This will be the day they’re handing out samples on the street and you’ll get a free roll of toilet paper.
This will be the day you give a man a quarter, and he’ll smile to show you he doesn’t have any teeth.
This will be the day you go into the grocery store and everything you normally buy is on sale.  $8.72 on food that will last you a week.
This will be the day you stand beside an old man on the corner and he’ll let you pet his dog.
It’s Tuesday, your socks match, your hair is doing almost what it’s supposed to, and things are going to be ok.

Chemicals

On Saturday, I went to my friend’s house and watched him put chemicals into his body.
“I’ve never done this before,” he told me.  “You have to take care of me.”
“I’m wearing my dirty underwear inside out.”  I told him.  “I had pierogies for breakfast and cold cuts for lunch and I haven’t even had dinner.  Can we go get dinner?”
“There’s food in the fridge,” he said.
“I can’t take care of you,” I said.
“All you have to do is hold my hand,” he told me.  “I want this to be fun for both of us.”
“This isn’t going to be fun for me,” I told him.  “I’m going to go home.”
“You can’t go home,” he said.
“I took all this thinking you’d take care of me,” he said.
“If I die it’ll be your fault,” he said.
“You are a leech,” I said.  “Some friends are leeches and some friends are feet and I’m not going to be either.  I’m going to be a potato chip.”
“Oh man,” he said.
“I can’t even handle that,” he said.
I told him about the river at my cabin and how there are leeches that stick to your feet and you have to get them off using the salt from potato chips.
“I’m going to go,” I said.
“You might regret it,” he said.
“I’ll live with the guilt,” I said.
I left his apartment and walked to the end of his street.  There was a fiddler there busking.  She was playing such nice music, that I wanted to stay there and watch her.  I wanted to stay there forever.  It was a warm night and the sun had just set and the pavement under my feet felt warm.  I thought this is probably what heaven is like, the fat dog peeing into the bushes and everything, but I knew that if my friend actually died I probably would regret it.
When I got back to the apartment, my friend was sitting on the couch with his eyes closed.  I thought he had actually died.
He opened his eyes when he heard me close the door.
“I thought you were dead,” I said.
“So did I,” he said.
“What was it like?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Do you need me to hold your hand?”
“Maybe for a bit,” he said.
And that’s how I spent the night.  Holding hands with my friend and watching Saturday Night Live.
“I just died again,” my friend kept saying.  “I just died and came back to life.”

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.