Going Out

It’s after midnight Christmas Eve.
It’s cold and there’s a spider
in the sleeve of your winter coat.
You won’t know it until morning
when you find five bites on your right arm
like memories you can’t connect
with your present. You are old now,
not ancient, but you have
your own apartment in a city far away
and friends your parents do not know
the names of. Your breath hangs
in front of your face in this place
of your childhood, the neighbours
who have moved away and the lights
left on in houses going out.


You had done drugs sometimes
and been drunk often, but this
was different,
not brand-new but old,
a cold night on the river and the way
you ran with a torch in your hand
across the snow. The first hour
of the new year and how you greeted it
like a traveller finding home.

Mary’s Diary

May 10th, 7am, 1BC

Dear Diary,

Last night I was visited by and angel! I woke up and there with this guy in my room. He was so tall he seemed to go all the way up to the ceiling. He had enormous white wings as big as tree branches and a white tuxedo and white tennis shoes. Everyone mostly just wears robes and sandals around here, so the get-up was mega-impressive.

At first, I thought I was still dreaming. I made the angel pinch me a few times and splash water in my face before I really believe that I was awake and that the angel was real.

“Do not be afraid. Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son.”

I could barely believe it! He said some other things about kings and patriarchy and stuff, but I was stuck on this pregnancy thing. My cousin Elizabeth is pregnant, and she’s already gained twenty pounds.

When the angel was leaving I asked if I could try his shoes on, and he said no. I asked him if this pregnancy would make me fat, but he said he had more important things to take care of and disappeared leaving feathers all over my room.

August 14th, 8pm, 1BC

Dear Diary,

Joseph says an angel came to him too! He may just be making it up because he prays way more than me and was super jealous when I told him I get to have God’s baby, but he seems pretty happy about being God’s baby’s step father or whatever.

Of course mom doesn’t believe me that it was God who knocked me up and not Joseph, but she’s going along with it because otherwise I’d be stoned to death, and that would totally suck.

P.S. I’ve gained some weight, but I’m not nearly as fat as Elizabeth is.

October 5th, 4pm, 1BC

Dear Diary,

I went to hang out with Elizabeth, and she’s in real bad shape. Her ankles are as round as oranges, and she’s blown up like a balloon. Apparently, her son’s got some sort of divine God powers as well. She says it was dancing in her womb or something, but honestly, I’m sick of talking about it.

Joseph says we have to name this kid Jesus because the kid will save his people from their sins. Apparently that’s what Joseph’s angel said, but I want to name the baby Heathcliff. Joseph says that can maybe be a middle name, but I don’t see why Jesus can’t be the middle name. Heathcliff J. Christ sounds just as good as Jesus H. Christ to me.

December 20th, ?? pm1BC

Dear Diary,

I’m writing this from the back of a wagon in the middle of a fucking desert. Caesar Augustus wants to count every roman in the world, and Joseph and I have to go all the way to Bethlehem wherever that is. I’m boiling hot, and this demon baby keeps kicking on my bladder. There isn’t even cellphone reception out here, so I can’t even tweet my frustrations.

December 23rd, 3pm, 1BC

Dear Diary,

Things went from bad to worse. We made it this hick town called Bethlehem where Joseph apparently grew up, and every single inn is full. I told Joseph to make a reservation before we left Nazareth, but did he listen to me? Of course not.

He’s in the Best Western right now, pleading with the manager to give us a room. We just came from the Howard Johnson where Joseph went on and on about the king of kings inside my uterus, and we were kindly escorted out by security. I hope he hurries up, the ox and lamb are getting restless, and I’m really craving an ice cream sandwich and pickles.

December 23rd, 6pm, 1BC

Dear Diary,

I could kill Joseph right now. Instead of even trying the Hilton or the Fairmount, we’re sleeping in a barn. According to Joseph, the manager at the Best Western had to pull a lot of strings to let us sleep out here, and it would have been impolite to refuse the offer. For someone so concerned about the son of God, he doesn’t seem to care that this future world leader is going to be born on a dirty floor surrounded by hogs.

December 24th, 1am, 1BC

Dear Diary,

If sleeping in a barn wasn’t bad enough with the animals shifting and shitting every five minutes, now there’s this spotlight coming through the window. I sent Joseph to go see if it was a flood light or something that could be turned off, but he’s telling me it’s a star. He spouted some bullshit about how the star is to mark where we are so that people can come and pay tribute to the new born king, but it’s not like anyone going to be coming to a baby shower in a barn out behind the Best Western. I may never get to sleep.

December 24th, 4pm, 1BC

Dear Diary,

It’s coming!

December 26th, 2pm, 1BC

Dear Diary,

Seeing as this baby is a demi-god, I was afraid it would come out with weird shrivelled wings or something, but it’s actually pretty cute. It’s just a normal human baby aside from the beard and the halo. Joseph shaved him this morning, but the kid still has this weird almost alien glow over his head. It was kind of blinding at first, but I got used to it. I’m happy and the baby’s happy, and maybe soon we can get out of this barn, and stay in a real hotel. Joseph thinks it might be a while before we can head back to Nazareth.

January 6th, 3pm, 1BC

Dear Diary,

We’re still in Bethlehem, and we’re still in the barn, but I guess Joseph was right about the star overhead leading people toward us. We’ve had guests all week, coming to pay tribute to the messiah and giving me presents. You won’t believe it, but these three kings just came and brought me gold, frankincense and myrrh. I have no idea what frankincense and myrrh are, but they sure sound fancy, and I of course appreciate the gold.

I’m pretty exhausted now though, and I probably smell horrible from sleeping beside animals for two full weeks. Joseph is at the 7/11, picking up some more party mix and diet coke, and oh no, I think I hear another visitor approaching the barn.

January 6th, 9pm, 1BC

Dear Diary

This afternoon, while Joseph was still at 7/11, I opened the door to a little boy who had seen the star over the barn. He had walked the whole day with margarine container holding an ice sculpture he’d carved to give the baby. Being in the middle of the desert and all though, when the kid opened the container, there was nothing in it but water. He started crying, and I started crying too because I’ve never seen an ice sculpture and the kid sure hyped the thing up. He told me it was like a diamond only cold.

Anyway, Joseph came in and found me crying and this kid crying and the baby crying too. Joseph shoved party mix in all our mouths, and asked the kid if maybe he had some other gift he wanted to give the baby. It was amazing. I was a little worried about how Joseph would be as a father. He’s always so cool and pious, but he was great.

The little kid looked down at the margarine container he’d brought the ice sculpture in, and said that maybe he could use it as a drum and play us a song. I laughed at the idea, but Joseph nodded, and the kid started playing, and you know what, it was pretty good. The ox and lamb kept time, and I think even the baby kind of liked it.

Joseph says he got us a room at the Howard Johnson tomorrow night, and then we’ll make the long trip home. I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed and show off all my frankincense and myrrh to my cousin Elizabeth.

Birthday Party

There were just three of them, two guys and a girl, dancing around their second-floor flat on a Sunday night.  They were so joyous it made my throat ache.  They had the window open and their music dropped down to me on the street.  The music was like an emergency fire ladder you’re supposed to drop out of your window and climb down while your house is burning up.  My parents used to have a ladder like that, and we used to use it to climb up and down the bunk beds.  It was way more fun that the real ladder.  We once put my cat in a basket tied to a string and lowered her from the top bunk to the bottom and then back up again, down and up, down and up.  She didn’t like us too much after that.

The girl stopped dancing and came to the window.  She caught me watching.  She waved so I waved back, then one of the guys came and yelled: IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!

Happy birthday I say, but I was too shy to yell it, so I don’t know if he heard.

The girl came back to the window and waved again, so I waved again, and we just stood there waving at each other, these goofy exaggerated waves like we were on a children’s television show and enormous grins pasted to our faces.


The salt stained streets were snowless, angles escaping from mouth gaping, too cold to close, and the plastic women in the sex shop window seemed so sad and unsexy in their scant nighties, holding hands with penis shaped candy canes stuck in their mouths, the lonesome residue of Christmas cheer on a January morning.

The girls were thirsty in there, sucking on peppermint dicks all day, blind eyes grasping at the humans passing on the other side of the glass.  Once, they saw an old woman with a small man on her back, and another time there was Santa, staring from across the street with his hands down his pants.  But now it is January, and they are watching commuters stamp off the cold.  They wait patiently for the penises to be pulled from their mouths and their plastic limbs to be repositioned into some now pose of madness.

The Sky Was Full of Horses

The sky was full of horses that New Year’s Eve, just after midnight, when you stood on the porch with the party behind you, looking out at the river, a thick black rope on snow, and the cloud-coloured beasts crashing towards you, bigger than angels, minutes after the year split in two, a cross section of ecstasy, and the champagne taste still on your tongue while the promise of sacredness swelled in the air.

And Now We Are Assholes

The night is two feet deep.  Christmas lights reflect in rain slicked street sings while we sit in your car at this lonely intersection, waiting for the light to change.

The children in your radio sing Away in a Manger.  They are meant to sound like angels, but we know they are assholes.

We both sang in children’s choirs, almost twenty years ago, and now we are assholes.  The cool kids used to beat us up, and now we are assholes, sitting in your car, waiting for the light to change, two assholes, two days before Christmas, remembering how the cool kids used to beat us up.