I don’t know how the Ukrainian man got down there, maybe this house was built around him, or maybe he’s been hiding out in there since before the war. But I have a feeling he won’t be coming with me when I leave. He turns his radio up louder now then when I first moved in, and he calls out to me less frequently. Even under the floorboards, things are changing, and maybe that’s why he’s got his radio down there in the dark. He’s trying to keep a hold of it all with his eyes closed, to stop from dissolving into the static between songs for a little while longer
Today You Are Waiting
When the Aliens Come
When the aliens come,
we will want to tell them everything.
They will be like children, and we will be
like children. There will be lineups
winding around street corners to see them,
each of us wanting to sing them
our favourite songs or else just hold them
like we like to be held so they know
how it feels.
We will explain to the aliens in simple terms
how our grandparents poked holes
in the sky and how we are trying to close them up.
“Noises sound louder you’re hung over,”
someone will tell them.
“My father was a math professor
at Michigan State,” another will say.
“And he never learned to tie his shoes.
He spent his whole life in Velcro
and slip on loafers.”
“Velcro?” the aliens will say. “Hung over?”
“Exactly,” we will say back.
We will be nothing like the aliens
thought we would be, all of our space
initiatives, projecting our messages into the sky.
It’s only when the aliens get here
that they’ll realize how we really act,
sitting around, kissing each other and
saying to the aliens how happy we are
that they finally arrived.
Two Foxes Eating Each Other
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.
On Our Journey to the End of the Earth
On our journey to the end of the earth, we took a Greyhound so old there were cigarette holes in the upholstery.
Out the window there were seagulls and we asked, are they doves or are they angels? And the driver said nothing because his throat was a copper tube made from melted down pennies.
On our journey to the end of the earth, our clothes were blown from our bodies, and we tried not to be ashamed, fingers gripping onto our skin in case that was supposed to go, too, and we tried not to be ashamed about being ashamed.
We walked all night every night, sure each road was the last road, only to see another street still longer in the scorch of the morning sun, until one day, when we’d been gone so long we couldn’t remember where we’d come from or what had come before, we really did find the end.
We saw the universe was an open mouth with no teeth. We saw the universe was a woman and we already knew her name, Linda, our elementary school lunch lady, hands still swollen and smelling of bleach a decade later.
We stood staring into the abyss, the three of us, you, me and Linda who was now the universe, who’d lost weight since we saw her last, doling out fish sticks to fifth graders all those years ago.
The three of us, unsteady and smiling in the wind of the world and the great gaping greatness of the end before us that would one day absorb us, and the bus driver from before was there too, and so was your old soccer coach, the one that used to tap your bum in a way that made you unsure if it was inappropriate or not.
And then, we didn’t know what to do. After journeying so long on land too dry to drink from, both too hot and too cold and with only store brand cereal to eat, all we could ask was why we were there and where had we come from?
I packed my bags and took a trip into my body. I took my sunglasses and a hat and an extra pair of underwear. I didn’t want to leave for long.
My veins became a road, and I stood at the edge of it, watching cars drive past while purple lights flashed. I don’t know why the lights were purple or what they were flashing for. It could have just been decorative. I’ve got pretty flashy blood.
A homeless woman clicked by with a cart of bottles and bees in her hair. I don’t know for sure that she was homeless. I guess her home was in her body in my body. She only had one eye, stuck in the middle of her forehead.
There was a toonie on the sidewalk, but I didn’t have anything to buy, so I left it for the lady with the bees. I thought maybe she would eat it.
There wasn’t anywhere for me to go. I walked around my heart and gave my lungs a little pat, and then I stepped into the middle of the street to watch drivers drive on either side of me.
I was changing lived just by being there. The people in their cars started yelling, but I spat on their windshields and told them, This is my blood, I can do what I want.
One car swerved and hit another. Three people were killed, and I felt so bad I can’t even tell you how bad I felt, but then I remembered I was on vacation, and it didn’t seem so sad.
How Do You Say Peach in Japanese
Cameron McDonald’s forehead’s got a road running through it. On Sundays in summer, peach sellers travel from Cameron McDonald’s hairline forest with pies and preserves. The peaches taste like classical music and Cameron’s best smile. Cameron McDonald doesn’t smile that often, but every time he gets a good one out, the peaches in his hair get twice as sweet and someone in Tokyo wins the lottery.
Cameron McDonald went to Japan in a dream once. He’ll never get to go in real life. The peach sellers on his forehead don’t pay enough rent to afford him the trip. Cameron McDonald doesn’t complain though. He likes the scratching on his scalp when the peach sellers till the soil. He likes how the tiny peach pits feel when they tumble from his forehead and bounce off his nose. When Cameron McDonald goes to sleep at night, he hears the peach sellers’ feet weaving between the trees, and he doesn’t feel alone.
The Man With the Butterfly Heart
His heart was a butterfly. That isn’t a metaphor. The butterfly wings flapping made the blood go round. His blood was as light as the wind. He was very short and very thin, and he liked throwing rocks at children. The doctors said his heart was too fragile to let love in. He hated everything because he had to, bouts of cynicism to keep his health sustained.
He lived all alone in a big house. He had a dog he had to kill because every time he looked at it he felt the butterfly wings begin to wobble. He had a big house because the people in the town were always giving him money. Medically forbidden to love, they thought. That made them love him move. Plus, his blood was light as wind and on blustery days before a storm he’d tie himself to a string and sail above the town as a human kite. Everyone liked that a lot.
He became the town mascot. They made a museum about him with his dead dog and a few of the rocks he’d thrown at kids. The more the town loved him, the more the man had to push away. People brought him cakes and cookies every day. Depending on the person, he’d sometimes have to spit in their face, shit in their cake and tell them to go away. A lot of cakes were wasted that way. The townspeople brought him more and more just so they could say, He shat in my cake, the man with the butterfly heart shat in my cake.
It quickly became a game. Three people bought the man a boat. He took the boat from the guy with the weird beard and the harry neck; there was no danger of loving him. He burned the boat from the girl with the long fingers that smelled like lilacs and rain, and to the guy who’d read him poetry through a window one night, he burned the boat and ran after him holding a flaming chunk of the boat’s frame, intent to kill or maim so that he’d stay away.
It took the man less than a day to realize he was being played. His loveless heart was now a game. He felt is heart begin to flutter. The butterfly began to break. He realized he’d loved the town all along, a little bit of love for every person, not enough to make a difference one by one. But now the whole town had turned away.
The man with the butterfly heart died that day. His heart in little bits now sits in his museum beside the dog, and there’s a little metal plaque beside his grave: we loved this man but not enough was all that the town needed to say.
I keep a jar of paperclips by my bed, and I bend them into animal shapes in my sleep. Look, this is a frog, this is a zebra with a comb-over. I don’t know how I do it, but when I wake up, they’re bent into shapes and snuggled in the sheets with me. Paperclip penguins are the best at snuggling.
I made a paperclip horse once and swallowed it by mistake. I must have inhaled it in a severe snore, and when I woke up it was in my stomach, prancing around. The only way to remove was to go to sleep the next night and swallow a paperclip cowboy to coax it out.
I had to pay the cowboy eighty dollars cash, upfront, but it was worth it. The horse was safe and so was I.