Sunsets.

Sunsets

Sun dipping below the red waves.  Or a hundred other sublime eternities.

I nod.  I’ll remember it.

(But I speak and think it, and it’s not what it once was)

 Halved seconds of witnessed beauty languish behind me like a faded

Photograph.

 

 

Into this you come with your own whirlwind of pictures.  A dizzying maze

that makes me stumble.  I can sigh on my own still.  But I can’t

 

Taste the sunsets that you fenced in.

We see the same form, and subtle experiences flow out to you, to me.  We can compare.

 

But I’ll never look at the same sights as you.

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Black Arrow

Black Arrow

 

Barren in the night

I screamed, drawn back like a straining arrow,

Apollyon groans within.

 

Release.

 

Quiet flight.  Tunneling through air with desolation on every angle.

I want to crash,

To be

Splintered.

But I fly soundlessly.

 

 

(Sunny fields live in my memory, faded like an old photograph.  The smell is

A cruel reminder that I built my own cities to lose, and when I strained back

with thin hands stretched like a leper

I found shattered statues bearing pieces of my face.)

 

Lost ages, don’t vomit on my thoughts.  The reminders

are bile.

 

I’m an arrow shot to the horrifying sky,

With an engine of perpetual

Yearning.

Tree rivers

Tree rivers

 

The trees are speaking in rivers.

A gushing conversation that I wonder upon.

 

Growing, seeding, dying.

 

My legs can flex like great trunks and my plans are flourishing like spruces.

One long away day, my skin like peel like white bark.

 

I saw roots plunging down, invisible convulsions feeding and ravenous.

I conjured the earth, that unselfish loam, into gold.

Dripping from my jaw I fed.

And I drank ruin.

 

 

In a white bed I look out at the trees.

And I see their arms drink the sun, straining to reach above others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insincere

Insincere

I am insincere, speaking with a mouth full

Of a thousand, pre-thoughts

about you.

Your shoes and skin are stories, none true.

 

I am wishing, thinking your many faces are windows

Into you.

 

You spoke, and it careened me sideways.  Who

You are is what, like a detective, I want to discover.

That’s insincere.

 

But then as real as a cut you laugh, a streaming silver.

Genuine as cursing a stubbed toe.

 

 

Far away, I can see you better.

 

Introspection

Introspection

 

 

What is that center eye in my soul?

A foreign thing I’ve grafted on like Frankenstein.  But familiar like the smell of the room you grew up in.

It stares out while I peer in.

Our gazes are parallel and I lunge because if I can pinch it I’ll know what it is.

 

Searching for the intersection of myself feels like pulling twine out of a healed wound,

A slipping through peppery skin.

A mix of repulsion and pleasure: there’s the rub.

 

 

Dance on my grave, we’ll all dance together, singing bloody hymns about heaven.

Sing, corpse, graveling mouth.  Drag the razor over the skin, a lovely scrape, like you telling me the cars got a flat,

but baby we got blankets.

An infinite eye spinning, and my eye seeing the shadow,

At least the shadow.

Purdy Park

The wind tore like shards of glass and with an expression matching the weather, Emmeline Rys left her apartment.  Her dark glasses perched on her nose, magnifying her eyes into two dark pools, her mouth was small, lips blood red.  She had was short, with thin legs and narrow hips. From far away she looked like a cherub, her form tiny and delicate, but up close her energy and litheness poked through like a needle. Up close she was more like an imp.  Her hair was long and naturally straight, but she had it pulled into a sharp bun because it was that kind of night.

The suburbs of Purdy Park had been the dream of an aged patron of Canadian poetry who wanted an ordered area for artists, unaware that such places are not planned, but evolved, and never in neat fashion.  It was built of pale brick the colour of birch trees, thick iron chimneys jutted up like miniature spires and at every corner there was electric lamps.  The main street was lined with shops converted from garages, and cafes built on driveways.  Divided into blocks, the various smoke houses, dens, restaurants and apartments spilled into each other, forming loose property agreements and turning the square divides into adjacent blobs; Purdy Park was a sprawl.

On this October night a hellish wind ripped through Purdy, thundering down the streets like a devil.   Cursing, Emmeline pushed in the door to Dante’s Coffee Shop and headed to her usual spot wiping rain from her glasses.  She’d occupied the same corner in every Monday for months, and each week she’d dabbled with the idea of going somewhere else.  She waved over her shoulder at the owner Emilio.  She stopped.  Sitting her spot was a man.  Emmeline’s steps slowed, leaving her standing awkwardly between a man and woman who’d been speaking, they frowned and moved away.   The man had his long legs resting on the window sill.  His face was dominated by a large nose, and his hair was long and brown, framing his angular face.  Frowning, Emmeline turned and sat down at the last open seat at bar and and frowned at the cold plastic on her legs, she tried smooth her skirt under her.

Emilio should have told him that this was her spot.  He was in her chair.  She snuck a glance at him, he was staring out the window, his face drawn.  Her heart sank, it wasn’t his fault.  She studied his face, there was something about it that was familiar.  The wind hammered into the walls, rain splattering the windows, and the light from the gas lamps made it look like the night sky.

Emmeline slid smartly off the stool and approached the man, who looked up in surprise.  She smiled.

‘Hi, I’m Emmeline.’

The man stood up quickly, making the chair squeak on the wooden floor, he winced and held out his hand, she glanced at his other hand hanging at his side, it was bare.

‘Arthur.’

They sat down at the same time.

‘Not from around here are you?’  Emmeline asked.

‘No, I’m not.’

She nodded and then looked at the wall behind him and starting chuckling.  Arthur smiled and squinted, ‘is that ok?’ He asked.   She waved him off and said,

‘No it’s not that, this is my usual spot and I never noticed the graffiti on the wall behind you.  It’s like seeing a stain on your shirt after wearing it all day.’

‘Your spot? Oh.’  He was suddenly possessed by a nervous energy and he stood up half way before Emmeline put her hand on his arm and laughed, her dark eyes large behind her glasses.

‘No, no, it’s aright.  I got over it.  Sit down.’

‘Thanks.’  He rubbed his face, and smiled tiredly, crows feet stood out around his eyes.

‘Wait, what do you mean a stain?’

She looked pointedly behind him.  He turned, and carved in above his head in flowing penmanship, were the words: “I’m a flirty, dirty pretty Purdy.”

She sat leaned back and tilted her head.

‘The workmanship is actually impressive.  They even have right grammar.’

Arthur’s mouth was open and he started laughing, his shoulders loosened and he leaned over the table.

Emmeline smiled, ‘Life is mysterious, don’t you think?’  He nodded, his lips upturned.  They sat in silence.  The wind hurtled into the window making the glass shudder.  ‘Well, what brings you to Purdy?’  Emmeline said.

‘Family.’  Arthur said, rubbing the back of his neck.  ‘I’ve got an uncle here.  I’m taking a break from work.  Meet people, I don’t know.’

She nodded, and said ‘your uncle lives here?’

‘Yeah, he’s my father’s brother.  He runs the bookstore down the street.’  Emmeline nodded and then stopped.

‘Wait, the bookstore?’

‘Yes? Purdy Bookstore.  Is there another one?’

‘No there’s not another one.‘  She looked at him in amazement.  He doesn’t even know, she thought, or maybe he does.  She looked at him closely, really noticing for the first time his strong jawline and distinct high cheekbones.

‘You’re Uncle is Mr. Rending?’

‘yeah, is that bad?’

Emmeline threw up her hands and set them back in her lap, and looked around quickly before closing one eye and squinting at him.

‘Your Uncle’s grand-father is Robert Rending.’  She stated.

Arthur nodded slowly, ‘Yeah.’

‘You’re the prince of Purdy!’  Emmeline burst out, ‘and your name is Arthur too, is there a sword around here?’

Arthur stared.  She leaned forward whispering, ‘you’re cousin literally built Purdy.  There’s a statue of him by the community center and-.’  She snapped her fingers at him.  ‘You look like it.  I thought there was something familiar about you.  But your nose is larger.’

Arthur sat back and folded his arms.

‘That’s from my mother.’

Emmeline was fidgeting, her face alight.

‘Why haven’t you lived here before?  You could do anything you wanted to here.’

Arthur grimaced and said, ‘I want to do things on my own.’  Emmeline crinkled her nose and said,  ‘Why?  No one does things on their own.  What does that mean?  I get the whole self-affirmation stuff or whatever, but if you’re given something, you should use it.’

Arthur shrugged.

Emmeline sat back.  Her hair had been slowly coming loose from her bun, and a strand fell across her face.  She brushed it away like a fly and said, ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but really, if you’re given something like that you should use it.’

Arthur frowned and said, ‘You don’t know anything about me.’  He shifted his gaze out the opaque window.

She winced and said, ‘I’m sorry.’  He didn’t respond.  She let her hair out and promptly retied it

‘You’re wishing it wasn’t so shit outside or you’d leave.’

His face softened.  ‘No, maybe you’re right.  I don’t know.’

He paused.  And then suddenly straightened his back and leaned in, eyes piercing.   ‘I built myself, with no help from my name, or anyone.’

‘Then why are you here?’  Emmeline said.  She knew she was being rude, but she didn’t care, he was the prince of Purdy.

‘I don’t know.’

Emmeline said nothing.  But he’s here, she thought, and that’s something.   She began to open her mouth when the door banged open, slamming into the wall.  Wind came howling in and she heard Emilio cursing as he pushed against the door grunting like a bull.  Arthur scrambled up and rushed to help, he set his back against the door and they heaved, boots squeaking on the floor.   The door shut, and Emilio’s face broke into a smile, and he pumped Arthur’s hand and said his full name.  Arthur hesitated, his head twitched towards her.   And then he spoke and she saw Emilio lean in, take a step back and lean in again with an hand cupping his ear.  Arthur smiled, shrugged and nodded, Emilio planted a large hand on his shoulder, lined face splitting with the brightest smile Emmeline had ever seen.

Box of Apples.

Her father set the wooden crate of apples on the table, grabbed a new bottle of liquor, and left for the bar.  The door slammed, the smell of alcohol, sweat and grime blew through the air.  Olive wrinkled her nose and stared at the dark box dominating the room, her dirty hands rubbing the front of her shirt.  When she couldn’t hear his footsteps anymore she ran up to the table and reached out.  But  stopped, frowned, and scolded herself; the apples would remain where they were until he got back.  They had to.

Her little brother sam peeped around the corner of his room, his eyes wide.

‘You can’t.’  Olive said before Sam could open his mouth.  ‘We have to wait for father.’

Sam clambered onto a chair, the sharp scent of the fruit filling the kitchen.  Olive went behind him, putting her hands on his shoulders.

‘They taste so good.’  Olive said.   ‘He brought them from B.C, do you know where that is?  It’s on the ocean.’  Sam looked over his shoulder at his sister and said,

‘What’s ocean?’

Olive spread her arms, ‘A pool of water that goes on forever.’

‘Like the pond!’  Sam said.

‘Yeah, sort of, but bigger.’ She grabbed his hand and led him towards the door, Sam kept looking over his shoulder.

‘I want one now.’

Olive shook her head and said,

‘It’s like a game, Sam.  If we wait for father, then we get the apples.’

Sam’s stomach rumbled and he clutched his side.  Olive heard and hugged him, her own stomach churning.

‘He’ll be back soon, then we can eat.’

‘Ok.’

They went outside to the pond, and Olive told her brother to look for frogs.  He walked along the edge of the water, and she thought he waddled like a penguin, the strange birds she’d seen in pictures at school last month.  She kept glancing at the house, standing so she could see the box through the cloudy window.  Her mouth watered.

She heard a squelch and saw Sam pulling up a string of weeds, and with a hand on his tummy he began to bring them to his mouth.  She gasped and ran over.

‘No! You can’t eat those, you’ll get a sore belly.’

Sam’s eyes were wet.  Olive held back her tears and she looked again through the window at the box.  Sam whimpered.  Olive grabbed his limp hand and squeezed it.

‘We can’t, just can’t.  Here.’ she said, smoothing his hair, and she pulled out a crushed packet of crackers she’d been saving.  Sam ate, bits of crumb falling from his lips, smiling at his big sister.

Sam galloped back towards the house.

‘Stay away from the apples’ she called out.  She saw him raise a hand and disappear.  Her stomach cut at her like a knife and she saw a frog shoot out his tongue catching a fly.

‘I wish I could do that’, she said.

The awful clack of the wooden front door slamming made her look up.  She ran to the house.

In the kitchen her mother stood leaning over the table.  Her brown hair pulled back from her scalp in a tight bun, she wore a yellow blouse and long dark skirt.  She was staring at the box of apples, her mud covered boots still on.  Olive grabbed her mother’s waist and said, ‘what’s wrong, mommy?’

‘Nothing, darling.’

But Olive saw her mother’s eyes were nailed to the box, and that’s when she saw it.  Her stomach flipped.  There was a slat missing and one of the apples was gone, leaving a dark space.

‘Olly!

Olive turned, Sam had his hands behind his back.

‘What’s behind your back, Sam?’

Sam smiled and giggled, ‘you gotta guess!’

‘What’s behind your back, sammy?’  She screeched, rushing at him.

Sam stumbled as he stepped back, his pudgy face quivered.  He revealed the apple.  Olive shoved her brother.

‘I told you.  I told you.’  She said, ‘why didn’t you-’

Sam pulled out the empty cracker wrapping, Olive’s face changed, and she knocked it out of his hand. She went to the floor crying.  Sam hugged his sister.

‘Sis, why-’

The sound of uneven footsteps crunching on gravel made them all look at the door.  Olive’s put her head down.  It opened.  The familiar, awful odors of alcohol and smoke swirled in.  Leaning heavily on the frame, Olive’s father frowned at the three pairs of eyes trained on him.  He glanced at the box on the table.  Olive held her breath.  Sam gripped his grey shorts.  Her father looked at her mother, bloodshot dark eyes squinting.  She stared back, lips flat.  Coughing he brought a grimy hand to his mouth and hacked.  Bending over, he put his hands on his filthy pants and said,

‘Shit.  Damn Jimmy, he said the whiskey wouldn’t make me sick, he said that, he-’

Suddenly swaying forward like a wounded bull he stumbled into the bedroom, muttering in a low voice.  They heard a thump and then snoring.

Olive’s mother glided across the room and shut the door softly.  They looked at each other.  Sam ran to his mother and gave her the apple, she smiled and pulled a knife from drawer and began cutting.  They each got a third.