The first time I saw a winter hat on vacation
was above a row of mezcal in Palm Springs.
We were celebrating the Christmas season,
the mountains against the sunset pink sky
resting like unconcerned toads.
In the parking lot with a Parliament cigarette
hanging from your lips like a salmon
you point to the mountain, then to me.
Palm Springs seemed so temporary to me
like those old movie sets for spaghetti westerns
all storefront and moviemaking façade.
I want to be an actor. I want to pretend
fit in, eat an avocado straight from its skin
but at the bar I order a Miller Half-Life.
After Laguna Beach, the bluest water, it felt real
like Saskatchewan to me though no one agreed
and I`m glad I don’t know where I am
between these mountains like the greatest
comforters we passed as you puffed smoke
out the window of our rental, sun on your face
like a puppy.
We stopped at the Laguna giant orange
for the novelty and ended up inside the Cathedral
City 7-11 where I kissed the Pepsi you bought
from your lips, and we drove, your hand on
my thigh, through these sleepy eternal mountains.
How Vapours Form
As the torn page of morning turns itself
over, story blurred in salt air and tidal fog,
we are drawn from our shorelines. Down roads,
unnamed or overlaid by many languages; red cliff,
Megouasag, mistaken point, Florent.
Once flying mile, this open stretch of pave from forest
to ocean, grounds itself and dissembles after each melting.
Puzzle pieces swept into netted spring grass. So too our pace
slows. Hesitant at the shadow-shape of gulls, probably,
electrons in orbit of something as yet unseen. Or forgotten.
We emerge from under the wing of night, a dream
of complicated landscapes, a time before owning
or trespassing, into a dawn of stutters and erasures,
pronouns overwriting the names in our stories.
Mistakes of language.
We drink because the sun never sets or
because it never rises.
To find love, distorted by the empty bottle’s lens.
To hush the heart.
To soothe unwritten stories.
We drink the wounds of our parents
and of their parents
We drink to dull the throb of an abscessed tooth.
To stop our hands from shaking.
Because it’s happy hour.
We drink without even having to think about it,
Because it feels good
feels like regaining it.
We drink to see the sky shift above us and
feel the earth wheel beneath our feet.
We drink our youth until it’s dry and then
we drink to all the ends.
Our wins and losses—
they taste the same.
To you who would judge us, and you who would join us
and you who have already gone.
mummified me in cotton batten,
I leave softer footprints
The bloodhounds quiet,
curl up at my feet
I feel blackness
peel off the walls
And I am grateful
I stop fantasizing
running into traffic,
a swaying brown knot
My fingers begin to quake
lifting a glass—a betrayal of tremors—
a growing self-consciousness
A fear of being exposed
I wait until I have the all clear
to surreptitiously sip
But lithium salt made me water-thirsty,
a notoriously unquenchable thirst
I learn a game of misdirection:
Look please, look at anything
except the polar bear woman
encased in ice
with trembling hands
Four poems for certain half-siblings
Stylized: an American
metaphor. This Ottawa Valley lyric. Montana sunrise; where the sun
no longer rests.
This gathering of halves: three states, two cities
in a single province. Point
of light. What else
may he have wrought.
Inherited: these long, impossible eyebrows.
How the two elder trim, two
younger, less. At the center, I allow
If this is but half, one might ask:
~ for all my roommates
we roommate and switch door propped open by a woven handbag door propped open by a mirror by reservoir water cutting itself through our names
we dandelion ideas of home blow on the edges
worry-chatter on the porch we flip our bodies on all sides in sun we roommate and forget ourselves for a while
a man arrested near our windows one summer so close we hear his feet outside on grass so close
we build bikes shake winter through our hair a snowball fight that runs through the back door of time rattling laughter
we roommate and grief which is never not missing someone, it is living and missing at the same time
we open and close
sing ourselves to sleep three days in a row can’t sleep crunch chip bags together as night ritual, instead
we twenty and age curl fear up curl up against cellphone light swipe ourselves to sleep
we roommate and fall in love, too
in the dark one night most tender first kiss shy and hissing
some nights, time stretches itself under door light from our closed bedrooms, headphones as collective quiet
we unstick and pull, we chain-smoke hours
we place mixing bowls under the sink to catch leaks, peer underneath make
sure the water holds
Daylight Saving Time
The median’s up-bunched, glut-hunchy tumult
of just-ruined sod becomes—in this November dusk’s
dun sleight of bland, fading light—a grand drive-by
mistake your eyes make on behalf of your mind’s
baffled racing. A riven asphalt’s faux-littoral, cold
sideshow dead ringer, you’re all-at-once sure
that Kentucky Blue’s corkscrewed ruse-rumple
is a shift-seeming porcupine’s quilled cooling hackles
wheelwell-centrifugaled or tread-catapulted—awry
and aside—to a frizz-stolid still huddling that’s crudely
embossed across the stark, fall-ruddy hellstrip
of this tired late day, its haywired circadians and fading
endviews. That it’s just a bamboozled torn fescue,
you’ll soon come to know, though you’re now, in error,
confused—convinced this curb-common terroir’s
a legit roadside crime scene, prickly nature’s small
mercies defaced, rather rudely. Sure, with sleep’s wires
crossed, mundane dailies often appear to be what
they’re not, sit all quirkily off; inexcusably moody,
a dark mess. The trick’s to question these skewed
autumnal clockworks—your father’s cramped room,
the shit hospital WiFi and chemo-dulled food; the terminal
gloom—and to make a best guess, throw a wrench or
completely shift gears; to deny or ignore or cry over it
all; to own your fears, more or less.
We Can Have Both, But Not All
for Ashok Mathur
let’s begin with what we have
we have each other
no, all of it
we have each other
we have each other
all together now
all together now we have each other