Book

I lost my book. It’s got the names in it.
Names for things and goods; structures,
Types, boundaries, procedures, goads.
My girl is in it, she who carried it
Within her like a rare worm until 

The untended bird came and tore its
Leaves from her, as she lay there,
Pencil pressing page,

Taking all down.
Then the vast storehouses came down too,
And the small secret ones, the

Shelves and grappling hooks,
Dust, ink, lead, linen, ragged board.

It’s time to go home and wash up.
Home was in the book in my possession
When I was reading what had been put down
In her hand and mine,
Instructions, inventories
Names.
But I can’t read this while looking at words
While I am assigned to living
In what is called a home.
It is all unkept.
Its yard has turned back to heat-giving
Snail-like deposits drowning in daylight
By the mossed-over fence post.
Hard to say it but we lived here once,
I did with the one who went away.
She took words down for all the names,
Made markings.
That book is lost, reader,
Not misplaced. 









                  Logger

What would you call this phase?
I call it the new far shore.
But we have called it that before and calling
It changed what, not its orbit,
Not its cold hard distant face turning away.
We weren’t there, in its dunes,
Among its metallic wind-wrecked stalks,
In its fucking moonglow. We only said so.
We were anxious to drown in it, for who were we
To choose our name for inundation?
It would seem some antique pulled-apart masonry
Has washed up while we were turned, I tell you
In the falling light of what remains to say
We would seem to have been transported
Inland to the stoneworks
Where you once worked picking and hauling.

- That was another phase
The heavy carts
Came through, the pipe-layers, road diggers,
Harried explosive-bearing beasts, truckloads of
Transport of substance.
What phase was that?
What would we call it?
You called it the works
My child, for you had not learned yet that all
Work was worldly illusion. 








Market

Money changed hands. It’s how we came to be
Came to be planted here in the mortar
In the miniature cash forest
Aster greenwood ficus hemlock

Taproot stipe calyx anther in the
Mortal hereafter
Hearing hands making money change.


Speak up. I can’t hear you.
There’s something wrong with your voice. Y
ou’re speaking too fast. Slow up.
Speak into the currency.
It wants to bone you. It wants to receive
Your warmth in its coffers.
Listen up. I’ve a fee to see to
A toll-man a drawbridge. Open up.
Close up. You have a cross bite
In your crown, palate-ax.
Bite down. Bite my ball
Bearing interest.


I’m a businessman. I own a plant.
I bid for it, bought it, soiled it, drowned it,
Tilled it, scolded it, heaved into it, stole from it,
Wept unto it
A token in its behalf, suffered a stem
To rise in it,
To market, to market
In my dirty jump suit
Worthlessness. 







Multitudes

I’m up there. I’m in the dozens.
I’m in the handfuls, full
of touch as no one touches
me in my state. Yet you are that person, that
creation. I would have made you myself


but I can’t make, I can’t (these days) make
myself turn over in my blanket in the hot grass.
There are ants on one side of me, multitudes
and my juice cup is on the other side
and my straw is all chewed in my teeth.
The soil, close up, is dried up. Everything is in it,
seed, stone, skeleton, mole, worm, potshard, everything
except the few things that climbed from it
one April. I made a boy that way,
one April, and what is he now.
Really, in real words,
I don’t know what he is,
I would have to be told to know my flesh and then
I would have to be told again and later reminded and retold
until you, my speaker, lost count.
I would love to say this to you in words
out of love but I can’t do that, even, I mean actually
I can’t say this. I can only put this here
for you to find when you come from
the ground to touch me, love,
you and your strange
stringed instrument. 









Procession

From a corner of my bedroom window I could make out
plainly the traffic rising out of the lake and making
its way north towards me up Bathurst Street, first a heavy
black unbroken line of it, and then - as the sun spun out
of the puzzling clouds and sent down its spray -

a jittery lurching tread of grays and yellowed purples, a
vision of squat buses leaning to one side, idling dumpsters,
low-slung open-backed delivery vans lit with graffiti,
flatbeds, excavators, mixers, graders, scrapers,
and tucked among them the nearly buried shadows
of passenger cars, their windshields whitened with noon,
impossible to see into the glare, and there were motorcycles
careering in and around and alongside in looping chrome,
and even some hulking old steel bicycles cloaked in gold
reflective tape, and the fluttering star-shaped outlines of men or boys
straining to push grocery carts - dollies - faltering wooden barrows
heaped with blackened bits of steel, and plastic tubing secured
by lengths of hacked rubber, and what looked to be
farm refuse, sheathes of straw and yellowed leaves
bundled hastily, and braided into the traffic’s deeper recesses
was an awkward horde of walkers, shouldering duffels
or old canvas packs, or even pillow cases weighted
down with whatever necessities, or bearing nothing at all, proceeding
haltingly in smudgy little blots, leaning on the hatches
of slow-moving trucks and pulling against door handles
or making a futile grab to flag down vehicles that
seemed almost to drive through them without stopping,
and beyond the packs of walkers there were those who walked alone,
too numerous to track, and each one’s eyes were fixed to the ground
measuring their strides, as now and then they knelt to pry something
from the heel of their boots, a nub of rocky glass or a nail that pierced
through almost to the flesh, and some walkers
moved crookedly in mismatched shoes, feet
inward-turned, the toes of one foot curled in
and reddened with blisters, and some walkers

had lengths of board tied to their feet with twine, bits
of plank or stripped pine scavenged from barns,
remnants of floorboard or vinyl tile, and the feet
of others were wrapped in bolts of cloth, torn-down
drapes, old rough patchwork skirts, hand towels, t-shirts, even
thin stretched-out socks sewn raggedly together to form a new one,
and some were swaddled in cardboard or newsprint

and many walkers were plainly barefoot and tottered
stiffly on their sores. This I watched, caravan
approaching as a single brilliant being in all its spattered pieces
spread beneath the now arrested sun, harshly clear

like a bleached overexposed photo or x-ray,
and it labored forth in a sluggish swell, compressing then
flattening out and swelling again, narrowly pinched
at one point and flaring elsewhere, threatening
to disperse then re-forming as a strictly drawn
geometric wedge, insect-like, and as it got closer to me
the lake behind it dried up and was cut from the frame,
and the tremor which I had taken for something in my own body
became a steadier stauncher humming underfoot,
and then a harsh unsteady pulse, and the few
trees on the lawn beneath me heaved and swayed
as a long crooked branch was sheared off one and stunned the ground.
I stood in my seventh-floor window taking in what I could
of the sequence, I gathered the surge would close in on me
as I looked on, would reach me where I stood
and I would be called to join it as I had once been called long ago
unready for it then and no more so now.
The front edge of the column came to a crossroads
a few blocks from me and suddenly halted, confused,
seemingly repelled, turning on itself in place then seeping sideways
like a pair of unfurling wings east and west along Eglinton Avenue
past the grocer and druggist and auto body shop and rail depot in
one direction, past the academy and playing fields and bank
and medical offices in the other, and as it came over me
that the mass was spilling away from me
of course I nearly collapsed with relief
tinted somehow with disappointment. Still I watched

the line fanning out and as it thinned to the edges
of nonexistence I made out, finally, you and the boy
in the intersection, hesitant, bewildered, only the two
of you continued to inch towards me up Bathurst,
you were grasping the boy’s hand, he was limping, your hair
had grown long and tangled, the boy had a gash
on his arm or perhaps - I was seized by the thought - his arm is
missing, or some fingers on his left hand are,
and as I sat against the cold windowsill and waited
for you to mount the elevator or the fire stairs -
if the boy was too fearful of the elevator
it would take some time to get up to me -
I could hear the dim echo of your steps in the stairwell
over the cigarette butts and smoke-scarred empties,
and I hoped the vagrants who often sheltered there
bartering junk and scrapping for food or needles
would move aside for you, that your strength
would hold out even if you carried the boy
the last few flights, until you turned down the hall and
the shuttered door of my unit, number 704,
would be pried open and a wind would gust into
my rooms as you and the boy crossed
over and called out for me.
I turned. I set my eyes on you and the boy.
You were more beautiful than I recalled, the pair of you.
You called out for me again, in your two voices,
you kept calling. I had my eyes directly on you.
I couldn’t move towards you as you know
nor could I use sound to answer you.
You kept calling. You moved past me
like a form of straining light yet still you failed
to locate me in the pantry or hardware closet or
in the room where the crates of clothes and scribbled-on
papers had been piled or behind the cabinet
or lying in the bath with my face in filmy water.
And as you slowed down your search
room to room and no longer returned to
the ones you found vacant and gave in and finally

lowered yourself into my chair
you were joined by the boy, half on your lap,
you seemed unworried by my absence,
you and the boy, the pair of you,
it was time for your rest,
and no more worried was I,
for I had no more business in this life.







 


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