Category: poems

Time shifting

He drinks beer until the sun pulls
its heavy head up out of the still lake,
a drunken pink arc under the dissolving stars.
This first sunrise in a decade.

Unpeeled from his wrist, the watch sinks
into the charcoal water, turns over
in hesitant descent; the mooned face
blinks up in downward sift to rocks and sand.

Unmourned.

On the deck, legs pointed lakeward
arms spread backward, he becomes a marker
for shadows: light measuring
the warm progression of morning.

As the moments shift soundlessly
over his skin, a full flex of breath
pushes yesterday down his throat:
it tastes of something sweeter than time.


When the desert light strikes

The light is what stays with you,
an unearthly brightness that slams
eyelids shut with hot ferocity.
Leaves a fiery burn-in that lingers,
dissolves to pale yellow, turns black.

But your eyes are quickly seduced to see;
the light coaxes them open, squint by squint,
to an eye-slitting brilliance: white-hot
and smarting. But you have to keep looking

And when the balance shifts,
when your pinprick pupils widen
the unfocused shapes become familiar:
shrubs and mountains and the road ahead.

But they are not familiar at all:
Sand shifts into hundreds of shades
of pink and grey and brown. The highway
ripples and glints like a silver river.
And there has never been a clearer sky:
depthless and infinite and warm.

Song in the wall

When the house is this quiet
the music exhales: slides out
from beneath the baseboards,
whispers from behind the walls.
Breathy and muffled at first. Then,
distinct plinks, the tentative notes
that softly swell into lines.
Can you hear it?
This faint and simple melody,
this plainsong paints the walls.
Voices sombre but in unison.
Plaintive, but hopeful.

House breaking

The sickly crunch of the digger’s metal teeth
Tearing into it. Jaws unhinged, incisors pierce
the sagging skin and rip downward through
weakened bone: the shy skeleton of our house.
The vicious series of snaps
are the loudest sounds we’ve heard.

And the teeth keep working; cruelly chew
through doors and curtains, pipes and passages.
Spit them out into a pile of twisted innards
for buyers and scavengers and graverobbers.

It wasn’t when the chimney crumbled
into red dust that settled on our tongues,
and it wasn’t when the porch shuddered
before its quiet, swift collapse. It was
when we saw that flash of purple — a strip
of the wallpaper that we pasted to the nursery
wall two weeks before she was born —
it was then that the house broke.

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#15: When crows are not ravens

The large black-winged birds
behind the brewery have a secret
they want to share, yet guard it
with the ferocity of Poe.
But these dark creatures are more
verbose than his dark visitor;
these birds, leaping from flimsy birch branches,
squawk rapid-fire in single syllables.
Taunting, taunting, daring

And curious listeners stop, look up —
seduced by the complex cacophony of cackles.
Birds or madmen?
Some pretend to know the answers, to decipher
truths in the discordant avian chatter.
But the birds, as always, know better:
luring with small bright clues, but
never sharing enough to solve the riddle.

#11: Lighter

Waiting in the darkness,
waiting for the flick of the switch.
Wondering when the light will come.

The heaviness shifts: a breath-clenching
weight that moves from muscle to muscle.
Fluid but unrelenting, pressing
against the contours of flesh and bone.

Then the light: eye-slitting and brilliant.
Bright as a revelation.
And after a moment it fades,
dissolving the darkness.
Heaviness lifted.

And everything becomes lighter.

#8: Kerouac lost

Looking for Kerouac

From the 29th floor the city flickers
a glimmering expanse of light and movement:
fluid ribbons of cars, taillights warm with red glow,
glass towers pass bright sweeps of colour
from pane to pane. Neon and dancing.

This is not Kerouac’s city — this glittering gem,
this light-washed spectacle of clean and reflection.
Constant and shining, opaque veneer of newness.
There is no sooty shadow, no soiled alleyways.

Where are his dirty corridors? The crimson
confessions pooled in shadows, bottles and breath
soured from marathons of words and raging.
The filth and fury and beautiful darkness?
Where are the broken bedsprings, the broken souls?

Gone. In this new and unbroken city bleached by light.
All darkness and dirtiness purified. Exorcized.