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Daring tableaus

There was so much to write about today.

The first train. Morning full of light and coffee and promise. They a delay and a return. Full circle. A return to the beginning.

The walk back home. The quietness of a lazy Saturday shattered by a belligerent boyfriend, his voice high and shrill and sharp against the towering glass.

The streetcar ride back into the station. A small gaggle of girls giggling their way to a birthday party. Shrieking with surprise at every everydayness. Yelling out the window at a person they know. Passengers unsettled by the chorus of so many young voices.

And now, the second train. The rhythmic back and forth, the smooth and gentle sway. Dim light and the lulling mumble from the other seats. The seductive waltz clicktracking below: click-click-click, click-click-click.

So much to write about, and yet, it’s still just a series of tableaus staring back. Daring me to bring them back to life.

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.


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.



Usually she moves along the street unnoticed. Gradients of grey and ghostliness. Along the pavement, square by square, her soft-soled shoes are soundless.

You won’t hear her coming. You won’t see her going.  A murmur unheard.

But she is there. Watching the cars line up at traffic lights, curls of smoke dissolving upward into the cold air. Watching the bright-coloured bikes rush past, watching strollers roll along with fat laughing children. Watching the flicker of black-coated shoppers in and out of the coffee shop. Frame by frame.

She has her own movie planned. Sometimes all you need is a red cape.

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.


Empty road

The openness, the freedom stretches out ahead. A long and continuous plain of possibility. Go as fast as you want. Cross the centre line.

Windows rolled down, the violent rush of air smells of something you’d almost forgotten. It tastes so fresh and sharp it almost cuts your tongue.

Press your foot down to floor. Vibration rattles your arms, your finger. The hands that will write the words.

Whiter toward the winter

Whitewashed trees

Each day a little more colour drains: rich browns to beige, black to grey. It’s almost imperceptible, this trace fading. Until weeks pass and our mirrored selves blink back: weathered, lightened, dulled.


Our fallen selves paling toward winter.

Around the corner

Around the corner, up the stairs. Listen. Do you hear it? The subtle scratch, the soft scrape against cement.

He is writing, etching characters into the wall. A confession. A terrible truth. Or a lie.

Or maybe it’s code. A barely perceptible rhythm scratching out a message. Tap tap tap. Meet me in the back room. With the red wall. Come alone.

Maybe he is just trying to escape and he doesn’t even know you’re there. An unintentional voyeur. But there it is, the distinct sound. Knocking against the lock, prying metal away from stone. It’s really only a matter of time before he cracks it. Snaps it free. Gets away.

Upstairs room

There was a darkness to the upstairs room. A darkness to him. He sat indistinct in a corner of the room where one shadow dissolved into another. The scent of ashes and ancient newspapers clung to the air. But there was something else, too.

The old window, propped open by a spinecracked book and covered in filth and memory, let in more chill than light. A curl of grey smoke slipped from the dark space where his face would be, clawing its way upward against the draft, but pushed toward the back of the flat. Pressed toward forty-year-old wallpaper and cracked knickknacks. Summoned toward that door.

His voice, gravelled and grave, “I wouldn’t open that, if I were you.”

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