Bedroom

I wouldn’t so much mind if

this room were a world: there’s

enough sunlight to feed the plants and

plenty of rain to sustain me and

the door only closes to, allowing inside

the snores of my housemate, the mewl

of a cat, all the while I move from one

continent to the next, (chair, bookcase,

fireplace, desk) content to remain

just this way

until someone rings a doorbell

I refuse to answer…

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Forest Unknown

I am most proud of who I used to be

and never more scared of who I am

becoming—all I can offer my past or

my future is disbelief, the promise

of pretty trees, and a love that skims

the surface only for fear of what lies

beneath

but the roots are strong, there is hope

of streams and cold mornings, a place

where the breeze finally touches the trees

and proves me wrong

where I will hear the wind change and

smile for it, cutting my hand on a severed

branch, a bloodletting, a scar

altering my path

Home

“I was young. All old men are young—they are seven, and twenty-three, and seventy-eight all at once. Standing at the peak of that hill, I was ten. Double digits were new to me, and I was wearing them in like new sneakers.

‘Yew!’

I took off, soaring past my friends still struggling their way to the top. They would have watched me as I passed, feeling the whoosh of the air as I went, my calls becoming distant as I disappeared into the tree line. They would have remembered how that stream of cool air feels on a shiny face and pushed forward, knowing the climb would be worth it.

‘Yew!’ I yelled, so my friends nearing the top of the hill could hear me.

A seagull had perched on the bow of Captain’s dinghy to watch him eat his breakfast. It was early morning on International Waters, and the Great Garbage Patch swayed as the town slept. The houses had been salvaged from the mess left over, from tarp and tin, and they moved with the wind and the currents. Storm clouds sat on the flat line of the horizon, waiting.

Captain sat in his ship, a carved-out stream twisting through the mess ahead of him. They used the stream for transport between towns, because now there were towns—dozens and dozens of them spread across the sea. Some he could see, and others he didn’t want to see. The morning mist covered them all, sometimes hanging around until late afternoon, when neighbours turned into strangers, and the children started to cough.

The seagull on the bow squawked.

“Cap!” a boy yelled from a nearby house. It was Opa. Captain waved in the boy’s direction but didn’t break eye contact with the bird.  The gull’s eyes were round and yellow, with pinpricks of black at the centre. It closed them in a flash, unaware of the game. Captain only chuckled, handing it the last corner of his sandwich.

“Cap!”

Opa clambered to a stop beside the boat, and when he noticed the small seagull perched at the end of the ship he bent down to pet it. The bird clamped down on the bread in its red beak, its head dipping under the boys touch.

“My parents need more samples of the water today, Captain.”

“To save the world?”

“Yessir.”

The boy stood to attention. He was a scrawny kid with shaggy hair, prominent ears, and a brown face scattered with sun-born freckles splayed like wings over his nose and cheeks. He stood straight as a poll until Captain nodded, and he relaxed into his usual slump. He scooped the seagull into his arms so that its yellow feet dangled out from under his elbow. The bird was perturbed but not particularly surprised.

Opa caught sight of something and froze.

A group of kids was approaching. Ruth, with her frayed pigtails, was at the head of it. The others swarmed behind her like little birds in a V formation, all in the same weathered and mismatched clothing. Opa threw the seagull from his arms and it flapped in a panic, landing behind Captain, puffed up to double its size.

“Oi,” Ruth yelped. She stopped in front of Opa and the others followed her lead, their skinny arms crossed over their chests, their noses in the air.

“You aren’t supposed to touch the birds,” she said.

“Yeah,” said a boy at the back.

“Yeah,” said the girl flanking her right.

“They’re diseased,” Ruth said.

“Yeah.”

“Yeah. They’re gross.”

“Shush Ellen,” Ruth said. She turned to Opa. “They aren’t pets.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“They sure act like ‘em,” Opa said.

Captain smiled.

“Hey!” Ruth barked, her cheeks red. Opa shrunk behind her, cautious of getting caught in the crossfire. She looked down her nose at Captain until he frowned.

“Are you ready?”

He nodded, and with a wave of Ruth’s hand they moved into action, swarming around the ship.

“Ready?” Ruth said.

“Ready.” Opa said.

They felt for their footing in the rubbish. The stream was narrow and difficult to navigate because the waves didn’t always agree with the path the towns had made. It was too neat, and the ocean wanted chaos. So, as a well-wish and a routine, it had become tradition to launch Captain on his voyage. In the beginning it was about exploration, because a home never felt like a home until he had found its hideaways, its nooks and crannies, the spaces that made it a worthwhile place to be. Now it was about being in motion, and collecting whatever he could salvage, because sitting still made him older.

The kids shouted as they made their way downstream.

“How’s it down there, Cap?”

“Ellen, keep up!”

It was the towns wake up call. Parents poked their heads through windows, bed hair drifting in the cool morning breeze.

He didn’t look back as the boat picked up speed. He looked to the sun. When they let him go, the kids cupped their hands over their eyes, but he was just an outline: an old man and his boat. So then they scooped their hands around their mouths and hollered.

“Don’t forget the water,” Opa called out.

“To save the world,” Captain said to himself, saluting the sun.

Continue reading “Home”

sit alone and watch your light

falling asleep, thinking of how the world slipped through

my fingers—how I was unable to hold it tight to my chest

the way I’ve been practising this night and every night

spent curled tight until my knees are so close to my nose

so close they might just touch when I cringe, thinking of the

failures and embarrassments that I now have to carry with me

when I walk out into the world and when I close my eyes.

and I do this instinctively until one day I try to recall something

different before I rest—different, private, a memory shy of the world

but booming: dancing to Queen knowing the downstairs neighbours

aren’t home, making a ruckus to the voice of Freddie Mercury, and

it’s a calamity, this memory I’m making and remaking in my bed

the kindest of things I subject myself to…

 

My Own

Folding myself into the covers after too many hours

awake, sighing, creaking, sinking into the springs of my double

—sometimes single bed, stiff from my six-month absence, dusty

from the still air—wrapping up in worse-for-wear sheets: I’ve been here before

and my body knows just how to curl to miss the wire in the middle

of the mattress, placed especially to dig into my back, to protect

me from complacency in my teenage bedroom, where memories hide

in closets and under beds, and where bad, sad feelings stow away

in untrustworthy sets of draws with nothing more than a thumb-sized lock

for safety, to later be pried open with a mangled bobbie pin and luck

which arrives a decade too late through the open window, with the breeze

Anything Can Be

all my tarot readings are ending in hope:

self-performed to mundanity, as if brushing my teeth

or blowing out the night’s candle so as not to burn down the house

where do I go, what do I beg for, when will I have survived

hope comes in the form of The Star, number 17, telling me

YOU ARE READY TO MOVE FORWARD

reading my mind WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?

and comforting me  ANYWHERE AT ALL I try my best

not to nudge my fate out of formation

 

do I have hope, or do I need it, or will I need it, and when—

is this something I possess, or a thing to search for, and where

—some people trust the universe but others are wary

and I feel as far from you as you do from me

 

all my conversations lead to the same full stops

so I lay out these cards, searching for a change

in myself and in the world, to wring something different out of both

twisting a wet flannel until it drips over a porcelain bath, until

there’s no need to manipulate an answer WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?

to arc up, just-to-make-sure WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?

because the answer ANYWHERE AT ALL leaves me questionless

and for tonight I’m too scared of the dark to ask another