by Gillian Jerome
To the hills and the mountains under sky
I'm so sorry I hurt you. It's a fresh breeze
they call the rainy season and I've my head
for too long under light. There are the salmon
when you really need them. When the elm
has a question it bows its earnest brain
for the duration of a minute. So ocean,
so rusted out from its original intention---
Soft intermezzo of upside-down kissing;
time moors, expands...
a sudden start
private histories slip beneath. Can you hear
the ping! of loneliness. Poor zoo animals.
Poor human spectators. People look blue
behind store windows. (Here is the sign:
the somewhere, the water falling in a line.
I watch a woman feeding peanuts to her dog.)
Awkwardly, swimmingly, we make way
through the streets of stoned ideographs
bowls of pennies lined up along the curb.
Too soon the sky, too soon darkness &
kites meant for dreaming push us past.
It is you I'm taught to lose
again & again in the rain spray.
The ravens peck at the bus window
& we question the litany of city traffic
what's after the end of faith, the ass-end
of aftermath. Can you feel me flying as you did
one chilly autumn buried in piles of sirens...
Count with me the curved curbs backward.
This paper plane, this mosquito net.
When you entered there was effervescence,
I forgot---the edge of your face like a butterfly--
to say what I wanted, so instead I found
a bed of red leaves to walk in. You see
the animal chooses a simile, something natural.
Could you touch the curve of my tenses
under that faulty light on Patricia's porch?
This place said, what I first said, I don't know.
Traffic lights the tracks & the wrought iron.
What if we'd had Vancouver in another decade
& decisions made of pearls? All the tenderness,
its landscapes: lichens, ocean, a slender form,
the focus out of self portraits...
For lunch by the ocean we eat pasta,
you turn expectantly toward
a couple walking their poodle-
At the beginning, remember, we painted the kitchen blue
so the neighbours would leave us.
Do you hear him? The Italian soprano
and his canteloupes. You could be taken
to ice cream stores, to coyotes. Policemen
came next door, and now can I say what I saw?
I wonder why we love at all. I wonder why
the trees are taking their clothes off.
It's a part of the city you know well,
the cop raids, your impressario:
hulled faces in the glow of Hastings
backstreets lit up by the teeth.
You hold a page in your hand
full of nouns & formal energy.
This is what the language thought
of you, its pulse under plastic stars.
Sexy in the City & a Sing Tao beer keeps my ears
awake. At Wong Kee's for sweet & sour soup
Candace Bushnell's face is made of pixels:
Candace the Bush, Candace the Daffodil
argues the one true death is poetry.
The poet sitting beside her doesn't gesticulate
agressively, though he wants to. She pays the bill.
Every season is wet on West Pender. Your office
where the fairies play chess in a vault.
In the back room mould grows
into a mattress with flashy thoughts. Desire's red suit
& boots with tassles...It's the city,
it's midnight and somewhere a cell
is a cell with a mind of its own. Time warp
and proliferation. Turn here, toward me.
In this cold country, a town of mountains
& high-density traffic: the ski lifts,
the eastside precincts with speaker phones.
Are you a new dialect or a photograph of a busy
city centre? Entertainment by the box office
is free for long time residents and Friends
of the Foundation. I hold my hand out for a hot dog,
a municipal project, a 62-ounce cup of Coke.
We stay up all night at The Sylvia
watching re-runs of Russian war films--
I've always adored your idea of romance.
Take my temperature, quick.
You order in and the room smells of lemon again,
of beginning, all the towels and charms. Outside,
the troops imagine "Mary Ann", they think of "Budweiser",
Our dreams are eggs, our legs wrapped in rebar.
Slivers of the same women walking past
drawn up by a mechanical claw from gravel
text underground, under muzzle.
That the body is responsible for actions
we share with brutes. On the other side
of the city a row of bellies plump
with dreams of chocolate stars
& boyfriends in blue suits.
The baby is blinking at us from the traffic light---
o, the world alive with remembered phrases...
"Nothing will change," says a big tongue in the gong
of denial, but you said it over & over. (How do I
make him shut up?) The body, a fish tank,
the brain flailing in the wave of monsoon,
umbilical, cervical--look, there---
a 100-watt light bulb in the snow.
These days I say "desert" these days
I say "depleted uranium" and in every news box
a special offer for a new pen.
"O, private citizen,"
Daycares sleep from noon to three...
In the centre of town some palm trees,
a people play college on the front lawn.
There is a story & a dream, it's wearing
a very revealing t-shirt.
In Meinhardt's by the deli counter
Goldie Hawn is ordering potato salad.
Nobody does anything. This is Vancouver
& the plush blue seats on buses.
It's Friday, the man in line behind me
buys sunflowers & Chardonnay.
I go home toward a bedroom floor
made messy by paper dresses.
This is the green tea ice cream, this is what I'd do
for a pound of rain and raw fish.
"Go sleepy" I say to a tender blonde head
to toes, to small handprints on the glass.
Here we have missiles. Here we have "real life"
and here we have Alice in Wonderland---
down a long hole she goes as big as a tulip.
You and I & the blood in her cuticles.
Water molecules lift like balloons
through buttons, through every cell
of the body and the UBC gardens...like hydrangeas, like the brains
Can you be here in the velvet, in the gone
& elated, for it is true that blue angels lick the threads
of our loveliness into a very special shape.
A soft date is a way to pass a message mouth
to mouth. More supple than resuscitation.
So many days we say goodbye
out the window of a Toyota
at the doors of airports, in separate cities
in the dark. What does it say of those who choose
a shape to stay close to... Here in the storm
beetles bounce from the glass doors
I'm startled by the sound of keys.
In the black box of a night in Vancouver
a bathtub and a nude reclining.
You've made a mural of tea lights and
somewhere someone's sipping gin.
A head is lifted to remember how long
a goodbye is, how hard a syllable
partially buried wants to be heard.
A car turns into the alley by surprise.
You'll be hearing from Gillian