ditch,

the poetry that matters

Chris Hutchinson 

Chris Hutchinson moved from Vancouver, BC to Tempe, AZ where he teaches Creative Writing at Arizona State University. Over the years his poems have appeared in most of the major Canadian literary journals, and also in the anthology Breathing Fire 2: Canada’s New Poets. He is  the author of the full-length collection Unfamiliar Weather (Muses’ Company, 2005). His second book of poetry, Other People’s Lives is forthcoming from Brick Books in 2009.

 

AS IT WAS

The city was a beautiful day.
Out on the grid, the open grid, vehicles
multiplied a certain domestic resonance.
Signs stopped. Whatever it was they were
thinking moved us: Sleepers like smoke risen
from the lips of the jackhammer squads.
You’d soon surrender the institutions, whereas
I’d pick out conspirators the way the sun
highlights the creases and nipples of cellophane—
but not before we had levitated beyond the merely
quixotic realms of impulse, flesh the texture
of the detachment of swans. Like lovers held
in abeyance, caught out on the boulevard
as literally as it began to rain cats and dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

CAPTAIN NEMO’S THEME PARK

 

Below the surface, a quick

selfless transmission from the beloved

instead of the underwater observatory

our invention further provides for—

 

resting awhile, the air-conditioning

too much to worry about to bother with,

a sterile hand to hold us here,

flatten our senses into sentences:

 

the lies we want to be

told, all without ever touching—

tentacled devices undulating

behind glass—

 

The shallows, the deep:

each a consequence of each,

and having a ceiling with an opening

through which the gallery is accessible,

 

our bodies acting as ballast.

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD LIFE: COLLEGE TOWN

 

He lived among animals who had no concept of despair:

black and white cat and chihuahua-mutt,

two electrons buzzing an invariable centre.

 

His station in the human, terrestrial plane lending

a flawed sense of continuity to every

pock-marked ceiling at first light.

 

Troubles like hard-boiled eggs

pealed by cerebral-quick fingers bounced

on the kitchen floor the happy dog

 

scavenged from. While the cat, sublimely

disenchanted, with a whip of her tail

dissolved the blue static, the cold fuzz

 

of bygone acquaintances, yesterday’s,

provincial news. Outside it was a lovely day,

threatening no one. So he would move

 

into the spaces made from others’ movements

and join with birds breathing through open beaks,

the carnivorous flies and a summer pox

 

of beggar children, their ragged constellation,

limbs and souls warped and disfigured

from the recent beautifications.

 

 

 

 

 

VERONICA LAKE: PURGATORY

 

After months of nights of hiding

she finds a way, threads the maze

of a room inverted, light bulbs rising

from their cords like long-stemmed daisies.

 

Lit by the white-hot filaments

she cannot touch for fear of being burned,

Montreal evaporates. How spent

she is, too hurt to sleep, eyes covered

 

with moth-dust, gulping air

so her mouth appears to be singing—

another sometime denizen of rue Montclair?

Or say she arrives at the beginning

 

to traverse the western meadowlands 

that drink the dying rivers, or drink sand.

 

 

 

 

 

SUNDAY: NOON: USA

 

After peeling the decals from your bike

and adhering them to your forehead, you wheel

into the parade.

 

Sometimes it’s better to be acknowledged

for whatever reason—at the grocery store

a child screams herself into existence

beneath a stand of lifestyle magazines.

 

Spectators superlative as hoodoos

breathing in the powdery smell of light

while the floats descend like cards

dealt from the Major Arcana. 

 

Somewhere else a man holds a lighter

so that the flame licks around the rim

then presses the searing metal

to his forearm like a syringe.

 

Pain unbuckles its belt

and its corpulence spills out in waves.

 

Soon, the man wears sleeves

of inflamed and weeping eyes no one seems

to notice—although he is aware how easier it is

to feign indifference than to stare.

 

Grey and white patterns breaking

like glass along the boulevards shift

the gears of your attention—

 

Faces in a crowd:

 

Each requiring an emotion,

a fleshier, more conspicuous vehicle

to transport them to the city’s other shore.

 

Now the child holds her breath, eyes and fists

clenched tight, seeking herself in every rustle

of concern, each gesture her mother

makes towards her—

 

 

 

 

THE MUSICOLOGIST

The conductor’s arms
like a child’s untied shoelaces
swing in step with the cadence
of his performance. While the pianist
who walks a corridor sounding
of wing beats on water—he moves
with a frailty that radiates outwards
as a single string is plucked
from a concert harp. For an instant,
will the audience perceive the harpist
as separate from her instrument,
and the fading note, a third entity, temporal
yet forever set within the history of song?
No, says a silence so imperious it may
soon create a need for insurgent forms
of art. Which is why
the musicologist
lies awake at night, unravelling
the scores
of other people’s lives, why he stands
alone each day outside the monolithic
auditorium, not to listen—as if
just waiting for someone
who never arrives.

 

  

 

 

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