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
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
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.
The conductor’s arms