This poem again

Some ask how could we bring a babe into this time
when the North Pole’s a puddle in the dark
but I ask: what will you do with your cat?

The indoor toms and queens; shall they be released?
When the splash pad’s parched and the fountain’s stripped
will you spend a ration for your familiar, or

shall you calculate their age, deem them roughly adult
and set them free? No, I know you like I know me.
We need to make eyes with someone helpless we can help.

~

The prompt was cats. We have two cats. Our neighbours have two cats. My sister and her husband, three doors down, have a cat. Ours will be the coziest settlement amidst the fallout.

The Ends of Civilization

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It is a slash year. The crews saw west
grimacing the border. By Oregon/BC, the Vermont/
Quebec gap chews sapling. How many thousand miles
or kilometres back did we last crack
“Coast Guard Moses got it made.”

It is the election year, the one we learned
the atomic weight of words, figured how many
could carry a razor. The Earth’s longest border
its largest, most harmless scar.
Every six years, no one speaks of

the crew threading coast, from Maine/Nova Scotia
camp-stove and credit card fully-fueled.
From just high enough, ants chisel away forest.
A crawling sensation. Handmade imperfection. Law.

***

For National Novel Writing Month, I’m writing a poem a day. They may wind up with a overarching narrative, they may not. I’m receiving daily prompts from my partner, and new poems should be published the day after they are written. The prompt for today’s poem was the Slash, the 20-foot-wide gap in the treeline demarcating the Canada-US border.

Photo Source: Vermont Seven Days

Civilization: Single Player Setup

 

I’ve been trying to up my people’s happiness.

The central tenet of our faith: water is good.

Ottawa is hash-tagged with rivers and canals;

today, we should be ecstatic to be alive.

 

One suicidal friend fled west, says

he is shamed by dignitaries. The downtown

BIA shuts down a t-shirt giveaway;

you must ask for the right to be generous.

 

Another suicidal friend ripens in subsidy.

She repays charity with other charity,

literally. She dreams of renewal;

to be made useful in the arrow of ex-pats

 

teaching English in the East. A third friend,

also suicidal, once East, appears automated.

From above he appears to be in perpetuity

finishing a painting, thick with better edits.

 

More friends, maybe also suicidal, pen odes

to their prescriptions, fatten with baggage.

I feel each draws on my productivity, heathers

my vision of a hundred percent self.

 

These are not my stories to tell but I am in them.

The rural legislator describes the defense

he pit against his arsonist son-in-law. His daughter

condemns what Hansard cannot deny;

 

it was not his story to tell. My friends

once saw themselves in my words for myself,

my baggy self-portrait. I am sorry

for saying nothing so long, and now so much.

 

My advisor has no answers. She assigns icons.

When I will not share she presents me a red shield.

To my common cloth she has affixed a purple medal.

But I do not know if the gold diamond or blue vial is better.

 

I have never been assigned a plain, smiling face.

The eye is winked or the tongue is stuck. Maybe

the Pac-Man’s cheek is blushed, but it is never

a plain, smiling face. I am sick with nuance.

 

This is my story but I am not in it.

This baggy caricature slips off my motion.

In three-hundred words, a stranger insists

Robin Williams did not die from suicide;

 

he died from depression. No one dies

from suicide, the stranger insists. This

they insist is requisite to development,

to people who live so long they stack.

 

I’ve been trying to up my people’s happiness

posturing as a provider of day-dates and texts.

My advisor has no answers. She identifies

my greatest share of costs is personnel.

 

I close my window, lift my red shield.

The sky is off-white with water, rain today

or snow tomorrow—either way the city wet.

I ask someone to chill, but fuck if they forget.

 

For them

civilization2

In/Words Magazine founding editor & mentor Collett Tracy told me recently I oughta give voice to the voiceless. My contemporary contempt for the appropriation of suffering riled, but she & more recent events have swayed me that there’s a way to do this right. Right?

 

For them

Playing Civilization for the umpteenth, behind in happiness and faith

feel a little woke. Within those simulated states, virtual folk

virtually content and lockstep in their random creeds. IRL

I am a mosaic chip in someone else’s argument

about the West or Canada, or anyone

who isn’t them, anyone

who doesn’t know

how hard it is.