NPM #2 (Seniority)

My desk plant’s condition deteriorated quickly.
The cleaners sealed the bag to suffocate it.
I made them do it. They had no say.

I forgot the funny name I gave it,
forgot what the horticulturalist
printed on the receipt in red.

I wish the cleaners give us names. Animate us
based on our messes, our draft deliverables,
and how much light we each receive.

They may curse me & my pepper packets
for moving in an office once adorned
with crayon and craft paper

but she was let go. I had no say.
I’ve come to love the view,
albeit too bright.

Before the copycats [An incomplete poem]

Little Jew on my lap, I know Canada’s old Jew of letters
certainly did worse than hypnotize his sitter to undress.
Still, I will sing his verses and praise him
as an ancestor.

Little Jew on my lap, I do not know if it is worse
if the rabbi in the news vandalized her own home
or if some genuine Nazi did. The propagandists
offer apostates absolution.

Little Jew on my lap, do you know what it means
to be a Jewish in Canada in 2016? I assumed
we were immune from future culls.

Little Jew, us big Jews
do not know what to do.
Learn to speak, please, soon.

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 now

The shelter newsletter’s poetry corner contains poems no reputable journal will publish. I read poems for a reputable journal and regularly reinforce this, rejecting honest and unoriginal suffering as uninteresting. What’s less inspired than tomorrow’s promise? What could be more cliché than deciding to listen? Who concludes a lyric, “I love you,” and expects an honorarium?

~

This winter fire struck the Cornerstone Shelter in Ottawa. If you can afford it, please give a little. They maintain four residences in the city, providing support for more than 400 women every year.