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.

 

Only one in 10 eligible fathers was claiming parental leave benefits through Employment Insurance

 

The man and woman next to me are done picking at their fries.

The woman has an exposed knee and the man has long hair

(like me).

 

I order a burger and fries, excited by this rare chance to dine alone.

The sexy couple get up in their coats and go psst, psst, psst.

A weed breeze is let in.

 

I am entitled to all the ginger ale I want so long as I never leave

for any reason other than to smoke. All I have to do is ask for more.

The waiter has a cord.

 

My burger and fries come and both are good. A friend out west

texts to say I would be proud of him because he is pushing buttons

at the federal NDP convention in Edmonton.

 

As a white, Jewish, able-bodied, cis-gendered, middle-class man,

I often feel like the character bit by a zombie screaming

SHOOT ME.

 

I am picking at my fries, but my waiter will not ask, “Are you done,

or are you still picking?” I will have put everything on my plate

in a way I read you should.

Mature

 

The immortal jellyfish becomes a baby,

literally starts over whenever threatened.

 

Now you know, don’t you want to be one?

This is a normal feeling, to be jealous of a baby.

 

Historically when we hurt we could forget

our cruel words. Increasingly more is recorded.

 

When I message him to breach a long quiet

nothing’s gone. We literally pick up where left off.

Auto

 

Auto-complete commits to my mistakes

(my mom becomes a mountain). One minute’s

effort on the internet fails to explain

how white words were etched

into old photographs. I’ve no third thing.

 

Reading this to myself I convince myself

this is poetry (I have a lilt). Having misread

a text from a friend about another friend

and how things went, I lost it—yowling in

the basement about commitment

 

I assumed the worst. I ignore my mother

and she has to text my wife. There are photos

of my son’s namesake’s wedding and I

made no comment to date. What now?

Rush to do better? Yah, I guess so.

 

I open Facebook again with empty hope.

 

~

 

Props to jesslyn “we can’t see if the foundation is cracked” delia for getting me all parenthetical. She too is writing a poem-a-day for National Poetry Month, so follow her too.