Bus 99, Vancouver

Two men share a pair of headphones,

‘Oh, I love these political songs.’

He — red hair, dilated pupils—

looks as though he wants to rest his head on his companion’s shoulder.

The other — dark eyes, hair still wet from the shower—

‘Isn’t this Chumbawamba?’

eyebrows raise

A joke?

‘Reminds me of Britain’

Their words are too loud

Surrounded by swaying passengers on the bus

Red fumbles with his earbud

‘It’s about the whole institution

You know.’

He softly sings

‘aya-ya co-co jumbo’,

Wet Hair sticks out his lip

soft, plump

raking it with his teeth,

Red watches and slowly lowers his head onto the man’s damp shoulder.

Lake Lovely Water, Vancouver

We sweat through our backpacks,

Tripping over unstable river stones

we search for the bright plastic ribbons that flutter

guiding us up

this fucking mountain.

Higher —

Scrambling up the steep cliff,

my nails deep in the dirt.

We start with laughter,

twenty questions — Who am I?

Three hours in, everyone ahead

Above, I cannot see them.

Who am I?

Panic pounds in my ears,

a child lost in a supermarket filled with deep green

and the smell of pine needles.

There are patches of snow.

I will go hungry.

What will I do when night comes?

They call to me and I almost sob with relief.

Thirty seconds. Only a few moments.

So afraid to be alone, even in this great stillness.

Angry to be so grateful.

We are tired as we reach the campground.

The lake is frozen and snow is everywhere.

In my boots, my toes are numb.

We break into the cabin and dry wood,

at least we will be warm tonight.

Steam rises from my socks above the stove and I

can’t shake the memory of a story I once read,

The boy and his father walking in the snow

A yellow moon and an owl.

We don’t see any bears

but out on the ice is a broken log

— its bear shaped if you squint.

I dream of walking alone in dark widening circles

hooting forlornly.

Suds n Duds in Altus, Oklahoma

Suds n duds in Oklahoma. Pastel peach chairs line the window and painted pot plants spill greenery on the checked linoleum floor.

It’s soothing, the whirring of dryers and the jingle of someone counting quarters. The air smells of warm clothing. Outside, the sun is bright and the wind bitter.

The land is dry and beige. It’s difficult to find the horizon, there are no mountains.

A gas attendant tells us it’s so flat he could see his dog running away for two days. His face is grim.

In the corner, there’s a Mrs. PacMan game and an empty 25c gumball machine. A toy machine sells fidget spinners. Even here there is no stopping the influx of plastic junk marketed as the hottest new kid’s toy. The faded cardboard advertisement is propped against the small disperser. It could have been there for ten years already.

Women are shaped distinctly in these small towns, all sharp edges or soft and doughy. There is no in-between.

The men are squat and suspicious, eyes narrow at the sight of unfamiliar faces. Everyone seems to be having back surgery.

‘How’s your back?’ they ask each other and shake their heads.

At the supermarket, I’m taken for ‘military’ and when I tell the girl behind the counter I’m Australian, she tells me that I’m the first she’s ever met. She looks 15 and her fringe falls into her eyes when she speaks. She wears a blue t-shirt with the town’s name on it.

‘Altus born and bred’.

The Book of Estrangement: Part 1

She stopped speaking to him.

Without her to buoy their fractured relationship, there was no contact.

Nothing.

Who knew when it first started?

With the Nazi’s maybe, but no one ever talked about it.

Love withheld.

A gas that poisons generations —mother to son, son to daughter. 

Blood of my blood. Bone of my bone.

And we arrived here, with our ghouls in suitcases waiting to be unpacked in this new place.

Neglect and negligence, the wooden spoon to be punished with. 

Daughter becomes mother. Father becomes child.

He took two hundred dollars through a lie, 

 but it was never about the money. Not really.

It was their connection — broken, borrowed, stolen.

It was the continuation of the curse that all their families carried.

They were ‘estranged’, that was how she said it to herself in the mirror.

There were worst things.

It didn’t stop her seeing him everywhere. 

Riding his bike past her house. Even though he had forgotten where she lived. 

 —-

Content Wars

I had felt the urge to write a poem for the first time in a long time,
but then,
I became distracted by my thoughts of other people.
I forgot that I meant to think of you.
I forgot what I wanted to say.

That I had anything to share that wasn’t click-bait.
Or a photo of me in a bikini,
When my body sits in the dark on the toilet.

Instead of drifting,
Sea-weed fog of thoughts.
Spilt by neon and HTML.

Focusing on the next post and the next.
A kind of content vacancy.

Perhaps this was what War of the Worlds was all about.

We lost.
Remembering it only as a fictional radio performance,
as we tap…tap…tap
mindlessly at the keys.

Where are my dreams oh imperial one?

Centenery Park

Geese sit in packs outside our parked car.

Having scoped our exit, they wait — for bread or blood.

 

Sweat slicked and wearing expensive leggings — couples jog past

noses wrinkle in disdain

At us, the Human Farts.

 

Why do people in parks insist on eating their soft serves like they are sucking dicks?

 

A lone ibis.

Stigmatised by the bin-loving of his species

stands solitary and bereft of any bins,

as far as I can see.

 

In the trees above me, a juvenile bird makes an unceasing squall — its sound is eerily newborn.

 

Full of homeless people and The Gays

We were told

Before the yuppies moved in.

It’s much safer now, they assure us,

knowingly.

As if AIDS and the lack of affordable housing is something we should be embarrassed by.

 

We sit, uncomfortable, as the geese continue their siege.

Their tiny black eyes bore into our souls

Honking,

you just want to eat and shit

like the rest of us.

Huntsman

Sitting on the toilet

I can see the hairs on its legs

From finger to thumb it measures

the length of my hand.

 

Abel and Kane

Our arachnid friend is unaware

its significance is biblical.

 

It would have been his 40th birthday this year

All bones and dust

The remains of our bond –

space the size of a spider’s leg

Just large enough

To torture each other with this small nastiness.

 

Behind the toilet a small window is open

I could get rid of it

But its absence would be noticed

‘It’s a pet’ he says

But what he really means is – be afraid.

 

I wonder how I look through its many eyes

Taking a dump and not flushing

A small pettiness

in my brother’s house.