“Field Guide”

If I promised you a guide

to life in the 21st century

I’m sorry I failed you

when it didn’t appear

you waited in the tailings

in the extraction fields

where geographies change daily

and everything floods with rent

you without a life jacket

when the tide goes out

you’re flooded with delights

you can hardly bear

a balloon in a bird’s gut

a faux volcanic eruption

a series of clouds seeded

with debt to investment

but when the tide retreats

its a pop bottle poured out

and you only mop your own floor

stand at the sink with capital

scrubbing your bits and drills

until you frack for everything

you know pours into the surface

of your moulded countertops

no more rough paint on those cabinets

no more cracks in the tile

cost deltas into a long Audubon

slammed into the A/C

it’s hot and this is where you live

and after you’re done nothing will die again

your utopian hands will hold

in fellowship’s misfiled paperwork

and any beginners that trouble

the hours you feel along the heart

of those little nameless kindnesses

like the trivial influence of good men

or the thought this all leads somewhere

will only remember pleasure

the walk between Main and Cambie

the walk between Kingston and Queen

the walk across 16th or along 17th

never more than one

but never less than a thousand

little flowers in their little beds

won’t behold deep secluded form

some species are migrants everywhere

other species scorch the territory

describe territory as progress

describe progress as everything

but in the beginning

your hands fold in

a calm shipping terminal

to inaugurate a straightforward wish

to press your face deep into the grass

to press your tongue deep into the dirt

to press to the root of love

when you can’t describe your feelings

a romantic diorama

winding pipelines through

all of this intelligible world

the mood when affection leads you on

when you think you can describe your feelings

you fight to forget territory

laying out a vast banquet of compliance

and refuse realism

no, refuse

swing your telescope down

to own all your runoff

all your compositional methods

your weaving eyes

your metric speech

your pale index

breathes through fracture

through Jefferson’s faith

‘every race of animals

received from their Maker

certain economies of nature

no instance produced

having permitted any one race

of her animals to become extinct

no, this animal still exists

in the northern and western parts

adding the light of a taper

to that of the meridian sun

no, this animal transplanted

into unfriendly climates

changes its fences

or extinguishes poorly

rock that grows in layers

in every direction as the branches

of trees grow in any direction

the annihilation of any species

so unexampled in any economy

the bones exist therefore

nature a never ending circle

no, this animal species

put into a train or motion

probably still moves in that train’

your great chain of animacy

a small secreted tendency

to best define discovery

you crush to a final spread

your choreography

stacking lens on lens

your Burtynsky scale

subtly underpins endless

lovely water testing

caked into drainage basins

you anchor the chain here

where a bright sun coaxes the banks

to the banks coaxially

you glare at everything that’s missing

you don’t want to represent harm

to reproduce extinguishment

but do want to extinguish reproduction

to stop elimination

but not stop stoppage

you try to remember what Trudeau says

‘we must forget many things

if we want to live together’

but your cuffs are wet with all this crisis

crisis is one word that pools

crisis tides over and over

crisis wells up in this report

crisis settles on the banks

crisis is a word that settlers use

crisis is the word you use

because you’re a settler

but who is the crisis

when you use the word crisis

what if you are the crisis

just look at your paycheque

signed in the name of crisis

didn’t crisis pay for your rent

didn’t crisis spring for groceries

but crisis as a word bulwarks against denial

stabilizing the dam

by ignoring the leak

rather than handwringing over the leak

in advance of filling it

rather than destroying the dam

which will swell the river

out into a kind of harm too

isn’t the dam part of the land now

aren’t the pipes that run through

the city’s complicated infrastructures

part of the river now

isn’t the river

pumped into your toilet

where you shit into the river

and its modernist filtration

how do you resolve crisis

by filtering out the ways

your shit is part of the crisis

because someone is drinking your shit

somewhere downriver

it’s just a metaphor, you say

but that metaphor travels downstream

while you sniff your own asshole

discover its material

then ask your mirror

what about your family

what about your friends

who depend on that job

that tar and that logic

that assumption habitat exceeds

that advances class to accelerate ease

with a provincial comportment

that you say is the province’s jurisdiction

when the province makes a fiery speech

instead of dealing with the province’s fires

you look out your window

to try to forget

it’s not so smoky

so long as you’re inside

you reach for your phone

frame the shot carefully

caption it #myhiroshima

the gentle breeze and blue sky

spring smell of sakura

cherry notes to the sun

now trending on Instagram

a small secret tendency

to frame discovery

no one owns this landscape

you say

no one owns it

this landscape that no one owns

and because no one owns it

it’s a landscape that no one owns

no one patented this landscape

except for you

because you discovered that

no one owns anything

except for you

in the smoke

you put on your yellow vest

parade your F-150

in your version of pride

take a long drag

of a bird

learned from books

hawks banked in the slow

bourgeois flap of gulls

nothing vanishes

is gone ever

in a cooling account

poured in magnetic tape

history a shell of gunfire

long chain of crisis

the law’s charred folly

you shoot from the train window

catalogue a range of ghosts

you worship the stump

gold and brass turn

dates forward

from the stump of a mast

ghost shape of the tree

dawns a coat of arms

water stretched checklist

your body magnetized

to the data in these trees

accounts of the tamed sun

stories recount the sky

rays of billing caress

ship each car to market

slurry oozed from ancient

each meal to the body

a kind of neighbourlessness

treading through the quadrat

of your renovated kitchen

no glimpse of the timberline

observes the passing hands

of the densifying city

but if you set the frame right

the frame is exactly

a set of patents

to increase your easement

you walk through the woods

to become an observer

collect all these frames

to slide out of weather

your cautious rhythm

a degraded habitat

holding hands by a lake

imploded hospital in the sky

over the natural fantasy

you have to live in

what’s the price on that sectional

the cost of that new aesthetic

a passenger pigeon shaped hole

in all this verticality

shaped like you

a series of luxury condos

along the downtown waterline

the buzz of life

good at sorting garbage

paper in a yellow bag

cans in a blue bin

everything onto a boat

capsized into the ocean

shot into space

fueled by extinction

a city on the ocean

a city in space

better than sorting garbage

the rays of each billing caress

reward for sorting yourself

into the held hand of your ease

passed hand of congestion

outdoors in the wheat

mouth waters stronghold

neighbourless meat

caution the keystone

slurry from heed

but in the footsteps of your last waking glance

you try a story that shreds story

you learned in a seminar

a cheat sheet deserializing need

first, live without water

then oxygen

then carbon

no ethics

no aesthetics

no dispersal

no demand

just a deterritorializing wave

of a million hands

wishing you some good news

‘I love watching media coverage

where eco-celebs meet

to decide the fate of the little people.

I adore the buttercups

who hold faith to their religion,

praying that temps hold

their souls like a thermostat.’

oil pours from your eyes

when you swallow your process once a day

so that your children won’t know to finance

they’ll bet on quick changes

and a diet proving only

that no one will need to live without disease

each of them will dream of a slow swim to burial

a dream whose price is a textbook’s disapproval

but that’s hypothetical

you’re not having any kids

and you received $10,000

from the Canada Council for the Arts

to write a book titled Field Guide

that would grapple with extinction

by writing around it

each poem an entry

for an animal made extinct

during the anthropocene

a word you wouldn’t learn for three more years

that marks a social contract

for the uneven distribution

of environmental burden

you threw out those poems

they were a conceptual gesture at best

a waste of time at worst

because of a lack of urgency

and a turn in your thinking

where conceptual didn’t cut it

and now here you are

awash in urgency

writing this poem titled “Field Guide”

trying to salvage something

from all that wasted time

but what have you accomplished

you can’t drink saltwater

you can’t live in a desert

you can’t live in the fiction

that settlement patterns are cyclical

that a clutched cameo makes one step

your covered mouth another

but the cloud comes in the night

the Earth finally getting its revenge

makes an impassioned stampede

northward and westward

makes you the far-tossed spray

of that monstrous flood

no man is an island

you hear that somewhere

but across your island

your panic hardens

your scattered clusters

into a wall of bodies towered

into to the ocean

your illuminated centuries of evolution

brush the lens of its pestering dust

an outpost for blame

on the continent of human predation

will unweave your colonial honeycomb

if you don’t settle the sun

the sun is a place to start settling

you stare into the horizon as the sun sets

imagine waking up in a nation

you didn’t know was there

before a court ruling remembered something

something that didn’t die

didn’t fit a stereotype that you found

in your Dad’s box of Louis Lamour

‘I never had much

but I’ve got enough sense to know

that a place doesn’t stay nice

without you keep it so

it takes a deal of work to build a place

and a deal of work to keep it up’

so much stability

in your of place-based poetic

how do you make anywhere

when you also hold it together

you want some roadmap to decolonize

without self-annihilation

so you nod to the mirror

when George Manuel writes

‘They would have to carry on their quest

and discover their own relationship

with the land, the water, and the animals

until the Creator gave them their own song.

But it would have to be a song

that they could sing to their own people.

They would have to do more than discover

their own song. They would have to discover

a ceremonial situation in which the song

could be given and received

within the same spirit.”

(The Fourth World 157)

George Manuel is writing about you

isn’t he

about your attempt to learn a song

that doesn’t accelerate to the key of death

though your cells are magnetized

to a crisis constantly unfolding

every overstretched moment of self-care

a walk onto the land

where the land is a series of development decisions

driven by the actions of the Real Estate State

under the axioms of settler colonialism

and the labour relations of white supremacy

shaped by the genre of humanity

you begin to walk

until your calves hurt

stop dead in your tracks

you scan the ground for information

hey you

sapling growing through the sidewalk

how are you living in the 21st century

the sun is still here

though isn’t it hotter

and how does water get through that concrete

your seed travelled here somehow

what do you thank for that

where do you look in a world without blame

when history is an exploded field

ripe with subsets of flight

a continental shelf caught up in your body

shivered deep into the soil

underneath the supportive sentences

of synchronized logistical chains

you praise the predation of supply

chains of intimate transmission

courting each interested foothold

that predates your trade in characteristics

whose song is this and who can you teach it to

what little bird carries your refrain

when you remember to listen

you get out your pan and shovel

something in the discourse

makes for a fine texture

to paper the drawing room

just above the specimen cabinets

that you’re calling bookshelves

the work of genealogy

maybe you call it preservation

maybe you call it scholarship

maybe you call it training

maybe you call it design

maybe you call it engagement

maybe you call it love

pull out any drawer

Laughing Owl

(Sceloglaux albifacies)

‘If one opens a pocket,

it may be picked.

The coins may tickle

the folds of the mantle,

edged with snow that

melts with a thought.

A melancholy stroll

marks the mewling notes

of fabric as it shifts.

A drifting rain weeps

in an accordion’s drawl.

From a distance then,

one scene unfolds across

the frame of another.

Accomodates new population

that chokes up the rest.

The past deposits little

that stands firm in storms.

None in a pair turn blind.

None fold in the shag of sight.

One must carefully tease

the thread of outbound saddles

following the rutted path.

One must peel back

vivid hues at the summit

to confirm one’s faint waste.

One must keep vigil.’

now try another

Falklands Island Wolf

(Dusicyon australis)

‘A curtain made from

modern times that one

hangs in one’s window,

carefully stitched

to hold to the floor,

meat to meat.

Like islands are archipelagos,

each target scatters only

when bounded by water.

One must desperately

sneak into the tents of men

to drag their lures to one’s own.

A trail of surveillance

slouches back to the ocean,

the last unexplored wild,

dense weight at its side.

One’s home is a secret trap.

It keeps one’s pupils small,

only speculatively seeping out.

Eventually, one turns traditional

in the way pale greens

gut each other’s sets

alight whatever curtains

cover these islands.’

here you tease out a melody

waiting in the private abandon

of a statistical trace

you wait for something but

you don’t know vigil’s cost

the comfort of a mouth

the mouth of a river

you mean the mouth of a river

what you mean is

the mouth of a river

when you wait to speak

you wait near the ballast

wait near the epigraph

wait near the drawing board

wait inside the lobby

as alarm lobbies the cost

of your vigil’s shallow current

one’s last word one’s first

shallow heel scheduled

mouth of a husbanded bubble

but you don’t want to let go

of what you’ve held onto

you corner your decisional melt

into the arch of a historical record

information melts when you zoom in

to the pan and the shovel

to quarter and correction

to quarry and tar

to you waiting in the shallows

your shallow waiting

a kind of cowardice

but also an effect of structure

of what you’ve held onto

what song is this

that dreams of a line of flight

while so much just flies off

you ask a sapling

how it lives in the 21st century

but that sapling is a literary device

some vague gesture to the frame’s edge

to Wordsworth and Tintern Abbey

to the smug condescension of nature poetry

and the smugger materiality of ecopoetry

you don’t want any of these

but do want to walk through your neighbourhood

to wander under the trees

lining the street

shade’s another scarce resource

in the ongoing climate wars

you read on Gizmodo

Chennai’s run out of water

4.65 million people live there

‘reservoirs into muddy splats

mix desalinization plants

water by train and truck

shifts the hydrological cycle

only rain can save Chennai

not nearly enough to reverse

overdrived withering

baking in drought

with weak planning’

city on the edge of a crater

how do you live in the 21st century

you ask taking a sip of sparkling

through a straw you just banned

because a straw is a kind of pipeline

you can ban without letting go of something

you write something in the comments

about people breeding like rats

oh fuck

that’s fucking terrifying

should you copy that

into this poem

if the thing you’re copying

is undeniably racist

does the frame of the poem

add a critical distance

allowing you to reflect

on your own reflection

as it seems to disappear

in the funhouse mirror

tightening your grip

if this poem is a guide

only to the distance

between you and you

three meters between trees

along this section of Queen St.

13, 368 km between here and Chennai

a couple blocks between here and the lake

will you drink from the lake

before it dries up too

matter might be immortal

but these combinations aren’t

sometimes you find that emergence reassuring

hopeful even

and other times the idea

that everything is in collapse

gets to you

your poetry becomes a font of affect

rather than a thread of thought

you share with someone

you read Manning

when she quotes Whitehead

‘In fact life itself is

comparatively deficient

in survival value.

The art of persistence

is to be dead.

Only inorganic things persist

for great lengths of time.”

(Whitehead, qtd. in The Minor Gesture 33)

reason is the art of living

Manning says

quoting Whitehead

reason directs the anarchic field of relation

toward its actualization

the active differential between

anarchy and organization

reason as decisional force

rather than method as a cut that stills

life isn’t still

though sometimes you want it to be

that weird unpredictability

tough in the touchfields of speculative pragmatism

though tact can amount to a badge

slammed down on a desk

you back out of the crowd

might as well be a rock

alive for sixty million years

when the world ends

rock will still be here

freed from extraction

but still in relation to whatever’s left

of the climate cycles

and the gravity relation

of the sun still shining

the sun will always shine

until it doesn’t

but its matter will stick around

recombine into something else

all of this matter will find another way to live

but you won’t

your caution

used at your own risk

you walk the ravine

past successful couples

their off-leash dogs

flouting ravine convention

by being off-leash

ignoring the pet safety tips

you read off a sign

that you’ll copy into this poem

‘attention coyotes

coyotes have been reported in this area

coyotes are often found

in ravine areas in Toronto

so avoid the ravine between dusk and dawn

when coyotes come out

don’t turn your back on a coyote

shout in a deep voice

throw objects at the coyote

and keep your fucking dog on a leash

coyotes love your dog and its shit

so don’t let your dog shit in the ravine

and don’t let your dog interact with coyotes

your dog might become a coyote’

the sun through the canopy

makes a lovely frame

this urban park argues

that nature’s still kicking

and you fold it back into its drawer

once you’re done with it

muddy creek a respite

in all that sprawl

relation’s a kick

when you can leave it

the coyote’s frisson

a possible thrill

a spooked musculature

bones leap out of the body

in the way a library might

failed texts leap into your branches

their reportage too faint

when denial unbuckles

cost from its seat

you station your body

where the street always flows

until it doesn’t

you wonder if the Earth

could decide to orbit

a different sun

taking a line of flight

that leaves everything dead

you fear you’ll transform

back pressed against the glass

aware of your surroundings

slowly back away

to an area of activity

backstitching everything

you make contact with

why would you not love

all this unruliness

unless you’re worried about your body

about your body’s composition

its consistency and porosity

in a series of photographs

taken at the boundary of your body

Wayfair’s exclusive deal to sell beds to your body

Dell’s contract to sell your body computers

needed to police the edge of your body

your body fears its own edges

photographs of your itchy skin circulate

on Twitter and Facebook

your skin covered in cages

and the hardening repose

of concentration camps

that arrest everyone moving

out of the shadow of your footprint

built up along the border

between demarcations of the human

that you keep insisting on

sometimes everyone is subtweeting

about something you don’t know

was it you getting punched again

because you couldn’t accept

what was it you were craving

all the ocean’s spectacle

crawls out of modernism

slouches toward Tokyo

New York in the remake

you slouch into your chair

jacked into your mech

spectate the grand event

the logistics of a real Godzilla

made up like a transcendent force

you can fight on behalf

of all those drawers back home

filled with specimens

from all the buildings you stomped

you saved them

you kept them alive

at your memory’s edge

pulled at your sword

to make another distinction

fetishizing your own immanence

plastic comes from your body

you love to feel it return

so if you love it don’t let it go

making a definition of totality

for the 21st century

an important task you keep avoiding

and besides

look at the reviews of Chernobyl

maybe it’s worth signing up for HBO

for all that catharsis

you lived through that

you’ll live through this

all that spectacle preferable

to the real violence

at the borders of your fort

you contain the Angels

that fuel your body’s expansion

the fortress-city Tokyo-3 protected

by the destruction of those Angels

incommensurable to its development vision

your body oriented by this double logic

that stabilizes whatever life you want to have

by reorganizing the possibility-spaces

of all this other life

why give all this up

why tell spectacle what to do

when you don’t have to carry the weight

of your own material assembly

just bend with the weather

or let it bend with you

you’ve been out before

and this time it’s much safer in

so you put on Never For Ever

listen to the way she rhymes

plutonium with every lung

it doesn’t get too hot here

so long as you stay inside

and make friends with the A/C

tuck into your draft

summer’s that upswing in temperature

between the cooling stations

laid out on the city’s online map

a continuous path between spray parks

across Metro Toronto

your new mode of urban exploration

looks for the hidden pockets of cold air

folded into the entropies

of the traffic in the street

in its perfect marriage with ease

you canter where you please

teeth on the eve of activity

ease in a seized advance

your perfect weather is evidence

of 7500 years of human predation

social patterns against the palisades

what’s the insect on this window

and why isn’t it dead yet

farming footholds the soil

renders the bloodthirsty dull

the Amazon is on fire

even though you saved it in the 90s

and what about this rural crime

all its ties to oil’s low price

that your tongue pushes deeper into the ground

to call out your friends’ non-traditional models

the supposed state of things

has a radiocarbon date

set as long or short as necessary

to make the city’s amenity

land right at your feet

instead of across town

where is the heat map of the city

when you start your adventure

bike along the seawall

walk along the boardwalk

that breeze off the water

the scent of colonial governance

comes off a surveying rod

through the eye of a sentient jellyfish

threatening the Canadian flag

but swallowed whole by

a geostrategy as confident as

a new bench in a national park

you sit and change

into the dress you’ve carried

up this mountain

where the air makes for a clearer snapshot

you look for the angle

that excludes the queue

waiting to muscle up Everest

with a song that will be sung

for a hot minute

you go to the hills

when your heart is lonely

you know you will hear

what you’ve heard before

a dialectic exchange around freedom

stitched into a combination of pixels

as true as the relation they capture

but that’s the cynicism talking

or the sound of music

flaring up into a set of mounted antlers

jaw agape and antique

uniform migratory herds

glacial slime mold

thick demolition

shores distribution maps

faint watercolours

of border intensification

defined by 700-mile border fences

a magnificent language

racing the course of the Red River

cheap wood in a barrel-type heater

you beat your chest into an engine

that mobilizes public opinion

in the amber dim of cottage country

feathers ground into a broach

pinned to the delicacy of your crest

you park near the bridge

listen to the seed predation

roll up the windows

as your huge murders settle

on a series of plumed brushes

the cars under the bridge

call your sunsetting control

a failing bruin print

in the next auction lot

summer clouds


value is bleeding value

and you’re feeling salty

no matter what

you’re friends with everyone

or you need to be

to anchor yourself to an exchange

of secondary relationships

in the heat of summer

when you flee to your cottage

set up your easel

and hangs up your flag

you sit on the porch

and write in a book review

‘What if nature poetry

critically addressed

its own whiteness?’

you attentively frame

all this beautiful territory

that you’re threatening

‘The pond has dropped a foot

over the summer; / you couldn’t

pole a punt across it now’

(Donlan, Out All Day 15)

the doubt in those summer clouds

circulates an abstract order

that’s wrong but very real

plastic over the lake

static on the canvas

you wanted to describe that vapour

that you push in and out of your lungs

but you give yourself a headache asking

how the fish deal with this heat

does the ocean have A/C

cool but as soon as the breeze goes

that’s a kind of currency too

you give yourself a headache

looking into the fan

you fish through the medicine cabinet

take two extra strength Tylenol

should it’ve been an Advil though

it’s okay to ask for help you say

but why is crisis the only mode

you can use to build relation

you talk about mobile processes of attachment

but do those need a crisis to appear

in your primary relations

you build the present

by upending the present

should you clean out the fridge

before ordering in new groceries

a sapling grows right in your stomach

so you need to swallow light

when your window is a predator

do you need to smash the window

to let in some sunlight

to feed whatever’s in your gut

you used to think that poetry

was a useful for modelling crisis

but anything else is more effective

is that why you’re bored

with the affective potential of writing

could poetry help you think with

instead of feel with

how do you think with the lake

when the lake hasn’t been so forthcoming

hard to be generous

when the lake won’t learn English

don’t swim in the lake

unless you want to get sick

that’s the lake telling you to fuck off

but what did you ever do to the lake

throw your hands up

you didn’t do that shit

that you just swallowed

you only mutated

your segmented eyes

poured sand from their population

your feral cells

combed their subfossil records

with airborne toxins

so much that your surface

is now saturated with data

only distinguished by its curlicues

all this poetry can model crisis

but why do you want it to

when your nomenclature’s embroidery

opens with a champagne breakfast

coronet calls from the ozone

bows to the ornate puppets

racing birds on bicycles

you can play croquet

in the inner ring

visit the VR tubes

watch your frail shell weep

on a stirring walk

through the gowns and jackets

of the quilted dial flipping

Mexican beach to African savannah

just last time cycle

the city’s band played a rousing overture

for its great founder Jeff Bezos

but outside the station

it’s cold and weightless

as if a fishing net

emptied the whole ocean

your drones constantly

return from the planet below

your full fist slamming

into the warehoused surface

what did you order

fulfilled by planetary labour

a little card in the brushed aluminum cradle

your order fulfilled by you

only one implacable straw

in a series of swept corners

how unfulfilling

the shifting baseline memories

and their insurgent caches of refined steel

your ravine conserved

in the holographic arcades

made possible by the reference data

in your endless drawers

more subtly gentle

than the other exhibits

dedicated to the infrastructures

of the utopian city spaces

of 19th Century Paris

or 20th Century New York

largest in the data set

like a gun shot into the air repeatedly

you find it easy to understand

just how even these cities were

how they met the needs of everyone

in no way structured

around the appropriation of land

or the exploitation of labour

everyone there had a place to live

something you learned from

and you feel something to learn

from walking through the ravine

but you don’t know what

comes after all of this feeling

you feel hundreds of trees uprooted

swept into the base of a dam

but if you really felt them

pressure your body into oil

you could understand the whole cycle

of boom-bust resource extraction

like Kenney explains it

‘Alberta is open for business

to our investor confidence

unleashing a message to deregulation’s

deep state enterprise

blocked in and pinned down

to a dignifying obsession with work

and a bottleneck of pent-up energy

that demands transaction

held captive by foreigners

wanting to landlock our energy

wanting to block

our unity

with all these divisive barriers

to trade mobility

that abandon markets

to foreign success

in the zero sum game

of economic nationalism

Albertans love nature

so much we want to innovate it

this is what humans do

and besides

how do you heat your home

didn’t you drive here

that fuel didn’t come from nowhere

you fucking hypocrite’

but aren’t you well behaved

when the bright sun drives you

to jump out of the water

and flop about in the mud

the tattoo in your ear

smells of crab apple and plum

your cherry notes to the sun

kiss through the green-certified windows

and would a hypocrite break ground

on your own chest to plant a garden

what flowers did you plant

marigolds would make a strong crank

powered by the chlorophyll

abraded by your teeth

your biomass becomes a brusquely dispensing crater

motorized by the winnowing mood of winds

that waste your ribcage into a budgeting delta

your leaks in the shoreline

redistribute you across you

flood bearing at your waste chamber

ghosts in your airway

you ploughed under you

until a budget crunch

leaves your heart fallow

as capital moves to your kidneys

or something like that

you’re a metaphor that needs some revision

your bearing a clockwork that gnaws

whoever’s left alive by your metaphor

your organ model doesn’t work

it assumes that your body won’t function

if any part disappears


a lot has disappeared

since you were born

and everything seems to work fine

but maybe that’s just where you are

when you can’t see all of yourself

in all this historical movement

somebody didn’t blow up America

but some kind of n+7

might make you feel better

‘No this was [uninaugural]

I moved on here very heavenly in fact

I tool-kitted out furry shock troops

I said I’ll showboat here some fun

I moved on here like a bleach’

this is from a poem you wrote in 2003

right after Trump’s inauguration

the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq

the opening of Guantanamo

the mass deregulation of extraction

the oilwells on fire in the desert

the junk shots into the ocean

the omnibus laws

the drone warfare

in the teenage years of the 21st century

you’ve longed for when Obama

was President of Canada

better than Harper in the White House

mass executing scientists

creating a scientist shaped hole

in the city’s skyline

the sky completely filled

with all that science

enough science to blot out

the sun at midday

but Obama

he gave back all of the land

to the respective nations

who live in what we used to call Canada

stepped down from office

and made fun of Drake

for his antics at all those

Tkaronto Raptors games

against their crosstown rivals

the Scarborough Bluffs

hasn’t a lot happened to you

in these past two decades

you know that you know

a lot about history

and its panoramic scale

so you yell across the table

for someone to pass the stuffing

you broke the wishbone

and brought the turkey back to life

only to take food out of your own mouth

or you think that’s what happened

because that’s economics, right

when distribution bottlenecks

at the top of the globe

just a problem of logistics

and endless regulatory problems

just pop the cork

or something like that

the dialectics get less clear

when you land at street level

and have to transport your

ancient fossil collection

all the way across town

The Joker just hijacked

your armoured vehicle

so where’s Batman

you phone your pal Bruce

to ask for investment advice

and it calms you right down

though its cheaper and easier

to just be depressed

you won’t buy a plant

because it probably couldn’t take it

in this basement you live in

you just wanted to plant something

like the emergence of certain forms

on the outskirts of the water’s surface

certain like specific

not certain like certainty

less a sea of troubles

than a rising water line

slouching to a safer ecosystem

the ocean wants out of the heat too

so you put a dome over the water

and pull the ocean out with a straw

what’s the word for the space

found inside that straw

its crevice a landscape

rigged to dissolve

when you zoom too closely

you offer the thought bubble

floating over your head

as the necessary real estate

to solve all border problems

on this small island

viability is a sign of fate

and nature is an exquisite system

brilliantly realigning itself

into newly elegant combinations

this island infinitely expands

to catch everything that lives

without the fraternity of white men overheating

you dip a ladle into the cool stream

and find the story refreshing

as it slowly expands its banks

you dig pond after pond

hoping to drink the water

you expand flavour’s geography

dam the stream up

for your energized palate

you know that water’s cool atoms

come together to make you

but what could you make from them

‘what is there beyond knowing

that keeps calling to you’

(Oliver, New and Selected Poems 20)

you make a plant of things

pool bottle after bottle

by following the ocean’s currents

later as you sketch the overheating habit

of the kidneys’ desert

a storm blows out

your water collector

which triggers an exclusionary logic

where viability is a question of merit

who do you select to best

administer your commune

has it always been merit

that drives you

merit only a font of affect

erupting from scarcity

maybe Chennai could drink merit

when their reservoir dries up

take care

apply it to your own water

watch out for water vampires

living down in the ravine

don’t bring your dog down there

if your dog is going to drink the water

that water feeds the lake

‘Adam was dust until

God injected him with life.

And do you know

what was in that injection?’

here’s where you pierce

your chest with the injection pump

and then drink yourself up

fill a bowl with your piss

put a glass in the center

cover the bowl

with a sheet of clear plastic

put a weight on the plastic

just over the glass

let it sit in the heat

then drink up

that’s your piss

keeping you alive

you laugh out loud at this

and start to ask what you’re amused by

as a bird disappears into the rafters

of your libidinal satisfaction

‘making something disappear isn’t enough

you have to bring it back’

you take your top hat off

replace it with pancake makeup

your silence-based evidence

dates your financial models

put some relish on

your boner-based funding

to mislead and confuse the

meme police inside of 

the climate science misrepresentations

in your head canon

those extinct animals

are on an island

ruled by Jimmy Carter

after he built all their habitats

spray every aerosol can

right on your dick

to give it a proper tan

your nose blown red by the sun

you’re as funny as a cry for help

lighting your cigar

with the cellophane on

you yawn and lean back

reposed on the galaxy-brain plays

of your liberal centrism

you’d build a time tunnel

back to 1973 you think

or back to whenever

daddy starts up  

you’re a bad boy

and you deserve to be

punched right in your

faint wisp of legibility

you rub your weak eyes

gaze on function’s mascot

a trespassing statistic

scooting its ass on the carpet

from clown to startled conqueror

forced to wear modern garb

your only charm 

a tourist paperback

forgotten poolside

the abandoned chill

of a final phase

your tongue dams the river

silt settles on it

and that silt is a crisis

you talk about timelessness

but you’ll settle for

the apex of local veneer

rock grinding rock

that the wind won’t budge

you wonder what will be

the moment when the soil

rises up like a wave

to bury you

you drag streams on the tile

mud bottoms the grout

pallet knife pushed under

the lino glued to the hardwood

pour boiling water under

to dissolve the glue

holding your surface down

you pile the old house

up in the yard

rebuilt piece by piece

because city regulations

restrict teardowns

‘Did you know that material

from the construction,

demolition and renovation

of buildings makes up

a third of our region’s waste?

Together we’re keeping

clean wood

out of the garbage.

Clean wood makes up

9% of all waste from

the Metro Vancouver region.

We’re focusing on clean wood

because this material

can be salvaged for reuse

or recycled into compost.

On Tuesday

Malaysian officials

opened a shipping container

filled with plastic bags

from major Canadian chains.

I think you need to

take back your rubbish

Malaysian Minister Yeo Bee Yin

told a CBC News crew

at Port Klang

a sprawling facility

outside Kuala Lumpur.’

you’re a sink

but you keep the bottom clear

bulldozing any abandoned homes

to shrink the city’s border

and make things more sustainable

the ocean is a pretty big lake

whose pelagic space

folds and layers

your domestic sphere

into its threatening posture

you cut that major infrastructure funding

that you deeply depend on

but couldn’t resist a new arena

transit will go there

but not near your apartment

as you slide into the current

swim as long as you can

in the fluid shifts

of someone else’s masterpiece

‘In the morning

the dust hung like fog,

and the sun was as red

as ripe new blood.’

(Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath n. pag.)

you ask where all the scrounging is

because when you erase the page

you can still see the drawing

flit from canvas to canvas

a kernel that won’t decompose

whose activity can’t be digested

even if ground up and inhaled

ignoring the smash of mastheads

the landed roots of mastery

you flip through the discards

scratching at the bark of scrap

in the smoke flocking the city

you ask if you need a bag

but you forgot your bag at home

and you don’t want to load up

another shipping container

with your heavy breathing

you detach the legal category of land

from the surface of the earth

defying the weight of heaven

you float up

into all that real estate

and finally you own something

as far away from the city

as any other suburb

turn to the north

to look at the mountains

turn to the south

to look at the lake

you wish this landscape

would be specific for once

the ancient mystery

of whatever this land is

few know what it was once called

because most are racist

and benefit from a racist system

this includes you too

and you’re sorry

but that doesn’t count for much

when you’re down to 18 months

not even to fix things

but to stop things from getting worse

you know to keep the frame tight at least

when you point your camera outward

at the right angle you’ll cut out

all those condos on False Creek

the traffic on the 401 during rush hour

the crest over Glenmore heading west

you’ll post that photo everywhere

you want to remember

and you’ll keep it up

the art of persistence

is to stay alive

isn’t it

and you have to believe

that you’re alive

because you deserve it

don’t you

not because of a trick of history

or a series of tricks

played on someone else

imagine ending everything

with a trick

where after all

your bad behaviour

you look into the camera

lift the ideological veil

the prestige

jk lol etc.

(Draft written March – August 2019)