What have I done with the world
today? I’m pretty certain I’ve let it
have its way. And that everyone is
tired of me, that I’ve barely tied
a knot in an hour, made it
fast. I don’t think death
more than once, although I do
spend a few days bent double,
trying to breathe, wondering
if it’s possible to forget how.
I haven’t touched anyone for days,
waving from behind sheer curtains.
Had no intention of
withdrawing this far, becoming
cotton wool, dull needle.
I had to leave a friend’s place
tonight – to write, type or at least
make noise that resembles voices
gathering just beyond the back fence.
I needed to give myself up
to something. Gorging on sweets,
the best chocolates, strawberries, spelt
bread, organic bananas. What I wanted
was to eat the sidewalk, and the dirt, and
the basin, and the shoes in my hallway.
This is the only way I know
how to talk – create an absurdity,
cause a scene, burn a memory.
Look at me, I’m drowning again
No. No, no, no. It’s too damn easy,
too fucking usual. The world knows
how to swallow me. But what does it take
to make me bigger again?
I carry your telephone love you
out on my lunch hour walk.
The salt and the cold have burnt away
the snow, just a dust of white
rime in the roads, tongue-and-grooving
the tires, the slightest grit of teeth.
Everyone has been coughing
this dry air, the mirrored casings of
offices reflecting themselves
in a clarity of brutal blue and silver –
no equivocations, everything is
what it ought to be. Cars
fresh from the wash drip
like the mouths of dogs.
Smokers, faces chapped, unshaven,
rasp breath into their coats,
sharp-lipped. We are beautiful
animals, pretending this is all
we need, doing it on our own.
I come dangerously close
to forgetting your voice,
the weight of it in my strut,
playing my throat. And then
I worry it is bigger than
me, a mouth run to whispers.
I slide back somewhere between the two,
thirsty to trust, tasting the salt grit air
for balance, leaning
into the beauty,
Rob Colman is a writer and editor based in Newmarket, ON. His poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals across Canada and his first collection, The Delicate Line, was published by Exile Editions in 2008.
That’s right. It’s only a matter of time before I’m swatting at youngsters with a shillelagh, yelling at cops when they pull me over for doing 40 in a 100 zone, and testing the limits of Depends Undergarments with great relish.
This realization hit home on a recent trip to New York City. I should have half expected it in the wake of what happened between me and Montreal this past summer (we had a falling out), that and the fact that I couldn’t drive three hours without getting sleepy (and I loooovve long road trips).
But it wasn’t until I caught myself saying “It’s a nice place, but…” that I fully realized how set in my ways I’ve become. That expression, in my mind, has always been reserved for crotchety people who never stray far from the resort shuffleboard tables. I never thought I’d be using it, especially about NYC.
It’s a dynamic city, plain and simple. Be you in Park Slope or Chelsea, the place is alive and bustling with activity. I could go on with a multitude of clichés about the Big Apple, but let’s just say that I’ve always harboured a not-so-secret desire to live and work there.
Until last month that is. There was a point – I think it was when I was almost knocked of my feet – a second time – by someone sprinting to make a light, or when I paid 20 bucks for an art exhibit at MoMa that consisted of a bunch of naked, screaming people (something that was often provided me gratis by the patrons of the Orgasmic Alphabet Orgy at the Gladstone Hotel – the ungentrified Gladstone, mind you) that I realized that I’m not 20 anymore – heck, I’m not even 30 anymore –and I no longer have the determination, resilience or romantic ambition to live in a place simply to live there.
Also, I think there’s the fact that I am an agoraphobic urbanite. I love your presence, but leave me and my cappuccino alone. I hate it when someone walks behind me for more than two blocks. When that happens I start to give twitchy glances over my shoulder, like when someone is kicking the back of my seat in a movie theatre. Now, imagine me in lower Manhattan with five people shuffling behind me, all chatting on their cells. It would be a matter of months before I’d be having meaningful conversations with myself in bus shelters.
As well, there’s the roommate situation: I can’t go back there.
I am a creature of habit and routine. Running out of 3-Minute Quaker Oats in the morning puts me off for the entire day. I hate surprise and change in equal measure. In Toronto, I was lucky enough to have spent most of my renting years with a solid roommate, but his mere mention of the possibility of moving elsewhere caused no shortage of anxiety for me.
Such is not a good quality for one who wants to live in NYC.
The city’s rent levels demand that if you don’t want to live in a cardboard box, you have to have at least 10 roommates, all with varying levels of hygiene, mental stability and musical taste. I’m at the point in my life where I spend a lot of time peering through my blinds and muttering about what the neighbour is doing next door. I have a habit of sitting on my front porch with a bottle of wine and grumbling about the youths and the lack of decency in their clothing style ( I stand by that still – tights aren’t pants, ladies!). Having to wonder who’s been using my bar of soap, or having to hunt down roommates for arrears on bill money due to the fact that they’ve spent it on Sonic Youth tickets, simply aren’t my kettle of fish. The situation would most likely end in tears, gunfire and bloodshed.
There was a time – a small window – when I could have moved to NYC.
I had enough energy, freedom, and hostility towards social norms that I could have dug in and carved out a niche there. But as fate would have it, I wound up in Vancouver, reading Adbusters, hitch-hiking about, attending raves, anti-logging protests and poetry readings. In the end though, I found my way back to TO.
Who knows, maybe I’m just finding away to justify my lack of adventure. Then again, financially, and not including time spent on my tenants, I can get by on 25 hours of work a week in Toronto, giving me plenty of hours to write, travel about, and work on my dandelion garden. Can working double or triple that amount of hours just to pay rent be considered an adventure?
I’m old now. Which, as it turns out, isn’t such a bad thing. I’m looking forward to causing no shortage of trouble for my kids and grand kids. And in the meantime, NYC will always be a nice place to visit. Who knows, maybe if they ever get a Dark Horse Espresso Bar, I’d reconsider.
5. Dave Allen – the man who used to be on before the Benny Hill Show – gives you Christianity, through the eyes of a 4-year-old.
4. How to be sexy, according to Doctor Steve Rooster. Please keep in mind that this gentleman appears to take himself very seriously and, sadly, that there are probably women out there who indeed find him very sexay. How do I know that he is trying to appeal to women? Because this is the ‘cleanest’ of his videos. Click here to see a more educational segment.
3. Hit the 1:30 mark and look away from the screen for the duration of the song. Now the question I have is: Is it good because the singer is a good singer, or that the voice is coming from the body of a young Taiwanese man in a red bow-tie?
2. What David Attenborough doesn’t want you to know about spiders.
She looks at me from behind the counter. Italian, eh?
Do you go to Church?
I confess that I don’t go
as often as I should. Italian boy like you should go to church.
What does your mother say about this?
I tell her my mother is English. Sure, England everybody goes to church.
Good Catholic country.
What about your wife?
What does she say?
My wife is Laotian. Pah?
From Laos. You know, between Vietnam and Thailand. Oh.
I mean, she is Canadian, born here.
But her family is from Laos.
They’re Taoist, but their sponsors
over here were Baptist. So now
they’re a kind of mix of
Taoist and Baptist.
She regards me for a moment,
looks down at my invoice, draws a small line
across an unused portion, then looks me
straight in the eye and asks: