Book of Joys: Hubcaps

I always pictured you
designing hubcaps somewhere,
you with your fascination with
odd numbers and
plastic.

You are flicking a
pen from finer to thumb,
daydreaming of the
collector’s garage
walls,

of those roundabout men
who understand
that cars aren’t merely
pistons and direct
injection,

but more a symbol in
seven spokes.
I imagine this is what
you tell the guys designing
grilles.

Book of Joys: Spirit

For Kevin

We were nestled in bucket
seats, summer I think, when
you asked me
about a friend – we’ll
call him pseudonym.
You were trying to discover gnosis,
and how to get from here to there.
It made me think for a few minutes, till
I asked if you were half a man:
and oh the cat was out of the bag.
Of course not, you said, irony in
both hands.
But, I told you, there’s a two
organs to our metaphor: you’re trying
to carry a camel over dunes to oasis.
Okay, came the reply, but how
to change rhythms?
It isn’t obvious. Yeah.
But that’s what these systems are all about
(I said before realising I was
making things too complicated).
That’s the rub, I added a few minutes later.
You can’t. Not really.

Book of Joys: Mandolin

“She plays the
mandolin like she’s
removing her own
appendix!” – that
much the mother
remembers.
The tea goes cold
before she finds afresh
Earl Grey.
Sun coming up, it’s
afternoon.
She’s no longer
married: no
children.
Did she commute to
Kingston?
“She plays viola like
there’s budgee on her
elbow,” – that much the
mother remembers,
between humming an
old hymn and an old
hymn: you go, make
her tea.

Book of Joys: Shaken

Sometimes when the air shivers
on the paved horizon I
move toward it expecting
that might shake
me.

I need to be shaken,
often: a man prone to doze
off and wander
from the path.

You need to shake me,
often, like a honeybee
shakes a crocus –
hello spring!

Sometimes when I’m near
the Atlantic, I imagine
this continent vibrating
and sending waves
to their whirled companions;

that is the way you need to
shake me: leave your
fingerprints on my arms, on my
cheek: I am inside out,

and you need to shake me
as often as you think
I’m full of shit and vinagar,
and as often as you’re full of
the joy of moving
my plates a little farther
to the left.

Book of Joys: Simplicity

They taught her in creative writing class
how to take the narrative voices and
dip them in pudding; she (of course) always
said but stories aren’t animal crackers!
they’d (narrow-eyed) ask what she meant
and if by any chance this was a metanarrative
(she would later remark how the word always
came out in (austere) italics) and if so, how
did two plus two equal four, eh eh eh?
I always told her a physics major shouldn’t
write fiction. You’re too concerned with
facts, I said. You don’t like bullshit.

Book of Joys: Wheat

We don’t often speak about
wheat: I mentioned
barley once and you
replied with corn.
But never wheat.
Odd, since it’s everywhere
and in everything.

We’ve talked about hubcaps,
leather seats,
love, a squirrel, waterfronts,
maple tree, skiing, condos,
traffic, lusty
gypsy women, organ music,
leaves of grass, art theory,
bungalows, and
spaceflight.
But not wheat.

Now, when you read this poem we
will finally tiptoe up to the sheaf.
I will have fixed that little problem
(brushes hands, grins) in my tin-
pot megalomania.

Book of Joys: Poetry

There is a poet,
Amanda Lamarche,
who writes convincingly
about trees;
I picture her planted
somewhere – no, not
planted, that isn’t right –
rooted, that’s
the word – I picture her
rooted somewhere,
creeping ever
closer to the stake.

I read her poems over
several days, until
I had drained the book
of ideas – I felled
them one by one, how
clever – the
poetic equivalent, I
think, of eating a hearty
meal rather too
quickly.

But the strange thing
isn’t so much
her words or forests or
trope (what’s a trope, again?)
but that when I
turned to the last page
I thought it was you
in the photograph.

What a trick! I said to
myself, you publishing a book
behind my back and
waiting for me to say
pretentious and entirely
wrong things
like Charles Bukowski
as a nice young lady
.

Of course, you haven’t
attended the University of Victoria –
yet – nor would you
thank your fiercely supportive parents.
But if you do publish
someday, don’t tell me about it.
Let me open it to the last
page and say (because I talk
too much),
is that Amanda Lamarche?

Book of Joys: Sleep

It’s a few minutes before
dropping off a cliff
into the sea. I’ll
float until morning
on currents under
another’s control. I’ll
crawl half-dead onto
tomorrow’s beaches
and shake the sea off
my body. I’ll
be damp till
noon.