iii. The Brazen Sky

He imagines himself near the scattered, roving packs of humans in the earth’s last days: cheeks sun-scarred and thickly bearded, eyes drawn and deep-set, a camera slapping blankly against his chest on its woven strap. He scarcely looks back as he follows the parched, cracked expanse of the naked seabed. Aware of his proximity to the exodus, he rambles laterally, advances, retreats.

Dawn

A protestant crow
then silence:
a broken pretzel
in his beak.

He walks swiftly down to Robson, willing brief, contemptuous, animal sex upon the clip-clopping shoppers, diners and moviegoers, the downtown nightclub crowd. Though the sky doesn’t rain, it threatens. He takes a seat under the bus shelter, hands stuffed loosely in his coat’s massive pockets alongside phone, keys, lighter, gum, and cigarettes.

The yellow-lit 15 carries him across the bridge and away from the white window-banked towers downtown. He steps off at 7th, lights a cigarette, and makes his way eastward past the avenue’s plain commercial fronts and warehouses.

He turns, shaking his head, and bulls his way through the remaining drinkers into the washroom, where he pats down his cheeks and neck with cold water. He rubs his fingers stiffly through his clenched eyes, opening them only to stare at the dried spit in the sink.

On his way out, he grabs his half-empty beer. (If he moves quickly he will escape with it.) He buries its rind-flavour in his throat and rounds the building’s southwest corner, slicing the chill wind with his jerking breast and balled fist. Tim and Dan have already vanished. He hurls the foamy glass against the fender of an indigo Mercedes as he enters an unlit street. He turns northward and begins to run past trees whose slender fingers tense and prong the invisible wind.

He stands before the bathroom mirror gauging the responsiveness of his flesh, splotchy and hairless on his chest. Around the discs of his nipples and upon his shoulders, a couple of dark hairs extend with the indecision and anatomical perfection of insect legs. He has just brushed his teeth, but feelings of remorse and a general uncleanness linger along with the smoke-wrought soreness at the back of his tongue.

How will he stand to gaze upon himself at seventy? He often wonders about this. Will he dispense with mirrors completely? But that would be too unkind. Perhaps he will reinvent himself as a senior citizen jogger of local fame, peglegging suburban sidewalks at dawn, competing respectably in world-famous marathons, basking in spectators’ polite applause.

Apart from the unattractive lumps forming at his waist, he can still perceive a lineage from his fifteen year-old self and so deludes himself into momentary reassurance. Still, the sourness he tastes seems to be showing subtle signs on his body. He flexes his arms, grimaces – examines the yellow fade on his teeth near the gums, the grayish swirls nearer the tips, a dent in one of his lower incisors.

There’s a girl

There’s a girl
somewhere smiling,
lying fat and
mole pink
under her mother’s
blankets, breathing in
her automatic
span, dreaming
of tree boughs
and light Japanese rain.

I light another
cigarette at 3:37am.

After twenty minutes in front of the tv, his arms fall limply; he leaves them loosely tangled on his torso. He closes his eyes. In his mind’s eye he gazes towards the abyss beyond the drawn curtain of yellowed synthetic opposite the sofa. The calcified moon reposes.

Strapped to the mast

The smell of my father’s
yellowed comic book


black-whiskered toast
with peanut butter
under a lamplight

Tuesday. For the second morning in a row, he pours water into a heavy glass and clangs the rim on the same tooth. Somehow, this feels like one of life’s lowest moments to date.

Waiting for the bus he sometimes closes his eyes, sinking his broken thoughts down into his chest, sensing a frailty in the tiny engine there that could swiftly topple him to the pavement.

Bus window

A bald, shirtless man
next to a tree’s
swollen roots

an oxygen mask covers
his nose

fireman pumping
on his mounded chest.

A small crowd gathers,
solemn in brief dusk.

Down a neglected corridor, in the vicinity of the morgue, his hand pauses at each doorknob. What lies behind each? A lamp left on at an empty desk. A chair draped with a lab coat. Stainless steel trays with drains. For what – blood? And something more dreadful: formaldehyde jars with fetal brains.

Phaeacia

They mix wines
while the men
sore from the beach
play wrestling
games

He kisses her with a mounting mixture of desire and revulsion, his mind picturing the black cavities and silver fillings around her groping tongue as the remnants of a charred corpse. Her nipples rise up like pikes to meet his flaccid breast.

By the crooked lamp

Glass pot in the kitchen
steam clouds
cups on the shelf
the box on the counter shrugs
a thirsty tree


plaid and hyacinth
feet up by a brown beer bottle
leaves crisp on the sill


muted blue light
shadows the wall
a map
to some buried
machine


the sense of an absent
song.

My white socks
bunched on the floor
need to be washed.

His thoughts are frequently clouded with pessimism on Sunday afternoons, when the wick of synthetic inspiration burns low. At these times he seeks remedy in sandwiches or the blankness of sleep. He must break free from this cycle; he must learn to separate himself from himself like grain from chaff – but he is no farmer. He must also return to work on Monday.

He agonizes, body and mind, in his unclean sheets until 3, 4, 5 in the afternoon.

Monday. He wakes to the breakfast skulking of crows in the tree beyond the window.