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A. CAGES

Mrs. Anderson woke that Sunday morning
and decided to ruffle some feathers, wearing
a cheap, reductive wool coat and sandals
broken round the sole. She marched toward the door,
motioning for Daniel to turn the key,
turn the key Daniel, turn it,
and call the car,
my shoes are just shoes, Daniel,
there is nothing left to give:
for all my secrets, and all my sweat,
there is nothing left to give.

She sent the letter in the mail, to him,
name and regiment known, yet forgotten,
signed her name in runny ink, hoping
the stamp would stick, and licking the seal.
She turned her back along the wall, hiding,
sensing the smoke come barrelling down the street,
went up the hill and hid behind the drying sheet.

When Gilgamesh died on King William St.,
a few feet from the saloon,
three bullets placed in his chest,
we panicked, but didn’t cry,
for there is always another Gilgamesh,
lying beneath the bridge, haunting the rocks,
staring down the Hamilton city bus.

Cracked roads. Bumpy trails. 
Ticks and fleas sucking blood from arms and legs,
exposed yet joyous, cooking in the afternoon sun,
while the lawnmower jettisons dirt and mud and shit
’round the alleyway corner, hitting windows and waking those
deep within a summer sleep.

We saw the setting sun weep.

We wished it was the end of it,

but grass goes on to creep.

“I couldn’t have wished for a better day.”
                 “Because the day is all we had.”

When someone walks down the road,
Turning the corner at Main and Emerson,
Are they looking at you through the glass?
Or just admiring their reflection as they pass?

“Janis Joplin was 25 when she performed ‘Ball and Chain’ at
Woodstock.”

“Where were you when the tower fell?”

When the scene finally cleared, 
the neighbours beneath the hill could only gawk at the young, blonde-haired, barefooted
widow making her way down the winding road, carrying nothing but a carpet.

They said she laughed a laugh—but not one of menace or impurity, but a healthy
laugh—the kind of laugh that only comes about when something finally goes your way.

“And Rosy was trying to explain…”

One ladle, two ladle, three ladle, four,
I can hear somebody knocking on the door. 
One step, two step, three step, four,
I can hear somebody knocking on the door. 
Five step, six step, seven step, eight,
I know who the person is that you really hate. 
Nine step, ten step, eight step, nine,
I wish the hourglass wasn’t really mine.

I suppose it has a certain, eh, je ne sais quoi?
A kind of murky intensity, a sort of, eh,
How you say, stupidity?
It was over before it started, dear,
It was over before it even started. 
But, you know, that’s how these things work:
they write, they wonder, they wish, and they die.

If anything were even true about this, why would we do it?

Somebody has an answer, dear, somebody does. 
I know, for certain, because I spoke to Mrs. Anderson
(God help her with those ghastly shoes)
And she said yes, Daniel, yes,
There is something about this piece that rings a certain bell,
Or lights a certain lamp,
Or, eh, calls a certain question. 
Let me try and find it, dear,
Please, do let me try. 
I want to think about time myself,
The time that runs me dry.

B. CRAWLERS

They lit the fire down in Troy, just shy of Rockton,
across from the inn that housed the family. 
Railyards and back-end alleys whisper
tones of absolution, with mist rising 
from eager streets, and pendulums swinging,
waiting, dancing, and wishing for the birds to come home.

 

I can see the places where they hide:
The ones left unseen by my childhood eyes.

 

I saw three witches turn the wheel.
            And I keeled over.
                       A moment of exposure, exposed. 
                       Angulimala, help me repent.

 

“He knows not what he’s done.”

 

She stored the sweat in her brow, and she trembled,
holding the swaddled child, rubbing its nose,
listening to it laugh, chuckling amidst the darkness,
holding on to any joys that might appear here,
while the thunder cracked along the skyline,
and the motor turned silent as the key unlocked the door.

 

Curl and drag, Dr. Carter, curl and drag.
It makes the most sense, such a ragged
tune you play, go up, come down,
now, now, Dr. Carter, all is well.
Swing and a miss, Mr. Wellington,
Swing. And. A. Miss. 

 

“Let’s just say it’s make-belief.”

 

If the second spirit walks beside you,
let it in. 
If the second spirit wants to see you,
let it in. 

“Wasn’t she the one who did ‘Creature of the Night?’”

“I tried to reach you, but your phone was dead.”

Knitted socks rest warm on the furnace,
A ticking clock calls the hours:
Home is where the anchor lies.

Trendy suits and waistcoats churn among the painted lines,
Yellow chalk lines the outward signs amidst the blackened plane:
He could have called, I suppose, but to what end?

“I tried to reach you, but your phone was dead.”

Look at me and turn. 
Look at me and turn. 
And turn.
Turn again. 
And turn. 
Turn again.
And turn. 
Perfect, darling.

Perfect.

Wasted time and wasted lands. 
I wish I called to burn sooner,

Burning.

Take me down to the lake and
Send me sideways,
Along the river, to the whirling pool,
Send me to Kearney, to Algonquin, 
Along the strait of Gibraltar
Where I can lay me down to sleep,
My anchor thick and wading knee-deep.
              Trust me, I swear:
              If it were the end, you’d know.

The plains along Oxford Road 4 remind me of my heart:
Vast landscapes open with opportunity,
Yet constantly sold to developers who
Shift and dig and pitch,
Trying to strike gold in a land that was already rich.

When we gathered, the ten of us,
Sitting in chairs that had seen better days,
The sun rose to watch us,
And the night crept to protect us. 
But on this day, we laughed,
And we sang, and we waved:
We waved today and saluted tomorrow. 
We smiled. We smiled. We smiled.

What else can we do?

Such is the end of time,
such is the beginning of life.

“This guy is from Tripoli, like me!”

C. ARRANGEMENTS

At the sandy hour, thirteen men in top hats and
waistcoats stood, in a circle,
to talk to the younger ones about the homeless.
If you feel threatened, run away, they said. 
But why run, they replied, why do we always run?

 

Why do we always have to run?

 

Jessica, come sit down, here, with grandpa: 
Let me tell you something. 
You know the clock that sits on the wall, ticking:
That was my father’s clock.
And his father’s before him. 
It was stolen, you see, from a museum:
Stolen from a shelf of the Smithsonian, they said:
Stolen right out from under their noses,
Like love in the wintertime—vanished—
Awakened by the night’s sleep and drifted off
To Maryland, where the maker supplied the bolts. 
Now here, in Hyannis, I watch it tick with you.
Down by the shore, near Kennedy’s bench,
I watch it tick with you.

Tick     tick      tick     tick. 

You know, Jessica,
The funny thing about time is that we exist in time,
Yet time does not exist in us. 
We exist around time,
But time does not exist around us. 
We cannot be one with time. 
If we were one with time, we’d live:
We’d live to see the planets form a lightly tailored ring. 
We’d live to see the mermaids and the other creatures sing. 
I’d rest my shoulder on the bough and cough against the tree. 
I might have had the chance, I think, to make it to the sea.

I rest my case on your worried head:

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

If we were one with time, we’d live.

I wish I did not die.

 

County Fair Log, 1975:

                        –     Strongman contest: 11:00 A.M-1:00 P.M.

                                      º     WINNER: J.F. Salazar

            •    6’1’’
            •    305 lbs.
      •  
      •  

Twelve months went by, and she stared
Stared blankly at the palace wall,
While tigers danced in circles on the sheets
And elves skulked in darkened corners, waiting. 
The bell rang, and she rose, 
placing the mattress on the bed,
reaching then for the closet door that housed the linens. 
She stroked her hair, and trembled, waiting for the cry.
And she could not help letting out one barren sigh when it came:

“RAPUNZEL, RAPUNZEL: LET DOWN YOUR HAIR.”

Atlas carried the world to bed,
a broken, dizzied man. 

D. AILMENTS

If I had the chance to explain myself, I would, you see. 
I’d explain it very well, but most times nobody listens. 
Isn’t that the problem, though?
Asking for advice from people who will take your side. 
Never knew about that one. Seemed a bit strange. 
Relax though, relax, calm down, take a breath. 
There’s nothing stopping your hands from sweating. 
Why is your lip trembling?
Why can’t you just do something properly?
I had my chance and took it, Mel,
I had my chance and took it. 
Not my fault you sit at home all day,
wandering around the house waiting for a miracle. 
What’s so wrong with that?
Miracles don’t happen to people like us. 
What about that storm, in the rain,
that lightning strikes.
Albert should be dead, but he isn’t. 
Albert isn’t dead because the doctors knew what to do. 
Poking and prodding at his brain isn’t the miracle, Ken:
The miracle is his will to live. 
His will to live? He has no will to live. 
He’s a barn cat, Mel, a slinky barn cat. 
He doesn’t know left from right,
Up from down,
Here from there. 
Now that I think about it, 
Does anybody really know here from there?
Does anybody know what to really do?
We make our choices; we sit with our pain. 
But when are choices obligations,
and obligations prayers?
When do prayers become chores?
Does God know he’s listening?
Are his ears open?
His ears are open, Ken,
His ears are open. 
We hope, Mel. 
We hope. 

 

Come to the woodpile, have a look,
The puddle there, see it?
Do you see your reflection?
What is it telling you?

It’s telling me I’m young enough to know,
But old enough to stay away.

Let this be a truce, then,
Between the maker and his made.

 

Sleeping Beauty took a Xanax and fell onto her spindle.

 

The farmhouse in Grimsby was owned by a couple,
Lived there for forty years I take it. 
Raised three kids then retired,
maintaining the property for however long. 
They’re in their eighties now, I think. 
Everyone on the street is older,
moving out slowly into retirement homes, but they’re still here:
the snow still gets shovelled, and the garden blooms each year,
but I wonder how they do it when I never see them here. 

E. HYDRAULICS

worry beads threaded through string.

 

 

 

the planets in orbit.

 

 

a message to heaven that we’re still here.

 

When crowds of people flowed out from the Avon Theatre,
Stepping past buskers and wandering couples,
Seeing Hamlet or Lear,
We knew the holidays were upon us,
With long nights at Bentley’s
Sipping ginger ale from curly straws
And laughing at the tacky bathroom signs.

A broken record spews Carole King in a room 
where the windows do not open. 

Whistles dream about Wisconsin and ponder the Maritimes while
the ship sinks courtesy of a captain overwhelmed by gin.

Thirteen maiden voyages
To lands unknown to us
Don’t you know they’ve lived already?
Lived to know them all?

A woman’s tailored outfit
and board games on the floor
let her strut a wild strut
and smile like before.

F. CONCLUSIONS

 

And so, Mrs. Anderson, here we are:
a spot where I perceive the ending. 
What do you think?

“I think it’s dreadful.”

Now now, Mrs. Anderson, there’s no need for that. 
Surely there was something in there that you enjoyed.

“No.”

Well, so much for that, then. 

NIKO HALOULOS will soon be starting his fifth year in the Honours English and Cultural Studies program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Niko’s writing obsesses over ideas of home, place, and time. His current interests include understanding how individuals and communities interact with and within the spaces they inhabit.