Packaging

Sometimes I wish I could meet myself

and see if it’s true

that I smell like clean laundry,

that practicing my smiles in the mirror

and distilling my saliva

has turned me into the detergent mascot

I wished you wished me to be.

Maybe knowing would

sell me the idea

that I am alive,

even if the living can, too

rot and fester.

Young People Non-Manifesto

Adults only want you to change the world

when it’s into their own diapers,

the soggy, slobbery napkins soaked in

perfumes born of petroleum

to cover up the smell of their bullshit.

 

Nobody wants a stranger to inherit their child

completely, to raise it up after they’re gone

or call child protective services;

both erode the pride they earned

pushing it from their birth canal

through recession, world wars and more.

 

No, they still want the fun parts,

the Disneyland trips and roses on their doorsteps,

the ‘congratulations, it’s the blue planet’,

remember, you are just a babysitter,

and if they can’t have that,

have that big blue baby buried six feet under

with them in the family cemetery

next to Fido and Garfield

and all the country clubbers

the only friends they’ve ever known,

they would rather let that shit

fester and rot

and not change the baby at all.

Democracy

There is a growling pounding and a beating on the streets,

An open-toed dance of a million angry feet.

The whistles are a-blowing and the business climate, too;

They pick something to picket that the clients soon eschew.

 

There is a siren sounding and a hissing on the streets,

Where clouds of smoke are rising up in somber-coloured sheets.

A flock of birds escapes the scene with shrill and chilling cries,

And yet the crowd will not disperse until somebody dies.

 

The officer sets up his stand, accepts an offered smoke,

Relaxing here would do as much of good as had he spoke,

For there is nothing here that can be uttered to allay

The dang’rous disappointment of a cancelled holiday.

The Will

Let us not become

the inheritors of fear

that would polish the prejudices of our parents

or wipe their rose-coloured windows.

Let us not sell away

the gardens they have nourished with their lifetime

and watch as the grass gives way to parking lots.

We make ourselves careful curators

that take expired goods off of the shelves,

that sweep the dust from a well-loved parquet,

move the fading paintings into the basement

and bring up buried treasures to replace them,

indulge children in stories

and buy new fairy lights.

True Love

Fresh rainwater polishes the waterside boulevard in town. The fat droplets reflect the colours of cartoonish lanterns that smile down from pushcarts. On either side of the walkway, couples march forward, pastel-pink umbrellas belying a pace almost mournful in its slowness. Some are attached by the hip, others by the shins or ankles or arms. Some look more comfortable than others. Nevertheless, the thick red sutures keep them all together. It’s Valentine’s Day.

Only two soulmates among them have not planned a date. Later, he’d said last night, but then breakfast had come and gone, the drivers had picked them up and left and the boulevard had filled. Even now he is barking into his phone, pulling them into one ambling lurch after another. An untied shoelace flails like a tortured worm from his sleek shiny Oxford.

The street cleaner swipes one hand over her wrinkled forehead, where sweat and rainwater intermingle into a sour acidic wash. Tired eyes roll upwards, stretched taut by crow’s feet, to where he’s been brandishing the velvety black umbrella with both their hands but only his fist. She wants to tell him to loosen his grip, just slightly, so she can shield herself from the freezing drops, and that his shoelace is untied, and that she wants her hand back now, can she have her hand back, for good? Instead, she tugs at the red string connecting their elbows, as if picking at an old scar and drives her mop left-handed.

People never want to know there’s something wrong with their outfit. She imagines the humiliation of bending double in public, buttocks in the air like some kind of cartoon ostrich, fingers fumbling to right the wrong in their traitorous footwear. It’s not hard to understand; even she can get it. Still, he shouldn’t have to make this so difficult.

A frenzied reporter comes dashing from around the curb, yellow raincoat fluttering behind her. Dew drops of blue gleam hungrily in bottomless eye-sockets, questions gushing in streams from her lush lips. Suddenly, her soulmate breaks away from his phone to gawk and gape. She expects jealousy, but her shriveled heart oozes only desperation. Could this girl help tell him that his shoelace is untied? Just as a favour, pretty please?

The worry lines in his brow have only deepened since his new job, yet he beams so brightly elucidating it into the microphone. It’s hard for him, she knows, having to polish his profile all the time. If only he could polish his shoes, himself, if only – No. The street cleaner picks up a stray leaf and chucks it into the water. She mustn’t think that way.

Every so often her hip bumps against his – it takes the whole body to clean, after all, especially at her age – and every so often he tenses and tries to edge away. Old memories resurface of their bonding ceremony as children. You are what each other needs, they’d told her, as if he would always understand that, as if he would always cherish his vegetables and plain water.

As her soulmate entertains the reporter, a pair of kindergartners runs past, shouting and squabbling, the strained line connecting one bruised pinkie to the other dripping red from their exertions. Flushed cheeks puff over some garbled argument and they pull at the sutures, back and forth, until the trail of blood spots behind them resembles cherry blossoms at the end of spring. One footfall lands particularly hard into a puddle, spraying the street cleaner’s pant leg with mud and detritus.

Puddles. They are as shallow as the warmth of a first kiss. Every morning they stretch for yards and reflect the receding stars. Every evening the blotchy remains shrink away between the fibres of her mop.

“It’s not that we don’t like each other,” her soulmate laughs, gaze locked onto the reporter’s plastic-packaged chest. “We just feel . . . stuck.”

Yes. That’s it. The old mop clatters to the floor as she finally stoops down and plucks the shoelace from the mud. They are stuck.

Cohabitation

We all live

among cacophonic neighbours:

those who thrive

upon chaos,

bloodshed, war

and traffic jams.

They care not

for our gardens, our

poor grass crushed

underneath their blanket of cigarette smoke,

each sprout dead

and the flowers into ashes.

No one thinks

about the coming of the spring,

where birds go

when the branches are broken.

All they know

is their catastrophic comfort,

mead and drink

behind the shuttered windows.

this playground is dead

1

i saw them hacking at the see-saw

 

with an old and rusted

mind,

 

as if the peeling red flakes

could colour over

the deepest shade of death.

 

2

he stood up on a swing

 

perched like a comorant

at the edge of the water

 

with cross hairs in his eyes although

his thoughts dilated, out of focus,

quiet as the once-oiled hinges.

 

3

the park bench lies

 

about its age, using

a facade of flint-grey paint

 

to hide the viridian beds of moss and

conceal the million spores

that have begged from it a new home.