Friday, February 07, 2014
He sat principally among the lost. The sort of person you’d find wandering through the mall with no money in his pockets nor plans to spend any. Just sort of weaving in and out of people during the course of their shopping. They looked happy, he thought, as he meandered through the food court where the people resembled livestock. The escalator, his target, was on the opposite side of the food court, which meant he had to keep on weaving if he wanted freedom in the form of a conveyer belt.
He called it people-watching, an act which he resumed upon his ascent from the food court. His eyes went from the snake-like lines of sweaty, impatient, people, as they claimed tables with winter coats folded over the backs of the chairs; to the set of doors to the street, in constant motion from the steady stream of pedestrians escaping the clutches of the mall. Some lingered beside the door while they smoked the last few hurried drags of their cigarettes, before flicking them inappropriately close to others‘ feet as they walked past, apparently oblivious to the ashtray care of the city, placed right before them.
And quickly this view faded into the ceiling tiles of the food court, the closer he got the second floor. Foot traffic on the second floor were less hurried, more spread out. People resembled aircraft leaving each other enough room to fly safely. There were benches in the middle of the halls where people sat slumped over in their involuntary wait for a significant other or a friend on a mission in the store in front of their tired, impatient faces. Checking their watches to pass the time, letting out a sigh, or getting up for a quick lap around the bench. Returning to their sentence, this time picking up a discarded daily to thumb through, turning the pages so that they gave off an audible crutch in their passive aggressiveness.
Stores gave off a magnified glow, a sparkled shine that came off just as nicely as the mannequins, standing in eternal, fashionable, repose. Even if you had no intention of shopping in the store, the glow would pull you in and make you start to wonder and dream and picture yourself not as you normally were, but who you could be. If you had that scarf, you’d smile better in pictures, the ads seemed to suggest. But this wasn’t the part that he hated. He hated the part not where you could spot these subliminal messages, but the part where they worked....on you. There he’d be, wondering through ails of capri pants, an article of clothing he thought was ridiculous in the highest order. And who would buy those flip flops, they look as though if they flipped once, they’d flop. Ah, yes, but that’s why the store was giving them away three pair at a time for a sale price. He shook his head and backed away from the bin. Then, after successfully talking himself out of buying three orange pairs, he threw them back with the others and quietly left the store, behind the coat tales of his own shame.
His thoughts were scattered today, and amongst all the people watching, he was watching out for something to buy his girlfriend for Christmas. A similar question he could see on the faces of other men, as he saw them talking to customer service reps, overhearing size measurements, even an overly-long description of the curve of his gal’s hips. The rep seemed bored listening to the guy, who by this time had incorporated gesticulation into his portrait. Others seemed to be handling the product and then placing them back down and then spending several minutes pacing in front of the damn thing, only to scratch their heads and pick up their iPhones like it was a life line.
Nobody knew what to buy. They just knew they had to buy. And they had to make sure they got the right size, colour, edition, collection, this or that, at the best price they could find, and hurry home to make a mockery of the thing by wrapping it with the dexterity of a four year old. Addressing it to her with hand writing that didn’t hold up any better.
The only people who appeared to be enjoying themselves this afternoon were the old ladies that shopped in twos and threes and had fashionably grey hair and wore broaches and too much perfume, the kind that was both over-powering and strangely comforting, simultaneously. They marched down the halls leaving a trail of their laughter and the tears of others, overwhelmed by the perfume. Each of them had the look of the friendly neighbour who brings over a basket of whatever and casts the first smile. Leaving you with a basket of stuff you don’t like and questioning whether or not she was looking over your shoulder checking out your stuff. Flying in under the cover of “Oh, just thought I’d say hello and welcome you do the street,” like it was her official job to do it. You can find these people at bingo halls and talking through movies at the theatre.
And here he was, in their midst, in communion with their capitalist spirit, hating their guts and their deep, patriarchal wallets, at the glorious monument to punishment and slavery, the holiday shopping mall.
And there he was, standing in front of a window display. His eyes traveling down the sleeves and up the zippers and around each button of the sweaters. Whirling around the laces of the seasonal footwear and back up to the head, taking note of the toques. Yet for all his concentration on the fake people trapped in the display, he couldn’t tell you want it was he was looking at, or for. To begin with, he was here on a mission for his girlfriend...his girlfriend, and these were male mannequins. They were even standing like men, arms crossed, showcasing biceps, or one hand with jacket flung over an effortless shoulder, with one leg slightly bent and his opposite hand coming to a rest on his hip. At least they didn’t pop the collar on his golf-shirt, or the button-down covering it. All the jackets had fur-lined hoods and the shoes had little green alligators and the vests gleamed in their puffy, polished, surfaces, reflecting the spotlights off their breast pockets and through the streak-free glass and into his eyes, making him blink and rub them until he erased the dream-state from his internal blackboard and began to walk away looking stoned.
In defeat, he took a seat at one of the benches outside of a Sony store. Throughout the store he can see sales people making hand-gestures in front of 1080p flat-screens. “It’s so huge, they’ve actually changed the way they design couches,” he heard one close to the door shout. A smile grew across the customer’s face and then, from the bench, he witnessed the confirmation hand shake that said, with a smack of a coming-together of mutually sweaty palms, “I’ll take it.” He sat with his thoughts at the bench and began painting a portrait in his mind about what his living room would look like with a giant TV sitting in front of a coffee table with four piles of stacked milk-crates for legs. An absurd wall hanging if there ever was.
And just as he began to imagine the rest of the hole, the crash-landing of what looked to be a five year old boy, at the opposite end of the bench, broke up the puzzle into pieces that rolled invisible-to-the-boy away from the worn leather of his loafers. As the boy settled in, he turned his head toward him just in time to witness the boy’s proud posture sink into a slump of disappointment. What should a child know of despair? After quickly dismissing the thought and interpreting it as the mere witnessing of a tantrum, his eyes returned to the Sony store and the salesman, who by this time was wheedling a satisfied, commission earning, smile, and a dolly which had placed on it, the customer’s TV. The two men appeared to be discussing a rendezvous point at which to load the electronic beast into a sporty utility vehicle, equally as large. After seeming to agree, their image got smaller and smaller as they made their way down the hall, boarding a down-escalator, which created the appearance they were sinking into the floor. The mall had swallowed new-TV guy, and sales guy was playing tour guide to the ground floor.
The child then blurted out, to the man or to the people walking in the hallway, he, at that moment, honestly wasn’t sure which was his intended audience, “My Dad’s got an even bigger one!” Knowing that the child’s reference was to the family TV, he curbed the desire to laugh at the pun. A lot in what was funny about children was accidental. He instead thought about whether or not he should say something in return. He landed safely by asking, “Does he let you play video games on it?” Without a breath to gather his wind, the boy shouted, “NO! He yells at the TV!” Then he trailed off in giggles. Seeing no rational way out of the conversation, he opted for getting up and continuing to meander through packs of shoppers, in between groups of people moving their way down the halls like molasses down a spoon.
A few stores down the hall, his wondering eyes settled on the glass of a lingerie store. It’s display cases didn’t have mannequins, but instead, floor-to-ceiling photographs of actual models. The women looked the general way that lingerie models looked, pouty faces, arms akimbo, throwing bedroom eyes over shoulders, obstructed by perfectly placed strands of hair. Their eyes seemed to lock onto him and follow as he got closer, as if questioning his guts to go in and look around. He could get her lingerie, couldn’t he, he thought, as he began to feel the pace of his walk diminish noticeably. The trouble with his sense of humour was he was more likely to walk in and tell the first salesperson who asked that he was looking for something for himself. Tumble right through her state of shock-induced silence with a story about cross-dressing or finding pleasure in the texture of the fabrics. At some point he would have to laugh and assure the woman that he was joking, only to find his surprise when she would tell him about a time a tranny came in. They would bond over his joke and her unusual experience and then she would ask what he was looking for exactly. And then he was just another guy lost in the mall, trying to find hope in trusting the gut instinct that all men carried a general interest in lingerie, or at least enough to go and look. But standing outside the store, he didn’t know what to do. His only actual experience in buying lingerie, came with the question, “Did you want to get her something comfortable, too?”
It wasn’t because it was Christmas that made his choice of a gift important. Rather that it was their first Christmas together. The first holiday that couples usually decide to smile brilliantly in tasteful photos to pass around the family, with some vague message of best wishes written in cursive on the bottom, under the smiles and the perfect posture and the way all of his fingers were inside his pocket, except for a fashionable thumb on the outside. When they thought of the idea, almost instantly it become a contest of how silly could the photo be. Then they wouldn’t be taking it so seriously. The photo would be like the guy who gets a violinist to play table-side, while he’s drowning his date in course after course of rich, over the top food, with a silver high-hat of champaign off to one side of the table, who starts to realize how weird it is when the music stops. His attempts to swoon clouded by a constant reminder of a presence over his shoulder. And as he would gather himself and attempt to speak, the violinist would strike the string once more and a fresh tsunami of Tchaikovsky washed the trail of words from his mouth to her ears, away, leaving nervous laughter. His plan would be working against him. This was hardly the romantic setting he was hoping for. It had turned into a sort of game, with each side calculating their moves: the violinist watching their faces, the girl casting a not-too-subtle glance up at him, as if wondering if it was her turn to speak. He, feeling the sunburn of the violinist’s presence on his back, wondering if it was rude to turn around and tell the player that his gig was over.
He left the lingerie store with the sales person still laughing somewhere behind him. He left the lingerie store because he was weird about having to walk through the mall with a bag from a store like that. Gift cards were easier to hide, but what would that say to her. So he could only take away the lesson that, perhaps, lingerie wasn’t the route to take this Christmas. It was cliche, anyway, he thought, continuing down the hallway in search of an idea.
The skywalk between the mall and the Bay looked like the impact crater of an olympic apparel bombing. Rows of mannequins draped in red and white stitching, mittens, scarfs, t-shirts, sweaters, nearly every type imaginable, tattooed with Canada in bold letters. Patriotic beavers and geese printed on beer steins and camping chairs, everything save for a giant foam finger. It was more appropriate to ring a cow-bell, anyway. And there they were, maple leaves and all. And right away he was standing in a dream beside an alpine run, falling snow peppering the scene. A united nations of flags flapping in the mountain wind and cheers and awe from the crowd floating away in puffs of air. Rising excitement as the skier passes by in a flash of full tuck position. Cow-bells hits lurched from their shells and into the air, spreading out over everything underneath. A wake of fresh-caved snow from the skies edges wafts out over the crowd at the bottom. And...
A person who’s head was more concerned with his cellphone than his direction, ran into him as he was locked in his day dream and the collision brought him back to earth, away from the ringing of cow-bells and the cheering and the praise. He gathered himself and stepped back from the displays, this time feeling a certain fatigue begin to settle over him. This was tiring, he thought, standing there slightly wavering back and forth and beginning to pant slowly. Maybe he was exhausted by all the dreaming, by all the wonder and possibility. Those sorts of things can be easily overwhelming, but they had never before, so he had no basis of comparison. But he could have coffee and keep looking, he thought, already thinking about how he would get down to the street from where he was on the skywalk.
He opted for continuing to the department store and silently walking through racks upon racks of dormant women’s clothes. A few broach ladies were browsing and the hangers made a chink sound each time the women pushed on to the next item. Discount hunting with a vulgarity usually reserved for seduction porn. He passed the wig department - a room that looked like a typical hairdressers, save for columns of wigs of differing colours stacked around - and continued down the ramp. Clearance items sat on roll-away racks that took up most of the ails, so he had to excuse himself and not breathe as he waded through the broach lady perfume hurricane, which obstructed his route to freedom.
He welcomed the cold fresh air as he stepped out onto the snow-swept street. It was windy and grey and the wind had corralled the falling snow into the corners of the buildings that were lining the street. The four-lane street was pregnant was rush-hour automobiles with fogged up windows and passengers dressed like they were attempting to cross the Arctic, leaving trails of exhaust, the smell of which reminded him of a time when he was young, and he compared it to that of warm mayonaise. A day’s worth of Christmas shopping foot traffic was evident in the brown slush building up on the sidewalk.
A coffee shop was half way up the block, so he joined in the line of pedestrians and began walking, trying to avoid stepping through the puddles that littered his path. Christmas music spilled from a set of speakers anchored to the wall above the overhang. He had yet to think of a viable idea for his girlfriend. He just needed to refresh and think of something. It was excuse enough to come back out with a steaming latte and he quickly searched the area for a place dry enough to lean on for a minute, while he drank and thought about what he needed to find. He standing at the end of an open street market. It seemed to be meal time because the pubs were slammed with people chatting and drinking up the early evening. Outside, a street vendor was desperately trying to sell off the last of his hot-dogs, as light from strands of festival coloured bulbs burped green and red and white at their faces. He stood at a particular spot were, during the summer months, artists would scratch portraits and other drawings on the sidewalk, and passersby could watch them and leave tips.
He lost himself in thoughts of the perfect gift, but came back when he noticed that another man was kneeling on the ground next to him, fiddling with a small black case. His downward glance was quick, too quick, and he missed the part when the case opened and the man pulled out his instrument.
At this point, he was in his head, imagining the table where they would have dinner, wine in the glasses, flame on the candles. He would lean in to say something and then the man with the instrument ruined everything. Just as he was about to reach inside his coat pocket, the bubbling romantic silence of the moment was lacerated by the piercing rub of horsehair on steel string, that was the violin.
Friday, May 24, 2013
for a generation speaking Jesus and paranoia
in equal breath,
on scale of hope and fear.
Looking at a full glass and thinking
only of its emptiness;
holding ourselves in the present
of touch-screens and text messages -
we don’t see the cars about to hit us
as we walk and talk and
plan the day away;
planning to stay away only
if we can take it all with us
so it won’t grow in our absence
and we miss the chance to ride
the wave of opportunity and
end up paddling through the flat-water
of the world’s settled past.
...Imaging a heaven and explaining our existence
from mountains and caves where miracles took place;
flocking to Paris and headstones of the famous,
trying to capture their spirit
and praying it gives us life;
finding family-comfort in electronic friends -
bonds held together by the language of zero and one.
...Capturing moments in pictures
and calling them life
in a world where smiles stay frozen
and laughter is white noise;
in a world where the soldiers don’t stop for Christmas
to find joy dragging trees in from the forest
to make it feel real,
while pacifying the childrens’ wonder with
cookies and carrots for a man
who sneaks into homes to leave things behind.
...Harbouring the belief that tight circles of exclusivity
can bring the world together;
believing “yes we can”
because it came from the mouth of a black man;
believing that freedom comes
when we take it from others;
believing that bombs seek
while we’re taken aback by what they destroy;
believing that we can prolong life
and ease suffering with machines
that carry the heavy load of breathing
while we pray to the tiles of a floating ceiling
picturing the empty space in our minds
we call the promised land
and the homeless guy in the alley we call an angel.
...Waiting on the world to change while
we practice our dance moves in burning rooms;
playing in the field of our dreams
while trapped in an attic;
preserving the tears of black rain
and shadows burned into concrete
so we are reminded of the scars we can’t erase
and the people we can’t bring back;
constantly pruning the trees to suit our view
instead of changing our view of the trees.
And we’ve done it all in a world
where we attach great hope to discarded pennies;
bestowing upon them magic powers
when dropped into the right water.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Sunday, December 02, 2012
ain’t no sunshine through the window
ain’t no grass beneath the trees
they got no leaves on their branches
sitting by the window taking chances.
my breath upon the glass
your image makes it past, by automobile
snow tires on for wheels.
no footprints through the winter
no hand knockin’ at my door
I’ve called your voicemail before,
wasted my time to hear your sound
scatters the silence
a tactical violence.
you always find the right place to hit me
and I always fall apart.
All the men and the horses
couldn’t gather your remorses,
I’m just a man in a cave
can’t roll my stone away
can’t roll my stone away
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Saturday, October 01, 2011
America I’ve given it my all and you left me with nothing.
America five-hundred dollars credit, September 30, 2011.
I can’t afford my own peace of mind.
America when will you let me take off my clothes?
When will you be empathetic?
Will you ever stop sending our best eggs to die in deserts
and middle eastern streets?
America what plans are you concocting while we sleep?
I won’t let my emotional life be run by your atomic bomb.
America I feel sentimental about the West Memphis Three.
I studied Castro in school and downloaded music and I’m not sorry.
You should have caught me abusing Napster.
America I’ve checked into Hotel California.
America live fast die fun.
America when will you stop funding the human wars?
America free Tookie Williams.
America save the Arab-Americans.
America Mumia Abu-Jamal must not die.
America WE ARE TROY DAVIS.
America why are all your hospitals so full of tears?
When will you be worthy of your millions uninsured?
Leave my Medicare alone.
Go fuck yourself with your HMOs.
I just bought myself a gun so I can feel safe in my bedroom.
America look who’s wearing the strap-on.
America this is freedom of expression.
My ambition is to write despite how hard you make it to keep a pen.
America this continues to be serious.
It’s serious on the news in the streets in the schools in the churches.
Everybody thinks this is serious except for YOU America!
They mean food when their stomachs growl.
They mean medicine when their coughs do the talking.
They’re trying to speak when they go quiet.
America are you paying attention?
America you’re becoming quite greedy.
ME wants Big Oil.
ME like skyscraper and concrete landscapes.
ME have foreign Tar-Sand dreams.
America China is still rising against us.
America you don’t know who to go to war with.
America it’s them bad Terrorists. Them Terrorists and them Freedom Fighters.
Them Terrorists wants to blow us up again. Them Terrorists fly our planes.
Them Terrorists is suicidal and crazy. He wants to blow us up with envelopes
out our own mail boxes.
America all that’s left in Oklahoma is the Tree.
America but it is you and I who are still perfect.
America I am Canadian and this is the view I get from the television set.
America that wasn’t icing sugar you used to sweeten the Winnipeg sky in 1953.
America when will you fuck off and let me be?
America when I was eighteen years old I was watching the news with my mother and it showed us images of kids running out of their school with their hands held to the back of their heads and they were following the police officers while guns were firing and the injured kid crawled across the library floor and dangled outside the window for all the cameras to see and still inside were two kids with guns and bombs and trench coats who walked around their school and killed all the jocks they could shoot and then they killed themselves.
Then there was Virginia Tech.
America then ten more innocent holes in the Beltway.
America you still don’t understand what happened to Ron Kovic when he came home.
The Old Man can’t fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
America my name is Forrest Forrest Gump and people call me Forrest Gump.
America shit happens.
America I’m imagining there’s no heaven and I like what I see.
I won’t find your Jesus until I’m ready.
I believe I’ll finally find Neverland.
America I’m a super freak I’m super freaky.
America I’m going to keep on rockin’ in the free world.
America how many times will you turn your head and pretend you just don’t see?
America the answer is blowing in the wind.
America I found Forrester and he’s pissed
because nobody remembers his book
because you took all the books out all the libraries and you closed the libraries.
America for a fisher of men you’ve thrown many of us back.
America this is the view through Garry Gilmour’s eyes.
America is it becoming clear?
I didn’t say anything America.