Saturday, October 29, 2005

cocksure and crazy (a misrepresentation)

When did success happen? Has it yet? It wasn't the moment of first publication. No, certainly not then. If it has happened, and, indeed, you wanted to mark the point of its happening, then perhaps you would choose the acquisition, no, the developing of a critic. "Developing," you mutter under your breath, and laugh a little to yourself. Developing, as though you played a major part in the critic's springing forth into existence. And perhaps you did. For without your words, and the words of other's, the critic's life is a fairly purposeless one.

Tonight, a party. The clinking of glasses filled with absurd alcoholic concoctions, pretty and pink. Lame jokes and affected laughter falling flat in opaque air. What do you do? is the question on everyone's lips. You make up a name, and tell them you're a labourer - and it isn't far from the truth. Words don't come easily these days, and there will be no talk of them tonight. A suspicious eye tries to squint beneath the slender arch of an over-plucked eyebrow. The beast's collagen pumped lips part slightly. "What type of labour?" it purrs. "General," you answer. The beast tries to smile, but can't for the botox. Or maybe it never learnt how. Smiling is unique to humans, after all.

In the washroom, now. You're comfortable here, with the party little more than a barely audible hoo-ha through the wall. Just you and the bass line. Leaning against the inside of a stall, staring down at the toilet and the floor, you're thinking about all the coke that's been snorted in this very space. Shit, there's probably enough for a line right there between the ceramic tiles. How many times has the same scene played out here? Fine white powder, chopped up with a platinum card on a cigaret pack. Sliced into a line. The careful rolling of a twenty. Breathe in, nice and natch. Feel the drip, taste it, acerbic, medicinal. The packet of posh slipped back into pocket. A stretch and an exit. A confident re-entry, a seamless shuffling of one into many. But this isn't you. No, not anymore.

You - you'll slip out of the washroom and through the back door. Wary of the searching eyes of beasts. Fearful of their veneered snarl. Outside, you'll loosen your tie, and shrug out of your coat despite the cold. Metamorphosis. Like a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon. Following this, there's the scene consisting of a lonely cab ride home. A searching of city lights, the same lights which called to you in youth, and those same lights with which you've since grown disenchanted. When did success happen? Has it yet? Is this it? You were promised more - weren't you? The critic, he lives a good life. One of waiting and dismantling; easy things. Right now, he's at home sleeping peacefully, a smile on his face. Tonight he dreams of your next work. For him, it's already written. For you, there's still so much work to be done - and it won't get done like this.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

unsound seams (an ungluing)


Someone was here, you think. A sneaking, evasive soul, lurking behind the scenes like a puppet master of old, dancing marionettes on strings. A vaudevillian ventriloquist and her dummy, one voice speaking through the mouth of another. The worst kind all, one who plays at making shadows on the wall, leaving no evidence behind. Her stage, little more than a bare wall, her actors, little more than tricks of light and non-light. When she leaves, she packs up her entire universe with the opening of a light and is gone.


Was it then all in your head? "Get thyself to a doctor," he said. "Call in sick to work, get some rest." No-one saw her. Remind yourself of this. You're leaning, easy, on the water cooler. Waiting for more talk. Keeping work at a distance. The buzzing fluorescent lights come down, pouring in through your eyes, filling your head. The bitterness of terrible coffee eats away at your tongue. Acrid. A storm is building. Images of a whirlwind of papers sweeping you away. A twister of a billion misspelt words. You grip your head, applying pressure at the temples. Then you're looking back up, squinting out across a sea of cubicles. She's out there, you tell yourself, adrift, lost, alone.


She vanished as such,
like one who steals through the night
on the cool autumn breeze
riding waves of yellow moonlight.


Hell, you didn't even see her - you only noticed the non-evidence of her visit. Does that make sense? Anger builds, and you're roughly calculating how many sick days you have banked. You detected the non-evidence of her visit, to be sure, a sort of unique sense of non-being. Like standing in the same room as a corpse, even before one knows she is in the presence of a body, even before she sees it or smells the sweetness of its initial rot, she will know it is there by the acute absence of life.


The end of the day comes. It always does. You'll say goodbye to those others you say goodbye to. You'll nod to those others you nod to. You'll ignore those others you ignore. Calm and cool. Everything's alright. Remind yourself of this. A backward glance at your desk reveals papers stacked neatly in place, the lead of your pencil sharpened just right, and your mouse is sitting exactly where it should be - where it wasn't this morning. Right? Password protection will be enabled from this point on. Someone was here, you think. A sneaking, evasive soul, lurking behind the scenes. You lock your door behind you - the click doesn't bring the comfort it usually does. You survey, once more, the sea of cubicles. She's out there somewhere, you tell yourself, planning, calculating, scheming. They're all suspect. Everyone here is your enemy.

Monday, October 24, 2005

the ride

It's a misplaced looking of the backwards type disguised, perhaps, as a lateral flitting of the eyes, a wink and a nod to a time fresh, but not so recent in memory. This fleeting glance at the past is necessary not because he has to yearn for that time, but because he does have to acknowledge it so as to enable forward movement. With no past, there can be no present, no future - no-one needs to tell him that.

So who is this man with the shifting eyes? You'll see him shuffling down the street, dishevelled, with a mess of books under his arm. Not really going anywhere - he's just going. You'll see him in the train station. You can't miss him. Is he young or old, you'll ask yourself. It looks like he might be doing homework, so you'll mistake him for a student. As it turns out, he's exactly the kind of guy you want sitting near you on the train, and you'll end up boarding the wrong car behind him, sitting adjacent to him in hopes of a spontaneous - or a not so spontaneous - conversation. It won't happen, though, because you won't say the first word. But if you do, he'll be more than happy to lie to you for awhile.

Oh, yes, he'll tell you lies all right. He'll let you believe one thing while telling you another. Then he'll flip it around and tell you another thing while simultaneously hinting at something else. The most dangerous part is that he'll do all of this without drawing your annoyance - only your deeper interest. Noticing the text books, you'll most likely ask about school, and he'll most likely be noncommittal. Not so much due to the embarrassment at having, or not having, something to do with the echo chamber of formal education, but due solely to lack of interest in such a thing. "So, what do you do?" you'll ask, and he'll throw around a bunch of words. Words like government, maintenance, accountability - labourer. "Labourer?" you'll ask. "We're all labourers," he'll tell you. And in that instant it will make just enough sense.

He'll spend a lot of time avoiding obvious eye contact, this man, choosing, instead, to stare out the window at the passing scenery - or that's how it'll look to you, anyway. If you choose to look the right way, though, you'll notice how he looks not through the glass, but at it. He's making eye contact with your reflection in the window. He prefers it this way: personal contact on his own terms. Just one more buffer between him and reality. All the while, you'll be looking at the side of his face, talking away, wishing he would just turn a bit so that you might see his eyes - not knowing that all you need to do is turn your own head just a few degrees and meet him in the middle.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

dormant desperation (an awakening)

There's a certain sadness and a whole host of moody offerings left on the table after his departure. It smoulders in his cigaret stubs crushed in the ashtray. It listlessly saunters round the coffee rings left on his paper placemat. It's crumpled up in the five he dug out of his trouser pocket for the tab. "Tell her she can keep the change," he said, shrugging into his coat. A quick calculation revealed that his sandwich and coffee came to $4.55 - before taxes. He always was a cheap bastard, though. But I didn't say anything. Why would I bother? He'll never change his game.

"You've lost your potential." This is how he chose to kick-start the conversation, by saying something provoking. No, wait, it wasn't even provoking - that's giving him too much credit. As though this shot was carefully planned, as though it required some modicum of thought. No, it was more inciting than provoking, and more instigating than inciting. And surely it was more taunting than instigating. Yes, taunting, that's what it was.

"I had potential? I do wish somebody would have told me this."

"You've plateaued too quickly," he laughed, "reached terminal velocity. You've stopped becoming, you said it yourself, and have now become - this is it, there will be no more growth, no going forward."

He couldn't get to me. It was impossible. "Well, I guess it's better to have had potential and wasted it," I said, "than to never have had potential at all."

It rides on the particles of cheap cologne still hanging in the air long after his exit. It's in the black scuffs beneath the table marked by the soles of bargain-basement shoes. It's desperation, and he's chalkfull of it. Desperate to discover some kind of personal potential. Desperate to find purpose. Just desperate. He wants, no, he needs to find evidence of that same desperation in others. He yearns to find that familiar misery in their eyes. He searches for it, tries to draw it out. Like Hansel and his breadcrumbs, he leaves bits of desperation everywhere he goes. Not so that he might find his way home, but so that potential might one day find him. But like the weak beacon of an aging lighthouse flashing out to a vast sea, seen through the fog by the bleary eyes of a drunken sailor, it could easily be missed. Missed by all, that is, but for those who know this sorry man.

Friday, October 21, 2005



The challenge, as always, will be trying to reconcile the man who is with the boy who used to be. Friends will look for a bridge. "When did he change," they'll ask each other. "Did he always think such things? Why did he never talk to us?" They will, these friends, search for clues to explain your sudden change. That's what they'll call it, sudden, as though you just up and changed over night. You'll want to remind them that the shift was not so abrupt, that perhaps they just weren't paying attention. Or maybe you'll want to say that there wasn't a change at all, that maybe, just maybe, they never really knew you. And maybe they still don't.


Sometimes you tire of signing your signature to papers. When will it end? you ask yourself. All of this signing, what does it mean? Waiting in line at the bank, you're signing things and thinking about signing things. You take a break only to stare at the tiki floor, and to flex your hand. There are no muscles here, you remind yourself, little more than flesh, bone, and tendons. Fingers moving by remote control. Reading signals from the brain. Amazing, really. And all so that you might spend your life signing things. The line inches forward. You're next. Listening past the non-silence of the bank's interior, your consciousness floats above the din and you hear it: the muttering of voices, one on top of the other, overlapping, like a sort of vox collage. Each voice like piece of tissue paper glued to a construction paper background. Each voice saying the same thing: Sign here, please.


"He can't be trusted," she says. "He talks a lot," she tells me, "and a lot of that talk comes with very little thought." She reminds you that this is a very bad combination. "Just the other day," she says, "he was talking about you and was busy paraphrasing a little conversation you had with him last week - a conversation that I would think you had intended to be confidential?" You tell her that perhaps he was seeking insight, a different perspective. "No," she says, "he was most assuredly not seeking insight - he was betraying you." Considering this a moment, you ask: "Waitaminute, was not your conversation with him supposed to be as well confidential?"


You'll sleep. In time, you'll sleep - but until then, you'll wait. Just as you waited in rush hour traffic, waited in line at the bank, and at the theatre, so, too, will you wait in line to sleep. A whole life spent waiting your turn. And will death bring yet more waiting? To be sure, it will. You're certain that no matter which end you've chosen for yourself - a rebirth, a glistening afterlife in the sky/a hot afterlife in the ground, or eternal nothingness - there will be waiting involved. Oh, and signing. Many forms will have to be signed, of course. Forms filled out in duplicate, triplicate, and quadruplicate. A signature on every page. An eternity of waiting and signing - and the rumination that comes with each. Chewing cud forever and always.

Monday, October 17, 2005


How is it possible for one man to say so much? You're standing at the other end of the table, talking with mouth and hands, shouting with both to make your point. You're leaning in, fists clenched, mouth open wide, talk, talk, talking, and I steady my pint, watching with great sadness as beer escapes glasses all across the table. It's not pretty, this oration, but it's effective. You have the ability to draw others in with your excitement. Make them as excited about your subject as you are, as you pretend to be. You'll be a politician someday. You can't help it - it's what you were born to do.

At the end of the night, a tab materialises and is settled up, coats are put on, the last gulps of beer are not wasted, and slide easily down throats. Memory is a little hazy here, but I can only imagine that there was an unsteady meandering to the exit, and as clumsily as we cross the threshold from one year to the next, we would have poured across the door of that pub and spilled drunkenly out into the streets.

"Wait, did you say spilled?"

It's cold outside, and I'm fairly certain I'm not in any state of mind to listen to what you have to say. So, I decide to say as little as possible in hopes that you sense my mood and change your course. "I did, indeed," I mutter.

I should have known. After fifteen years, I should have known. "My apologies in advance if I'm wrong," you say with false lightness, "but I believe the word you're looking for is spilt."

I sigh. I'm sure I sigh, and a reluctant response is drawn from me. "No," I tell you, "it is most assuredly spilled - I only use proper words. The words I want to use."

There is silence for a moment, but not just any silence - a smirking silence. The worst kind. "So you can just make up words now?" You pause to smirk some more, and wait for a reaction. Not immediately satisfied, you push a little harder. "So, you could have used spilted and it would have done just as well?"

We walk in silence for half a minute or so. You're patting yourself on the back for pushing the right buttons. I'm deciding what to say. "I'll address this matter in three parts," I announce at last. "a) Spilled is every bit a word as spilt - the use of one over the other is simply a matter of personal choice. b) If I had used spilted in place of spilt or spilled and you understood me perfectly, what would have been the problem? Is not the sole purpose of language simply to make oneself understood? And c) You, my friend, are a world-class idiot."

You chuckle just like I knew you would. Even before my answer, you knew what your response to my answer would be. The construction of sound conversation requires careful planning. "Well," you say," I think one does the language a great disservice by just making up terrible words. What if someone else was listening? What if they bore witness such a terrible choice of words? What conclusions could be drawn about the language?" You throw in a pause for effect, before carrying on. "It's important to use proper words whenever possible to make the language, and thus, you, as attractive as possible."

Apparently the consumption of pints has put you off your game. You've made it things too easy. "If the eavesdropper in question is a speaker of this language - which she would have to be in order to understand what was being said - then she would understand perfectly well its nature," I say. "Please, allow me to use a French word here to describe the English language: jolie-laide. Beautiful-ugly. It is the ugliness of English which makes it beautiful - so I have no qualms about making it uglier."

At this point, there was a breakdown in borderline civilised conversation, and we resorted to childish bickering. We were talking at the same time, voices raised, right to the sky, where they mingled with car exhaust, factory smoke, and other pollutants. Someone could hear us. Someone could always hear us. Somewhere, someone was lying in bed with their window open just a crack, barely enough to let the heat out and our voices in. They floated clumsily on air then, our voices, never having learnt how to fly, and made their way to that window where they smacked up against the glass, slid sorrily down, and spilted through the crack to waiting ears inside.

Friday, October 14, 2005


How many times have we walked down this same path? Through how many seasons? Over how many years? We're not any older, but everything around us is changing. The trees have grown taller, fuller, and the flower beds have widened. That's good, I think, the world could use more flowers. I sneak a glance at you, and find you tense, pensive. You've something on your mind. And I know exactly what it is.

"I hear you're thinking about bringing the great experiment to an end?"

"I'd ask how you always hear about such things, but I know the answer is perhaps a little obvious. Anyway, yes, you're right - I'm thinking about bringing the whole thing to an end."

"Dare I ask why?"

"Well, the most interesting part of the experiment was just waiting to see where it was going. It seems now, though, that after a full two years, this thing has indeed stopped becoming and has now become - there is no more change to be had. Evolution has ceased. I've seen it through to the end."

"How is it that you end such a thing, anyway? Is there some accepted way of doing it?"

"That I haven't figured out yet. How does one end something that has no purpose and no proper beginning?"

"I suppose you could start with some thank yous - you know, to the people who kept you going."

"Naw, then I'd run the risk of sounding like I was giving a boring Oscar acceptance speech: standing in front of the microphone in fancy dress with sweat beading on my forehead, pulling a little creased piece of paper out of my jacket pocket, holding it in trembling hand, and rambling off a hundred meaningless names. I don't think so. A little overdone don't you think?"

"I guess so. What about writing one last poem?"

"Now that's not a bad idea. Let's see, maybe something like:

What can be said
in finite syllables
that is original?"

"Dude, that's not so good."

"Hey, that's just something off the top of my head - of course I'd finesse it a little."

"I think it needs something more than a little finessing. Couldn't you just write something normal for a change? Maybe just say what you mean, you know?"

"Yeah, okay, I think I see where you're going with this - say what I mean, so as not to leave people confused. Scrap the ambiguity and the indefinite. Leave them with something solid. Leave them with no doubt."


"Okay, so how about this:

There is nothing
more to see here-
this is the end."

In autumn, the green leaves turn the colour of fire - orange, yellow, and red - before falling from the trees. Then the caretakers come, labouring beneath the naked branches, raking dried leaves into great piles, shoving them into bags, and taking them to the landfill. They'll go home, these caretakers, pleased with their day of work. Home, to a hot meal and a loving family. Home, to a fireplace and a good book. Home, to sit down with pen and paper. Home, to let their imaginations run free. These caretakers will go to sleep at night beneath mammoth down-filled duvets, dream, and wake in the morning to do it all over again. There are no ends for the caretakers - only cycles. Beginning after beginning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

business partners

holey (past)

Black cars look better in the shade, therefore white cars look better in the sun. You know a guy whose logic works like this. Unerring in the simplicity of his reasoning, he's satisfied in his ignorance, and roughly casts about his flawed opinions to all who will listen. Ratiocination - perfect only to him. But his opinion of himself is all that matters, anyway. There’s a lot of talk, a veritable avalanche. Somewhere along the line, a plan is proposed and accepted. A deal is struck. Papers are signed. You’re swept away.

holy (present)

Short staccato bursts from the trumpet, the wail of a sax, the bass drum heartbeat, and here's you at the edge of controlled chaos, snapping your fingers in the offbeat. The dance floor stretches before you, a sea bopping heads, and swinging arms, no longer made up of individuals, but existing as one entity. Beyond this, the band plays, whipping this frenzied mass to life. You catch the eye of the conga player, his palms feverishly slapping the drums. A bead of sweat rolls from his brow, down his face, and hangs from his chin for a second before falling. There's the slight nod of recognition. Shirt pressed, hair immaculate, you tap your toes in shiny wingtips. Tossing back the rest of your gin and tonic, a cute dress materialises before you, smiling. Then her hand is in yours and you're out on the floor again.

wholly (future)

There's not much here anymore. Like a Hermit crab inhabiting a found shell, a bank has moved into your old nightclub. Protecting its soft underbelly with the walls that once protected yours, the bank is completing a circle. As much as you hate its presence and detest all it stands for, the bank has become very important to you. Just have a seat in this chair, the manager will be with you shortly. Black lights have turned to buzzing fluorescents. Already getting a headache, you rub your eyes. There's a far away tune. Listen for the rim shots, follow them - they'll lead the way. Toes begin to tap, and fingers begin to snap in the offbeat. You can almost taste the lemon twist. The bubbles of tonic dance on your tongue. Taking a sip, a black suit materialises before you wearing a fake smile. Then his hand is in yours and you're back in reality again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005


As a child, you were told all about the fantastic future. Robots and flying cars - engineers were working on them you know. Artificial intelligence and a cure for cancer - they were being developed. In secret bright white laboratories scientists were working 'round the clock on such things. Furiously labouring their lives away so that you might one day enjoy the fruits of their labour. Moon stations and teleporters - yes, the future was to be grand, indeed. You were told all about its magnificence and given a promise of easy living, told of the day, in the future, where we, each one of us, would live like kings and queens. They were so close, you were told, to developing such things. Even now they're so close. And in the future they will be close, still.

One thing you weren't told about was the loneliness of the future. A life where playing with your friends down by the creek on summer days turns to going to movies on summer nights. A life where these same movie nights turn to hazy parties in the fall. A life where parties give way to weekends spent in the neon light of nightclubs. Cold winter nights in warm taxicabs. Where club life turns to pub life. Friends find careers, friends find mates, friends find God, and here's you sitting at the bar alone, your beer sweating onto the countertop - the bartender, your only friend. You're reminiscing about catching frogs down by the creek, about catching girls in the nightclubs. Reminiscing about the best times of your life. Reminiscing alone. The bartender just nods. He feels it too. He was promised the same exciting future you were.

So where's your flying car? You're told they actually exist, but the car companies are conspiring to keep them from the public. Or you're told that because there is no system in place, no rules for flying cars to follow, the idea of public use has been shelved. And where's your cure for cancer? They actually developed one a long time ago, but it's being kept from the public to keep the donation money rolling in. To keep their pockets nicely lined. And where's all that other stuff you were promised? All the victims of conspiracy. They don't want you to have them. They're just mean like that. In childhood it was easy to believe you would be given the future you were promised. And in youth it was easy to believe in the conspiracies which were keeping these things from you. But in adulthood it's hard to believe in anything. Certainly not promises. And not half-baked conspiracies. You go to sleep each night in a bed of cynicism - and awake in a mess of pessimism. You don't even remember your dreams anymore. In fact, you don't dream at all. If the future isn't filled with lies, it's at least empty.

Sunday, October 2, 2005


Land and sea: sure and unsure. Solid and liquid. The difference between inside and outside. Reality viewed through smudgy window panes set in dry, rotting frames - cracked caulking. What time has done to them, time will do to you, as well. A listless wandering through your darkened flat takes the place of your Sunday morning walk in the park. Spilling coffee on the floor, there's a bleary-eyed look in the mirror. Two: the number of grey hairs found in your beard this day.

For all the wrong reasons, you've decided to forgo your usual walk. The paths will have to settle for the footsteps of another. The squirrels will have to get their peanuts elsewhere. But the park will survive - you will not be missed. The gardeners are there now, weeding the flowerbeds, trimming the hedges, fertilizing the grass. With continued help from mortal workers, this park will be as beautiful one hundred years from now, and could remain as vibrant forever.

Here's you, with hurried brush in the back room of your flat. The canvas gets a little more colourful, and you wonder if you might work better with the lights on. Viva Zapata! plays in the next room. For noise. Marlon Brando was in that, you think, and time was not kind to him. You're mixing Cadmium Yellow and Orange on your palette, furiously chopping the two lumps together with your knife, looking for a certain colour. Waiting for it to appear. You move closer to the window for better light. The sky - someone's left it open again. Apparently not at all worried that you might escape.