The Rusty Toque | Issue 13 | Poetry | November 30, 2017
I have waited in thirty below,
an hour in an uncertain queue,
to be readmitted into a former life.
That smell—burnt oil, ice salted
into water, seldom cleaned taps
of the Strat Hotel. A safe amount
is always half. Men with prairie stock
and too much disposable cash, shitfaced
on their five off from the oil patch,
break each other over the hoods
of parked cars for a chance
to get the blood running
to their hands again.
The used car dealership across
Whyte Ave is the blue of the crescent
moon nightlight in my childhood
bedroom. I could’ve stayed, chest
fastened with coldsnaps, chronic nosebleeds
each December. But when you cleared
the disks on your last turn,
I had a clear line to your centre.
A disbeliever and a skeptic, I underestimated the house
red at a karaoke bar on Jasper Ave, spat my way back
to my parents’ on the bench-seat of Chris Rogers’ sedan.
Half-dried saliva speckled my shoes and I left them
on while I draped myself around the toilet. When morning
interrupted, I found the ceramic cross that used to hang
in my room next to the doorframe in pieces on the carpet.
It had been some time since the saviour and I had fallen out,
but I’ve always been a person of habit. That’s why
the crucifix was still there on the wall for me
to smash it. The next time I feigned Catholic, I attended
the service after Chris fell from the balcony in Puerto Vallarta
and snapped his neck. Mostly now, I fear the demonic. Yesterday
I found so many grubs in a bag of pecans they appeared to flicker.
Six flies circled my desk, mark of the musca atratus.
I cut the air with the flyswatter and incanted my good guilt:
I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it.
CURTIS LEBLANC was born and raised in St. Albert, Alberta. In 2016, his poetry won the Reader's Choice Award in the Arc Poem of the Year competition and was shortlisted for The Walrus Poetry Prize and CV2's Young Buck Poetry Prize. More of his work has appeared in Geist, Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, EVENT, Eighteen Bridges, Poetry is Dead, The Literary Review of Canada and others. His chapbook, Good for Nothing, was published by Anstruther Press in 2017. His first book-length collection, Little Wild, is forthcoming from Nightwood Editions in 2018.