The Rusty Toque | Issue 12 | Poetry | June 30, 2017
Just because the sun is a globe of orange fire
and not an orange soda is no reason not to
enjoy your morning. Even in an empty lot,
dandelions are framed by old foundations
as though they were art. And whether or not
they're worth something, the pennies
in your pocket chime like a tambourine,
adding a pleasing brightness to your day,
like the half-moon of lemon
in sunomono. The building I live in is made
of two-by-fours and shakes when a train passes
as if it's receiving a message, and yet
I'd rather live here than downtown
where the great glass towers look less
like a city than a shelf of high-end
vodkas, unless it's the tiny city
inside a cracked-open television
beside the dumpster where I leave
my empties. A sign there reads “Waste Only,”
which seems like a hard way to live.
Tyler, You're Terrific
Tyler, you're useless. Your hands hang off
the ends of your arms like a couple of starfish
you found on the beach. When you argue with
the waitress, you sputter like a shaken Coke.
She calls you “dear,” the same word strangers
use when they write trying to sell you
collectible coins. Pay attention, Tyler. A flamingo
without its o is just flaming.
Library books and babies both have
due dates, Tyler, but don't confuse them.
And don't assume a fire drill is a tool
that bores through steel with flame.
It's an orderly exit from a building, Tyler.
If I tell you to tear up your life
and start over, remember some things
are made whole by destruction. A kernel
of popcorn is useless until it explodes.
And Tyler, if I tell you you're terrific,
remember the root of the word is terror.
I Used to Walk Around with a Tiny Forest
If I go outside, the wind will steal
my hat, so cancel all my sunsets
and lattes. The city looks ransacked.
Trees shaken down for their leaves,
newspaper boxes knocked over, sandwich
boards scattered like playing cards.
These slow, hypnotic dusks convince me
never to eat without the television on,
by which I mean the laptop screen flashing
its approximations of television.
I said I wouldn't go out, but here
I am. I have a bag of laundry,
an almost-aquiline nose that would look
good on money. I like to live within
the scent of the ocean. I like harbours,
even unsafe ones. I like to see the raw tonnage
calm as stone in the water, cranes
unloading cubes of wind and television.
When I don't wash my laundry
I feel like a negligent landlord. On some
streets, the power's out, on others
it might as well be. Houses hide
behind their hedges, timid as moles. A pair
of cedars in someone's yard
surrounded by trimmings, like men
in a barber shop. Just up the street,
a barber cuts hair by candlelight.
If only my clothes could be cleaned
the same way, trained hands
searching fabric by the light
of a tiny flame, snipping out flaws.
When I arrive at the laundromat,
the door will be locked, the machines
silent. There's nothing as still
as a washer that's done thumping
the dirt from a load of towels. The heart
must wish for that kind of rest,
tired of shoving its unbalanced load
through the circulatory system, as tired
as I am of hauling my dirty clothes
around the city. When I made my living
planting trees, I carried around
a tiny forest in a pair of bags
on my hips. You'd think that would weigh
on you after awhile, but I've never been
quite so happy since. Where should I put
this forest, I'd ask myself. The world lay
bare in answer. Since then,
it's filled with things again, the forest
I carried among them, though I can't
remember where I decided
it would look prettiest. Somewhere
to the west, I think, where the green
of the needles would set off the pink
of sunset, the sky from the rhyme
about sailors we used to recite
while clinging to the masts
of jungle gyms adrift in the schoolyard's
asphalt waters. That hour
before geography, our minds blank
of maps and able to chart a course
to any harbour we could invent.
SHAUN ROBINSON is a Métis poet who lives in lives in Vancouver. His poems have appeared in Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, Poetry is Dead, and the anthology The City Series: Vancouver. His first chapbook, Manmade Clouds, was published by Frog Hollow Press in the spring of 2017.