The Rusty Toque | Issue 10 | Poetry | June 30, 2016
I NEVER SAW A THING IN THE WILD FEEL SORRY FOR ITSELF
You can’t catalog a litany.
I’m trying to figure out
what to do with the remainder of my life.
I taught for decades. Was demoted to subbing. But showed
up at the wrong schools. At 19, I earned a
basketball scholarship. But fell apraxic.
One dose of Remicade stripped myelin. Unsheathed
involuntary laugher at monotone
voices, and multiples like SALE! SALE! SALE!, or crowds.
I’ve worked as a counsellor, and
You can catalog a litany.
I see the cracks in things. You
from afar, for instance. Given time, something
will strike one of us. Then what? Bedside. Recognizing the
grip-strength of a certain hand without needing
the voice. Who am I to play God? Not w/birth
or death or health—but forgiveness. Mercy can be
misplaced as easily as keys. Eyeglasses
in the fridge. Remote in the liquor cabinet.
I’d do anything to re-gift
this love for you, this empathy, this
pathetic mimicry, to—
inject concrete in sponge, remodel as
bone. It aches malignant, but I admire with my whole
heart that you won’t miss me, or won’t say so, or
won’t feel mortal, or won’t suffer regret—you
Stoic, you stone. I never saw a wild thing
feel sorry for itself, the way I should know
better, the way you don’t. If I’m wrong about what
“they” feel, I’d be the last to know.
*title and 4th/3rd last line refs D. H. Lawrence poem, “Self-Pity”
HOLLOW ALL THE WAY DOWN
A hand in a curtain,
soil on fire
He can still play the piano
but can’t remember where we are
North England, by the sea, 1983,
might as well be Centralia, Pennsylvania
underground, coal that won’t cease
smouldering for _____ miles
and X # of years.
Can’t snuff itself. Tried.
Every three minutes his breaker resets,
0:00, then 0:01 etc.,
his wife emerges from the other side
of the wall and it’s a new birth
the first birth, the big bang, ecstatic.
His eyes, his luck! Doesn’t know
she’s been here all day, all week,
all month, all year. Was just
mucking about in the garden.
He still knows his love—love lives
in a different region
from the one carved out by the clot.
A town with a population <8
grumbles in rockers lined up
on a house porch perched on stilts.
Soil remediation, lap quilts.
A buckled road too weak to hold
anything but foot traffic. Graffitied.
A person procures a tool
and the sensation is charged,
metal sheathed in chi,
I could say nothing or everything
you do you.
for a good time, call 911.
A black lab bolts like he broke
through a fence to the real field
(was released from a hatchback,
but pretends). He bounds
elliptically, b/c the magnets
are stronger here. What is he
eating now. Must he always
eat cellulose and scat?
Owner hollers, claps, and lab
coils reflexively into a c-clamp.
Braced for the smack.
A hand in a curtain,
soil on fire,
a man clings to a woman
he can’t place, another person
is a carbon sink,
a man’s best friend is his diary
it’s hollow all the way down and
I am waking up I am
finally awake, no now I am
actually awake, fully and totally,
no now I am awake for real,
no now I am really awake, no now
the secret’s out, to turn
the town slo-mo into a quarry
exploding homes, civil suits,
a gossiping chorus. They say
I know it in my heart,
I just know it. But you
can’t know anything in your heart.
STEVIE HOWELL is an Irish-Canadian writer and worker. A first collection of poetry, Sharps, was released in 2014, and was a finalist for the 2015 Gerald Lampert Award. Poems have been anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry (2014 and 2015) and The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library journal, So It Goes (2015). Poetry has appeared in The Walrus, Hazlltt, Maisonneuve, Eighteen Bridges, Geist, and Prelude. When not writing, Stevie studies psychology and works as a psychometrist. www.steviehowell.ca