Crane Lake 1
We all speak of depth
as if the water mirrored something
more profound than the dragon-fly
that lands nonchalantly on your arm.
Or the snapping turtle that hovers near,
its craggy face blowing bubbles
thru the lattice of sunlight … the gleam
of an ancient presence that ignores
all around it … even our god himself.
We all speak of silence
as if the momentary glimpse
of loon should make us hush
in awe. Should make us forget
the rivulets of a dying lamp
pointed at the very centre of our betrayal.
We all speak of memory
as if … as if …
DATA DE FACTO
Only from the unbidden will “things” come clear;
only from the margin will the centre be found;
only from re-vision will the spectacle unfold.
Reverse the prism to see the light;
undo the machine to regain your limbs.
But the opposite of complex is not the simple
and ill-logic won’t cure what ails us.
The frozen fields just beyond our doors
aren’t devoid of life. They’re only waiting
for the right time.
What comes from the unbidden is the blackbird’s wing;
all the margin tells you is: ‘Yes, you are here’;
the spectacle holds up its own mirror,
bloody at the edges.
So, say now, who speaks for
the trees? There are those who cast their nets
like doubts upon the world, acting as if
they alone stood on the higher ground,
they alone were immune to the flood.
There are those who collect and stack
used images in a catalogue: ‘encrypted decay’,
‘gossamer pond’, ‘furrowed swale’.
The names of things forever frozen
on their lips, pale as fog.
There are those who squeeze out
what doesn’t concern them like blackheads,
prepared to fill the dead space
with their barbed presence – and leaving
not even the ghosts of tracks behind them.
There are those who harm no one
but themselves, the stab wounds stoic
in a mea culpa frenzy. See, they’re quick to point,
see how I beat against the numb silence
of the Real. And, so uncaring, it bloodies me.
There are those who bare-handed
claw the earth, who reach in
and yank the shoots into a type of growing.
In their desire to be trees,
they leave no stone unturned.
And there are more, many more,
so passionate in the multiplying.
Surely, one of these can speak
for the trees. Is it
so difficult, so unnatural?
There are those who edge forward one by one,
empty hands palm out before them:
“What is this ‘speaking for’ you
speak of? Must we bear witness?
Must we exchange hostages across a border
that’ll make captives of us all?
Must we misplace ourselves
to make room for other voices?”
It’s hopeless, then, isn’t it?, this idea
of trees: doomed to fail the acid test,
snapped in the grip of a dry tinder called reason,
gnarled corpses reaching for a sky
that’s no longer there.
Or never was.
But, wait. Flip back the notes. Perhaps there is one
after all, forgotten in the passing.
No, he can’t speak for trees – there aren’t
syllables for that. Yet, he might
sing their praises, lament their plight,
secure their existence. Listen:
“ ‘So, say now, who speaks for
the trees? There are those …’ ”
Are you there? Are you listening?
The words like blue drops hiss
in the serpent air. They mark the spots
that are no more – and then echo themselves
into a vanishing
that always was.
“To touch the thing-in-itself –
nothing more; nothing less.”
That’s what you’ve written over and over,
in one form or another, like a thick student
who just doesn’t get it.
Of course, there’s a warmth in repetition
and we all know the incantatory magic, don’t we?
But can words engender more than words?
You stand alone on a sandstone bluff, the wind
a bird that takes matter away a grain at a time.
Until it’s no longer a bluff.
Or it calls your bluff.
And you find yourself balancing on one foot,
on one toe, on the thinnest film of flesh.
Undermined by your own solidity, the world
is nothing but a speck beneath you. An irritant
that flies in the face of all you hold real.
And, at the same time, set to accrete
the moment you turn your back.
Is it then you decide to speak the cuneiform
you hope will fix things in their place
before they vanish for good?
Is it then you slap at the receding wall
with a battered trowel called memory?
The misty-eyed “I remember … do you remember? …”
And that seems to work for a while: a trading
of things-as-they-are for things-as-they-were.
A pinning of recalcitrant objects
with the words that will keep them still.
That will allow you to clasp them
in one last desperate embrace.
But there’s a price to be paid
for this scaffolding: what was ordinary
is now as strange as understanding
as foreign as space and time.
And you’re back where you started
A simple poem
OCCULT SLIDE TEST
I settle on my haunches staring
at a piece of myself
in a plastic container
that once boasted light ricotta:
soft unripened cheese with 50%
less fat (whey, milk, cream, lactic acid, salt,
carrageenan, locust bean gum, guar gum).
Now it holds a small round elongated piece
of myself (bile pigments, mucus, unabsorbed minerals,
undigested fats, cellulose, meat protein toxins, peeled off cells,
potassium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, water).
I squat here thinking
of substance and sub-strata:
the slow hiss of air escaping.
Of sibilance in the grass
and fratricidal insects that scurry
over swollen raindrops.
Of the hound’s sharp bark
and the tree’s gimpy sway.
I rise slowly, raising chalice-like
the plastic container
that once held light ricotta.
The instructions are clear:
Use applicator stick to apply
a very thin smear on OVAL 1.
Repeat procedure thrice.
Place in envelope and seal.
Return to test-giver address.
Through the skylight, shadows
grimace, hands on hips,
peering down amid the night shade.
Having fed the cats, you step
into the world’s deep growl
where the snaggle-toothed skyscrapers
like hookworms snare the earth,
worrying its raw nerve.
This is the 3 a.m. city. A furtive Mars bar
creeps along the burnt-out wall;
it’s raining pink fibreglass; the thin shells
of anti-matter crack loudly underfoot.
A man in a checked red coat is cutting himself
in two: first one leg
and then the other. The ghost of a peregrine
flies alongside itself, desperate
to mimic the motion that once came
so naturally. Rumor has it
a killer’s on the loose, eyes flipped up
into his skull, all-seeing. There’s a rattle
in his pocket; he speaks in nursery rhymes.
They say he’s waiting for you,
waiting to plunge his words into a tiny patch
of light, the dazzling conduit
to where you claw at the diamond real,
the sharp-edged truth of block following block,
saran-wrap shadows, the faces that glow
in the dark. An empty plate drops at your feet,
licked clean; a cat’s tongue lolls in the dust.
Perhaps this time you’ll make it back.
The Art of Walking
The roadkill rises, eyes rimmed in red.
The racoons, the rabbits, the rats. And you.
We dwell on the edge of somewhere. Like angels perhaps
flirting between possibilities. Like angels maybe
licking each other’s wounds.
A gaunt cow stands knee deep
in a sub-divided field. Stares out in the fervent hope
of slaughterhouse. That quick clean cut to the jugular.
Here, the signs come fast and furious.
Oops! You’ve just missed Camelot.
An exclusive enclave. For the millionaire. In each of us.
Sheep manure for sale. By appointment only.
The highway leans hard into the wind, its dull roar
like a grinding machine for the future. It spits out
One-legged flamingos stalking the elusive fast-food wrapper.
Cars snapping at the heels of brittle corn stalks.
The highway leans hard into the wind. Behind it,
civilization’s stubborn convoy.
Impressions of faces against taut plastic.
Crucifixes around the necks of mourning doves.
In the distance,
The hills continue to ovulate.
The trees strain against their leashes.
The windmills ride off half-cocked.
The snakes, the skunks, the squirrels are rising. And you.
We live on the edge of nowhere.
In a quiet cul de sac.
We reside on the edge of nowhere.
In a quiet cul de sac.
The sign at the end of the street:
Born in Italy, and arriving in Canada at the age of five, Michael Mirolla calls himself a Montreal-Toronto corridor writer (because he spends so much time travelling between the two cities). He’s a novelist, short story writer, poet and playwright. Publications include two novels, the recently-released The Facility, and Berlin (a 2010 Bressani Prize winner and finalist for the 2009 Indie Book and National Best Books Awards); two short story collections – The Formal Logic of Emotion (recently translated into Italian and released in 2010) and Hothouse Loves & Other Tales; and two poetry collections: the English-Italian Interstellar Distances/Distanze Interstellari (2008), and Light And Time (2010), His short story, « A Theory of Discontinuous Existence, » was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology, while another short story, « The Sand Flea, » was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His short fiction and poetry has been published in numerous journals in Canada, the U.S. and Britain, including anthologies such as Event’s Peace & War, Telling Differences: New English Fiction from Quebec, Tesseracts 2: Canadian Science Fiction, The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Writing (Guernica), New Wave of Speculative Fiction Book 1, and The Best of Foliate Oak.