VERTIGO WEST poets
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Cristina I. Viviani
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Anthony, the peaches must be perfect
I wanted a polite life and it's this and now what?
About Helen Kuk
you pale nail clipping
you concrete shoe
you bluff encrusted fish pearl gumball machine ring
you suicide viaduct Don Valley sodium yellow
Victoria Park exit eastbound 401
Military Trail Twyn River
you grid issue maples bonsaied by premature climbing
split middled hairs or lightning forks
you sour mitten you yellow ice
you flash frozen nostril hairs
you train whistle ripcord tugging westward and backward
owlish and windy
you newsbox buspost mailbox trashbasket corner monument
you sidewalk Wimpey
you strip mall you girls girls girls
you enchanted tar creviced vacant lot
you wolf brimming street lighted ravine
you motor oil rainbowed nicotine creeks
you bumptious reggae vibes
jacking the sun downup the subdivision divide
woofer tweeter ambitious backseater
you dogshit pussywillows
you raging Saturday lawn mower murderous weed whacker
you go-karts a-go-go
you kid dragging your heroic hockey stick
you buoyant wheelie popper
you curb smashing skateboarder
you thunderous freefalling demigod
you immortal fledgling
you playground pavement burned knees
you gravel baseball diamond tiara
you flap your plastic slippers
you glitter queen of the dollar store glamour aisle
hair filamenting from pomegranate orb ponytail bobbles
you true paytrit love lisper and our father who art in heaven but rattles down to our classroom shack every morning halloween be thy name forgive us we don’t eat daily bread
you line chalk’s silky rub between fingers in the outfield
you pesticide burned sun shrivelled British bulldogged red rovering grass
you look out for dog muffins beer bottle glass rings sprouted after weekend nights shiny with morning rain or dew
you Dickie Dee man Dickie Dee man toll our transient popsicle treats pushed by backwards pedicab pedalling stainless steel gypsy carillon jingling Dickie Dee man
Jehovah’s Witness Latter Day Saint Girl Guide Cookie Cub Scout apple chocolate almond door-to-door municipal missionaries of sweet holymoly
you hydro field frequency mantra hum
you grass patch idyll opportunist
you young gropers you abandoned print porn smuggled from garages
mattresses bottom dresser drawers of the community
you smudged souvenir
you sausage skin of experience
you clap your distraction in your grubby library book
you annihilate your distraction on an electric screen
you suck your distraction through a recess cigarette
boozer gluer sidewalk gum chewer
you drive-in Perseid showers behind the zoo
you meteors falling into August
you glimmer on the zebras’ dreams of cheetahs
on the cheetahs’ dreams of home
you sponge curler haloed block parents
you peek too much out living room blinds
you children are finished like basements
you underground dens orgies of hands on t-shirts
oh all over t-shirts
you good living room shag carpet
headbanger moshpitter baby babysitter
you late night phone whisper break
diurnal indifferent into turquoise dawn
you puny explosions palmed
you puny love squashed
It’s love or it’s nothing
It’s drive-by or it’s nothing
you parking lot minotaurs winding stray yarn balls
you flat-chested little sister giggle tripped
you jock boyfriend you fake girlfriends and you bornagain
you Catholic school pregnancy
you Mouseketeer of the knee-high sock the thigh-high kilt
you goggled-eyed teen Travoltas
you matte-lipped Lycra Lolitas
you computer engineering aspirers to Florida Myrtle Beach the
you hoard your dreams toward vacations
dreams as collateral
dreams as credit
dreams on layaway
Sunday golfing your dreams away
you dreams my neighbours are just like me
you windblown haze draped July bride
you doll on a concrete cake
butcher baker Tim Horton’s trash-raker
doctor lawyer doctor lawyer
you warehouse you light
industry you TTC graffiti visionary overpass prophets
you high priests of grunge
you drive somewhere else with all your might
you drive back with all your might
you lusting for it lusting for it
you spitball into potential into the next
brick dream blown dream
toxic sunset 9 pm dream
off a sizzled comet dream
celestial bodies falling
Is that why? The cube house, the square field. First the trees, then the crops,
What does the handsome thin man do all day, shaking his long braids? His pretty wife, her moist skin and damp smile. Are they each enough?
With you, this calm. Do I require calm? My room is small. In cities everywhere, the young live in small rooms: one bed, one lamp. All gestures enlarged.
Between you and the city, the hair on your arm, and glass.
From the enclosed concrete spaces, the cube houses on numbered plots. Footsteps resonate on asphalt. Farewell, mom and dad. Farewell, package deals. Farewell deep freeze and indolent children, fatted on carpools. This is the catalogue:
the crescents, the drives, the trails. Help, fire hydrants. We are so indifferent.
You are hard and soft. Your eyes are wet rock under lichen. Your hands smell of onions and peppers. The beans cook. I read you a translation. You take the book; you read it back to me in its original: a poem about things, a list of life and death. Your voice apart, lisping the S.
On your kitchen table: a bowl of fennel, two cinnamon buns, my hands, a curled hair.
From your body to the white table? From a shopping bag to the table? From a body, to the market, to the bag, to the table? No wonder there are those
who refuse to take a bus.
That morning, the suicide over the bridge
across from last year’s murder. My street blockaded,
jammed with voices. Sleepy, we crossed
a few streets over.
Or last night, the mouse
I thought was plum, was slug.
So much worse to know of bones. I didn’t feel
the skeleton or skull, the crack or squeal.
Surely killing is not this easy.
Simply, I stepped in the way of death
while I was greedy for you.
You scraped it up with a shovel,
buried it in gravel. Said,
“You sure took care of that, dear.”
Later than that and earlier,
first thing awake. Touch me
as if I were bird small. Only intend
to taste. What to find?
Meantime, I’ll feel for you.
Anthony, the peaches must be perfect
Anthony, the peaches must be perfect!
As weighty as intentions weigh. One hand holding,
one hand hoping. Those auspicious gestures.
I chose six today.
Anthony the peaches! Must be perfect.
A mealy-mouthed goodbye, you goner, summer.
Maybe this lady ate a bruiser also.
Her sidewalk salon. Her scissors crooked.
And these girls who jaw and jostle, who slam
into the street. It’s a girls’ world, you know,
but you wouldn’t know it. Full of girls
practised in swallowing teeth.
Did I mention, Anthony, the peaches must!
Be perfect. I don’t mean to mention peaches plus girls.
That’s not my meaning. Fruit and girls
named Daisy, Lily, Rose—
I feel bad for. And why
Pearl and why Ruby. So pretty,
so precious, so useless. And why
mention use and anyone?
Don’t mistake me. I don’t mean
girls as peaches, as flowers. It’s just today
wasn’t long for the world. Anthony, the peaches.
I wanted a polite life and it’s this and now what?
At night, the cats. In the morning, the neighbours.
Through the windows, on the boiled breeze,
doing and doing until their genitals shine with purple light.
Their hips are fish. Their bellies tidal.
Morning mounting over condos and streets.
The glass does not yet reflect the day.
My foot touches my foot.
These are short dishonest days of doing
what I ought. My hours jingle,
packing my pocket.
My pulse frets.
I don’t know yet.
Long like the line along your back.
Flesh open, body intent,
sincere to itself.
I love in my arms only. The thighs and the mouth, too.
For now, yes.
Tomorrow, the shoulder.
All I can think is neighbours
in their nine minute sex.
The city rests at the foot of their bed
lays hands on itself. Chorus.
Leaves and vines in hot jostling.
Still, for this
I would not forget everything.
Not the morning or the breakfast
or the last bus. Not forgo
the comb or day’s work.
That Paris proved unsanitary.
The sleep crocodiles.
If I ate bread, this would be like the eating.
Rich, filling, and
small hours later, more.
It’s strange, this not quite loving.
This civil conversation over bare skin.
Would it be so bad to spend a weekend in?
The thing I desire now,
to sit in your room
to read your books.
To love one’s own skin is strange
The ways I can’t
but can change to you.
How day breaks.
's poems have been published in various literary journals including Descant, Event, Matrix and Room of One’s Own. In 2004, her poem “Scarborough, Ontario” earned an Honourable Mention at Canada’s National Magazine Awards. Helen holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She teaches English and Creative Writing at a Vancouver high school.