Lise Gaston. Photo by Josh Davidson.
What nonsense we talk
What nonsense we’re told
What nonsense we are
But I wanted to tell you still how lovely we are
bbbbbbb…bbbbb—John Newlove, “Insect Hopes”
What nonsense we talk:
we scratch names into smoked glass, tongue
the caulk between the stones,
hiss our lies through air conditioning.
We scratch names into smoked glass, tongues
speech-torn, felted and furred.
Lies hiss through the air conditioning:
what nonsense we’re told.
Speech-torn, felted and furred
we press our warm bodies into the walls,
what nonsense. We’re told
what’s written into drywall and plaster
where we rub our beautiful bodies
against the pockmarked paint, our bodies
written into drywall,
what nonsense we are.
Under pockmarked paint our bodies
are ghosted rooms and emptied words,
what nonsense we are,
we’re crab-walking the hallways, faces gaped upside-down
through empty ghosting rooms.
We plug water fountains with our ripped and bitten nails,
we crab-walk the gaping faceless hallways,
we graffiti our genitalia into the ground.
We rip out the water fountains, biting each other,
our bones grind through the escalators,
we graffiti our genitalia. On the ground,
we press red ears to the thrumming,
the grinding of bones up escalators.
We push our breasts against doorways, letting
ourselves in, red ears pressed to the humming
red intestine of the building where the plaster’s peeled off,
we push our chests against the doorways,
press our sweet soft fingers into
the red intestine of the building, the plaster peeled off,
but I wanted to tell you still how lovely we are.
Our hard, skilled fingers nothing but
caulk between the stones—
but I wanted to tell you still how lovely we are,
in our grave and vital nonsense.
He kicks me out of bed for leaving no crumbs, none of me.
In front of the metro a big man’s swinging his hips.
The sun arrives late today, knocks empty the sky.
Last night we got high until the room shook.
Oh, the way smoke settles on his mouth.
At the market strawberries are sliced and piled like little tongues.
Last night I had tucked his feet in, touched his thighs.
Sweet little tongues.
The radishes show lipstick on their teeth.
Tonight he will eat with another woman, a fragile woman who dislikes me.
At home: bread, cream cheese, avocado. A damp eighteenth-century novel.
My herbs are wilting, and pigeons live in the air conditioner.
He will ask me back to him, tonight. And I . . .
She will be at her apartment, removing the bones from her hair.
And sickness comes. It bats your head with greasy paws.
You’ve missed the sun, it’s out there now, the glass
warm against your face, your broken face. For you had planned
on riding, triangle seat wedged between your legs,
white helmet bulbous on your careful head.
It’s so sunny now, and you aren’t in the sun.
That feeling when hands behind your face pull skin into your skull.
The day is filled with federal custodians trying to contain
leaks, and other hierarchies of willful abstraction.
Wanted, you, you wanted to ride, ride
past the street that’s sputtering gas, the firetrucks dominoed there,
sirens waking you in morning, you
believed they were coming for you, in dreams you had
pulled a trigger. Now your head
won’t let you enter the sun. When you awoke
the lazy cat had remembered his green-eyed catness
and teased a mouse through the night.
He offers it to you now.
Les Rues: Montreal
the balcony in July’s sweet heat sucking
bbbbbbyour fingers we were high and fascinated
with difference of the other it seemed
hours with your fingers in my mouth seemed hours
up and down each one teeth against your knuckles
bbbbbb waiting on the street’s slim corner for me
you so immaculate in white and sun-
glasses neck rooted over your phone
a nun once glared me across this street my
bbbbbbbright purple shorts inscribed too small on my
legs when I left you the whole city
was shaking enragée the nun so cool
in her baby-blue shift and wimple you
bbbbbband I have the same-sized hands remember
we didn’t come here looking for a fight
bbbbbbmais la bataille commence les lignes ils sont
écrivées entre les francophones et les
autres anglos students shaking with the weight
of their idealism enemies from Ford
bbbbbbNation ou mes amis living here for
half a cold decade turned away by the
interpreted code le domicile
c’est quoi ça le gouvernement change their
bbbbbbgros collective mind if we don’t move our tongues
to our mouths’ roofs in the right correcte way
we had worn red boots and marched les rues in
thousands and they had loved us red paper
bbbbbbsquares clotted the sky like blossoms
all streets here more familiar after
bbbbbba bottle of dépanneur red yours
only two blocks out of my way it’s not
enough to mind but enough to notice
walking down in the city’s popular one
bbbbbba.m. light your old bedroom faces the
ambulance route of Saint-Denis shrieking and
unsleepable in summer all windows
open to the night in need trucks pouring
bbbbbbinto your third-story room the ugly
brown curtains you never did change that first
time all my limbs went numb and my face I
lost what control I entered with and went
bbbbbbgargoyle on you under an empty turret
you pulled me from a marching crowd you looked
bbbbbbso crisp in your dress shirt ironed and tight
shorts beside the anarchists we didn’t
touch till after dinner politeness
we decided to call it there is part
bbbbbbof this old street you can’t walk past without
recalling how we kissed you said for
hours in front of that fence pas de vélos
s.v.p. coming in the early light
bbbbbbfrom Village bacchanals I never told
you I don’t remember this let you
shake yourself alone on your way to
another part-time job imagining
bbbbbball the dark angles of my open mouth
we ran some walk-up stairs against the slam
bbbbbbof riot shields watched bar patrons shoved from
les terrasses a cloud of grey a crowd of men
a spurt of red one eye lost to the spray
we marched for that stitched-up hole we marched against
bbbbbbCharest we haunted him in daylight I
marched for the sun that caught the hidden grey
in your black curls for memory of your
tired body slamming me against the wall
bbbbbbyour sweet heat my other rising ended
alone on an office carpet months
before the marches so-so-so-
solidarité how little we were
Lise Gaston‘s poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in magazine and journals including Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead, Lemon Hound, The Malahat Review, Matrix Magazine, and Prairie Fire. She lives in Berkeley, California.