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Timed out waiting for a response.
Ten minutes ticking.
If you do not book now, the future into which you would have flown
will be irrevocably erased. No more husband and kiddies
at the park, the little one dangling in the baby swing,
wailing, as big brother tackles the slide for the first time.
Instead you will wait in an airport lounge for a stranger.
You will live on a floodplain and the worst will happen.
A fault will open and your car will plunge.
Earth will fill your mouth.
The beautiful tree, the one with the reddest leaves up top
(always the first to fall) will crash the window midsleep.
You will not hear it coming.
You will fall on the stairs and forget where you came from.
You will blink out please end this now
and no one will understand.
You will win a million bucks.
You will look like a million bucks.
You will have the eyelashes you always dreamed of.
Your tattoo of a wildebeest will scroll from your ankle to your knee.
You will strut your stuff.
You will gather feathers.
You will cocoon all winter and emerge a sculptor with your first exhibition
scheduled for the MOMA five years hence.
You will have a five-year plan.
You will dance to the end of love.
You will wonder a lot.
You will twiddle your thumbs.
You will stroll with a stroller.
You will be pushed in a stroller.
This is your life.
Your mother will bend toward you with an unremembered tenderness,
her fine hair swept from her brow by the wind.
You are the centre.
Your body is the universe.
There are things on your eyelashes that call you home.
Every second another.
Every second a pyre or a hole in the ground.
Every second a generation.
Wherever you go, there you are.
Someone can see you on a screen.
This is being monitored for safety reasons.
This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.
We have you in our care.
In front of the Mona Lisa, everyone with an iPhone.
The girl who’s never crossed an ocean
asks if it’s true that they’re all Japanese taking selfies.
This one goes out to the one I love.
Six little ducks went out to play over the hills and far away.
Over a sunset far in Vermont.
Where Frost set his “Out, Out.”
A landscape Shakespeare never imagined.
And the saw that leapt
from the boy’s hands
the boy’s hand
out of the classroom in which the teacher read those lines
cool as mist in her loose dress.
The childfree teacher,
she of the fuddy-duddy husband and the pugs.
And forever the blood in your mind.
And forever the palms of your hands
made as they were made
inside the body of the woman you aren’t.
Mother duck said quack quack quack quack.
Something old, something new.
Borrowed and blue you leave the house,
borrowed and blue you find them,
leave them alone and they’ll come home.
Seven Chinese brothers swallowing the ocean.
Each with a particular gift, none greater
than his love for the others.
You’ve always looked out for number one.
But only five little ducks came back.
And the one who wandered
went a long way into the forest
where he found an abandoned house.
On the floor a trail of seed.
He gobbled his way through the kitchen,
down the stairs, and into the cellar
where they kept the people they would eat.
He did not know this.
He thought he was a person too.
And so he stayed there until
the rest of the last people in the world
returned from their hunt empty-handed
and roasted him with one of their captives
and his skin crackled and popped under the feathers
and they ate of that which they loved and it was good.
In the corridors of the Overlook hotel,
in the mirror at the end of the dark hall,
in the room with the red drapes called the Black Lodge.
What happens there is the mind twisting a mobius strip.
The worst is never the worst, those fears
are not the fears that will take us,
it is the ordinary fears, the fast car
and the girl on the corner, the hot dog in the throat,
the late-night walk through the dogless park.
No horror films about the apartment fire, the hurricane.
The mutations after the nuclear disaster of your choice
bloom too quietly for the screen.
The descendants with their insides on the outside.
The worst has not been born.
The room goes on. In the throat
the herringbone floors.
We have digressed.
In the middle there is a lot of that.
The life of the out the life of the in.
Languages clatter their sabers.
I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.
Orders and wrongs.
The middle is a long place,
low to the ground, with little sense of vista.
Capability Brown was never here.
The crops sustain and, depending on the season,
flash the blue of flax or gold of mustard.
No end in sight.
The sea darkening.
I think that’s it.
The middle is rife with references.
Can only really be named long long after,
when end begins to whinny its arrival.
And no one will want that name.
There was a day we were not grateful and what happened was terrible.
Rain fell from the sky and we griped.
It turned to ice.
Dogs followed us, biting.
The slick sidewalk held our sagging haunches which,
had we been older, would have broken and marked the beginning
of the end. Too thrifty for heat, we shivered
enough to anger ourselves. Or, when they said vigour
we heard anger. The cornucopia grew mold, its magnificent shell
made badly of papier mâché, a piñata,
stuffed with warty gourds not meant to eat.
Then the sun came out inside our heads. What we had squandered.
The baby slept for hours and what we wrote was glorious
and even though it all was lost in the great crash of the laptop
the happiness lasted.
Meanwhile the wind through the limbs makes the beings seem to exist
as other than hope and plastic.
Makes them seem to be being.
Avoiding red meat decreases mortality but at a certain point it’s a question of
Chicken’s better but what of the cages, fish but what of the mercury.
The exploitation of the harvesters of soy.
Who has suffered more and why.
Fatigue gathers behind the eyes and in the throat. Though not tired, the subject
becomes anxious about being anxious.
He made them only out of PVC at first, then added propellers, then a sort of wings.
In comparison we are needy.
At the end of the world will be plastic.
They walk on their own and keep walking.
There really is a place.
There it is dimly. Mulchy beds of growth
hide the residences while smallish red-flowered trees
pop up intermittently as Bluewater Boulevard clicks by.
Grass is patchy there are no sidewalks an overcast
spring it was then it looks more highway than street
but on the map a quaint community of crescents and the like
nestled against lake and what looks like ocean but the zoom’s too zoomed
to check. Yup that’s a golf course there are the lucky few
captured in their carts that day a lone jogger we’re
zooming now across the median into the shrubbery
a word too English for this this is not vacation land
dark with growth how thick it is no names
for the blur that emerges the closer we get to what
it’s not called. Someone thought this place
a place people would want to be. There it is
from farther out on a big bay on the Gulf Coast
cheaper there no doubt though from here we think
holiday we think the fingerrub of money but that was before
the bottom dropped before the article about the sinkholes
where rain’s acid’s leached deep into the earth
if that is what we call the earth and through a hole a lake drained
until kids could grab the fish and through a hole
a room in which a man sleeping his brother
woke to hear a sound (what sound?) and there was
no room there was nothing there was
a hole into which he pushed or fell and later
was pulled out alone forever. Impossible
to wake and find that lack. To wake and feel a wetness
on one’s face and find in the mirror one’s face
is not a face is barely is not a thing is worse than the dream of falling
teeth there are eyes to see the space where the face
was the feel of it not real the look of it
a hole into which one plunges the crazy thought
of a joke, While I slept the dog ate my face.
Not that it happens but it happened. Such things
are not for Niceville where a spray keeps the course
mosquito-free but why so dark beneath those plants
along the road why are the houses so far in so far
off as though there were no view no lake no
ocean to look at as though there were nothing forever.
Rain on the lake willows.
Rain on the shore willows.
Rain on the swallow house.
Rain on the swallow.
Rain on the ash treated with a pesticide.
Rain on the lawn treated with a herbicide.
Rain on the mallards.
Rain on the pricey houses and the cheaper.
Rain on the ice cream stand.
Rain on the house in England that was his a while.
Rain where he slept.
Rain where he stood to read the paper at the grand piano.
Rain on the playground.
Rain on the corner shop with its varieties of sweets.
Rain on the violet creams.
Rain on the London suburb air.
Rain on the London country air.
Rain on what he came for.
Rain on his dead father’s garden.
Rain on him dead at the grand piano the newspaper open before him.
Rain on the phone ringing and ringing.
Rain on the doorbell.
Rain on the door opening.
Rain on the lake the centuries of the lake that is not a lake.
Rain on the name on the sign.
Rain on the planters of begonias and bougainvilleas.
Rain on the elsewhere.
Rain on the fresh-washed car.
Rain on the goldenrod.
Rain on the uppermost branches.
Rain in runnels down the trunk.
Rain on the crying girl.
Rain on the library.
Rain on the naptime the little tent the dolls left out.
Rain on the playhouse the swings the twisty slide.
Rain where it counts.
Rain on the clicks of the red-winged blackbirds.
Rain on the gravel path.
Rain where the fireworks will blast.
Rain on the dryer huff.
Rain on the doormat the umbrella left out.
Rain on the e-mail.
Rain on the name.
Rain on my friend in Montara California.
Rain on her drive to make enough to live in Montara California.
Rain on her husband not yet dead.
Rain on Nicholas and William.
Rain on Harry and Sasha.
Rain on Aidan.
Rain on Katriona and Nicola.
Rain on Gabrielle, Felix, and Myriam.
Rain on Pip and Tom.
Rain on Naomi and Isabel and long gone never gone Josephine.
Rain on Josephine, Nora, and Patrick.
Rain on Béatrice.
Rain on Nina and Martin.
Rain on Sam and Clara.
Rain on Henri and Sam.
Rain on Max and Gus.
Rain on Sam and Naomi.
Rain on Abby.
Rain on Isabelle.
Rain on Isabel.
Rain on Alex and Theo.
Rain on Shayle and Theo.
Rain on Emily.
Rain on Erin.
Rain on rain on rain.
Rain on Beatriz.
Rain on Nora and Johanna.
Rain on Andrew and Joanne.
Rain on Patrick and Andre.
Rain on David, Cindy, Barbara, Tim, and Danny.
Rain on Stephanie and Kevin.
Rain on Madeleine and Éloïse.
Rain in runnels down the street.
Rain that bears repeating.
Rain that’s rained.
Rain we don’t need.
Rain they need.
Rain that California.
Rain that Vancouver.
Rain that the reservoirs.
Rain across the nation.
Rain in the interior.
Rain at the northernmost reaches.
Rain on the new green metal roof (ping ping).
Rain on the neighbours.
Rain after the walk.
Rain before the recess.
Rain at the latest.
Rain in this time zone.
Rain on caffeinated.
Rain on chocolate.
Rain on the leftovers.
Rain on the barbeque cover.
Rain away mosquitoes.
Rain away the days.
Rain into the trajectory.
Rain on the silver car on its way.
Rain on the old streets with the new laid bricks.
Rain on the new streets with the old laid pipes.
Rain on the one-month old.
Rain on Mila and Gabriella.
Rain on Lucca, Gabriella, and Matteo.
Rain on Emily and Louise.
Rain on Gabriel and Lucas.
Rain on Sophia and Gordon.
Rain on Bulgaria.
Rain on the former places.
Rain on the end of the nineteenth century.
Rain on the cemeteries.
Rain on Lordship Lane.
Rain on the Caribbean.
Rain where they came from.
Rain on Landscroft Road.
Rain where I stood.
Rain twenty years ago.
Rain where my grandmother left.
Rain of decades.
Rain on the first taste of tarte pom’sucre and Belgian fries with mayo.
Rain on the newfound apartment.
Rain on all the unanticipated sadness.
Rain on the winter.
Rain on the frostbite.
Rain on the last places rain on the first places.
Rain where my grandmother.
Rain where my grandfather.
Rain on the voyage.
Rain on the waves.
Rain on the Victorian era.
Rain on the Victrola.
Rain on clematis.
Rain on the trellis.
Rain on the darkness.
Rain into the darkness.
Rain on the girls in the painting sheltered under hydrangeas.
Rain on the continent.
Rain in the well.
Stephanie Bolster is the author of four books of poetry, most recently A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth. Her first book, White Stone: The Alice Poems, won the Governor General’s and the Gerald Lampert Awards in 1998. Born in Vancouver, she teaches creative writing at Concordia University in Montréal.