Opossum, My Possum

A fat opossum sat upon a chain-link fence at dawn,

placidly gazing into nothingness and relishing the quiet of solitude.

His pink and balding tail hung frayed like tattered string,

and his undulating spine arched high above his sunken shoulders,

rising and falling as his lungs laboured to breathe.

The hairs upon his frail back were soiled and knotted skeins,

though each remained sufficiently sleek

and shone beneath the moonlight like tarnished steel wool.

And as I pondered the opossum’s fixated stare

and scoured the skyline for reason,

I began to understand his persistence and the futility of wandering in the dark,

and I hurriedly climbed the fence to join him.

And there in the distance, the sun began to rise,

scorching night’s curtains in piecemeal fashion as if to test my perseverance

and the sincerity of my desire to receive new light.

And as I practiced patience and sought unveiled horizons,

the clouds were set ablaze,

routing the lingering blackness

and melting my thoughts of yesterday.

A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg

Inspired by the Japanese haiku, Ginsberg created the “American Sentence,” a single sentence consisting of seventeen syllables.

The globe is a compass impaled by its needle and drawn towards Hell.

China might seem vast, but its essence resides on an island, exiled.

The rampikes were green before they were bloodied and broken beneath snow.

If blood can save us, then why are we not saved with so much being spilt?

A sharp resolve uncovers the layers of stories and human skin.

I swallow chocolate-coated insects and vomit to make room for more.

A dime’s obverse shows the same value today as back in 1910.

After the explosion, we found blood on the cross, but it wasn’t Christ’s.

At Gale’s Pub

At Gale’s pub in Coleraine, I sat down for a bleeding stout and found the place all but deserted. Some chairs were turned atop their tables, and emptied glasses sat bottoms-up, foam falling in pools around their rims. Peanut shells and ends of fags littered the base of the bar, and I leaned against the lacquered counter, holding a ten-pound note in my hand.

“What’ll it be?” the barman said, approaching me from a row of taps and wiping an ashtray with his apron.

“Murphy’s,” I said, “and a finger of whiskey.”

“Jameson?”

“Not that Catholic shite. Black Bush, on the rocks.”

He took my tenner and poured a pint, then left the stout to settle on a coaster. I watched through the glass as the cascading bubbles rose and formed a creamy head, turning the liquid from brown to black, a deep well of sin beneath a cloud.

“Oi!” said a voice from a few feet behind me, muffled by the clatter of pint glasses falling. “Ya spilt me bloody drink, ya bloody sod.”

I turned to see a tableful of half-langered men, their fingers clutching fat cigars beneath a veil of lingering smoke. They howled and guffawed and spat out their brews, drenching their card game of two-four jacks as one of them scrambled up from his seat. He wiped off the crotch of his stout-sodden slacks and shook a foam-smeared fist at the table.

“Aye, laugh it up, fellas,” he said through his teeth. “Cunts sound like a buncha bleedin’ jackals.” He picked up his pint glass and stuck out his arm, holding it down toward the man to his left. “You owe us a drink, Finn,” he said as he cocked his thick neck.

“Feck off, Jake,” said Finn with a smile, and he sucked on the end of his Cohiba.

Jake turned the glass in his hand and poured out the bit of beer left in its bottom, sending foamy black driblets onto Finn’s denim lap.

Finn stood from his chair and sent it sliding backward, its wobbly legs squealing along the rugged hardwood floor. He took a step forward and spat at Jake’s feet, and I watched as each man snarled at the other, compelling me to reach for my stout and some nuts. Every good show deserves snacks after all.

“There a problem here, boys?” the barman called out, placing my second drink on the counter.

Jake and Finn maintained their stare and clenched their jaws as their table sat frozen.

“Oi!” said the barman, slamming his fist down like a gavel. “There’ll be no trouble here. Understand, lads?” He turned and shook his wrist as the two men nodded, their bulging eyes fixed forward and their faces so bleedin’ red, you’d think the smoke around them came from steam shot from their ears.

I sipped my pint as Finn eased back into his chair, pulling at its arms and bringing its seat toward his legs. Jake grabbed the front of his shirt by its hem and twisted the fabric outward, wringing the green-plaid cotton and sending suds to the ground through his fingers. And then, as his tablemates resumed their game of cards, Jake turned to the bar and found my gaze and dried his wet hands on his chest.

“Oi,” he said as I drank from my glass. “Can I help you with something there, pal?”

“No,” I said, wiping froth from my lips.

“Then why’re ya feckin’ starin’?” Jake stumbled forward from the puddle at his feet, and he grabbed an empty bottle from a table. “Ya think this is funny, eh, ya thick-headed sod?”

“It does look like ya pissed yourself,” I said with a slight raise of my glass.

“I’ll feckin’ batter ya,” Jake stammered as he gripped the neck of his bottle and raised his hand above my head. “Come on then!”

But I turned my back to Jake and set my pint down on the bar. There’s no fun in taking shots at drunks, I thought, and instead, I took my shot of Black Bush.

 

Let Loose in the Cage

I’ve been training nine years for this, I think to myself as I walk into the ring and kneel upon the blue canvas tarp. I place my hands onto my hips and straighten my back, closing my eyes to better my focus and drown out the encompassing din of the jeering, hostile crowd. My four-ounce gloves are tight around my wrists and marked with black x’s across their white-taped cuffs to signify the fight official’s approval. He’d slapped the cup of my jockstrap with the back of his knuckles and examined the streaks of Vaseline on my ears and nose and eyebrows to ensure that regulations were met before signing off with a Sharpie and allowing me to mount the ringside steps.

And now, I bite down on my mouthpiece and breathe through my nose as I hear the muted sound of my electro-rock entrance music shut off and switch to DMX. The crowd begins to roar and cheer and whistle with their fingers, and I open my eyes to see an entourage of silhouettes emerging from across the arena, my hooded opponent centred among them and jabbing the air with a flurry of strikes.

“Get up,” I hear my corner say to me, and I turn to see my coaches gripping the chain- link fence that separates us, waving their spare hands and motioning for me to stand to my feet. I lean forward and push off the floor with my toes, then shake out my limbs to loosen their joints while stretching my neck in half-circles.

My opposition enters from the door across the ring, having stripped down to his trunks and embraced the men in his corner. He stares at me unblinkingly, his arms hung at his sides, and he lowers his head and rolls his shoulders as the fight announcer fumbles with his cue cards and makes his way toward the centre of the canvas.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer says through the mic in his hand, sweat dripping down his face beneath the floodlights, “your co-main event of the evening. Introducing first, fighting out of the blue corner!” He points to me and wipes spit from his lips as the stadium erupts with gibes and taunts that thunder across the high-rise bleachers and the chairs surrounding the ring. “This man is a ninjutsu fighter,” the announcer continues. “He stands five feet ten inches tall, weighing in at one hundred and sixty pounds. Fighting out of Hamilton, Ontario and making his mixed martial arts debut, please welcome David ‘The Ninja’ Slater!”

Boo-birds fly from the stands and dive-bomb my head as if to chase me away from the man across the cage—a homebred wrestler, lean and broad-shouldered with skin veined like leaves, who maintains his gaze and studies my stance with unflagging scrutiny as the announcer spins and points to his side of the ring.

“And in the red corner,” the announcer says, raising his voice to counter the sudden resonance of shouts and ovation, “he stands five feet eight inches tall, weighing in at one hundred and sixty-six pounds. This man is a mixed martial artist, fighting out of West Coast BJJ and hailing from Terrace, British Columbia. Please welcome Donald ‘The Pit Bull’ Morrison!”

My ears begin to throb as their walls reverberate from the blur of derisions and acclaim being thrown down from the seats. I walk toward the centre of the ring where a referee now stands, and I mirror the Pit Bull’s steps as he crosses the tarp to meet me.

The ref explains the rules and demands a good, clean fight, free from downward elbows and strikes to the spine or groin. He asks us if we understand, and we nod and touch our gloves together, and I examine Donald’s short-shaved head as he turns to walk back to his corner, his scalp riddled with nicks and scrapes and rows of ragged scars.

To Dust

My Christ,
and God, my Father,
beams of sunlight on my sheets
pool towards the glinting blade
of a box-cutter
lying extended from its sheath
and resting beside me
instead of Eve.
Perhaps I could use it
to carve out a rib
or return to the dust
in which my lover hides.

Drunken Waxwings

The diet of a cedar waxwing, a crested passerine residing year-round in parts of Canada and the United States, is predominantly fruit-based—and by consuming enough red berries, the bird can develop orange tail tips, which vary from a natural yellow colour. Occasionally, cedar waxwings digest berries that have fermented, and they consequently become drunk.   

Icarus,
a plump cedar waxwing from Waterboro, Maine,
dreamed of changing his tail feather tips
from dandelion petals
to autumn smoketree leaves.
And so, he gorged on honeysuckle fruit
and clusters of ripened mountain ash berries,
gulping down orbs of red severed flesh
and singing songs of fall towards the sky.
But the juices had fermented,
and their vertiginous molecules
disconcerted Icarus,
seeping through his gizzard
and corrupting cells and blood.
He stumbled on his moulting perch
and, fluttering, he fell,
tumbling towards a twirling ground
strewn with bleeding compost—
And that is where I found him,
by a winterberry tree,
nestled amongst the rot
and scarlet colours of decay.
His breast was clawed and tattered
and his bowels were exposed,
dangling from their shredded frame
in glistening pulp-stained heaps.
His eyes were empty sockets
and his wings were rent and chewed,
but the feathers of his tail
were a bright and brilliant mess,
smeared with crimson splendour
like a small brush caked with paint
or the rudder of a plane reflecting sunlight.