I idle on Queen West, waiting to rescue
my mother-in-law from the hospital. Brown
milk from the Second Cup has dribbled
into the grey rubber cup-holder,
another film that will need wiping up
after I finally get to scouring the bleaching,
sticky dust off the dashboard.
While waiting I examine
the divorce papers served
last weekend at our annual
pig roast, counter action
for lack of action
and too much action
on foreign soil
I take her out to lunch at that Thai place
near Bloor and Sherbourne to get us both
feeling human again
after 6 days of dressing gowns, plastic cutlery,
and overheard prognoses.
The rice and curry are what we expect—
comfortable, competent. The green
mango salad however needs more zest.
Dropping her at her basement
apartment on Manning, I volunteer to nip
out to the grocer to restock her pantry. She asks
for little—canned ham, chicken
legs, and some condensed milk.
I tell her I’ll get some other
things, fruits and vegetables at the least.
No retractions, back in the cockpit
of my beige Taurus
I set my lawyers to kill
knowing we both know mutual
destruction is the end
of a kiss that makes you shudder
I drop off cauliflower, eggs, and apples,
along with the meat and cans.
She hugs me tightly, pressing her greasy face
to my chin. She’s already picked up
that herring smell again
but I cling to her tightly, whispers of “good
son” tumbling down my rounded
back, unable to dilute guilt,
grip crumbling to quiver, her face lit
up: so loved, almost understood.
Roy (he/she/they) is a queer, non-binary, polyamourous, Chinese Canadian poet.
Questions and Answers
What did you find particularly challenging in writing this poem?
The challenge of this poem as in many semi-autobiographical poems, is to dig honestly enough into yourself—your guilt, your pettiness, your automatism—to let it exist without hyperbole or glory, while celebrating the beauty and joy this absolute mediocrity shines into the world. To make these two simultaneously honest and authentic, will lead most to an unwanted moment. Not of surprise, as we all know we are capable of this, but a needed reminder our muddling impotence is potent indeed—recognition without celebration.
What poetic techniques did you use in this poem?
Sound, rhythm, and flow are the heart of this and most all poetry. Here using that conversational tone, seemingly undramatized, Alan Rickman reading Frank O’Hara: there are no artificial pauses, caesura coming as naturally as breath or irony.
The repetition of words, either as emphasis or (my favourite poetic tick, as a former professor called it) used in different senses, is the most formal indicator outside of line breaks that this is poetry or oratory. The speaker here is relishing their command of sound and language, its own manifestation of a defensiveness.