… owns him
when objects break down.
The alternator in the car
dead now, useless modern junk
he must pay his mechanic to extract
and replace.

The old Volvo at least
did not die on the freeway but chose
a lane close to home to blink its lights
at him, dashboard growing dim.
He has been stranded before,
in former lives.
He sits again,
his rage nicely controlled;
no point fuming
at metal, the factory flaw,
the nation-state he glides through
(mostly) cushioned
against every bump and dive.

Out of India, millennia ago, he first
moved, wanting to own
where he stood,
but a neighbour had already claimed
where he was—and so he sprawled
over passes, oceans
until every bit of earth
was accounted for, written up
in legal plots and lots.
He steps out of his car now, closes the door,
automatically locking it,
and begins to walk.

Questions and Answers

About “What He Owns”:

When asked about my writing, I am sometimes reminded of this comment by Michael Ondatjee’s in Transitions III: Poetry (CommCept Publishing, 1978): “What I believed or felt when I wrote these poems is obviously not what I believe or feel now. One little nuance, one little image, and everything changes.”

This poem “WHAT HE OWNS” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 156 (Spring 1998): 29.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.