Belly of salmon
so tender it pulls apart like ripe fruit.
He remembers, lemon and butter
circled on the plate, salmon running
the pearl pink eggs,
the perfectly symmetrical, unblinking eyes.
The world so fierce, so passionate
it can't look away; he eats it
for the bravery, fierce passion of living.
He remembers how he pushed
the sharp silver of the knife through the fish,
the head separating from the body,
pink beads of ripe fertility falling
from the belly onto the cutting board;
he leaned toward her,
no longer sexless flesh, and
like a lover touched her eggs,
lifted his fingers to his nose,
a long breath.
He wanted to weep suddenly,
wanted to breathe
his breath into her,
wanted to offer his blood
as liquid for her to breathe in,
to be born again and again,
and then once more
like a small death, a gasp.
The fresh water of birth,
a man loving a salmon,
eating her, succulent, crying,
wearing her pearl pink eggs like beads.
reliable like old, worn shoes let me count on you. can i count on you? be as solid as the four corners of my bed, can you be that solid? can you be that good and caramel coloured? can you roll over me and tell me each of my freckles, every single last freckle, tastes like your great-granny's peanut butter cookies, and lick your lips? can you? can you sleep beside me and let my body fit you like an acoustic guitar? can you come with your hands smelling of cedar, from working all day in the garage, and leave tell tale traces behind on my skin, espresso markings. can you take me to bed and lie me down upon shavings of cinnamon and kiss and quote michael ondaatje and kiss and quote michael ondaatje and kiss. can you? can you buy me a pair of carmel mittens, hold my hand in public, take my breath away? let me count on you; would you let me count on you?
She tastes yellow,
crab apples picked by her sun-stroked hands
from backfields with pockets of dandelions.
Green, fresh cut, grass against her feet.
She reminds him of sunflowers,
her flaxen hair held in every petal,
and when he drives past cornfields he sees her
underneath the green, a yellow husk,
cornsilk threads of beauty, hidden and unexpected.
She's at home, now,
as he drives through farmland to reach her.
She's peeling back fruit
to make him an apple pie,
the way her Grandmother taught her,
egg yolk glistening on the dough;
she wipes her hands on her hips
as his car pulls up the driveway,
is mashing potatoes when he comes through the door,
the yellow warmth of her sliding over him.
I met him in high school,
watched him play basketball and hockey,
cheat off my English exams,
copy my essays.
He'd take the school bus home with me,
lead me into my bedroom,
take off my jean jacket,
hold me at my elbows,
pinch me until I was almost bruised,
stare at me,
run his hands over my back,
his fingers at my bra,
pull off his shirt,
pull off mine,
and we would circle one another,
shy, cold in the winter chill of my room.
Smiling, pale blue sky out the window,
in his eyes,
turquoise rivers of blue
criss-crossing my breasts,
my back against indigo bed sheets,
soft flannel against my calves.
I would hook my feet
on either side of the mattress,
close my eyes,
my breath against his neck,
wings against my lungs,
behind my eyes, azure fluttering,
cobalt in his mouth.
He loved me blue.
It came for her,
long-legged, a giraffe
freckled and loping
across her African dreams;
she thought, her eyes closed,
soft lids fluttering,
green. The colour between
yellow and the pale blue
of the early morning sky;
the green just a soft step from olive,
the dry dust of South Africa
before the long rains.
And when home became
the rain forest of Canada,
and she barely reaching out to puberty;
it moving toward her like a starling
something soft and fluttering,
the south side of her uterus,
building and releasing her eggs,
rolling down fallopian tubes; olives
rolling, seedless and full,
ripe and salty.
And she discovered Canadian greens,
not living in Africa so rich
with pottery filled browns
and muted reds; she saw Canada
a blade of grass,
a small wood frog,
an olive moving inside of her.
A new country growing.
Because you stood closer to me,
uncomfortably closer, than anyone else.
Because you love adobe houses
on the Greek Islands.
Because you think popcorn
constitutes a full meal.
Because you love clouds,
because you want to float away,
you want to escape, but don't know how.
Because the shading of your lion tattoo
is white, streaked amid the black of his mane
and through his rough, brave face.
Because you've never lived in the snow,
don't know how to ice skate,
never broke the icicles from the barn roof
and licked them like lollipops on the way to school.
Because a blank piece of paper
throws you into fits of fear,
suddenly makes you question your life,
makes you organize letters alphabetically,
has you placing photographs, well-marked,
in fresh envelopes with elaborate details
on how to arrange them into the album you never buy.
Because, like me, you don't drink milk.
Because you've been in more wedding parties
then anyone I've ever met -- combined.
Because you dream of being married,
think it will make you whole
instead of as you are now, in pieces;
because you believe in marriage and weddings
the way I believe in God --
an unknowable response to everything.
My mother was born in the Chrysanthemum
of December, figs of holly and clusters of poinsettia,
snow over the pastures of Saskatchewan,
she came from the bath-water of blood,
the colour that belongs to women.
My mother's favourite colour is red,
it keeps her breathless, every shade of it,
a fine jewel to wear on her porcelain throat
like a shimmering wound, an oval of cranberry.
She is barefoot walking through the prairie,
saskatoons in her hands, rubies on her fingers
and feet, every part of her well decorated
and scented with wild, red blossoms.
Red are the embers from her cigarettes,
from the campfires, when she was young,
smoking and dancing, red wine and fire on her lips.
She breathes a flame to warm her children,
to ignite their passions for living.
She loves red because it's always a party;
red will raise your blood pressure,
red is opium and passion,
it was Dorothy's way home;
red causes attention,
and it cannot, cannot, be ignored.
I would like to believe --
once my father loved me
like the earth
left peelings of petals
which grew backwards
from the ground, orange out.
I tore myself open; for him, I
took truth like cayenne pepper,
secrets tasted like chilled mandarins.
For my father, I covered myself
in the meadow. In fields of pumpkins,
I took the seeds and held them until
they sprouted through my hands.
I hid myself in the damp earth,
waited centuries for my father
to come find me, to uncover me,
to breathe in my fragrant, orange, scent.
I imagine him,
coming over the fields;
I am all rainwater and mist now;
I'm pockets of damp earth
and saffron coloured moss;
I am all that's left of him,
and I want to believe --
once, once, I must have loved him.
I must have once, a fairy tale
upon a time, loved him,
but I don't remember.
I must have forgiven him;
so much of what I don't know,
all that I won't remember;
I remember the smell of the earth,
autumn leaves and bonfires,
scarecrows and fields of pumpkins;
a child should delight in all that orange.
My brother's hair is a dark crown,
an ebony of midnight blue in the sun,
a dark shadow in the evening,
a halo in such brilliant charcoal folds
it would have Keats shouting,
Only God would not love him for his midnight hair.
My brother's favourite colour, black
because he says it attracts light and holds heat,
because it carries the old gods and goddesses,
the ones found in wood groves
with poetic rippling brooks,
the ones found in the old Scottish standing stones.
Black carries the dark, warm spirits
found in the animals,
found in the Cree blood
rippling through my brother's veins.
Black for the rich soil in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
Black for his childhood where father,
stepfather, grandfather and cousin
failed the boy who attracted light and heat to him
in a dark and lonely way.
God is the first spoonful of heroin,
white as heaven,
the blink of the high,
a crystal roar of light,
the atom bomb
moving through your veins.
God is also the dark ebony of the earth
after a downpour in the country,
the clatter of rain roaring against your tin roof.
He is the black soil your great-
great-grandfather held in his Irish
hand, thrusting that hand of his
out to generations born of Canada.
When you were a child you saw God
an orange Tiger Lily, a satsuma, a mandarin,
a juicy orange from Florida;
you thought God was like the pumpkins in the fields,
loitering about, lounging like holy men
on Monday morning knowing they needn't
espouse another sermon til Sunday.
Maybe to Van Gogh God was a swirl
or a meadow of irises, blue petals
like velvet, like night, like the words: I'm lonely.
And to Rosetti, God was, a blade of grass,
a meadow, field, pasture, a clearing,
the endless mile of grass and weed and hill.
God's a good cup of joe, a mighty heave of java,
a cold pint of Guinness, a warm snifter of brandy.
Oh, God is the fresh smell of espresso beans
after a walk in the Carmanah when you've rubbed
your hands raw on cedar, madrona and sequoia.
And haven't you seen the face of God
in the burgundy ring from your lover's
wine glass as he leans against the table,
drunkenly, telling you why he cannot love you.
And this, too, the half-moon of your fingernails,
the pale rosette of your hands, the prismatic opal
of your palms which glide through the air
like pride instead of prudence, head held up.
And God, too, the wedge of lemon
sitting at the edge of your lover's plate,
which reminds you of buttercups
the rub upon a child's neck,
a streak of yellow to the chin.
But to you, the colour of God is purple,
and his voice sounds like violets
against rough stone fences in Ireland.
And when he covers your face
with his hand he smells like plums,
and you kiss his palm,
manna, to you, in the desert.
And when his fingers slide away from your face
you tilt your head,
to catch the last of him,
the leanness between shoulder blades,
the calluses on his heels,
the light wound like a grape
on his right calf,
the opalescent-lavender of his skin.
The way you kiss each of your
own wounds as if they were a mark from him,
the way you keep walking,
a journey without end,
to find him, to bury your face in his hands,
show him the bruises
like two cloves of pomegranate seeds
on each of your palms;
tell him how you will die for him,
tell him how you will live.