- Three Poems
Parables of the Rat
The rat and I, we are like brothers. He,with his knowledge of causes,the elder, and my weakness
the burden he shoulders.I see him in shadow, a drinkin his hand, retreating to his rooms
with a bad sandwich, slipping inat all hours, his brown coat's collarturned up, somewhere between
a soldier and a criminal.In the eyes of god and society,which are the same eyes,
he's succeeded wildly, but not properly;and one day, in the houseof his labor, he'll ingest the poison
of the family order, and everythinghe's seen and heard me dowill die with him.
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An abstract made of material which mayor may not be invisible,the universe expanding into infinite spaceinheres in rats, in germs, in leaves.In the largest of us to the least,all its relationships are to scale.Like it or not, at birth, it's what we're given.
And maybe a soul is a satellite,a small idea orbiting a larger one, a deviceto translate the signaland send it back.
The rat is still a rat.There is no getting around what we are.
In a picture book I owned as a child,a girl at camp was assigned a tentfilthy, broken-down, and tiny,off to the side of those of the popular girlsarranged in shining rows. Don't be sad,
said her friend, a witch, who may or may nothave been invisible. Close your eyes. Go in.And inside was a mansion, with many roomsfull of what we all want.
The last shall be first. I remember this, too.But sometimes the last stay last.And maybe, inside, the rat is a palace.
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Nevertheless, rat, you cannot live here.Your habits aren't compatiblewith our plans for our interiors,
just as our habits render uninhabitablewhatever bit of the whole wide worldwe can squeeze our heads into.
The traps are laid, though I didn't lay them.Nor, when it's time, will I be the oneto carry your body out.
It's not like I want it to happen;still, I imagine, as to all animalswhose bones in our hands become garbage,
it will. Unlike you, I'm ashamedof what I do, which is nothing.
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We queue to manage the balances of what we're owedto what we owe, orderly as souls in private panic before the Judgment,shuffling our documents as though judgment weren't already writtenin the Cloud. From the shop adjacent wafts the incenseof coffee and the vulgar muffins, overstuffed as geesewith funnels down their throats, truly the muffins of a culture on the brinkof steep decline. To be no longer working means something differently to you and me,to those of us who will not walk, as in the promotional literature,on the equatorial beaches, will never point excitedlyto the castles of Europe. Money buys the knowledge it isn't everything.With the face of a poet no longer young, but barely, and the mannerof a registered nurse, our delegated financial advisortranslates the truth of our condition to a languageeven we can understand: if you have no house now, you will never have one.
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Toronto the Good
Six-inch all-caps in the third-floor windowof a low-rise on Sherbourne. horrible landlords.
stay away. they treated us like dogs.A plague cross on the door:
"Lord have mercy upon us."Why don't they move then.
You know why.If you don't, you should.
Rent for those apartments wed to flakeboard,caulk strip, mactac, plastic,
and a maintenance philosophyof who gives a shit,
for the ill-intentioned microsuites, the bug-riddenand the windowless,
has doubled in two years.I loved it here.
Even the stodgy Upper Canadian Presbyterianarchitecture, the terrifying Ballardian subway
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it took me ages to get used to. The paradeof baffling flats...