Juniper Berries (& other botanicals)
The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It
insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such
traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure.
Taller than a
He leaves the television on and the cigarette
between his teeth. When he steps forward, the cigarette falls and smoulders
into ash-nothings on the carpet, but the television plays without
Finding him, I fold knees-to-chest on the
ground, sucking myself into myself (my nautilus shell) until everything passes
over me, somebody else come to make the telephone calls and cut him down like
I right the chair that he’s kicked over and stand on it myself. Eye-level, I peek beneath the bluing lids and
touch my fingers to his white lips. "Hello, hello," I coo. "I'm here now, sleepyhead."
Nuzzling my face into his, chuffing soft Shetland pony noise into his hair, and
then— hop! down again and I make the calls.
"He’s killed himself. No, not an
ambulance. He’s dead; what does that mean you send?"
View of Delft
Holding the razor blade between two manicured
fingers, he thinks of a Singer sewing machine working in reverse; he unseams.
In Vermeer's The Lacemaker, the subject's
red thread unspools in an impressionistic foreground tangle—out of focus, as if
one were looking past it. In art as well as life there are tricks of perspective,
and he turns off the faucet, &
head rests on an inflatable bath cushion.
"Ahhh—" the tub and the ceiling and
the inflatable bath cushion are white. The bathroom walls are green. He hunkers
down until he cannot see the bathroom walls.
"Ahhh—" of Franklin's
13 virtues, Cleanliness is tenth.
I find the bathtub overfull, water higher
than the metal disc; I worry about seepage, about the walls. Tomorrow will
there be, on our kitchen ceiling, a red waterstain? Because, yes, it is red.
I see you're
looking at my feet
He’s on the white leather sofa in the living
room and staring down a bookshelf of words that aren’t for him.
Camus. A putz who couldn’t tell problème
Salinger. He knew the score.
Wilde. He, too, is tired of the wallpaper in
the room of his death, though (smiling at – through – the rifle) he thinks: one must take comfort in the things one has the power
He’s staring down something else now, a
single-barrelled full stop, and he’s about to write his shortest poem. A piece
of shrapnel, he thinks, busted off a haiku’s wingtip. A fresh coat of paint.
crossing was the main attraction
Who was it that stabbed himself in the heart?
Oh, yeah; he remembers the headline (Elliott
Smith Dead at Thirty-Four), but pales at the idea, which would probably look
like he was trying too hard anyway— some hack Shakespearean falling on his
wooden sword. Might as well use an asp if you’re going to be that antique about it, right?
In a big bowl with sugar and cream
On the kitchen calendar a hot air balloon
suspends above a field of wheat, April's swollen patchwork moon.
An overdose of painkillers, barring medical intervention,
takes approximately two days before onset of death in its sluggish advance
through the stages of stupor, loss of bowel control, smooth muscle system
paralysis and respiratory failure.
The tablets are white. Peppermint candy
swallowed with tapwater. Exhalation, blue sky, the yellow colour of the wheat
and that Dacron rainbow. A slow goodbye, but at least the kitchen’s tiled.
My arms stretched out into that stone
He’s thinking of Sexton and Plath and the
sound of an oven a-hiss, but once he’s hunched over the dials they just - don’t
- add - up.
Middleclass suicides make poor press
clippings and (unbeknownst to our humble protagonist) in 1972 Maytag and other
manufacturers of kitchen appliances began, in response to pressures from the
media, to gradually introduce safety features to their lines of gas stoves, not
limited to leakage alarms and valve timers.
Not much of a cook (the cold shortbread flung
from the oven rack being mine and not his), it takes him a few minutes before
he realizes that this Maytag is,
anyway, an electric.
Adding a third dimension to his defeat, he's
got the timing all wrong and I’m already home from work & asking, "Why’s my
baking on the floor, jerk?"
The Better Way to end
Public humiliation is the number one motive
for murder in the United
States, he read once, and he’s tired of
At Ossington Station he gets the last word in
after all and Subway intercoms send his final retort across the grid:
We are experiencing some delays
on the Bloor-Danforth line
due to an injury at track level.
Gin is flavoured with juniper berries (and
A bottle between the thighs and he's sticking
the keys at the ignition, fumbling until they sink true, and the lights of the
car are on and you can see the whole garage lit up by them, but then the car is
gone and so is he. They never did put that railing up on Highway 87, where the
sharp curve kisses a hillside too steep for second thoughts, and finally I'll
have an excuse to dislike gin, will never attempt another martini, however