The man in the metro yelled hoarsely to his rush hour captives:
“Ma tante Denise
has a nice cottage on a lake.
Do you know my aunt Denise?
She has a beautiful cottage.”
This man asked us all over and over if we
knew his aunt. The sounds came from the back of
his throat, shallow and broken. He was fluently bilingual.
He was thirty, no more, with dirty, upsetting
clothing. This underground day in February
made relentless demands, sartorial and otherwise. The guy
was both charming and disarming. He was not
unattractive, but filthy and urban and haunting.
He had some profane tattoo edging up or down the left
side of his neck, depending on where the reading began.
The story of that particular fuck you ink was
as courageous as anti-social and took commitment. There are
certain jobs this guy will never have. Probably most. We know
he got to visit a nice cottage somewhere. Or that he was told
some pleasant stories about a cottage that his mother’s
sister had. Or maybe this place by a lake belonged to his father’s younger or
older sibling or a close family friend. Or his imagination.
This man’s very real estate fit into a worn out Target bag.
There was some peace for him at that winter metro station
in the small mercy of a corner where he had piled
his putrid belongings. I was across the platform. I could still
hear him as the train arrived to rescue us from witnessing more
of the unravelling that day underneath the world at Atwater.
I never saw him again. Maybe the train rescued that man from
our sidelong pity and stillborn kindness. He was a man.
Farley Mowat went up to my husband at
A shoe store on Front street in
Downtown Toronto, and asked him
About the products. Instead of telling
Mr. Mowat that he didn’t work there, Paul
Answered the question he was asked.
MAGIC AND ANIMALS
I read The Velveteen Rabbit yesterday and
Cried my eyes out.
I can’t repeat it for the tears.
These scars are illusions of trouble. Veins of fables and lore.
The skin that binds me has been lived in and loved and loathed.
Inside and out. Scratching the surfaces one at a time.
I maintain, as the rabbit does, this innocence.
The Truth of stuff that does not change. The magic when it does.
I have dreams of playing with
Others, though they sometimes walk away on their hind legs. Hurts my feelings.
I have neither child nor toy to make real,
Though could have and
Didn’t like many women of a certain age
Who chose to continue right along
Doing their things, sewing silk and butterflies and all that. And getting burned.
Still and scarlet fevered, the boy in the rabbit story. All of those animals make me cry.
Jaguars drugged for play. The caged lion’s roar is mournful.
Mane on the bones of a regal myth, now waste. Elephants chained, for baht or dollar
Or rupee or whatever. Dogs in Nicaragua are kicked by their masters and return for more. Unleashed and loving.
Feral kittens gnarled up in rotting bits and runny eyes. Natural and miraculous still.
You know they’ll be dead in a day. They
Can barely stand up and so dirty. A brown and black one
Sat on my lap for hours. Not pets. No.
Sad forever when I see them. Like people, except more so.
I never understood that homeless guy in my neighbourhood who
Carted around a dog and a cat and a bird sometimes.
Everyone would say oh yes. Hard times befallen. He is German or Dutch or Swiss?
An artist, they say. I ask something like, “but what about the dog and its scabs? The food?”
Then, I feel guilt because he loves those animals.
Children’s stories, all about loss. Dying of anger and unfairness in cartoons.
All those movies and animals. Old Yeller is velvet and Hachi and Charlotte too.
But I want live action animals that
Don’t just talk to each other and then bark crazily at the people
Who ruin everything. Same goes for toys.
Had I been born with a tail, a word’s worth
Might be different. An end. Silence in the middle.
Have you ever heard a dog howl alongside
A call to prayer? It disturbs because it
Sounds like sorrow. You should hear those lions.
I feel pain for polar bears who are losing their ice,
A casualty of indifference. In a fire, I would grab my disabled cat and
Nothing else. I hate arriving to a new place at night.
I don’t like what I hear and the animals seem suspicious.
And that is never a good thing.
I am real not because I am
Loved like that rabbit, though I am and do. I am real not because
I have died bitterly, though parts of me have over and again.
I am because my worn velveteen is not actually me.
Sweet and impossibly magic, that.