A Christmas Gift, for the Internet

Hi kids.

Today was a day of wrapping and cleaning in advance of an upcoming, slapdash, underplanned voyage to Nova Scotia for 48 hours of intense festive celebrations. Inspired by another blog, I thought I’d share a poem with everyone who happens to have a few minutes to peruse the internets this merry giftmas. I looked long and hard for a Christmas poem, and couldn’t find any, so all I have is this wintry poem. It’s not festive. No refunds, people.

Two Birds (Mississauga)

February opened on two birds, frozen. I
spent one month walking past them, beside
the telephone line that failed to provide
a permanent fix, that released their claws
from its rubber grip and swung them,
sleeping, down towards the sidewalk. Nobody
talked about the birds.
Crowds that gathered for the buses didn’t
talk about the birds.

An old man paused
to consider their position, fat breasts bloated
by the thaws that go unnoticed
in deep winter, caught between storms
and the night time’s whistled siege.
The old man looked up at me and grimaced because—
Did you know this?— it’s impossible
to encounter something dead in a bus station
and hold back your face from a grimace.

I didn’t pick them up but
I did keep up a diary. February 8th: Birds turned over
by the wind or some dog. I expected blood,
but there’s none. February 12th: Smaller bird kicked
ten feet down the curb, one wing thrown forward to stop it
from rolling. Beak chipped. No blood. February 22nd:
Another snowfall and the sidewalks ploughed.
Two perfect circles left untouched around each body.
No footprints in the snow. Not one.

The next week I woke up and the birds were both gone.
Someone posted an opinion. It’s not right the city
didn’t do something sooner. This shit’s
a health risk. We’re all in this together,
remember?
The sign attracted insults: Busy-Body, Crazy
Bitch
, three words pulled from a language I don’t read.
Sign number one was lowered down and replaced
by an improvement: six lines of packing tape
preserving it from vandals.

The weather waned that March,
folded back the snow to show
a whole city of dead birds,
slumped forward on their silence like
a growth of cheap new houses. Seventeen in the skate park
alone. Four found in the gravel that had gathered
by the sewer drain. Two mailed to the guy who
handles sanitation, thawing in a cardboard box his
secretary worried was a bomb.

-from Folk (McClelland & Stewart, Ltd, 2011).
Originally published in The Ottawa Arts Review

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