Where I Am From When I Am Tired

I am from white hot baths to boil out demons in the dark, from Drum tobacco rolled soft in the back of bars, and from the exhausting longevity of post-church afternoons when the burning proved futile.

I am from the basement bedroom where I knelt over the work of words, a clumsy introversion, a hope, the hard carpet dimpling my knees and elbows with red, hot divots.

I am from the hard roots of northern pines beneath the seeming poison aglow in dogwood fruit, the clean snap of branches above the hollow thump of footfall on root-caverned earth.

I am from generations of oppositional obedience and denial of disbelief, from Nellie and Jill and the ones who ran.

I am from declarations of social affection and a paucity of intimate confession.

From impositions to smile through the pain and assertions that it was best to hide when the spirit could not comply.

I am from rote prayers while the game's on mute, love for our limited allies, and the hidden cell of a heart that could not confess against the beat of its tides.

I am from a tidy suburban crescent, the layered archeology of weekly casseroles, and pilfered boxes of favourite crackers, sneaked under the basement stairs to be sucked clean in the dark.

From the sister once lost and never allowed the dignity of her own narrative, the mother who was never let in, and the well-played pantomime of a compliant child.

I am from notebooks and binders, napkins and the backs of Hallmark cards, the compendium of my youth's exhaustion, the consumption that still traces my movements, even now, a Peter Pan shadow, if it could only be so easily slipped with a bit of Wendy's soap.


George Ella Lyons' poem "Where I'm From" inspired Fred First Floyd's form, which I used here, and which Alexandra Rosas re-inspired me to use again.

I also used this form in June 2011 for "Where I Was From When I Was Seven: Bearing Down Upon The Buoy and then in February 2013 for "Where I Was From When I Was Twenty-One (The Nostalgic Possession of Ghosts)".

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Any Which Way But Loose

In the full photo,
she is drunk,
or maybe it's just too hot.
Her shirt gapes to show a cheap brassiere,
hair sticks to her forehead.
It makes her look thoughtless,
loose,
like she's just drunk enough to take home,
so I crop it,
remove everything below the shoulders,
desaturate the colours to detract from the heat.
She looks possible now, smart,
like a good office girl,
and I feel guilty for quietly insisting
on no fun, decorum,
looking like a lady,
for secretly setting a fence against
all the most interesting parts
to insist she be a paper doll.

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Low-Slung Sun

The light and dark
of a low-slung sun
hidden by an elm
let us spy 
on the lapse of light:

I felt like I'd gotten away with something.

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Before Diving

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I felt the water hush and glide
before the surface broke,
before my toes had curled over the rough dock
while I still lay wrapped
in wool war blankets that scratched my skin
and considered how tired soldiers must have been,
before I pushed off the wood
through the air,
the first flight before the next,
cold morning air
blue and crisp skimming
along the near-black lakewater,
my skin pimpled
to receive the wet stroke
fish call air.

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The Relationship With Water

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I ran the cool water,
placed my hand on the faucet
for relief in that room,

but my heat pushed up in a sudden flush,
spread through the air
from my wrist
in a cloud
that overtook my torso.

With the water-chilled pipe
roaring against my skin,
I gripped the counter
and was nearly consumed.

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