"Expandable" and other poems

by Diana Manole

Expandable

What else do you want? The crisis centres’ phone numbers already blink
on oversized billboards
at both ends of the bridges
above six-lane highways crossing cities to prevent traffic delays
during rush hours.

What proof are you talking about? There are
bloody labels, eyelashes heavy with
radioactive mascara,
and nine-year-old refugees who kill themselves1 under the said bridges, sign
that someone from the choir
hit the wrong note
at the end of the national anthem. Anthem?
Whose anthem?

And at the mall, girls smelling of saffron pretend
they’re happily repotted pot-bound
bird of paradise plants.
At birth, they tried to shed their skin
and swallow the grain of rice on which pacta sunt servanda
was written.

They’ve made their choices, they have to live with them,
he smirks and hangs up.

Drowning. In Kingston, Ontario, Canada

The water blacking out the black Nissan
drowning the budding teenagers and
middle-aged woman
in algae and slime and tears
water lilies – undisturbed, floating
the small fish – confused, hooked

A mother dies watching her children die
her breasts releasing surprise colostrum
in a final attempt to feed and protect
the memory of cooing from almost
twenty years ago
rapidly slicing through the brain
in its last seconds of love

then, silence

The girls, seemingly calm
with long strands of dark hair floating
around their faces
an organic aureole sanctifying them
with no need for church-recognized halos

kin killing kin, as casually as
breaking chickens’ necks to fix dinner
no less effective,
in fact, diligently draining the gene pool
leaving a trail of corpses ready to love and be loved
useless,
until the end of time.

Lost Pigeon with Subway Musicians in Toronto, Canada

30 September 2015, 8:26 pm: swelling crowds of worn-out people,
eyes pivoting to the shiny CP24 screens.

“Trains turn back at Ossington and Broadview because of an accident
at track level at St. George. Shuttle buses are operating.”

8:31 pm: subway singers scaling Chinese arias, hustling
a buck while cheering the weary.

“Muslim man beaten to death in India over rumours he’d tasted beef.”

8:36 pm: a toddler squeals at a pigeon who looks at him with one eye
and then with the other, as if asking about the exit.

“Oklahoma gets wrong execution drug as death row inmate pleads
he is innocent.”

8:41 pm: a woman reads The Grief Recovery Handbook, seesawing
from one heel to another on red patent leather shoes.

“Candlelight vigil for three children, granddad, killed in an alleged drunk
driving incident in Vaughan.”

8:46 pm: the man who stinks accidentally discovers he stinks
but only after 20 minutes of sniffing.

“Former 76-year-old Quebec lieutenant-governor was sentenced to 18 months
in prison for breach of trust and fraud.”

8:52 pm: the subway’s still not working, you call my cell phone,
tell me it’s too late for romance but “the world keeps spinning.”

“The delay at St. George station has now been cleared.”

9:08 pm: the Chinese singers start a fresh serenade,
the pigeon navigates an exit, winking at the toddler.

One more suicide too anonymous for the news.

Canada Day. In Guelph, Ontario

1 July 2015

We read the past in McCrae’s poppies. Made in China. From plastic.
In the Italian wine. Cellared in Canada. Peek at the future: in the Greek
cheese pie. Sold at Sobbey’s. Mass-produced multiculturalism. We kiss.
On a bridge. Cars honk: “Get a room! Or a noose.” In textbook English.
We blush. Freedom vs. embarassment. Love vs. history.

We kneel. In front of each other. The mattress moans. Springs
loosened by adulterous one-nighters and Viagra-addicted tits-lovers.
I make a cross. On your lips. Moaning: “Ah, Canada!” A couple’s a cappella.
Anniversary red bra. White breasts. Black fingers. You open it. “Ergo!”
With one hand. Still wearing the trace of shackles like a watch’s mark.

Sweat. Sex. Screams. I make coffee. Shower. You write two poems against
injustice. Fear’s figures of speech. Then drive me home, the Commonwealth Towers.
In Toronto.

On My Way to Work

Men tucked in on the subway ventilation system in sleeping
bags with traces of sweat and teenage sperm – casually
thrown away by first-timers too young to use dry-cleaning,
do their own laundry, or stock up on memories for
Alzheimer-rotten days. Rusty bars indifferently divide
the world below – those who have somewhere to go
and the tokens to do so, from the world above – Don
Quixotes in smelly overalls who hope everyone strives
to forgive and forego.
(“On which inside is prison and on which outside is freedom?”)

Breaths of warm air lasso along the beggars’
salt-filled wrinkles, as if seeking to wipe away the
proofs of the City Hall’s forgetfulness to fight snow,
to condone the city bylaws, though we crave it more and
more since the global warming and the environmentally-
conscious but consistent pollution. The carbon dioxide
produced by the subway passengers’ breaths mixes with
the delicate particles of dead skin of the woman with
green-cosmetic contact lenses and calloused cheeks when
she trips on her high heels rushing towards her date waiting for her
near the subway stop entrance - a Luxor Obelisk in translation,
she recently met him on kijiji – middle-aged, handsome, tall,
well-spoken and with a perfect drawl. He’s already pricked
the rose-scented condoms, part of his last-resort campaign
to have a child, God, at least one child!
just about with anyone.
(“Who’s guiltier? The doer or the loser?”)

“Please knock! Doorbell doesn’t work” whippy letters weep on a
weathered cardboard sign, as I drop my change in the paper coffee cup
of the Christ’s doppelgänger. He rolls around in his sleep, smiling.
(Any question becomes simply redundant.)

Caitlyn Garcia