grown up guilt

my grandmother always turning on the light for me while i read and a flare of annoyance
grandma i can decide how much light i need to read i can turn it on for myself
i am practically grown up now

in our grad student apartment he always turns the light off without a word until i say HEY and he
says you don’t need the light on its daytime for god sakes, saves on the electricity bill

and i think of her pinched forehead sweet like strawberry jam hovering over my eight-year-old tense shoulder like fishing line taut rolling my eyes in an exasperated huff
her eyes might strain without the light, she says i don’t want her eyes to strain



Good Times

The kind of happiness you
become brimming with
A joyful contentedness like
walking trepidatious with a too
full coffee cup
Anxious that your loveliness might
slosh over
eventually it
probably will
a little
But these are such times
of swelling hearts and
happy poems and
spilled coffee has never seemed so much
exactly like spilled coffee



Side Step

He was growing in
side me
I felt his elbow jab
my diaphragm I
t breathe as his
tender foot punctured a
collapsing lung
I needed him
evacuated sucked
dry me quietly weeping on
a stretcher covered
in paper
Where is my mother?
Am I mother now?
When does the title
begin and
when does it trail off
As the wheels of the gurney
glide toward engine room
As the forgiving eyes of
young nurse ask you to count
from ten
When does m/otherhood end
When is my body mine
alone again
Can I go home and
light a candle now
shaken relieved mourning
a forgotten cell
dank and multiplying
like virus
reeling of you
reeking of an
unfetchable loss
Grant Me Mercy
I am fucking free again



"I wanted to kiss you hard" Or, Missent Texts

A deleted cosmic 
flippant trail of 
spewing digital archival 
whirls about present and 
unauthorised grasping

The evidence of an affair is 
hurriedly hushed is 
swept under a quiet 
apartment bed 
But what if we gathered the 
quotations the 
sunlight that bathed 
the sheets the forgotten 
sweaters the stolen 
kisses in angular hallways 
and filed them in 
Public Record 
to bear our sins clean to 
hold up our misspelled affection 
and say, 
"Here is where It All Began, 
Here and Why and How."

If we catalogued the 
remnants the 
Thai food receipts 
then maybe we'd have more 
than deleted messages 
than despairing 
dispatched information 
how can we burn 
fragments of 
zeros and ones 
how can I kick 
a lost 
text in the



Lost Translations

Does the city you're in 
reek of me 
Do you tread the pavement 
wondering if my footsteps 
haunt the road that 
stretches between crosswalks 
Do my footprints linger
like shallow imprints made 
on poured fresh concrete 
Do you trace them 
First like shadows then 
like wading through snow that 
reaches your hips 
each step pulling 
longing agony 
Do you wax poetic on 
my thighs spreading with 
the divide that opens Elgin into 
Rideau and Confederation 
A war memorial erected at 
my tangled centre 
that wrenches the two streets apart 
thinking of sacrifice 
thinking of resistance and 
put to one side 

Or do you drift unencumbered 
A cruise boat setting off 
drinking tea and purchasing snack bar crisps 
Does your desire flow 
bursting and transient 
with the water of the canal 
that marks this heaving 
diplomatic city 




Your love
once engulfed me 
waking dreaming hours 
thoughtlessly obsessed 
an icy cave coated crystallized 
with passionate reckless mantra

But with Spring comes
rebirth of mind
promising breeze
melting memories until
they are a streak of
salt stains on city streets 
a gust of sand blown free

How is it that 
I think now with
indifference without
rage or longing
Your face a 
glimmer in an April
Your breath the 
monotonous whir of
cars on a distant highway
Heedless, Omniscient 
and wholly ignored 




Fig. 1
We are sitting, appropriately spaced
he and I
spaced roughly eight
smooth hard inches
from one another
on his parents’ couch
delicately lit
yellow light
reading his poetry

Fig. 1b
I flip through his books
find lines I like
to proclaim aloud
and his hand
his fingers
his palm
the tendons of the
tendrils that lead from knuckle
to nail from marrow
to keratin

Fig. 1c
I lean forward elbows 
on knees
flip and read
and the twitch takes
form as his
knuckles, no
the smooth
layer between each joint
they stretch
to glean
they drop
or shrewdly pass
they glide the length of my
spine as I grasp
the spine of
his words
and with 
this graze

Fig. 1d
A pause
His left hand outstretched 
clasping one casual beer 
comfortable in our
warm light in our
gap that begins to
converge as our space
did he glean Why did he
run the length of his finger
down me
to feel my hair to touch my shirt
to tell me
to thank me
as I feel hot blood or vomit or
cum rising from
hip to
chest from navel
to aorta
and My God was there ever a person on
this earth who wanted to reach out
and touch the face of another as
I do now

Fig. 2
Two single beds
together separate
so blindingly separate
he says he will
sleep on the couch
no we are separate enough
don’t widen this gap any
he crawls adjacent
lean form under covers
that used to be for
brother and he
where is here
where is this body placed
please edge closer I can’t
have this crack
between us
and he concedes

Fig. 2b
My lips when
have they been such
wanderers such
impolite, unasking
skipping mouth and
finding the length of
his neck nestled creeping to
his lobe as he

Fig. 2c
He pulls   breaks
he says he can’t when
he’s with another when
he’s made a promise
he cannot fall
I cannot push
and yet I    shove
thinking of
those hands those
knuckles those
tendrils leaning collapsing
particles caressing
the contours
and the

Fig. 3
We eat sushi suitably
sixteen implacable inches
from one another
across a food court table
talking of
work school family respectable lovers
speaking of confused
We are 
just friends 




She scares me
her angular frame and darkened eyebrows
next to my roundness
my circular breasts and hips
I delight in the fear
that I can fall into her severing eyes that soothe and
as she photographs me splayed on
a bare mattress
spotlights burning
creasing my skin with the knowing of
her buoyancy
the fretless fingers that play
I surrender performance
shield wit fancy other notions of value
I submit apprehension under her
gazing palms under her
caressing lens
a dripping, plead for vanquish
She accepts
dragging sweet shadow
across drawn eyelids, delightfully blind
prying me open




tense lexicons bar our borrowed phrases
modify our possessive prepositioning
your words apostrophize me
I am simile
an absent definition
an oxymoron
bracketing assumptions of subjectivity
an ongoing study, a conjunctive bridge
you run on dash to find Me
hoping for palindrome
hoping that as you read forward
you wind around
and find yourself there
that a sweet semi-colon may join
our absolute clauses
mirrored, possessive
that your research will lead you to
a triumphant period
the etymology of EM-ǝ-lee
rather than the terror of
ending a sentence with



object petit a

I draw a circle round 
your missing presence 
A singing pendulum of 
where did you go 
were you ever here 
were you ever you 
Or just a projection 
A blasted chord captured 
on film 
your negative shadow loops
endlessly on 
an undeveloped spool of 9mm
I fooled myself thinking I 
captured an idea of you 
and me, a mere amateur 
round the editing table
hesitant scissors in hand 



Four Grandparents Past

I am stranded Prospero
desperately whirling in land-locked
Southern Ontario
forming chaotic creasing
oceanic shorelines
to exile you with me
to wrench you back to me
Olenka, Bruno, Basia, Bernard
I seat you round a beachside fire
and ask
A conference entitled
“The Miraculous and Unexplainable Ways I Came to Be”
the hows of it
but when they appear they appear
as sea salt stone
lapping away at each question
at each gentle tide
and by moon’s turn they were
a lick of foul breeze
a smell of burnt kerosene
and the faint, teary exhaustion of Poland, 1939

I am just Patrick Stewart brandishing a driftwood staff
made of Flexifoam
calling gales in veils of history
of our story
I call up magics
on a barren plywood stage
house lights up
I infest my mind with beating on
and hum
I have done nothing but in care of thee
I have done nothing but in care of me
I have done nothing
asked little
listened rarely
I stumble scramble through photographs
crash back into me
How could I have asked you in your last days?
You smiling softly and saying you led a good life
all bones and
stretched on a sterile hospital bed and
slapping myself for thinking
now you really look like a Holocaust survivor

What else can I do
but write
each violently co-opted memory
hunching over each line
a wrinkle forming at each
alchemic verse at each
tangled pore
a usurping sorceress
leaving clenched tearstains
across textbook pages

Now my charms are all o’erthrown
or never were
just dreams just lies
just teary conversations over wooden
dining room tables
remembering childhoods plagued by
the Memory
With the help of your good hands
I could stitch
careful not to clap
with needle in hand
the sound might drown the sea  



Backseat Passenger

A station wagon sidles up to our burping Yaris
on Highway 400
a kid, maybe 13
with a flip in his shagged brown hair
window gazes curiously
and quarter-smiles
a twitch in his soft
still baby young cheeks
And me with my
too cool sunglasses and obnoxious
snap my eyes to the front seat headrest
unwilling to acknowledge the
decade and a half
connection that intertwines
me and this kid
through glass
while parents natter in the front
us kids
contemplate the road



Letter to the Editor

Don't ever let them write love poetry for you
about moonlight or softness 
about holiness or 
damn girl, 
your sweet, sweet curves 

Don't let them pontificate on 
mapping the blueprints of your lips 
and for God Sakes, if they talk about your 
just smack them 

Also, don't let them quote at you 
when they've gotten lazy 
(unless it's Al Purdy and you're 
around a campfire 
then maybe 
a blowjob is in order) 

Refuse that sexy verse 
even if it really flatters your legs 
or that dip in your clavicle you've 
always fancied 
And even if it's delicious to hear 
"Hold on, let me grab my pen"
as he stretches from your 
crummy hotel bed 

But, seriously, don't let them 
insert themselves 
when they're writing from 
brazen insecurity 
It'll just leave you feeling like a 
literary harlot 
thumbing for a ride 
as you stumble through their pages



Break-Up Song XXVII

A necessary clearing of the table
            “sorry, I don’t have room for this in my life”
            (not sorry, just the Canadian in me)
Cut that shit





A luxurious foot-tapping distraction of
you walk in and I suddenly breathe
poetry as though contemplating red
brick and desperately clinging autumn
leaves is sketching intricate
blueprints measuring each tender
angle and being reminded that my
god Purdy was right things are
alive and squelching with desire



Portrait of the Degenerate as a Young Artist

These moments at 5 am where 
I cough up paint like blood and 
hasten to arrange meaningful form 
asking what does sex look like as it stretches 
over canvas? 
A gaping hole of interlocking pieces 
thrown up casually into place 
like taking a midnight drive on a
country back road with 
no plan or reason 
          pressing the pedal 
          out of boredom 
and something succulent springs

"Maybe the canvas is already sex," you say, 
"with all the woven strings tightly bound, legs over thigh, over knee, over leg."
"Well that is beautiful" I say, "but I still 
wanna see all that dripping red paint" 



Arguments with a paper cup

What words are left
What pithy punctuation can note
will this still work tomorrow 
will I write/be

An anxiety plagued by water
Filling up to my eyeballs my ears are
swallowed and my faith drowned
Call up the moment to work
show me what you have hidden 
Please let me turn your static into beat
Turn your back into bridge
I need to find poetry in your presence 
Just hand it over and I won't
chuck you in the bin 



Walks with Wendy

A judicious slice
of ramen striped across
a screeching pan
A shared bottle of vodka/Pepsi
(mostly vodka)
on a sidewalk current
downtown to the
park where hobos sleep
where we can reach out
to the longest pier
and breathe with wind
windowless but for
an aimless suburban pathway
to water
just bring me to a piece of
water beyond the puddle
that belches from green
manhole covers
I’ve burned myself on
a screaming tarscape



A Deep Forest Debate

Follow the rhythmic footsteps of Dad
see if I can look up without falling over
to catch a staggered glimpse of
squirrels rush dangling in treetops
scurrying icicles

Plodding down a snowy isle
toward a twisted hardwood altar
to be handed respite without question or barter

Ghost of Grandfather trods behind
a taste of Coca-Cola and kielbasa on rye
He shouts that the land was meant to be
tilled and not
Though he bends
as a rusty crane over
a patch of strawberries
picks from a raspberry bush and says
“Eat” with smiling eyes
A red and juicy Eucharist
For a life of poverty sings,
“Feed above all else”

Dad looks back
pauses and

Now full




A man in a frosted toque envelopes the recycling bin
peering shoulder over rib
as if the traffic would note
a twisted, slacken form 
his dig for sunken treasure
the discarded booze bottles of careless students 
He rises
        still in ashes
and slips like oil
to his next venture 




November 1

A scrub bush bursts from a manhole cover

the lid lies slacken against the careless tangles
Some pylons are erected to divert the drivers
a student takes a photo of the assault
neighbours wonder why the city doesn’t cut it out
like a pimple, burst the thing from our streets

This is the in-between month,
I tell myself on the commute,
trees are bare and cracked like Winter
leaves collecting in a rainbow of Autumn underfoot
slate pavement blends into the grey horizon
I’m projected into a smoke/fog that forms a
non-line between terror and calm
between invasion and emergence

November 3

Homeland for my Birthday
a resounding anchor that pulls us northward
The stretching highway pierces the land
dividing equally the bachelor apartments
and condemned used car lots
flea markets and
discarded coffee cups along the center divider

The weeds and leaves push up against the road
blur the edge
framing a disintegrating cracked tarscape

In the passenger seat I lace my fingers
and futilely revel in the weighty place
that draws us forward
as if we are on a line or rope
with an idea of home cranking the pulley
Without realizing that the fog is pasted to our car
that I carry the smoke in my mind

November 8

A dream scene
I walk in to find you in a forest
with tin foil leaves
laughing, you ask me to hop on the back of the ATV
I am surprised at my indifference
We fly along the brookside
the water is carbonated
burning through the soil
I regret this invasion for the sizzling
but am drawn to the collapse
A spindling copper weed rises up and says
“Why don’t we just thrust you out
like quicksand, just swallow you?”
The slate sky starts crumbling
a corrupted purification

November 15

Dreaming of Homeland on the Birthday of my Mother
a tightening of laces
pulling together my shoes
that call me to continue
A faraway foundation of poured concrete
reached through the underground
cables and heartbeat
a radiation
I pray for you on this day
I send my pulse through eight floors
and call you on the phone

At times like these
I cannot condemn the numbers that reach your voice
but I cannot keep my blood from the garden soil

A Scorpio dreams in extremes
but your protest calls for balance

November 23

I drink you in like liquid lead
you secure me to this space
as though you’re carefully sewing me to 
the bricks of our apartment building
murmuring softly
“this is your place, your place is me
and I move away from and with you all the time”

In this dead city
of retired memories
the basis of the commute
forms only as a basis of emptiness and longing
you carefully sew me into some place
as if it could be any place
as if any space could build its home around me

The building rocks on the waves of the street
on the currents of wind
you drop your words out of the window
and anchor us

November 30

What I’ve come to realize
here with you
is to celebrate

to condemn the opposition
and see myself like 
the facets of a rope
intertwined with you
stretched across our highways
across our scrubland
I rub up against you and this place
I feel your edges

feel the edges begin to converge 

Copyright © a contemplation (Emily Jones) 2013. All rights reserved.