The Only Ones Left in the World
It was winter and snowing hard. I was driving to get the oil changed but came to a church. I went inside but at the Eucharist felt too alone and had to leave. I’d left the car running, and the pine mirror, which I’d refinished years ago, had broken. The top was jagged and glyphic like a shard.
A cormorant came to me in a large room, open to the sky, high above the town. The adobe brick, still warm, and the air pink and golden in the dusty vista. It was majestic but I knew it was wrong — the hunter with its open wings drying in the final rays of sun.
A small white van drove by and ran over my hand. I had a rock but didn’t throw it and I didn’t yell. It was a deserted rural area. The van went up the road and stopped at a stop sign. The driver got out with a long rifle and started shooting at my wife and me. We had to crouch down and scurry to cover.
I was with two young Japanese women but one of them was going grey. She was cleaning the thick planks of a weathered deck, marred by black rain. I was desperate and asking if we were the only ones left in the world.
I was running along the flat rooftops of a city, jumping like a cat between buildings. I came to the end and had to drop down about 30 ft. I needed to let go of the silver blanket and use my hands.
Large black garbage bags were rolling in on a white-blue ocean, but as they neared the shore they turned into statues – polished ebony Buddhas, their faces saturated with sadness.
In a meadow by the sea, the breeze was fresh and soft. I was claiming I could scale a wooden fence, 15 or 20 feet, and climb down the other side. But the fence stood on the edge of a cliff, the drop to the sea precipitous. When out by myself I found a coil of rope. A warder accused me of wanting to escape and locked me in a room, but I knew I could pretend I was too afraid to leave.
I was walking on a long steep road through green rolling hills, then flying miles above the earth. I could see a vast dark forest and an oil-black river. The sporadic lights of a dying city where I’d once lived. The blue tears in the China Sea. And drawing me to the southwestern sky, the jewels in the hunter’s belt — fatal portal to the swirling mass of gas and interstellar dust. The pink glow of hydrogen fueling stars like beads on a string. The arms and spurs like raging rivers feeding the infinitely dense black heart.
The Woman On The Underground
it could have been street art
a woman on the Underground
stepped onto the train crying
delicate in cropped leather jacket
Chelsea boots, a vintage scarf
stop after stop with no refrain
fifty meters deep
tears streaming down
in the loud, packed train
a sunny weekend morning
small, beyond us in her grief
a little girl looked up and kept looking back
her eyes wet with worry
as she watched not knowing;
her little brother tried a nervous laugh
no one knew what to do
watching each other watching her –
eyes darting like trapped birds –
like an orchestra, tuned to her sorrow
we couldn’t begin – her grief
too naked, too great, too plain.
when we left my love touched her arm
and whispered something I couldn’t hear;
she nodded and accepted this kindness
and we walked away, as everyone would,
hoping she had someone waiting.
Like Harold Fry
He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too.
Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
He would walk like Harold Fry
on a mission though nothing grand
down the back road out of town
like the guilty before him
punished by rain and gods
ford rivers, see the moon rise
cold under tall black pine.
He’d take nothing, just the faith
he never really had
that he would find a copse
or stream in an elder forest
where he could disappear
alone or with others,
He would leave a note, no
some verse to explain
how he hid like reptiles hid
prayed he would die in his den
woke to the memory of sharp teeth
and fleeting human faces
he’d scan for threat.
How he’d lived in cold rooms,
become a teacher, sang in a quartet,
won first prize in the local paper –
a morning shot of a red fox
luminous in a sudden shaft of sun
loping across the wet green lawn
beyond the wall of the black stone abbey.
Old and Before Fire
His loneliness was pure and exquisite
like a single rifle shot at dawn.
Bitter like the final flare from a raft at sea.
It shamed like desert blood rain,
shifted like a snake in riverside grass.
It was the room he lived in –
the fridge motor churning cold,
the fear of roaches when he hit the light.
It was where he waited in house arrest
driven by bouts of shallow breath.
The space bearing down
as he held the frightened
Dobermans against his chest,
and calmed their racing hearts.
It was a deep mountain lake
surrounded by tall fir,
black but for noon when the sun hit,
cold but for June and the wanton solstice.
You couldn’t see it from the path,
it was miles from any road
and the places people lived….
Urgent like blind hands, like cave bats,
old and before fire.
Hungry as Marble
She came in rags and feathers
from the copse behind the cottage
from the garden by the river
the cove down the wet stone steps.
She must have slept there overnight
she was from my past but I didn’t long for her
and now my love was pretending to be old
walking hunched like she needed a cane.
She came to our cottage, to the open door
I watched her climb in the honeyed light
weightless on the wooden rungs
her nipples scarlet like forest berries.
The torn suit and van dyke
pubescent on her pale face
tilting sadness like a Noh mask
curving like a crescent moon
hungry as marble
for all the suffering we could bear.
Ken Massicotte lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He has published in several journals — Wilderness House, Gray Sparrow, Poetry Quarterly, Ginosko, Crack the Spine, Matador, Sleet, Grain, Rat’s Ass Review.