MILE END, IN THE END
Low on love, we fell for a five-storey walk-up.
A livid slice of global warming sky sold us on the view.
At night, the celestial caterpillar once spied by an astronomer
Who was herself in the midst of a mid-life metamorphosis
Only illustrated how glittery confections could never outshine
Our lassitude. Riopelle dropped by, along with eight of the nine muses
Thus history’s dilated cervix and the unctuous denizens of Montreal
Implicated themselves, each in the other’s funky drunk otherness.
We could have killed for one more circular argument
With which to distract ourselves from the news of all
The bogeymen-socialists’ mouths having been sewn shut.
Then dawn arrived just as a congregation of sparrows jostling
The length of our neighbour’s granite window ledge failed
To rebut our theories—that the equivalent of personal integrity
Is to be completely alone, and that true vision
Is nothing less than radical inwardness.
Tiny Ophelias in blue plastic urns
Were taking their toll on nature’s littoral estates.
Nowhere was the stench of burning dry cleaning bags so
Blissfully ignored. Not bells but the dolorous
Coughs of propane lighters had begun to echo the sea
Beyond the gravesides’ violets’ twist of fate. I remember not feeling
What I was feeling, as if I were hollow and lit from within—
As if the part of me that wasn’t me looked at the part of me that was
And saw only the darkness upon which the flickering candle
Fattens. So I awoke still asleep as the creature came screeching
Like the Dane himself out from a mass of trash washed ashore
And into the seaweed’s rivering hair—that sound
I immediately misunderstood and spoke back
Into the air.
VERITIES OF THE YUKON
Where was New York when I found myself living
In a nylon tent between the Yukon River and Dawson City
Beneath a sky veined with birch limbs, and barely surviving
On booze, bad luck, and the summer sun’s everlasting light?
Among the crows and the ravens—which I took pains to describe
As “obstreperous” and “grandiloquent” respectively, noting
How they juddered and strutted and distained one another
Staking their ritual turf—in the midst of such pseudo-religious
Skirmishes, I wondered: where was that infallible fact
The one I might find locally distilled as a cheap perfume
Or intoxicant? At once too dense and too clever to believe
A mere cordial glance might plug a cigar into the maw
Of the local job market, I slithered, slowly and with a blurred
Sense of purpose, in and out of my tent of hebetude.
How I possessed and caressed my hebetude! I owned it
Like the Oxford Dictionary owns the collected works of every
English poet. (Even these lines are written there, and were
Written there first, pre-incarnated, in another order
And another form.) Thus, to flip randomly through pages
Was to bear witness to providence unfolding in a series of integers
Dressed up as words. Soon I was counting every miniscule hole
In the stitching of my tent, adding up each mosquito bite
Of light, halving the sum to account for my whiskey-
Split vision, then subtracting the magical number
Nine exactly thirty-three times before blacking-
Out. God, was I really so far north, and alone?
The following day I looked up “hebetude” in my pocket
Oxford Dictionary and discovered I was too slothful
To turn the requisite number of pages, let alone read
Never mind comprehend. I decided then that I fervently
Loved New York, and longed for all of its bedlamites
As they scudded and skidded through tunnels and across bridges
Without me—even though, at this stage of my peripatetic career
I’d never laid eyes on that city, except for the ten thousand times
It had appeared on TV. Hence my sense of direction was nothing
Less than an apathetic landscape, boasting one skull-shaped
Hill like a distant and barely protruding monument
Amidst an otherwise perfectly flat horizon which was
The ever-widening space of summer’s north. You could say
I was a permanent resident here with a near-perfect excuse until
The sun fell frozen into the river and obviously it was time
To go. But first I dreamt of a murderous murder
Of crows flensing and feasting on a raven’s carcass
(Thus dawned the misfortune of my self-awareness)—
And at the base of a serpentine-limbed birch tree
I awoke with the all the eloquence of a stone.
Chris Hutchinson was born in Montreal, grew up in Victoria, and has since made his home in such places as Vancouver, Dawson City, Kelowna, New York City, and, most recently, Houston, Texas. He is the author of three books of poetry, and the epic poem disguised as a (picaresque?) novel, Jonas in Frames (Goose Lane Editions, 2014).