Two Poems from Junebat

by John Elizabeth Stintzi

John Elizabeth Stintzi is a novelist, poet, and teacher who was born and raised on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. Their work has received support from the Canada Council for the Arts and The Watermill Center, and in 2019 they were awarded the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, as well as The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize. The spring of 2020 will see the publication of their novel Vanishing Monuments (Arsenal Pulp Press) and their poetry collection Junebat (House of Anansi).


 

On the Murder of Junebats

If you’re the kind of person who wants to kill
people like me, I won’t use love to stop you.
It won’t work. You love thy neighbour until
thy neighbour needs killing. You treat different
as different even though it’s a fiction of angles.
Take my life, wear it like drag and let your gun fall away.
Wring no throat. Wear my life and dance
like a fucking tornado on fire. Feel the weight
of the questions, the dry bloodshot eyes inside.
Wear my life and let me stand beside you, calling you
things you do not feel you are. Sir, Ma’am, Bro, Girl.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to kill
people like me, come here and take my life.
Feel how hard it can be for how easy I have it:
for the whiteness of my skin, for how I do not need
to fuck someone who could kill me legally
just to eat and make rent, and for how I tolerate
so many misreadings and how those misreadings
make me less interesting game for your hunt.
I want to dunk your mind into these dark inches
so you may live a day in a cacophony of self-hate.
You might be surprised to recognize these feelings
so let’s fit my life on yours like a gun barrel fits
between teeth.
Wear it, hand it back, then tell me I’m not real.


 

The Junebat on the Dump

The moon swallows the smog as it sets over Hoboken
behind Manhattan’s jagged silhouette. At the base
of the cliff, where the body descends hundreds of steps
to walk to work, the sharp smell of garbage loiters.
The trash facility sits at the corner of Mountain and Hope
where discarded symbols go to be recycled into capital.
This is the place where imagination dies and thrives.
The Junebat is not here. The Junebat is a plastic bag moving
from street to street, searching for something to choke.
The stink of night has been foul a long time. Stink
of morning, stink of afternoon, too. The world stinks
with the dark image of a blurry, winged creature roving.
Some nights, the hardest thing to do is survive
in a world where you can neither find nor lose yourself.
There is no symbol in the dump to hold the Junebat down
precisely. There is no paperweight in the shape of their flesh.
The trash facilities of the world are quiet, as the Junebat is here
and not here, as the Junebat is both empty plastic and a body
trapped in wind and gravity and a sincere desire to die.
A breadcrumb-trail of garbage underlines Mountain and Hope.
Words fail because they were built to fail. A piece of sound
travels at the speed of a hydraulic press. There is no purifying:
the body in the bedroom of the night meets the moment
when it is ready to end, yet there is no ending-tool in reach.
They do not look out their window to see the plastic bag
of themselves flying sinusoidal. They do not smell the trash.
The window is closed. They are awake and alive and afraid.
Small words hold smaller meanings. Big words float on a huge
island in an ocean that won’t end unless the world does.
The moon spits up the smog on the far side of the planet
as the sun decides to rise and forgive the sleepless.
The door in the bedroom is unlocked. Air lets itself in.
The Junebat is the body is the plastic bag is the wind
is the mountain is the dump of the mind is the hope.

 


John Elizabeth Stintzi is a novelist, poet, and teacher who was born and raised on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. Their work has received support from the Canada Council for the Arts and The Watermill Center, and in 2019 they were awarded the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, as well as The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize. The spring of 2020 will see the publication of their novel Vanishing Monuments (Arsenal Pulp Press) and their poetry collection Junebat (House of Anansi).

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