Reading at VERSeFest

This was in Ottawa and although I’m inherently awkward I’m grateful they recorded this—I never take photos or film anything and one day I might wish I had.


I know that grey-blank-tape-face showing below looks like a deleted video but wait! It works! I think Arc just didn’t set a still pic.

Airporter driver, ex-European tour guide, through Canmore says

Canmore smokeless coal afforded war destroyers their
stealth. Stealthier. Carved out coal beds,
the town eroded like a cough strip-mines and deepens.
The mine was shuttered in the seventies.
An open-mouthed, boomerang valley. The Olympic Luge
was going to save it all, they said,
but the price was dear. Up on that peak, it’s coiled and asleep.
They used it for that film about
the Jamaican bobsled team, Cool Runnings.

Now the wealth is folks clamoring in who aren’t allowed
to buy a home in Banff. They come to ski
or hunt and try to stay–royalty, celebrities, you name it.
But you have to own business in town.
One woman, a doctor, schemed and plotted: promised
she’d open a medical office. Council said yes.
She bought a chalet up the side of a hill, leased a storefront on Buffalo,
placed a desk and phone inside, and never crossed
the threshold again. A bitter pill.

They filmed Brokeback Mountain on the Three Sisters. Little Big Man.
See those rocks there, those fingers
of rock like ribs? They say it’s a man reclined. The Edge was filmed
up on that range. A terrible film, we can agree.
Alec Baldwin, his grimace and spittle crescendos, beseeching
Sir Anthony Hopkins: How the fuck are we
going to get out of this hell hole? At the producers’ free screening
for the residents, we screamed: Look behind,
you idiot! At the highway!

They dug animal tunnels beneath the road, like a coillery, and paved
animal bridges above. Cougars stalk their prey
from the bridges. Stealthy, they are. Chain-link along the road
discourages animals, but doesn’t completely repel.
Years ago, the big fire cut us off from Banff. Wilder than anything Hollywood
could dream—smoke hurling bears, wolves, elk
out of the woods–Ursus jaws, saber teeth, antlers, nautilus claws,
fur for miles, pummeling the fence,
droving their own hearts into the wire.




The Guard

King Tut, 5’6”, lies supine on mould-flecked cotton,
                              ceiling-transfixed. Body broken
                as if struck by lightning. Dead at nineteen,
                              before purpose, before the remark.
My avatar. In my last teen year my man


tried to kill me with a Volkswagen. Rammed
                               my spine with grille, reversed to gain momentum.
                I leapt from light, body split from spirit —
                              ba left ha. Fractures don’t kill, but heal with an echo
wedged in the chasm. The Valley of the Kings,


I imagine, is located in the foreground of a photograph
                               wall mural from Sears, beneath the mountain
                 at its lowest ridge. You can tear the world off
                                by its corner and ball it up in your arms;
that’s all it is. I lied for a decade. The universe


got hitched, had quints, divorced, pitched over, while
                              I ruminated in bed about hot knives.
                I described my crypt to a doctor who mimed
                              a gun trigger at his temple: ‘You feel pow pow
sometime?’ No . . . the opposite. To re-enter,


reanimate my shell, how the blockbuster CGI
                               storm clouds reset the hero’s backbone
                in-line. Instead, my ex-love became security guard,
                               a bored protector of goods against longing.
Who wouldn’t rather camouflage than change? But grief
                               has an unknown half-life,


                               I’ve been resin’d in a vault
                               of magical thinking, believing I can
                               spell-cast superstition into art.