HAIRSHIRT

 

In mid-winter, the Conservatory
is a space whose damp green, whose broken
sunlight could be rented by the hour.

People enter in parkas, sigh,
then impatiently strip off coat, hat, scarf.
They bask privately

at the base of stunted palms,
wipe vapour
from the lenses of their glasses,

cheeks pink. Avid. And my hair, long
& static-y in our living room,
is complacent snakes here,

next to pots of forced daffodils,
hyacinths, and irises.
I lean back on a bench,

clutch my tea & breathe.
I spy a succulent a few feet off.
A green thumb

I need to test with my fingernail.
But my hair catches
on a screw on the bench

& a ringlet of hair
is yanked
from my scalp: Fuuuck!

February garland.

* * *

Back home, furnace droning
we notice again
how the house throws tumours:

my hair, wound
around dust bunnies, loose threads,
anything we aren’t sure of.

Maybe the house is a sloppy renovator.
Sands off a layer
of plaster every day

& just leaves it. 
Maybe it considers itself
a collector of spider legs,

pollen & mummified Cheerios.
We find its installations
along the baseboards.

In corners. We fish them
out of the lint catcher,
fingernails snagging

on fleecy bits
of ourselves.

* * *

Mid-afternoon. I have stolen a half-hour
in the fattening sunlight
next to the bed.

I rustle pages, sink into the barbs
of my feather pillow
as my partner retrieves

a formaldehyde rat
of my hair
from the bathtub drain

with only the mildest disdain.
February party favour.
Later, he smirks

when I pull a wad of hair
from the cavernous armpits
of my coat, his hand

reaching up
to stroke
his reassuring baldness,

the solid bones
of his head.
As we leave the house,

moving through
the elm-streaked middle distance,
I gleefully remember:

he sometimes finds my hair
tatting together
the holes in his underwear.

* * *

Testify! We are MADE
of energy!
Anima.
But also: a few dollars’ worth

of electrolytes
in a shallow tub of water.
A means to an organ-transplant

end. I like to think my foggy
lungs are analogous
to abandoned wasp nests,

that we’re all
flies on a windowsill, peering
through clouds

& clouds,
a clotted sky
of the softest dust.

But we’re nothing
if not the debris we make,
shed & swallow. Mittens

at the curb,
umbrellas drying in corners.
Broken hairbrushes.

 

 

GOOSE EGG

 

Late spring. There is still snow everywhere
as hundreds of geese kite in & skid
all over the lakes.

(Once they’ve landed, their body
language is clear:
What the fuuuuuuck?)

Two geese stand on the hill behind us
& shout at the pair on the pond,

neighbours in the middle

of a favourite argument. They’re after
the primo nesting box. Every year,
the two males stalk & prowl

& batter at each other,
but they’re easily avoided,
their bowlfuls of big white eggs

still weeks off. We veer right
& promptly sink
up to our hips. The snow

has the same texture as windows in movies
after someone has been thrown
through.

Which is to say: sweetly granular.
The only safe step is on man-made structures,
our rubber boots slipping

on water-damaged
memorial plaques. My daughter slips
into the lake

slowly, the snow there a third duckweed
& a third goose poop.
Behind her, a grizzled duck box

full of frozen duds,
down & sawdust
rests daintily on the snow.

We walk a loop over the icy path,

following the flippery prints
of geese

& everyone else
who walked here this winter:
cheerful dowagers,

men in enormous boots,
families on borrowed snowshoes
heading for the deepest

snow. She fills her boot
& insists we stop, perching
on the wooden slats of a bench.

I yank & yank

& heave, disgorging a small wet
foot & enough slush for a sweating comet

before her foot is wedged

inside again. The geese intrude
on the smallest

privacy—her eyes on mine
as I pulled,
her cold foot resting

in my palm—brokering real estate deals
at the top
of their goddamn lungs.

The commission’s always the same:

a goose egg.

 

 


 

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways, was recently nominated for the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry/Prix Lansdowne de poésie. When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and taking macro photographs of mushrooms.

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