WELFARE SUITE I. an an afterschool special “olly olly oxen free,” I circled the snowy perimeter bushy play zone edges I hid for fear of finding out she let the kids beat on each other her youngest son was also a psychopath windmilled his skinny arms and children cowered under his temper but I wasn’t tagged and by the time I reached the tree of prisoners, I was the only one still playing day don’t care! “as long as nobody cries” the twins had the same teen moustache pretenders to a band, but Negative Aggression too stupid a name for a real band and a smiling kid always got more Nintendo time than me because why? because why? hijinks in the tree fort with permanent lifetime repercussions yes I always did have psoriasis I didn’t invent it for fuck’s sake her daycare so clean I was tempted to shit on that white lino boys played fist hockey while I was told my dungeons and dragons were Satanic the day Mom appeared at the door with a bad haircut because why? did that happen other places I wasn’t welcome (except on account of a subsidy I said I knew how to spell “stupid” “do you now” as she inserted an ice cube into my milk thermos “I don’t want an ice cube, it tastes funny” “no it doesn’t” under cartoon interrogation lights I might admit to stomping on that kid’s head but it was witnessed by everyone so it won’t come to that or a concrete tube and bush of aphids which she said would crawl in my ears and live in my insides forever if I went too close to that bush or walked to school in a pool of that kid’s orange hamburger barf on the table forever forced to sing chin chopper chin chopper for fucking ever and nap time on pee-smell foam with no pillow forever and the old folks’ home, wow bring joy to strange faces scuffed my heels on concrete shit and orange pine needles failed to picture my own face amongst the gappy smiles but easy enough to imagine to be erased and pictured on my own milk carton or climbing leaping! out of the bush into daylight alone missing child who starts off and keeps running flying forever II. welfare poem hi welfare baby we’re on welfare mommy we’re high on welfare money and welfare brother big kid sister pants Lisa Bart welfare soft drink family services syrup welfare ID soft drink LSD warfare it’s Wednesday eat big buckets of partially-exposed Kentucky welfare I've been trying to try out extra large size welfare one-size-fits extra welfare with a hole in the crotch look at me look at me I stole some shit welfare death fart cloud because your whole welfare family is on welfare III. for Tigger and Gina reel in the fumes of the Zellers shoe department brand name experience in waves I wanted to possess an unmistakable collect things but later thrown in black green bags feel momentum of your work’s lift-off chew eraser the weight is paralyzed our cat-killer neighbour obscure cat-killing got no no nothing to uninhabit (boo hoo boo hoo hoo water weeds in ditches we wanted Umbro shorts we got Mitre shorts we got spandex shorts single pubescent self-stabbing motion but they weren’t shiny enough oblique river beds to nap kidnap and catnap broken ballcap playground lost item reporting people swimming in ditches strangling form watch all the fluids drain pet a dead kitty, no no no no but are you really sure it’s dead library magazines in the rain puddle on bedroom floor seep sop soak creep crop croak Seer’s catalogue binding glue huff a lung sniff moldy rotten and stashed where nobody would need to look we wanted all our favourite tapes, but at the right tension within tolerances and biases of tape screwed around a yellow pencil hushing wow and flutter mumbles to bruises failure to return I’m sorry but I don’t understand _____ Jeremy Stewart is the winner of the 2014 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry for Hidden City (Snare Books/Invisible Publishing). Stewart is also the author of (flood basement (Caitlin Press 2009). His work has appeared in Geist, Open Letter, and filling Station. Stewart is the General Manager of the Prince George Symphony Orchestra. Northern BC folio curated by Gillian Wigmore.