Jeremy Stewart: 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


II. welfare poem

Part 2
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

Part 3
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.