Marcus McCann: from Shut Up Slow Down Let Go Breathe


Here’s hunger’s sweet spot, extra dough,
and a summary of my competencies,

is what I thought the year would be.
Under its canopy, I vowed to string

enough fairy lights end to end to make waver
the dominant view. That and get off.

It was overly lofty. Bulbs burst not from weakness
but because I dragged them over patio tiles.

As for my body, I was a bad tenant
in an okay apartment. Onto the year’s dartboard

landed a missive from a neighbour to please
revolve the venetions before, well, I guess he’d caught

full frontal of me undoing layers of manners
from a man like the laces of a thigh-high boot.

By July, days were also peaking
in their thirties; I scored among the uniformly

over forty at the beach’s ramble, that itch a fifty-fifty
ticket, mostly a gift. I flagged my heart out,

learned cruising is public service. Cruising is public service.
As winds chilled, my bed pegs split. I lived between frames

and during the interregnum,
my meetup with college life pulled back curtains

on cravings for order I didn’t realize had cured in me.

Unsettled is how I felt. Like how one bad haircut collapses
the capillaries of our self esteem. The clinic

endorsed my theory of love as infection cluster.
On that topic: to a man who predated this birthday
I said let’s be bandmates on life’s

slutty bus tour. By December I’d red pencilled my plan
for outsmarting my own asshole habits. Paper

wore until it ripped. Winter was a smothering ruffle
of short days and long johns. Loafing around

my actual days, my style shrunk from cool
to “cool dad,” I guess that’s not a sex thing.

I got really into Stevie Nicks. The year
wrapped around itself like a marriage in a headlock
and before I blacked out I caught a glimpse

of the world as I thought it was,
a public of confidantes, conspirators, lieutenants

undressing from their idiot clothes,
us sleazebags, saddos and weirdos, knots of lovers, chains

and chains of clippered buds, impossible to preserve,
seriatim, stamen, John Stamos, satyr, sweat, salt.


Marcus McCann is the author of three collections of poetry. His work has been awarded the E.J. Pratt Medal and John Newlove Award, and was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award. Born in Hamilton, McCann lives in Toronto and is a part owner of Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop. Find out more at his website, or order his book from Invisible Publishing.

Author: Jake Byrne

Poetry editor.