In tribute to Kenji Miyazawa (1896–1933)
I can withstand the rain, whipping me in greasy strips, as I’m launched off the bus and out, limpy, toward a job for the 409th day; I can rebuff the wind, its cocktail of toxins, Coco Paving, the Vomitorium where cement gets made, and a steel recycling centre that screams at two p.m. exactly; I am immune to the snow in my faux-leather boots and the trickle of sweat down my Jockeys in August — safe from it all, manufactured, nitrous oxide, particles of heaven. My body is strong from Vega One, dog walks, and DDP Yoga. My desires get loosed in short webs of excitement, of which I never think again, flushing budding lives from the Bardo into one endless toilet bowl, and I flagellate myself with earbuds should I recall a youthful ambition. I whisper a half-held “hi” in the bog-green lockers and slip “sorry” and “thank you” interchangeably, to interchangeable call centre kids, doing what I call the Chump Face, which is kind of a smile, a kind of grimace, and every day I make a rich and complicated salad for my desktop lunch and eat oats and fruit for breakfast. I board the late bus last, always, and stand when seats are at a premium, perform breathing exercises to conjure a kind of love even for the cretins blocking the crush and the howling faces in the back. I watch and listen to nineteen YouTube videos a day and never once lose my sense of composure. Sometimes it’s people-parks where Brazilian ju-jitsu boys burn small pyres of garbage; sometimes we do dog parks where men sip cold Americanos and women dress down, big time; and sometimes the grey rail-paths and rivers of Toronto float before us in a mini-hurricane vision that churns up Loose Meat. Above us, in the rental, furious workmen clobber the floors, and splinters rise like chilled hair, electric goose, while the carpet rots with mould and bossy kids get their wet reward under the daily bloom of renovation, houses demolished and rebuilt, refurbished for people who are fathomlessly rich. Never forgetting. Spying out a tiny office window at the children dancing, playing “Cherry Bomb” in the grassy circle, fighting, defining rules and fouls that require a wail to resolve. Quietly, alone behind the marbled glass, I pull a Chump Face. If one of these babies is sick and shrieks to join its lispy friends, raging in its mother’s grasp, I wince. If Mom is tired, I pity her, thinking I could shoulder her bag of artisanal cheese and diapers if only she’d let me. When the ambulance slides into view without dreadful march or stern alarum to pick the dying olds from their homes like hunks of grass-fed beef from our boulevard’s jaw I say, there is no need to be afraid, dear chest-wracked lady in these end-game pajamas, and whisper a half-remembered prayer about hoping her next life is a good one, and not what I secretly hope — a centipede. Quarrels rage on social; my old friends sue new friends; the defamed sue accusers; the people hold opinions with tensile strength; and I pour an entire bottle of wine down the sink in grey boxer briefs. When the romaine lettuce gets all fucked with salmonella, we cry together at no frills. When the summer never heats up but keeps the chill of early spring, hey, it’s all we talk about as we buy perfumed candles, pretend to work, donate blood, ride the dry buses, bump into our furious neighbours, stare into the sky’s pit or wander far from home at night to Our Guy at 7/11 to buy a secret pack of Pall Malls, hoping to run into someone new. When you’re outside the gastropub, you’re a nobody; if the night’s clearly over but you keep roaming, drunk, in your leather daddy jacket, you can’t be blamed; and if the years trickle on without promotion or demotion but whoa, you’re still employed, it’s still a paycheque, which is more than we can say for those living in the next province, or tent-based prefecture. Better than the next life — please god! Please, to all the gods of the six realms meeting here between my pressed palms: this is the type of person I want to become.
Among some other things, Spencer Gordon wrote the poetry book Cruise Missile Liberals (Nightwood Editions, 2017) and the short story collection Cosmo (Coach House Books, 2012). He helped invent and run The Puritan for ten years. He used to teach writing at universities but now works for an environmental not-for-profit and lives in Toronto. More made up stuff is at www.spencer-gordon.com.