Today for show and tell, I've brought a tiny miracle of nature: Winter.
It’s a season people like to brag they survived—in this city it's a joke, ha
ha, can't believe we made it through another one—but the truth is, here, no
one does. What I mean is they say you can't set foot in the same river
twice and I agree—not because the river's changed (the surface has
frozen over, for starters) but because you have changed in the interim.
The time it takes a city's worth of abandoned bikes to cycle through the
whole frost/unfrost thing like a big white lung breathing ten thousand
rusty gears in and out, we all freeze into something new—the same, but
different, the way water and ice are two sides of the same coin, value
forever in flux. At a dinner party someone asks if I've ever gone south
for the winter and I laugh. This city is the whole of my universe.
There have been years when I didn’t even leave the island, my life
circumscribed like a little glass dome that no one has shaken much lately.
As a child, I read about death; I still remember. You don't fight the
snow—you just fall back asleep. You give in willingly to the feeling of
warmth. I get it. Days like this, reality itself feels like it's under the cover
of whiteness, the planet one big snowstorm, whole segments of the city
ceded to the invading air force of Hoth-pale storm troops, a calculated
surrender in the hopes we'll be able to recoup the territory come mid-
March, or, fingers crossed, April. Of course, the culture industry loves
glamming the violence of it: Hollywood uses fake snow—potato flakes—
in all its movies; there's that infamous Black Sabbath LP and Christ,
every carol in history. Television snow is everywhere, too. Printed snow
(like this) is harder to track your way through. For an illustrator, yes,
it can be a godsend—a few black lines to hold it in and you're golden,
freeing you up to get complex elsewhere, like turning simple cardboard
boxes into high-technology duplicators. It's a neat trick, but if I could
duplicate myself, I might never stop making copies. Like, one of me
would run into my ex’s mom at the supermarket; chat unselfconsciously,
private detective of emotion. One would move to Toronto to have coffee
with you, and find out why you can't stop getting in touch every three or
four months, picking at the scab of that little thing that never happened.
For the time being, one of me’s nestled into the turn of a third- or fourth-
wave café, reading a poetry collection that ends on a sour note, mimicry
of a long-gone poet’s ironic racism. In death, I’d think, we are all part of
the same snowbank. One of me would be staring at the sky, thinking:
So much of the natural world is twos, fours, tens, twenties. It’s nice to
have snowflakes. The hexagon proof odd numbers are still viable
options, this faker-than-a-three-dollar-bill notion the real false hood, and
Yes, Virginia, There Is a Third Path. And then something like, Isn't it
funny how snowflakes are all unique yet all the same? Or is that just
One of me would stay, and have a second latte, facing the window this
time; letting the large, lazy flakes outside be the things that I am, or the
things that I'm not, a dialectic of the self. One version of me, picking at
the pastry flakes dotting this little ceramic dish, would think: Today for
show and tell, I brought the last chocolatine left in the glass case. Or: A
snowflake is a piece of air that has decided to make something of itself.
One of me would feel the cold hit like a drug, a knot developing between
my blades like a pit in my gut. One of me would imagine waking up to a
cinnamon bun town glazed over, like eyes, like '98. The Sisyphean walk
up the big hill to school. Later, coming home from a game, dressed like a
young man dressed like a hockey player, one of me would see a gaggle
of poets on the metro, and remember a winter poker night from years
Our chips had been quarters, bluffs as readable as any children's book.
Hand by hand, the shining pot had shifted my way, through no craft or
skill of my own. The cards were simply in my favour. Sometimes it just
works out that way. By the end, I was rich beyond my wildest
imaginings. But as I'd learned the previous fall, the more you have, the
more you have to lose. You left. The remaining three of us watched the
In storms, the air is just the empty space between the milling white. On
the bus, one of me would cuddle up to the window, and wish the person
next to me were a lover, or at least another duplicate. One of me would
go to all the parties I keep flaking out on, another would try suicide just
to see, yet another would film it. Artis gratia artis. One of me would really
'commit' to social; one would settle down, really 'commit' to parenting.
One of me would simply grow older, find themselves editing this poem
again, one January, recalling what it was like to have been in the grip of
their early 20s, once, and contemplate watching an old Korean film, set
on a train. If I could duplicate this cardboard box, I'd keep going until
one of them was a time machine. Today for show and tell, I've brought
a groundhog, a Mag-Lite, and a blindfold. Who wants to go first?
Alex Manley is a writer living in Montreal/Tiohtià:ke, whose writing has been published by Maisonneuve magazine, Vallum, Carte Blanche, the Puritan, and the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day feature, and whose debut poetry collection, We Are All Just Animals & Plants, was published by Metatron Press in 2016.