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A quarterly international literary journal


/ Poetry /

It’s January 2006 and here’s how cold it is:

Everyone’s wearing armor under their jeans. It’s a clear day and

everyone’s catching their breath back from the sudden solid

mountainsides of wind pealing in from off the lake and

knifing between buildings as they’re crossing Princess Street.

Everyone’s already breathless, already been laid flat

by the last big nasty blast. At the crosswalk, everyone walks

with a jaywalker’s kind of rushing gait to class and

back, expecting trouble with the concrete,

suspicious of the sidewalks on inadequately salted mornings.

Everyone’s knees are flexed. Everyone’s soles hover midstep,

muscles braced, gloved hands’ fingertips

turned up like talons as they anticipate

the slip, hard jar, swing and

precarious warp, the moment of falling or not falling

as RMC boys, pink-shaven and eighteen, glance

at premeds’ heads bleached white with frosted lips rushing

out of biolab at Queen’s, and they are months away

from Kandahar. If you ask me ten years from now

what to say about that, I won’t know where to begin,

but if you ask me now, I’ll know exactly what it means. In any case,

when the bars let out at 2 a.m., people still want ice cream.

A man comes into the Dairy Queen straight from the Penitentiary and

while he’s ordering he tells you how for literally years inside he’s been

dreaming of the strawberry-banana milkshake that you’re about to make, and

after the lateshift, when you finally get inside, your skin

will be corpse-cold for hours, but in the meantime

your housemates show me how their handles of vodka

froze outside on the back porch at the co-op, everybody laughs, and

I do verb tables at the kitchen table, amo amas amat, my passport

in the pocket of my coat hung by the door beside my bus ticket

back to Massachusetts, my coat with everyone else’s coats

piled up, and with everyone else one-by-one having made it home and

only you still out, I count the sparrows in my lap

as the city transubstantiates against the weather front.

The barometric pressure blathers, amo amare amatus, I promise

I promise I promise. I do not love what love is.

I do not love being a subject in a democratic monarchy,

I do not like being a non-resident alien

in a constitutional republic. I do not love grammar,

amabo amabis amabit, but time has teeth: its course

deposes, sublimates. The body undergoes

a change of state, sprawls across continents, throws a leg over

weeks half-remembered, straddles everything come and

gone and come back since. It’s January 2006,

the kind of cold where you can feel it killing you:

the breathlessness and racing heart is really

you, just starting to die. I won’t be able to say for years

how cold it is. It does not translate

in present tense. I won’t be able to say

until ten years from now what this means,

what it is to come in from the cold.


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