Spadina Road stretches north of Bloor, the hipster bustle of the Annex fading into a series of run-down apartments. The crush of vehicles on Bloor thins here, too; the noise of the traffic punctuated by the low rumble of the subway below. Walking north, on the left-hand side, I meet a high wall separating the sidewalk from the Native Canadian Centre, the NCC. In the evenings, smoke and song drift down to the road; sometimes there is music playing, children running barefoot along the wall. The campfire coals turn red, and then to ash, and groups of old men gather around a rusty bucket, tossing butts like horseshoes and speaking in hushed, gravelly voices.

There is a Community, just steps from my front door, of which I can never be part. But each day that I pass, the smoke and song remind me that, I too, have blood that flows red.

The old willow breathed
green and white blossoms
in late August,
lifting her arced limbs
to the mossy smell of rain
sighing under

the weight of a little girl
blurred brown legs
like bulrushes.

A Chili Reception

He slammed the pot down on the stove, sending a spray of kidney beans and ground beef flying through the kitchen. The beef hit the fridge in clods. Her face, the dog, stunned and speckled with the grey-brown meat. The kidney beans slapped on the tile in quick succession, littering the floor like fallen crabapples.

Perhaps he would be allowed to attend the Superbowl party after all, she decided, using a thumb to swipe the grease from her nose. The empty pot still clenched in his fist, he looked her right in the eyes.

She thanked God that he hadn’t yet added the tomatoes.

Unlucky Baby

Two floors above my head
There is a baby in the stairwell
Now that I am aware-well
I take the elevator instead.

I wish to go back to before
We decided to explore
And found it tucked under a ladder-
Few things than this are sadder.

There seem to be no other clues
As to why a baby might be there
If it were mine, I would not choose
To leave a baby by the stair.

I said all the words I knew,
wrapped them with crepe paper
in gold
and hand-delivered them to you

I gave my cat’s tiny tongue
A hundred postage stamps
to lick
Stuck them all over the box,
in the end
it was the words that wouldn’t stick

And still
I couldn’t make you love me.

The Annex

She sat on the balcony every night
for the next three days,
smoking and drinking
black coffee
until the darkness gave way to the
light of morning

Her thin hands
held the mug,
cradled as a precious fragment
of intimacy
amid her fitful isolation

The sky flickered across
in alien hues,
she chewed her lips worriedly
the cigarettes were stained red
a metallic taste thickened
against her tongue

The low rumble of the subway
begins as early as five a.m.
beneath the streets
a great and terrible beast
is stirred from slumber

The people spill into the streets,
and the beast sighs and goes back to sleep.

Prison Bars

It was a long time before I looked up from my roommates’ shoes. They had removed the laces; how would I explain any of this? Beginning with the borrowed shoes.

Maria was curled on the bench like an injured kitten; she had twisted her ankle in the chase. We both looked like hell, and how she could sleep was beyond me. Half a dozen women leaned on the wall, or sat on the floor in the shared cell, popularly termed: the drunk tank. The women were lost in their own shattered worlds. Their eyes shone, but blankly, like the backs of old spoons.

A short-haired girl with sunken cheeks and blue eyes chewed her lips in the corner. She smacked them together, wetly, murmuring and looking off into space.

“Kit kat…, caramilk…, twix…,” grumbled the girl. Her mouth moved faster and slower at the same time. Horrified, I trained my eyes on my roommate’s shoes. I dreamed myself small. I shrank down in a puff of smoke and turned into a rat- had to dig my way out of the mountain of my clothing.

“Hey”, launched the girl, without warning. I froze. The sheer concentration of her gaze was scorching a hole in the side of my skull. “Hey you”, she teased again. And I looked up. Oh god, I looked up. Into blue eyes, clouded with delusions and probably ghosts; the site from which something precious and blameless had long been wrenched.

“Better close your mouth, Hun,” said the girl. “Someone might come along and stick a ___ in it.”

My mouth went dry as the room began to spin. I wanted to disappear.

The taste of chocolate thickened against my tongue.

Greek Inheritance

What have you inherited?
A Greek unibrow; a speedboat named DIANA
Thick dark curls
Eyes blue and deep as the Mediterranean

A house like the top half of a robin’s egg
Nestled in the side of a cliff
Three perfect rooms

His roots, poured through you
like the green olive tree
Sweet-smelling and strong,
Now part of the earth

On your name day
A tall, crisp bottle of Ouzo
Salt in the glass,
Your father cried out on the water
His grief sprays out the back of your boat.