Despair Prevails

Strike the day
From the list by the bed
Despair prevails
Insistent as a switchblade
Writing thin red scrawl
Musings, simply musings
Nothing so coherent
As a stream of consciousness
The pages all torn out
Wrapped in wire and ribbons, dark under my skin

It seems you have opted
For vanity fairgrounds
And golden cups
I am behind the blackout curtain
I think it may be daylight outside
All that grows on this side
Are the uncurling tealeaves
And discarded films
Spiraling mazes left unsolved

There is little time left now
We pull apart the muscles
And grind down the bones
Try to find that divine spark
Like making fire
By rubbing skin on skin
Turn aside for envy
Press out the light against the wall
Every just-glimpsed tress
The only desire left
For a rhyming couplet
Despair prevails


Hole in the Ground

My bed is sharp-fitted into a corner
And I can trace the angle with my eyes
Around the skirting,
Following the trails of black on white dust
That never seem to lift,
The hairs jumping in the fan breeze
And the invisible poisons crawling creaking floorboards,
Always towards that corner.

This is not a good state of affairs,
Sleeping on a hardwood floor
So nothing can live under the bed,
So I can curl it up and shake it out each morning
Until it’s clean as a burnt hair.
But I can’t sleep,
Because of the mirrored walls,
Four sides all the same, reflecting to the corner,
The pictures of the steel-trap world outside
The unbeatable dust shuddering like monuments.

Median Lethal Dose


Last night I was having flashbacks again: I see the spokes on bicycle wheels being tightened, each creak of moving metal echoed by a movement in my muscles; hunching, twisting over each other. I see pictures in textbooks of strange diseases, then look in the mirror to see the same picture, my name captioned, anonymously abbreviated. All of my space compacted into the size of a fist. And colours. Green and blue lines coruscating across my eyes like melting plants, the colours running out and making abstract spiral stained glass patterns. A continuous curve traced by a point moving around a fixed point in the same plane while steadily diminishing its distance. Red yellow black white static interference patterns, stopping any other mental activity, truncating the waves. A hand that reached from that space in vision that’s a little in front of you, through my eyelids and into my head.

All this is caused by what that cute French boy in Japanese class called ‘reality overdose’. All things that happen are real, but some are more real than others, although I think he stole that from Orwell. When too many hyper-real things happen at once, reality builds up in the body like a toxin. Given enough time, latency builds up between the thought process and reality. It solidifies.

A girl on the bus asks me if I’m feeling ok. I’m not quite sure where we are, but I’m sure that my eyes are red, because I spent a while staring at them in the chrome reflective bus stop ad. I’m not quite sure where we are. I don’t know why. Reality condensing in the eyes? The input through which most sensory information is channelled, it’s only natural that the problem should start there. I can feel the redness like a slow burn. I realize that several seconds have gone by, and I haven’t answered her. Or was that another time? I have lost the opportunity to respond within a time frame that signifies a normal level of social response to stimuli. I pretend not to have heard, and she asks me again, trying to tilt her head on one side and look up into my eyes, which are focused on a stretched-out piece of gum clinging to the floor. I nod, and get off at the next stop. I remember that I haven’t eaten in four days. Or since Wednesday, whenever that was. The light-headedness makes me stumble as I get off the bus, and I almost knock over an old Asian lady carrying a bag full of empty wine bottles. It has been five days since I’ve eaten.

In pharmacology books, you’ll sometimes see a value for the ‘median lethal dose’, sometimes coded as LD50 to be less morbid. The dose of a medicine, a drug, at which 50% of test subjects will die. The numerical value of Russian Roulette for every substance. From this I learned that less than a millionth of a gram of botox can kill a person half the time, which just proves that there’s no justice in Hollywood. On the other hand, it will take about fourteen grams of caffeine to kill an average adult. That’s 250 espressos. Reality is another substance like these. Less tangible than cocaine, more tangible than feelings. The median, in fact, between emotion and chemistry.

For some, survival is a little like a gift from a former lover. Something to cling to, or discard. It is, logically speaking, a bad idea to kill yourself because of a boy. This is because you only get one go at killing yourself (if you do it properly), whereas you get many attempts to find the right boy. How can you be sure your very own boy is worthy of the ultimate commitment?

I was boiling with the strange thoughts that you get when the internal and externally loaded substances run through your body at time of emotional stress. Condensation accretion accumulation of reality inside my veins was causing toxins to rush to my brain and flick switches at random. How does the body let itself get so out of control? It seems like this particular system is malfunctioning. I see the same girl who was on the bus sitting on a patio at the side of the street. How did she do that? It can’t be the same girl. They all look the same, identical cast-off 80s dresses and slippers, ready to discard those dresses and start wearing flares, tutus, anything else as soon as the marginally more mainstream people start wearing what the hipsters have previously claimed. If you watch very closely you can see it happen.

I’m not sure if it’s easier or harder for you, up on stage. There is a feedback loop that is positive instead of negative. Something like that. For some people there is a vestige of control that allows them to get on a stage, switch something off inside the mind, and channel everything into this controlled explosion, hot line of entropy that distorts the world around it, clears a space in which they can survive. Be alone in a press of bodies like surf, like a bird above the waves. They can’t swim, and the waves want to reach up and drag them under, soak, salt and dry them. Maybe they just stand there and think about the other birds burning in hot entropy.


Everyone is vanishing

I meet a face on the street sometimes there is eye contact

I cannot yet read the glances

My world is too small to make out this detail

It is like seeing a wrinkle from space

When I turn around the face is no longer there


I turn back begin again

It happens over and over

Every turn more and more are gone

There are so few left now I cannot mourn them

Because misery loves company

Eventually I will turn back and see no one

Editing poetry: Where is it alright?

Rules. I dislike rules. Especially social rules: I’ve never really understood them. In particular, this piece was inspired by my thought that we consider it strange to hear someone singing on the street, and how much time we spend telling others to be quiet. Some of the lines in the second section are inspired by the Radiohead song ‘Polyethylene’

At work
they say
you can’t sing
while the phones are on
those tiny pulses
break me out in ambilateral fusions
down the lines cold lava
keep your mouth shut[down]
or the children will fall down
and spoil their pretty hair

on the crouched busses
music is not allowed
there are signs
we used to hang from
the monkey bars
undulant rider soundwaves
scream the name of the station
happiness, ulceration, earthquake zone, plastic wrap
you must sit with your mouth closed
polyethylene doll

out on the streets
you may abuse your loved one
while the dark hides under the horizon
carve threats and spray wars
leave threatening messages
drape yourself in cured flesh
you should not sing
even close harmony
tubular bells
screech along the delicate
tendrils of the proper noun
we clutch at shame in emotion
search for it
in reflected streetlights
the slight hint of moisture on your skin
hairline faults in
the network stretched out across us
drying and shrinking
the heat generated by
potential difference
broad outside smiles
claws inside

via Editing poetry: Where is it alright?.

Cute British girls make me awkward(er)

When I lived in the UK, there never seemed to be cute girls around. Or maybe that’s not true, but I never noticed them, and if you believe my friends, I never noticed them noticing me either. Fast forward a few years and change continents, and they seem to be everywhere. Downtown Montreal is as full of Brits as a Monty Python convention, and they all seem to be attractive.

Enter me: shy, fairly awkward, still noticeably British but with an accent many find hard to place. Is it too cliche to hit on British girls just because they’re British? More to the point, do I have any greater chance of not ‘dying on my arse’ as we’d say?

I put this question to the test yesterday. There I was in Second Cup on Parc, reading my Creative Writing book (dyed hair, tattoos, creative writing, I must have looked ridiculous). I noticed that the pretty girl opposite was British. She was talking about her exchange program and picking courses for next term (semester) and which Profs she liked and hated. I liked her voice: sometimes a British accent can be soothing. It’s like a nice warm steamed milk (which btw doesn’t exist in this city).

Anyway, in an act of uncharacteristic bravery, when her friend went to the bathroom I got up and asked her where she was from. It turned out she was from an area very close to my own. In fact, my parents and her grandmother live in the same town. As my father is a doctor, there’s a good chance that means she knows the family name, but I didn’t think of that. Anyway, after that I sort of hit a mental wall. What to ask about next? Was she showing any interest, or just being polite? I forgot that I have no ability to read emotions, so I wasn’t sure. The conversation sort of petered out and got awkward when I asked if she was enjoying her exchange year, to which she replied that she was, thank you.

I watched her leave a little later without turning to look at me, in my book a sure sign that she wasn’t interested. But on the way home I couldn’t help thinking about all the things I could have said. Like asking her out, for one. And then I thought… what’s the point?

The evening turned into a depressing one, probably as a result of a conversation with my ex (I referred to her as J earlier). Luckily that allowed me to at least forget my earlier failure, and do the mental equivalent of eating a tub of ice cream, by which I mean letting her tell me about how great her life is at the moment. Sigh.

Dating profile turn-offs

So far I’ve noticed several things that are instant turn-offs for me when looking at online dating profiles. And therefore, given my own anxieties about my profile and my general philanthropic spirit, I have decided to share them in the hopes of helping others less fortunate than myself. Ahh.

And before anyone tuts at me for having a list of ‘don’ts’ rather than a list of ‘dos’, I have one of those too. Perhaps I’ll even tell you :p.


Any or all of the following in pictures will immediately disqualify you. And yes, I have come across all of these:

  • Pictures of several people where we have no clue which one is you, because that’s your only picture. For fuck’s sake, crop it or black out the other person’s face or something if you MUST use a picture like that. Don’t let guys think you’re the cute one then be disappointed.
  • Come to think of it, don’t use a picture with you and your more attractive friend. That’s like saying ‘here’s this delicious entree, oh but we’d rather you have the steamed cabbage’.
  • Picture of you wearing a wedding ring. Either this picture is really old or you’re doing something you probably shouldn’t be.
  • Pictures of your pets. I don’t want to date a chihuahua (or really anyone who owns one)
  • Pictures of you at work with a name badge on. Especially if you work at a call centre. Seriously, go outside in your lunch break and get a passerby to take a photo of you.
  • Pictures of you in a big christmas sweater hugging a cat. No.
  • Pictures of you with a glove puppet. I am fully serious. Fuck no. Unless maybe it’s an adorable home-made one and you’re entertaining kids.
  • Pictures of you looking like a demon with red eyes and steepling your hands.


  • Any headline using the word ‘nice’ as in ‘nice time’, ‘nice guy’. Yuck.
  • Fishing references, e.g. ‘swimming with the fish’, ‘looking for nemo’ etc. Yes, we get it, the site is called plenty offish. Clever.
  • Any headline using the word ‘dreams’ as in ‘follow your dreams’, ‘looking for the man of my dreams’, ‘desperately seeking a way of stopping myself from dying in my dreams, particularly the one with the glowing spiders’. Ok perhaps I made up the last one.
  • I think the same goes for the word ‘good’. Blerk.
  • Headlines that aren’t spelled right. Seriously. It’s four words. Can you not use spellcheck, or maybe ask a not-so-illiterate friend to assist you?
  • Headlines that are just 😉 or :).

Phew, rant over. So, based on that assessment, what do you think my chances are? Somehow the words snowflake and hell spring to mind, I’m not sure why.