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Triptych



I.

He chanced upon a world of four imagined corners, oily, quartered, creased at the centre.

 

Animals animated and two-dimensional populated each corner, depicting life.

 

He chanced upon a world attainable as a souvenir.

 

His mother packed it in a travel-sized compartment made for toiletries, chargers, pills,

a material thing composed of observable properties, like a gel pen or sticker.

 

She hummed to steady out their minds while the plane tilted, turned

 

at marks of hidden punctuation as passengers all leaned inward, bending an ear

a little closer.

 

When they landed she clapped a wreath of shimmering tinsel and bells as everybody else

clapped with her.

 

Time and a place proliferated. Trumpets!

 

Except for in the boy, whose hands never left the carry-on. Wondering which corner this was

he chanced upon. What life here looked like, at the luminous edge of his new world.

 

 

 

II.

At the living room floor, with foot and hand to hammer down each line

the boy stretched the world as large as he could make himself and stayed in that position

 

—back stiff, a coiled spire

 

imitating steel or brass or reinforced concrete.

 

Like this

 

the boy grew quite hideously into a man and from a man into a scintillating hole

behind some clouds

 

where he chanced upon a world shadowed by his frame,

 

though wondered if chance was really the word for it.

 

Picture this: a patchwork quilt of earth tones—is that too much?

 

—threaded with filigree hair of past, present, future; flowing in the angled sheet

of geese, in the creases where water’s flown.

 

 

 

III.

Our muscles tore.

 

Nerves seethed.

 

Our bones impelled indifferently the skin of our cells.

 

Our hearts pumped cold blood when children washed up along our shores.

 

Sunlight: precise, scraping.

 

In rush-hour we stumblingly exited hot diesel-injected animal breath gasping for air,

our stereos streaming music from our phones like broken capsules.

 

“It’ll come to me later,” we’d say. “In the grocery store or pumping gas, it’ll come to me then, when the moment’s passed.” With moments always passing, elegy permeated everything.

 

I’m in a black robe and motorcycle boots conducting your paean on the rippling shoulders

of a blue arroyo.

 

I’m stark naked, a male one though the other males are giving me panic, and I’m skipping

barefoot across their rage like hot coals.

 

In his world we killed ourselves for lack of funds.

 

It was a game, and to win was a very sorry thing. So I lost—over and over,

which sounds like being lost, as in they lost their way, which was the same as being anywhere

he couldn’t find you. Yes, just like in here.

 

Chance had it I lost enough to lose myself, chancing upon a tear too small to fit through

though if I squinted I could just glimpse it,

 

and soon I could see nothing else.


 

Clayton Longstaff’s work has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, Geist, Canadian Literature, Prism International, Literary Review of Canada, and elsewhere. He lives on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen & W̱SÁNEĆ nations.


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