Four Poems by John Nyman

Three Night Buses

_____– 41 Keele –

Riding it’s like bare-handing
steel poles. Like pulling
a skateboard rail grind in a videogame —
single trick, no combo. Cold sound
of rollers. The world resolved
in swift sequence — one,
then another, then another
floodlight over a strip mall.
The world going back.


_____– 319 Wilson –

The seats on this one are more clearly
red felt. The aisle is not clean,
but people sweep it
for anything valuable, and everyone
takes their transfers with them.
Guys too cool to drive cars are watching
route highlights: neighbouring guns
and guns and ammo shops’ iron-shuttered
fronts, the 24-hour
grocery store, the church
of universal love.
Based on the length of its south section’s
entrails, you can’t take Dufferin north
except by subway,
but the subway’s closed.


_____– 310 Bathurst –

When we see each other again,
guys — you seem like a bunch
of really cool guys —
when we see each other again
we’re doing a whole lot of acid.
Sometimes I just get lost
in my own thoughts, in my own world
when I boot up Fallout 3.
I think we can still keep a beat
with Bobby’s tom, if we keep going. Guys,
someone’s talking
about punching another guy
in the face, and I have to ask
your name, but doesn’t everyone talking together
sound like music?




You’ve recently dyed your hair;
on Tuesday at work
you had black hair, freckles,
and sat down right in front of me.

We took turns sneaking glances
at each other. We braced
ourselves and you gave me a smile,
paused, continued walking.

I’ve seen you a handful of times since
June, always downtown.

We waited for the streetcar
at Spadina and Queen last night
around past midnight.
You sat near the door.

I was wearing a black hat
and overcoat. You —
redhead, glasses, skinny jeans …
got off at Bloor subway.

I always sit across from you,
I’m not sure you’ve noticed.

We rode together on the bus today.
We glanced at each other
and got on. You were wearing a beige
knit zip-up sweater

and carrying a blue foam mat.
We both got off at St. George
station, and as we were climbing up
the stairs you slightly touched

my hand. We looked at each other
briefly. I liked your smile.


* All of the poem’s phrases are extracted from posts on craigslist toronto’s missed connections section.



Words for Rain

To put it bluntly, the rain ricocheted
so hard off the 7-Eleven sign
that it burned, and the pinprick blankets swayed
like drain water, roving strike-through lines

on straight streets’ soaked concrete. In elegant
terms: We were inside, it thunderstormed. Or:
The black clouds loomed, ballooned, till we were ants.
There might be millions more

descriptors; still, the rain remains some billions of drops
across and high.
Mutatis mutandis, it will not stop
resounding, even when I pry

against the ingrown thought with this ripe plum
that coats the wet road purple as the rain hums.




a low word, appropriate
for leaving a town
that’s awe-slackened all my best friends
into themselves, another old city
swallowing the nostalgia for itself —

a city
___whose cells only felt like a heart’s,
___who only reminded me of the ground,

but whose outskirts spritzed
like white pepper, like a simile itch,
a parabola ringing, delimiting,
breathing-in and breathing-out

of Exodus,

a word thrown around
like slang here, in borderlands
that have no right moniker, anyway,
free in their nudity, unnouned —

the sprawl
___that singled me out,
___lifted me up and running

into a body that sticks fast and fucks,
and dies eventually, and rhymes
with the plural of I, whose wander rusts
and flits like a good scout.
Here, in this roundabout née


a word hollow as exo-
skeleton, whiff smelled by a hound
who finds she can’t hound herself —
land of big roads that roam longer,
skies bright as a pedestrian’s aching hunger,
and some ridiculous number
of restaurants, whose strip mall signs’ colours
emblazon the infamous banner
of something like an infinite nation —

here I am.



JOHN NYMAN’s verse, visual, and conceptual poems and poetics have appeared in a variety of print and online publications including Cordite Poetry ReviewHamilton Arts and Letters, (parenthetical) and Rampike. His first full-length collection, Players, will be released with Palimpsest Press in April 2016. Originally from Toronto, John is currently completing a Ph.D. in theory and criticism at Western University in London, Ontario.


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