The door was everywhere,
and in everything; I stepped through it
back to the house alone.
off frosted ground, and breath
rose in clouds from my face.
May the world and its authority
collapse in these words.
At that time, going
from street to shelter
to place of my own,
I rented a bachelor apartment
from a Hindu man on 49th
between Fraser and Main—
the nearest intersecting side-street
cornered by a baby blue Kingdom Hall
and a pastel pink Universal Buddhist Temple,
a big Guanyin out front.
I had work with a guy who made
the round of homeless shelters
looking for able-bodied
socio-economic types like me;
it was out by Iona Beach
where the city flushes
its sewage into the ocean.
It was bagging firewood—two of us—
while he split it with a machine saw.
There was a steady breeze
and it stank.
I drank loads of water
and outworked the other guy
and besides his suspicion and the smell
the only disturbance
for those few days
was a crow eating my lunch.
But I lost my footing, got paid and hit
the liquor store. After drinking through
the whole of the following day
I sat in the evening cross-legged on my bed
ready to conceive
of things exactly as they seemed.
The room was next-level,
with a fine stainless steel sink and a pleasing
overall narrowness. My stomach and the crown
of my head tingled.
It was a good solitude,
my heart ticking like heat in a trash-heap,
interlocking histories cutting
easy through my life.
Tinctures and seeds scattered around
the unknown by the familiar.
The last job solved
and fitted over mine
a clear, clean sadness.
I had a magazine
with pictures of paintings of
a man—flesh and blood and clothed
up to the neck,
his head just an outline
framing forest, backyard with clothesline,
highways: unblinking faces that take anyone in.
And on the neighbouring page
the lines, You who are going in circles,
I leaned out the window and smoked, carved
one of my own into the wooden sill with a kitchen knife
and drank till my wits began oozing;
daubed and numb
I walked out to get a taxi.
Liz, milk-white Irish
with long black hair, bright green eyes,
and many appointments,
once or twice invited me to her window
so she could bathe my buzzard life in moonlight
and open my heart to its luminous cures.
The taxi waited while I found out, after much ringing
of the doorbell and calling up to her second-floor window,
that she wasn’t home, or was but not alone, which is the last part
I remember till waking up in my dark narrow room
to the radio emitting the sound of waves
breaking. And amidst this the broadcaster saying evenly,
The waves of Corsica, like a report from the ether.
I turned off the radio, went back to sleep
and by the next afternoon was hitchhiking
to Kamloops: money gone, apartment, job
and belongings abandoned,
pretty sure I still had it
though I might mess up anywhere
I got to—
NED BAECK lives in Vancouver. His poems have previously appeared in The Continuist and untethered. His first full-length collection of poems is forthcoming from Guernica.