Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Leah Horlick : Two poems

The Last Few Seconds of Last Year

Every year we practice finding
the door in our bodies—the door that leads in,
not out. Not as hidden  

as it used to be; now, you walk
into this alley, spiral over the ice,
look for a neon arrow. From the balcony

we watch kids who still live
at home kiss each other, furiously.
What is that like—to have always

known where the door is? Because
we all nearly died, I want
to touch you constantly. If that’s not

a good enough
reason, I don’t know
what is. Chunks of silver drop

from the ceiling at midnight. I remember
once I looked up at the exact chime, plastic silver
right into my eyes, down my dress. I think

we all used to kiss each other
on the mouth. Now I can hardly
imagine it. A new year. You and me.

We were holding
each other’s faces saying,
we didn’t die. Later,

I thought, I might ask you
to choke me. In the cab I can see the sun
rise behind the factory, pink sparks

from a welding torch, the air fluorescent
cold, everything frozen except everything
that isn’t. Each of my earlobes

a spidery purple gem. Under
the ice water in the shower, open
and close, the door opens and closes

Invisible Gate

I hated
that some part of me knew
how to do this.

From before. And then watched
as a crowd sang, How could anyone
have possibly

known? I hated
in some ways, it seemed
that I knew. Hours spent huddled

under what if no longer felt
wasted. Every night a new
mass disaster—dragged beneath

the sea ice, herded into a school
gym—each variation, even
as I stood with my front door open

into the dark, gasping, not nearly
as trapped as I could have been. Not
even. Or the perfection

of the first thirty seconds,
before the slam
of that heavy, invisible gate—

I didn’t imagine it. Today
is another day. How my body

absorbed the recoil
every morning. Already, I spent

so much time pressed against
a screen. Already, a hug was a ration,

negotiated. Anything more was
a triumph, culmination

of thousands of hours of deep
breathing exercises. I watched the money

I might have to spend on it all, again,
rise and fall like a sleeping creature. I talked

to you, and you, every evening, like I already
did, across pre-existing distance. Took long walks

at odd hours. I ended every
conversation with stay
safe, again. Old reflex,

stretching its two wings across
the floor. I tried
to luxuriate

in that reach. I tried
so hard, to feel good about
not having forgotten.

Leah Horlick is a writer and poet who grew up as a settler on Treaty Six Cree Territory in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her first collection of poetry, Riot Lung (Thistledown Press, 2012), was shortlisted for a Saskatchewan Book Award. Her second collection, For Your Own Good (Caitlin Press, 2015), was named a 2016 Stonewall Honour Book by the American Library Association. Her next collection of poems, "Moldovan Hotel," is forthcoming from Brick Books in spring 2021.

Photo credit: Erin Flegg

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