Nyla Matuk

Three Poems

Then and Now

Forty-eight and finally, I learn
how to start living if that’s
what it’s called,
I mean, spring clean,
cup-side up in the drawer
Japanese fantail
dress detail
only some excess
five-inch Louis Vuitton
‘Kimono’ heels
coffee at an East Village
bodega on Christmas day,
December sun on walk-ups

While we sat in that
crêperie on Carré St-Louis,
speaking Bretonneries,
windows steamed
fresh snow on St-Denis
cooking school across the street
‘Funny,’ I said, in the middle of
Montreal’s deep-freeze
February, ‘the city moves
like an insect in a fridge,
a ville fourmillante’

I’d never been to New York
you’d never been to Blighty
the metro dumps us at Vendôme
wet fat snowflakes,
the deli with canned puddings
and it’s nothing like Paris
nor is that tiny basement apartment,
paneling like a captain’s cabin
near the small ancient hospital,
wedged mid-block on
Avenue de Marlowe among
the semi-detacheds in
forever the month of March,
forever 1955,
dark halls, mannered
portraits in maroon paint
hanging from green walls,
glowering financiers
provincial visionaries
de la belle province
who does behave like
the belle of the ball?

empty real estate down on
René-Lévesque, formerly
Dorchester, Hotel Reine-Elizabeth
carpeted VIA train interiors
permanent winterzone
angels looking up at
afterlives from the cathedral,
moribund church,
moribund government
nationalist dreams
taken down by the usual
ethnic vote and that persistent
xenophobia like a bad penny;

uptown, the dangerous trench
of Décarie boulevard
perched over which we lived
in a dusty 6-storey with wide
stairwells, 5 and a half for
five-fifty a month &
a landlord telling us
mice come in off the street
through the front door

1977, I remember waiting for my mother
here in an old white and gold hotel;
that’s how I learned to wait for someone forever

Later I ran with humourless
boys and they had me:
a firefighter who
reminded everyone of his job
& the unsmiling Hun with
bad teeth and alimony payments &
the sociopathic millwright &
much later still, Doctor
‘Bad Sex’ who’d fucked
the same person, by age fifty-two,
for twenty-five years; and, way before that,
the bartender
who couldn’t get it up.
I ran away to the south coast
of Barbados to lose
that one, but in my
stupidity every escape from
every awful guy
was somehow a goat song
(…except for the glorious
exeunt from my life of Doctor
‘Bad Sex’ who
brings me back to
being forty-eight)

startled with vast
at what preceded me,
and what follows me,
or the possibility of me–

now and then
prepared badly if at all
for every civility of
bourgeois society and
not offending
ordinary Canadians
on Twitter

everything is parenthetical
then this
then that but
now and then
a clear view of sky
as if the sky was
the whole view—
(it wasn’t, then;
it isn’t, now)



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