Illustrations by Neil Peter Dyck
The Last Scarecrow
The last scarecrow left Chilliwack in 1980. I was four years old, only hearing about him later. He walked with his “heels in the lead.” It was said he claimed it easier with his pelvis flat. Rectum pushed outward. The posture awkward but a pole was struck through him, longer than his legs. In former times, the pole placed him high above green-eared cornfields in the late summer. Straw-feet at the level of the incubating cobs, the mancrow dressed in farmer’s red flannel. The torn blue pants were a hand-me-down from Waldo Cornies, a dozen years earlier the Mennonite’s Sunday best. The steel pole that once towered the strawcrow, now dragged behind him, drawing a line which disappeared briefly at each asphalt road he crossed. Sound of scraping, then muffled, like a wet rag in a mouth. When he stayed and stood, the dirt got mucked and cavities formed. He said it’s better to keep moving. Keeping the line straight, the furrows even. He went in the only possible direction, the line of departure always in his sight.
The Prejudice of Burgundy
She in wool, a burgundy coat on the articulated bus to the institution, if anything, in the midst of momentous change. She sat on a side-seat row along the windows facing an opposite row facing her. Platinum hair stuck out straw-like from under black toque.
I wondered if she was Turkish. Dying black hair blonde had been a trend I’d seen on the streets of Kadıköy, as wearing dark toques was on West 4th. Disembarking at The Loop, the end of the line, she walked toward the building I kept mistakenly calling Irving Berlin. I followed behind, going the same direction. I wondered if she was zhe.
A tipped-over trash can from behind a plum tree appeared and she veered toward it. I wondered if she’d set it straight. Instead she reached down into a white fountain cup, out of which protruded a bushy brown tail and stubby back legs. Putting her one hand on the cup, she popped off the lid with her finger. It was an expression of sheer terror; the black squirrel jumped two feet directly up in the air, like a jack in a box, twitching rapidly before hitting the ground. It zagged into the bushes, the plastic lid affixed to its belly. A custodial worker arrived then. Late. She’d also seen the furry ass-end sticking out, but had gone back to her van to retrieve metre-long pincers.
Briefly, I found myself and the air around the bin charged as if by a halo or an energy field or an electric squandering of talent. The burgundy of her coat compressed down into a dot in the make-up of my visual limits.
Thoughts turned toward the people I had yet to meet: if they’d be where they said they’d be, be who they said they were. Tenuous patterns and un-white action were subsumed, and, in the turning, I turned away.
Notes play for me. Music calls to me. When everyone is water-repellant versions of themselves in a rain, music still calls out. It says, I am like the one you remember.
The land the kind falling in East Van. It hears music, therefore it is.
I used to hear your voice in the words of songs, and in the songs I noticed you listening. The songs were sunk in me and I had to listen to a thing outside of the words themselves.
It is this moment. This. It is here. It is this not-before. This not-tomorrow. You are here. I am there and older. You are younger. The timing is right, and I say the right words and you do the right things. A place in time outside of time, glistening preserved.
Some evenings it returns. The same evening leaves under a black umbrella.
for Katie Campbell
You approach the white crumbling buildings of Karaköy’s banking district at dusk by ferry before gentrification before the three-dimensional labyrinth of Beyoǧlu ruins outwards before a bomb would literalize space.
People talk of what remains. They employ plausible words. When I face the flame, I have no words but I use the wrong words for lack of satisfactory alternatives. I write as though there were a kind of after-existence, but you, Katie, went on and lived how you wanted, despite a thicket of diplomatic tricks, until you couldn’t anymore — go on, that is — because debate with its false motives and mandate was something you’d always innately known. That’s why you did it how you did it.
You lay down non-partisan patterns, footprints on the dance floor, a tiny bar in Istanbul near Babylon after a Baba Zula show.
I was there. I saw a corner of the structure fall.
One remembers who one was when your light was on. I remember who I was then. I am who I was again as I stare into photos of you.
You are dressed as Colonel Sanders, black suspenders and a cotton baton beard. You are yelling with a coned party hat propped like an amplifier into my ear. The kids in Fatih are running after you calling out to you on the Feast of the Sacrifice. Bomba Estéreo on repeat, the song you liked to dance to. El alma y el cuerpo. Your mother plays it for you in the ICU. What I know of you compressed into one moment.
Thirty-six die in a Beşiktaş bomb not far from that little bar. You break out of your body in Bali, an island I know nothing about.
They burnt your costume-wings in Denpasar. Others tried to burn themselves in solidarity to your name — in Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Columbia, San Fransisco, San Diego, Montreal… I watched a video of your friends fill a paper lantern with the heat from a candle and let it lift above a beach, but it, too, was a place they would not get to.
The haemorrhage in your brain appears unfounded. In the wrong. Invading what would not cave or alter, a haemorrhage would have you if the world couldn’t deceive you.
In the wrong, I recite the remains of an embossed reminder of your vanishing dance-steps. The steps are etched into an edifice so many try to protect. The dance reifies in the unseen. The impact travels.
Inadequate invocations; death jealousies. Yesterday, your mother cremated your body in Bali.
The smoke rose. You diffuse into evening atmosphere.