Carol Shillibeer

urban portraits_14, Burrard @ Melville 

unloading from articulated buses, workers in linen
Anne Taylor with a bus pass, in a hurry, never panting

it is quarter to 1, the city must soon return to desks
its rolling skin, glass spines, 40 stories surge

under cloudy ceilings, a park, dreaming, between urban
wings, concrete ledges with cemented spikes to decant

sleep from comfort, air astringent, some wealthy state’s
vinegary crescendo, steel mouth yawling gun-metal harmonies

all the million dollar bedrooms
feathers lilting atop a permanent updraft

below, those of us fragile at lunch in the square little park
an edging of cherry trees root the sky train, its rumble

shivers the sleeping grass above the station. a deaf
pauper at McDonalds, small, laminated card to hand

stone soup at the shelter, I AM DEAF, I need to eat
as subtext. on the bench at the corner of cherry tree

& Japanese maple 3 other deaf people are laughing
a joke I saw on the hand, to b or not to b, that likely

no one else in the park sees, the skytrain in the tunnelled dark
its howling politesse, starbucks and yoga studios

between variable blue-tarp towns of the addicted
& the beggars, these small green places, noon-hour
ardour, all of us, seagulls and crows, a plague of crumbs
day-old buns, vaulting bridges and torn up roads

5 minutes and counting, this cyclic unfurling
nearly over, later, the rain will come, a luminous wipe

night’s avian silence ruby-throated amongst indigo
conglomerations, but for now, time, virtuous, unbending

urban portraits_24, The Latter-day 河

The Fraser

dock lands and adjacent logistic clerks
this latter-day take on the dead
saints of the Hudson Bay
the way a white face mooned over a pile
of furs on an outward
bound canoe in the early days of white presence here
the way today Cantonese runs as deep
as the water
under floating seacans on their way somewhere else

this is not a foretelling. unwound
time has long
returned to the ocean, disease and guns
no longer such
easy weapons, but the fear remains
the heart
of violence in a dammed
river of misplaced need
the politic, sluice-gate of barely
met desire

here have this: riparian jade from an ancient Chinese mine
here this singular decanted fruit, solar orchards, pluvial Argentina
this pungent spice, this unending comfort, this small stellar pleasure

acquisition of difference
with only a mild aftertaste

your papers are in order, proceed

the river flowing past:
the sto:lo, the lhtakoh, the tacoutche-tesse, the tsilhqot'in

to wander here carrying Native hungry
ghosts, names pleated with water
[who names a river just one thing,
doesn’t name the contextual, the walking-with?]
Musqueam, Slaywatooth: convergent arterials
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, səl̓ilwətaɁɬ: territorial defibrillation

Steveston, spit of earth tonguing river’s mouth
far off flung, something moves against the sea
tries itself against water’s rolling gravity
too small
to see & there isn’t time in dying bones to wait
concatenation through to clarity

The River,
name(s) unknown

rolling back from the sea to the river
a dark lumbering

cedar-log saint called to a forest now sprouted
in the form of an industrial city?
otter skin osteocytic
looking for its reliquary
its star-shaped bones?
a jade angel seeking its cousin
stirring, riverbeds breaking
deep under northern thaw?

Carol Shillibeer lives on the west coast of Canada. She has pieces published in a variety of journals.
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