The Last Garbage Day (Before Xmas)

It is the last garbage day
Before Christmas,
The alleyways are littered
With trash pickers,
People with layer upon layer
Of dirty clothes,
Combing the cans and the bins
For bottles, tins;
But today’s pickings are spare,
They’re aware and
Wait for the days we will share
From our orgies
Of excess—Merry Christmas!



Stale tobacco—weed

1982 snowstorm Prince Edward Island

Stale tobacco—weed
Body odour—alcohol
The whole station reeks
Human misery retreats
Underground fleeing the cold


Beheading the Birds, Burying the Flowers

I saw him stooping down to pick-up a twig with blossoms on it. I had just left my house on my way to work. The branch might have blown off in last night’s wind and rain, or someone may have snapped it off and then abandoned it. I was impressed that he retrieved it from the gutter and I thought of Lin Daiyu from the Dream of Red Mansions and her famous burial of the fallen blossoms.

What I was doing when I noticed him was shepherding one of the neighbourhood cats. More often than not, it was waiting for passersby beside the bush at the end of the back alley. When you did pass it, it would race along side you until you reached the door to the apartment building where I assume its owner lives. The cat would mew and purr, encouraging you to open the door. I usually tried, but 9 times out of 10 it was locked and so I would leave the cat to hopelessly entreat the next passerby.

Having rescued the fallen flowers, the stranger noticed the cat and, as I moved on, he crossed the street, crouched down and addressed the animal. It has always struck me as odd that people are so willing to address unknown animals that do not understand their speech, yet are so hesitant to talk to strange people who just might comprehend them. We both talked to the cat, but did not speak to each other.

Further along Laurier Ave, I was startled by the sight of a homeless person who had wrapped himself in a blanket and bedded down in an alcove for the evening.

The white shape reminded me of the decapitated pigeon I had seen lying beside the sidewalk the previous day. Someone had taken the trouble to wrap its corpse in paper towels and its tapered, white form mirrored perfectly the shape of the shrouded, sleeping homeless guy. Was it out of a sense of respect that the pigeon had been swaddled, or was it an attempt on the part of the beheader to hide the results of his or her actions?

Retracing my steps home that evening the headless pigeon, the homeless man, the flower-rescuer and the disappointed cat were all gone. I expect to see, and disappoint, the cat again.