You give ten dollars a week
to Buddhism, drift in and out
of its guided meditations
like vapour, in hopes of grasping
that which hangs waiting
to be left behind. The manacles
of love; the vow
you once took, part of a ceremony
in which you tried to raise
perfection like a demon
from a bed of fire.

It’s not entirely clear
when perfection turned its face
away from you, whispered
unrequited like a slip
of hemlock tongue. You barely feel
the sting of things escaping
from you now. An old man’s
sneeze that draws a bless you, as if
an act of words could keep
the whole world well. That girl
at the station, her face the same
in a thousand movies, fixed
on something just beyond your shoulder
that isn’t there
when you turn to look. The subway
guitarist, plunking his Santana songs
at less than half-throttle. You
want to rest your hand
on the crowns of their heads,
forgiveness of your own desire
for other-than-what-is, the pull
and repulsion of it. The moment
inside the moment that Mapplethorpe
saw, what surfaces must be rent
to find it. The floating world
you float above in a swirl
of pastel Japan. Your neck aching
for the tug back down, the spiked
collar of imagined contentment.


Denise Raike‘s work has appeared in publications including The Ontarion Literary Edition, Diviners, Other Voices and Vallum, and has been broadcast on radio.  She was a CBC Canada Writes Challenge Finalist, and has written, directed and acted for the stage.  She lives north of Toronto with one other vegan human and an ever-expanding coterie of cats.

To view other content published in this issue, 15:2, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.