Hot August, and in the bar a woman with legs of coffee-coloured
marble wants to know what’s up. I’m looking down.
Almost funny, what he told her at the last table.
How, in the dark, she looked like his mother.
The barman said his biggest mistake was quitting school in grade eight.
He flipped his grey ponytail, told me he should’ve quit in grade six.
Zigzagging moral compass, innumerable black pints, someone’s
stories of cocaine, a tall girl who wrote your number on her arm:
bar nights are like eye colour, like friends:
do you want to change them?
In April a blind girl in Graz stood on a step, talked of hating ice cream.
The sun glared. Smiling, she asked what I do in the afternoon.
An uncle hanged himself, a cousin walked into a speeding
truck. Austria. It’s good luck to see a chimney sweep.
An art-show poster in tree-budding Vienna: with one hand a naked woman
points a gun at her head; with the other hand, she points one at me.
He says he does heroin because he’s got to. He paints walls all day, looks away
and sees drop sheets, smeared cans. Of white paint. Always. White. Paint.
Night, and the clang and cadence of a passenger train demand
attention. Straps hang from the overhead rack. Hang and swing.
Books brim the sidewalk recycling box, from Cheever’s
Stories to You’re So Lonely When You’re Dead.
Spread on the road is a creosote lake. Nothing
is getting done: so flit your eyes.
The homeless boy coughs, says the cops keep
trying to throw him out of outside.
A horn tears the night air: noise mocks her subjects. You want
the passing trains to whisper before you go off the rails.
Yes: heroin and Louis, my East Van friend, his dog
licking his basement face: not lonely, just dead.
The grilling sun, one lane open on one bridge and the flagman’s sign
is STOP. More than exhaust fumes. But down the sidewalk
strides our Helen: high heels, dark glasses: fuck me,
fuck you. Menelaus would approve, Paris too. Not Hector.
The bare-chested boy and girl stand in the painting
Discretion, her hand over his mouth.
After dark, outside the Fez train station, the fat procuress
points at the curvy girl, then my crotch. I enter a bar,
bouncers at the door. One’s hand is bandaged, one’s arm’s
in a sling. When I nod good night, they touch their hearts.
Harold Hoefle’s work has won fiction and poetry prizes; the latter include the Bliss Carman Award (2014), the Great Blue Heron Poetry Award (2014), and a National Magazine Awards silver medal (2016). Harold’s poems have appeared in Antigonish Review, Dalhousie Review, Grain, Prairie Fire, Scrivener, Matrix, Missing Slate, and Windsor Review. His collection of short stories—The Mountain Clinic—was a finalist for the Hugh MacLennan-Paragraphe Fiction Award (2009). Harold is near completion of a poetry manuscript. He teaches at John Abbott College in Montreal.
To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.