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In Vancouver When You Call

When you call and tell me that Goose—
the homeless cat I refused to admit—
has been hit on the road, I am twenty
five hundred miles across the continent
in a city that looks much like Vancouver,
Canada would like to be some day
in its dreams. Across the street from the hotel,
the convention center holds its annual
Everything to Do With Sex Show—
gels, oils, bustiers, leather straps and wires.
I think about whether I should go and pierce
myself, but I already feel whipped, riddled
with too many holes and middling desires.

It’s Sunday morning and I make bad coffee,
pack water, and hike off to Stanley Park,
make toward the mountains of solitary
gorges and snow caps, the peaceable pine
kingdom on the horizon. A parade of Lycra’d
joggers run missions in the opposite direction.
What the hell are they running from anyway?
They run along the seawall in the morning,
micrometer watches ticking, bouncing sneakers,
rubber soles, a private world in their ears.
Glass office buildings reflect the metallic blue harbor
and the white peaks where the steep mountains stop.
Along the waterfront, every block has new construction,
latticed by scaffolds, waiting for new tenants, like empty cages.
Their windows gleam like moist eyes, caught
in some unknown tale, new towers in ruins, billboards
pining to save some real estate developer’s heart,
Space Available! Opening Soon! Vacancies!

When I reach the forest, the northwest pines
are like giants dressed in green towels, full of lush
rain after a shower and the odor of cedar bark sighing
in the wind. In the canopy, secrets curl around
like a blanket of moss hovering over a stream.
I pass a tent with supplies hanging nearby.
The earth breathes asleep. Nobody stirs.
The trunks, like immortal torsos, stand there,
letting geology go, strange birds tiptoe
on daily errands, open up the harbor at the edge.
Here, once, a Spanish Catholic explorer—
proud, guilty—started a party in a wilderness,
the global business of mass adoration.

I leave the woods and walk out Lion’s Gate Bridge,
where the Pacific leaves this unfamiliar history,
easterly winds sing through the suspension
wires, like a grand piano in the air, falls
like a depression to the bed of water below.
Like small models, freight trains, tugs, port
cranes, industrial sculptures of arms trying
to grasp hold of goods in this age.
A cargo ship, the APL Japan, sails today,
loaded down with 15,000 tons of containers,
colors stacked into a mosaic, a double hulled
mass of steel plowing through the water.
Two seamen in orange coveralls stand
at the stern taking the day in, gliding
out to sea. What’s beautiful are glimpses
of mystery moving through the heart,
as if we bring with us forgotten
loves who could not come along. I have to turn
and go. I’m due at a meeting to “brainstorm.”

I shoulder my sack and head back into the forest.
Along the road, a team of police stand near cordoned
off woods in the middle of nowhere. The yellow
tape marks off an area of death to be searched.
They stand, waiting, radios chirping, their
small talk sounds like men in a sports bar.
Then I pass through the public rose garden,
a Japanese mother and daughter in a red silk
dress with white fur lace, like a Persian cat,
approach me. They would like directions to the beach.
I look at my map. The girl has a face that seems
to love the earth more than it is worth. We look
to the east, but really I don’t know. I leave them
as puzzled as before. It’s all up in the air.
I think, Who wants to go to the beach today
anyway? Ghosts of unknown creatures tumble
into the crumbling coast with every wave there.

for Kirstie & Stephanie

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