Friday, July 06, 2018

That Tartan Suitcase

Anonymous Photos
—Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Lake Eliot, Ontario, Canada



It is not good to let the stupid orange traffic cone
of everything perturb you.  Not for that long anyways.
There is that initial excitement you get from anything
that is new, but what then? 

And now I have aged myself.  I am a fine wine
in nobody’s Bordeaux cellar.  The smell under my arms
is just like the rest of me.  Bending down to pick up
a fallen Christmas ornament from a tree I can’t

Have you seen Juliya Zhukova’s On A Stone Giant?
Sometimes the land becomes the person and
you wonder how the termites will deal with
all that hair.  Or why the Cossacks are always
on horseback but never once spotted at
the Kentucky Derby.


History is heavy with baggage.
Everyone wants to travel light.
The future is exciting.
Six months to live.

I love how Koreatown is united
but the actual Koreas have been at war
as long as your parents.

Ashtrays thrown in anger
so that most or your childhood was picking
cigarette butts out of the couch

And playing Kinsmen Bingo
on the tv each Tuesday evening.

Mother daubing all the purple
bingo daubers against her wrist
to make sure they worked.

Purple was her lucky colour.

Slapping me on the back of the head
if I missed a number so that
I tried real hard.

In my underwear.
In the summer.

Daubing my little brother’s cards
so he didn’t get hit
as well.


The turpentine boys are always hysterics.
Something about standing over all those canvasses,
propping the legs of the easel with bent cardboard.
And Monet the life preserver, throwing himself
into the Seine.  Before climbing out wet to take
the train home so he could write Bazille and tell
him about it.  What he needed was money, not Bazille,
but Bazille had the money so Monet knew who
to write.  And Bazille never wrote back, which must have
set our dear Monet to all sorts of fits.  How is one to be
both a life preserver and a painter?  Hysterics I tell you—
the whole lot!  And Bazille was done in by the war. 
Which one?  Does it matter?  You can adore the art
even if you could do without the man or the times.
Which is not to say I am one of those futurist ninnies
that look back over their shoulder poo-pooing
mother dandruff.  My judgements are bare,
like those of a telescope.  If there is baggage, I keep
it in a single tartan suitcase under the bed.


I peel back the lid and the cat jumps down off the bed.  He
swaggers up and rubs against my leg trying to make eye
contact.  They say cats have little need to vocalise with other
cats, but with humans they understand the importance, and
this one is most vocal, trying to climb my leg when I am not
moving fast enough.  And we share our can of mystery meat
from Brazil.  There is a cow on the label, but that hardly
means anything.  I squeeze some mustard into the can and
mix it around with a fork.  The cat has his so he is gone. Back
up on the bed with his face to wall.  I am left leaning back on
the wood legs of this chair examining an awful watercolour I
have done.  It is of three boats moored to a dock.  Amateurish
in the extreme.  The glass of water beside my bed is room
temperature. There is a thermometer in it instead ofa straw.
I stir the water before I drink it.  Look over to the bed even
though it isn’t time yet.


flying into New York
at the end of
his life

to be honoured
by the very people
that had driven him
to Algiers, the desert

his wife taking up
with another woman
and calling him
a killjoy

the way they stood
and clapped
as though nothing
could be understood

least of all
this strange dying man
in front of them

who just wanted
to go back to the


Have you ever watched the tail of an airplane climb to
altitude and wondered why the window seat is such a
deal breaker?  A second airport is like a second son.  It
does all the heavy lifting and is in line for none of the
inheritance.  The planes seem to taxi there longer because
they know the airspace is less prized.  And flying into the
island I realize there is whole lot of water in the way.
They have prepared contingencies of course, but second
fiddle may as well be the Cabbage Town horn section
playing in front of overturned hats.  A smattering of coins
that the homeless man and his dog would laugh at. Three
men, each with a horn.  Playing off one another like the
comedy duo in the Distillery District.  And once I am
underground it is never winter.  The shopkeepers look like
rats with mortgages.  And waiting on the platform for the
Northbound train from Union, I watch this cross-eyed kid
change the garbage bags over and blow kisses at the on-
coming train as it pulls into the station.


I can never remember who got to the South Pole first.
The safe answer would be the penguins, but no one seems
too impressed when you say that
and I think of those giant ice breakers I’ve seen on tv
smashing through everything with a most impersonal violence

the last frontier, I am told, though I think the gender fluid people
may have something to say about all that

and I want to chew ice chips while thinking of the ice breakers,
does that make me a tyrant?  A despot even?
But my teeth hurt from the cold, years of neglect
and nerves and no dentist…

When I tie up the garbage bag and throw it down the compactor
I think of condemned men.  That clumsy tumbling slaughterhouse sound
of packaged meat.  The way all of us want to believe until it is too late

which you think would be enough to make me a vegetarian
but it’s not;  I have failed in so many ways that success is a gift. 
Holding the door for a complete stranger who smiles back at you
even when they don’t mean it.


Another bandage
this one is deep and I think
of oceanography,
how they say 80% of the earth’s
oceans remain unexplored
and how they know it is
exactly 80%

seems like a funding grab to me

the space people getting all the hype
and the water people are

you’ve swallowed enough salt water
to put the adult film industry to shame 
and they stick you in a basement office
without windows, I get it,

a concrete bunker really
leftover from some war no one
was willing to fight

but you still have that paper on the wall
which means you can punch
your ticket

which is far more than most anyone else has
standing in line at the bus stop
this morning.

He called me his secretary

out of love
and out of wedlock

that matter-of-fact way I typed up
everything he said so his theatre troupe
could run lines on the weekends
and how four hours fit into seven

and when he left,
he had his script in hand 
and I had my silence

and no one had been paid
for anything

which is how it always goes
with the arts.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Ryan Quinn Flanagan

She lives out on the island
which means you require a plane
or boat or ticket to get there

and since all the buildings are made of glass
I think of Babe Ruth knocking one
through office tower windows

the way cantankerous cab drivers
slam on the brakes like a sudden
reversal of fortunes

the kids outside the head shop
in faded band shirts
patting a dog well past
its prime.


—Medusa, sending many, many thanks to Ryan Quinn Flanagan for his poems from Canada! 

 Paul Bowles (1947-1999)
For more about Paul Bowles, see 
(And celebrate poetry!)

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