Living under Wraps

What housewarming gift is best for someone moving into a townhouse that will be under scaffolding and tarps for a year? I hope to get Evelyn Lau’s Living under Plastic. She writes poetry inside quiet places and reading her is an absorption of solitary wonderment. Her poems will serve as substitutes for covered over views of mountains and the city.

On the subway, in the crush of the hurried and harried, I have a minor vision: a small shelf for her book in our entranceway! Time to read a little everyday. More people squeeze in at the next station, pressure-cooking my thoughts into a fantasy of time and space. Time to move every item from the old house on Kitchener to our new home on Fraser. Every morning my job would be to select some book, painting, cooking implement, some etcetera and then walk the half hour distance under the giant blue or grey dome of the outdoors. Can this fantasy be condensed into a poem? Or for that matter how about lines composed on the couch yesterday afternoon? I’d been reading Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections and then I wrote:

innermost mountains
climbed in crampons

inverse cathedrals stalactite
secrets buried since childhood

clouds crumple back to reveal
birthday presents of the sky

Only my anima knows what that means but maybe this will emerge from abstraction to become a poem. Maybe it will take on a patterning of abstraction to become a poem.

Most moments in life are a cityscape of question marks, bent over buildings checking for lost keys at their feet. Sometimes even getting away from it all – into the darkest of jungle metaphors – still leaves me machete-ing through doubt. I sweat away at forging a path through the page, hoping to hack away a home. Sometimes this leads to a choppy labyrinth of False Starts. Around and Around We Stumble. Mistakes Making Majuscules. Titles Lost in the Cushions of the Couch.

Where does the poem start? In love, in hate, in grandiosity, in odd flourishes, in dust mote moments, in the middle, in javelined joy, in rolled over grief, in a rubik’s cube hour, in a tickle of the throat. In eye-contact between you and a character who’s crossing the street with a lamp in his hands and a book in his back pocket. His dry lips are moving; he seems to be repeating the same phrase. He looks sane. You’d like to slow down to see the title of the book but someone is madly honking behind you. And he (or maybe she) is gone.

Kevin Spenst’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, Rhubarb Magazine, Capilano Review, Dandelion, Filling Station, Poetry is Dead, Moonshot Magazine, The Maynard, The Enpipe Line, V6A and Ditch Poetry. In 2011, he won the Lush Triumphant Literary Award for Poetry.