Jill M. Talbot‘s writing has appeared in CV2, The Fiddlehead, Geist, Rattle, PRISM, The Stinging Fly, and others. Jill won the PRISM Grouse Grind Lit Prize. She was shortlisted for the Matrix Lit POP Award and the Malahat Far Horizons Award. Jill lives in Vancouver, BC.
I saw the documentary The Perfect Vagina
and thought of you, said no one—ever—
but it’s a nice thought, isn’t it?
I sat through six hours of world breakdown
until the power went out
and I was forced to write to you.
You have no soul,
I was told by a massage therapist
and there was this dizziness.
Being holy and caring about the stray dogs,
the starving children
and who to vote for at the local elementary school;
which is largely overcrowded and the children
are watching porn on the internet—
it was all gone.
Without a soul it all just fizzies out
like a flat soda.
You really want those cigarettes, don’t you?
What would you do for a pack?
And it’s all so disturbing, looking back.
I try not to see that sidewalk, that corner store,
What I would do to go back,
play it differently.
But let’s step back before—
when it started.
I was young and stupid and desperate
and being wanted was better
than not being wanted.
I didn’t care for my body much,
I didn’t think I had a body,
just a case for a worn out guitar
that always played the same melody
and lied terribly.
We used to stand outside the store,
Excuse me, mister,
can you get me some smokes?
Ending up in institutional brick
wearing pajamas with a girl who wrote
to Al-Qaeda and a guy
who exposed himself to me,
Have you ever seen
one of these before?
We were full on junkie sorrow.
Poets only write about sorrow these days—
Raccoons are turning into humans, slowly.
Their paws evolve to be claws to be hands.
Their IQ higher than a whale.
A whole underground system of garbage takers—
they will rule when we’ve lost the war. Toys R Us
will stop selling out of plushies.
There are famous cats at the Museum of Art.
My cat is just a wannabe who sleeps
with his arms open. This crazy cat lady calling
has been haunting me lately.
If purgatory were a weather, it would be rain.
A doormat, a cigarette butt, a cat door,
this giant pause—rewind—and all metaphors
that have been lost with technology.
All I told you sos and yadda yadda yadda.
I bought her a muffin and a coffee for getting the dope.
She barely recognized the girl who took my change
but told me it was her daughter and how depressing
to not recognize your own kid, she said,
and something about her daughter being pregnant
and a crazy boyfriend.
She told me about a john who liked her to dress
in a scuba diving suit
and I have thought of writing this to The New Yorker
who had a cartoon of a woman in a scuba diving suit
on a bed with her husband—presumably husband—
Sexy deep sea diver’s not a thing.
The McDonald’s muffins, the plastic bright colours,
as if to awake in The Wizard Of Oz—
smoke coming out the stall. Red and yellow
swirling above, not the patience to wait
for anywhere else. The stall kept me trapped.
The note said, I was loved and discarded
and I said,
How depressing to learn I’m just as cliche
as every junkie who swore,
Never again—not this, not you—not ever.
Even my dreams are cliche, filled with the thoughts
people have when they don’t want to have sex.
The jabberwocky—the lisp. You wrote,
The hell with it.
Our problem was we always chose dare, never truth.
And oh! the things we would do. I’m ashamed now,
I must admit, and I still have that hood walk like
What the fuck
are you looking at?
The truth was lost ages ago.
The grass is always greener on the other side
when you don’t have a lawn.
Poverty isn’t inspiring enough to write on
any further, though most poets manage.
I don’t know if I’m a poet I just don’t know
what else to call myself.
I’m always surprised when poets are attractive,
is that awful?
You will learn, so they say,
and I have been dead set
on proving them wrong.
I read a paper once on rat laughter.
A machine was built so we could hear
these rats squeal.
Big Brother is watching.
Big Brother is tickling.
This is hard science. Meaning is not the point,
we are not in Freudian times!
Rat maintenance is quite expensive,
or so I heard from a statistics prof
who went on a long rant with his neck in the air
like his head was just a box to carry around glass eyes.
Enclosed was a computer that listened
to rat laughter.
I’d hate to know what your sheets look like
A status update tells me how
to have sex in space.
Facebook asks if I would rather be drowned
Your iPhone was born
out of the mines of the Congo,
I never said what I meant,
I just drew stick people for reference.
In a chatroom I claimed
the Internet is making us all narcissistic
and was called an idiot.
In another my thread was deleted
in the free speech section. Something about
pirating your own book—it was a valid question.
I have this fantasy of an apartment devoid
of everything but lawn chairs—a dream
of conquering a place by stripping it of meaning.
I am a hoarder and it always starts with one,
as any addict will tell you. With rabbits
it starts with two. And three is always better
than two. Without you—
We had a single bear that year, it was a big deal.
No one knew how it got here. We guess he swam,
a long way to swim. Lonely, it must be, to be
the only bear on the island.
People fought over the existence of this bear
as if it symbolized creation itself.
I’m not sure when bears evolved to swim
or if he swam here or was placed in some
intelligent design—this design does not seem
all that intelligent to me. For instance,
I have to walk for quite awhile to get anywhere
and if I tried to swim I’d probably drown.
I’m just trying to be honest. It’s a dying art
but one I do incredibly well. So well that sometimes
I do not believe myself.
You know I could rape you right now, you said,
I could rape you, bitch, I said.
And we argued about this. I knew
that I was wrong but I had a point to make.
Your mother was in the next room watching Oprah.
We were young and stoned and careless.
Oprah’s applause came in right on cue.
Youth dissipating, old coffee.
Achoo, you always sneeze at the wrong time
just to say, I’m still here, in this mess that accompanies
all of the poets’ unmet childhood needs.
My mom once chased a raccoon with a broom.
It waddled off, youngsters on each side—little claws.
I’m afraid I sided with the raccoons, citing
John Locke’s Property Rights.
So you’re back in solitary,
need money for stamps.
I am hunting for cigarette butts.
You are never getting out,
I am never getting in.
Is it cold where you are?
My cat says hello.
I write obituaries for the cats
and dogs at the SPCA
has to care for them.
A sign reads,
Your mom doesn’t live here.
Dirty dishes. Unmade beds. I don’t know
who lives here. Not you, not me,
nobody’s hero, a few lost pets,
some dead poets.
A revolver in a shoebox.
There is a video game
to teach kids about depression,
as if it weren’t popular enough already.
I have killed a Sim named after you several times.
Once by drowning, once by fire,
and I tried to neglect a baby version of you
but social services intervened.
And the game, as it stands,
has no other methods for killing
that I know of.
You were sent to jail three times,
third time was the charm.
I didn’t let you know I had removed all
Get out of jail free
You’ve been chasing crows ever since.
I begged you not to drive,
you begged me not to say anything.
I love you
which I didn’t.
It’s all swirling now.
The smell of baby oil
and flavoured condoms —
You aren’t really schizophrenic.
A dead fawn on the side of the road,
missing eyes, that’s reality.
I admit I was a bit of an arsonist
as a kid. If I had been a bit more narcissistic
we’d all be dead. I read
of a girl from my school killing pets.
How strange how we all take different paths.
I wait for freedom fries from the toaster oven,
the only remaining appliance.
They have been plotting against me
since last November.
Of all the things I did to myself,
watching you leave was the worst.
Footsteps in a foreign tongue,
It’s done, it’s done.
Does the fat man not sing?
The mice are declaring a state of civil disobedience
caused by massive overpopulation and obesity.
Win-win, you called it, don’t people understand
that win means somebody has to lose?
I am small when I remember how I grew
in rage and swallowed it back down—
How dare you, Cheshire cat, don’t grin like that.
A 3-month sobriety coin chip, on your knees,
a hospital menu, a postcard,
Who were you trying to please—really?
I froze on that bed, a beer, not enough space,
Seinfeld on the black and white TV. Lying for what
but a commercial, that’s all it took, I looked up—
how long until the beer could reach my brain
which was overloaded with silence.
A sort of static, in nights that start,
You idiot kid.
Do you like this, you said.
No, change the channel.
You’re a woman now.
What a rip off.
It will be a quick procedure.
You put ketchup on pizza,
who does that?
This is a good one—
Pedophile, they said,
she won’t eat the pepperoni.
something about stolen identity.
Seinfeld never gets old.
Ha ha ha.
You’re a woman now.
I’m looking for an antique pipe
to smoke you with.
There is a woman married to the Eiffel tower,
it was made official. She makes love to it in public,
her words—makes love.
I have never understood the term
for something so primal—
I don’t know how I ever did cocaine.
She also had a tumultuous relationship
with the Berlin Wall.
We all want a communist for dinner.
There is too much negative space
and not enough humanity. I am a fraud.
You are the artist.
I am the decoration. The painting
no one knows what to say about
I drank coffee out of a pasta jar
Being at one with nature is a tall order
when you live in it. I have been knocking on wood
and yellow brick and all the cliches they teach
when you’re sleepwalking.
I have been there.
Maddening, isn’t it? Those block figures
that only have one answer and automatically place
a judgment on your intelligence.
Not taking into account that I won 1st place
in grade 4 for a scarecrow contest—I won
a pencil sharpener, better than what I got
for my last published poem
but I digress…
I have always felt sorry for miniature horses.
They look just like they were shrunk by some
evil witch and would never survive a storm
or really much else, they look like toddlers
chasing dog tails.
There are men who watch
My Little Pony,
they’re called Bronies.
Now my feminist rage is starting to spill over.
Maybe the horse is fine the way he is and I still can’t solve
that fucking Rebuk cube. Or remember what it’s called.
Perhaps I will call it
My Little Phony.
Perhaps I will name it after you.
I unfriended you on Facebook
then looked up your bronies.
My heart jumped into the ocean as you
walked away, ending up in a ditch somewhere.
I feared too much and too little. In that sense,
not much has changed.
You didn’t care, I didn’t want to. I’ve failed
at forgetting, or perhaps that’s success.
On intellectual tests people confuse
sunrise and sunset.
As if we don’t know the difference
between coming and going.
You left, that I knew.
I once wanted to know it all,
now I know better, but no less
than this—you left.
You wear it like a bad joke, like day old bread,
like that foolish grin you had the day we met
at that conference on youth mental health
where we were guest speakers and I took
three bagels for the road and you told me
how lovely it was to finally meet someone
as crazy as you were
and I thought of the previous guy who hit on me
and took three more bagels for the road
and you just kept grinning.
So we got married backstage at a play
that got terrible reviews
and the Oscar for best costume design
should have gone to you.
I stole a sweater from your wardrobe,
the one with the ketchup stain.
You aren’t crazy, you’re an artist, they say.
Will somebody please explain the difference?
In poverty the cup is always full or empty.
Welfare day, aka, Mardi Gras,
the cup is full.
We fill up on wise cracks and arrogance
of knowing what can be lived without,
suffered through. Better than a full belly,
up to the brim of knowing—
All drug mules have to start somewhere.
We started in that smoke pit
where we held a funeral
for a dead rabbit.
They’ve been plotting against us.
And somehow that’s better than knowing
it was all just by chance.
Dreaming of barbed wire and institutional pajamas.
In the attic a junkie lies, building forts to hide
from the NSA while next door a boy plays
the trumpet—jazz smoking up the chimney.
Mascara was meant to run —
I don’t want to be pretty,
I just want to be loved.
I want to be loved for my ugliness.
But you want me to be
your cute sidekick.
Honesty is the best policy, you said.
And I’ve never heard an honest person
say that but honestly I don’t
have the best policies lately.
I wrote this in the margins of a book
to go along with the other notes found
in used books—French love note
found in Life of Pi
(I had it translated, quite steamy,
you would like it, I think).
Later ended up in GIRO
(Gabriola Island Recycling Operations).
A friend tells me French love note
you called it
I have no other way of ending this
The Perfect Vagina made me think