October 9, 2010

Winnipeg and since

It's been a few weeks, eh? Winnipeg strikes again --- I went for a wedding, but I also managed to squeeze in an Arcade Fire concert and the Friday Night Poetry Bash at Thin Air, the Winnipeg International Writers' Festival. It was a whirlwind weekend of epic proportions, and highlights included hanging out at the Arcade Fire after-party, meeting and re-meeting some amazing poets, including George Murray and Ariel Gordon, and post-wedding, a dance party until 4:30 a.m. with some of my favourite people in the world. Also amazing was reconnecting with festival organizers and volunteers I'd met when I was there as a writer two years ago. I left with a bagful of books and a brand-new Thin Air mug to complement the lucky-charm one I already drink my coffee out of every morning.

Since then, the day job and Pop Montreal have been the main conspirators in keeping me from writing as much as I'd like. Still on the poetry kick. Some first drafts to follow here.

On the depletion of helium in the next thirty years

The scientist said it first: Mr. Nobel
in something or other. It was a Friday
kind of headline. We didn’t worry. On your
birthday, I bought you a silvery bouquet
for a song. String for a stem, one knot
undone for your open kiss and when you
took it in, you squeaked out a tune
like Alvin.

You’d think we’d have tried
to pace ourselves, but a party’s not a party
without a little something lighter
than air. Birthdays, of course, but word
got out and then Christmas, too, the solstice,
the odd blind date. The bridal mags vaunted
blimp proposals, the popping
of sapphire solitaires at 1200 feet.

We were running out of everything.

Everywhere clowns padlocked their sheds,
canisters stowed. And then on the best
hearses, floating black bunches wound round
and round the antennae. Finally,
the thing at the Wal-mart in Ohio, the so-called
“balloon loons,” the awful stampede. That woman flexing
her bruises, bawling brats in close-up
on the six-o-clock news. You said there’s a reason
Harry Winston doesn’t have clearances.

On the day the Goodyear came down
for good, odes appeared in the paper to
that noble gas and we wondered whether
something shouldn’t be preserved
for future generations. There was talk
of the Smithsonian. But they remembered the inevitable
drooping, settled for photographs of children
letting go, a rainbow of wishes rocketing
to the atmosphere. The very last of it all
except what NASA held back.

Twenty years ahead of schedule, it felt like
a small failure. Later, looking back, we knew
it was only the first loss
and the lightest.