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Stephen Collis


extracts from 4x4

Here’s your parachute
Wonderful as vertigo
Here’s a world crisis
You can jump off into

Backyard pool under
Helicopter surveillance and
Short wave spot lit
Whispered communiqués

Where language recants
We travel towards each other
The continents touch
Or the south slips off the radar

As the planes continue east
Where the oil is where
In the rubble I found a
Tattered Rabelais

But it’s not just borders
Here is a claw I
Took from a crab and now
Pretend to pinch at people with

Allegorical delight
Not able to speak their language
But sure they ought to speak mine
Here all the movies are

Repentant rather than celebratory
The neoliberal screen shivers
Light spills out onto faces poor
With soda frothed lips

Here the mechanism just
Isn’t working anymore
Upsetting applecarts and
Running off with spoons

for Ian Hamilton Finlay

Apollon Terroriste
Magnificent stone I
Etch a tank in your field
To protect all our little Spartas

When is the wind writing
Sails on your ruins?
Bird flew over and
Plunked an artist down

Now we are all destroying
One irreplaceable piece of
Sculpture at a time

It’s a melancholy walk
Past the present order
Which you remind is just
The disorder of the future

Though not a word is said about
The French Revolution
The eve of vagrants in
The houseless woods

I shall concentrate instead
On words which tend to occlude
I have myself a region worth
Neglect and ceaseless governance

As 1793 fades     we begin
A process no passage conveys
The material needs
Whose minds sound exhortations

Ruin transformed into my italics
Hope’s my elision’s brilliant apogee
Your throng the ode’s well
No immediacies visionary gleam

after Rilke

Archaic torso of     Toronto
Shattered pavement on Bloor and
Bathurst     hurt feet sidewalk
Scar of tramcar     track

These brick facades are so
Old and full of rentable
Emotion     these bay windows
So cluttered with nonsense goods

People clutch pillows in the
Stink of the greyhound station
Here we are all racially profiled
Here we are taser armed     ready     routine

Even communicative     everything mobile
Nothing but     net     there’s nowhere
We’re not seen here     cameras     cones
Of light     you must change your     ideology

Looking out the window I will
SUV all over this     tarmac world
Fog lights on     suburban gladiator grill
Crunch of rock under tire

Don’t talk about it and it will
Go away like changing unemployment
Insurance into employment insurance
Buffalo bubble man filling the

Intersection with airy spheres
Was the richest     now the poorest
Hotel Europa nowhere near namesake
Junta seizes     high-energy biscuits

We are mass and how can you avoid that
Beehive     hold a vote on thinnest limbs
The hive that art is     the tree in the dark
Of the Knox     moving flesh  

There’s something in this figure
Squares of cities     tires on a truck
The great abandoned broken projects
Ruins of the mind     they are what compel

What lead to     new beginnings
What’s in the old     doctor of storms
Bring me things from farthest places
Coffee beans     bandanas     biomedical dollars

I cannot capture open heart but maybe
Dream its artisans     their localities
I pass by on my way to else
Perhaps a city block     perhaps a glen

Then it is indeed a world upside down
Write it     material being
Perhaps the weather has been good to us
Though we’ve never seen the winter

Here isn’t but here is
Becoming more so     four sided
Object     I could stack you into
Structure or four on the floor

Like three on the tree
Rip across texture of
The city announced by
Corporate logos

Auto body politic or comfy
New slave quarters     you choose your
Illusion I’ll choose mine     the erasure of
Signs marking logo ghosts

Here it’s just that easy but it
Costs the most     tin cup of complaint
Your skylark     your revving fire
Here     I whisper     you take the wheel

Stephen Collis

Stephen Collis

Stephen Collis is the author of three books of poetry, Mine (New Star 2001), Anarchive (New Star 2005), which was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and The Commons (Talonbooks 2008)—the latter two of which form parts of the on-going “Barricades Project.” He is also the author of two book-length studies, Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (Talonbooks 2007) and Through Words of Others: Susan Howe and Anarcho-Scholasticism (ELS Editions 2006). His new book, On the Material (which includes the long poem “4x4”) is forthcoming from Talonbooks in 2010. Long a member of the Kootenay School of Writing, he teaches American literature, poetry, and poetics at Simon Fraser University.

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