Two Poems by Lisa Pasold


My neighbour says:

It was that winter the raccoons came down listless with distemper. The squirrels had mange. Humans stared hopefully at their cellphones, sending text messages as the streetlights went out one by one. The darkness became a leap from a Finnish training airplane over a fjord at midnight, for the aurora had fled and the birds didn’t feel like roosting here anymore.

The paid girls ignored the locals and stocked up for harsh nights ahead, eating lobster and cheesies at the casino’s free buffet, as if they had privately discovered the exact date of extinction. Their secret agent heels and panther poses made the citizens uneasy, while real caviar sturgeon swam in the glass floor beneath their feet.

Outside it was impossible to see. No one drove, their cars frozen as sculpture. Snow came away on optimists’ hands in ash flakes of anti-climb paint. In the silence it was possible to hear a slight clinking, as a huge beast began moving, finally awake, covered in long tentacles of ice against its fur, icicles glittering against one another as the creature stepped solid through the darkness.


I used to go back to my borrowed brick apartment in that city, he says, and believe I was invisible, that I was simply taking notes. The inhabitants seemed to avoid me. I lay in my bed and watched the glow from the rebuilt downtown square, for I had no curtains, and every night before I slept, I would wonder what have I witnessed? What have I done? Why am I hiding so far from the water, in this city I dislike? I would enumerate the round park and the men dying on plinths, flags of bronze and the dog running in circles against the pigeons, and resolve to leave.


It was like being trapped in a novel. It was tiring.


As if for joy

There was once a black and grey crow that sat in the upper window, across this street.

The bird appeared as if from nowhere, barely-hatched and too small to fly, and though my neighbour is not a soft man, something about the bird bothered him and he fed it, wearing heavy gloves.

When the time came, he pushed it out the window to teach it to fly.

The bird flew.

I move a spider from the bathtub—the porcelain surface unworkable, the spider unable to get purchase against the white gleam so glowingly desirable in the night, liquid with the tap’s persistent dripping.

The spider doesn’t walk up the paper I place alongside it. Instead its long hinged legs crumple inward until it is a ragged nothing ball of dust. I put the damp paper with this wanting-to-be forgotten crumb outside on the windowsill.

I latch the window closed, and after four long minutes, the spider unfurls itself, perfect as an early translucent crocus and steps elegantly away, up the wooden sill and across the roof.


My favourite hotel bar in Mombasa had a round green parrot. When the bird murmured, the sound was almost English.

A barman found the bird walking in the parking lot, an abandoned pet with permanently-damaged wings and a very handsome red crest.

Every evening, its large new cage was carefully covered with a thick dark wrapper. Because even a bird needs time alone, the barman said, to think about things.

I don’t know what things the bartender thought about, cliffside above the Indian Ocean, mixing gins & tonics, serving tiny Ethiopian coffees to the floor show performers.

But tonight my neighbour gets up from his chair on the porch and lifts his hand to salute the closing of the day—whether or not anyone’s there to recognize him.

He goes inside cautiously, as if the floorboards might shift beneath him—and he’s right, these things can happen.

Is this not enough wisdom for anyone?

No one comes back.

I don’t understand anything.

This place, belief, all the corners of this real world.

Re-printed with permission of the publisher from Any Bright Horse, by Lisa Pasold, Frontenac, 2012.

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Lisa Pasold

Lisa Pasold's latest book of poems, any bright horse (Frontenac) was a finalist for a Governor General's Award last year. She published a novel, Rats of Las Vegas, with Enfield & Wizenty in 2009.