D.S. Stymeist

Midsummer Disjunction

I

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

“Expect setbacks,” shrills a medical expert
on the early morning news. Across the river,

among the les gens de Gatineau, there’s
wide communal spread. Fear dilates.

As large as my palm, a five-petaled flower,
as yellow as butter. By what mysterious

agency do you transform into a squash?
Forgetful pollinator — I’ll have to watch

for your erratic presence, try to capture
you in that furtive act of transmission.

My body sweats out fever, its deep-set ache;
the open, perineal gash of fistula weeps,

draining the filth and flux of bodily toxin.
When will I enter the final phase?

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V

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Once a month, a nurse jabs a needle into me, flushes
ten-grand into my veins. Today, she rushes, her hands

tremble, voice fluting with fear, my body, vector of contagion,
death. The shot burns, injection site swells, muscles stiffen.

Somehow, I’ve become the man with golden limbs —
24-carat accretion of big pharma’s novel biologics.

Angry neighbours, irritable at lockdown’s enforced
intimacy, shrill at each other in Ottawa valley French.

Honeybees swarm, divebomb the mound of lavender.
In autumn, they will cling to our front door for warmth.

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VIII

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

At the epicentre of the Heron Gate projects,
city health parks a big red bus. Lines form.

The Philopena, Sudanese, and Syrian women
who work the elder care wards are getting sick;

they’re taking home the virus, taking home the crown
of corona. Choke cherries hang in big red clusters

outside my kitchen window. In another week, they’ll
turn purple and be ready for jelly. But there won’t

be any, for blackbirds gather the bird-berries first.
Their timing is unerring. I’ll admit, it terrifies me.

Strayed into Grasshopper Park, hit hard by abdominal
cramps. Another layer of memorial shame in the abuse

of a vagrants’ bower cut into the side of wooded hill.
The bird cherries hang there too, in big red clusters.

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IX

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Living ampersand, the long, sinuous lower case
of snake. Curling inside my shadow, slipping low

towards my boot. In willow’s shade, it seeks out
the little peepers, the chirping, fleeing peepers.

Two dead in Kenosha, a Wisconsin town I once drove
through, parked long enough to sample local cheese.

On television, mass protest and vigilante murder.
When my gastro-enterologist calls I can’t picture her.

I listen carefully as her disembodied voice
gains the weight of absolute authority, of God.

If she were present, she might witness fistula
delta, break itself into multiple, enflamed outlets.

Was it the Byzantine Greeks who first learnt
to set water ablaze to incinerate their enemy?

Yes, that’s how you wear down a stone.
All it takes is running water, fire, and time.

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About the Author

D.S. Stymeist’s debut collection, The Bone Weir (Frontenac 2016), was a finalist for the Canadian Author’s Association Award for Poetry. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines, some of which you might have heard of. Alongside fending off Crohn’s disease, he teaches creative writing and crime fiction at Carleton University. Born in Detroit, Michigan, he currently resides in Ottawa, Canada, and was the former president of VERSeFest, Ottawa’s international poetry festival.