Sandy’s Cigars and Variety

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Video by Laura Thompson

Antrim Street

The grass is cracked, 
forcing the tree, the house, 
to reconsider the road―

	the branches
cracking sky, 
sky 
employing clouds 
to run―

fractured city,

	just shards of us
make it
to work in the morning. 

***

Off this morning to write poems downtown 
(for you).

I stop at Sandy’s 
for two packs

and one of the block’s least favorite 
shards is high 
as a cloud no one recognizes themselves in.

He wants an XL slushie,
and is having a hard time, and is having a hard time here in the store as well, 

and the owner is doing her best 
to help him;

	he’s fucked up and mouthy but trying
to joke,
	I think, 
		his self-satisfied chuckling 
	as he walks by
		sounds like a bag of loose glass, 
like a window full of branches clacking,

he’s trying to fit his pieces in with ours,
his humor not landing
because he’s also being an asshole, maskless, throwing his shrapnel 

on the counter, $2 in at least 30 or more coins, 
not letting the owner count the pieces before demanding the XL cup,

he can see it,
the cold of it,

needs this cloud 
of indoor sky―

A middle of the road
man enters, quickly sizes up what’s happening here 
and immediately regrets suddenly being 

a piece 
of this,

but The Globe and Mail is right by the door
and he’s already taken it up, and it’s too late
to put it back down, and our central character has already seen him,

asks the man to pay 
for his XL slushie
as if it’s a joke 

but he means it
and the man obliges
to keep the peace

and the shard now brandishing 
his XL slushie ‘jokes’:

“I guess 
I’ll let you 
get away with that
today”

as he walks toward the back of the store
pouring himself out

with that gravelly chuckle, the shards inside him clouding 
his self-awareness,
all those sharps―

The newspaperman 
leaves after paying

with a bunch of national news
under his arm

and I secure my Pall Malls
with the owner’s nephew, blanched from witnessing 
such jagged customers,
still young, still still inside,

as his mother deals with the loud man
I step outside,
rip my mask off 
and breathe in the broken air
of the corner of Hunter and Aylmer. 

I’m unlocking my bicycle
when the XL slushie and its holder

emerge from the store, 
as another man is asking me for change,
and our man tells his colleague:

“I’VE got 
some 
    change
for ya!”

as he hands his few loose pieces 
to the other man, who thanks him,
and they split, shattering down the street.

I’m blown away 
and similarly un-shocked
by the XL slushie fella
suddenly having coin, and suddenly being free
and gentle with it; 

it cracks me up.

I spend the rest of the day
writing this poem, trying to find it,
being ruthless in it, cancel me
for calling an asshole an asshole 
because he’s rendered by crumbling systems opaque, 

for looking in the mirror
and being too soft on my own face,

the pieces, the whole fragile
aggregate of this city’s one good glass eye, 

the downtown,

the 10 cent refund of it 
all,

maybe, the poem now coming to a close, 
it’s time for me to get smashed,
but avoid the store
after, for fear of recognizing me too much
in others 
in the poem,

maybe spend the whole afternoon 
with an ok friend in the park 

with a good paper 
bag,

or maybe break the bottles 
at the bar 
all night

trying to pick myself 
up―

-JM

This web page is part of The Climenhage Project Walking Tour.
View a map of more locations here »

© John Climenhage 2020


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