Author: Jaswinder Bolina

Jaswinder Bolina is the author of Carrier Wave, winner of the 2006 Colorado Prize for Poetry. His recent work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Columbia Poetry Review, Ecotone, and The Best American Poetry 2011.

Aviary & Sunday, Sunday & Oops Canary


do you remember the time we didn’t go to Topeka
we were ready to go with our sandwiches packed
and you had your harpoon and I had my headdress
but we didn’t go though we agreed it totally boffo
we could go to Topeka whenever we liked
but I said I’d rather live here than Topeka where
all they have is a crummy zoo and whoever
heard of Topeka anyway so we didn’t go
and spent the day instead alphabetizing
the pantry quipping how this had become going
to Topeka
we composted our leftovers we purchased
hand sanitizer and accreted a Volvo a toolshed
some throw pillows we pressed 1 for more assistance
we pressed 2 to return to the main menu we assembled
in portraits accessorized the great room trimmed
our azaleas until all of these became going to Topeka
and we kidded everyday after how we were going
to Topeka and going to Topeka but we never did
see a prairie dog or a tornado and nobody ever heard
of any of us lying awake in hammocks instead
of going to Topeka or lit up by a television
in the pallid dusk of not going to Topeka
after returning home late in afternoons of not going
to Topeka or to Tallahassee or Sault Ste. Marie
so when I sit now on the stoop at night and watch
seedpods helicopter out of our tree onto the sidewalk
by porch light I wonder what the coral wants
what the arroyo knows I wonder what the desert
swallows and wonder too about the hills of Topeka
the cliffs and canyons of Topeka its auroras
and cyclones arcane canals and minarets
its manta rays in clear clear water supple rubber trees
its yeti and its swans breathing fire how when zephyrs
run like lucent fabric across the spires of Topeka
everybody there touches the flesh in the soft dimple
above the sternum and hums an anthem
in the language of Topeka which we can nearly hear
as if it’s barely past the yellow tollbooth
beyond that blunt and glaring truck stop
on the other side of a modest slope where its people
greet each other in the customary manner genial
and offering We are real and death is not
or maybe it’s Death is real and we are not
it depends I suppose on whichever is the fairer grace

Sunday, Sunday

I worried I’d be discovered exactly where you’d left me,
so I leapt up! and drove straightaway to the coastal
metropolis of Sunday in the desert province of Sunday
where everything was just getting started.
The buzzards hadn’t even been unwrapped nor the agaves
unfurled nor the nostalgia-making slant of shadows activated.
The haze along the shore infused with a noontime light
to cast the happenings in the matte finish of a studio print.
I felt young and new and the center of attention, and I wished
you could see me there driving my agape convertible
in sneakers and a gingham shirt, slim-fit indigo denim,
and I wasn’t smoking a cigarette, but I looked so quintessential
in my dinner jacket that I had the lithesome air of a debutante
drawing from the long white stem of a Pall Mall 100,
so the citizenry all said, Look how dapper he looks
driving the diaphanous skyway, look how handsome
he is in the gleaming cavalcade of traffic, how defiantly
he speeds alone in the carpool lane, how elegantly he collects
his many moving violations
. You’d settled into a smart apartment
alone with your cat in the capital of the great state of Thursday
with its daunting mountains and bitterroots, the blackened
trunks of its forest in snow looking frigid as a barcode,
but I wanted to glut your inbox then with status updates.
I wanted to text you my brightening outlook in hopes
you’d forget all the troubles we’d run into in the gridded city
of Wednesday where the automatic windows of my rental car
wouldn’t roll up in a downpour and my debit card demagnetized
and I showed up so late so often and disheveled we missed
every night of the opera, but I hoped you might forgive all that
and fall in love anyway with the contemporary sense of me,
the Sunday, Sunday me now appearing, a bleached crane
strutting in shallow marsh water, an echo in reverse
gradual and deafening, the speck in your radiograph,
furious whitecap on your sudden horizon, dazzle
of a satellite fireballing out of some improbable orbit.

Oops Canary

Canary, why do you berate me with your idiot warble?

What truth is there in your story?
I know Pythagoras. I know Punnett squares.

I know whales were exiled from the air,

so their mournful, Byzantine songs resound now
over the drab Appalachia of ocean bottom.

Not me, canary.

I’m brown-skinned and slender,
of unremarkable height and blue-collar origin.

I was born in Chicago in 1978.

No brash plumage.
No quench-my-breath-undersea-for-hours.

I was afforded broad tutelage in the liberal arts and sciences,
but none of these is enough to temper the onslaught of winter.

I never really believed they would be,
but I wanted to say the onslaught of winter out loud.

When I told you that thing about whales, I was fibbing,
which is also a kind of song.

I only meant to impress you.

Canary, forgive me.
What more to sing is there than that?