James Lindsay

James Lindsay is the author of Our Inland Sea (Wolsak & Wynn). He is also the co-owner of Pleasence Records and his interviews with poets about poetry can be found at Open Book Toronto.

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Double Self-Portrait

after Jeff Wall

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I wanted to make a picture coming out

of a literary source in the idea

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of the double in which the identity

of the character was maybe not

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concludable, so I tucked my grey

sweatshirt into my belted blue

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jeans to better match my lookalike.

He wore his wine-dark corduroys

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that compliment our couch. “Red,”

I said when I first saw it. “It’s red.”

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“More mauve than cherry,” said my

blushing, pouting double, arms crossed

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and hesitant to invite you to sit in

this white wire chair you referred to

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as a flipped arachnid dead in its web,

back-lit by heatstroke and twin domestic.

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It’s safe to assume that one of us sired

the other, grafted himself to the sofa

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corner where the pink blanket peeled

back; cracked the door and took a nap

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in practical cibachrome Vancouver,

awakening later that afternoon as

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brother-fathers to one another,

both in incest and attendance.

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[Italicized text taken from “My Photographic Production,” by Jeff Wall.]

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Travel and Leisure

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There are many poems about bees

failing to be bees in the liberal world

because of new chemicals and sound,

because of displacement and disquiet,

because of office windows and karma

and how sex concepts have unfastened,

and because bees represent failure,

the failure to protect the dependent

and light sensitive from the light

they never even recognized as light

until it was embarrassed upon them—

but not this poem. This is an earnest

truther’s two minute mini-warning

dolled up as awkward art, a caution sign:

look: here I stand, swarmed and stung

by the little bastards. Don’t listen to me,

of course everyone is still middle class,

what else would we be? Know the grass

is so proudly green because it was fertilized

by a winter’s worth of dog shit and as long

as you understand the plight is not yours

forever, you may have it for now. Remember

that those who still depend on phone booths

know they don’t deserve gifts, they deserve

to work hard and to pay for things. If not us,

then who is rightly entitled to brunch

on the burial grounds of their economic

ancestors? Come, this traveler’s anxiety

isn’t doing the tour group any favours.

Let go of the local visible world and join

this vacation that can be paid for later

with assumed salaries you’d be stupid

not to accrue. All the years put in to it—

collecting stinging insects so children

will have something to write poems about—

of course you should demand it all back,

or force the facility to face the implication

that we are who we are because of a flaw

in the framework; a famous missed stitch

in the fiber optic thread physicists call string

theory, which may or may not have anything

to do with divinity, closer to a tiny typo in

the manuscript that made its way to press

and is what it is because of its permanence.

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