Tanis MacDonald: Two Poems

Very Wide Awake

I guess it’s too late to go to the moon

I guess it’s too late to blow the top off the capsule

It’s too late to splash down

It’s too late to be thought handsome sporting Gus Grism’s buzz cut

It’s too late to wonder why Gus wasn’t Buzz and Aldrin was

It’s too late to draw the lunar module over and over again and think for weeks about its insectile legs and hexagon body and then mistake the camera at the planetarium for the lunar module and have my best friend stare  

It’s too late to decorate my bedroom with a map of the moon and fall asleep by the Sea of Tranquillity

It’s too late to rename NASA’s lunar program but never too late to wonder why it was called Apollo and not Diana

It’s too late to be the kind of boy who grows up to be an astronaut

It’s too late to be any kind of boy

(girls can be anything but first they should be quiet)

It’s too late to take back what I said watching the moon shot why doesn’t something happen I can barely see why is this taking so long


It’s too late to not recall one giant step for mankind but I recall every detail of the moment when the astronauts stood on the lip of the opened splashdown capsule and peeled off their helmets and beneath it they were apes

It’s too late to take back that I liked that result better

It’s too late to be the sort of person who thinks The Right Stuff is better than Escape from the Planet of the Apes

It’s too late to be Sally Ride or Roberta Bondar but not too late to be Zira who was played by blacklisted actress Kim Hunter so I guess it’s never too late to fool the far right with prosthetics

I met Roddy McDowell in 1982 and he had the smile of a man telling himself the saddest secret and watching me overhear

Which is the definition of an actor but at the time it was like being dipped in the River Styx

And when I woke nine years later

                    (we’re very wide awake, the moon & i)

It was too late to call Charlton Heston Bright Eyes but it’s not too late to take notes

It was too late to ask the Lawgiver for lenience but it’s never too late to go back in time and be your own grandmother


Still Life with Lorine Niedecker

Knob mentality is a cesspool
and we’re hip-deep in the luxury
of being misunderstood.  Arrange
the squash as best you can.

                                                            Wade all life backwards.  

Two kinds of apples: pink ladies, 
northern spies. The only time
I like anything is two weeks
after it’s over. The fish
is fresh today. It’s whittled clean.

                                                            Its source runs too far ahead.

Horn of plenty, spilling: a thousand
monkeys, a thousand typewriters
taking notes on the impossible. 
Gullible is misspelled, or
not in the dictionary. I can’t tell
you my pain, not because it’s so fine,
but because I’ve already churned it
into butter.    
                                                          The satisfactory emphasis is on revolving.

A grapeshot hare, neck lolling.  When
the man with one grey tooth tells you
he’s uncreating himself into existence,
your feet turn to hawthorns when you think
Again?  It’s a relief to tag the thought
control centre of the universe, but in
the hashed end, biography is less
notorious than you thought: Morse
code for mimics. 
                                                         Don’t send steadily.

Cezanne’s oranges: pick up a crate. 
Write your grocery list in indelible
pencil and leave in the creamed
corn aisle. My bestie from the old
‘hood will be by in a millennium
or so, cruising the shelves for the world’s
most radiant macaroni. It’s April, the cryptic
month; the weed catalogue’s here.  

                                                            To give heat is within the control of every human being.

A small brace of partridge. Salmonberries.
Winter’s finally done, and you with it.  
The bread’s braided, the leeks green.   

                                                           After you know me, I’ll be no one.

Tanis MacDonald is the author of three books of poetry. The most recent, Rue the Day published by Turnstone Press, came out in 2008, which seems like ages ago. More recent poems have appeared in The New Quarterly, Contemporary Verse 2, Our Times, and Poetry is Dead and Lemon Hound. She lives and works in Waterloo, Ontario.