By Chris Hutchinson


As the newborn dead
thrown headfirst
from the astral plane

mistake the rushing wind
for a hand to keep them
safe, suspended—

so the living softly
procreate in the mollusc-dark
creatures curled

in sorrow, devoted
to the world concealed
inside the world.

English Bay (Vancouver)

An ingenious wind combs the ocean’s surface back
and forth, folds it to black and white
piano keys.

The mountains on this coast are not Glenn Gould’s
hunched shoulders—but let’s say the city
hums an homage to his ghost.

Inside a late March sun, gulls flicker and flash—synapses
of a gifted mind? I wish I were a lone disciple,
or at least an audience of one.

But perched everywhere, the anonymous busts of others
like me: hopeless romantics, lacking genius,
staring out to sea.

The Man Who Lives In The Gazebo

The man who lives in the gazebo in the park in this
ineloquent metropolis—to imagine he has nothing
but what the rain gives him in his sleep: riches
of a presence, fingers tapping, silver-ringed,
what a child hears of voices, pure plash
of a cadence loosed from sense. This morning
work-bound strangers, mutely trampling
the many-eyed, the dew-decked blades of grass
step around him, living shadows, unrepentant
in their trespass. While across the bay the city
clears its throat but never speaks—as language
is held within us as we sleep, words
whose meanings fold in on themselves—
on waking, shut the door. 


You weren’t here the morning light streamed
over the dew-eyed park where mushrooms
flared like polished bells. I almost believed
my mind had grown tendrils and bloomed.

Old women disguised as crows stuttered past,
jigging upon the sleeping city’s hipbone,
flitting between the horizon and beer cans
in the grass: aspic-glow of moonstones.

Drunk, you slept here once, then withdrew—
your mind, sticky as a wound reopening.
Poor pupil of homelessness, you never knew
delirium could become your dwelling—

a place of twisted hues, of second sight,
but a house nonetheless, built of light.

Café Poem

From the north-east corner of the room
came the slant, circumspect glances of enemies
disguised as friends. This city is a forest of the mind,
said our barista in passing, her voice glittery
as a freshly polished spoon. How I wished
I could light her cigarette in Cinemascope,
outside in the noir of fog and heady violins—
But those days are over, said the coffee
to the cream. You know, I said, I’m often here,
happily bathing in a stream of disinterestedness,
when some owl-eyed child appears, miraculously
tying and untying the knots of his fingers whilst
whistling the tune of a rusted hinge—Such disbelief
is my body suspended, the kid will invariably say,
cheekily pointing the arrows of his cheekbones
towards my treacherous friends, their smiles
all lit up like knives beneath
the fluorescents.

A Room Without A Door

A room without a door.
Four walls without a window.

Enclosure I fear as fact—fact
which says the body is nothing

but abstract, not a fixed source
of light. Yet how the body

at a certain age desires
to exist as words are

fastened to the page. Now
the problem isn’t earth’s

soft penetration, the susurrus
of autumn’s piecemeal descent,

it’s this mélange of blood,
rust and sand, this morphing

by the moment, what I tumble
continually from and into.

Such gravity, the wistfulness
of feminine hands unfolding

where undercurrents of breath
unlock a series of fascinations—

each embedded in each,
fidelity rooted in desire,

like this coin-heavy, copper-coloured key,
ordinary as the name I keep.

I Keep A Name

I keep a name, ordinary
as this coin-heavy, copper-coloured key,

desire rooted in fidelity
or embedded in each

series of fascinations
where undercurrents of breath

unfold like feminine hands.
Such gravity, the wistfulness

I tumble continually from and into,
morphing by the moment,

a mélange of sand, rust and blood,
autumn’s piecemeal descent,

its susurrus and soft
penetration of earth. Now,

the problem isn’t words
fastened to the page,

it’s how the body at a certain age
desires to be just such a fixed source

of light. But the body is nothing
but abstract. Says who?

Says fact, and fact I fear
as enclosure, as four walls

without a window, a room
without a door.

William James, Listening

Somewhere floats emptiness,
untwisted space, voluminous cavity

in the air which is the air not rushing anywhere—
just a stillness, hovering pure, suspended

like a word-bubble where nothing is written,
where nothing is intuition adrift, his thought

before it is thought, something less
than an inkling, yet infinitely more,

then it becomes what the wind aimlessly expatiates
in its countless sibilant and indecipherable tongues, invisible

as the fuel time runs on, what lengthens the ash
of an abandoned cigarette, replenishes the many breaths

he’s wasted conflating vanity and righteousness,
counts each droplet which falls and pools dark as ink

deep inside the basement of his insomniac revisions,
and then—after every measure has been dissolved

and each utterance merged into a seamless monoculture
of exhausted consent—it reveals his transgression with

dream-like whispers before an assembled jury
of his fears: it is whatever, wherever, whomever

it is—though it’s not within his powers to charm
or possess; such knowledge belonging

not to him but only to what the invisible knows
of itself, and to the sound of wind at night

moving through the trees, at once premonition’s stir
and a crowd of hushes in the leaves.


Sneak into a theatre
through the back door. In the liquid-
dark your sense of self will spike
like a candle flame possessed. 

Envision the minute bone-jigsaw of a wrist
loosening, giving life to these
onscreen marionettes.

The story’s smooth convolutions
becoming a child’s drawing of a tunnel-maze
where the purpose of the game is to end up
back at the beginning.

Now as the soundtrack peaks the exquisite
hairs of your inner ear will quiver in time,
a tiny ensemble of violinists
flying their bows in the air.

Soon, each frame’s ephemeral wake
will resemble the vee of phosphorescence
the moonless midnight swimmer
of late August trails behind—

Seen from below, imagine
another kind of movie screen:

The swimmer’s body like a comet appears
to divide cold space, or like a finger seems
to point the way—although whether it’s
“out from” or “to where”
you can’t say.


No tears. You can’t entreat this feeling
to come forth, to lift above your oesophagus and
turn to fluid grief. Your tongue is chalk and the air,
the reverberating crystal of a wineglass someone’s
wet thumb glides along, a hum whose colour eclipses
these thin conversations about sex poorly disguised
as cultivated desire. This all takes place at a party
constantly played-out in some future time you have
invented, where your present needs have been replaced
by trivial, deep-seated regrets. Your hosts
wear the occult glow of the well-fed and spiritually
tormented. What no one sees: In the mirror above
the bookshelf where Mallarmédecomposes to blonde
motes of dust, a shadow grows of your body
as it appears today, as dark water light gutters over
from a moon made of salt, a moon of fear, a hollow form
the night runs its cold thumb along—
as a single violin plays its single note
across the years.


What the black helicopters know,
blades snapping like machine gun fire—
such clatter foreshadows the latest
News Report on art’s failure
to inquire.

What other sounds?

There are birds I have no names for.
Their songs inhabit the interstices
of my inner life, its family trees,
its weather charts.

Deeper still,
a shadow’s breath, disembodied
footsteps, weird shrieks from inside
the abandoned theme park, pleasures
self-contained and dark.

Listen: I’m neither
sad nor happy, meaning
I don’t know where to go,
or who I’m supposed to be.

Some say my tongue’s
a frozen waterfall, its cascade
locked outside of time’s
persuasive flow.

Others see it as a runway
for wingless arguments—perhaps
the reason no one cheers whenever I clear
these paisley-devils from my throat.

But as rumours of my death
fester on long after the pedants have retired—
a fertile conspiracy of facts wherein
the worms of fiction grow—

I think: Silence does not exist;
and even if it did—

Crossover I

Tracing our dream back,
we arrive.

The plum-coloured surface
falls away,

a wilted tongue,
and now we must

simply survive on
how we feel,

fog interlaced with
threads of smoke,

and this sad
texture which is

the wet clay
of death’s


Crossover II

If only
an orange-winged light.

If another night’s rest meant
all the difference.

If the feeling persists
or spills into the exhausted,

colourless sound
memory makes

as it crosses
the tracks—then

what minute

one breath


Crossover III

Yes, I am my own
poverty, and love

you are your own

poisoned prey,
your web adorned

with shucked remains,

at the fringe
of sleep—

how they either
wither away, or

widen their eyes,
all teary and

terrified and



The window
a distilled wind

where the eye

trying to see

itself dissolves
inside and through

the proverbial

rabbit hole.
On the other

side I imagine you
the historically

obscured and

observe the world

invert like a room:
Walls sheer up and

away as the blown
crests of waves

hurricane into and
fuse with soft-

edged panels
of a reflecting

where our secretive

selves might one day
blow kisses then

chase ornate

of affection across
an invisible and

what so far remains
theoretical space:

That which at once joins
and keeps separate

any given moment
and our coming

our seeing

and being seen
our touching

and being touched.

Especially The Hand Or Fingers

          —for Neela Rader

How touch travels
from person to person,
a series of gestures delicate yet
sure as a calligrapher’s cursive script—
each ligature, an embrace.
          How a thumb brushes a knuckle
or strokes down a cheekbone—
esoteric sensation,
tacit instruction, flame
conveyed from candle to candle,
a message learned by heart
and passed on:
mother to child,
          nurse to patient,
                    lover to beloved—
its small succour proliferating
by means of an essential human need
to feel our bodies shimmer, break
softly open, at once ourselves
and other.

Chris Hutchinson was born in Montreal, educated in Victoria (where he received his B.F.A. in Writing from the University of Victoria in 1998), lived in Vancouver and Edmonton, and presently resides in Tempe, Arizona where he studies English and teaches Creative Writing at Arizona State University. His poems have been translated into Chinese and have appeared in Canadian journals and anthologies: Hammer and Tongs, A Smoking Lung Anthologyand Breathing Fire 2: Canada’s New Poets. He is the author of the critically acclaimed collection Unfamiliar Weather (The Muses’ Company, Winnipeg, 2005). Chris Hutchinson’s Other People’s Lives is forthcoming from Brick Books, 2009.

Crossover © Chris Hutchinson 2007