Dry Counties et al - Carter Vance

Dry Counties

When everything slips your mind past grace
notes of 50thparalells, way up over the
Bloor Street splendor of gutter punk
mystics dancing shoe cymbal jigs for
silvery leather of policeman’s caps;
how shiny with self-serious contradiction
are they in atoned posture for dead

names carved on concrete with tree-twigs
that wash away crude scars in lilac undertow.
When you get air-locked out of yourself
as surrounding confidant to all
girls who want to be Joni Mitchell, all
boys who think they’re Neil Young,
it’s there you trick Ashweig water,
shivering suntanned with lazy jumping
children, cotton-balled in nostril and
deeper prided than still your stubby-heated
face is, rounded moon of pleasant symptoms.
When all falls from cast-cradle eyes,
wool scales you weigh morning’s breath
to sagging bone structure, adjustment to
heights of bitter air, slacking sheet-towel
cover of matchbox mattress when you
don’t need some firewater concoction anymore
to feel church chime alarm bells anymore,
just cotton shrouds of sleeping action, weights
of blank memory books for you,

secret message lemon bleach of Northern Store signs.

Rollercoasters, Ice Cream

There once was some fairytale caution in
speech given to the cathedral park waterway,
the slanted hill of unknowing tilt-a-bob
I slid down in time, with kids of ham-hock
neighbourhood plans, split-sprouting bones of
Old Europe last names, being so blankly read
in cross-stitch stares, trundling up with empty
fridge poisons, penny-candy notions roller
disco days, where we get lost in car radio
static, sounds of ’92 Sunfire tape decks
And how the rollercoasters that came in
late June towered above beach stand snack
tables, how they cast long dripping figures
on 12th grade shadows earning at once
their first and last gulps of free air
above pier line jumping rough water,
how policemen waved us on in cheer.
But there is time for ice cream
cones, and time for bitter drink,
and time for huff-puff of drawing close
across shimm-shammy board walks to make
bleary town cryer’s tune, time to take
rid above dampened wood of marina boards.


Watch it on televisions, still, movement captured time by
red cowboy hat Stampede dance of all places
coming in and smiling cutting off vacant air churn
of oscillating fans in lodgers’ bunkbeds,
and strange Saturday silence but on enduring.
Then, again, there’s no surprise:
to squeegee wash things with cluttered shoelace,
nervous hand gesture ticks, those softer pleasantries
to help mouth scrub your share history,
to help with sticking a couple pages together.
So, you don’t have to watch the cracked windows on
television, hear the earnest CBC about it anymore;
you can know the scattering of metal,
tang of fifth morning’s oatmeal,
but also to get your own following parade,
of dirty-faced kids, that could have been you,
without only so much choice to watch,
or to live.

Carter Vance is a student and aspiring poet originally from Cobourg, Ontario, currently studying at Carleton University in Ottawa. His work has appeared in such publications as The Vehicle, (parenthetical) and F(r)iction, amongst others. He received an Honourable Mention from Contemporary Verse 2's Young Buck Poetry Awards in 2015. His work also appears on his personal blog Comment is Welcome.