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Hard Maple

i open my chest and replace my heart
with a soapstone sculpture of a polar bear
its white teeth bristle like the hackles on stars

a small Inuit stands nearby
beating slowly on a drum
i slide into the deep end of the public swimming pool in
      Dundas, Ontario,
sink to the bottom like a stone

lying on my back i see three skies
the rippling surface of water,
the dingy tiles on the pool's roof
above this another sky
at night
i see through this sky
out into space

friends you ask how i breathe down here
how i am able to write?

listen, there is a pipe attached to my nose
and every few minutes
friends who are poets walk by
send me down
a puff of air
take dictation
as i exhale

later they cut the maple leaf out of the flag
replace it with my flapping heart

filled with water
i become transparent
lie at the bottom of the pool
unseen during swimming lessons
ignored during weekly cleanings
i have made up a set of
instructions for my friends
the poets walking by:

1   in that Canada is a fleshy leaf that has landed on the map
2 i ask you now to tear up its thin borders
like the tracks of a model railway, so that
3 you can replace my veins with these borders, because
4 i want to see shoppers
slowing down to avoid my internal organs
the ridges of my waterlogged fingers

when i dive into deep water
Canada will dive with me
when i climb into bed
Canada will roll up with me

they light one end
begin to smoke
become pink like the second layer of skin
revealed after a burn

jeez, i exhale to my friends
it's a good thing
i'm underwater
or this would really
hurt




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