This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

January-February 2011

Three poems by Jaime Forsythe

Jaime Forsythe

Former Girl Guide goes camping

I spelled Cassiopeia to earn
the astronomy badge, carpooled
to the planetarium. Concentric circles of blue
dresses. Phoebe rings, falling
star, meteorite. A girl’s right
hand on my left armrest. My gaze strung
between the Milky Way, the reef
knot moving at her throat.

Ten years later, you inherit
an Oldsmobile. Our first-aid kit a box
of toothpicks. You roll fast
cigarettes on the divided highway.
To pitch or continue, sink our corners
into tilting earth or keep
aiming for a spot that’s faultless.

A bedroom mock-up. A forest
diorama. You uncover the Adventure
badge stitched to my hip, skin
healing over thread. Belt buckles
that would bring us to the bottom
of the sea. I learned CPR by breathing
into a Styrofoam head, its mouth
wiped with alcohol between girls.

We identify nothing, give nothing
its name. Guess at what’s poison, which
stars are stars. I remember fire
starters of sawdust, wax, egg cartons,
when I used my resources
wisely. We neglect to repel insects.

Collect twist ties and hollow bottles.
Collapse the tent’s tendons, what gives
it shape, wear another layer.
The ground a bowl. Our bitten
ankles. We’re equally close
to two different towns.

Over and over, I convince myself
I want only one thing.

A ventriloquist, on what his dummy is like

He’s a bit of a ladies’ man. Hey, ladies.
He can’t help himself.
He hates the box. It’s dark.
I shimmy my hand into him
and he yelps. Comes alive to revel
in my flaws, fluent even
in the labial consonants:
you’re bald, boring, poor.
My face doesn’t move.
He travels carry-on, fits
in the overhead compartment.
A velvet drawstring bag
for his head, his most
delicate part, decapitated. He hates
the box. Imagine lying
nightly in your own coffin.
A vacant-jawed
cry. My fingertips roll
his eyes. You’re pathetic.
He gets haircuts. He is silicone
and fibreglass, full of sputters
and spit. This voice is shit. I need
a new voice.
You’re fine,
I tell him. You’re fine.


A garage band soundchecks
in the garage. Orange clouds
and I was tricked indoors to
see a dove, burbling in its cage.

Hands hold wire as a string
breaks, faint curses. Streamers
stained with footprints, cracked
cans litter a hammock. A falling
out could occur at any moment.
Moths swim to red lanterns.

There are too many people here.
The crowd rises in the house
like a tide, begins to use windows
as exits. They don’t believe
they can fly, only hope their paths
will be slow, their landings soft.

Jaime Forsythe’s poetry and fiction have appeared most recently in The New Quarterly, Carousel, The Antigonish Review, and Geist. She grew up in Nova Scotia and currently lives in Kingston, Ontario.
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