Where the world began and ended

Where the world began and ended
Nokyoung Xayasane

There were these branches that reached up into the sky,
arms uplifted into the sun that I would climb.

There was that ease of a summer day,
the hot breath of the wind, a heat and a blanket on the grass.

I was there, walking along the asphalt underbelly of the bridge,
the train above me on some journey somewhere far from here.

I wondered where it was going, I wondered if one day
I would know its destination.

The sidewalk came up and met my sandalled feet,
and even then I dreamed and even then I did not know to want.

I was a blink of someone’s eye, I was a laugh ringing out,
I was the running of hands along a chain link fence.

It was there where I learned to ask unanswerable questions,
and to ache for tastes and fragrances and sounds,

for things and places that I did not know had names.
It was there where I learned where the world began and where the world ended.

a memory in time

it was safe to let you go
Nokyoung Xayasane

You were standing by an open window,
your hand on the frame.
You were looking out onto the street,
the curtain billowing.
No witness but me.
You were walking in the afternoon sun,
just a memory in time.

And that memory of you,
it was safe to hold on to it.

I was standing by the subway door,
my hand on the frame.
I was looking out onto the street,
blurs of colours, yellow and blue.
No witness but you.
I was walking in the afternoon sun,
just a memory in time.

And that memory of me,
it was safe to hold on to it.

We were running down cobbled streets,
our laughter
like a thousand stars
exploding
in the sky.
No witness but us.
We were walking in the afternoon sun,
just a memory in time.

And that memory of us,
it was safe to hold on to it.

Somewhere you are laughing,
your hands moving though the air.
Somewhere you are running,
your legs blurred and strong.

I am smiling,
my face lit up, bright and free.
I am running,
my breath long and deep.

The curtains shift,
and you are standing there by the window.
I did love you,
but you knew that.
Nothing
and no one
changes that.

The doors open,
and I am standing by the subway opening.
I reach out for your hand,
your hand across space and time.
I feel the pressure of your palm
against mine.

I am walking along the subway platform,
my legs moving, my breath steady.
I see the opening of the subway exit,
and I make my way towards it.
And that memory of you,
it was safe
to let you go,
and that memory of me,
it was safe
to let me go.

Somewhere I am emerging
into the afternoon sun.
I am walking slowly
along the streets without you.
And that memory of us,
it was safe
to let us go.

Idleness is a gift

main concept
Nokyoung Xayasane

Idleness is a gift
you give yourself,
I say
with a glass of rosé
in hand.

I want to write a poem
about justice and love and revolution,
you know,
those grand, unfathomable concepts.

Main concept: person, place, or thing.
Sub concept: politics.
But then I think
that poem is for someone else,
you know,
the spoken word artists
and the singer-songwriters
that hide power and the ties that bind
in their lyrics
about a late afternoon in Prague.

I want to write about Europe,
baroque architecture, grand sweeping phrases,
glittered and coating the balustrade of a golden staircase.

Main concept: person, place, or thing.
Sub concept: culture.
I wonder
if I don’t write about Berlin or London,
will it matter?
Locations don’t really move me
I find.
I have no feelings of sentimentality
for a broken wall someone else climbed over,
the steps of a museum where someone else
walked up and saw the afternoon light
bathing a dark haired man
who would become their lover, their enemy.

What I have is this—
Main concept: person, place, or thing.
Sub concept: boredom.
What are we but bored people
reaching out to each other?
Not even the drama of heartache
or treachery—betrayal—
no, just plain boredom.
And so I write nothing.
I feel neutral.
All signs pointing to a healthy mind
and an idle pen.
It’s the gift I give myself.

to feel something

to feel something
Nokyoung Xayasane

In the evening,
about around 8:30pm,
the sky transforms
into a landscape of pink,
touching the walled buildings,
blushing the trees billowing
in the summer heat.

The AC clicks on,
a swirling sound like the rivets
of steel of the subway tunnel,
the sound of something falling down the stairs,
a swirling wake in Hanlan’s Point.

There’s the pink sky in the evening
that purples into night fall,
that blooms into light
peeking and chirping with bird calls.

There’s this place, this street,
walking down Yonge
that hugs and presses against my skin,
the embrace of life and noise and sound,
the sound of giving up
and the sound of going on.

The morning reaches into the sky
following the line of a crane
hoisting a metal crate,
the building blocks of a condo
a skyscraper a home a business.

I said out loud, to no one in particular,
“I want to feel something
like really feel something.
Don’t you?”

And the sky and the trees, the birds,
they answered my call,
and they breathed and they laughed
and they whispered,
“Yes, I do. And I have. And you will, too.”

And the sky changed shape and coloured pink
reaching out to the edges of the city,
touching the cracks in the pavement
where a man and his dog sit
with a cardboard sign.
A man in a cowboy hat stands in front of the Chipotle
and watches passersby.

I want to feel something
like really feel something.
Don’t you?

History

history whispers
its quiet words
trumpets its war call into the air
and we are bystanders
beside a roadside accident
we are standing bare feet in grass
wondering about the stars
and global warming and North Korea
and how we’ll pay for all the weddings in our calendar
we are sitting on a fire escape
watching the world go by
and history whispers to us
but we are too busy
too busy being happy

it was real

nostalgia
Nokyoung Xayasane

In moving forward
I stop seeing the past everywhere
I look.

But the way some people move or speak
is a ghost of you,
is a ghost of them.

Before I fall asleep, lie my head down
in late afternoon, evening,
I think of them.

They are different people.

Some days I am sitting at the feet
of the philosopher and he is reading to me
the lines of a book, a pot of tea brewing.

Some days I am in our second apartment
and the musician bends over a turntable,
headphones on.

Sometimes I am lying in bed with the writer.
He stretches out his right arm and I sleep there.
He holds me even though he doesn’t love me
like I would like to be loved.

It is my tendency
to dwell on the past
as my present moves on
without me.

But I would like to make sense,
make meaning from these images:
those books, that turntable, an outstretched arm.

All I know is what has happened.
That’s all I know.
What has happened
shaped by hindsight and flawed memory.

What I know is
I loved them.

That’s the truth.

No matter how they may have felt about me,
I loved them.

I would’ve been with any one of them,
shared my life with them.
And I did with some,
some longer than others,
some deeper than others,
but I know it happened,
it was real.

I loved them
and maybe
they knew it.

time enough

time enough
Nokyoung Xayasane

Come down with me
to the street
level to the ground.
It is here where we’ll see
the birds lift up in flight.
It is here where we’ll feel
spring’s first rays
gleaming against a blue sky, endless.

Come with me
to the end of the street
that meets with Yonge,
young children in white
dancing down the sidewalk
making their way home from school.

Come up with me
to the balcony
where we’ll sit and watch the world go by,
a dozen cars and the sirens that lift
like music like a cacophony a symphony
of horns and bells and blasted air
from tires, spouts, throats of birds
calling to each other.

Come and stand beside me
on the road where flowers have been placed
where living breathing loving people walked
on a spring day, fresh from winter.

Come with me
to the place where we shall know no fear
and no misunderstandings,
where we are seen just as we are,
as we wanted to be seen,
bright and murky and bare.

Come with me.
It will be you and it will be me.
We will have time enough and love enough
and courage enough.
We will have time enough,
you and me.

the playlist of our lives

in dreams
Nokyoung Xayasane

I laid in bed, not sleepy yet
so I put my headphones on
and scrolled down to my ‘In Dreams’ playlist,
which is just four songs right now,
no lyrics, atmospheric, gentle music.

I press play and close my eyes,
the comforting darkness around me.
The gentle sway of the music begins,
my mind begins to wander.

I see our first apartment with its peeling walls,
once we tried to cover it with flowery wallpaper
but it didn’t work so well.

I’m in a car and we’re driving down the highway,
there are hills outside undulating
and the slightest breeze from the open window,
there’s music from the radio
playing the playlist for our lives,
lives that keep unwinding, that marches forward.

I’m sleeping in a crowded camp
and there are the sounds of people around,
shouting and laughing, there’s the creep of something
metal on wood, I can’t sleep.

My mom turns on the radio
and places it beside me
and the sound moves the air around me.
I’m somewhere else, beyond this place.
The music lifts and dips, it expands before me,
unrolling, undulating hills and tattered wallpaper.

I’m a light sleeper,
a mother’s sleep, they say.
There’s a breeze from a car window,
I turn my head in bed and enter sleep
with mosquito netting around me,
somewhere in a white bed in Toronto.

there you were and there I was

the lost loves we left behind
Nokyoung Xayasane

And all this time
we think about the things
we could’ve changed,
the paths we could’ve tread,
the lost loves we left behind.

There was that one morning
when I laid my head on your heart
and felt life beating.
Your breath came out in
long deep exhalations.

There was your hair
in the afternoon light,
opaque against the white sheets, blinding.
There you were
and there I was.

There was that night
I chose to leave.
There were your eyes in the glare
of the lamplight,
a moon overhead.

There was a silence, stretching
between the spaces
between me and you.
There you are
and there I am.

part of the world

part of the world
Nokyoung Xayasane

there have been times
when I’ve wondered if I’ve stepped
into an indie movie
rife with flower crowns
long-haired musician writer poets
dancing in the billow of hash and weed

sometimes you’ll say things
like, You wouldn’t sit with anyone else
under the apple tree, would you?
you’ll talk about transcendental meditation
and maybe

part of the world is dancing around a bonfire
and laughing as flames laugh
the embers smoldering and rising into the air
part of the world wants to know
who their parents are and if they’ll ever fall in love
with someone of integrity

there’s someone holding a pepper over a blue flame
and waiting for it to blister
there’s a man standing in the shadow of a willow tree
a young boy falling into the fields of gold
there is a love that is so quiet
like the hum of silence in an upper apartment

that part of the world is not us
we’re sitting on a patio in the late afternoon
my hat flies off but I catch it in the street
we are passing by a place where I was betrayed
and I tell you the story and you say
that’s understandable

you don’t like lines, waiting in lines
you tell me
they make you feel like you don’t exist
I am trying to listen to your stories
but all I can think about is eating a sandwich

we are watching a funeral procession
on a crowded street and I reach for our bag of groceries
and eat the chips in the least offensive way possible
and yet you still laugh

we are sleeping in on a Sunday afternoon
I can sleep in with you
I am groggy and light-headed and happy

we are dancing in a field of grass
and music is playing
there are people all around us
and we sit on the grass
and we are with them
and also alone
and with each other
and also alone

and maybe
I think
we are part of this world
and maybe
this world is within us
who can really say?