this is the sound of your heart, breathing


the sound of your heart, breathing
Nokyoung Xayasane

There are nights
when the city opens up.
I enter it
and become
the woman selling necklaces
in Kensington Market.
I am the man on the metro
at Broadview Station
in the late afternoon,
speaking Spanish
in calm tones
while we plunge into
the light, emerging
from the darkness,
light slanting,
alternating patterns
against the
face of the woman
staring into nothingness.
I want to reach out
and brush the stray strand
from her face
and secure it gently
behind her ear.
There is a child
who stands with
her father, speaking
the pink stripes of
her dress a backdrop
against her skin,
sure and beautiful
and pure.

I exit the subway and
become the ferryboat
that would carry me across
to Hanlan’s Point.
I am the white fluffy dots
of pollen, floating,
the give-offs of flowers
in the summer wind.
I am the girl
submerged in the cold
floating on her back
in the sunshine,
her skin is bare and golden.
She is free,
free as a child,
the sky above her,
the boats all around her.
Her naked body
dries in the sun
as she stares out
into Lake Ontario,
waiting for the answers
to wash ashore.

I am that night
we met
when you turned to me
and I turned to you.
You kissed me on the corner
of Spadina and Queen
as I tried to decipher
the meaning
behind your accent.
You were only four weeks
in the country,
but I’ve been waiting for you
for quite some time now,
I believe.
I am all those first nights
looking across
at the sleeping body beside me
holding my breath,
waiting for that moment
when you feel your life
just lift up
and take off.

I know there will
come a time
when I will hate this city,
but until then,
I will enter it
and become the girl
who fears nothing.
This girl,
she believes in nothing.
She who walks the earth
without a map,
her face hardened
with time,
her eyes pierce
the enamel of human nature
and enters its darkest
and richest centre.
She is everything
and she is everyone,
she wants nothing
and she wants everything,
She will hold them inside
her heart,
quick and alive,
slow and halting.
She will walk along
Bloor Street
until her legs give way,
until she feels
no more pain.

She will meet a woman
in rags who will tell her,
All roads lead
to the border,
all paths end at the beginning.
Then why did she walk
all this way?
She had to,
that was the only way
she knew how to be.
Will you take me home,
the girl will ask her.
The woman places her palm
against the girl’s chest.
You are home, she tells her.
This is where you live,
she taps her beating heart.

Suddenly, a window opens up
and I am the city,
I am the cracks in the streets,
I am a child crying in the night,
the woman pushing her
shopping cart filled with
all her belongings.
I am the man on Bay Street,
stark and immaculate,
I am the server
standing on the patio
dressed all in black,
waiting for his real life to begin.
I am all those people
all at once and
I am no one,
no one at all.

This is the sound, she says,
of your heart, breathing.
This is the sound of your heart, healing.

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