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?

I am there with you

I am there with you
Nokyoung Xayasane

The morning is quiet and damp from last night’s rain.
I wake up and pour a cup of iced coffee.
There is a silence that only early morning can bring.
There is the damp lawn chair and the puddles of water
on my balcony.

My balcony opens out onto a sleeping world.
I look out and it’s a sight I’ve seen many times before.
There is the schoolyard surrounded by green trees,
there is the sound of construction, endless construction,
a truck backing up, metal on metal,
there is the wind that lifts and the sparrows that sing.
I never tire of looking, I never tire of it.

I check my phone and there are messages from you.
You have taken a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge at night
and of Central Park during the day.
You are walking down tree-lined streets,
you are lying in the grass.
I close my eyes
and I am there with you.

I have taken a photo of my lunch and of my manicure.
I tell you, It’s called Midnight in NY.
It’s black, I say, but there are flecks of colour
like the lights of New York City.
I take these photos but I don’t take photos
of the CN Tower or the Sky Dome, or anything like that.
You close your eyes
and you are here with me.

With you, I have no questions.
With you, it’s easy like this.
I have no questions.
No questions for you.
I don’t have to ask,
Darling, who I am for you?
Because I know. With you, I know.

I sit in my apartment in Toronto
and I think, There is lust and then there is love.
There are others and then there is you.
There is you.
Only you.

Then one day, you are back,
you are back from New York City,
you are back beside me.
Sometimes, when you are lying next to me,
I am missing you.
I miss you.
I look over quickly, quietly.
You’re still there,
and you’ll be there for a long while still.
This I know.
This I know.

There will come a time

There will come a time
Nokyoung Xayasane

There will come a time
when you won’t have to relive
everything that you’ve lost.
There will be a moment,
a moment
of blinding pain
when everything is so clear
and shining,
so vivid and magnified —
the sun breaking
through the clouds,
through the overhanging leaves
where you laid as a child.

Everything will be magnified
as it truly is,
people will be revealed
in their most beautiful
and in their most despicable light,
and the weight of their sorrows
and the strain on their anguished faces
will no longer hang upon you.
You will be so light
so light as a bird,
and you will be so free
so free as anything.

But before that, wait for it,
— the sorrow —
it will come.
It will hit you
like a wave —
blasé and expressionless.
And when that time comes,
you’ll recall all those days
when you were happy.

There was a gesture of someone’s hand
as it moved through the air,
waving to you from across the street.
There were those wind chimes
in the early morning light,
and that infectious laughter on the dancefloor
weaving its way through the crowd
to make it back to you,
and the music that played,
the sound
deep inside your chest.

There will be that bowl of congee
your mother made for you on your “sick days,”
and that bright red kimchi
and that apple green curry sauce.
There will be your dreams
of Laos, its demure and stunning beauty,
and those desert mountaintops of Ghana
and those rainforests in Brazil and Peru
alive with birdsong and the soft pattering
of raindrops falling.
There will be the purr of the cat
and the touch of the dog
and the look of the friend
who has been where you’ve been
and has seen her way to the end.

There will be that caress of someone’s hand
that means I understand
and I know
and it won’t last,
and you’ll remember
that this life keeps going
whether you’re laying in bed,
or soaking in the tub
with your head under water,
the sound of the faucet like
some distant rumbling thunder,
or you’re looking up at the stars,
and your eyes are filling
and your heart is bursting
with something you cannot name,
you’ll know this world keeps moving
and your pain is but a pinprick,
but a star among millions
blinking away into the night sky.

everything about them, all at once

the city
Nokyoung Xayasane

Every day and every moment,
she felt the movement of time
clearly, distinctly.
Everywhere hungry clocks were ticking,
alarms were sounding.
Every second counting down
and starting all over again.
People rushed by her
in a hurry to get somewhere.
She felt herself buoyed up
in the wave of bodies.

In their homes, she saw them
wringing their hands,
preparing a meal for the next day.
She saw them learning Spanish
and taking their driving test for the third time.
She saw everything about them,
all at once,
like floodlights in the darkness.

The music resounded in the corridor
of the subway and no one turned to look.
A body lay on a subway grate,
the heat billowing up from the depths of
steel and movement,
and no one noticed.
She could feel her brow furrow and
she watched as a blind woman
made her way across the street,
walking into traffic.

There were all these people,
all these lives,
trying one way or another
to survive.
She felt herself moving along
in the wake of them, and disappearing
into them.

There was a cold wind blowing.
She had lost her umbrella at a gala,
and the rain fell, a light mist.
She looked out across the city.
The streets seemed deserted
at this hour.
She walked along, looking down
at the ground and looking up
at the night sky.
She felt the rain along her
lower lash line,
but there was no rain,
only a light mist.
She blinked and blinked and blinked
until the rain disappeared.

The wind picked up
and she hurried to the subway.
There was the spot
where she had looked down
on a person sleeping
on a subway grate.
No one was there,
but the heat wafted up from below
and warmed her briefly.
She entered the subway, tired,
ready to lay down in the stairwell
when she heard the music
coming from below,
but there was no musician
and there was no guitar case
to place her change, and yet still
she kept walking, for some reason,
she kept walking.

I’m supposed to be a poet

I’m supposed to be a poet
Nokyoung Xayasane

I should probably write something.
I’m supposed to be a poet.
What should I use to conjure up
these emotions, these images?
Past betrayals?
Yesterday’s grievances?
No one wants a poem
about sunshine and rainbows.
They want a narrative,
a struggle,
they want to vicariously
live in your pain and in your triumph.
That’s the human condition:
to have your lives mirrored
back to you,
to elevate the mundane and the boring
to a place of dignity,
dignity of the despicable.

But all I have now
are my daily routines.
I go out to brunch
and no woman stands
hidden in the background
just out of view,
ready to throw a drink
in my face.

I go out for coffee
and no one reveals to me
how they’ve been having an affair
with my now former friend.
Were we really friends anyways?
I always disliked her
and now I have a good reason.
Sometimes I get upset
when I hear about
tragedies and wars overseas,
but I know I’m pushing it.

I’ll return back to my book of poems
to a past rife with grief
and drunken nights
running around the city
seeking something I had lost.
I’ll return back to those images
of crying on the kitchen floor
with the ceiling fan turning
in slow motion overhead,
but even I know
as I sit with my tea
in the early morning sunshine,
that material is now rather old.