the lost girls of Toronto


the lost girls of Toronto
Nokyoung Xayasane

It doesn’t matter what day it is:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday—
the lost girls of Toronto
can be seen everywhere,
on any given day
of the week.

We’re at a King West club—
Citizen, Early Mercy—
surrounded by venture capitalists
and financiers in sombreros.
Just one drink tonight,
I tell my friends
before stumbling home
at five in the morning,
head swimming
from free tequila shots,
body aching
from a romp
with a faceless man
in an overpriced condo.
I’ll run into traffic
to catch the midnight blue bus
and watch as a man
throws up in a corner
of the bus.
I’ll laugh when someone’s
lollipop falls into my hair,
the night air
cool as ointment,
as a dog whistle.

The lost girls of Toronto
can be seen at the Dakota Tavern,
Communist’s Daughter,
The Garrison,
listening to the latest
hipster bluegrass band.
I’ll wear my indie hat
that could be found in any crowd
at any music festival—
Coachella, Burning Man.
I’ll drink those organic craft brews,
and laugh at the True Stories
(Told Live) Toronto
while eyeing the deep-voiced
indie musician who’s only
in the city for that one night
for that one particular night.

The lost girls of Toronto
may be wearing
the highest of heels
and the shortest of skirts.
They may be adorned
in high-waisted pants
and high-collared tops,
oversized eyeglasses
with that signature straight bang.
One moment they’re Kendall Jenner
the next—
Taylor Swift, Zooey Deschanel.
They’re versatile
that way.

The lost girls of Toronto
are a common sight
on Queen Street West.
They’re at a fashion show
with their phones out,
snapping and tweeting.
They’re at the pre-show,
the actual show, the after party.
They’re at a magazine launch party,
an EP release party—
too stylish and too damn cool to care.
I’m trotting along the Mink Mile,
on the cobbled paths of Yorkville.
Did you see the necklace
that I’m wearing?
I found it at a vintage shop
for six dollars. It goes
so well with my $800 shoes.

The lost girls of Toronto
listen to podcasts.
They know what’s up
with city planning, world issues,
and the struggles
of the marginalized.
I’ll go to brunch
on a Sunday with an artist
I met on Tinder.
He’ll pay for my meal—
eggs benedict, of course,
with that Caesar cocktail.
A few days later,
another man, an ad man,
who’ll buy me the same drink
at a different restaurant
in a different neighbourhood.
I think I see the artist
through the window,
but it could’ve been
my imagination.

The lost girls of Toronto
hang out with their squad
after yoga on the waterfront.
The squad members change
depending on the mood
and the season.
Nothing lasts,
nothing is permanent.
They’ll discuss the American election,
And what about the merits of
Britney’s latest video?
Is it classic Britney Spears
or is she turning her back
on 90s Britney?

The lost girls of Toronto
will discuss consent
in an open bar
while engaged in a
heteronormative game
of matchmaking,
(yes, we know
what ‘heteronormative’ means),
and they won’t shy away
from taking a drink
from a stranger—
taking a drink
doesn’t mean
they have to reciprocate
in any way.
They’ll say no to a date
without giving them a reason.
They’ll end things briskly,
no muss, no fuss.
Did I not sit you down
and tell you why it wasn’t working?
We’re not heartless.

On the contrary,
the lost girls of Toronto
have loved and lost.
If you sit them down,
they’ll tell you a sad tale
of love and betrayal,
unrequited love, a love
that went awry, a love cut short
by time and distance and change.

The lost girls of Toronto
will go out for a night of drinking,
hobble home solo or with
that “special” someone
and still make it
to work the next day.
They work out, keep toned.
They’re trying to cut down
on consuming meat and dairy,
maybe drink more smoothies.
They love their pets, fur babies,
and when a friend calls for help,
they’re there with a bottle of wine
or a pizza that tastes
just like delivery,
with a listening ear
that feels
just like therapy.

The next day,
they do it all over again:
the early-morning meetings,
the long nights
in a packed crowd
with bottle service,
champagne flaring
and confetti flying
at 2pm during Sunday brunch,
hip hop blaring
house music blasting
at 8pm on a Monday night.
They’ll laugh
and they’ll cry,
they’ll learn
and they’ll never stop fighting,
they’ll never give up.

So you see,
the lost girls of Toronto,
aren’t really lost.

We’re not lost, not even close.

the adventurer


On Saturdays
Nokyoung Xayasane

are the hardest.
The weekend, in fact,
is difficult all around.

On Saturdays,
I would wake up early
and you would sleep in
until 10 or 11 or
whenever I would remember
to wake you.

We would go out for sushi
to the same place in
the same area,
Baldwin Village.
You always liked it there.
My adventurer
who went
to the same places to eat,
who would wave to me
from the window of my car
on his way home
every weekend,
on his way back
to the same city
to the same people
he’s always known.

What is it like
to live in the past?
Everything is laid out
like a delicate row
of maki, sashimi, nigiri.
The chopsticks
are neatly placed
at the side
of your small plate,
the soy sauce and
wasabi and ginger
within reach.

When it was over
between us
we made our way to the subway
and you asked me
if the subway was running.
I thought it was a curious
question but I realized
you were coming from
our old neighbourhood,
from her place,
near our old place.

I looked at you
and said,
You moved out
of that neighbourhood,
but you’re still going back.
My adventurer
on a Saturday afternoon
in Baldwin Village.

Now on Saturdays,
I go for a long walk
in the brightness
of the afternoon sun,
and somehow
I end up at
a sushi restaurant.
I eat my fill,
to fill my memory
of you and us.
The weekend
stretches out
in front of me
like a lifetime
of Saturdays
in Baldwin Village.

welcome to the struggle


welcome to the struggle,
Nokyoung Xayasane

This rooftop is too hot,
the men
are too “appreciative.”
I’ve broken the strap
on my sandal
and someone grabbed my wrist
in the stairwell.
I feel its sting
and my yelling ringing
in my ear.
I’m that person now
who yells at bouncers
and at cars driving into me
on the street.
I gesticulate and foam
at the mouth.
Remember when I baked pumpkin pies
and believed you
when you said
she was nothing special?

There is a fire inside the city,
burning blue
smoke everywhere.
I stand coughing my
two-lunged life away.

I want to leave
this place
but I’ve just arrived.
Why do we want to be
where we’re not?
I wait for happiness
to arrive
like some long-sought refuge,
but I alone
must craft this feeling
of rainbows and sunshine
from string and glue and
plastic wrappers.

All I can hear
is incessant laughter
ricocheting off high rises
and buildings made of
steel and glass
and the sun
it blazes
on this city rooftop
tar and spit and the vomit
of words, common syllables
and nothing is said ever
that hasn’t been said before.
The people here
they drink and revel
and call out
to each other
as if it meant something.

How come
I must make an effort
in all things?
I want to put my phone down
and look into another
human being’s face
and tell them
something they’ve never
heard before.

I want to string the words
together in a pattern
that glitters and cuts
that shakes them alive
that transplants them from
this smog-filled city
to a seaside town
and we are in the water
high to our knees
and there are these birds
that circle round and round
and the blue stretches out
beyond our understanding,
then you will
turn to me
and tell me
a harsh truth
about the human struggle,
and it will be filled with
longing and dreams
that fly away by night
and hide somewhere
dark and shining,
ready to be unearthed,
but instead
we turn away and
we glare at the sun.
I blink
and wait for the heat
to dissipate,
a blue fire
burning in the distance.

little red dress


dinner party
Nokyoung Xayasane

There is more dignity
in the homeless people
on the streets
than there is
at this dinner party.

The crisp white napkins,
the many forks and knives and spoons.
Sometimes I want to rip
the white linen tablecloths
off the wooden tables
of this tennis club.
Splash the walls
with colours of reds and whites.
Set fire
to the vodka and bourbon and spirits
on the countertop.

I walk out in my little red dress
and an old man with white hair
says some appreciative.
I smile.
I am docile,
and accommodating,
as is my way.
This is how we act in public, I tell myself.

There is no dignity here.

a face made flawless



Nokyoung Xayasane

Sometimes when I look at my face in the mirror,
I see a face made flawless
with makeup.
I wish I could wake up looking like this,
this beautiful.

And then I think about the forgiving nature of water,
how it restores and reveals,
how it shows my true face.

Sometimes I forget what my face looks like,
presented this way.
I am just me,
after all.
But I forget
I am also her.
I am her
to you and to others.

They like to remind me.
You are beautiful, they say.
Thank you, I say.
But that’s like being grateful
for your dark hair
or the symmetry of your lines.
Those are things you can’t control.

When I take my makeup off
I know
this isn’t me

There is someone we all are,
someone in between,
in between the flawless
and the raw.

But I’ll keep on pretending
and maybe you will

I would like to


childhood bedroom
Nokyoung Xayasane

I would like to enter
your childhood home
enter your old bedroom
and sit on your lap
with your mom in the other room
I tell you I’ll be quiet
but I lie
though not on purpose

I would like to lay
everything before you,
go on my knees
in front of you,
kneeling before you

I would like to straddle
that line
with you
walk that line
with you,
skip back and forth
on that line
for you
at your leisure

I would like to feel
the violence of you
the fast and hard
of you
the gripping flesh
of you

I would like to pitch
with you
into pitch night
with you
emerge in holy
morning light
with you

I would like
that nothingness
with you,
a deep rest
with you

I would like for you
to turn to me
and say nothing
to me,
absolutely nothing
to me

mostly though
I would like to lie
next to you
in your
childhood bedroom

I would like for you
to get up
at last,
and I will hear
the patter
of soft soles
and the clinking
of china in the kitchen

mostly though
I would like for you
to return to me
and maybe
you will bring for me
a tall glass
of water

we can never go back


Nokyoung Xayasane

I went back once
to visit my old elementary school.

I remember the wide fields,
but there was only a small patch of grass.

I remember the brick and mortar
and all the rooms filled with light.

But now nothing.
The school had burnt down years ago.

There was no stray brick in sight,
no pole with a flag waving in the wind.

I didn’t get out of the car.
There was nothing there to see.

But there were those
endless golden days,

those Easter egg hunts,
margarine sandwiches in the late afternoon,

books upon books in the library,
messy high and side ponytails.

There was that boy crush
who finally held your hand.

There was a girl once who ran through
the fields, laughing.

There was that feeling
of needing nothing more than what we had.

That’s how it is,
the past, a dream we’ve made up.

We can never go back
no matter how hard we try.

you finally choose me


I am happy for you
Nokyoung Xayasane

I am fast asleep.
I try to wake up.

Someone knocks on my door.
No one’s home, I say.

I am half asleep,
thinking about you.

I have a dream
where I am happy for you.

In the dream, a miracle occurs:
you finally choose me.

I wake up without you.
You are still with her.

I am fast asleep.
We are together again.

no evidence of you


Nokyoung Xayasane

I’m getting ready
to do the laundry.
I’m washing
the sheets.
The sheets are
from Monday night
Tuesday morning.
There are these
relics around me.
There is a guitar
in the living room
that my ex gave me.
There is a lamp
on my bedside table
that a lover bought
for me once.
There are these
dried flowers
roses and white tulips
baby’s breath
hard twigs
and crispy leaves
tied with a white ribbon.
The tulips
were given to me
on a third date.
The roses
were handed to me
by a lovelorn man
on a street corner.
I tie them together
into a bundle
into a bow
on my little table
by my window
as if they are
one and the same.
They are.
They are
the relics of
hope and desire
and love and loss.
I look around
for relics of you.
There are no gifts
from you
no keepsakes
no evidence
no proof.
There once was
a bruise on my neck
on my chin
that I hid
with makeup.
I thought my date
at the time
would notice
but he did not.
He isn’t as
observant as you.
You are sharp
you pretend
to be dull.
You are wise
you pretend
to be foolish.
Why is there
no evidence of you?
I sit
in front of my mirror.
There you are.
You are unnoticed
and you are
I get up
and stuff
the comforter
back into its casing.
White fluff
twirls and dances
in the open air
by my window
in the sunlight.
No evidence.
No evidence
of you
at all.

black coffee and cigarettes


black coffee and cigarettes
Nokyoung Xayasane

You like
your coffee
Now I do
You sleep
Now I do
I didn’t know
you used to
The day
you quit
was the day
before our
first date.
I didn’t know
until months later
that you removed
all your piercings
except for
that one.
I would forget
you don’t like
to read books
and you hated
Love wipes
our memory.
There is only
white light
and this bright
You became
someone I wanted.
I was always
who I was
except for that
black coffee thing
and the sleeping
naked thing.
And all those
punk shows
with you
on stage
with your guitar
and me
standing in
the audience
like a sleepy groupie.
Oh, and the drinking
of beers.
I never used to
touch the stuff.
That’s all you.
Now I wonder
if you’re smoking again.
Have you put
those piercings
back in?
Those are things
I wonder and
those are things
I would prefer
not to know