Excerpts From Public Works




men and women, teachers, hospital workers, politicians, people who shop at Loblaws, cake bakers, people who are retired, vulnerable, lost, who don’t know the names of things, pretzel eaters, artists, people who’ve been to any kind of gallery, who ride bicycles, subways, people who walk on oily gravel roads, get parking tickets, pay, have fallen in love with paramedics, people who are intimate with the mouths of flowers, people compelled to watch the academy awards disgusted, who watch news on television, people who want attention without saying so, whose bodies fill with anxiety like a liquid, who love something that won’t leave them and something that will, warriors who take vitamins, ambivalent people, scared people who do things, anyone willing.


does it happen?
A person gives 43 years to a place
of work. To a job. 43 years.
How? It happens
one coffee at a time, one bagel
toasted. One pen at a time, one typewriter
then one computer. It happens one
mimeographed sheet of paper at a time
and one paper shredded. One
photocopier at a time. It happens one
more coffee at a time and one more
face at the desk. One story at a time,
one tear, many. One rage
at a time, one thank you. Somebody
else’s arrival and somebody else’s
retirement. Somebody’s baby, somebody’s
death. It happens and then
one more coffee, one more 2 o’clock
in the afternoon. One more lunch
eaten at the busy desk. One more year
of winter walks to work, one more
year of raw throats. One more meeting, yet
another meeting. It happens. Somehow.
A person spends 43 years of a life.
She gives and spends. Makes a life.
43 years. One at a time.

But then how do we say goodbye?
One meeting at a time,
counting down to the last.
The last lunch. The last time I say:
see you in the morning.
We count. Driving ourselves, each other
crazy with goodbyes, last times.
The minutes fill up with goodbyes.
We say goodbye with everything.
One story at a time. One tear at a time.
One at a time. One of us
at a time.