Poetry by Jamie Anderson


Vacuum your bachelor 

suite. Encourage the gasping, 

smashed machine to suck

up the discoloured fingernails 

scattered across the floor. 

Take out the trash, a bag bursting 

with your mother’s hair,

nod hello to the dead tabby living

in the stairwell. 


Show up to your dinner date with a hole 

picked through your cheek.

Let the ragged shreds of skin 

dribble into your virgin Mojito. Order 

the “pasta el pesto” with extra 

garlic bread. Apply red lipstick 

to your raw, chafing lips, smear it 

over your chin when you take a bite.

Split the cheque. 


Ask the doctors if they can heal

your mother, who is coughing up 

blood. Be reminded, benignly,

that she has been dead five months.

Ignore their concern over the humours 

seeping from your eyes.

Take the proffered prescription and 

do not stop running,

even when your bones slice

through your legs, stripping 

the muscle into thin, scraggly ribbons.

My mother carries her anxiety in brittle

fingernails, her throat’s sagging skin, 

her grey-stained hair. 

She carries it in her children,

two time zones away,

she carries it in the pandemic 

she’s been calling for five years 

and the six KN95 masks tucked 

into her purse (in case five break 

in a row.)

The morning of her flight

my mother arrives at 11am, expecting 

a four-hour delay at security. 

She checks a suitcase, brings a carry-on 

and purse because she will need 

sixteen pairs of underwear, six pairs 

of jeans, four bras, and a bottle

of gin for a weekend visit. 

There is a layover 

in Vancouver, which means

that she must board a plane 

twice, await its malfunction

twice. It means she will call 

her children in the airport, confirm 

four times that they know when to pick

her up, order “poorly cooked” fast food 

that will languish in the worn leather 

seat beside her. She won’t consume 

her meal, too conscious of the pink

threaded through the chicken.

Instead, she will file her nails 

into soft almonds, nose tucked 

into a teal scarf as she sits, breathing evenly.

In for four, hold for two, out for four.

I leave to pick her up an hour early,

in case of a catastrophe 

on the road. I spent

my morning scrubbing 

a spotless house. 

On the drive, I tap my 

threadbare wallet every time 

I pass a mile marker. 

When I arrive, I pick

at worn, stumpy fingernails, 

and circle the parking lot over and

over and over

and over

and over and






At midnight, curled in my sheets and dozing

off, I felt a wash of pressure grasp my

lungs. A choking cough began composing

in my chest, forcing me out of bed. I

stumbled to the bathroom, fumbling for the switch

then draped myself over the sink to retch,

and heave, scrabbling at my hollow chest, which

did not stop the cough nor its brutal edge.

The strain rose up my throat, and I realized

this sickness was squirming, a living mass

intent on expelling its oversized

form, not caring if it caused me to pass.

I hacked up this writhing lump of mesenchyme,

it oozed away, flecking my counter with grime. 

1. No one told me what wanting felt like. No one warned me how it would feel to cradle you on a leaden afternoon, napping in the center of a frostbitten field. It felt like discovering my own bones.

2. Our third date was at the dump. You dragged a beige, moldering couch six kilometres back to the basement you were squatting in. When we pushed it down the stairs the plywood base splintered and squashed a colony of rats. We toasted to your good fortune by roasting their tails, and you saved the pelts to make a jacket.

3. I wanted a summer romance, but I met you in November. I fell in love with the veins that stood out in your neck. You called my scabby knees beautiful, and my shrill laugh exasperating. You told me summer would be in November soon enough, the way the world was going, and offered up a handful of angie. 

4. For our sixth month anniversary, you pulled me around for a week, wandering where your whims took us. For dinner you coughed up pieces of your appendix and cut them neatly into quarters. We slept on the shore of a polluted, gasping lake and welcomed the sludgy tide as our blanket. I went home feeling that a piece of me was missing, like I had given my core to you and gotten only a scattering of viscera in return.

5. When I wanted to go to Olive Garden for Valentine’s Day you called me a capitalist whore and a slave to the fascist machine. Later, you choked me out behind a confessional in the remains of a catholic church. I got off on the smell of soot on your fingers.

6. You only came into my apartment once. After stealing my brass jewelry and scorning my offer of Kraft Dinner you lay on my twin bed, pondering the end of the world. Asking the ceiling if anyone would remember your name in ten years. I wanted to shriek that I would, but I was brushing my teeth, and my throat was clogged with peppermint.

7. I want to give you hope so badly. I want you to cup my pleasant childhood in your ragged palms, sip from the goblet of my everyday life. I got you a job at my café, but you got fired when you threw an americano at a climate activist. I gave you my childhood journals to inspire optimism and you used them for kindling. When did your eyes go vacant? When did mine?

8. Eight years after my therapist convinces me to break up with you, I will pass your corpse festering in a ditch. You will be more rat than human being.

9. I will not remember your name. 

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