willow meets avery ˑ small hours of the morning ˑ taxis flock to the byward market
the blood hits the water at two in the morning –
that’s when the bars close, and
when the drunkards spill out into the night
stumbling and fumbling and limping home,
mumbling and tumbling and searching for keys
lisping and turning and rumbling,
zippered compartments and purses
(and more often than not, simple clumsiness)
keeping them out of reach.
The blood hits the water, and the anglerfish come out.
watching the phones come out
watching the wallets extract
watching the cash get counted.
sleek black anglerfish, headlights on low,
swimming the streets
just like me.
two in the morning in Ottawa-
might as well be four
this is a city of government bores, more neckties than nightlife
ordering dinner at nine is late
and downtown shuts down long before.
all in all, it’s a terrible place to be a shark
dipping and weaving and never stop moving –
even a little one who can’t get her eyeliner right
and steals from her clients
more than she sleeps with them.
Here, looking pretty on a street corner
mostly just gets folks concerned about you –
I’m exaggerating. For effect.
Nobody trawls like this anymore –
not if they can help it
they place ads like real people
on real webpages with prices and negotiations-
But idiots looking for trouble
(and money, and food, and a way out of everywhere)
fall back on borrowed knowledge and guesswork.
An idiot who hasn’t fixed her makeup all night
or put her choker back on
or done much other than fuck in a bathroom
and empty out their wallet
and call it something it’s not.
(if I was smarter I’d have dressed for the weather
if I was smarter I’d have done any of this the safe way
if I was smarter I’d have done any of this differently
if I was smarter I’d be dressed like a boy
(somebody called me a sex worker
a few nights ago
and I had to try not to laugh.
sex workers are people who have their shit together.
i’m just white trash in a skirt.)
The blood hits the water –
The anglerfish come out –
I’m trying not to be a target
it’s amazing what you learn on the fly.
don’t stick out unless you want to
don’t draw attention
don’t accept help from strangers
and never be the last one standing
A taxi pulls up next to me,
lowers their window,
asks if I need a ride.
It’s like they’ve never seen a fucking movie.
Which girl am I today? Trick question –
if I’m not smart
I’m the slut dead in the gutter
the scare chord to start the film
spattered with blood, scattered limbs
(only girls get to be final girls)
(be kind to yourself some familiar stranger
in the back of my head
And this jerk? They’re just murderer number one
with their serious gaze and long hair –
silver-pyrite crucifix on the rearview mirror
silver-steel ring on their finger
bitten nails and dry-skin knuckles
(and, the thing is
I don’t hear any murder behind their eyes.)
I could waste my breath and time
telling them that I’m broke –
so skint broke that I ate out of a dumpster yesterday
and that I’m worried I’ll freeze to death
because I can’t afford the bus fare
and that I’m saving the fifty bucks in my pocket
for the hotel rent I can barely afford.
I could. I could. I could.
(I know they’d listen. I know things –
I wish I didn’t – I want to be ignorant
a little taste of the bliss I’ve forgotten)
Instead, I walk away, and they follow me
engine-purr rising up behind
I just want them to leave me alone
this is a movie this is a movie
“you should stop trying to kill yourself,” they say
in my head
and in my mind.
where I don’t let anybody go.
I could waste more breath telling them to piss off
that I don’t talk to other psychics
and this is exactly why –
but there are so many lovely gestures
that say exactly the same thing.
(my breath rises up in front of me
in the cold march air
the movie ends, the credits roll –
I’m still here
and so is the anglerfish
with its warm and tender light.)