POEM & STORY by Jeremy Stewart ... poem: “When Hamburger Speaks”

When hamburger speaks, most are deaf
to the squelch and suck as other bodies
traverse their own. Prices
fluctuate but not enough to translate
into any real difference.
I had this body at one time—now
on ice, along with a rich deposit
of bad credit. When credit goes
bad, your whole fridge needs
bleaching in the worst way. When
hamburger turns, revolution is
made visible all along
the network (these excruciated faults).
When prices take their turn
for the worse, bodies are liquidated
along with all other assets. Not natural
processes, true, but clear enough
to hear above the ur-music
of ice and other floes.

for Ken Belford


Notebook Refigurer
1. John

The grind of the engines under me. Pushing the machine through the water, reaching me as thick sound. Zip up my fly in the men’s room of the Omineca Princess. In here, cold damp vibrates in the sound while I leave, opening into the glare off the lake. The water has ice floating on it and a green that is deep and black. Crossing here, I am on the way to see Jayne in the cabin there across the lake from her Mom’s cabin. In her Mom’s cabin the walls moulder. It slips into the swamp like a disremembered phone number. Lake winds knife me through my thin jacket on the deck. Jayne is there on the other side in the cabin her cousin’s parents built and I am going there. A slow grinding heave brings the ferry to the shore and a dead stop. Float back. Lock down. I put my notebook in my backpack again. I step to the platform without waiting long.

Not dressed for this weather, I walk quick down the dirt road past the failed gas station there with its antique pumps and smashed signs. There is a tension nearby, or I myself. Anticipate having to duck under the door, thinking of it when ducks begin to sing or speak on the lake to my right. The cabin is not tall. I have to do something else, I guess, for awhile, I think to myself as I round the bend in the road toward the house, stepping along like a man who has badly to pee. Jayne will treat me tender and give me beer. She has a place for me in her heart where I belong. I am never late to meet her no matter how I try. I feel a sound like the ferry, a rock n’ roll drum sound, all around the part of my thoughts that goes to the cabin door, ducks, and meets her.

II. James

He wondered why there was still no body and how he had come to know, or to feel so sure, that there would be no body; that John, to whom he had not talked in years, was not at the bottom of Francois Lake. James looked at his watch in the stark fluorescence of the OK Café. It was time to give the small, bent man his money and open the door. Unlike John, James could drive, and he had not hitchhiked to South Side across the lake as John must have. The notebook was a sheaf of paper on the passenger seat of his white Cavalier. The binding was long disintegrated. James had found it on the floor in John’s basement in a pool of water. It smelled bad but read well.

III. James searches for John

A hum and a hiss, a broken thing wheedling along beneath me in the underneath part of the machine. Here is nothing; but piss stink and mirrors bending my face back to me, in a way; I don’t like. They call her a Princess but she’s just a boat. She is a ferry Princess in a middle-of-nowhere. ‘I cannot be in a city,’ I say silently as I open the notebook in the lounge of this bad-smelling place. My fly is down and I suspect it, but I do nothing. The pen in my hand is warm. From my pocket. The light off the lake hits me in the eyes and shortly I become unable to see the black that watches back, pretending to be green inside the lake. Mouldering.

The door shrinks in the basement of the cabin if you turn off the lights for too long and don’t go back to the door too long to make sure they will be unable to prevent you from leaving. They shrink the door according to a method I don’t understand and when you come out, you can’t come out and can’t leave. I want to see her over there, Jayne, in the cabin, but I am also afraid of her. I am in love. I hope she likes the words I bring on a page totally unlike this one that is enclosed in a card to share my tender feelings. She will give me beer and a bath in the stars. There will be movies and groping in the night. Don’t come after me, Mom, I will surely join the stars in an unforeseeable place. You didn’t know I was about to have such an experience. She and I will not go to her Mom’s cabin because the door remains wide even if ducks bark on the dark black lake in the green.


Jeremy Stewart is the winner of the 2014 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry for Hidden City (Snare Books/Invisible Publishing). Stewart is also the author of (flood basement (Caitlin Press 2009). His work has appeared in Geist, Open Letter, and filling Station. Stewart is the General Manager of the Prince George Symphony Orchestra. He tweets to the void @jeremydstewart.
The festival of experimental music he runs: cassetetefestival.com.
The music school he directs: dreamlandschoolofthearts.com.