from / THE VENTS / 

by Craig Blais

from / THE VENTS /

by Craig Blais

     on the school bus to avon old farms the coach comes down the aisle and mouths

“what are you listening to?”  i pause on my diskman and say “nine inch nails” 

he repeats “dire straits?” and i don/t correct him  “we/re starting you on defense

tonight” he says      i skipped tryouts and am on jv  because a sport is required

there are players on both sides who are new to the sport  you can spot them

by their shaky legs and postures awkward as newborn deer  all game i hang back

and let them come to me w/ their heads down      i skate backwards slowly and time

the pounce that will drop them like bags of rattling plastic and pads onto the ice

as the puck glides slowly into the corner      when i used to play football w/ gerry/s

friends in the park i liked getting the wind knocked out of me  someone bigger

would drive me into the ground and suddenly the simple gift of breath was gone     

you look around through the aquarium glass at life going on normal all around you

laughing smiling talking you can/t quite hear then suddenly  gasp  yr alive again


/ / / /


my dad stood on the boards to get his head above the plexiglass to yell at gerry

during his hockey games  it was the price he paid for being a goalie a static target

in a game of constant movement  he wasn/t like that w/ me but i was always

afraid of what he/d do      i knew he teased me to connect      threatening to sign

my permission slips top gun until i was pleading w/ him “don/t don/t don/t” 

walking past a teammate/s sister on the way out of the hockey rink he/d say

loud enough for anyone to hear “check her out huh?” and knock me on the arm 

i wanted him to disappear forever  you can imagine the guilt i felt when he did


/ / / /


it/s dark on campus when the bus pulls into the parking lot      after everyone

disperses i/m waiting w/ my bag and sticks in front of a medieval-looking window

w/ some latin words in a gold crest  mary comes outside smiling to quiz me

“i think this one says no parking  violators towed at owner/s expense?” “bingo

i didn/t know you know latin   but i should have guessed w/ a name like mal” 

“it means bad in latin”      “malfunction malpractice malaria”  the moon/s teeth

flash white through the trees mary loves fugazi she/s fourteen and she/s from dc 

her parents can/t tell her what they do  the night sky is top secret      when my mom

pulls up in her gold astrovan w/ the red spray paint and popsicle stick glued

to the side i say this is me “i know” mary says      “the girls call it the pudding mobile


/ / / /


a faces of death video my dad and uncle bob watched w/ me and gerry told me

everything i knew about rich people and international places  the scene started

w/ four tourists at a round table accompanied by eastern music and the clinking

chimes of belly dancers      a man stuck a bill in a dancer/s waistband like a stripper

while his wife in a string of pearls threw her head back in maniacal laughter  a waiter

clapped twice and a man walked down the hall holding a monkey by the shoulders

it squealed and flailed its head like a child throwing a tantrum  locked in a stockade

table it screamed until knocked unconscious by a wooden mallet and the top of its

head was sawed off  the camera panned to each person at the table as they placed

a morsel of brains delicately into their mouths swallowed and flashed their perfect teeth  

/ / / /


i read three hubert selby books and another by jean genet called a thief/s journal

before my english teacher suggests i branch out and lends me midwinter day  

by bernadette mayer      it has notes in the margin that make me feel i/m being

let into a conversation  when legible  it/s one long poem covering a single day

in the life of the poet as she goes about her business running errands writing

and caring for her children in lenox mass next to the outlets where i go w/ my mom

mayer shifts into her children/s point of view to anticipate their wants      all the wanting

put on her  the whole way through mayer/s day i think of my mom and my teacher

and why he recommended it to me  i think about who pays for this  who pays

for the indulgent pain the domestic epiphanies the feats of creative endurance

and genius that results  i think of a quote by genet  “being a thief is banal

but writing about it is magnificent”  this to me seems true for bernadette mayer

finally on page 106 she reveals “we publish books and a magazine united artists

we sell our letters we apply for grants   lewis/s parents send us a hundred fifty dollars

every month”  someone has to pay  it would seem dishonest to harvest yr daily

life so thoroughly but leave that out  as for me my mémère is paying for my school

she works all day as an electrical parts assembler then she takes home piecework

in the evenings  i never hear her through the vents but i know she/s up there

in her amber-hued apartment soldering circuit boards at the kitchen table and breathing

toxic smoke through the evening so i can read secondhand books and meet girls

from far away mémère believes in a potential my mom sold her on that i can never

live up to because none of us know how to define it  if you think her sacrifice

makes me work harder yr wrong    the weight of what she tries to give me will

cause me to crumble like someone who doesn/t really want to play who is pushed

onto the ice and immediately run over by someone who doesn/t want to play either