Rachel Evangeline Chiong



Poetry is Our Second Language: PST! (2016)    cr: @pamdungao

Poetry is Our Second Language: PST! (2016)
cr: @pamdungao


(education and language)

I found home in grooves of paper
Yellowed by beaming sunlight touch
You draw my lines, you map maker  
Pen stabs my palm with every clutch

My lullaby language captured
In orthographic uniform
Veins choke on crisp collars rupture
buttons break ribs where two conform

I will paint my words on my wrists
Hide letters below my elbows
Propaganda on fingertips
Blaspheme your maxims from below

Your lips sweat foreign languages
But my cool skin remains pristine
phonetics pander the vanquished
But you stare at class back at me

tanaga i

Olive salt surprise assault
Empanada sensation
Crumbs apart , tectonic faults
Earthquake, flavour creation

My Best Friend’s Dream

My best friend is a Filipino chef
When I burrow into her borrowed sweater it smells like bay leaves were buried in its wrinkles
Receipts tucked into its soft pockets
Crinkling like fresh rice paper
But she doesn’t own a restaurant
Her apron smells like beer
Brown, grease stains mapping the corners of its white ocean like unfortunate continents
She switched her sit down and dine dreams for cold sticky bars
And she never told me why

No family reunions crowding around her tables
No suits awarding her golden stars
instead star studded youths spilling out her chairs
piercings snaking up their earlobes
The air thick with swearing and alcohol
But across the bar shrouded in an cavern of licorice colored bottles the ends of her lips like a beckoning finger curled into a smile
and she never told me why

She’d ask me sometimes
to man the soundboard,
Her sweet banana pepper breath on my cheeks
as she leaned in close to hiss the set list over the noise
Perched on my stool
I watched the bands come and go like seasons
their own weathered genres filling the space like passing clouds
and on my centered orbit
dishes flew by us like meteors
and as singers sang milky melodies into our galaxies
I never had the courage to ask her why.

Until one day, as I stacked the cups
a phone call came up
Her voice sanded with sickness relayed
she wouldn’t be coming in today
I feverishly assured her I could take over
Fumbling lumpia rolls between my thumbs handing them to customers in cardboard boxes sheepishly
As the night wore on, her name began to bloom around my cheeks
blushing as customers asked for her,
the emptiness grew all the more difficult to fill
so despite the coconut oil fog
I reached for her sweater and leaned back, smelling vanilla under her hood
out of habit, I slipped my hands into its pockets,
And crushed the receipts on my fingertips
Pulled them from her pockets and wondered why she kept them
I looked more carefully and discovered
Nestled in its wrinkles
drunk scribbles in two words, to lengthy letters addressed to her
seconds later I learned her food hadn’t found residence in magazine gloss,
but made home in her customers’ stories

I learned
How my best friend had healed a hundred break ups pains with halo halo
How she had underage teenagers under her wraps feeding them turon instead of cigarettes
How she had diffused fights with offers of shaved ice ube staining purple bruises on their lips rather than their fists
How bands would always get paid, if not by the organizer then out of her own pockets

I slipped my hands into her pockets
knowing she chose an underground bar when she could have had the sky,
and I didn’t need to ask her why.

“The UC Review” (2015/2016)

“The UC Review” (2015/2016)

light years

I am an eastbound commuter,
Chasing the rising sun,
Watching milky-colored skies
With sleeping, dreaming eyes
Still hazy with starry residue
Layered like delicate tiramisu
Little lights hiding behind icing
Twinkling, thinking that I
might be missing Mississauga
While the moon’s phases stamp
the sky-searching for me
seatbelts secured on Islington pillars
far away from the yellow horizon
two first stars of the front car
To a university universe downtown

Claustrophobic caves sleeve the subway
The blackness an expanse of starless galaxies
This is us racing at Light speed
heavy highschool years melt off our shoulders
Old school pluto tumbles off the radar
From Kipling to spadina

And I sigh
on creaky knees and heavy eyes
St. George rolls in with its green tile Eden
We wait for the doors to slides apart,
And the air smells like dusty galaxy,
They say my destiny is a lie
But look at me now
I have arrived .

“Poetry is Our Second Language: Our Bones” (2015)

“Poetry is Our Second Language: Our Bones” (2015)


When we stand at the edge of the universe
and feel the star dust
ebb and flow between our toes
We, the Filipinos,
Brace our shoulders against celestial wind
Our bodies are darkened by millions of kisses from the galaxy
While our fingers comb through
Hair, thick and wavy washed in rivers of stars

From a top our island home we
glance down at the planets beneath us,
bobbing in their heavenly swimming pool,
limbs out stretched,
Saturn’s arms clenched, her rings rolling on her wrists
Mars’ two moons squinting back us
The Earth beating like a heart
vessels stressing around the sapphire muscle,
as its rhythms match out racing hearts

Behind us Spanish red meteor belts
blossom into space
and deep British blue dust clouds form
Their debris whistling in our ears like
gun shots
driving us away

When we leap at the edge of the universe
and kick the star dust behind our heels
Elbows locked, knees braced,
Comets scrapes against the hull of our boat
we leave behind our beautiful sky
tattered by red scabs and blue bruises

When we enter the atmosphere
Thousands of ancestor stories will whistle in our ears,
course through our bodies,
While Earth races closer
And the dawn dawns on us,
bracing for impact
Waiting for that resistance to resonate violently up our soles
and into the spines of future generations
we will ride the blood-rush through twisting streams, red, ruby rivers and spider-web inlets
Screaming at the top of our lungs as we teeter at the edge of the world
And feel our worries and fears for a moment become weightless
as we grab onto the lips of our boat and plummet down the waterfalls

The drones of our lola’s and lolo’s will flat-line peacefully
when we moor into the cave-like canals of the heart,
Feeling peace like still waters throb around us

We will kick our feet up on the wicker edges of our vessel
Gazing at the thin clouds
To the endless blue that swallows the edges of the sky

We are missing our families
Nursing the comfort that we
Look up at the same sky

Our hearts will flutter as the breeze whispers through the looser seams of this boat
Wishing one day we would be able to leave this dying heart behind
and paddle against the atmosphere

Somewhere , Up there
where we could watch
the earth beat
to our beats
to the rhythms
of our rowing

But instead we sow stars
hoping one day among clouds of sampaguita
galaxies might come bursting out of fields
and their fruits will explode with milky way and honey

But instead we are angels
looking up from where we have fallen
from the edge of the universe
scattered onto the vascular ridges of this heart

Our fingers trail the water
Watching our stories like the ripples begin growing

We are going
And nowhere
Knowing that
our flowing
Is only another wave kissing
the paddles
Of our rowing

tanaga vi

We recreate the big bang
A blossoming supernova
Made of dying songs we sang
Future trails lined by lava




Dark magic

We never talk about the beginning in reverse
Where the world was a Panasonic white
A camera flash caught in time,
and God placed his fist over his mouth,
and blew through the hole,

"Let there be darkness," he whispered
And the tendrils of his breath, black and curling,
seeped into the cold light,
molding it into shapes, shadows tucking itself
into every crevice

"Let there be darkness"
And the undifferentiated white turned ripe with vibrant hues
And the oceans grew a deep blue
And the sunsets a fiery furnace

"Let there be darkness"
And it cracked light like an eggshell into weeks, days, hours, and minutes
And every morning became a gift
And every evening became a promise

"Let there be darkness"
And the stains of sin decorated the earth in tie-dye color categories
And graveyards became beautiful because they were gardens of finished stories

When I find myself in the bright eternal afterlife
I'll ask God if we can have a private chat,
so I can ask him about creation
Genesis one to one

So when he answers with his holy, omniscient tongue,
perhaps all will be all right again

But still I might miss the life
where our best kisses were in the dark
Genesis one plus one

I would have never known how beautiful the world was
if I didn't know how ugly it could get

i pray

I pray that the skies will be the only thing blue about your days

I pray that whether or not the weather weather’s you down you will have the choice to cover up or take off

I pray that every smile you receive will be sincere

I pray that hand shakes shower your social life with a chance of good fortune

I pray that money flows like streams of tap water, pouring when you need it

I pray that your ice cream will be cold,  and your showers hot

I pray that the warmth of your radiators breathes blank canvasses on your windows

I pray that you will graffiti them when frost fans the fringes of your panes

I pray your buses arrive

I pray that the roads are littered with crushed cans instead of car crashes

I pray your buses arrive

I pray that the streetlights will be our midnight aesthetic

Instead of lighthouses

I don’t pray that when you walk home, you feel safe every hour

I pray you are safe

I pray that the only spaces you will need to fill are between another’s fingers

I pray that when the ground crumbles beneath your feet you will be brave enough to catch yourself

The Listener

He grew his finger nails long so he could pluck the vibrations when his favorite band played
Talentless, he called himself
Concert cockroach, fly on the wall
He couldn’t music at also
Coarse voice, Clumsy fingers,
But his ears
He couldn’t music at all
But his taste was impeccable
His chosen tracks were a matter of fact therapeutic
Their beats beat pleasant pulses it was addictive
Its synthetic could sooth the soul but they were never his
At open mics he would write lyrics in his napkins
Then watch the ink feather into cob webs when he tore them apart and threw them away
His closet was a collection of
Keyboards collecting dust between the cracks
Nylon guitar strings uncoiling like his confidence
Resin boxes crumbling like his determination
Every show he attended ended with his need for recreation
But the sensation fueled frustration
When it crashed into another obliteration
Until one night
At the train station
A woman whose palms were as wrinkled as the concert ticket in his pocket,
Asked for change
But stopped him and said , “you sir are strange,
You may think magic doesn’t exist but sir have you tried this?”
A pack of pills, one wishone dose, immediate bliss

His piano cracked back into place
He Braided his guitar strings into melodies
The stage was the altar of his creativity
Lyrics water-falling from his lips naturally
He took one to four pills each night and didn’t choke because
his taste was impeccable
His tracks were a matter of fact therapeutic
Their beats beat pleasant pulses it was addictive
His thoughts tangled into technicalities of their strumming
The triads seared into the soft flesh of his brain
He grew his finger nails long so he could scratch him in order to feel again
Until one gig
A woman whose palms were wrinkled like the concert ticket in her pocket
Stared up at him on stage and
shook her head and said
“you sir are dead”
And left, his heart echoing like an empty drum
He searched for the music
and found none
I saw him at a coffee shop the other day
He was tapping his toes to jazz
And trimming his nails


I am a dark flower,
Why did you pick me?
my petals are evening purple among
sky blue pansies and sun kissed daisies
Why did you pick me?
now my roots are naked, dangling,
shivering in this early winter

When we first met
my roots grew deep
under carpet twisting
like the knobby knees of oak trees
tight like lymph nodes in my throat
when you first sang to me softly

When I rested my petals against your palm
my ears began humming
like the pipes of the radiator where I
warmed my blood vessels
which spilled into every tear
of my personality
yet consistently
my roots threaded them back together
I wish we could be together forever
but you might pull my roots so far apart they would no longer reach other
(it’s not enough
we’re not in love)

I can’t stop thinking about how these hairy roots are anchored so deeply in our conversation
my heart beats
with every syllable of your words
marking the stress marks
on every syllable my throat hugs
following the flow
of every syllable as they tumble
from my lips
because my linguistics has me split into earth quakes
scattered across the crevices of my brain
and hidden in these caves
little drops of japanese
they graffiti a mix of hieroglyphics,
But like the Egyptians I plea
Iwyt nyty
Everything that is,  and everything that isn’t is absolutely everything
Darling, I would give up absolutely everything
But when I peer into these phonetic pools I want them to drown me
Because my tagalog can only tag a long
when I’m chasing after you
I guess you were right
only English will do

after you plucked me out from the ground
I saw your face,
like a sunflower tilting its chin towards the summer sunshine
I gazed at your captivating rays,
and wondered why you chose me
when my petals are so dark
when you needed color in your life
when my roots were so tangled
when all you needed was someone
to straighten you out

snow day

Let’s pretend that it’s snowing,
global warming turned to global warning,  
A Great Wall of Grey beyond the horizon rumbles towards us like a giant gloomy ocean,  
We rush out of our front doors
shivering in flannel pyjamas and t-shirts
while the glowing TV inside warns us to stay indoors
We raise our phones up like lighters as we race to document the event
of the pregnant storm swallowing an Ellen DeGeneres blue sky
until cloud everest blankets the world in a suffocating good night

If this is the end of the world
we didn’t imagine it would feel like this
sockless feet in clammy sneakers
and goosebumps on our features

Because when the snow began to fall
the flakes reminded us of memories
floating down one by one, faint phonetic delivery
until they pour in ceaseless fevery
The snowfall show-all of our past
The featured film,  rated ‘A’ for all of us
the number one hit in holy cinemas
with VIP tickets for two
God and you
as you sit back together and watch the storm of sins
cover the world

and there will be no where to hide
as snow begins to fill in all the edges of the city
side walks and roads merge
Streetcars like sleeping beetles begin to disappear
Every chinatown alley wiped off the map
Bloor is buried by the bulk of
white winter’s wrath
Yonge is howling as the wind
squeezes through slim sections of sky scrapers,
this is the Santa Claus parade that makes us all afraid
On that Christmas when we wished for fortune
we wished for wizards
the day God decided to turn our sins into a blizzard.

And when the storm stops,
when the terrible documentary of your life fades out
and God pauses, right before the credits,
you will hear your heart beating in your ears
like the silence before everyone in the theatre
realizes the movie is over,
But you know that this time that silence will never end
And all you see on the screen is a scene of everything you’ve ever loved
covered in snow
You will walk through the different shades of white which were once streets,
mouthing their names on your numb lips pretending to map them in the piles of ice
as you search for the beginning of anything in the endless expanse of white

If you could look God in the face,
would you resist
would you say
The snow apocalypse?
This is it?
Where is the fire?
Where is the brimstone ?
Where are the sinners screaming for forgiveness?
Where is Jesus flying down in his blazing entourage ?
Where are the trumpets,  the angels,  the wrath of God?
Because even Noah got to hear the waves lapping against his ark,
no one ever warned you about this part

that your sins would be so silent.
that every excuse you screamed would slip and disappear in the silent icy slopes.

Then one by one the flakes will fall again,
freezing the tears on your face, as you brace yourself for the end
But this time the prequel shows on screen,
to the scene when the beginning of the end was born,
that stranger in a manger is your savior,
and God, who sits beside you,
who holds your soul in the hollow of his hold,
is the father of that staring role,
because if our sins are snow then His son is salt,
and his final act melted away all our faults,

if you had known the end of the world would feel like this,
like hope living in your soul’s stony precipice,
like spring whispering on the edges of the winter’s gloomiest
would you have wasted your life
lying in the snow?
When all this time Jesus was calling you inside
to keep you out of the cold.


Winter is almost gone
We endured every day like medicine,
drop by drop down our tongues, hoping that one day,
the snowfall would turn to snow falling drop by drop down the trees
which cup each flake as if it were a child
like you were held as if you were a child
when they laid you down,
on icy, lifeless stone,
and wrapped you in cloth,
separated from your home where moth
nor rust does not corrupt
because no sacrifice could measure up
to you

Did winter settle into your tomb,
like the millions of whispers
which shrouded the hushed afternoon
Did it seep like the guilt into the bones of people who knew
that your father would rip the temple curtain in two, looking for you,
Did the earth tremble as he scoured the ground for the warmth of the beating heart of his son
Did everyone wonder if you would really come back to life?

Cause every Easter
your death still lingers like winter
The aftertaste of this medicine is bitter,
in a place that we cannot reach
And after every sermon that we preach
our guilt resurfaces like
worms after every spring storm

While you slept
Did you smell the moss on the walls closing in on you,
Or did you feel fresh air whistling through the cracks of the stone that sealed you in
Did your middle eastern winter taste like cool, bitter winds
like the winter we drank like medicine
drop by drop down our throats
until it lived in our lungs,
making our vessels shiver,
as we told ourselves:
just one more day,
just one more day,
Did you tell yourself:
just one more day
just one more day
until the third day
when the linens
slipped away from your body
like the snow slipping off the branches of trees
Your eyebrows stirred like caterpillars in their cocoons
The roses on your crown of thorns began to bloom

light years

I am an east-bound bus passenger,
Chasing the rising sun,
Watching the milky-colored skies
With sleepy-eyes filmy from dreams
Still hazy with starry residue
Layered like delicate tiramisu
Little lights hiding behind thin icing
Thinking that I might be missing
Like I’ll catch home sickness in civil twilight
When the sun faces a different face of the earth while the moon’s phases stamp the sky-searching for me
But the day-dreaming GTA is too close to ground level

I am a south-bound commuter, my control center conscience careening at the curb
My seatbelts secured on the islington pillars of the subway far away from the yellow line
The yellow horizon guiding the two first stars of the front car towards the university universe downtown
Our telescopes reach as far as our wifi
The intercom responds when we sigh
The tired voice says
Today we’ll shuffle the shuttle bus way
The train delays
Are our rainy days
The tracks are always grey
On the other side anyway
But I can’t stay

I am a front car sitter facing forward to the future
Spaceship, rocketship, spacing out by this door, while I rock back and forth
I see my stops before we stop
First class seat when we bullet speed down these tunnels
Claustrophobic caves fitting the subway like a sleeve can’t stop me when I see in its blackness an expanse of starless galaxies and we’re passing them at
Light speed
And these light years melt off our shoulders because the heavy highschool years are as old school as
We’ll go where this leads us down the bloor-danforth line
Where every stop is a pocket of passengers boarding and filing our
Time capsule
Lead by our robot goddess
Our intercom co-pilot and
I am learning her language:
Royal York
Old Mill
High Park
Dundas West

And I sigh and I grin
On creeky knees and heavy eyes
Wondering how much we have aged
How far have we traveled into the future
As St. George rolls in with its green tile Eden, even then, my rocky balance unaccustomed to zero gravity makes my way through the travesty of passengers
We wait for the doors to slides apart,
And the air smells like dusty galaxy,
They say my destiny is a lie
But look at me now
I have arrived

Bad habits

When I asked my friend from Vietnam what his first impression of winter was

He said he loved the smoke
The vapor escaping from between cracked lips,
I was smoking without smoking he said

At that moment I emptied my lungs and watched my breath spiral upwards into towers
Staring at these sky scrapers I had grown used to

I told him I shared the sentiment
But I didn’t
And we kept walking

Downtown disappeared behind us
Skyline silhouette swallowing our shadows
What happens when their shadows become part of a daytime routine
Toronto clock face , the CN tower’s slender shadow ticking across the cityscape
I could sit beside city hall and feel all four Seasons bathe my body in the span of 12 hours and not give it a second thought

Towers are so proud of casting shadows
Sometimes I wonder why we can’t be

There is no shame in blocking the rays
The darkness spilling from your toes to the cement
It only meant that you had flesh and bone

I am so sorry for forgetting my friend who followed me everything morning and lead me home in twilight
I am so sorry for forgetting that every puff was a cloud part of an atmosphere encasing a living planet in my belly
I am so sorry that when we parted at the intersection I forgot to tell him I’d see him next week

But when he disappeared into the shadows
I wrung my lungs until the breath trickled out
I am so happy to be alive to witness my shadow
Because you cannot cast one when
you are buried ten feet under
I am so happy to be alive to see my breath
Because everything dies in the winter


There is a perfect world hidden in the wrinkles of our lives
Winking back at us as the train whisks out of the tunnel
It is in the silence between our songs
It swims in the laughter which echoes into the ceiling

The perfect world is unexplainable, like a teary smile it is breakable
It is both happy and sad and in a moment gone

One day I said,
I would grab a net and capture it,
the perfect world squirming between my palms and examine it

I looked between its scales,
silent subway rides skirting the city without delays
The days were clear
Skies deep like pools of glitter ocean
No sky scraper obstruction,
no Tower of Babel trying to touch the clouds
No smoke choking the layers of the atmosphere

The perfect world is a long, peaceful exhale
I checked under its tongue and heard voices
Sweet as melodies dipped in honey
Cool as coins tossed on concrete
Machine humming underneath
Bird songs every morning

I held tight onto the perfect world
Wanting to memorize its impeccable anatomy
Amalgam of all the things dear to me
It had no injustice, see,
No bitterness, no pain
No unspoken words, no hate
No fear of getting older

But when I turned it over
My blood went cold
I tossed the perfect world back
into the wrinkled recess of time
Wiping it’s stain from my hands
Hoping to never see it again

Because the perfect world lives in the tunnels we leave behind
Sleeping in the silence between our songs, swimming in the ceilings
I wrung my hands incessantly trying to shiver off that feeling
Because the perfect world didn’t contain a single human being


I wish I was a door
Not a window of opportunity,
Just a door.
Because then I’d be…
My brass embellishments
Glinting like fountain pennies
Curling like vines , hugging my corners
Yet made out of old wood, I would be keeping all my forest secrets doormant
Hide my own never land, my Narnia,
Yellow bricks don’t determine my fate
I am doorothy, I have met the wizard,
He hides behind me all the time,
Even when we’re alone
Because I know there’s no place like home
My mantra for living is the door way,
My boyfriend a door keeper,
And when I marry him door bells will be ringing down the hall letting everyone know that I am home

But I am also an exit and
I shut  ever so quickly
You will watch what you’re leaving behind linger in your eyesight,
Until it disappears completely
I am nostalgia,  sayonara , hesitation, and regret
I am counting off years off the top of your children’s heads
My sides pencil marked with their heights when they were at the heights of their childhood
Until your sight lined up with the final grey slash
I am the post you lean on when you realize they grow too fast
But I was the one who lead the way I am the mast
When they say goodbye to home I will be the last
Because I am future and past
But which side is which you will have to choose
(I have no responsibilities I am only a door.)

When I grow old I will have knobby knees.
I will pine at lingering kisses,
I will lock one way or another when you leave
For the mistakes that you wore, I am a fedoora
For your birthday parties, I am adoorned
For your everyday hobbies , I am a doork
Your amigo, I go where you go, I’m the map, the warrior, doora the Explorer
And when family and friends fill you house with love and laughter then leave I am doory Ill just keep swinging just keep swinging just keep swinging swinging swinging and shut.
I wish I was a door
Not a window of opportunity
just a door.


On top your timber fortress,

Can you hear the lullaby?

It surges above planks of oak,

Grabbing at your toes,

The flows of its melody will drag you down.

Can you close your eyes and imagine music pouring into your ears?

Ocean sobbing the song like an opera,

Millions of seashells rattle against your boat like a drum.

Is the music loud enough to drown out their last words,

Which swirl in your head, to the beats of their beating on your doors,

When they pleaded you to let them in.

Do you still feel guilty for shutting the door,

As the voices of your friends, neighbors, and enemies extinguished with a thud.

You rock back and forth to the lullaby

That put mankind to eternal sleep,

Who fought so hard to stay awake,

Kicking at their water beds and clammy covers,

Until fatigue’s fingers clutched their hearts

And shut their eyes,

So they could sink to sleep.

The ground is rumbling like a multitude of monsters, or just God clearing His throat, for a moment did you fancy that He was crying for humanity, when really

You are just as guilty

And maybe he’s spitting at the entire world for ruining his day

But at this point you don’t even remember what day looks like

The boards rumble from the thousands of animals below

Their restlessness

Shaking the timbers

Your family cowers in a corner,

They are searching for strength like

Scouring the ground for pebbles,

They are trying to crush their heads

With hands against their ears

To drown out the music from outside

You’ll watch your children hold their children

And rock them back and forth to the lullaby

And tell them to dream about home

The whites of their eyes will be the edges of the moon

The torch light shimmers on the scales of dinosaurs

shining diamonds on the rafters so they can pretend those are stars

The soft furs of mountain cats and bears will be their blankets

The birds the tapestries

And your wooden, make-shift world will breathe as every being breathes as every timber weaves as the giant boat heaves against the roar of waves and nightmares

When you gaze out the window,

Searching in vain for the horizon,

Knowing that the roiling ocean has swallowed the sun

What moisture trickles down your cheeks?

Relief? Now it’s finally over, the years of pivoting in greyness and ridicule is over, and there was a flood after all.

Or guilt, scared that the powerful creator of this apocalypse knew about your doubts,

Saw right through your thoughts as if they were mist,

When you imagined leaping over, because it would be all over,

If you fell into the waters’ welcoming arms

And let the lullaby rock you back and forth to the bottom of the ocean.

But this is the point of no return,

Your heart swells like the waves as they stretch out their arms to embrace your ship,

Breathe in seismic geysers, lightening, and apocalypse

Because even water-logged pages can still turn

It won’t take you an eternity

To realize that this is just another arc

To this story.

The endless author of the universe

Will rock you back and forth to his lullaby

In your wooden cradle

Letting you sleep peacefully

Until the sun breaks

dear god

Dear God

The city has forgotten You,

You have become hidden between


Lost among a swamp of jokes


Who is Lord of everything

has become a word to express

anger, disdain, and bigotry

given up for things more flashy

smothered to avoid humility

and most of all missing in the city

Where in the darkest hours,

the street lights are the angels

and hell is a train delay

Where sin is as clean pressed and well kept as suits off King Street

and gates to the afterlife are hospitals lining University

Where people go to Church Street on Sunday morning

to nurse their hang-over’s with close company

and Yonge and Dundas spills with heads that bob like fish

Confused; are we koi or conmen?

Swimming on the heat waves

Drowning in the sky scrapers

It’s difficult to care when there are so many

in this genetic pool.


So caught up in celebrating our


We ignore the one thing that makes us


So quick to compete to see whose

festival shines brightest in July heat

We forget to regret our fallen forms

that are ever present as six o’clock summer shadows

that only grow longer behind us and

seem to disappear in alleyways

As much as we like to think we are salt of the earth,

melting the snow that will wash away sin,

Toronto beats in our hearts,

pulsing like the subway lines infused in our veins

We are not as saline as we think we are

As if we are astronauts, in heathen-proof suits,

waving to aliens on the moon, as they tilt their heads


How can they trust us if we cannot even trust ourselves?

God, I plea

Use us as your commodity, give us

hearts that welcome opportunity

and the grace to turn them down if need be

Just recently we

tested the chemistry between us and the neighborhood

We hope with full sincerity

that our friends won’t be annual only seen at BBQ’s and parties

We find ourselves so lost,

in our culture-colored ocean,

Pan am parasites infect it with

swollen traffic and multiplying festivities

We discovered the diameter of the world is much wider than we thought

and we feel so small when we stretch our arms out,

hoping that Jesus’ cross-taught arms were long enough

to encompass those he died for

Because we sometimes get overwhelmed

and cower back to our safe living rooms and suburban snow globes

Where we can control the chaos,

Because we sometimes feel uncomfortable among

friends who live two-day weekends

and sleep in on Sunday mornings

Give us courage to sing your wake up call

Make us proud of the gospel

that could flood the shelves of any library,

shame the walls of any gallery

expose any mall’s dishonesty

outlast any museum’s history

Because there is another city greater than this one,

Where we do not need street lights for safety

Where we do not need trains, since we will always be home

And every street will be church street

and intersections will be paved with jewels brighter than the sea.

But to see that city, we will have to wait a lifetime.

So in the mean time, we will teach

them how to use Your name again,

in Jesus name,