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Strong Beginnings

Excerpt: Probably Inevitable by Matthew Tierney

We are collaborating with Festival of the mind Luminato, and reaching out to Canadian writers to find out about the decisions they made when choosing to open their most recent works.

Here is an excerpt from Matthew Tierney's collection of poems Probably Inevitable. Afterwards, be sure to check out our Q&A with him about how he decided to open this collection.


Note to Self

Thumbnail image for Post-Probably Inevitable.jpg
They keep reminding me you’re without foghorn. Unlikely
his missive will end before you've determined it’s possible
to navigate by hi-hat alone. Bad idea. Cymbals aren't usually

cymbals, they’re mermaids. Inland we've taken to mounting
birth certificates to establish the thickness of drywall. Thus far
mine (ours) hangs askew from last month’s tremors, nothing

a dog lick couldn't set straight. While boiling broth today I heard
eighth notes mingle in a downstream draft. Thought to myself:
all art aspires to the well-crafted pop song. Then a supernova

went off and optical fibres bobbed like anemones in the deep.
It’s been one petit mal after another. But enough about me.
How’re those chilblains? Tolerable? My support group says

ailments I've blamed on you are narrative issues in spite of
the unforgiving arctic wind. You’re captain, you've shouldered
a yeoman’s share, I should cut you some slack re: the untimely

loss of my cockatiel. Steadfast above the long-range forecast,
its pitch-perfect imitation of our doorbell’s reveille never failed
to move me. Now I’m hours on the ottoman staring at its cage

until an intestinal jab sends me to the low-flush. So depressing,
waiting to rehit the button like some percussionist. You’ll be
happy to learn I've cut out the supplements, though (my mistake)

I bought in bulk a year’s worth of birdseed. My nutritionist,
she’s high on ancient whole grains, I can never stock enough
tobacco tins of quinoa or spelt, so naturally it got me thinking -

Okay, that part’s made up. Never allowed a pet, was I? Please,
no sugar-coating, explain what you meant by Incompatible
with your peccadilloes. I admit only a weakness for pink noise

and a modest collection of boosted artwork. This tristesse,
black bile, what you under Munch-red sky write off as o-c,
it’s my strategy for keeping time. Mostly I can’t get over how

the toilet’s gargle sounds like a hectic call centre. You’re tacking
along Big Sur or Ha Long or Hadselfjorden, your head turns,
wake feathers past the bow, you’re not sure … yes, an echo off

porcelain tiles. Suddenly I've lost count: how many honks make
a metaphor? Don’t answer that. I wouldn't want you abstracted.
It’s me who finds the Sleuth of Baker Street a bore, the dean

more fortune’s fool than clown. Joint rasp, lid spasm: also me.
Sun in sync with a sawtooth vee (where does this come from?)
like a rusty chest retractor, you squint against snowcap glare

as regrets grow melodious, take a hard look at the lead goose…
Right. Enough about me. You can see the cheque’s made out
to cash. After much internal debate, I left the memo line blank.

Excerpted from Probably InevitableCopyright © 2012 Matthew Tierney. Published by Coach House Books. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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