Gillian McCain


Happy birthday, dear


Happy birthday, dear
thanks for the money
it lasts so much longer now
what with the rise of the dollar
do me a favour
and stop brooding about the time
I slammed the lid down on your fingers
your father and I are becoming
datedevery time we look at each
other it's an excuse to get wasted
hope you enjoyed the box of Laura Secord assorted
but what is really important
is getting a letter
of explanation re what it is exactly
you do for a living


Otis In Absentia



My daydreams have a man in them,

he studies me quietly, like a scientist, through many years.
He undergoes several incarnations, through wars and births, through funerals.

My daydreams are filled with overdubbed moments,
so many faces I have smothered to inspect
myself against features as hot as it gets
lost in the gloam
           of brand-new vignettes
                        then sunrise, curtains drawn


I position myself like a kid watching cartoons
and stare through the picture window into the head
of the comrades, my party planners. Otis crawls to the foot
of the ledge, winks, but I do not wave to him.
            How can I miss him if he refuses to leave?
Later I will come inside
and our cries will splash through the bordello shutters like organza dripping off
a bent leg. A piano solo will begin
                                                            and one of him will raise
his glass and one of him will choose door #3 and one of him will
continue to simmer over the state of the bougainvillea
since the crackdown on our borders,
and as he searches the pool for leftover crashers I focus on
his hands, splinter-savvy and proud, presented the keys to the town,
literally, splayed palms gathering refugees, but his fingers will
belong to me.


So many of my dreams cannot resist a pretty face.
           Flutter of heart, feathered bed, uncut lysergic, opal boas,
                                       an inside joke across a crowded bathroom,
the mounting evidence temporarily forgotten in the glove department.

                                                                                                                      Two kids
who have never been properly introduced to the world, we are so happy!
Otis adores the Dutch bootlegs, and perhaps because of
his somewhat girly attachment to death, our wake
up calls no longer signify danger.


The dead living in the minds
of the alive, dreaming;
                                    the comings,
the goings and the alternate endings.
                                                               More on that later.
“Well, let’s see: I started at nine and quit. Then got back to it
when I was twelve. Then I became a party star.
In fact, I became a party!” Seasonal work
yes, and nice if you can manage
to stay awake during it, what we need is some
of them high school fat girl diet pills (triangular, orange)
                                   an early warning system, different renderings
                                                            of electric birds,
vibrates in response to see page five
                                               a gray shanty
painted lilac         the moat
surrounded by sea glass piercing the occasional foot
which is proof in itself of trespassing
which is proof in itself of being wanted.
Our car? Totalled.


                        My twelve                   my twenty-three
my nineteen                and the multitude of screens, one scene

begins in a secluded bungalow at the Chateau Marmont
where we search everywhere for Grand Marnier

our first true pilgrimage; the moon casting
light on the crawling ivy, the Marlboro

man transmitting messages for we
both agree his is the only

opinion that carries any
weight around



                                                          A firecracker tossed "gently"
throws off sparks, they are purposely off key we are seeming-
ly off the record, pressing ahead,
to drifting by means of inflatable wings,
stay with the foot no matter what it hits if one must
dissolve at first glimpse of that upcoming ground
c’est la fucking vie!
                       Upsy-daisy, upshot is hours
blurring quid pro quo, floating in pool, house arrest, halogen
                 a great trip requires only one molecule and possibly two halter-tops
this notion of Canadian girls lacking business sense?
            Fuck you.


                                   The smell of your hair in hot sun looks so good on paper
and one of those strands equals a century of good weather, our uprising begins
in the hinterlands, on a property we immediately dub Shangri-La

I adorn you in darts and cars
and the scent of Shalimar and the scent
of the whole she-bang. For you and I thrive
on calculated risk, forever managing to fall into place
though differences in height and bloom time leave no room for opera
which is all just the work of teenagers and this languid ocean air
didn’t say we didn’t like it, said it was simply a matter of time
before they stop returning our calls, stop filling our scripts
                                                           until we procure proper papers

How many excuses come built-in to any given car? You said you
did not need the lights, you knew the canyon by heart, side
streets straight as a rule, typical Topanga circular
(“this place is spooked”), Mercury’s in retrograde, the map said nougat
when it shoulda said caramel, they took down the signs, changed
the legal limits, goddammit, who pulled the drawstring down?
a typical streaking dream, tender skin lodged between here
          and Tijuana.


Our comrades seal off the fireplace,
tape up the chimney, tune it so it sounds as bad as the one back home
draw straws to settle on suites, shrug off daylight saving time
the governor’s daughter drops by for dinner, she is slightly more
liberal than her own jokes     it’s not all seize the day around here
            more often than not it is night
more often than not it is fairly low key
                                                               later on
pictures will be discovered but only two will be brought to light


Dustproof, soundproof
           wide enough but just barely
                       I’m occupying May Britt’s closet
yesterday I learned how to properly peel off an elbow length glove
during the heaviest downpour in California history, a piece of trivia
destined for the sleeve notes.

                                                At noon, before Otis
is up, the Malibu surf creeps up on the squatters
down for the count, stick figures with pinched nerves,
drained by sleep, a dirty girl rinses herself with ocean
as days before a daughter of perched on heated Moroccan tile
and dipped her toe in the family whirlpool painted coral
by a Hungarian manicurist. 
                                   I’m an alien here myself; who am I to tell them
to leave. I’ll merely give them pocket money. Louis B. Mayer
spent his directionless youth in New Brunswick; we both left for America.


to be born and live as variously as possible.” The idea
            being that love thrives on impossibility.
I am a mistake in theory only. I won’t give up the blonde
in me I am pacific coast royalty I am a girl arriving backstage
in a Biba dress & Judy Garland shoes I am the best years of your life
I am a great admirer of your work I am on your face
                                                          when a smile appears
I am a shoo-in for lost love I am the keys to the kingdom
I am the cause of the goings-on I am the reason you’re going down
and the reason you get up I am myself
            only ten times better
I am your waitress at the Troubadour who just quit I am the girl
whose cheekbones always reflect the light
                        inside the hacienda surrounded by rhododendrons
where the San Andreas fault ends and the Santa Ana winds


As I watch
the storm rip the fronds off palm trees, my mind seeks refuge
in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel. One glance at the chaparral
                   wandering off the point        
                                                       toward the mouth of the canyon
                                                                                                     adrift, plural
asphalt ignition, circuits gone haywire, just the mere scent of
eucalyptus cracks us up      it’s a curse, actually, to see
what is coming. Sudden changes in speed
and direction, the final stretches drifting
further apart, even the birds have
electric in response to the booing         

We’re talking
twenty-two miles of coastal frontier, all in a matter
of seconds, off we go, but whatever you do, please don’t fall asleep
                                                   before we get to Point Dume
just short of striking distance, somersaults not yet optioned
this is no place for children—much to our amusement—power
lines memorized, give us a break, this is only the first
read-through, flying by the seat
                                                    of our dune buggy, face down
in the dunes, one earth sign, one water, one no longer looking
so shootable, the other no longer
willing to be shot.

                                              The hero, refusing to get his feet wet, 
misses his folks. There’s gotta be more it to “it” than this:
                                                                                   the hordes,
the spoof, the grumpy roadies scrounging for the final word,
                       our belongings strewn along the sprawl.
This so-called “natural disaster” was only a gateway
to the oncoming spiral   maybe it's time to head
back up north, use our real names
for a change; take some time
out to realize what it was
                                         we threw away in the first place


we met at a casual get-together


we met at a casual get-together
at Shirley Sutherland’s house on the beach
the after-dinner speeches had gone on forever
(“they need to fear our scent like they used to…")
(" be young and finding one’s niche”)
Walter Pidgeon pulled me aside, said he’d once been in
love with my mother                        
(“timing all wrong”)
                                    (“different worlds”)
Otis’s eye on me from the very beginning,
since my picture appeared in local paper
(first baby of the year), now here we are, finally,
in the same era, all expenses paid
(courtesy Hartland Observer)…

you proceeded to try not to be mocking
how many Canadians does it take …
punch line interrupted by the bombing
which later turned out to be a mistake
on retrospect Otis did all the talking
mainly about not wanting to be smothered
with leftovers (fuck the coydogs hollering)
the absence of trees made us hot and bothered

as did the sand clinging to the clean sheets
scratchy at first, but gradually quite sweet
tetchy full burst, until it migrated to the box pleat 

through this door one enters the food chain
(recent ambushings, critical juncture)
but unlike our peers we long to remain
wagging the flag of unbleached attention
just had to close my eyes, “think of Florenceville”
back at his place we put aside for our future,
talking dirty all through the instrumental

imagine how it added to our excitement
when Glenn Gould appeared, and made the announcement


One Year Later


Happy Birthday, dear
thanks to advanced medical technology
your conception was strictly theoretical
I do recall you hunting tadpoles, dusting your room for prints
You were always very dramatic as well as very musical

your father is just out of earshot             
rejuvenated by a brisk walk and a swig of vanilla
he knew your lady friend was trouble from the moment he met her
life here the same               
transportation a self-esteem issue,
daylight savings a mere formality
what we lack in ammunition we make up for in contingency plans
we occasionally detach then nestle back into position  

thanks for the check
            and the earphones?
Take a look in the mirror
I hope you are getting a bit of colour
Please drop us a line
And remind us
Exactly what it is you do for a living


Gillian McCain is a former Program Coordinator and Board Member
of the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church. She is the author of two books
of poetry: Tilt and Religion. She is the co-author (with Legs McNeil) of
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. A special
twentieth anniversary edition of the book is forthcoming in May. 




Published March 2016.