Capacity by Joel Robert Ferguson

 Poet name: Joel Robert Ferguson Poem Name: Capacity Poem: A friend of a friend from out west comes calling to the verdant college town where I live like a bandit king, where I drink wine made from dumpstered apricots by a stone bridge over the Speed River (or was it the Eramosa?) I read Max Stirner, pack on  ill-gotten weight eating stolen wheels of brie. I’ve forged a new aristocratic, deadbeat identity. while the southern Ontario summer sprawls, leans into farmland, stretches its arms and yawns. I have sticky fingers. I smell of rot.  I believe I am happy. I’m probably not.  I never meet him. He leaves  his backpack on my porch, heads downtown decides to swim the Eramosa or perhaps the Speed. He’s young and able  and a chance current buries him  like a blade deep in the river.  I walk the gravel paths of the Eramosa and Speed that night— calling out  a name I have no face for  the ritual to conjure life.  What rise instead are Latin names for rare diseases that singled out classmates in the first-world backwater of my childhood. I return to the small-town, non-denominational  services for the silent girl from math class  loved fiercely by a few close friends, for the high school principal’s outgoing son, his football teammates in the front pews.   I resurrect the yearly contractions of extended families, elderly neighbours  who fell into black-hole retirement homes. A friend lost her father in pre-school. Assuring everyone how little she thought of him set the rhythm for her nervous tics. The sick and old became less themselves in well-mapped increments. Surviving  was within their capacity, until it wasn’t.   All of this followed naturally, in stages with grief counsellors and pamphlets at every milestone— reading from their scripts made sense of life. The spell breaks with morning. He is found  downstream a span, tangled in the town’s  flotsam. I see the gurney they carry him away on, the black sheet  that covers him. What remains, awaits— his army-green rucksack on the stoop with its boundary-stone weight.  End of Poem.  Credits: Copyright © Joel Robert Ferguson Published in The Lost Cafeteria, Signature Editions, 2020 Joel Robert Ferguson is a writer and student of working-class settler origins, whose poetry has recently appeared in The Columbia Review, EVENT, Queen’s Quarterly, Riddle Fence, and Wells Street Journal. Raised in the Nova Scotian village of Bible Hill, he now lives in Winnipeg, Treaty One Territory, with his partner and their three cats.