Genuine Person


That the house I live in is an old colonial thrown together by a Texan and a lumber baron, not knowing the first thing about the Pacific Northwest or its weather,
that after a hundred years of mould and flooding the building manager’s son smokes menthols all day in his white leather racing jacket, squatting in the shade of one of the building’s two Roman columns, repeating each time I pass him that all fear is irrational and ergo, ergo, ergo, that he ditches his crushed canned Caesars in the flower beds for the moths to have orgies in, and that when they emerge, resplendent, beautiful, leafing the air like a backstroke across rain-light, he steps back, blinks at a passing argosy of pollen, licks some canned clam from the corners of his mouth,
the clearwing moth that looks identical to a hornet he calls a hornet
because hornets buzz, are yellow with black rings, are larger than bees, ergo, the flying insect with the long dangling legs must be a hornet, that by the same logic for not being found on Instagram or Facebook he calls me a Genuine Person, which I say sounds like an award a business school would give out, awarded to the student most excellent in performing genuine personhood, feeling more like an assault when I repeat the words later while touching myself on top of the bedsheets, watching the moths levitate from the mushroom compost of flowerbeds to outside my bedroom window, hum electrifying, anamorphous plume of moths proliferates, assembling a figure unlike any one particular thing but a thing’s premonition—does it feel then, like a moth,
or is it even referring to anything at all
besides a parenthesis? I’ve always thought of the body more as a capacity than any solid formed thing, a hum, that at the quietest day-lit hour when the sun stands like a visitor awaiting direction—sit here, eat this, stay—pauses as it mounts a dead fly in the shape of an apostrophe or a discarded fingernail, a closing quotation having finished what needed saying right there on the tracks of the windowsill where I Cloroxed a week earlier, maybe it was the Clorox that did it, or maybe the mould,
a hum that even now, as an abandoned nest of torched rolling papers flaps in lieu of stomach lining, hangs off my bones for words to make into a song, that is, when words arrive, if words arrive, a hum that buzzes unlike any one particular thing but a thing’s premonition,
that even in the dark, while the building manager’s son sleeps next to me, I see the ceiling fleck and shudder as the moths dust their wings, our bodies a parenthesis, skin to hold a thought in a sentence nobody has ever finished,



Clayton Longstaff’s writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications including the Dalhousie Review, Canadian Literature, PRISM international and elsewhere. He lives on the unceded territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations.


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Honourable mention in the 7th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.

The End

Honourable mention in the 3rd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.