Strange Things Done – Anna Maxymiw

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
– Robert Service

I don’t know a goddamned thing about Kandahar.
I told you—the only desert I’ve seen is Nevada.
I wore hot pants, popped amphetamines.
Were there roadside bombs? Of course not.
I don’t know Panjwai, basic training. Protocol.
So what? We grew up differently. Stoicism versus sin,
dirty long braids to crew-cut. But we’ve both shot guns.
We’ve grabbed each other’s throats in the dark.
And I know, true and stark as a firing pin,
that there’s a race of men that don’t fit in.

Well, me neither, buster. This woman has gotten her kicks:
black spruce, deep muskeg. The rifle range.
The time between the first and next elk call.
But there are some things that are universal—
Loneliness. Fear. Waking up damp and paralyzed.
I know the search for escape, the need for thrill.
There’s always something to run from:
The black beast. The shrill heart.
The bad nights. The sleeping pills.
I know the pulse of the race that can’t stay still.

I’ll want those heartbeats. Turn cartographer.
You: Dreams of bases across the country.
Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Honduras.
Nightmares about long-range strikes, finger on the trigger.
Me: Dreams of ungulates and quinzhees,
rutting season and phosphorescent tail fins.
Northern Ontario to Northern Ireland, Nevada.
Nightmares about the man who liked to corner me.
You and I know how to grit our teeth just to grin,
pretend, so as not to break the hearts of kith and kin.

I’ve never slept beside anyone but you.
Strange things are done in the midnight sun,
stranger things still in the time between rippling
sleep-talk, between two damp pointer fingers,
the harsh bones of my pelvis tilted up to yours.
I know your night terrors, wide throat. Your smell. Still,
I don’t know a goddamned thing about Kandahar—
just the need to touch my upper lip to your clavicle.
To tilt into your body. To wave my white flag, until
maybe I can ease your need to roam the world at will.

Anna Maxymiw lives in Toronto, Canada. Her writing has been featured in The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, Maisonneuve Magazine, and Hazlitt Magazine, among other publications. You can find her at annamaxymiw.ca.

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