Register Saturday | January 16 | 2021

One of the Only Places Left Uncrowded

New poetry from Tess Liem.

The screech of a garbage truck left me

in a sleep where I am held

by the same thing that gnaws me. When I said

I was still clamouring in the first draft

of my life, I meant everything I trash

will soon have me needled and pinned.

Tomorrow feels like it could be not-haunted

but so far it never isn’t. Months ago I saw someone

carrying a tote bag that said be courageous,

it’s one of the only places left uncrowded

But why not just say most of us are scared.

Put your arms around me and say it.

Me and my trash, we’re warped

through a world that wants neither of us.

We proposed ourselves temporary,

a town of throw-aways, but we didn’t find

a way out of being thrown. Me and my trash,

we like to think we’re good. We’re growing

into a kind of crowd wanting

the way the wind scratches us to be the future

shedding itself of our longing.


Tess Liem’s writing has appeared in Plenitude, the Boston Review and elsewhere. Her 2018 debut collection, Obits, was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the A.M. Klein Prize. She lives in Montreal on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territories.