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Keep Your Distance

Tom Cull + Kerry Manders

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Keep Your Distance is a conversation between two cities and two friends. It was born out of another project that was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit: Tom and Kerry were planning return trips to Treaty 29 territory (Huron Country, Ontario), where they each grew up, to excavate the disparate meanings of “home” and “friendship” via images and words. Stay-at-home orders prevented that homegoing, so they decided instead to investigate the future home of their nostalgic longings – i.e., where they are now, the respective neighborhoods in which they’re locked down, the city streets they endlessly walk together, apart. Keep Your Distance is an attempt to consider, close, and crisscross the space and time between them.

Tom Cull (he/him) teaches creative writing at Western University and was the Poet Laureate for the City of London from 2016-2018. Tom’s first collection of poems, Bad Animals, was published in 2018 by Insomniac Press. Tom is the director of Antler River Rally (ARR), a grass-roots environmental group he co-founded in 2012 with his partner Miriam Love. ARR works to protect and restore the Deshkan Ziibing (Thames River). Tom is also an editor for Watch Your Head, an anthology of creative works devoted to climate justice.

Kerry Manders (she/her) is a Toronto-based writer, editor, and photographer. She contributes to The New York Times, T Magazine, The Advocate, and Aperture, among other publications, where she explores various aspects of queerness, mourning, and photography. Her first collaborative chapbook (with Brandy Ryan), After Pulse, was published by knife | fork | book in 2019. She is currently writing a mourning memoir.

2×4^2 © Collusion Books, 2021. ISBN 978-1-7772244-9-3 (digital).
All rights reserved by the named contributors. Editing, design, and layout by Andy Verboom.
Collusion Books operates in Kjipuktuk, Mi’kmak’i, the traditional, unceded, and unsold territory of the Mi’kmaq.

"Sky Door"

opens a rip chord:
something wants in,
the other out.
The key is metal, bone,
or is it vine?
Its yearly dying
is a trick;
there is always
if only I was sure
that my head on the dream
was a door.

Dark Matter

"Dark Matter"

Between teeth
the mouth opens
spiral nebulae
black tongue.

The river always
rolls you over,

we took a hiding,
pulled our coat
over our heads,

the king of fur.



you haul across
town is a fixture.

That red is not red,
is the colour, the shape
we looked for up
and down Parkdale.

In the future, we
gather things first,
build the house,
around them.

Phantom Limbs

"Phantom Limbs"

Quite the rake I see, holding court
confident as rock-hard abs bring
all the boys to the yard.

He weaves crinoline cages,
hoops skirts for a bustle of flowers
lighting up some seasonal collusion

or the void of missing drawers.
Pumpkin grease, queer eye –
either way, he’s got his game face on.

Missing limbs settle the score of
an odd gambling debt,
or trophies for some jealous rival.

Maybe they’re tucked in Tupperware –
a prosthetic Tickle Trunk
or the spectre of safe keeping,

the open secret undrawered.
The neighbour kids come ‘round
All Hallows’ Eve for trick or treat

(either way, they know he’s putting them on).

Locked Down

"Locked Down"

The inward eye
saw badgers.

We clawed then
under walls

we could not

the tunnel a portal
its broke surface fangled,

a golden daffodil
snorkeling the air.

The Business of Legitimacy

"Princess and Pea"

odds stacked against her
such piled, bruising distress
how to measure up


suss out singular
ashes to etcetera —
what if the shoe fits




Everything went downhill
The crocodile always
wanted to eat the most fish.

The equal sign means
what it says:
two pullies sideways,
winched lines pulling
equivalence closer—

like the gully’s top and bottom,
and the stream that cuts
bottom and top equally,
is what math is:
gap and gash.

If two trees fall
in the forest, hear
the first crash,
but not its echo.

The chainsaw
Always ≠

Trash Panda

"Trash Panda"

By day, she takes up
outside the fence
weather-worn black boards
its hot pink proximity.

Passersby mostly pass
her by, consider:
trinket, tchotchke, trifle, toy
(Made in China, natch).
Grieved or grieving –
lost or Lysol
curbside pick-up
(“free to good home”)

Under cover of darkness,
her band of racoon brothers
descend trees, declare her
“one of us,”

garbage the
night of their week.
Collective animi roam the city (limits).
Default denizens
of narrow alleyways –
land of misfits, territorial,
combing tree-lined streets,
ready to rumble
trash pandemonium.

Sleepy insomniacs
raiding midnight snacks.
Nocturnal footfall,
clandestine hacks

lock eyes
through panes of glass –
a gaze or
an embarrassment.

At daybreak she assumes the position,
leans into the pedestrian,
and you tell stories about her.
In welcome
or warning –

arms scale the difference
between what she is
and what you make of her.

Keep Ur Distance

Sky Door