"Evening Shift at the Gallery"

Margo LaPierre

Margo LaPierre is a queer, bipolar Canadian poet and editor. Her debut collection, Washing Off the Raccoon Eyes, was published by Guernica Editions in 2017. She is newsletter editor of Arc Poetry Magazine, membership chair of the Editors Canada Ottawa-Gatineau branch, member of poetry collective VII, and a poetry selector for Bywords.ca. She is completing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Her work has been published (or is forthcoming) in The /temz/ Review, Room Magazine, filling Station, CAROUSEL, PRISM, Train, and elsewhere. She lives in Ottawa.

Intuition (oil on canvas, 2003), by Canadian artist Eliza Griffiths, appears within this poem, which is set in a gallery. The subject of the poem and the subject of the painting both experience their alone time interrupted by someone who sees them deeply, whose gaze keeps coming back to them, and who seeks to possess them (or does possess them, as the owner of the painting also owns the subject of the painting). At its most basic level, this poem is about a person working the closing shift alone at a small gallery when an ex-lover walks in, someone with whom they were deeply involved, whose presence fills them with equal measures terror and desire. When that ex-lover bends over for a closer look at the Griffiths painting, our gallery worker feels just as caught as the subject in the painting.”

     You train your boredom on the seal
     of the door where gravel creeps. The bell.
     A spiked moonbeam pings off a shined loafer,
     splits the wafer of cold air. You don’t know it’s him yet,
     are only vacantly aware of your half-smile and the closeness
     of this minuscule room, its finite worlds and
     expensive selections of brushstroke, keloid hues
     you’ve come to know nightly over the past weeks
     taking a broom to the floor once the door is locked.

     Recognition blooms from your skull. He sees you
     in surprise. You stand stunned, a pillar of memory.
     Where are you, my sweet angel, almost here? he used to text.
     He misspelled it every time, though: my angle.
     You see his face, hear an echo, and your cool dissolves.
     Your legs make the decision, you leave him there
     speechless with the unlocked door and unsupervised art.
     You bolt yourself in the office where your heart bleats.

     Shit, the Griffiths, that thing’s worth ten grand
     You picture the exact opacity of the cyan cheek, her eye
     rimmed and wary under a blanched knuckle, reading.

     He is bent with his hands behind his back, his face
     burrowed in the aura of her blue neck, skin folding
     into paler rhythms, her figure reclined and ready, reading.

     He is older than your nightmares portray him.
     But his voice: Hi. Longing, redolent of loving, floods you.

     His shoulders square to you. Still painting?
     You nod. Mm-hm. But mine aren’t blue.