The City Tries to Sleep: Poetic Essay

The city tries to sleep tonight but the lights are still on. The lights on Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue and Argyll Road and Stony Plain Road glow effervescently, making tall shadows along the concrete, blocking out the stars in the sky.

The city tries to breathe but it coughs through its smoke stacks from the refineries east of Capilano and when I stare out my window on those nights I try to sleep I can see the tall flames from burning waste and cough a little myself when I think about what I’m breathing in.

It’s hard to sleep when you’re this cold, and the city knows this better than anyone else. It’s blanketed only in snow and heated only by streetlights and the sun sets at 3 p.m. and I wonder how I stay awake after the sun sets. I count the hours from when it rose and wonder if daylight savings actually does anything to capture more sunlight or if it’s just some joke knowing we’re all going to be left in the dark for far too long eventually.

I try to sit in silence, hoping the quiet will relax the city but screams of laughter and wails of overindulgence carry over, echoing like explosions in a battlefield. The young drunks fall out of the bars, it must be down time from Fort McMurray and their paycheques burn holes in their pockets while the city wonders where the money to fix up its old roads and make bad neighbourhoods safer is going to come from.

I stare out my window, slowly sipping my scotch, and watch the drunks tumble over newspaper boxes and kick down street signs and I know that any hope of quiet relaxing the city has ended with a drunken screaming in its ears.

I wonder when the last time the city slept was or if it has ever slept at all. Does it ever get that moment where it’s no longer covered in snow and the light doesn’t glare in its eyes? Does it quiet down and it finally get to breathe a solid breath? The city is always moving and somewhere someone is always screaming. I wonder if the city ever wants to stop being a city? Does it ever just get sick and tired of the noise and the light? Does it ever get a chance to stare out its window, slowly sipping a scotch?

The city tells me that it constantly needs to move and constantly needs to do all the things a city does. If it ever stopped, for even a second, it would feel like it were somehow less of a city. It looks to other cities like Toronto and Vancouver and wants to achieve all the things that they’ve achieved as a city. People love those cities, why can’t people love this city? I tell it that some people do love this city, but sometimes they get tired and just need to stop and sleep. The city wishes it had that luxury.

The city’s still awake and I stay awake with the city. We watch the drunks under the streetlights whose shadows scale along the sidewalk sending signals that they’re on their way to their beds and a restful night’s sleep. I sip my scotch slowly and city tries to breathe deeply, catching its breath through the smokestacks. We’re both exhausted, the city and I. The city’s still motivated to be a city and take the gleaming lights and screaming echoes. We’re both blanketed by snow. The city’s finding comfort in this cold.

They city tries to sleep and as long as it’s awake, I’m staring out my window, sipping scotch and trying to stay warm.

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