“Untitled” by Koby Braidek


Prose Poem by Koby Braidek


My lizard brain knows it’s beer he’s sipping. Instinct. But soon can and person become

indistinguishable—metal and beard, the leather face beneath, his stony eyes. Shapes

converge into an earthy mess, stumbling over themselves with sliding textures behind

a summer-turgid heat. I reposition my legs, the bell is pulled, and a viscous ribbon of

advertisements envelope him from above; from below the floor’s hard ridges slope wildly in

threat to pummel. I can’t focus well—my gaze keeps pulling sideways and back in

accommodation of the whole view. I squint; he’s pouring some daytime juice-beer, the

sweat of August heat smearing it into the blue seats below; a gradient ribbon from gold to

cobalt. Edges continue to recede behind the fumes and glare, vibrations shaking my back.

Slow roasting in a sun-blasted interior, windows hot to the touch, one reflecting a hand

tossing a fan side to side. Where can I get a fan like that? Back in Chinatown, probably—the

Northbound direction. Elderly women wheeling carts, steadfast expressions etched out in

wrinkles. Their choppy Cantonese. Cheap pork buns in Chinatown— among other buns. A

lurching knocks me back. I know where we are by the shadows the buildings outside, looming

shapes stamping out square holes over the boxed sun. A momentum thrusts bullheaded

through the years; stolid inertia. A heritage of fumes and glare erupting through the asphalt

in a grinding of alloy, tires, soot, and springs; front door exits, backdoor sneak-ins, long

Sunday waits, into an end seat; coffee spills, protein bars, textbooks, headphones, work

schedules and sidelong stares. A legacy multidisciplinary, multiethnic, and intergenerational.

My fingers drum on the leather beneath me, then on the standing-pole. Tires grip a concrete

nerve pathway quickened by use—a hardened memory firing easily. Time as rubber and

gears, leather and steel, mud rain. A decade of commutes crush down on me many times

more massive than the bus itself, affixed to a sedimented trajectory. I doze. Somewhere with

fig trees, a man tells me they should be ripe now, but everything I pick is spoiled and black

inside. I wake up. A trembling. The pavement might just crumble into useless grains of stone

and twisted metal before long, lack dust, evaporated gasoline— greasy, luminescent rings—

and its odour; that odour. I remember digging with the miniature construction-scoop in the

playground as a child. My activities stirred up tremendous dust from the excavation pit.

Spiralling grey clouds of the verdant summer. But within the eyes of these fierce desert

storms I’m never able to construct any lasting shape. The holes stubbornly collapse

into themselves while the mountain peaks sputter into sand puddles. Still I dig hard, as if

trying to make up for lost time, every minute dying into the uncultivated past. Another bell.

Mount Pleasant now—sputtering as well. That elevated parkade on precarious metal stilts.

He’s pouring the beer from above his mouth in ecstasy, eyes closed. His yellow fingers tilt

the can with casual dexterity. Humble and entrenched—this brand of alcoholism strikes

me as an almost mercantile skill. Like a street-food chef, caricature artist, or busker—his

drinking seems a high-stakes craft whose charm is launched by desperation but lands

as brilliance. Silence pulls at my ears. People never have conversations on transit until noon.