The Operating System

POETRY MONTH 30/30/30 : Inspiration, Community, Tradition : DAY 10 :: Sarah Pinder on Libby Scheier

I encountered Libby Scheier’s work for the first time in my late teens, when I first moved to Toronto. It was a perfectly synchronous moment – I was so hungry for directness, and Scheier serves it up in spades. I devoured everything of hers I could get my hands on, treating the collections as guidebooks on possible routes to the places I wanted to go in my own work. She wrote so angry, and so tender, and candidly addressed relationships, violence and agency in ways that are paint-strippingly clear.

Second Breath
The smell of the slaughterhouse is a weight
in the wet road, a fluorescent bulb
lies shattered here. It’s a shrugging hour,
I can wonder if you look from your window at me in my mini
skirt, leaving, though this angular building gives nothing away but
the puzzle of which window is yours.
I had been down your street before,
though I didn’t say that as you fished out your keys.
I’d just moved to this city, fascinated and terrified
of the blood in its heart, the mechanized routine of death.
One winter afternoon I biked down to the loading bay,
expecting a cacophony, thinking of the tar paper shack
on Landslide Road by my grandmother’s house
where creatures were led.
Surprised, there, to find hermetic beige brick instead,
the limited illumination of Quality Meat Packers, Toronto Abbatoirs,
a long feather of steam dancing upwards
from some pristine galvanized chamber,
white against the crystalline sky.
I stared at that building like staring might make it
transparent, finally got too cold, just went home.
When you turned to me on your leather sofa,
the showpiece of your junior suite covered in piles of clothes,
ironed, yet to be ironed,
when you knit your fingers around my throat,
what did you think you knew?
I slammed the crook of my hand immediately into your windpipe,
and the wildness of your eyes in that second
when you let go, your little leak of deflated breath
in surprise that any quiet thing would turn
and make demands— it satisfied me.
-Sarah Pinder
Sarah Pinder lives in Toronto. Her first collection, Cutting Room, is forthcoming with Coach House Books in Fall 2012. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Expozine Small Press Awards and included in the anthology She’s Shameless, and journals like Room, Canadian Woman Studies and invisible city. A zine-maker of over a decade, you can find her work in Montreal’s Distroboto art vending machines, as well as a mailbox near you. Sarah’s website/self-publishing concern is
{editor’s note: always eager to encourage new and various approaches to our community projects, I readily agreed when Sarah said she’d like to include a video of herself reading Scheier’s poem, The Hard Work of Flying, from the anthology  Kaddish for my Father, which includes her poems of from 1970-1999. While the text isn’t provided here, I think it is an interesting shift to have a share that we receive primarily/only spoken, as in old oral traditions. Please find biographical information on Scheier here, in a beautiful obituary from Toronto’s NOW magazine.
Sarah is part of Lynne’s Toronto family, a wonderful group of creative supportive people who constitute an Exit Strata offsite node in their own right! She is a terrific poet, scholar, and a well-respected, longstanding light of the zine/self-publishing community both online and off. Her assistance as I prepared my first chapbooks was invaluable! Sarah’s work has been selected and included in ExSt’s first print issue.}  

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