Altars of clutter,
hanging gardens of sound -
the back balconies buckle
under the weight of
high summer
Saint-Urbain Street heat.

All the kitchen
back doors stand open -
sticky arms flung open -
imploring, a heat-rashed prayer:

Deliver us unto
the many gods
of Mile End.


In an intimacy
born of proximity
the old Greek lady and I
go about our business.
Foul-mouthed for seventy,
her first-floor curses fill
my second-floor apartment;
her constant commentary
punctuates my day.

"Fuck you!" she hollers
as she hands laundry
to her silent husband.
He grimly reels
each day's garments out,
clothesline low, over
scarecrowed tomatoes.
I envy them their garden.

Always civil,
the old Greek Lady and I
wave to each other.
To each her own. Undies,
bed sheets and bras
dance on the line -
a delicate curtain
to separate
her balcony
from mine.


Privacy, oven-baked
in an open-faced sandwich;
each apartment's gallery
trains a curious
opera glass eye
upon its neighbouring loge.

Two yards over,
an empty swimming pool
gurgles above ground -
a waiting sound -
restless as nest-bound birds.

Across the alleyway
a French man waits,
quietly, until dinnertime,
to aim his trumpet
at our apartment.


We retreat,
at the bugle's call,
to hide, for a meal,
from the heat wave's thrall.

We surrender to
Thailande's chill interior.
We linger over our
air conditioned plates;
we marvel at the waiters'
crisp white shirts.


Even in the evening
the hardwood floor
feels too hot for bare feet
too swollen for shoes.

Bare feet leave footprints
on the dust dishevelled
dim hallway's
worn floorboards.


Too hot to sleep.
I hear urgent
sex upstairs.

All night
an airless city
sits on the edge.


On the back balcony's
ledge of tepid dusk,
a limp flip-flop
dangles from a
painted toe -
nails chipped.

Said flip-flop falls free -
drops into the yard below,
into a statuary of neighbours.

too hot to move,
the neighbours don't look up.
Only their voices ring out -
a multi-lingual choir of
staccato airs and grievances.


Another morning of
outside still cooler than in.
Wood smoke from
Fairmount Bagels'
endless ovens
anoints the day.
Another scorcher.
Sesame seeds smile
in the sidewalk's
cracked teeth.

J. R. Carpenter