“Water and Other Volatiles” by Jennifer Zilm

Water and Other Volatiles

At that time, I had 20k followers,
chipmunks mostly, but also robins
and probably some CIA. Monitoring
the feeders like a police scanner,
it’s hard to moderate all these lives
funneled through this interface.
I crossed over the bridge, out of the forest
to present my research on social media
sentiment analysis. The feedback:
there will always be violence, hatred.

In the hospital, the social worker’s
fingers were stained citrus, she smelled
of orange peels, cologne samples, like
someone who didn’t know how to give
anything away. She chirped We’ve found
you housing,
We must house you, We are
ending street homelessness.
I live in a park.
She said Oh street contains “park” for
purposes of city classification.

Classify is a synonym for keep
and it’s hard to sleep
in a high-rise, after months in the forest.
I dry out, take bathes, think of my lost
followers. At the follow up, I report
the desiccation. She says
Well it’s nuanced isn’t it?
Water is a spectrum disorder:
dry/damp/wet. In the tub,

how high’s the water, mama,
becomes a diagnostic question.
Looks like we’ll be blessed with
a little more rain is just another symptom
Better volatile than refractory, in any case.

Jennifer Zilm is the author of Waiting Room (BookThug, 2016) which was selected as one of the most anticipated poetry titles of the CBC and 49th Shelf. The manuscript was shortlisted for the 2014 Robert Kroetsch Award. Her second collection The Missing Field was shortlisted for the 2019 Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award.

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