Jeremy Desjarlais | FOR ROTHKO, FOR LONDON

This space
was found
in a dream of tomorrow.
I wander through sleep
into these red squares,
and the light is of a kind
I have never before known.
Upright and subtractive,
dark colours
lie flatly along the walls,
three full and one bisected.
The room exposes itself
like a photograph coming
into air from the
deepest parts of water.

I wonder what this place knows
of change,
of reception,
of colours suffused with the blood of deception;
stare well into the stairwell
of this man’s schemes,
the cream positioned on the end of the spoon
changing black tea to the shading of the moon.

I see silent children
lowered into the earth’s welcoming hands,
and across from them is a city of old light
—faint and desperate
in its attempt to lure and cause return.
These pointed edges bow and float,
shadows looking like cracked bodies
of the underside,
imperfect in this imperfect light.
The painted patience
expects a look of consolidation.
I am looking at myself
—not through inversion or confusion—
in an impossible way.

There is no hand, no notebook,
no glass that undermines the determined mind;
the old city is a bridge of bones,
and I know now these children are alone
in their cold mornings.
All warmth repels the wickedness
of castigation.
The nets within the water’s gyrations
close in their surface
as each temperate being avoids the snare
of midnight turnings.
Turns and hills,
borders lying still
and prostrate in an area unexplored,
unredeemed in its loneliness.

I will leave, and I will return,
for I have been and never been
to tomorrow,
and I have learned that to borrow
is to exist, to drift
from one space to the next.


Jeremy Desjarlais is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at McGill University and the recipient of a Vanier scholarship. He taught as a faculty member at First Nations University of Canada (2016-2020) and has worked with the Montreal International Poetry Prize since the spring of 2021. He is a registered member of Cowessess First Nation, Treaty 4.