The Junebat on the Dump

John Elizabeth Stintzi

The moon swallows the smog as it sets over Hoboken
behind Manhattan’s jagged silhouette. At the base
of the cliff, where the body descends hundreds of steps
to walk to work, the sharp smell of garbage loiters.
The trash facility sits at the corner of Mountain and Hope
where discarded symbols go to be recycled into capital.
This is the place where imagination dies and thrives.
The Junebat is not here. The Junebat is a plastic bag moving
from street to street, searching for something to choke.
The stink of night has been foul a long time. Stink
of morning, stink of afternoon, too. The world stinks
with the dark image of a blurry, winged creature roving.
Some nights, the hardest thing to do is survive
in a world where you can neither find nor lose yourself.
There is no symbol in the dump to hold the Junebat down
precisely. There is no paperweight in the shape of their flesh.
The trash facilities of the world are quiet, as the Junebat is here
and not here, as the Junebat is both empty plastic and a body
trapped in wind and gravity and a sincere desire to die.
A breadcrumb-trail of garbage underlines Mountain and Hope.
Words fail because they were built to fail. A piece of sound
travels at the speed of a hydraulic press. There is no purifying:
the body in the bedroom of the night meets the moment
when it is ready to end, yet there is no ending-tool in reach.
They do not look out their window to see the plastic bag
of themselves flying sinusoidal. They do not smell the trash.
The window is closed. They are awake and alive and afraid.
Small words hold smaller meanings. Big words float on a huge
island in an ocean that won’t end unless the world does.
The moon spits up the smog on the far side of the planet
as the sun decides to rise and forgive the sleepless.
The door in the bedroom is unlocked. Air lets itself in.
The Junebat is the body is the plastic bag is the wind
is the mountain is the dump of the mind is the hope.

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John Elizabeth Stintzi is a non-binary writer who was raised on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. They are the author of two previous chapbooks of poetry, and their poems have been awarded the 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and the Long Poem Prize from the Malahat Review. Their poetry and fiction has appeared (or is forthcoming) in venues throughout the United States and Canada including the Fiddlehead, the Kenyon Review, and Ploughshares. They currently live in Kansas City with their partner and their dog Grendel.

“John Elizabeth Stintzi’s Junebat is a work of immense gentleness. The care shown toward the authorial self, the past, and those within Stintzi’s emotional sphere is like coming up for air from a culture ruled by nihilism. Case in point: ‘I am trying to personalize / myself to my melancholy, don’t want to be neighbour / to my own narrative anymore.’ To the poetics of the queer everyday Stintzi adds their ‘Junebat,’ a multitudinous concept of such explanatory power I’m certain it’ll endure in the collective memory of Canadian writing.”
— Billy-Ray Belcourt, award-winning author of This Wound is a World and NDN Coping Mechanisms

Junebat is a piercing examination of body, self, and the miraculous yet painful process of becoming. In this emotionally intimate, technically brilliant debut collection, Stintzi both opens a window to their soul and holds a mirror to the reader’s. Quietly powerful, Junebat is the kind of book one returns to over and over again, to read and to dream about.”
— Kai Cheng Thom, award-winning author of A Place Called No Homeland and I Hope We Choose Love

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