Sunday Poems 53: By Hook or By Crook

For a little while now, I’ve been hosting a semi-monthly film screening and discussion group with friends. Last week we watched By Hook or By Crook, a 2001 film about two trans men in San Francisco who perform petty crimes to try to afford a pistol to rob a bank with. Shy (Silas Howard), who always wears a suit and talks like a movie character, confident, conniving, charming, is a newcomer to town, sick of being poor, decides to rob a bank after seeing a TV report about a successful bank robbery. 

He’s sleeping on the street with his briefcase. One morning he’s woken up by some kids playing basketball. A kid asks, “her, are you a boy or a girl?” Shy grins and replies, “both.” One of the other kids cuts in, “he’s a girl. hey you wanna play basketball with us?” To the kids, it doesn’t matter. 

One evening, Shy saves Valentine (Harry Dodge) from an attack. The assailant, some jackass in a hawaiian shirt, hits Shy in the face. Our two heroes, newly acquainted, are both lying on the ground. Valentine offers a delirious pep talk while their heads are both against the concrete. Shy gets up and kicks the attacker in the crotch. After running away, Val thanks Shy, and Shy tells Val to go home. Shy leaves, Val follows a few metres behind. Sometimes home isn’t a place. 

Val speaks in stream of consciousness and uses his whole body when he talks. In and out of mental institutions, he’s now living in his girlfriend Billie’s house; they sleep in an attic bedroom of an old house decorates so thoroughly with history that we suspect it’s where the actors live when they’re not in character. For dinner they serve kraft dinner dusted with candy sprinkles, and keep a dozen varieties of soda in the fridge.

The film’s best scene features Shy and Val drinking in a bar and talking to each other with ventriloquy through shoplifted toys: sharks attached to the ends of sticks with flapping mouths. This five minute long scene is - as my friend Dylan pointed out - one of those rare scenes in movies where characters just allowed to hang out together. Their dialogue isn’t important to advancing the plot and most of it is too muffled to hear. The bartender smokes and stares at them, a little bit disgusted at these two washing down tequila with beer and sticking cigarettes in the mouths of the sharks. 

Sundays are good days to practice how slowly you can do the things you do every day. In your morning stretches, you hold each position for twice as long as you do usually. With tiny sips, you make your cup of coffee last until the last third of the cup is cold. Each page of the book you read with breakfast you read twice. Half the heat means you cook your eggs fro twice as long. You don’t leave the house until mid afternoon. The sun is race-walking down from its zenith, but you can’t quite call it the sunset yet. Below is a poem. Share it with a friend if you think they’ll enjoy it. As always, I’m here if you need to talk. Have a great week, everybody. 

a surprise postal service worker (after Smith)

he runs victorious
from clay bridge
to home, a prison,
newly bought.

it runs him up
the flagpole in the
front yard and each
moment is longer.

there are taxes on
being a little alive
in costume, growling
about something.

a collaborative project
with the government
wielding toast over
the stove in tongs.

“why does it feel so good?”
he asks when the postal
service worker is startled
by the fire in the entranceway

for not the first time, 
mother suggests
going on a holiday
to the suburbs.

Theodore Fox is a poet living on Treaty Six land in Canada.
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