“I am abject, that is mortal and speaking,” wrote Julia Kristeva.

            The term abjection literally means “the state of being cast off”.

The Letter A

Abandoned: They left me. From infancy to infirmity. I speak, alone again. Unworthy, abject; naturally.

Abasement For their gaze, for their touch, I will do anything.
They love me. They love mE NOT.
My mouth is full of want, hard as it is
to get my tongue around it.

 Adultery:     First you can’t see anything.
Then you can’t look. 
Away. Finding half a worm
in the apple
handed you.
Ich habe. Du hast. Wir haben.
 Ich bin. Du bist. Wir sind. Allein.
A long drive. A longing. No place.
 Shaking all over, and sitting still

 Ich will rein! Ich will rein!

Ax:  My father’s. The one I 
lost, left behind (a long scar on his knee) in the Christmas tree forest.                


The Letter E

E is for chaotic eating (mine), E is for ever, for eternity.
E is for enemy, envy, erectile dysfunction,
emasculate, emaciate, efface, even ejaculate.

E is for English upper or lower caste, empire,
E is for exhaustion, E is for exit, and E is for my friend Eeyore.

E is for Enns a river in Austria I’ve never seen like the twin babies left on its banks. One died the other his finders named Abraham von der Enns founder of our family, Spelling my name I jest E-N-N-S, but the e is silent.


The Letter I

I is for injury, for interloper, for infatuation, for imagination.
I is for Indigenous, independent and influential.
I is for India, infidel, for Icarus in flight.
I is my personal pronoun, except when I’m plural, which has been happening a lot lately, CGI or no CGI, I am mostly me. Whatever I am or is, I’m not U.

I is for immune, for icon, for insane,
I is for incarcerate, incinerate, inappropriate
I is for idea. As in “what’s the big.”
I is for impossible


The Letter  O
from The Abject Alphabet

O is for other, obvious and obliterate. O is for open, “keep your mind open and help me keep mine open too.”

The Story of O was a book everybody was once after, obscene 
or not obscene depends on your shades of gray.

O is for offer, for offering, for dropping money in a velvet bag.

O is for obsession; the three ice cubes in my glass, the white shirt on my back,
a roast on Sunday, one potato, two potato, three potato. Three! Three! Three!
No more.

O is for Oblivion, a book and a final destination for David Foster Wallace.
O is for organ often found in churches, the instrument of choice by my
best lost girlfriend.

And the great southern Manitoba affirmative, Oba Yo! and my favourite sobriquet;

Opa, venerated grandfather I am.

ObituaryRight me.


Orgasm: . A sinking ship in mid-ovum     
The holy only one
… expected in heaven


Oxygen: I nearly died because my lungs were filled with food. My breathing had slowed to dangerous levels. One nurse said, “If he makes it through this, tell him to chew his food.” Another nurse was asking for a DNR (do not resuscitate order), and my wife said we don’t have one, but DID agree to an intubation which saved my life.  It was six days before I could breathe and swallow well enough on my own. They told my wife to keep her expectations low, I had been too long with too little oxygen. My wife waited to see what she would get. Here I am. And I’m not U.


The Letter U

I am not U. U is not you, U is a sigh; an exhalation between two goal posts, waiting for a Taliban hanging.

Unconscious; Like I was for nearly 6 days and 6 nights in a medically induced coma with doctors and nurses leaving my room in ICU, (U is for unit), shaking their heads warning I might not make it, and with my shortage of oxygen before I was intubated,  my brain might be damaged. My wife sat and waited to see what she would get.

Understand: We understand each other, and alone deluxe, we are better together. I can be hard of understanding but I can be hard to understand.

Uncomfortable; my words and my tears make others uncomfortable, though not my wife Michelle and a few friends. There was the time in Victoria I read to an august audience, crying when I started my Love & Surgery reading and didn’t stop until I had finished. Everybody was uncomfortable, especially me. But I am not you.


[1] I have been writing the Abject Alphabet since the 1980s, after Kroetsch’s Sad Phoenician, I must be the Mad Phoenician I thought. I met Julia Kristeva when she was promoting a novel which I’ve since given away. I did buy many of her critical texts including Power of Horror with its focus on abjection. As a neurodivergent this was significant, as was the Revolution in Poetic Language. These books were sold at the top of the lecture hall in Toronto, I did not have the legs back in the 1990s to go back down the stairs, and have those that have been significant in my life, signed. She is still living as far as I know, her reputation somewhat tarnished for meeting with Bulgarian spooks reminding her she might be free in France, but her family was not. I read Barthes and Melanie Klein, all now horribly out of date like I dreamed last night being sent away from the University of Manitoban newspaper that I co-edited for a year, and Artspace where I had been President of the Board.  And where my art installation opens at the end of April 2023. Look. Always Breathe.



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