a four-star hotel
waterloo, ontario
check in, check out

trash overflowing
tea bags, plastic forks, gum
our life in a can

dear cleaning staff
you must think we’re savages
we the civilized


once there was a boy
phones, other things that mattered
now I’m in quebec

the cliffs fade behind us
see the city from the ferry?
briefly, we are free

oh, beau saint-laurent
you glistening paragon
make me clear like you


there’s no newspaper
I even greet the mailman
this is not my home

eternal contest:
my french and their english
fight to be abused

a man says I speak well
thanks to my accent or my face?
either way, how nice


here in the city
natives are the novelty
howdy, tourist friends

outdoor artisans
solicit me like I’m something
I have twenty bucks

paint me a portrait!
tape my face to your display!
make me your queen!


fancy clothing booth
says the loud american
where is the food?

I try on a skirt
belinda! a woman cries
which, me or the skirt?

I feel pretty
the woman goes along
I don’t buy the skirt


street performers
rustle up a crowd
we chant and cheer

we like to watch people
light their eyebrows on fire
it makes us feel safe

I fall in love
a buff sword swallower
still, too cheap to pay


jolly figures call
from eaves and open doorways
tourists, enchanted

insert our faces
into holes in the mural scenes
like we too are real

plaza umbrellas
yellow beer advertisements
I feel at home


pretty young things
flaunt their love to the city
so sweet, so blind

the city only sees
its faithful lone travelers
we keep our love safe

inside your walls
wandering your plains
we too are sacred


the camera comes out
life is dimmer through a lens
now I will forget

dad gets a sticker
mom gets a set of coasters
brother gets a mug

I get a painted box
I wanted something empty
to hold my new self


je me souviens—oui
crossing the bridge at rush hour
how could I forget

the city’s magic
flees under each tar meter
trying to escape

returning to ohio
what if it all looks the same?
what if I can’t tell?


tim horton’s guides us
our ubiquitous landmark
our red north star

we stopped here en route
remember how young we were?
now we know it all

small yellow flowers
grow on the highway edge
marring the gas station


nothing is lovely
hello again, road kill
where are all the trees?

we can see new york
through lanes of trucks and tolls
everyone’s hungry

stuck at the border
waiting for an officer
to welcome us home

Alex Walsh studies Math and Literary Arts at Brown University. Her work has recently appeared in Coldnoon, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, Catalyst, and War, Literature & the Arts.