The Minister of Loneliness

The walk to work is her favourite / time of day, when solitariness / seems the perfect state

A portrait of poet Jenny Haysom

has no ministry—just an office
and a phone. She sleeps diagonally
on cool sheets, her blinds raised
to the moon. Mornings,

the minister forsakes alarms
and wakes to the low coo of pigeons
shuffling in the sun. She takes
breakfast on the go: espresso

and a raisin bun (how she hates
raisins, picks them out, one
by one, drops them on the pavement
where people step on them).

The walk to work is her favourite
time of day, when solitariness
seems the perfect state: swept air,
emptied streets—just the way

the janitor left them—and the odd
person going about his business
independently. She strides
purposefully over bridges, past

the padlocked sweethearts without
a pause or pang, swinging
her empty portfolio, planning
a February getaway to some

distant archipelago. It’s only
when she arrives that her prospects
dim. That grim little office.
The thought of yet another day

with a hole puncher. Don’t despair
says a yellow Post-it Note
affixed to the window
facing the parking lot. Once

an attendant practised his cello there
in a narrow booth. Now you slot
your chit in an automated
wicket—and the arm lifts by itself.

At least the Queen of Loneliness
has a kingdom. Someone joked
and called her swivel chair
The Throne of Isolation. For hours

on end she swivels there, painting
her nails blue or black or that
minty shade: tristesse.

only crosses her mind or desk
by way of dockets and memos,
as long anonymous letters
from her multitudinous constituents

that can’t be answered.
After all, she has no staff,
no ministry. If misery loves
company, she has no love.

Jenny Haysom
Jenny Haysom's debut, Dividing the Wayside, won the 2019 Archibald Lampman Award. She lives in Ottawa.