have me come and live in Windsor
live out the course of my life there,
town our southernmost city,
lodged in the shadow of the Jolly Green Giant
the U.S. of A., Detroit in a pinch.
you'd take me sailing. Excellent.
we'd go to catch the Tigers play
their new stadium. (While I'm sweating the small stuff,
Uncle Sam's hospitality)-Can't say I wasn't tempted, but
are each of us sons of different pasts:
of a used-up old war that caused me to wander,
of a grin and bear it Ontario cheer.
all yours: the slush piled high of a GM car lot.
keep the pissed-upon snows of Montreal the fair
at the start brings on the pleasure.
game gets rougher: you neither win nor lose,
down by the weather in the territories of love.
hurt of Attis in you, you're as old as all that,
old as men unmanning themselves
as to dance in crazed pain for a goddess's smile
dazzles as brightly as a winter sun.
you're young still, young enough not to know
poetry explains nothing, indistinguishable
time-out-of-mind-religions, some Absolute Voice
worn as stone, as new as rainwater: a festering wound.
moves with the sheen of pearls in the blue above
boys on bikes scoot down the lane
if love were velocity and the silent birds-
went for beers under a threatening sky,
Jesse, you and I.
high rollers took the terrasse
predicted rain, as rain was forecast.
crunched peanuts with our cushy molars.
stake was the very essence of language itself.
play was an exchange of views and bon mots -
the highhandedness of highwaymen
used to pillage the pilgrims of old.
rain predicted, more poetry rudely praised.
you Jaime, so quiet among us, got more silent still.
eyes published our likely bad end.
man of verse, McGravitas, mugs Ezra Pound.
moment sirens. And a posse with lynching on the brain.
was a poet, a dancer who wrote tragedies,
day the heroic years, Athens getting on
hegemony. He fought at Marathon, the more numerous Persians
and beaten on the plain. But who among us could keep
an old Greek's chorus line? Which dance-step best serves
heavy maple shadows there, Cabot Park, the Indian girl -
out of her gourd - flashing her hind-end?
poet, it's said, avoided the familiar, pitched his tone high
as to keep the imprimatur of the gods intact
the awful majesty of events. Just how intimate can a girl get
a punk godhead, the realm jaded with instant replays?
our waking life, one, even so, hears it in the trees
host both lynching parties and wedding revelries:
chattering in the wind.
Mrs Orlow, 2013
The strong, imperial women,
The succession of the Caesars -
Oh, what am I on about, Mrs Orlow my excuse
To versify? Is there in a jeweler
Of advanced years, sweeping the sidewalk of a day,
Such memories of the palace,
Such a feel for toga and sandal
And some Roman's Ars Poetica?
The Fascists win in Italy,-a zeppelin flies to Lakehurst,
Seemingly the future out of Europe. She was born about that time
In the interlude between the wars,
Spawn of the revolution
And a cousin to the tsars.
And she's a child of the New World
And she's a party to the middle classes,
This old woman in a long, print dress,
Her toes bent and twisted,
Her feet all gnarled up
In socks of anarchist black.
She puts the leaves to rout, her neighbourhood a crucible
Of drug states, politicos on the make.
Well, who has a living wage?
Who has their iota of infinite security?
Not many, to be sure.
Fewer than before.
The darkness that engulfed the west,
The blooming sails that crossed the seas,
Venture capital, boom and bust - all of it says, above and beyond
The cut that history takes, that the years swoon by.
And they'll lose impetus. Those years will fall,
So many leaping dancers on a lawn.
The powdered wigs, the satin slippers,
The trenches, the bomb, the assaulted moon,
Lone loon with a rifle, consortium with secret aims
And cash to dispense
To assassins in a shadow play, John F Kennedy the cost benefit -
It's just that Mrs Orlow, in her 90s,
At this instant, looms large in my eyes
And momentarily brings to a halt
The excuses in my brain.
Five will get you ten
She recalls Bloody Nicholas and his brood: the wife, the daughters. the
They were pitched in a hole en masse, shot and bayoneted,
Marked for justice by bullets of special purpose
Or just plain murdered. If her tears are so many shattered vessels,
Amphorae, as it were, once brimming
With import - happy, sad, angry import,
Mine are all wet, it seems: I'm just a kid despite my decades,
Too naïve for grown-up politics.
Time has passed through this woman
Like a meandering lightning bolt,
So much so, she's sixteen again,
And once more, terror bombing - in a big way -
Now and then in a long-lived life,
One is more than the sum of one's parts.
Sometimes the whole of a life is swept by delusion,
And one never knows, even when suspecting
One has helped to build the ruse. And it's a sad day in the park,
When one plows through the leaves
With seemingly casual applications of one's feet,
Kicking regrets around, bullying one's silly self.
She's out on the sidewalk with the bright verdure.
She's gently stooped, out front of her shop.
You may regard the window display: it's her art.
But now she grips a broom. Her hair is let down -
Those ancient tresses on view. Her grin bites deep
As she sways with her beau (or as some memory or other of infatuation
Her mischief modest, dance card full.
Ah, with determined strokes, she attacks those leaves
Yellow and orange and crinkled and curled.
Side-to-side whiskings of a stick and straw.
Time-pieces, trinkets, faded bits of glass,
And earrings and baubles and else and whatnot
Parade in the window, assembled company.
Here she is, a belle at the ball
If not a peasant in her hovel.
Oh, her husband used to beat, ill-use her
And think her mind thick between the ears.
Her live-in son, he addresses her thus:
"Old hag. Damn witch. The cunt",
He in his shrill impotence
Gone off his meds, perhaps.
Have I not featured this redoubtable lady
As tough as nails, preferring Puccini
To Herr Mister Bach, in my poems, my prose, too,
And with words that point to her as being
A cardinal point of the cosmos,
A hub to which the spokes run
As the seasons spin around?
And that she meets the rage of her son
With some inner-generated force of her own -
It doesn't mean she seconds a quarrel,-
Doesn't mean she spoils for a scene.
It only suggests that, for a moment, she's interrupted
But can't be bested. Indomitable. Infuriating.
Were she sculpted in stone and standing there
As a spirit to emulate, the wind would look
To gather her up in comradely arms-
The airship, the air station, new variants for
The field of war - new ways to get yourself a death.
To be sure, this woman's length of life
Compasses even more grisly developments.
I've seen her set in her window display
Her do-right mountie just so, he on his horse
With upraised pike, pennant, peaceable resolve.
Her china figures, love bracelets, watchbands, necklaces -
All choreographed by a master, romantic soul-
Stalin's Russia was her childhood, as well,
Canada the long arc of a bitter marriage.
Now her man-son, muttering paranoid,
Believes himself to be always under a scrutiny of sorts,
A patrol car, as ever, parked at the corner.
And the seas and the winds are rising.
So much out there going bad-
We have music, paintings, endless verses.
How good it is we have such things.
Neither I nor the Orlow girl
Would second-guess what the civilized prize
Or used to prize - in an amaretto-sweet salon.
But there, how alone she is with the broom,
Her dress faded, her hair let down
As if there were a man about with whom she might
Sashay after the quadrille is done.
But what's this? What's with that drooping eye?
Inflammation? Encroaching dread?
A shutting down of the dance without end?
Such a terrible conflict in her organs of sight.
Always that fight that is the fight for oneself.
Then that wish which one might sum up like so:
"Life is what it is. Nothing less. Nothing more. Let me die."
So then, I wave a good morning's greetings to her.
She likes a dapper gent with decent manners.
She stops a moment, squints and peers. And yes, she knows me.
Some wild thing of a grin breaks up her face,
As she bends her head and lifts the broom,-
As she counts the beat and leans to it and sweeps.