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This poem is based on an actual conversation I had with a perfect stranger in the line-up of a Toronto fast food joint.

The Damndest Thing

“I’ve seen it all,” he said.
“Every damn perversion
you can imagine.
And some you probably can’t.”

He seemed to be talking to me.

“Every manner of appendage,
flesh or fabricated,
into every manner of orifice,
flesh or fabricated —
and then some.”

The line moved us forward.

“Seen it in HD,
widescreen,
surround sound,
on my very own couch,
cock in hand.”

The cashier gave him his sandwich.

“But I still can’t get it up
for the wife,” he said.
“It’s the damndest thing.”

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“Do you know that the door of the ladies’ bathroom is always propped open?” The woman leaned over the librarian’s desk, her arms folded across her heavy breasts in a way that was probably intended to look stern.

The librarian looked up from her computer, startled. “I…”

“The gentlemen’s is always closed,” the woman continued, “but the ladies’ is always propped open.”

“Well, I know the custodian leaves them to air after he cleans at night. Maybe you’re just the first one in.”

“No.” The woman looked condescending. “It’s always open. Even in the afternoon. People outside can hear everything.”

The librarian shrugged. “Maybe it’s someone who needs accessibility. Lots of washrooms now don’t even have doors.”

The woman slapped a hand against the desk. “Yes, and people can still hear!” she almost yelled. “It’s disgusting!”

“I see. Well, I don’t think anyone would mind if you just closed it when you went in.”

“Oh, I close it. I assure you. I just don’t feel that I should be put through the inconvenience, do you?”

“No, Maam,” the librarian said, “of course not.”

I happened to pick up a copy of Mordecai Richler’s This Year in Jerusalem. I won’t have time to read it in the foreseeable future (there are too many books before it on my reading list), but I was leafing through it a little and came across this quotation by Albert Einstein from 1938 on the possibility of a Jewish State. He says,

“I would much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state… my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will suffer — especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks.”

Smart man. Some might say a genius.

This is another poem intended for the These, My Streets project. Gordon / Norfolk / Woolwich runs north-south through the entirety of Guelph, changing its name three times.

Gordon / Norfolk / Woolwich

You grew up rural, before the town crept
out to meet you and the college drew you
through its mixed architectures, its facades
and you lingered there longer than you should,
spent time in student housing on the hill,
crossed the river up to the Albion
when all that got a bit too serious,
and somewhere around there you changed your name,
took on a love that spent itself too soon,
ended as suddenly as it began,
spent your nights in apartments above shops,
and then you changed your name again, old school,
at the Baptist church where the five points meet,
found yourself living in substantial homes
through that long middle age when nothing much
distinguished day from day or week from week,
until, at last, the old names died away,
and it was then that you found religion
among the wild fields of St. Ignatius
and returned to the country of your birth.