Atlas, Behind the Theatre

Dumpster, Hummingbird Centre

Atlas sits on the loading dock
 filled with tatters, stocky, broken,
 open topped, the trash within
 all that’s known of business past.

Atlas greets the daily traffic
 seething past the matinées
 saying happiness can be dreamed
 after stage and scene are trashed.

Atlas peels from red to brown,
 feeds the rats around his bed,
 sends to ground a plaster dream
 shrouded wet in greasy canvas.

Atlas never shows the junk
 when heavies, black-clad, junk the shows,
 but, loaded with dust and tragic ends,
 a dumpster holds the heavens, cracked.


Reading the Paper on the Subway

Hair the ruffled, windswept prairie,
 nose and glasses dug and buried
 in the day’s facts and friction,
 sex and war, covert action,
 brow the furrowed, frowning field;

scarf in grain and hay and humus,
 jacket wheatsheaf, frayed and fibrous,
 fingers folded on the leaves
 dark and smudging, pad and crease,
 pants the rise and fall of hills.

Globe and Mail, the nation’s bids,
 front and back, ledes and ads,
 rale and cough of twitching country,
 mayor’s rye, trader’s barley,
 shield for dry Canadian eyes,

how he holds it, ploughs it, reaps it,
 in his grey-thatched storehouse saves it,
 harvest of the broken air,
 corns of talk, lost dust of days,
 sifting chaff of ink and crackle.

Eyes now lifting, in his vision,
 searching still to know his station,
 he reflects the ache and profit
 of his hours in solemn office
 late returned to hollow ground.

Soon he stands and, business folding,
 goes with doors and riders yielding,
 ploughing under, mounting stairs,
 goes to earth and then to air,
 tiller of the turning times.


To the Finish

5k, Toronto Island

hot feet, boardwalk, legs blue sore
 four thousand metres of panting so far
 a bit of puddle spatter, a taste of salt spray
 from hungry waves or the streaming body
 running ahead, follow, thirst
 now less than a thousand metres to go
 boards riffling, crazing the eyes
 each step cracking like aching joy
 each breath a lust from the stomach
 hoo, hoo, HAH, hoo, hoo, HAAH, ho
 now nine hundred, now eight hundred
 closing on body, white shirt, go past
 a blue shirt slips by merely, but no
 hold it, keep it, iron and acid
 in body and water on boards, don’t slip
 and five hundred metres now left
 and it darkens below and is harder
 and a line and people, shouts
 a tree, a tree, another tree, grass
 to curl up and lie on, stop, please stop
 but hoo, hoo, HAH, ho
 just sixty seconds now, less
 gain no one else, admit no one more
 when like a dream she overtakes you
 yearning for the end like a lost baby
 like reaching for her child in the taunting waves
 nothing to do but follow her pull
 go harder than you even can, burning
 the greensward underfoot rolling, pitching
 there is a space between the trees, and fifty
 forty, hoo, HAH, thirty, grass
 the banner, the sign, the clock
 the time has all leaked out
 and there’s just one second more, five metres
 the length of three of her in a breath
 and she is there, stumble stopped, gasping, coughing up
 and you steam and shake and you have both prevailed
 and the rest will fall in behind
 but she has her metal, her ribbon
 her shiny baby, and you have your time
 three strides, three lengths of a body
 a breath behind, and nothing you can hold

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