January 2010

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The loud man

Let us honour
the limits of radio.
It is good that
we do not
see the loud man
each morning on the air
good to be spared
the wattles that
whip the words
the saliva
sailing over
the microphone
the big hands
the stewed eyes…
good not to witness
the teeth chase
yet another minnow
from the righteous sea.
It is enough to hear
the unkind voice
the bully words
to twist the dial
and cut off the sound
let the sky flow back
through the windshield,
the sunshine settle
once more into the
contours of the day.

© 2010


The Truro I remember
was Prince Street
on nearly any night
muscle cars cutting
out of the corner Esso
laying rubber that
hung in the lights
and curled the air
long after the noise
and smoke were gone,
the Lincolns playing
loud rock at a place
on Young where
it was said the town’s
first dope was smoked,
egg rolls at the Ho Ho,
cop cars prowling
the Esplanade and
Helen putting extra
whip cream on banana splits
at the White Spot.
I rode with Jimmy McCunn
on a red Honda bike
through old town streets
on black summer nights,
racing dimlit freights
to dimlit crossings,
and took the company
pick-up home on weekends,
thanks to John Murphy
who gave me a job
fresh out of high school
at the Daily News,
and waited for
a reporter to show up
in my young distracted eyes.
I can still see snow
swirling over the marquee
of the old Royal Theatre,
feel the wind on my neck
as I smoked Export A’s
and wished I was
Steve McQueen
in The Sand Pebbles or
Gordon Lightfoot
in the morning rain.
I remember stumbling
with a mickey of rum
through a summer night
that hung on my heart,
trying to get home
to Elizabeth Street,
and that was
a metaphor for
the next forty years,
for I have always been
trying to get home
to Elizabeth Street
home through all the streets
and all the Elizabeths and
all the rum that life can
fling like junk from an
old scarred suitcase into
the blink of time that
we get on this swirling
delicious earth where
pain and hurt and loss
combust with such fury
that I have never been able
to hold it inside, and
must freeze or die
or shoot up to wake up
and start all over again.
I have touched a few things
in the streams of time
and been touched in turn by
love and hate and politics,
the way Helen used to
tousle our hair as she’d
pass the table and say
play Nancy, and we’d
drop a dime in the
juke box and watch her
return with mischief eyes
and snapping fingers and
boots that were
made for walking.
I left one day in early spring
ravenous for the times
desperate to touch
something of anything that
was tumbling from the sky,
the astronauts and Vietnam,
race riots and B-52s,
black days in July, tears
for King and the Kennedys,
rebellion, poetry, Queen
Anne’s lace, and those
flip-top lovers all in a row,
waiting, surely waiting
just beyond the edge of town.
I joined the church
of any place else,
which in those days was
a tank of gas and
the Trans-Canada west,
and the radio full blast -
hey, hey LBJ, how many kids
did you kill today, and
here’s to you Mrs. Robinson
and any place in heaven
that you kneel to pray.
And in those times
and in those rhymes
the mists rose up
and fell away
and I was gone and
the times were gone
and I was someone else
before I could see that
all churches are one
and all towns are Truro
and no one gets out alive,
and an honest man
breaks all the rules,
yet keeps them too,
and that is the trick
and that is the joke
when the deal goes down
and we all come home
to Elizabeth Street.

© 2010