v. More Type Than Man
Time is ripe
here in dusk’s blue light
for a painted picture
She had lived there for a time, for a moment now mostly forgotten, as a child. There are photographs of her holding her father’s hand before a Rubens in one of the Louvre’s staid galleries. She looks both placid and volatile, as if she could soon sleep or throw a tantrum just where the camera has frozen her.
She has lived in other places charged with blood and intrigue, lined with marble tombs: Cyprus, Cairo, Tehran. They have become a part of her story, and it is a far richer one than his. He sees himself and his childhood like this: a boy on a bike. It doesn’t matter where.
Sometimes, he is kicking a soccer ball, or a friend, with swear words on his lips.
He is eating a pork chop.
He regards his ancestry as from a distance: some rank tube of snakeskin. Pink-skinned Mennonite stock, Scots clergy, and flannel-wearing English. An Irish aberration was recently acknowledged by a grandmother.
The half-forgotten dream
Sleep is coloured with the
florid pigmentation of night
that we may wake in the semblance
Sparks against a field of blackness
Up here amongst the gases he feels occasional terror and the utmost boredom. It is a place of crippling conformity and silence.
They disembark in a highway city the colour of silt.
The urban disarray gradually gives way to the rustic disrepair of scattered, whalebone-coloured sheds and outbuildings, and barns that seem never to have seen a coat of paint. Homes occasionally emerge with quivering primness as if from winter snow, showing some of the inevitable scars: tumbled fences, long disused vehicles parked in driveways.
I was raised in the midst of old men:
curling rink and minor hockey tournament sorts,
with their braid-fronted ballcaps and badged jackets,
their smell of watery hot chocolate.
As a child, this society was comforting –
an extension of my tiny organism.
Years later, and the older I get,
I find it terrifying that I will possibly become one of them,
taking coffee and donuts,
with the regularity of a homeowner’s prideful lawn mowing,
with an unknown wife.
The valley landscape spurs his young imagination, awakening it just enough that it is not perfunctorily stifled by the hills encircling his hometown. When it occurs to him to look beyond the porch, the backyard games, he sees mountain ridges jagged as mammoth spines. The bellied evergreens on the mountain walls conceal massive, buried gorilla fists.
He leans over the railing above an alley dotted with faintly grease-stained white pizza plates flattened by tires and scattered spring rainfall. He lights a cigarette, watching a plane silently cutting the blue eastern sky. The buds on the tree below are swollen in red flesh, softly pulsing. Two seagulls fly crookedly into the wind.
An eldest brother, he taught himself
to brood impassively, labouring precisely
at the kitchen table towards mastery in spelling
from somewhere inside a blue-and-green-striped sweatshirt.
With the crickets boisterous in hidden vegetable fields,
standing at an upstairs window
he stole glimpses beyond the backyard fence.
The household slept.
He lost himself, variously, in
a growth spurt
sips of whiskey
sharpening and waxing.
But, he was dissatisfied with each of these modest expressions.
He recalled that he had long harboured a ritual fondness
for the chunk of an axe striking wood,
so, he purchased a stand of timber.
Around it, he constructed an elegant moat, complete with crocodile;
he found himself a grateful castaway on an uninhabited isle.
Still, he found himself returning to miniature, grassless parks
beneath apartment towers, casting his eyes towards
expensively groomed women in tan boots
accompanied by muscular, human-eyed poodles –
in this he was misled.
He emerged from musty libraries endorsing French philosophers –
in this he was mistaken.
He seized upon the wines of his home province –
though these could not cure him, they led him to discovery.
If only I can arrange a visit to his little woodland,
he has promised to tell me what he found.
Summer is only the unfulfilled promise of spring, a charlatan in place of the warm balmy nights I dream of in April. It’s a sad season of life without growth… It has no day.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald