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Political Meeting

A.M. Klein
From:   A.M. Klein: Complete Poems (I & 2). ed. Zailig Pollock. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990. 2.657-8.

For Camillien Houde

On the school platform, draping the folding seats,
they wait the chairman's praise and glass of water.
Upon the wall the agonized Y initials their faith.

Here all are laic; the skirted brothers have gone.
Still, their equivocal absence is felt, like a breeze
that gives curtains the sounds of surplices.

The hall is yellow with light, and jocular;
suddenly some one lets loose upon the air
the ritual bird which the crowd in snares of singing

catches and plucks, throat, wings, and little limbs.
Fall the feathers of sound, like alouette's.
The chairman, now, is charming, full of asides and wit,

building his orators, and chipping off
the heckling gargoyles popping in the hall.
(Outside, in the dark, the street is body-tall,
flowered with faces intent on the scarecrow thing
that shouts to thousands the echoing
of their own wishes.) The Orator has risen!

Worshipped and loved, their favourite visitor,
a country uncle with sunflower seeds in his pockets,
full of wonderful moods, tricks, imitative talk,

he is their idol: like themselves, not handsome,
not snobbish, not of the Grande Allée! Un homme!
Intimate, informal, he makes bear's compliments

to the ladies; is gallant; and grins;
goes for the balloon, his opposition, with pins;
jokes also on himself, speaks of himself

in the third person, slings slang, and winks with folklore;
and knows now that he has them, kith and kin.
Calmly, therefore, he begins to speak of war,

praises the virtue of being Canadien,
of being at peace, of faith, of family,
and suddenly his other voice: Where are your sons?

He is tearful, choking tears; but not he
would blame the clever English; in their place
he'd do the same; maybe.

Where are your sons?
                                   The whole street wears one face,
shadowed and grim; and in the darkness rises
the body-odour of race.

A.M. Klein's works copyright © to the A.M. Klein Estate.

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