UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LINKS
From: The Fiddlehead 225, Autumn 2005
Staring out at the empty parking lot
Buried, I can't but be tempted to think:
Blank page. Clotted cream. White sheet without blot
Of blood upon it. That won't do. I shrink
From clean metaphor. One block down, I know
The suburbs' urgent traffic crawls and clogs
This coast town's constricted veins, greasy snow
Humped grey anent trenches, slush-crumby cogs
Grinding in a seized economy's engine.
The liquor store enjoys a roaring trade;
Socked-in folks stock up needful stuff again,
Unimpressed by this trick that winter's played.
In curfewed dark, the amber beacon of a plow
Strobes the first flakes of another night's snow.
Strobes. The furred flakes of another night's snow
Garnish metre-deep heaps that are being
Shoved, shovelled, lugged, bypassed, cussed at and blown
All over Halifax; dogs are peeing
In it; dumptrucks haul enormous sullied
Dollops dockwards to nourish the harbour.
(Dispensation's been granted to muddy
Our common latrine.)
Over my neighbour's
Fence, I launch blocks that I've carved from the drifts,
Shirking the work of a far longer trek—
And pay for this lazy sin: fine stuff sifts,
Settles wet on the white skin of my neck.
Shoulders squinched, I focus up through a squint:
Crows quarter five-fingered wings against wind.
Crows quarter five-fingered wings against wind
And dip and wheel and rip and skate like kites
Without strings, sheer at each other, brake, bend
Off, a feather from wrecking their dogfights.
Some claim that brute beasts have no sense of fun—
That's dumb. A few make the most of unplanned
Time off, don snowshoes and skis, sled and run
Through ultra-urbane winter wonderland;
Others maunder in gloom cursing profit
Lost, crunching the cost of this weatherbomb;
And one bone-weary poet pens sonnets
To celebrate an exceptional storm.
Image-sick, he seeks moral straws to clutch
At—Yes! Most of what is done is too much.
What? Yes: most of what is done is too much.
God, when there are so many things not begun:
Rosebuds to gather, pied beauties to touch
With eyes, ears, nose, teeth, toes, fingers and tongue;
Strange lands to visit and spices to taste;
Heights still unfathomed, depths yet to be climbed;
Blank pages to fill, red lips to be kissed;
Beds and books unbroken, words left unrhymed—
Why do we persist in boring ourselves?
When life's a great multifarious feast,
Why do we storehouse canned goods on our shelves?
How to account for such thrift-conscious waste?
When life's a hundred thousand times too short,
Why do we settle for scrap, shred, crumb, ort?
Weather settles. Hoary scraps, shreds, crumbs, orts
Of crumbly snow turned concrete in the cold
And salt-pocked hardpack sparkle like flawed borts
Strewn in walkways carved in spall-etched frost-walled
Maginot trenches, treacherous goatpath
Networks, navigable to the nimble
Alone—work's halted as though the sabbath
Compelled it. The fittest now must stumble
Clumsy while the housebound haunt bay windows,
Waiting on zephyr's tepid breath to melt
Impediments, in fear of glissandos
Into broken coccyx, hip, elbow dealt
By glib ice on asphalt: a mean hard card
And shortcut to a frost-hummocked boneyard.
A shortcut through the frost-hummocked boneyard
Should have brought the drunk poet home sooner,
But for false steps and foxholes, our stoned bard
Made unsteady progress.
(Was it moon or
Streetlight that dusted the scene so ghastly?
Or was it that last half-pint of cider
That limned a blanched tableau like some lost Li
He broke like a Dave Stieb slider,
Or like the sun rising, through the wrought east
Gate of the dead's condominium
A loader bulled elegant on fraught greased
Axles, scooping buckets of crud. Stand there
Was all he'd manage, transfixed by the diesel
—and the driver like Munch at his easel.
I dance and shiver like Munch at his easel
Straining to expel this Norwegian cold
From fingers and toes: our heat has fizzled
Out, our furnace drained of fuel, the old-
School moulded space heaters radiate nothing.
Ironclad hibernation. Studious
Chilblained bum, I layer clothing.
My neighbour's chimneypot spouts sooty O's—
O, I covet fossil-fired comfort and curse
My landlord's neglect. That fucker will rue
Forgetting to top up the tank.
I'm sheer bluff: bowser truck'll be here soon.
In wait, I wander and get lost in thought,
Staring out at the empty parking lot.
Zachariah Wells' works copyright © to the author.