Cool Pastoral on Bloor Street

2  of mannikins, the courage it takes
3    under casual poses to do
4  nothing interminably each day.
5    To face unflinching (through sunlit glass
6  that bars them from it) the rushing surf
7    of life within reach where they must stand
8  marooned on their islands' plastic turf,
9   and not to cry out: more heroic
10 than those Romans the lava rain stunned
11   to statues -- misshaped by the panic
12 that twisted their limbs, glazed with their pain
13   in black rock -- friezes of agony.
14You would never know, from the relaxed
15   swivel of this woman's wrist as she
16completes a backhand with her racket,
17   that she will never take another
18swing, or from her smile that she has stood
19   balanced here on one foot all summer
20like one of Dante's damned, and not cracked.
212. 'Cracked' is my father's word for 'crazy,'
22  as in 'You'd have to be cracked to pay
23     that much for a pair of shoes.' He's not
24  crazy, but he forgets, and today
25   as we pay out his visit's hours
26strolling on Bloor, he thinks up the same
27   questions again minutes after he's
28nodded and smiled at answers to them.
29   Looking for things to look at and not
30think, I focus on another grove
31   of mummers: headless, their necks poke out
32like worms from the smartly turned-over
33   collars of turtlenecks and jackets.
34You can tell they've also lost their arms
35   from the way the sleeves plummet slackly
36off their shoulders -- although they, ashamed
37   to show the mutilation, act cool
38and tuck the cuffs into their pockets.
39   I look at my father -- hands trembling,
40head crazed like china with minute cracks
41   through which years exit invisibly --
42and must remind myself his show is
43   kinder, the long-running comedy
44where he's played every part, from fresh-faced
45   mooning lover to child-duped parent
46to doddering senex: still free now
47   (while heart and limbs play their duet)
48to do a walk-on, ad lib, bow out.
49   He sweats a little in the sunshine.
50 Summer stock, lacking the tragic poise
51   that freezes these actors in their scene,
52we move on towards a shadier place.

Notes

1] Bloor Street: Toronto's major west-east thoroughfare. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Mining for Sun (London, Ontario: Brick Books, 2000): 23.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire