Original Text

Bruce Meyer, The Presence (Ashland, Oregon: Story Line Press, 1999): 51-52.

1A summer rain falls and dampens the smell
3collected on the curbside of Spadina Avenue
5touching its spines with a scientific curiosity
6and feeling its flesh for soft spots in the green.
7A streetcar inches on as the light turns green
10for the nose to ponder like opening strange boxes
11and discovering sensations, like tasting durian
12for the first time and navigating Spadina Avenue.
13This is an awakening. Here on Spadina Avenue,
16and air so ripe, so livid with the bright smell
19And the mind dances. It jumps with the curiosity
20that tormented navigators who sought an avenue
22forcibly opened, gun boats and opium and green
23horizons for the thirst. And beneath it all, the smell
24of tainted history, a restlessness prickly as a durian,
25smelling as putrid as the ripe and chosen durian
26the old woman has dropped, catching the curiosity
27of eyes distracted momentarily and the raw smell
28of fullness and death echoing down the avenue.
29O Paradise, once East of Eden, place of perfect green
31and crated wholesale to the British Museum and other boxes
32where ghosts sequester culture -- like that ripe durian --
33has become the stuff of truth, the simple joy of green
34fruit professing the torment of mankind. Curiosity
35bids one turn for a second look and the long avenue
36of time, broad and crowded spreads ahead. The smell
37of torment boxes us in, yet attracts us like a curiosity
38in a trading company, like a durian broken on the avenue
39and the soft green meat's timeless, inanimate smell.


2] Chinatown: one of half-a-dozen districts in downtown Toronto, here the one straddling two bustling downtown thoroughfares, east-west Dundas Street and north-south Spadina Avenue.
bok choy: a Chinese cabbage. Back to Line
4] durian: large asian husked fruit with a strong, distinctive odor, disgusting to some, attractive to others. Back to Line
8] dim sum: Chinese cooked, bite-sized, and tastyfoods sometimes served in little baskets. Back to Line
9] wokked: cooked in a round-bottomed Chinese pan with a spatula. Back to Line
14] Whitman: Walt Whitman, the American poet, whose central work is titled Leaves of Grass. Back to Line
15] lichee: a small Chinese berry with a fragrant and sweet flesh. Back to Line
17] Euroness: the European sensibility, that mediated by the Euro. Back to Line
18] its: emended from printed is. Back to Line
21] Pandora's boxes: the first woman in Greek mythology,created by Zeus in revenge for the theft of fire from the gods by Prometheus, the woman who in curiosity opened a jar and released its contents -- all the miseries afflicting man -- with the exception of hope, remaining at the very bottom of the jar. Back to Line
30] Li Po: one of the greatest Chinese poets of the Tangdynasty. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition
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Copyright (c) Bruce Meyer. Printed by permission of the author. Any other use, including reproduction for any purposes, educational or otherwise, will require explicit written permission from the poet.