Friday, August 25, 2006

Soldier Search

—To smithereens, ma, to smithereens—

This is the exploding book—
the shredded plot—
alienation from gentle pages
between birth and life’s first trauma.

This is new song—
devo, devo, devolute until
the spine lies crumpled against rock
and elemental metamorphosis.

I stood with a stranger
beside the ruins. He spoke
through a catalogue of family
who lived there before night fire.
The morning after,
embers simmered in the empty shell of foundation.
He recalled the charred
litter of books, family papers—
and incessant north
Ontario rain.

This is a play for bodies—
this is a script for how they come
marching home in disarray.
This is a play for two moments
which stand beside each other,
bound to each other as though
they’re lovers in a deserted place
where waves tick-tock restless shore—
this is for the moment they realize
they’ve never touched, nor ever will again.

We drove our bikes west
out of
Waterloo—along Erb Street,
beyond the gravel pit.
It was August morning—
still damp from overnight rain—
under a bearable sun. In St Agatha,
we turned, down gravel road,
pedalled breathless until Jeremy asked
a farmer for directions. To the next crossroad,
veer right, about a mile
to rising moraine—there, down
a lane dead-ending in a field planted clover.
It was very quiet, to the point
I imagined the silence sang
in a deep voice. We joined the group
by the single-engine plane wreck
and listened to them decide
how it had all really happened—
and why. Before leaving, we tore a piece
of skin from the wing—
our adventure, our souvenir.

This is from
the country of adjectives—
that effort to describe
something indescribable.
This is for words detailing
displacement and instant rearrangement—
the way the afternoon sun,
stretching across silver bridge—
dripping into flat river—
the way the sun constantly pushes
shadows into drifts against the seagulls
and the cormorants—
how between one look
and the next, the air has dropped
a feather and a feeling
as unceremoniously as any tear.

In the smithereens some mornings are,
I walk the border—that line in the sand
that time has drawn.
This is a place of fog and echoes—
fog and echoes and questions
become stepping-stones
through what has happened.

Last week, I googled the site—
I typed in his name. There were
no hits, yet I remember his last
communication—a letter from
The summer of love had just
ended and he was
joining the army after spending
August and September priming
tobacco outside of Drumbo.
He’d worn his Canadian souvenir
to the roller rink
(a fashion torn from the flower-child dream)
and there was a fight.
Inclusion excludes.

I don’t understand how
you can sit there with your crystal ball,
cocksure that tomorrow
at eight in the morning,
at the corner of King and Victoria,
a truck driver will lose
control and his truck will jump
the curb and I—having gone
downtown to take architectural
photos of the old Kaufman plant
in undress between rubber factory
and downtown lofts—and I’ll be
run over and pronounced dead—on the spot.

I don’t understand how
you can predict one
in my song, when I’ve spent
a lifetime unable to predict
one stop, one pause, when between
one note and the next,
I’m in a different key,
singing different lyrics
and the dance partner whose steps
I thought I knew
has been replaced by someone
standing in the sunlight
drifting impatiently over
the tick-tock smithereens
of my memories.

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