SITTING ON THE OUTDOOR PATIO AT O’REILLY’S
Sitting on the outdoor patio at O’Reilly’s
in a shady corner with the umbrella down
where they abide the smokers like lepers in an ashtray.
O, bad, bad. Say the purists whose way of life
is a diet. Pot of black coffee squatting like a guru
in the middle of the table, two beer for my buddy, Simon,
I’m anchored to my chair foursquare at the corner
of Gore and the Universe, watching the leaves
on the crab apple trees in the parking lot below
the heritage fire tower shed easily in the sunshine
like passing afterthoughts. Yellow eyelids.
Knowing there are not too many years left
I’ll be able to do this. Sit and watch. In the flesh.
The numbness and strain on the novellas
of the faces of a married couple shell-shocked
by the barrage of frontline circumstances
they’ve been under most of their adult lives
as if they had to bury their hearts just to survive
like something they’d come back to later,
Roadkill. A doe and buck. Ten points, no less.
The woman with a steel factory of thick, red hair
listening sexually to a career-oriented man
in a patchy beard he trims every Thursday
chat her up as she tries to recall the last burning bush
that left a rash on the inside of her thighs.
It’s good to see love still has its enthusiasts.
Almost nautical. The canal near. The heritage lamp.
I pull a pen out of the inside pocket of my leather jacket
that makes me look rougher than I actually am,
beautiful pen, peacock blue, with heft, like a sword,
or an oar I took for free when I last went
to pay part of my rent at the real estate office
across the street with the bricked-in windows
that look like the eyes of the blind. Impervious.
And I scribble on the brown envelope that scared me
at first, but only wanted to tell me how much
I would be getting on my old age pension
and guaranteed income supplement cheque
as if somehow I’d rounded all the bases
back to homeplate and now it was time to clean
my locker out and retire my number like a lottery ticket,
Normal’s even more surrealistic than spaced out is
because it’s not expected to be, my thought for the day.
Maybe that will become part of a poem later
as I wonder, looking out my apartment window,
how I ever ended up here, or why I’ve stayed
for the last thirty-three years other than cheap rent,
the company of trees, and long, long eras in which
to perfect my solitude like one of ten thousand lakes
around here that hasn’t been named yet
for some peculiarity of easy reference. Poet Lake.
Why not? I’ll be the first to drown my book in it.
Love lyrics to the fingerling water sylphs I’ll stock it with.
How many open doors of liberation have I had
to step through in the course of my life so far
to avoid being incarcerated by what I stepped into
like the new moon on the surface of the La Brea Tarpit
in the depths, or a soul into a body that was
confused by it like starmud and spiritual window putty?
How many tears have I beaded like a rosary of water
on oil, trying to make some sense of human sorrow,
compiling a zodiac of extinct species for a coffee-table
nobody ever opened? All my life I’ve stolen
poems from my poverty like a thief that gives back
tenfold. It’s a kind of poor boy pride I expect
but at least it’s mine and I’ll stand and I’ll fall by it,
moonrise and moonset, with no bitterness or regret,
few heralds at the entrance and no paid mourners at the exit.
Patinas of lustreless brass, old gold in the Bronze Age,
and scarlet letters like a sacred vowel of life
triple x-rated by the mythically-inflated hypocrites
at the auto de fe of the maples who’d rather
burn with desire in the house of life than
eat their own ashes out of the ethical gutter
of the hand of God washed in the blood of the lamb,
I watch the shadows of the leaves falling
against a wall of warm fieldstones giving
their heat up to the approaching night
like loaves of home-made bread cooling
on a windowsill it’s easy enough to mistake
for the threshold of a vagrant homelessness
I’ve laboured at like a road with no way back
to the security of the delusion I was going somewhere
when here, just as much as there, was where
it was at all along and will be, hallelujah, after I’m gone.