Poems » lynn crosbie » cool pastoral on bloor street


I.  Consider the tragic fortitude
  of mannikins, the courage it takes
    under casual poses to do
  nothing interminably each day.

    To face unflinching (through sunlit glass
  that bars them from it) the rushing surf
    of life within reach where they must stand
  marooned on their islands' plastic turf,

   and not to cry out: more heroic
 than those Romans the lava rain stunned
   to statues -- misshaped by the panic
 that twisted their limbs, glazed with their pain

   in black rock -- friezes of agony.
You would never know, from the relaxed
   swivel of this woman's wrist as she
completes a backhand with her racket,

   that she will never take another
swing, or from her smile that she has stood
   balanced here on one foot all summer
like one of Dante's damned, and not cracked.

2.  'Cracked' is my father's word for 'crazy,'
  as in 'You'd have to be cracked to pay
     that much for a pair of shoes.' He's not
  crazy, but he forgets, and today

   as we pay out his visit's hours
strolling on Bloor, he thinks up the same
   questions again minutes after he's
nodded and smiled at answers to them.

   Looking for things to look at and not
think, I focus on another grove
   of mummers: headless, their necks poke out
like worms from the smartly turned-over

   collars of turtlenecks and jackets.
You can tell they've also lost their arms
   from the way the sleeves plummet slackly
off their shoulders -- although they, ashamed

   to show the mutilation, act cool
and tuck the cuffs into their pockets.
   I look at my father -- hands trembling,
head crazed like china with minute cracks

   through which years exit invisibly --
and must remind myself his show is
   kinder, the long-running comedy
where he's played every part, from fresh-faced

   mooning lover to child-duped parent
to doddering senex: still free now
   (while heart and limbs play their duet)
to do a walk-on, ad lib, bow out.

   He sweats a little in the sunshine.
 Summer stock, lacking the tragic poise
   that freezes these actors in their scene,
we move on towards a shadier place.