David Solway is the author of many books of poetry including the award-winning Modern Marriage, Bedrock, Chess Pieces, and Saracen Island: The Poetry of Andreas Karavis. A new collection, The Lover's Progress, will be appearing in the fall. Among his prose publications, Random Walks was a finalist for Le Grand Prix du Livre de Montréal and his most recent work, The Turtle Hypodermic of Sickenpods, was released by McGill-Queen's in 2001. He publishes regularly in such journals as The Atlantic Monthly, The Sewanee Review, Books in Canada and Canadian Notes & Queries and was appointed poet-in-residence at Concordia University.
It blazed so starkly what else could it be
but Venus, the stars' bright obscurity
that, like the moon, cobbled the sea with light.
Old Velikovsky surely got it right:
Venus, spewed from Jupiter's burning mass,
launched at once a gravity war with Mars,
banking the earth into a side pocket,
until, an illustrious comet, it
turned the sun into a carbide lamp - thus
it must have happened (pace Lucretius).
How else explain that chrome intensity,
that cold fire burning a hole in the sky,
a star that weaves a shadow from whole cloth?
The moon, beside it, fizzled like a moth.
Or were the ancients right? This radiant
being was Love herself or what Love meant
to be mistaken for - the lucid point
round which our new-created shadows dance,
the torch that kindles vision into trance.
And so I gazed, too deeply moved to move,
like any sentimentalist, at Love.
And as I stood and gawked, heard someone cough.
And then the boat weighed anchor and sailed off.
blessed is your name.
Forgive us our incessant
grumbling and protesting
to Town Hall and Council
and to the Town Engineer,
your companion at golf,
for your remiss and slovenly ways,
and for insulting my wife
who found your methods and your manners lacking.
For it is you who gives us our daily clearing
and removes the snow in heaps
even if you have destroyed the fence
we erected last summer
at considerable expense.
It is you who brings us our morning salt
that makes the dog limp on bleeding paws
and eats into the asphalt.
It is you who sprinkles sand
upon the snow and the salt
turning it all to slush
that softens and corrodes our boots.
It is you who makes the impassable
and sometimes even more impassable
as the whim takes you
seated high in the cab of your snowplough,
indifferent to the fate of householders.
snug in your corpulent immunities,
may you continue to flourish
on the taxes we render the municipality
and send your friend,
to salve our hurts and resentments,
but know there is room for improvement
in your methods
as there is in your manners.
for Haruki Murakami
where are you?
Did the winder-up
forget to wind your spring?
when are you
more than puppet or shadow?
Do you ever stir on your own?
what are you?
Did the automaton-maker
botch your ratchets and chucks?
why are you
unable to move
who are you?
Are you miscarriage of darkness
or just Noboru Wataya?
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man with a Hat
In the newspaper photo, he was
one of thirteen
who "plunged to their deaths"
in the basket of a hot air balloon.
A collection of dots,
yielding little resolution
except in the case
of the figure with the hat.
So there were thirteen.
Presumably, nobody stopped to count
at the embarkation stall.
as one humped blur
on the viewfinder's left.
On the right
a reasonably clear shape
wearing an Aussie hat.
The man with the hat
saw the photographer's balloon
drifting toward him, felt
rush of invisible wings.
The sky was a cloudless, unrifted blue.
The sky was broken with cirrus.
To write about
a man with a hat
in the basket of a hot air balloon
who "plunged to his death"
in Alice Springs
To be in that basket
is also ridiculous.
The man with the hat
since there is only one
which can be described, approximately,
as a man wearing a hat.
If there are thirteen ways
of looking at anything,
there is only one way
of being it.
A flock of crumpled black birds
fixed like Roman numerals.
An obvious, tasteless joke.
In any case, the utter lack
of anything resembling
You are in the basket
looking at the camera,
wearing a Crocodile Dundee hat,
on the very point
of raising your hand.
The stanzas of this poem,
including this one,
are lumped together
like featureless aperçus.
Except for the next.
A yellow sunbrella
affixed to the deck
turns languidly in the wind.
'The Red Wheelbarrow'
so much depends
The Red Wheel
scored with black
inside the white
Portrait: English Department
He complains of teaching, its claustral wars,
ingrown toenails of academic minds;
condemns the insecurity, and jeers
at a wasteland full of Waste Lands.
"This business of book, thesis, lecture -
it's like screwing the dead with icicles."
Damns the necrophiles of literature
pacing their offices like cells.
Lately he has little to say, his toes
curl up, he's been notified of tenure.
When it comes to the cynics, I suppose
there's no cure like a sinecure.