Inside the Nova Scotian Statistical Average

(For Eric Trethewey)

The Hants County gypsum mines—
the white-dust, black-lung-disease quarries—
is drill-pocked cadavers.

Many cast-off miners could be saints
if they didn’t gotta throttle bottles
to try piss the disembowling grime

out their throats, lungs, schnozzles, eh? 
Some retailiate for toxic gaspin
by stabbin wives, stranglin small fry….

The daily poisonin triggers 
a hard squall of blood, a tsunami, eh?
Ain’t not too bad money, right—

dem pick-axe jobs down the mines!
Every man says, “I need this, this, this, this,
n this!” How else ya gonna get it?

Too many can’t live like ya want,
but wallow in jails:  Take a swallow
of med-sin, get embedded behind bars.

Tons of hooch flood, much blood leaks.
Pounds of blood!  It keeps soakin
through bandages like coffee through

filters, eh?!  Fights hourly!  You bust
yer hands; your face be raw hamburger!
Teeth all jump out.  The big shits

just thunk and knock ya bout.  (In
the hoosegow, you’s so close,
you get to tell exact the aroma

of each other’s piss.)  When yer freed,
partyin is Bible—chapter n verse.
Y’ain’t goin back in the quarry?

Rather cut yer throat in a hurry!





 
Rigid Truth

(pace Hart Crane, pace Edelmis Anoceta Vega)

Too common be the decease of lovers!
Flourishing only between April and August,
they cling to vestiges of sun—
light gone wan and cool as mushrooms—
until bitter winter blights—gangrenes—all black.

I insinuate no mask or camouflage!
No pretence of Warmth or Sobriety!
Vivisect each lover’s apprehensive heart:
Their behaviour, jumpy as shadows,
betrays each caress’s endless Futility.

Always pending is the decisive Divorce:
The funeral home trespassing on the garden.
Lookit!  The frigid limb refuses Feeling,
and thus the elegy is equally brittle, stiff.
Grief is as useless as a doorless fridge!

Lovers are so keen—desperate—to love,
yet disappear as soon as Love passes!
So quickly do they they splash down
in strangers’ beds, thrashing in quicksand,
or sink in Alhambras of pooled, mirroring tears!

Chastened lovers shrink back from light!
Lies—unanswerable—paralyze;
the farewells and goodbyes debilitate;
the divisions are half-ass, the causes half-headed;
half-hearted be the halved household.

No wonder lovers despair at every hour!
They observe other lovers’ deaths!
And none are ever recovered!
Each by each is murdered, expiring in Ecstasy,
and dumb to protest the benumbing Pleasure.






 
In Memoriam:  Louiselle Bossé Morin

            Louiselle Bossé Morin grew up where
paper mirrors sugar—
white and sweet—
out of mills where sweat lifts as smoke,
mills plunked down mid sugar maples
smoking with syrup….
 
She matured in sugar bush 
nigh paper mill,
in communion with cathedrals
leagued against Poverty—
the denuded breadbox
and the degenerate pantry—
in plots where strawberries flower over graves.
 
Her treasure was Maria Chapdelaine—
the fearful proverb about exile from Faithfulness—
anywhere where sunlight is unyielding
on the threshold of Heaven

which is always eastern Québec
(white snow, blue sky)
or Tunisia
(white sand, blue sea)....

When she met, matched, and married Henri,
he knew Beauty would always accompany her,
and Utopia was where their bodies 
could touch and merge.

She became the saint of kitchen and cradle,
knowing a child mewls like a kitten,

and she set out rations of milk
and factions of meat

and sprinkled wine 
over custards, puddings, cakes, pies, fondues.

No tattered morsels could suit for feasting!

Always flowed sparkling wine 
arcing over ice cream.

She refused to be as economical as Poverty.

She never accepted tidbits of words,
but besieged us with gifts—

hand-knit sweaters, homemade shirts,
cotton and wool and linen and silk chic,
textiles seamstressed into Poetry.

She was as sovereign as a saint—
our Angel of the Credit Union—
and so bore no debit of ill-repute;
she carried a decent purse:
Her Bourse was always super with gold.

That facade of Spring—
March—
that May effaces—
was not Louiselle.

She was authentic fire and light and heat—
like a landed sun.

Crosswords will now fall incomplete 
and incorrect
without her Logic.

How can she slumber and never more wake?

No! I think her laughter remains:
It's evermore a trumpet
chewing up the air!


The 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15) and the 7th Parliamentary/Canadian Poet Laureate (2016-17), George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1960.  Educated at the University of Waterloo, Dalhousie University, and Queen’s University, Clarke is also a pioneering scholar of African-Canadian literature, with two major tomes to his credit:  Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature (2002) and Directions Home: Approaches to African-Canadian Literature (2012).  A professor of English at the University of Toronto, Clarke has taught at Duke, McGill, the University of British Columbia, and Harvard.  He holds eight honorary doctorates, plus appointments to the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada at the rank of Officer. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.  His recognitions include the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellows Prize, the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry, the Premiul Poesis (Romania), the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction, the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (US), and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award.  His books are available in Chinese, Romanian, and Italian. 

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