For C.D. Wright and in memory of Frank Stanford
The dismal he did so well,
it went down smooth and easy.
Mama said he had a voice
for the radio ministry. You got along
like a house on fire. You know, he asked
one evening, shimmying out of his jeans,
At the start of the Civil War, a quarter
of the state’s population were slaves?
You had passed the afternoon together
in courtly decadence, sitting out
under the shade tree with a pile of books,
a fresh pack of smokes and a bottle
you passed back and forth with great
ceremony, fancying yourselves misguided
followers of Rousseau, costumed as savages,
playing at pastoral on the south lawn.
Gradually his eyes grew more wild
and dark, so you retired early, whereupon
with three quick taps on his breastbone,
he pursued his thought, Maybe our deaths
are herein enslaved, desiring to be set free.
Like a raccoon trapped in the cellar
or a wasp between panes. You couldn’t tell
if it was a question or something he knew
for a certainty. Upon his naked chest, you laid
both palms flat. Congenital defect, you said,
then pushed hard, so that he staggered
back and sprawled, laughing, on the bed,
atop your grandma’s quilt, which was,
as it happened, just where you wanted him.
The Good News about Armageddon (Brick Books 2010), which was shortlisted for the 2011 ReLit Award. His second collection, Primer on the Hereafter (Wolsak and Wynn 2006), was awarded the Atlantic Poetry Prize. His debut collection, Lean Days (Wolsak and Wynn 2004), was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, which recognizes the best first book of poetry published by a Canadian. His work has been anthologized in Breathing Fire 2: Canada’s New Poets and has appeared widely in literary journals and magazines including Bei Mei Feng (China), Humanist Perspectives, Jacket, Malahat Review and The National Post’s Afterword. He lives in Toronto. Visit www.stevemcormond.com or https://twitter.com/Steve_McOrmond.
the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan