Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale



The commerce block (wide angle view, autumn)

Static neon early evening,
glowing blood orange-scarlet,
late October sunlight ripples wide
across thick vined brick and concrete,
the buildings' broadsides draped
in creeping crimson
ivy and past century slogans/adverts
culture stencils faded—dated
with chalk and soot and carbon,
from a time when the solid buildings
served their flimsy purposes,
cold ideas in tint-glass tubing
charged, connected, grounded
to the bottom dollar

fleeting shapes and colours
deep in time still blinking,
inviting a long-gone citizenry of shadows
to chow down at Old Henry's,
sweet buns and green-pea pudding,
China Boy roasted buckwheat groats,
shadows stepping out proud—stepping easy
round Buster's Old Brown Shoe Repair,
the old block's walls' miscellaneous
still hawking metal pant cuff clips,
handmade leather bike saddles
and Rand McNally flat world maps
and still slow-spinning wooden atlases

old city blurs to fragments, phrases,
filaments, lettering like rain and hail
written in wind and weather's own lost fonts
still bettering any man's imagination,
and his metropolis' history paying back
in full, with interest (and vice versa)
through its rustling
tangle of old climbers
thick and leafy paper-money green,
holes in pockets and stuffed porkpie hats,
the dead and the industrious,
dazed and pale, all smudged transparent
there now suspended, souls
perched on the overhang, golden-eyed,
like our motley pigeons on the wires
of this sundown neighbourhood

some would still strut lively
but for the frozen bottom margin
of blood-brown dark and dirty
tile and concrete sidewalk down below
where the poor have come and gone,
and will still come and go
and seldom leave a signature,
remembered only for their dreams
dreams all high cloud wisps and fading
to forgotten forget-me-not blue
the pale white panel sky's
matched broad electric pillars,
mercury and argon flashing either end,
at dawn, at dusk, at birth, at death,
and now late day-light
waxing moon, last-quarter phase
over what was Lucky Day Parlour
Funeral Home and Crematorium

Old Chinatown Henry's
veins bled/drained there, traced in that
moon's face, faint and varicose,
sign-lights softly winking off and on,
where he liked to put his
swollen old sweet potato feet up,
and he propped them up so high,
a whole life reflecting, things up-side-down,
and still stirs his tapioca bowl
the clouds and thunder
and the alley ghosts his wife
may have seen but Henry didn't
back of their Bleach & Bluing Laundry
Service and not imperial
Little Sweet Sunbeam Cafe
below the Loggers' Union hall,
before the first Benevolent Societies
the later ping pong palaces
and what came next

as this broad unwieldy chevron
of my transparent thoughts wings on
as a dusk-coloured blanket
of owls and crows needles into frame
from my city's dim north shore
and the brain's colder hemisphere,
raggedly threading toward black autumn
roosts, beyond the parameters
of this block of coloured dust and ruin
this block these buildings
where really there are none
(not a door, not a window,
not a floor nor ceiling) in a time
on a horizon when all I know
is this blind bright haze,
and nothing anymore grounded,
only static blood orange-scarlet
now hanging yellowy-golden
blazing in dirty pale sundown
against this ghostly light-and-shadowed
wall of an old bank building
beneath a nickel moon
and everything
slow-motion falling, tails up/heads down...

© Larry Nightingale




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