Poetry Finalists 2009 – Readers’ Choice Poll
Poll closed. See winner below.
a train whistle blew in the distance
carried without obstruction across the reserve.
A man stumbled into the light, his breath stinking of alcohol, his pocked
brow wet with sweat,
a huge body, the body of a giant.
Table and chairs, round frowning daughters,
seven bear dogs scratching themselves at the back of the room.
Fishing with Wolf and Gus on White Lake, teenagers smoking in the boat
beside us, music from Thunder Bay on their radio.
White sport fisherman and O.P.P eyeing us with malice,
The blue speedboat runs smoothly by.
Hauling heavy nets, rising to their anchors off shore,
of pickerel tangled in the mesh.
They taught me pissing ‘Indian style’ down the sharp blade of a shattered paddle,
to drink water from empty beer bottles that
rolled across the slimy deck.
At nightfall, a stray dog with porcupine quills in its muzzle staggers
on the gravel road
Clouds blown down, river bending. I wake to sirens blaring.
A man is waving his shotgun in the air again, there are children with no shirts on
playing in the midnight summer sun
They are kicking a bald leather soccer ball that thumps for lack of air.
The moon is long and yellow like the canine of a huge animal and the stars
like flecks of silver trout scale
And the dog, just inside the periphery of my sight is black
but for his eyes
which glow bright and orange.
The strangled nature of his stride, my heart’s vacancy, the eagle
pair diving low for the ling we feed them.
I was much younger then, ignorant of the beauty of such visions and such men.
by Jack Lloyd (BA 2007 UTSC)
There is a thrill in playing with numbers
when you are so poor you write down the ten
cents you gave a busker who played something
on his accordion that reminded
you of Tom Waits a long time ago. Count
everything in the days and in the nights.
You work the days outside and then the nights
selling poetry by careful numbers
and making sure that you try to take count
of every percentage discount for ten
hours per week, two hours per night. Reminded
of your working class roots. It is something
You never remember, later. Something
one must record, writing while tired at nights
or in the mornings when you’re reminded
that things are good, too, despite the numbers
running against you. Soon you will owe ten
for the telephone, or go without. Count
Yourself blind for a while. Stay home and count
the times you gave Paris beggars something –
a smile, ignorance or pity, or ten
dirty cents that you will regret at nights.
You feel it in the stomach, these numbers,
feeling free and then harshly reminded
Of your poverty, later. Reminded
when your pay is somewhat less than you count
on, and the budget’s forced to change numbers
in God’s favour, who’s always had something
against you when you think too much at nights.
So what happened, today, friend, to that ten
You’d made plans on? Where, exactly’d, the ten
go? Now, I know it hurts when reminded
of these little fiscal details, but nights
are cold out-of-doors for failing to count
carefully. Fool. Did you think something
lovely would come along and stop numbers?
We are alone here. There are ten numbers
that repeat themselves. Something reminded
you for all the nights of your life to count.
by Cory Ingram (BA 2007 Woodsworth)
Once, I was asked to describe a
Scene from my boyhood that has lingered
In my mind through seven decades,
Five wives and countless would-be successes
In such elaborate and disparate fields as
Mechanics and brainstorming, painting and a
Traveling gig with a Klezmer Band headed by
A man named Rodolfo (or was it Yago?),
Who, by the way, wore a plum coloured tie
And addressed his wife as Cleopatra –
Heiress to the desert of his heart and
Baker of the key lime pie to end all pies,
And, for that matter, all desserts which
Take as their base the Caesarian World of Fruits.
Anyway, it was over an apple when
He asked if I would come and deliver a
Few words on my favourite memory –
We were sitting under an elm in a sunny
Quadrangle, agog at the blue Parulas
Who appeared to be learning to comb the
Leaves on the circlets of their heads: I said sure.
With an old guitar string, he cut me a
Crescent of apple and listened as I explained
(In my round-about way) how my scene had
Come to pass; it was with the cup of my
Hand on the egg my chin that I told him
The story of how I was eight years old,
Scrubbing the muck from the kitchen floor,
The bubbles gathering like angels or
Those fluffy bits from the trees in spring,
When, all of a sudden, a gust from the
Window sent them, scurrying, to the
Couch where my Grandmother was
Napping, up like a bird, one foot off the rug.
Breathing deeply, I rustled her hair and
Watched as she looked at me with her dodo-eyes
And penguin-smirk; then I asked her (very softly):
Why do you sleep with one foot up like that?
And she said (even softer): with one
Off the floor, you’re halfway to flying.
In Rocco’s House
(My Grandmother’s Poor Beginning)
by Laura Rock (BA 1986 SMC)
When the man slams his fist down
a king’s table trembles
and she chews stopped-up words.
Why play jut-jawed rebel
wanting more, always more?
The eldest should be dutiful
cause for joy
like brothers working for scant praise
like baby sister, winsome, adored.
But that one-she’s a pistol.
His friends warn him.
Soon she’ll leave his household
and the father will die young
appendix burst from pride, she thinks,
or outsized rage.
She pictures the faulty organ:
whistle at the plant blowing
quitting time, Roc.
She comes home to a mother
of sorrows, many children, no pension.
Daily they simmer and hiss.
Years later, it will still be proclaimed—
to die from such a simple thing!
And when the company finally offered money.
And how she burned the letter in the sink.
for babes grown old.
by Jessica Taylor (BA 2003 UC, MA 2004)
The sunset reflected on the tower windows
is fading —
the glimmer of sequins
a homage to cocktail dresses
in building form,
a neon sign flickering
as the headliner’s celebrity
is burned away.
The skyscrapers of the 80s.
But this is now. And night.
Turn the lights off,
Bay Street professionals.
The warblers are trying to fly home.
Touched By Jeff Healey
by Sandra Lloyd (BA 1984 UTM)
The hostess gave Jeff Healey a house tour
so he didn’t bump into things, or burn
outstretched hands on the stove.
He’d brought records, found his Johnny Cash album
in the stack of vinyl with dancing fingers.
He did this blind.
They brought Jeff and me face to face.
Let him see you — with his hands, they insisted. I wondered
if Jeff thought I was pretty, but he didn’t say.
I hoped it’s because pretty can’t be felt although
how nice if a boy with no eyes
had found me so.
At the end of the day, Jeff kept his eyes
in his bedside table drawer — nights no darker
than his days.