06w01:2 Irving Layton 1912-2006

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 1 number 2 (Irving Layton 1912-2006)

Irving Layton has died. And so to commemorate, a poem.
But first, in the world of cultural ignorance, this news (from today’s Globe and Mail):

no one knew who alice was
Kind of reminds me of the time I saw the Halifax Shakespeare by the Sea summer fest listing in 1999. It was in the MT&T brochure designed for tourists. For Titus Andronicus, they’d written, ‘Titus and Ronicus’.

The Cold Green Element (1940)
by Irving Layton

At the end of the garden walk
the wind and its satellite wait for me;
their meaning I will not know
until I go there,
but the black-hatted undertaker

who, passing, saw my heart beating in the grass,
is also going there. Hi, I tell him,
a great squall in the Pacific blew a dead poet
out of the water,
who now hangs from the city’s gates.

Crowds depart daily to see it, and return
with grimaces and incomprehension;
if its limbs twitched in the air
they would sit at its feet
peeling their oranges.

And turning over I embrace like a lover
the trunk of a tree, one of those
for whom the lightning was too much
and grew a brillant
hunchback with a crown of leaves.

The ailments escaped from the labels
of medicine bottles and all fled to the wind;
I’ve seen myself lately in the eyes of old women,
spent streams mourning my manhood,

in whose old pupils the sun became
a bloodsmear on broad catalpa leaves
and hanging from ancient twigs,
my murdered selves
sparked the air like muted collisions

of fruit. A black dog howls down my blood,
a black dog with yellow eyes;
he too by someone’s inadvertence
saw the bloodsmear
on the broad catalpa leaves.

But the furies clear a path for me to the worm
who sang for an hour in the throat of a robin,
and misled by the cries of young boys
I am again
a breathless swimmer in that cold green element.

-That’s all today, bye.


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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 04 January 2006 @ 10:42 PM

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