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   Jacket 34 — October 2007        link Jacket 34 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

   Feature: Canada
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Donald McGrath

Five poems:

The Shorter Version of Lawrence of Arabia
At The Faubourg
The Night Lady Di Died
What Was He Doing Exactly?
A Man At The End of His Career

This piece is about 4 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Donald McGrath and Jacket magazine 2007.

The Shorter Version of Lawrence of Arabia

I concurred when Orrence said the British
were a fat people. I differed
when Sharif shot the guide at the well
and our blond boy described the Arabs
as “a little people.”
               This emphasis on size
suddenly seemed outlandish — and I was ready
for the elegance of King Faisal who,
gathering up his sleeves, was heard to say:
“With Major Lawrence, mercy
is a passion. With me,
it is merely good manners.”
               Such breeding! And the perfect foil
to that ethnic jukebox, Anthony Quinn.
“You trouble me like women!” he shouted,
ridiculous in his oversize hooked nose.
As for Aqaba, it was vastly overrated
and fell inside a minute and a half.

At The Faubourg

Listless in its copper green element,
the lobster extends a languid claw
like the gloved paw of some dame bourgeoise.
Behind, its companions have retired
to smoky recesses where seaweed tendrils
drape a series of tableaux vivants
which for our edification they perform
with consummate slowness, so that we,
so utterly caught up in our century,
may know respite from unseemly haste
and ponder whatever lessons may be imparted
through the limpid, salutary medium of water.

This spectacle of crustacean promiscuity
is a morality play with bubbles, a variation
on a theme of social climbing. We watch it,
vaguely aware of our growing indignation.
We will not be preached to, especially not by lobsters!
This established, we peer in fascination beyond the glass
to where a jumble of antennae and crimson-speckled bodies
conjures up, for our delectation, the brocaded interior
of some fin-de-siècle salon bristling with hookahs.

The Night Lady Di Died

The night Lady Di died,
I found myself viewing pornography
in the company of two priests. The Catholic
had located his favourite gay porn icon
in a straight flick — a mix well suited,
or so he thought, to please
his mixed constituency. The Anglican,
for his part, claimed that sex
was not a spectator sport
and kept insisting that the Catholic
kill the cassette. Caught in the midst
of a schism over jism,
I was none too pleased.
Did I want porn? Did I not want porn?
Either/or, either/or..... Kierkegaard
would’ve had a cow.
But that was then
and this was now.

What Was He Doing Exactly?

You aspired to Mallarmé’s azur
but the closest you got to that
was having your reading glasses sucked off your nose
and whooshed out the business end
of a toilet on an Air Canada jet.

A Man At The End of His Career

He lived now with Mother, an ancient
black-bandanna’d matron in a Park Avenue highrise
where a huge wooden desk, cleared of all
but his blue government nameplate,
sat in the middle of the living room floor
surrounded by the flotsam of a once-active life:
fishing rods, barbells, spear guns.
I picked up a high-velocity model, Italian,
with a sleek turquoise shaft and,
raising it to my shoulder, drew a bead
on an imaginary shark. My host leaped
from the couch and his droning confab
with Tadeusz, an old Ministry crony
who’d taken me along for the ride.
Grabbing the gun from my hands, he began
to expound excitedly on its virtues, chief of which
was thrust: it could, he said, kill a man
with a single shot, could run him through
just like that! Pin the fucker to the wall.
Why he’d be dead as a nail
in two quick seconds, he’d wriggle and squirm
like a stuck fish! He wriggled and squirmed
so I’d see; I saw. His body froze
as if registering the impact
and he staggered back, gripping his chest
with one hand, half tripping
and coming to rest against the desk
like a man at the end of his career.

Donald McGrath

Donald McGrath

Donald McGrath is a Montreal-based poet, short-story writer and translator. He has had work published in a wide variety of Canadian periodicals and reviews including Grain, The Antigonish Review, Prism, Poetry Canada and The New Quarterly. He has published a volume of poetry, At First Light.

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