Monday, March 3, 2014

Rob Winger, 2 poems from Old Hat


Out past the sunlit-pine median and Georgian coast,
scrubbed white sky shows us where the ocean is.

Both Carolinas are Cracker Barrel Bingo cards;
we stop at every McDonald’s for pee breaks

then leave the interstate, shuffle past real-life
bright-orange chain gangs wrestling ragweed,

patched asphalt turned to rivers by speakeasy thunderheads
outside Savannah, all the perfect alley cats nestling

into flowerpots. Over the bridge, the trees get greener;
the Spanish moss extends, Fireworks! billboards

multiply, a hundred white redeemers picketing pornshops.
South, south, past Ray Charles’ anthems into the static

alligator swamp between here and Key West,
our shelling left to a screened-in Gulf Coast balcony

then rebuilt into blue-line daydreams.
Every Smoky Mountain pass we pilot, later,

rolling all the way to Canada, is already
a Road Atlas away from Disneyworld.

In this barnacled seashell rests every road we took.
If you put it to your ear: the truck stops.


I’m explaining to my class that no one knows
anything about anything.

Truth is a tortoise photographed
in the seventies, I say, or, as one guy puts it

from the back row, the only thing for sure is that
“I do and/or do not exist,” stressing his oblique.

There’s no Walt Whitman, I’m saying, up there,
in a respectable shirt made in Bangladesh,

unless we all agree that the milk in the glass
from the cow is the farmhand.

Outside, the sky continues its meaninglessness.
The potted plants don’t bother to lament.

Heels sink into lawns and airplanes become algorithms
for the deep weight of heavy water.

There are espressos digging in
beyond the lectern’s bored cement.

Everyone, I’m saying now, eats the carrot root
and throws away the flowers.

Nothing I say is ever ready
for reason.

Rob Winger’s first book, Muybridge’s Horse, was a Globe and Mail best
book, shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, Ottawa Book
Award and Trillium Book Award for Poetry, and won a CBC Literary
Award. His critically acclaimed second collection was The Chimney
Stone. Born and raised in small-town Ontario, Rob currently lives in
the hills northeast of Toronto, where he teaches at Trent University.
His third book, Old Hat, is due from Nightwood in March 2014.

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