1987: Harmonics

it was 1987, and my creative writing class

had created for me a community, stevie and mokina;

outside the academy’s walls, we’d drink tea

cheap beer, potato skins, and we’d walk

stevie and i, we would sometimes sing together

but we couldn’t harmonise. it was as if we were designed

in different keys.

he lived in a squalid midtown apartment

with a fat albino and a permanently stoned guy

the albino fancied himself a punk purist

and was fond of pontificating

against bands of the day; take U2 for example,

how they had sold out, with that joshua tree

no, now that the bourgeoise had cottoned on

true punkdom demanded a sneer

they were so much better when they kept it simple

never mind, i thought, that everyone knows

artistry asks us to open to growth, change

embellishment, exuberance

i also didn’t roll my eyes out loud

at the apple cores strewn on their floor

and the stink of unwashed black cotton

that day, one short of the first anniversary

of my brother’s fiery, futile death

i rose early and made cornbread

then walked to his place

and we loped out into

the empty dawn

edmonton, not new york

was wilderness still at 4 am

and just below the bank, a soft dust track

shadowed jasper avenue heading east

long grass moving into its golden age

we met mokina

down at the park

queen elisabeth, below the high level

and traipsed, wide eyed

toward the dim bang of drums

stuttering declaration of new age heart

taking its first bewildered breaths.

they all seemed to know each other

we three got a glance and a smile

and that shuffling aside of the quintessential

canadian, polite but awkward

caught navel-gazing in the lung-expanding

great wilderness of it all.

the chief officiant of this rite

was making it up, like the rest

and when he said how this ceremony

was, among its many things, recognising

“our red brothers and sisters” i shut my eyes

so i couldn’t see them not seeing

the uncomfortable truth.

did we sing? i don’t recall.

it was awkward, there was smoke

and drums in a circle.

the sun rose, that is all.

i brought steve and moke

back to the townhouse

fed them cornbread

we played and sang

a U2 song, of course

one tree hill, the one

where bono mispronounces

victor jara’s name, hiding

from me, at any rate, his inspiration

specifics always underlie any soaring paean

so it didn’t matter. i sang it for my brother.

and we all laughed.

maybe our voices were a little more together

the cornbread was definitely warm

i’d left it in the oven, and joey

had made coffee. the sun was up.

we were young enough

not to know just how unstretched we yet were

by the uncurling arc of our lives.


Harmonic Convergence

Victor Jara verdict

Victor Jara

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