The Last View Corridor

By Ted Byrne

Poet Ted Byrne writes a lunch poem for Lunch Poems at SFU.

It’s Dec 19 2015 and there are ten major wars
not counting the war on drugs
These long days of unpaid labour
in the study room above the library
where a crowd assembles or dissembles
to the rhythm of timelines and tests
leave me, after an hour or two, restless
even desperate for the tohu-bohu of the street
that other crowd and its celebrated solitude
I make my way down through the great hall
of scavengers, toilers and ministrants
to the crossroad where I’m confronted by choice
Hastings Street, perhaps Revolver for coffee
roasted yesterday in Calgary by Phil and Sebastian
then the bakery, what’s it called, I’m always
forgetting its name, for some good reason
I forget, the one beside the hat shop
where I bought my Brixton Hooligan
which I don’t wear backwards like Roger
although I do sometimes regret not being of the dangerous classes
or crossing Cordova to the old CPR terminal
with its junk food and magazines
It’s almost Xmas and the university bookstore
is busy with shoppers buying mugs and t-shirts
that say “I Love Books”, which is an important affirmation
now that there are no books, except for colouring books
and those written by faculty who don’t wish to perish
and the poetry books in the bins marked “$5 or Less”
The liquor store is busier than the bookstore
I taste some white and then red wine from California
and the sales rep tries to sell me a bottle
saying “There’s a bottle here with your name on it”
which I consider a breach of protocol, or at least in bad taste
so I buy a bottle of Jamesons and a bottle of Campari
thinking of myself and of Liz and even of hospitality itself
I dream for a moment of Julien the Hospitaler
and then think of Anne Dufourmantel and my friend Mike
Waiting in line, it occurs to me that there may be more shoppers now than workers
Perhaps later I’ll perambulate to the very end of that thought
Across the street I enjoy the last view corridor
and then stop beside the monument to CPR employees who died in the wars
Here when someone says “the wars” we still think of only two
or maybe three or four, even six or seven now that another terrible century has begun
I notice that the dead soldier has a small canvas bag
like the one I carried with me everywhere at his age
frivolous compared to the necessity of his
He’ll need a gas mask if he ever gets to heaven
Mine smelled of suntan oil for many years after an accident in Ibiza
and the Book of the Dead, and my spiral notebook
He’s being lifted toward the paradise they promised him
the one he didn’t believe in
by an angel who has no shoes but doesn’t seem to mind
she’s just pleased to be a gentle agent of translation
It’s happy hour at the Rogue Kitchen and Wet Bar
I walk down past the doors of the station, past the dispossessed
and the bagpiper on stilts and buy a salmon dog
at the Japa Dog kiosk in the misty rain of this El Niño winter
and take it into the palace of the robber barons
where I might have arrived fifty years ago had I taken the train
I eat my lunch in front of the newsstand
Obama, the assassin, is on the cover of GQ, Trump on The Economist
Merkel on Time, she’s Person of the Year, bless her hospitable soul
Maybe next year there will only be two or three major wars
and we’ll use less energy, and my hydro bill will be less than my phone bill
I have to run for the #50 bus, I can see it through the window
I know it’s a couple of minutes late already, so I hurry
From the window of the bus, I see Jerry heading for the terminal
I wonder if he’ll write a poem called “Crossing Burrard Ferry”
As the bus turns up Granville, I remember that I hadn’t meant to go home yet
I’d meant to go back to the library, at least long enough to look up “tohu-bohu”
in the lovely OED donated by Mr William Anderson
Words at least are still on the gold standard
Oh well, all the shoppers are happy and I have a home
When I get there, maybe I’ll put on a second hand cashmere sweater
drink a glass of whisky and listen to Lester Young at the Five Spot
or Saint Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio

TED BYRNE was born in Hamilton Ontario and has lived in Vancouver since the late sixties. He was a member of the Kootenay School of Writing collective, and is now a member of the Lacan Salon. He teaches poetry and poetics in the HUM 101 program at UBC. His writing incorporates various forms of translation. Current projects include historical fictions about Hamilton and a book constructed from sonnets by Louise Labé and Guido Cavalcanti. His books include Aporia,Beautiful Lies, and Sonnets:Louise Labé.