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BEHIND THE POEM

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Mark Lavorato on "Wayworn Wooden Floors"

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The Montréal Review, October 2012

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Among the many individual poems in my collection, Wayworn Wooden Floors, I've also written a few series. One of those, "Fingerpaintings," uses childhood verse and nursery rhymes, which are overlaid and incorporated into a running text of mature themes and adult contexts.

The nursery rhymes stand out only visually from the rest of the poem. My hope was that they would be instantly recognizable and would conjure some distant, and maybe even disarming, whisper from youth. In exploring the ever-widening gap between childhood and adulthood, I wanted the reader's hands to be firmly on either side of the divide while doing the measuring.

 

 

Fingerpaintings

I

Wearing an old university sweater he found

in a box under the stairs, he spoons tupperware

leftovers between his teeth, staring ahead while

beads of dark slide down the window to his right,

indicating, it would seem, that

                                            It's raining

                                                              outside,

the wet roads doubling every brake light that slows

in the traffic, where, he calculates, his soon-to-be ex

is almost certainly stuck and waiting, tapping

the steering wheel to the radio, off-time, in that way

she does. He's only here till he finds a place,

until then it seems

                            It's pouring

                                              over childhood

memorabilia and yearbook regrets, the glow-in-the-

dark stars he stuck to his ceiling two decades ago

still above but now only giving off a paltry glimmer,

the bowman of his favourite constellation having

withered into the last two holes of its belt. He

imagines that his mother's in her bed reading

while

        The old man

                              is watching television

in a volume that rattles the cabinets, the screen burning

at the blue of its wick. While the cataract dog that used to

bound alongside him on his jogs in high school, kicks

in her basket, ecstatically unaware of every hardship that exists

in married life; as well, it would seem, as the fact that she

 

is snoring

 

V

Hate can twist its way into everything,

wringing my stomach tight

with even the thought of you

whose head I once balanced

in the crook of my arm, whose back

I have dragged my mouth across

The mouth that never quite thickened

with the courage enough

to call you out as the

 

Liar, liar

              that you are

with your palm-leaf eyes

and their shivering way of saying

everything you don't

I have sometimes shocked myself

with the want of watching you suffer

Of standing by, out of reach and pitiless

while you, with an oasis in sight

though a touch too far off,

kerosene doused with

your shirt and

 

Pants on fire

                      flailing towards the shore

without a matchstick's hope

in hell

A daydream

conjured to comfort

until the moment I see you

with a bag of groceries on the street

and it all unravels, fraying in the way

that singed eyelashes might, being replaced

with the vision of you following me

home, unwinding our scarves to

 

Hang them up

                        over our coats like we used to

But all you offer is to meet for lunch next week

saying that you'll call and winking a smile

that has me gliding dangerously over the

sidewalk home, puttering on the fuel

of forgiveness, which will very likely

snuff out as the days pass, eyeing

the receiver, again dangling

all my stupid hope

 

On a telephone wire

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Mark Lavorato is the author of three novels, Veracity (2007), Believing Cedric (whose theme is Canadian poetry), and Burning-In (forthcoming with House of Anansi Press, 2013). He will be reading from his first collection of poetry, Wayworn Wooden Floors (Porcupine's Quill, 2012). Mark is also a composer and street photographer. He lives in Montreal.

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