Highlights in the History of Concrete

by John Barton

John Barton’s ninth book of poetry, Hymn (Brick, 2009), will be followed by a selected poems (Nightwood, 2012). Winner of three Archibald Lampman Awards, an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award, he lives in Victoria, where he edits The Malahat Review.

Men along Church St., hardened
in pre-stressed, low-riding
Jeans and T-shirts reinforced
by shaved chests, like joining
In pairs on humid sidewalks
gossip aired while eyeing
Strangers who, passing, glance back
the CN Tower tenting

Heat unbuttoning the lake
a spindle for craven
Twirling, observation deck
a tossed cap the heavens
Turn heads for—stars beyond us
as we rotate, sharpen
Our view—the fast streets below
a roulette wheel maddened

Moments after breezy men—
Centaurs lured from the woods—
Jump the line into the baths
each night a celled errand
Of longing they swap for steam
piped in with stray husbands
Who skirt drowsy wives to pay
at the door, unquestioned

Goliaths so shy each towelled
boy floors, a postmodern
David sauntering past them
Toned limbs not yet broken
Every construction worker
parsed rib by rib, slattern
Aggregates of flexed muscle
crushed into love’s midden

Roads resurfaced with asphalt
and despoiled aspirations—
Unmoved crowds steamrolling by
eyes held askance, wanton
Potholes scooped for filling, lost
men run down by passions
Poured too fast, levelled and stoned
by yearnings well-fathomed

While high in the dark we spin
our wheels in this tower
Its grey shaft the moon shines smooth
’til elation flowers
A lantern to the fallen
should lust veer off-kilter
When, far below, salt-hard men
dissolve time by the hour.

 


John Barton’s ninth book of poetry, Hymn (Brick, 2009), will be followed by a selected poems (Nightwood, 2012). Winner of three Archibald Lampman Awards, an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award, he lives in Victoria, where he edits The Malahat Review.

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