28.2.11

It works for Etrigan.

Argh! Ever since I got all fancy with the font options for that Young Galaxy post, I can't shake the feeling that I messed up the default settings. Then again, I suppose there's a difference between "minimalist aesthetics" (what I wanted), "simple and clean" (what I'd settle for), and "default settings" (what I got). Maybe I should take this as a sign to start fiddling... but maybe later.

Anyway, the poetry night is Wednesday, so I've been busy preparing for that. Over the weekend, I tried my hand at edgy social commentary in the form of free verse: I already know that slam poetry's awesome, and I still want to work my way towards that. So, I went with an experience I once had in Ottawa: an unemployed man approached me on the street and asked me for ten dollars. That was a bit more than the price of cheap calories, so I asked him why... he explained that he had a job lined up in Fort McMurray, but he just needed to get there, and he had to supply his own steel-toed boots.

Now, I've never been to Fort McMurray, but even in Swan Hills they'll pay for your steel-toed shoes as a job perk. They even paid for *my* steel-toed shoes, and I never dropped anything heavier than a ball-point pen on them.

(Well, that and sixteen litres of hexane. But that's a different story.)

So was this fellow lying? Was he hoping that the appearance of self-betterment would help his panhandling? Did he figure that getting ten dollars an eighth as often as getting one dollar would be more profitable in the long run? I can't really argue the cynics in that appraisal of the situation.

But yet... what if he simply had his story wrong? What if he heard from a friend of a friend of a friend about the good life in the Oil Sands, and along the way, the stories got distorted so that the steel-toed boots became the key that caused those kingdom gates to open, rather than simply being direct consequence of living there?

(And it is, too - I doubt there are schoolteachers or dental assistants in Fort Mac that don't have their own pair of steel-toed footwear.)

If that's the case, then this unemployed fellow is not the swindler, but the swindled. Who knows? Perhaps he's already paid some unscrupulous headhunter a "finder's fee" to line up a job for him... Either way, I thought it was an interesting commentary on the perception of the Oil Sands in Ottawa, so I tried knocking out some blank verse that reflects such a view.

And then I tried editing it a little, and it turned into a terzanelle. Maybe I'm just going to be one of those poets cursed to rhyme in everything they write?

Anyway, here you go.

Strangely efficient, strange that it's necessary
This is the hour they hose down the Glebe
The African restaurant's still open to passersby

Spilled beer and pizza run into the street
His jacket of denim deflects the deluge
This is the hour they hose down the Glebe

He wants to be clear, he's not asking for food
It now seems like everyone's caught in a hurry
His jacket of denim deflects the deluge

He could start work tomorrow in far Fort McMurray
He just needs ten dollars for steel-toed boots
It now seems like everyone's caught in a hurry

He can't ask for quarters, seeking humbler loot
It's a myth told by friends he has to believe
He just needs ten dollars for steel-toed boots

He's convincing himself or the people of Glebe
Strangely efficient, strange that it's necessary
It's a myth told by friends he has to believe
The African restaurant's still open to passersby

It's not quite right - not just yet. As is always the case with these things, the central image that inspired the whole thing (the homeless Caucasian being ignored outside a bustling African restaurant) is also the line that doesn't quite fit anymore. Argh! Ah, well. Such are the demands of the terzanelle.

Anyway, thanks for reading - both the poem, and the blog for its first month of revival! Here's to many more, and many better!

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About The Author

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.