Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Tough Guys Are History...

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I've gotten into writing poetry lately, something I thought I'd never do. I'd always been put off by what I saw as an obtuse quality in so much of the form. I'm sure it's because I had no idea how to do it properly. To make sense of the thing, I thought it more useful to write short allegories, little scenarios, incidents, self-contained and carrying their own logic. I should mention that in the below poem there are three profane words so please keep your own counsel.

I came across a war by accident.
Had no idea it was going on.
Well, it was already a police state by the time I found out about it,
those living in the place so heavily taxed they hardly raised their heads.
Everything was of course gloomy as hell,
the main drag of the main town almost totally empty on a Friday afternoon,
most people working their ass off serving the reputed tough guys who ran this police state.

A lone waitress worked in the only cafe.
Tall and not young but not old either,
all the time her mouth almost verged on some kind of conspiratorial grin.
She brought over a cup of really thin looking coffee.
"I'm supposed to drink this?" I asked.
She finally did smile and shook her head. "No."
I glanced round at the dead street then looked up at her.
"Say, what's going on here, anyway? Where are these supposed tough guys?"
The waitress didn't answer my questions.

She picked up the coffee cup and pitched the contents into the cobblestones at the edge of the patio.
"Come help me with something."
She took me back behind the bar into the darkest room I'd ever been inside.
I truly could not see my hand in front of my face.
I felt blind and the sensation made me sort of panicky.
I felt her fingertips on me, her breath warm and close.
"We'll just take our time," she said.
And that's what we began to do,
just go slow and easy and take our time.
My knee felt the edge of a bed and we fell onto it sideways.
She grabbed my hair with both hands and said,
"Oh, fuck it. Let's just get our clothes off."
And I could hear her quickly kick off her boots,
unzip and slide out of stuff.

I never wear underwear or socks and told her so.
She said something about no need to tell her that.
And man, in that utter and complete darkness my eyes could not adjust to -
it just stayed all black, like being eyeless -
she fucked me like I'd never been fucked before,
like the world was ending.
It had.

When we came out into the daylight,
I squinted at the street and despite the rain people were out walking,
a pair of teenagers kissed in that slow, astounded way only kids can do with any honesty.
A newspaper tossed on one of the cafe tables ran a war-sized headline:
TOUGH GUYS ARE HISTORY

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Basil Papademos

Basil Papademos is the author of MOUNT ROYAL: There's Nothing Harder Than Love, published in the spring of 2012 by Tightrope Books, also available as an ebook in all formats from all digital retailers. His earlier novel, The Hook of it is, was published by Emergency Press. His upcoming novel, How To **** Your Psychiatrist, will be published in the fall of 2013.

Go to Basil Papademos’s Author Page