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“The Midway Dead (Exhibition Place)”

I. 1985 What you can’t tell from the photograph: That it was taken a little after 8:00PM in August On the second to last day That the shutter was broken— It bruised what it saw, and gave it the lie of visible night.

All remembering shall bring you to a certain midnight A stage of black cloth.

What you do see: The handprint of light Of the midway ride that Startled and went manic And threw their bodies into scandal.

Caught like this, cut of itself, Showing only its tresses of light and where They harried the air, A constellation for our history.

And the gray traces of them that went out, Died in witless laughter

They can be seen too Their limbs sketching the places their bodies were The moment before. Daguerreotypes in air They shine low like oiled hair.

I I. 1898 The boy is a compass turning among the Horses’ hooves. His body spilled like a jar of ashes.

His blood a carnival where it broke its thresholds, Swelled and ran like the horses through the chambers of his dying.

The last year they did this. The last time the animals Raced living towards the Princes’ Gate, towards the statues staggering East.

Something locks into us, in the image Of his lean figure passed over in A torrent. We feel our weight Against a locked door In the moment he balanced the crowd’s awe and was dropped into a forgetting amber.

A mirror too stirred to reflect, Pinned like a ribbon to the end of the last century.

I I I. 1995 How recent must it be so that our mourning is felt in the flesh? A shirt that rakes hot on every nerve when put on.

The engine going quiet and the room throwing itself

Or how much must run in its circuit through us Before we can call these pities our history?

The lake’s bright disc going descant, rising to the eyes

Thin wire, that cuts the grief of our bodies, the grief of our time.

Seven bodies, fished out the next day.

"The Midway Dead (Exhibition Place)"  

A poem for the accidental dead of the Royal Canadian Exhibition

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