PLACES

1. GILMOUR

Two pink fans that don’t turn
A painted ship sailing on a painted sea
Yellow table tops with brown chairs
An empty hat-tree
A fat old woman with a flowered shawl
Drinking a fat bottle of beer
Pondering with her fat nose into
An empty future.

2. RITZ

Low red ceiling with star-burst fixtures
Lights
Reaching with their pointed bulbs into space
A fireplace of grey-painted stone
Imitation wood for a fire that never burns.
A woman procuring for herself
Sitting in a corner near the entrance
A faded pink sweater with buttons down the front
Fat and sloppy, soft and sensuous
Cross-legged talking to the bartenders
As they pass carrying stalks of beer to patient people.
‘Hot Sandwiches in 3 minutes
Smoked meat, Grilled cheese, Oven
Baked ham’

Red table tops, brown chairs
A noise of people like a river
Babbling over rapids ever constant
Never the same.
Two TV sets talk to themselves
Across the room
A man in a white shirt and a red bow-tie
Stops and stares at the fluorescent eye
Then walks on.

‘New Prices
Quarts 50c
Pints 28c’

Smoke drifts lazily to the ceiling
People muse from their beer to the
TV then back to their companions
Around the red tops with their forest of bottles.
On the wall the clock silently moves
Proclaiming the passage of time.

3. THE WINDSOR HOUSE

A soft beigy-green ceiling
Blue and tan floor tiles
Brown panelling with soft lights on the walls
Hangers on the walls with people’s coats
Ancient leather upholstered chairs,
A TV in the corner, a peep-hole
Into the unreal.
People talking some soft, some loud
Old men with vests and ties and old English tweeds
Nice old stout ladies shedding their years
In bubbles of ale.
Here a dashing Romeo, there a carefree maiden
Everywhere talks and laughs
Of delicious times gone by and of times
That never were, with no distinctions made.
Pleasant bartenders serving friendly beer
The silent sign, the silent nod
And two liquid friends.
A smouldering butt in an ashtray.

4. VIENNA RESTAURANT

Elvis crooning his everlasting love
Grey foam-rubbered seats with
Grey and pink-spectacled tables
People seated in them like peas
In a pod.
A greasy grill reeking with steamed fat
And vapours of potato-chips and hamburgers,
Bitter brown coffee crouching in glass pots
Ready to bite into the unsuspecting palate.
Packages of cigarettes stacked in neat-coloured rows
In a dispenser on the wall
Red, blue, white, green and yellow
Filtered, mentholated, plain and corked
Professing that cancer is the cause of smoking.
A mechanic in oily overalls and shirt smoking
An acrid cigar cutting the hangover smell of grease
A cash register guarding the door
Menus stuck behind juke-box meters.
An emigrant cook, dark-haired, dark-skinned
With the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up
Above his elbows.
Egg Roll Served here
Drink 7-up. You like it
It likes you.
Galla’s Do-nuts
8 cents each.
An air-conditioning fan turning
Somewhere
The sizzle of grease
Deluxe Hamburgers 20c.

5. 33 BELMOUNT

Down a grey staircase into the basement
(Flick on the light as you come down.)
Low ceiling with a built-in light
Green-tiled floor, imitation brown-grained
Wood panelling on the walls.
A cardtable covered by a checkered oil cloth
Black and red fold-up chairs
A green wine bottle on the table gored
With wax from a half burnt candle.
A chessboard with chess pieces scattered
A brown ashtray with a few bent butts.
In a corner two orange crates one on top of the other
The bottom with a light blue plastic
Curtain, the top one pink trimmed with
White.
A stained hot plate with two elements
Supported on a bread board on two stands,
One elegantly brown with black wrought iron
Legs (from the living room upstairs) a red
Plastic drainboard underneath. The other
One white with dirty dishes in a basin underneath.
Art pictures with newspaper backings held on the
Walls by red thumb-tacks.
A rounded thermostat.
An enameled-white metal cupboard
With a stick-picture of a girl made from
LUCKY GREEN STAMPS on the door, a
Red and white breadbox on top.
A door into the bedroom with a brown floor
Where my love lies, sick from
A flu, unable to adjust to the climate.
And I sit in the kitchen waiting
For the day to pass, hoping that maybe
Tomorrow will bring a job.

6. THE NATIONAL GALLERY

Stainless steel and polished glass windows
Large and square
Soft indirect ceiling-fluorescent lighting
Speckled green and grey marble floors
Smooth and steel trimmed.
A counting gadget going tick-tick as you come in
Tick-tick as you go out.
A dooley bird with a large friendly metal nose
Perched on a pedestal, made from the intestines of an engine.
Men’s souls splattered on the walls
On display in a human zoo with white nylon rope guarding
The people from the paintings
With please don’t feed the pictures signs hung below.
Some look with understanding, pausing loud and long
Delicately savouring the soup of life
Other gaze with alien, hopeless eyes
A bit annoyed that they can never taste
Gazing from catalogue books to picture
From pictures to catalogue books
Moving methodically looking for the numbers.
While in the background paces a Security Police Guard
Watching the people.

7. A NEW PARTY MEETING

Three flights of stairs up to the
Top floor of an 19th century house
Two long dirty fluorescent lights overhead
Pale green walls, with a sloping pale green ceiling
Chairs in rows, some occupied with pensive faces
Listening, pondering to a speaker talking
Of social engineering.
A semi-abstract painting of hills and rivers
Hanging behind him.

8. TO IRON BIRD
(Ottawa, Sparks Street Mall)

A bird of iron stands
With iron feet on
The cold, dance-floor
Of a heartless city.
Some stare at it
With an alien gaze.
A few with intellectual curiosity
(God-forbid), dissecting instruments.
Many never see much less
Hear its round
Rhythmic song.
Strange must it seem to this
Iron Bird to be cast among
The lot of men, no, not men
But walking, sleeve-swinging
Garments that move
Twitter and fro
In this fathom-show of
Soulless forms chanting:

Here we go round the mushroom cloud
The mushroom cloud, the mushroom cloud.
Here we go round the mushroom cloud
Night and noon and morning.

Ottawa, Ont. — 1961

Wha'd you think?