” … the Canadian writer must put up a fight for freedom in the choice and treatment of his subject. Nowhere is puritanism more disastrously prohibitive than among us, and it seems, indeed, that desperate methods and dangerous remedies must be resorted to, that our condition will not improve until we have been thoroughly shocked by the appearance in our midst of a work of art that is at once successful and obscene.”

A. J. M. Smith, essay, Wanted Canadian Criticism, the Canadian Forum, April 1928.

I carry a large bouquet of gladiolas.
Flumed orange horns slide into pastel yellow trumpets.
I point the bellows at your face, take careful aim
and fire— I have just shot you.
I hope the wound is mortal.

Carefully dropping
steel ball bearings into a garden hose circum
scribing the world I expect to have my head
broke like an overripe rack by the first ball
bearing I released so long ago; it did not occur
to me that I should account for the rotation
of the Earth for I wound my hose counter-clockwise.
Now, the glistening immediate plastic asshole
of slow motion death inches towards my face.
I stare at the threat; I must act. I drop another
ball bearing into the garden hose, its empty
void mouth begging to be fed though I drown
in shit.

I sit with a gun and a mirror,
a golden dog by my side. I wear a
fluorescent red hat with red plaid ear muffs.
I am hunting. I have assassinated
the government. I have killed
the rock’n’roll singer. I am ruthless.
But my bullets cannot penetrate
the mirror—I must aim at the head instead.

I will kiss your wounds.
I will kiss your feet as you wound me.
I will suffer your lies and torture,
listen to the radio, read the newspaper,
believe the reason of the editorial page
will win over armour, explosive bullets
and secret nightmare pacts.

I cannot bear to look into the future again.
It sickens and repulses me, living
in this age of artless aggrandizement,
congenial genocide.
Lay me down now,
lay me down. I will dream a world
with nary a smug peon to repeat the lies
of yesterday’s triumphs; sleep, dream
of a world free from moral victories.


Look up, it is a full moon, I can
read so clearly what I am writing
tonight. As I write I can’t imagine
what drives me, I am grasping
at memory, I grapple gab as I
make my meaning. Tell me you can’t
read by moonlight, and it is evident to me
you are right. It is a conceit of mine
to write so clearly you read me in
sheer delight. I am a styled silver script,
words that only lovers can read.

I would dwell amongst the towers
of the illegible letters of the night;
I would be the blessed of blather,
radiant reflection of stars’
shine outside your window;
letters to be read by the light
of the moon, dancing before you,
I sigh satin rose,
“look it is the moon,
a full moon,” and you reply
“I read you so clearly!”


out of the corner of my eye
I see a piece of cardboard with
sepia newspaper photos glued
to corrugation: arched runnels
cascade into a pencilled geometer’s
cube—a mediaeval device
directed by a scientist’s dis
embodied head. (There is a helmet
that could be an inverted colander
with a spring mounted light bulb
on top. His thoughts fly from it
miniature lightning bolts zigzagging
in steady spherical pulses.) A miniature
angel investigates the interior
from a window in the floor.
There is pencilling indicating
shadows and at the side, scribbling.

This is what the words say:

“Ironically, collage and poetry are intertwined. Picasso,
Schwitters both used the printed materials of their day—
often just typeset. The alphabet, the interplay of point sizes
and face in reference to planes of colour, composition are
the meeting point of poetry and plastic arts, the time when
modern art discovered what poets have always known:
letters are pictures. In fact, the size of the letters, the shape,
even the colour, affect the reader’s sense of what is the image,
not what is written.”