Cool Pastoral on Bloor Street

By John Reibetanz b. 1944 John Reibetanz

   Consider the tragic fortitude
of mannikins, the courage it takes
   under casual poses to do
nothing interminably each day.

   To face unflinching (through sunlit glass
that bars them from it) the rushing surf
   of life within reach where they must stand
marooned on their islands’ plastic turf,

   and not to cry out: more heroic
than those Romans the lava rain stunned
   to statues—misshaped by the panic
that twisted their limbs, glazed with their pain

   in black rock—friezes of agony.
You would never know, from the relaxed
   swivel of this woman’s wrist as she
completes a backhand with her racket,

   that she will never take another
swing, or from her smile that she has stood
   balanced here on one foot all summer
like one of Dante’s damned, and not cracked.


   ‘Cracked’ is my father’s word for ‘crazy,’
as in ‘You’d have to be cracked to pay
   that much for a pair of shoes.’ He’s not
crazy, but he forgets, and today

   as we pay out his visit’s hours
strolling on Bloor, he thinks up the same
   questions again minutes after he’s
nodded and smiled at answers to them.

   Looking for things to look at and not
think, I focus on another grove
   of mummers: headless, their necks poke out
like worms from the smartly turned-over

   collars of turtlenecks and jackets.
You can tell they’ve also lost their arms
   from the way the sleeves plummet slackly
off their shoulders—although they, ashamed

   to show the mutilation, act cool
and tuck the cuffs into their pockets.
   I look at my father—hands trembling,
head crazed like china with minute cracks

   through which years exit invisibly—
and must remind myself his show is
   kinder, the long-running comedy
where he’s played every part, from fresh-faced

   mooning lover to child-duped parent
to doddering senex: still free now
   (while heart and limbs play their duet)
to do a walk-on, ad lib, bow out.

   He sweats a little in the sunshine.
Summer stock, lacking the tragic poise
   that freezes these actors in their scene,
we move on towards a shadier place.

“Cool Pastoral on Bloor Street” © 2000 by John Reibetanz. Used by permission of Brick Books.

Source: Mining for Sun (Brick Books, 2000)

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Poet John Reibetanz b. 1944


Subjects Family & Ancestors, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Landscapes & Pastorals, Nature, Relationships

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 John  Reibetanz


Born in New York City, poet John Reibetanz earned a BA in English from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and an MA and a PhD in English language and literature from Princeton University. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Transformations (2006), Mining for Sun (2000), and Ashbourn (1986), as well as the critical study The Lear World (1977). His poetry has been included in several . . .

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SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Landscapes & Pastorals, Nature, Relationships


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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