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.