Susan Musgrave

September 7, 2011


Forty years ago. I was unemployed. With some cash. Just broken up with a woman. Whose name and face eludes me. It was the 70s. If you were American you went to California. If you were Canadian you went to California. Or British Columbia. I tried to hitchhike. Got to Sudbury Ontario and got stuck there for 3 days. Cars would come alone the highway. Honk their horns. Throw beer bottles at me. Headed back to Toronto. Bought a train ticket. Picked up a book of poetry by Susan Musgrave to read. IMPSTONE. Susan Musgrave was a very pretty poet. Which was unusual. Most poets are plain looking. It has been my experience. I went out to find her. I did not. The train ride however was a great experience. Met several different women (but those are a different story for another time.) And I wrote the story or poem or whatever it is called, Climbing Susan Musgrave / Reading The Rockies.

……………………

 

 

 

 

Climbing Susan Musgrave/ Reading the Rockies

 

Leaving T.O. Train shivering between the rails. Wheels and rails grinding their teeth. IMPSTONE. A book of poems keeps tapping on my eyelids. Like rain on a tin roof. A commercial from Eden in Morse Code. Clattering of train. Percolates. Miles through my spine. The photo of Susan Musgrave on the cover of IMPSTONE is not. Flattering. I know this is madness. Crossing a continent to meet a woman I don’t know. Hoping she’ll introduce me. To the poet. Inside her.

 

When S. Musgrave is not writing. She is laughing. Playing charades. With the trees. I have it from a reliable source. I spend my spare time. Salting my popcorn. With sleep. Watching wrestling reruns. I want to know if there is anything sweeter than Sweet Dady Siki.

 

A mind. Wanders. Around the room. Out the door. Down the corridor. Into the bar car. Where it picks up the wandering thoughts. An Australian girl. Named Christine. Whose parents are divorcing. Breasts like apples. God, I want to shake her tree.

 

5 modes of human beings. Maybe 6. We all fit into one of these molds. I’m in a group with an undertaker. Named Wilt. And an actress. Named Holly. And a mechanic. Named Hank. Formerly Hazel.

 

I put IMPSTONE. To my ear. Words chattering inside. Christine laughs. There is a garden. I explain. Where everyone makes free love. I show the picture of S. Musgrave to Christine. She says she’s pretty.

 

We pass over Dundalk. Its flat. Huge sign. Highest point in Ontario. Christine laughs. Typically Canadian. To brag about an under-achiever.

 

In a small ontario town called Capreol. The train from Montreal. The train from Toronto. Are wed. A French couple dance down. The shaking corridor. Bouncing off the walls. She has her eyes. On his. He has a hand. On her ass. Christine giggles. Departed. For my cabin. Alone.

 

David McFadden stood by the tracks. On the Manitoba border. Wearing a miner’s hat. Taking notes. Waving the train down. His wife joam was laying on a blanket. In the tall grass. With a bottel of wine. And naked. A raccoon had chased McFadden’s Volkswagon up a tree.

 

The sun sinks in my eyes. Smeared on some Coppertone. I opened IMPSTONE. An old man screamed out. BITCH!

 

Sleep. Dream about wheels. 80 MPH. Train has no choice where it goes. My thoughts are uncontrollable. This poem is the track layed down after the train has passed.

 

Winnipeg. Stepped off the train. Short stop. Short walk. Dogs and cats are attacking. Car wheels. Buses eating children. All the natives are sleeping. In the culverts. Rising. Like zombies. Asking me to stand. Inside their shoes. I ran back to the station. Applied for membership. In the CNIB.

 

Telephone poles. Fence posts. Trees. Racing past. The window. Relativity. Is there a speed and direction that one can achieve. And remain perfectly still.

 

Saskatchewan. 3 crows. Sitting on the body. Of a young child. One of the crows was tugging on an eye. The woman beside me. At breakfast. Said the body was a faun.

 

Fences. Small black birds. Towns. Long white fences. Trees. Clusters of small round mouths. Throwing their voices. Imitating the wind. Barns. Piles of grain. Southern mansions. Straw men. Reciting T. S. Eliot.

 

Fences. Along the tracks. To keep the animals off the tracks. Or to keep the trains out of the fields. While I was asleep the train repeated a certain length of track several times.

 

I feel like I’ve been corrupted by failure.

 

Opened IMPSTONE to peak inside S. Musgrave’s head. Words were drawn. Images boarded up. Some dude in red satin pyjamas was auctioning off her vision.

 

Rocks do not have heart disease. Paths don’t get varicose veins. Ms. Musgrave should live in the city. Start counting on her fingers. With her teeth. She should get out of. Those sleazy forests. Why not try some lush decorative alleys. Where the logs lay unconscious. And crawl away in the morning. Place herself. In the long narrow bars. Where the women are topless. And the men keep their hands in baskets. Try the elegance of draughty hotel rooms. Emptiness keeps your eyes alert. Listen to the sweet music leaking. Through your ears.

 

An old gentleman. A double amputee. Rolled his wheelchair into the dining car. He asked the buxom waitress. If he could have a doggy bag. To carry his legs around in.

 

Edmonton. Tried to get off. Met by a mob. Dressed up as Eskimos. Holding signs. EASTENERS SHOULD STAY COOL. HANDS OFF OUR OIL.

 

S. Musgrave and John Denver. At a malt shop. She ordered a shake. With wild strawberries. Denver’s was filled with gasoline. She lit up a cigarette. Smiled. And blew smoke in his face.

 

I opened IMPSTONE. Tears fell out. The page shattered on the floor. Small children ran across her words. And cut their feet.

 

I dream of acres of asphalt. Flowers pushing their heads up. Through the tar. Like old buried streetcar tracks.

 

Every poet has 2 or 3 simple thoughts. The rest is an anthology of events created to heighten tension and keep them laughing. Yesterday I read Martin Borman. An old man. Leaning on a cane. Shaking. A young girl helped him across the street. She looked like Margaret Trudeau. She wore a button. On her sleeve. It read: YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS.

 

The Rockies tip toed behind the sleeping foot hills. And jumped at us. SURPRISE! An apple passed from my hand to my stomach. Whole.

 

From a distance the Rockies look like clouds. When we got closer I noticed there were huge black chains. To keep them fastened to the ground.

 

I opened up IMPSTONE. The words gathered together. And put on white party hats. And danced under the sun like mountains.

 

Woke up. Vancouver. Stepped off the train. Into the lost graveyard. Of flower children. The final alternative to suicide. But where was my poet. Ess. A poet does not try to get at the truth. He tries to get out of it.

 

I stared at the mountains. On one side. The sea. In between is Vancouver. Curled up on the beach with its head sunk in the Pacific. And on the shore. The beautiful tanned poet. Her hands gesturing. To the sea. The mountains. The sky. Susan Musgrave giving directions.

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