THE STANLEY TAVERN, THE PEEL PUB



a poem for Canada Day, thinking of 30 years ago...


THE STANLEY TAVERN, THE PEEL PUB

Life is just a fantasy – Aldo Nova.

Days were, the Hell’s Angel, singular, would beat
You to death with a Collected Leonard Cohen, wrapped
For your groupie mother – the future is murder,
No kidding. The old men watching hockey salting
Their small glasses of beer, to reduce the head,
Ordering poutine from the guy with the moustache
Known as Frenchie, because he’s not. He’s Anglo,
But sounds Italian. It’s multicultural, and all ages
Over eighteen crowd in, mostly skinheads, Chelsea
Girls, lean Japanese boys in Le Chateau’s flimsy suits.
The aviatored alcoholic pro-Thatcher freelancer hands
Over a copy-edited newsletter celebrating Reaganomics
To an ex-airline exec, now telemarketer, with a red tie,
Orders a Labatt’s. It’s Montreal, pigs’ knuckles,
Pea soup, smoked meat on the menu; free buffets
Of Chinese food around the corner on St-Catherine’s
In an all-you-can eat Strip Club; younger dads sneak in
Easily, the Star scrunched up into shoes for height;
Noon crawls over broken glass into early night;
It’s hot in the city, as Nick Gilder sings, and she is
Willing to talk to Sir George Williams CW punks,
Until her drug-dealing leather-tight killer daddy figure
Stomps in, hence the incident with the poetry book
Being used as a club, to smash me back to the planet;
My noggin suitably bashed, he scrams with her,
To sell a few keys of RCMP China White,
Or tattoo Levesque’s face and a fleur de lis
On each distinct bicep; it’s a melee covering for
A Radio-Quebec masquerade, a frenzy of innocence,
A summertime in the yellowing age of the late eighties;
So far back in time as to be before Arcade Fire – B.A.F. –
If not as old as Like Young, there was still CHOM
And Brent Bambury, CFCF, ink-stained Terry Mosher,
Nick with his fancy hat, and rusty nails with Karate Mike.
It darkens until C. Hart’s sunglasses become relevant,
The warlock junkie dressed like Burroughs combs
His slick black hair, as if a Crescent Street bouncer;
There’ll be ambidextrous kissing in the unsecured
Bathrooms, plus before the snow lands, on TV
Or on the ground, it is a blazing evening, fireworks,
Beefcake hockey players storming in to steal chicks,
Which they do even without their pro-hockey sticks.
We young lads without the rubber-bullet-like puck
Are, as Clint says, shit out of luck. It’s the black-market time
Of Panic as a theory, cancer cartons sold from knapsacks;
When there was Free Trade, or debates thereof;
A time of anxiously expected, Gino Vanelli-sound-tracked
Sex, or Heart’s ‘Barracuda’; not NYC, or L.A. but thank
God, not Toronto either, it was a land before digital
Telecommunication – you reached people with Bell’s
Box, you dialled still; or so it seems in memory;
The paddy wagon came to pull us from the pub
Where the wrestling team was so much cooler than Ogilvie’s
And the watered-down pitchers of piss-water fuelled
Evenings ending up on sofas after a rented VHS
With quipping buddy-cops taking on a Soviet menace;
The fabric is ripping, space is quantum now, AI
Will soon announce a post-human plan to mine Venus;
So, what did we learn, when twenty was a rallying cry,
And July a permanent exemption from reality?
That laws and lives advance, and drinkers fade to grey,
But as sure as CBC ice will have a blue line, and beer
Is poured better or worse, you’ll be safer with allies,
Your cheering team smoking DuMauriers, sugared
Because Quebecois love sweetness more than verse.
Canada Day, 2019

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