FOR PIERRE LAPORTE
Murdered 50 years ago
Writing, what does it do for you?
And in another official language,
Whose form is power, or its display,
Or the way that power ebbs, or flows.
I knew you, back when you were less
Than murdered, or more than a way
To mention terror. Poets have taught
That what we say can go low, or higher,
Slow down the subtleties of horror,
Or defer or defray the impacts.
Tact and tension, inches of pressure.
It was in October, and I was four.
A father, you played on your front lawn
With your family, throwing a ball
Around in the early autumn air.
Leaves were goldening; the great river
Was only feet or metres away; bucolic
Is not quite correct, but closer than a lie.
Fiction says I was there; the actuality is
I was nearby, with my own father,
At our own play; but the same avenue,
Putney (their house on the higher corner)
On the South Shore. This took place
In varying languages, French for the minister
Of the government, Anglo-talk for me
And my dad, Tom. They took him that day.
When he was found, days later, in the car,
They though him the English diplomat, instead.
The French Quebecer could not even be identified
At first when dead. Soon, he was announced
As gone. No one, not even now, can say,
In any dialect or fashion, whatever linguistic
Method you’d like to try, how the death-grip
Came to be applied, that rendered him a fact
You can look up online. Something beyond playing
And Thanksgiving, the smell of burnt leaves in air.
Far past pathos, nostalgic reckonings, or desire
For vengeance, or recollection; fifty years
Does havoc to the remnant brain; time blows
The candles out, and not to state the obvious, but,
Not for a birthday; bathos, or restraint, both go
To an articulation unasked for. And when did poems
Last have anything to do with Montreal, really?
And who even, these deceptively ludicrous, tough hours,
Turns to A.M. Klein, our maestro of the international
Interleaving of lingos, from Joyce’s Riverrun to Iago’s?
Poems gets uncounted like archipelagos contain
Flotsam, jetsam, the insane tortoise or two; chaos
And disorder remain the librarian in the canon, truthfully.
I’ve found, amidst researches in vast libraries, hermetic,
Urbane, with coffee shops for hearts, and gift shops
For brains, lost plunder buried in plain sight, on paper.
Piratical poesy that no one under the sun now bothers
To covet or adore. I mean, and here the I is genuinely
Me trying to speak to you, if you are there, not just
A closed link or cover, page on page on page of smothering,
He was strangled on his chain, a crucifix around his throat,
Too perfect an image to be invented for aesthetic pleasure.
Crumpled, or merely rammed somehow into the boot, the trunk,
And abandoned, to be found, like any poem or useless treasure
Made of a fool’s errand; was it manslaughter or cold-blooded,
Or some accidental manoeuvre in-between? Emblematic,
Of the measures to be taken, the lost innocence of the times,
And it framed, your death, that death, his death, my father’s
Reactions, ever afterwards; and so, I suppose, mine; how he’d
Never sleep well again, wake at night, in terror, to check
The doors, the windows, our beds; thinking someone was coming.
And they had come, and they had taken, from Cross, the Brit attaché,
To Laporte, hung on his cross, in Paul Rose's vehicle.
I am the way, the door, too neat by half
For any cenotaph, the names that drag us forward, tug back.
Half a century and the actors are removed from recognition.
Not that any of us are, or were, genuinely acting, or actors,
Despite Shakespeare saying so. I read yesterday, this in twenty-twenty,
That even the Bard is under siege, interrogated, held to account
For his politics, his views. No sacred texts then, anymore, if ever,
And history is like a fleuve, or a veuve, a widow or shadow, a going.
Nothing is a lot of water to unload and sift; my gifts were startled
Into fluency at four by your amazing murder, that captured my family,
Our imagination, that shaped, from mere opinion, hardened ideas,
On identities, and friction. I’ve had to carry your massacre with me
Daily like a nightmare burial, like a ritual, or the anxiety it invoked.
The war of fear that stormed my house, also, down the same street.
And if we ever meet, may I ask you for a simplistic favour, if ideal?
Don’t go out to play, Pierre, in October; stay indoors, to heal us all.
LONDON, OCTOBER 5, 2020