At first there's no lake in the city, at first there are only
elevators, at first there are only constricting office desks;
there are small apartments and hamburger joints and
unpaid telephone bills. Then a few nightclubs appear and
eventually the lake disinters. At times there's a highway
and a car and friends in a snowstorm heading nowhere but
back to the city and Sarah Vaughan is singing in the cabin
of the car. The three of us are frightened of everything.
Our lives in this town, which is not a town, and on this
snow road, which is no road, who will protect us. In the
city there is no simple love or simple fidelity, the poem
long after concludes. There's a slippery heart that abandons.
Fists are full of women's bodies. The Group of Seven is
painting just outside the city now. The graffiti crew is here
inside blowing up the expressway and the city is like a
Romare Bearden or a Basquiat. More Basquiat. The cynical
clerk notes, in her cynical English, all the author has elided,
the diagonal animosities and tiers of citizenship. The
author wants a cosmopolitan city. Nothing wrong with
that. But the clerk who orbits her skull has to deal with all
The author's not naive, far from it, but however compli-
cated she is, the clerk is more so. The clerk notices there are
air raids, a lingua of sirens and gunshots in the barracking
suburbs, the incendiary boys are rounded up by incendiary
boys and babies are falling from fifteen-storey buildings
into the shrubbery; each condo fights for the view of the
exhumed lake, until the sky is cloudy with their shadow.
The atmosphere is dull with petulant cars. The author
avoids all this; you see my point?
Dionne Brand, “From Verso 4” from The Blue Clerk. Copyright © 2018 by Dionne Brand. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Source: The Blue Clerk (McClelland & Stewart, 2018)