:: Article

Three Poems

By Jacob McArthur Mooney.


The bedroom in the bachelor apartment is bordered
by Get Well cards and medicine.
You wiggle on the cushion
                                      wedged against the headboard.
Post-chemo, you’re all bare skin and tundral clefts.
I would like the lights on. Someone in this building
has a thing for INXS.

We both have planes to catch.
You’ll move in with your sister. My new school
in thirteen days. That person playing INXS was you.

A bottle of Blanche de Chambly
as apology and thank you, to coat the
This one thing of it. The formaldehyde residue
of nausea meds and polish. An appointment book open
on the bedside table, lost as your legs
stretch to wicker thinness
at the blur-spun edges of my sight.

A radiation headache. Blush of cytotoxic sweat.
I’m here because you asked
and the unaddressed Perhaps
is the kind of disease that can grow undetected.
I am here to shrink cell-death to a taste.

To bury my head in your borrowed paperback:
The Fate of Older Women or
Mortality and Tongueplay I am here to nurse.
To engage with the dying as biology-with-subplots.
To stir the body humours. To rise in aftertaste and morning
and move through weekend traffic,
through baggage-check and x-ray,
to climb with the floodplains
of national rivers, through peninsula and rainstorm,
the rustbelted, sagging
                                  womb of our country.
To make it to Toronto and its laundry list of textbooks.
The wait for winter or good news.


The 800 Model is a Killing Machine
(for Exodus Tyson, 2004-2009)

The 800 Model is unfeeling.
The 800 Model’s competitors forced it to take shortcuts.

The 800 Model cost millions to develop.
The 800 Model reacts to your body.

The 800 Model doesn’t know right from wrong.
The 800 Model should not be allowed around young women.

The 800 Model moves with maximum efficiency.
The 800 Model was built for one purpose.

The 800 Model’s public image has been sculpted by its management.
I’ve heard The 800 Model can run for days without a break.

The 800 Model is top-of-the-line, truly in a class by itself.
The 800 Model was tested in a lab.

The 800 Model will eat your children. It will eat your kids.


The Well-Publicized Death of William Zantzinger
(after Bob Dylan, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”)

William Zantzinger died poor in old Chaptico
with a cane that he clutched through the ring of two fingers.
All of Baltimore’s greying society gathered,
and the lawyers arrived and his will was read for them,
then they rode him in custody down to The Brinsfield
and informed all the press that Zantzinger had passed.
           And they who found philosophy between
           the lines of the official release
           took notes on the shape of his grandchild’s face,
           saying “Not all deaths are worthy of tears.”

William Zantzinger who at 69 years
owed a government debt of some half-million dollars
with rich wealthy parents long dead and forgotten
and a chill round his name in the annals of Maryland.
Gave in to his death with a shrug of his shoulders
and half-words and bed-wettin’, and his throat was a garglin’.
And in a matter of days the Op-Eds were all talkin’
           because they found philosophy between
           the lines of the official release,
           and made notes on the shape of his grandchild’s face,
           saying “Some deaths aren’t worthy of tears.”

Now William Zantzinger killed a maid from the kitchen,
who at 51 years had given birth to ten children,
and worked at the bar at the Emerson Hotel
and never thought she’d be ever remembered by a song,
and never once heard the singer who wrote her that song.
That’s not to say that she’d fault him for singing his song.
These decisions take place on a whole other level
that sees the arc of the cane in the man’s diamond-ringed fingers
as just a new way of saying that the nation was broken.
Except, why then do we care about William Zantzinger?
           Because we found philosophy behind
           the lines of the official release,
           and saw history grinning in his grandchild’s face
           sayin’ “Some deaths aren’t worthy of tears.”

In our courts of opinion, we pounded our gavels
to remind everyone that the times had a-changed,
the strings of the puppets can’t be pulled by pure sentiment,
and that predictable endings are properly handled,
and that one death is no more important than another
But we remembered the man who killed for no reason,
who just happened to feel like representin’ an ailment
that befell young men of his race, class, and stature.
Then we rose from our seats and walked up to the news stand
and inserted our dollar to lift open the news stand
to read William Zantzinger’s front-page obituary.
           Oh! You who found philosophy between
           the lines of the official release,
           and made art from the photo of his grandchild’s face:
           What are we sayin’ about death with our tears?


Jacob McArthur Mooney is the author of the collection The New Layman’s Almanac (McClelland & Stewart, Ltd) and a second collection, called Folk, coming out next year from the same publisher. He blogs at Vox Populism. He lives in Toronto.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010.