the poetry that matters

Paul Maxfield

Paul Maxfield was born and raised in and around Toronto. He graduated from the Creative Writing program at the University of Windsor, briefly attended the MFA program at the University of Memphis in Tennessee, and is now working as an assistant editor for an academic journal based in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he is studying counseling psychology. He was the winner of the 2008 Writer Advice Flash Fiction contest and judge of the 2009 contest.

Song of My City

Tied up in freeways; twisty DVP,
Arterial 401, 400, the ugly QEW/
Gardner underlining it all- Every
Winter, they threaten to knock it
Down. Every Summer, it casts its
Shadow like a cock ring
Around the CN Tower. Your rush
Hour sludge, proving Xeno’s
Paradox gradually, irrationally
Draining into the inflamed rash
Of suburban bedroom communities
Where you can really raise a family
Or a grow-op in your cul de sac
Basement. Indie kids, restless slackers,
Withering poets under cold florescent
Lights of reoccurring double-double
Donut stores, or maybe just the same one
Following us around, where ever we go,
Like Canada’s national bar band, but
With the same Korean smile, and only
Enough words to fill a paper cup.

Toronto, pinned to the map by the
Cold tiled grime of subway stations,
Pulsing, throbbing and bursting with
Space invaders, physical contact
Pressing bodies, intimate shoulders
Elbows, thighs, wrists, hair, brushing,
Touching, tolerant in packed cars,
Blowing celestial newspaper sheets
The Star, The Sun, The Globe,
Half-solved Sudokus and Hockey
Pages, masochistically cheering
The Leafs: Next year, always next
Year, or maybe the year after that.
As doors chime open passengers
Exhale                             Inhale
Chime closed again, impatient
“Please, stand away from the doors.”
Averted gaze, reading magic marker
Tags and sharpie discourses on who’s
Really a fag and “Fifty Cent 4 eva!”
“Ah fiddy, you only ½ a dolla…”
Clandestine eye contact made
In dark tunnel reflections,
The mysteries beneath St Claire.
TTC, blood vessels in
Your veins, memories
Clotting at every stop.

I love the way you flow
Like a river of words
From street corner free-stylers
At King and Spadina who race
Their minds against their mouths
Just to see the glint of neon
Billboards reflected from
Loonies, Twonies and Quarters
Jingling in a black guitarless case.
I love your Chinatown imitations,
English as broken as their watches.
I love the churches on Queen Street,
And the queens on Church Street,
The rush of suits on Bay, chased
By the bulls and bears. Our Prime-
Minsters’ faces come in many colours
Passed over the seat of baise-toi cabs.
Va te faire enculer. Have a nice day.
I love the accumulated human debris
Blown up against the monuments
Of University Avenue, unwashed
Beards, last year’s club apparel,
Urban outfitters for cool street
Archaeologists dumpster diving
Graceful into pools of abject trendiness,
Sponging the dirt of the city. Cardboard
Solicitations, penis pleasure promises of
Toothless old women, only twenty dollars
Ten dollars, five, come on buddy, give me
A break, give me a dollar, give me a
Smoke, asshole! While laser guided
Pedestrians, eyes fixed firmly forward,
Side step, caring later at private cock-
Tail parties on Eglinton roof tops
Between the Shiraz, and the Niagara
Sauvignon Blanc, as good as California
Chile or France to a poor York grad
Student. I love your old hippies hanging
Down in Kensington Market, their children
Occupying The Annex, Queens Park
In summer, the marijuana protest
Smoke smells the same, unnoticed.

Yonge Street growing old, Eatons gone
Under the weight of American boxes,
And Sam died, forsaken, whipped
With chains and finally poisoned
By MP3s. The punk rock peacocks have
All flocked to the Yorkdale Shopping Center
To forget about their Teenage Head.
Bloor, your intersection is the nervous
Center from which all life pulses;
East through Italian bistros to Woodbine
Racetrack, and the wealthy beaches;
West past the revitalized Polish ghettos,
Artistic communities, trendy high-rent
Neighbourhoods around High Park.
There’s no more art here, and all the
The store-front signs are in English.
Harbour Front, an eternal condominium
Face lift, our lake, a million dollar view.
Coming down from dreaded Jane and
Finch high rises, Trinidad and Jamaica
Under suspicious police eye
To Caribana on Lakeshore Avenue
Reggae and soca bodies black
Mass peppered brown and white
Dancing heat beat thudding bass
Wine yr body round to the
Carnival vibes a’ight. It was
A pretty good year. No one was
Killed, only a few people hurt.

Toronto, the endless pedestrian stream,
You count my footsteps in your human
Currents, ripples and whirlpools, with
Unnumbered voices diverse, conversing,
Rising, falling, foaming and washing
Away your sins. This city forgives you
Better than Jesus, in the white noise of
Forgetful city blocks. It absolves you as
It dissolves you. Another impossible face
Swimming out of the frothy crowd, briefly,
Losing familiarity as it approaches. A faltering
Smile, mistaken and embarrassed, it submerges
Again a complete stranger. I wander your streets,
A lonely ghost haunting the periphery of
A thousand people’s days, reduced to one
More vague repetition, another solitary voice
Lost in the dissonance that sings us to sleep.

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