Poetry

The Devil's Advocate

BY


Winner of the 2012 Walrus Poetry Prize

My lords and ladies, gentlemen of the jury—
when you hear hoofbeats, assume horses. Not zebras.
This is true in almost all parts of the world
except the African savannah, where it is safer
to assume zebras. Also eland, giraffes, herds
of this and that. In India, assume cows; in Spain,
bulls, matadors in their sun-blurred hooves.
In Tuscany, angels, in kingdom-come horses again,
pale quartets of “Wish You Were Here.” My client
sends his regrets. He is busy
falling through blank verse for all eternity while a mere afternoon
passes its shadow over us. The sun moves from one window
of the courthouse to the next, and then it is tea time.
One sugar or two? Perhaps a bun. Stretch
and yawn and back we go. I submit
for your perusal Exhibit A.
This is a map of the world, of God, and of everything.
Above is heaven, below is hell.
The future is to the right, the past is to the left.
My client, in his plea for mercy, wishes me to recall
his salient points. His sense of humour, direction, and yes, style,
his tendency to violent foreshortenings, and that finding
himself irredeemably zebra, he hoofed the streets
of his brawling, captious nature, kicking
up dust and all the limping platitudes
of this earth, our home. They tell you dreams
don’t come true. But they never tell you how.

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