Poem For Gord Downie
You were always there, singing
from the back of the car
as if you were drunk back there dreaming and singing
while I drove aimlessly about the outskirts
of everybody’s hometown
learning where the lovers go after dark
and practicing the names that had been rearranged,
reassigned to the sacrosanct dark spaces
that remained underneath the crooked branches of the trees,
and you were reconnoitering the impenetrable waters
of that vast silent sound
as the collective Canadian unconscious
like someone searching for a drowned diver
or a slipped-off wedding ring.
A nation will watch me die, you sang
from back there, and I believed it the way you believe
something that somebody says in their sleep.
Fireworks by the side of the road, Northern Lights
and harbor lights perpetually enticing,
perpetually retreating, holding themselves
at a constant unbridgeable distance from my
ungovernable eyes. I flailed my way to
a first kiss as your face published itself
on every TV screen in every bar.
Last night I dreamed you were in my kitchen,
or else you are a sled dog on the snowy plain,
nuzzling the furry neck of Kurt Cobain.
Another round of Schooner makes the metaphor make sense.
And it was really you, wasn’t it, who came paddling
past, really you whose psalms and sonics
sang the stoic poles together? I think now that maybe
we were not a nation until we watched you
sing and die. O Gord, I lift this last round
to the sprawling sound of the gravid growlings
you brought up from those dark waters
and the verses you engraved on the vast white wall
of unmusic that we face but cannot force ourselves to face.
Listen now, that wail from the West’s waste-effaced margins.
Listen now, these foreign shores, these fallen final invitations.
Listen now, this ceaseless silence you have signed and left behind you.
Troy Jollimore reads “Poem For Gord Downie”
Troy Jollimore’s poetry collections include Earthly Delights (Princeton University Press, 2021), Syllabus of Errors (Princeton University Press), which was chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best poetry books of 2015, and Tom Thomson in Purgatory (Intuit House), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. As a philosopher he is the author of Love’s Vision (Princeton University Press, 2011) and On Loyalty (Routledge, 2012).