Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sunshine, Fire, Tears and Curses (and Layton poem), Jan 5 06
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Mr.Irving Layton, 1912-2006
posted by Jack Saturday at 2:25 PM

I suspect he said the same to Charon, who was often depicted as a cranky, skinny old man.

MAN GOING UP AND DOWN by Irving Layton

Only he and I were in the lift.
"Do you like what you're doing?" I asked.
The lustreless stare he gave me was
One I've seen on coons crushed but intact
Lying inert on countryside roads;
But his voice burst like a tire: "I don't!"

"Then why not walk out with me - right now?"
We had reached my floor. "I'd desolate
This whole city, yes, massacre each
Man, woman, and child in it before
I'd let them put me into a cage
To run like a monkey up and down.
Come, leave behind you this accursed car.
Let it stand void for all eternity."

He now looked at me mistrustfully
As he opened the door. "Look, mister,"
He said, "You must be one of these men
I hear about with sharp ideas
For changing people's lives and the world.
I've been taught about the likes of you.
Well, no one is changing me, no sir.
I've my job and I'll stick to it, see?"
Not more proud looked young Alexander
In his tent among his Greek captains
The night he overwhelmed Darius,
Or blond Charles when he slew the Polacks,
Or Don Juan after his hundredth lay.

"You sad mutt," I said almost aloud
As he held up his head, offended.
I'd have thrown him a bone had I one.
"Civilization could not endure
A single hour without your trapped soul."
In the next instant he had changed back
Into the affable tool he was.

I strode out of the elevator.
A rush of stale air followed me out
And turning to find what had made it
I saw myself pursued by the shades
Of half-a-score indignant teachers,
Three pallid clergymen dressed in black,
And a vile woman, doubtless his wife
--Or the Medusa, if you prefer myths.

Me and Irving Layton

Instead of political or economic shit, last night I was working through an old cassette of some guy talking about poetry and reading his own excellent work and that of others—it was a talk also about duendé. I stayed in the oven of my studio later than usual to finish mining this moving tape, and then went out in the January night to air the pie I was, having dropped this wonderful stuff into the deep-dish with all the other stuff I had mined that day. I was pie in the sky! “This stuff is very good for my health,” I acknowledged—both physical and emotional. Other thoughts and references came to mind as I walked the Lansdowne golf course—a little muddy on the east side of the little fir forest.

Irving Layton was dying just then, or had just made that crossing. This morning CBC1 played a clip of Irving in 1978 declaring that poets are physicians to the world, more so than Freud or Jung.

Layton’s poetry was rich, full of sunshine, fire, tears and curses, especially toward bourgeois respectability.

I have a woman friend who grew up in the circles populated by Layton, Cohen etc. Slept with Leonard, who she says was kind, but turned down Layton—she said he was driving her somewhere, and when she turned down his offer he stopped the car and abandoned her there and then—as I recall it was not her home city. That’s gossip.

“The most serious theological question of our time is whether Jesus ever had an erection. And why should that not be discussed, if he was the perfect man, he must have had the perfect erection, right?”
--Irving Layton, 1978

They dance best who dance with desire
Who lifting feet of fire from fire
Weave before they lie down
A red carpet for the sun
- Irving Layton


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