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501 Poem: A streetcar named delay


Author Robert Priest waits for the Queen streetcar while trying to keep out of the rain.


Robert Priest Special to the Star

Standing round a ringed red pole
Spending quantity time
With people we don't know.
We are in wait training
Me, Godot, the ferryman, the messiah — the whole crowd
Is in a holding pattern.

Feel the waiting, people
Waiting is good for the economy
So says the mayor
The waiting skills we acquire now will serve us later
When we wait for jobs, for operations, for painkillers

Few of us step out repeatedly
Into the middle of the road
To stare along the chock-a-block car tops
For some distant curve of coach at the event horizon
But look! What bus, its hour come at last, slouches toward us to be —
The words "Out of service," become legible
The driver creeps by beaming
But absolutely no one curses out loud
No one is pounding their fist in rage
Our breath mists may mingle in the darkening night air
But if our eyes meet
It is only to shake our heads and shrug that
We didn't walk home when we had the chance
We could have been in the warm and dry right now
But we are still here at the all-you-can-wait
Thoroughly prorogued
Absorbing stasis and delay and frost
Sucking up the longing, miles and miles of deeply embodied longing

And we are not alone
All across the city taut elastic tightens in the chest
A protracted hope stretched thin
That one day like a kind of lateral rapture
Our car will come
And we will herd on into the herd
Squeeze in among the squeezed
And it will at last lurch forward
At least half a block . . . before . . .
It hits gridlock . . .
And stops
And jerks forward again
And hits gridlock and stops
And stops
And stops

And a new and even more terrible
Waiting begins

Robert Priest's latest book of poems, Reading the Bible Backwards, can be purchased online at www.ecwpress.com/book/reading-bible-backwards


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Robert Priest is the most virulent, sardonic, ironic, dry, humorous, poignant, pointed poet we have in this great country of ours today. He's fast becoming a national treasure that we might (should) honour accordingly - and he's a pretty mean songwriter too.

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