Maxine Gadd: Subway under Byzantium

Subway Under Byzantium: Poems, 1988-1996
Vancouver: New Star Books, 2008
order from SPD
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it’s only Saddam is mad. oh, Max, they say, thinking yu know what they
mean this time          go meek as a lamb bred to roast on a sunday.          the
next thing yu know
they’ve got yr liver on a hook
flying in the breeze to snag
steel blue pterodactyls
      —from “Boatload to Atlantis”

          I met Maxine Gadd at my KSW reading in Vancouver last year. I didn’t know her poetry then, but nudged by Jordan Scott, I dove into her work and with a jolt of excitement recognized an edgy poetic voice that would be equally at home exploring the Gothic underbelly of the Deep South—Louisiana poet Jessica Freeman comes to mind as a counterpart, like Flannery O’Connor to Alice Munro.
          But regardless of that ring of kindred Southern irony in my ear as I read her poetry, I’d be a Gadd aficionado. Below are a few gems from Gadd’s 2008 collection, Subway Under Byzantium.

ferry weather feeling

ferry weather feeling
konked by a head-on collision
carroted into trans-substations
bad ice
agitated pre-sys-bitarian volcanic subtext

where do yu go to pay yr bills
little while flowers like flour over the wall
styrofoam lawnmowers

ok, we made a loop
now start hooking
for starchild

sticks and stones, bricks and bones; hated history
twittering a transcendent chant on the bridge
over the murky dawn
laying down a route that’s a rout
roar humbly on dear pack-lovers
tearing apart various entities
configurating rain fr ten a.m.

mud forever, fervent misery
knowing yr bred out diamond
suit ya fine
this little hole
        lined with
Lac La Lack

is it a puddle yu jump in to splash the dry friends yu want as lovers
is it a dark pool into which houses dissolve in the infrared eyes of dogs and deer
is it a black lagoon with hieroglyphs spinning laughter
is it the blue green lantern of a pulp mill feeding the fish
about the blue about the green about to yellow about to redden the wail
the coyotes avoid,
that i wld avoid
if only the lonely
could park wild with a full deck of golden oldies
eh, yeah
fear of the old frontier, my deer
the fresh thing that’s happened to man and disappeared

its surely yr own deep liquid drained by the dry gulch of history
salt crusted around yr eyes but yr here at the lake, placed
to meet the tribes and sixty year old tourists not so different from yourself
as to clarify a Greek under the pines

a reputation away hang shiny cookies of thought
and just below the surface of emerald jelly
drowned theoreticians, smile up, fascinated still

sylph sylvie sits on rocks and combs her hair
a truckdriver buckles in the dark
grabs onto a green light hanging over the highway
and stops, leaving the truck on the centre line he jumps out
leaving the door open, goes to the lake
pours oil on troubled waters
relieves himself in it
calls it his queen
Subway Under Byzantium

demands good cookin, the bodies of the children and
“the poor just love it:go
wee wee wee wee wee weeeee


(ah, oui)

love fingering our dream time, lifting it, high and dry
as the bird hung out on the wire, befallen
into the heat of our veins, in the subway under byzantium
teeming with Russian spies of love in each clean canadian house
hiding under the leopard skin tails of Great Aunt Ida
talking thru the night / talking to the night

here is an inheritance / snowballs light up the balls

still, they’re trying to do us in
they have fled the ditches with lilies that will eat us and all our crap
meld, marl us into mold, light and furry like
fairy hair and
we’ve already flown


we share this little secret
bergamot and eggs in the bottomless abyss
great to be so faithful

my lies open to the white
organized perpetuity
foolish gaze

truck stops on a giant spiderweb
the lazy warehouse
of the lost dog

yark my shoes, Jack
i’m as woozy as sedge
mind chimes to chizzy tiers

wild deer ness
once open for the armed
as i with spam

next spring yr tripudiating thru gnarled trees
the sweet breath of fungus
hauling yu down

yu break up
safe and sucked and hungry
and spent



Camille Martin

4 responses to “Maxine Gadd: Subway under Byzantium

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