THE BUTTS OF DAWN
For Chris Byford

All the stores are closed
And I need a smoke really bad
badly enough to bend on the street
and pick up cigarette butts
along with the other bums
who crowd around me
in friendly competition
like a cattle call for Les Miz
Back at the room
I put the butts down in a row
I compose this poem about them
as I smoke them away

The butts of dawn
are curious things
Only the dawn knows
what they will bring

The butts of dawn are curious things
Some of them are not smokeable
Some of them are so close to the bone
that they burn your fingers
and singe your eye lashes
They have been sucked dry at the filter
found by yesterday’s pool of social workers
who will soon set up shop to smoke
in front of the provincial building
They are underpaid and over-worked
They must enhale
the last few grains of tobocco
to make ends meet every month
Some of the butts have lipstick traces

But I do not mind
it’s the closest thing
I’ve been to a woman
in a long long time

Nicotine is nicotine
Lipstick is lipstick
Poetry is poetry
No one reads it anymore anyways
Maybe that’s why I smoke so much
I should be writing programs
for computer games instead
I would have had a villa
in the south of France by now
Consuming my own marmelade
grown with care with oranges from Seville
that are plump and round
That an old man told me about long ago
from his diner off Spadina
with his catholic assemblage
his Carson on the cross
and with his Irish ears that surf inside shells
Water them with electricty and they will grow
He would tell me
They will snap like Machiavelli’s spine
when they are ready to be wrought

The butts of dawn once had a village
we all smoked cheap cigars
The butts of dawn once had a village
we all played cheap guitars

The butts of dawn once had a village
that made the ashtray spin like a globe
Now the only villages I know
are settled by the ends of the filters
that flatten everything that is raw
through the mesh of the screen door
The shadows made for the totem poll
The shadows that were made for the flesh
fall on the mechanical bride
she tastes like menthol cigarettes
Her shyness was once her veil
now she learns how to dance
with a non-filtered Frankenstein

As for the butts of dawn
I have picked from the ground
some say absolutely nothing
they are too filled up with sound

As for the butts of dawn
I have found
Some have generous portions of tobocco
thrown away by haste
likely by the bus drivers at the station
who race to peform
their schedules on time
They stamp out their butts
with their black shoes
as they disappear on their buses
down King Street
In a better world I would be
smoking with them
Stamping out the butts
with my shoes as well
Of all people I run into Byford
who I once knew from Brock
Now he’s a bus driver
who smashed his bus several times
Through the monuments
at Queenston Heights

He was once a professor
before the brutal refute
Tore across his shoulders
for a long day’s commute

This time we mean business
This revolution that we began
to keep the village sacred
from brotherhoods of tar sands

This time we mean business
This revolution that we began
was not only velvet
was not only televised
It was erected by the buses that crossed
Church and King
Now the intersection of crack haven
where I encountered
the most memorable butts of all

The crack girl needs her white slippers
or else she’ll bleed to the floor
Her butts they are the most dismal
Her butts are stained with your’s

The crack girl needs her white slippers
or else she’ll bleed to the floor
I came across a good Number Seven
stamped out with newspaper print
it was slender and it was pure
Let the homeless make
all the headlines
Let the soup kitchens make
all the films for TIFF
Let the radio stations play
grain elevator jazz
as the city smells of flour

Thanks for your good Number Seven
I could only wish for more
There’s nothing like a good Number Seven
There’s nothing like it anymore

Enough of these voices
I heard the neighbours shout
Better smoke faster my friend
your butts they are running out

Enough of these voices
For the sun was coming out
I had just come from
the Cathedral of St. Catherine’s
with its copper steeple staining the stone
I had just found a good Pall Mall
that must have been left for me
by the pope
Thanks to you O father of mercy
for this simple beatitude
Thanks to you
for not smoking the whole thing through
I am sorry that
I was here too early for early mass

There is no religion here for me
I would have just spent the time
Eyeing the girls in the choir
who are too young for me

There is no religion here for me
There are no starlings by the stairs
I only know the saints of cigarettes
who keep me alive by the green steps
Who keep me from the quick and the dead
Whose kingdom shall have no end
And my only martyrs are fellow madmen
who load bicycles of cigarettes
off to their AA meetings
with tons of butts they leave behind
At the back of the cathedral
through the Garden of Time
Filled with faces as they crack
through the future of
rear view mirrors that show
their faces of five o’clock shadows
they owe to bicycle thieves
in black and white cities
that were freed
by the likes of you and me

Lately, I identify a cache
of my own cigarette butts at dawn
The crack girl and the cathedral
they disappear into the clouds

Lately, I identify a cache
of my my own cigarette butts at dawn
smoked out from the night before
by Dom’s Pasta Grill and Bar
I imagined nothing from my own butts
They would not work for me
so I happily hand them over to you
do with them as you would please
Build for them a new village
Smoke them with suburban snot
their mulch ado about nothing
O may the suburbs rot

I went down to the store
I bought some cigarettes
The butts of dawn were over
the butts of dawn were dead

I went down to the store
I bought some cigarettes
That stood erect like twenty soldiers
my own private army they said
O city of razors wake up
and shave your face made from bread
You have survived the dawn
the moon is in your bed
The butts of dawn are finished
Come with us instead
The butts of dawn are silver
the butts of dawn have been read

The street lamps had closed down
there was a grimace at my throat
frozen like the gargoyle
I’d seen at St. Catherine’s that morn
I was torn between channel zero
And the sun that had been born
My hands they shook with tar
I played with the remote all day

My butts of dawn were over
They were swept away by rain

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