Peter Norman: from The Gun That Starts The Race


Crows rasp and wrestle for a scrap of kill
discarded at the curb: carcass dropped
from the claws of a passing gull.
Each beak pecks out its portion. In the shop,
a knife is pressed against the cashier’s throat.
As customers look on, the burglar
loads up on smokes and currency. It’s rote,
another outing for the scavenger.

This is the age of waiting. In their flats,
the people huddle, pray by candlelight,
notch off days on door jambs. Through the night
the crows cavort, remorseless acrobats.
Me, I don’t hold vigil. Time is short. I’m swift.
There’s cash to grab and cigarettes to lift.



No one prophesied a spectacle like this.
The code exploded at Creation never spelled it out.
The spectacle’s planners are secret and smug.
Wednesday, and the awe’s not yet worn off.

Roll up your astral charts. The spectacle scours the sky.
Blindfolds guarantee the safest viewing.
What planners flogged all odds and made this be?
It’s Thursday. Will the spectacle yet dim?

Vast and peerless arrangement of rays!
Friday may pass, and the seventh day too,
but surely our eyes won’t grow back.
Nothing grows from sockets of ash.



Haul down the nets. Erase the painted lines
that separate the people from the court.
Blot out every logo: thwart the designs
of those that would make profit of the sport.

Let service serve; let ranking be repealed.
Shuck off those bourgeois whites; dress up in red.
Put down the racket you were taught to wield
and raise the racket of revolt instead.

Dethrone the umpire and his random will:
his proclamations have been foul indeed!
Let each man play according to his skill;
let each man score according to his need.

And someday even score will be cast off,
and love will be forever serving love.


Peter Norman is the author of two poetry collections, Water Damage and At the Gates of the Theme Park (shortlisted for the 2010 Trillium Poetry Book Award), and a novel, Emberton. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Walrus and two editions of Best Canadian Poetry.

“Song of the Great Spectacle”, “Bolshevik Tennis!”, and “Age of Waiting” were originally published in The Gun That Starts the Race, copyright © 2015 by Peter Norman. Reprinted by permission of Goose Lane Editions.

Author: Jake Byrne

Poetry editor.