The poems are from Freak Show available from above/ground press


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Adam Levin Adam Levin

The World's Oldest Rat

After 32 years of back lanes changed past his ken,
until he doesn't know if he's moved or lived in the
same manhole all through time, you'd expect more
dignity: it befits his hard won girth & the scrapes
with cat & fox. Yes, even he can see god's purpose
in the trail of not quite cleaned bones, but night's
best believer does not know why his teeth ice up
as he gnaws through canvas, furred knees locking
at every old leap so bad he forgets to squeal.

The World's Largest Cabbage Moth Collection

Once engrossed he picked a flower,
was hound-&-foxed through the rest of childhood,
trapped by bigger boys more White than his mute skin:
netted by hands, pinned against brick schoolyard walls.
Still when they danced the flick-knife on his neck
as if to prick & suck the life out
there was always something
desperate, fluttering in their eyes.
They too needed him,
& he held on to this,
even in February when they packed
fairy-tale white snow into his underpants.
Now his vengeance is clinical, Roman:
he pins to pleasant-smelling wood cases
the formalin-soaked specimens
of the world's largest cabbage moth collection.

The World's Largest Piņata

Hale children gather amid further ado
near mantra places: Transcona, Red Deer,
Nepean. They are so tanned from riding horse
you can barely tell them from the Cree.
They're all here in the park with cows & parents
to see who'll break the world's largest piņata.
He'll get the cosseting trip to Cancun
& return affirming suburban myths,
such polite people! Sponsored
by the Pangloss Club, this trip
will open a door to better appreciation
of hot peppers, bribe & taxation systems,
everything but the smell of tripe frying
& why the dogs follow him everywhere.

I did not win. Instead of the beach
I went to some town of a seven-foot name & thought
poverty explained the broken glass atop walled fences.
There are no eager retrievers named Petula,
dogs lie in gutters, vultures keep off
if only for fear of the living & shame
to eat anything that should have been named.

Back in the True North there are smarter ravens
& poverty is clever enough to hide in ground beef,
well water, populist parties sponsored by cable companies,
cheerful postage stamps celebrating Wonder Bread.
This is also Cuchulan's kingdom, Canute's Canada:
we are all huddled south waving our staffs
at the world's largest piņata.