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Edwin Hotel, 1974 - Diane Massam

industrial soot over toaster streetcars

long-nosed rides sport an as-long ass

old city void of steel and glass

And so much more

thinks a newly-fired rose-seller

rising from her milk-crate

Rent to pay

no more kisses in the hot summer rain, just gutters flooding with corduroy pain

ad in hand, city felted grey

through a finger-scraped view

with a chain-link hue

imprisoned like a snake-plant

choking from the dust

in the window of the Diamond Box Lunch

over the bridge, cuts the city in two,

upturned trolleys clog a broken weir

soap-factory workers walk up beside the river

guys from Timmins hunting pickled eggs and beer

rooms by the week, dead-ending in cancer

coughing in the parlour, falling on the stairs

'Ladies and Escorts' tipping under 'Niteclub'

not many escorts, too many cares

rye and coke on a small cork tray

(but only the rims are dipped, they say)

there's money to be made in Men Only, he advises

where cash is physical

snappy fins and sawbucks

low on cocky groins

bulging up twill aprons

heavy-weighted coins

Power swells

no more kisses in the hot summer rain, just gutters flooding with corduroy pain

Jimmy the Greek, one of the boys

under unrelenting lights

swims in tile-echoed noise

heaves a metal tray, says

through waves of stale smoke

I fight the diddlers, I'm that kinda guy, eh?

it's 4 for 80 and a 20-cent tip

navigating circles through wet terry tables

trading full for empty

in hourly rotations

of pale white strippers with soft flat faces

pastel lingerie off goose-bumped arms

men stare hard at bruised net thighs

opening in rhythm to the juke box band, then

a fight breaks out!

they settle back to drinking

It's the job at hand.


Diane Massam has recently returned to her home town, Victoria, after many years away. She is currently completing a certificate in creative writing at the School for Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto. She was the 2021 winner of the BC Federation of Writers Poetry Contest and a winner of the 2020 Janice Colbert Poetry Award. She is also a linguist, writing on grammatical theory and Polynesian languages.


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