The Village Corner—Yorkville, Toronto

Pan down Cleve Street, Café El Patio
Neil Young and Rick James mainlining
Music like you’ve never seen guitar and hipster-kool
All those dreamy riffs power verses curving
Duke Redbird’s eloquence rooted in the land
down Hazelton Lane, Lightfoot whispers
Sylvia & Ian Tyson, a mood away
Folk, before folk was young


Cobble stoned streets and laneways huddle
With roomers too eager to accept free love
Like a panhandler’s loot
Crawling all over time like there was
Never a clock or calendar invented
Time lived as easily as one should
Servant, not master


Let the building build themselves
Let the City managers go to their stinking boring lives
We will take their children and turn them
Into freedom lovers, make them babble
And inhale holy grass.


Not far from the Riverboat
Buffy Saint Marie grooves inditements
soldiering-on universally, calling us awake
As Joni Mitchell grooms flower-power
tuning strings in Vera’s rooming house
readying to burn vocal tracks at the Penny Farthing


At the Bohemian Easy, Dan Hill’s afro stood out
Margaret Atwood, bp Nichol, Gwendolyn McEwen
carving worlds out from the old
David Donell already gone rouge
Michael Ondaatje’s awkward tongue
finding the two Billys
Billy da Kid and Billy da Holliday, that is


bp channels Bissett; ‘piss on it, we’ll free the syllable
Liberate it from its puritan hell!’
Poets making a joyful wave and foaming at the mouth
New voices, new-new voices, something wonderfully lush
New meaning to Canadian


This land, rich with raw rounding words
Flying out of skin
Shocking and comforting and at home all at once
– community


Although many have dreamt of exotic shores
And came on boats and planes from fog
Or their parents did
yes, your parents did
‘cause this land is promise


This land, this land.
trampled and stolen
swollen like a kept woman’s song
That was how we freed ourselves to be ourselves
With language storming the barricades
language flaming in our hands

This poem “The Village Corner—Yorkville, Toronto” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 248 (2022): 174-175.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.