On a night bus between cities,
the overhead lights turned out,
a stillness of strangers resting side by side
in their seats.
Long after midnight, in the outer darkness,
along the sides of the highway
the mangled tree-tops of autumn pass
in a grotesque parade of shapes
against a half-moon haze.
While watching a procession-
of collapsing monsters our ancestors
would have called gods,
I receive the confirming phone call
that you have died.
Most are asleep on this bus from the back
I can hear the sleep-fighting voices
of talking children through the silencing
of their mothers.
In front a lit-up electronic devise is reflecting
off a window
double-imaging the trees on the ceiling.
I think of you and your outrageous life-
with its odd mixture of the high and low brow.
Your piano playing of Beethoven and Brahms,
your respectful mimicking
of Dinu Lipati’s recording of Bach’s Joy of Man’s Desiring
during his remission from cancer.
Your rendering of Bach as a subtle question and answering,
and how you would obsess on the disembodied bliss of static time in art.
Your ghost held back from the self-conscious rush to death we all face,
where there for brief moments is no time at all.
Against this, there were the hardened strippers you would date.
Bringing them into the church to drink wine
and play the organ after the Montreal bars closed.
Your comment that this urge against the sacrosanct
is in all of us to smash past an image to get to what is behind it
to find only other persona. You said you had grown tired of this.
Your weeklong bush walks of a hundred miles.
Your interpretation of Colville’s painting, Dog and Bridge,
the frozen instant of the dog crossing a bridge
where brooding imminence is created
by the carefully constructed geometrical design
drawing our line of sight to the German Sheppard, centre right
intensifying our sense of impending violence.
You spoke of the storms of sorrow that would come back on you-
the ordained demons of darkness hovering near you,
an aching loneliness, that could only be taken away by impersonal art.
Passing into a town, the opposing traffic charges toward the bus
in a sudden heart-pounding rush of blood.
I block the headlights, covering one eye,
losing myself in the central yellow line on the road.
After a time, I look up, waking into a changed landscape
to the sound of Mozart’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
in the voices of small children from the back of the bus,
through their mother’s gentle words about sleep.
Ewan Whyte is a writer and translator. He has written for the Globe & Mail and The Literary Review of Canada. He is the author of two books of essays: Desire Lines: Essays on Art Poetry & Culture, Shifting Paradigms: Essays on Art & Culture, and Entrainment, a book of poetry, as well as a translation of the rude ancient Roman poet Catullus.