Dundas West
  Jason Freure

Criss-crossing cars,
buses, bicycles,
zagging sidewalks
tripping walkers,
squalling horn-honks erupting like shell-fire,
consolatory for not getting where they're going.
The streetcars spindle to the wards and their lanes and houses, their locals and button shops
       where little fires burst, and the towers seem so distant as if hiding the secret excitements
       you grew up craving.
And on the platform
you wait, five, seven, ten minutes,
while the streetcars thrum quietly at the evening
electrically, while you flip through a book
or stare vapidly at houses hiding cherished television routines,
chili, stew, and frozen pizzas,
and you wait fifteen minutes as the wrong numbers swing along their buzzing cords around the
       bend and into the confusion
and the jagged stops,
starts, sudden at crosswalks,
when the vibrating glide of it trills at your feet
and it follows the hooked piecemeal of Dundas, bowling over bridges
knocking cars this way and undisturbed on the wings of privilege oblivious to the mess flowing
       in circles around it until
it dings, shit
settling,
shutter and clump, its doors open,
pile-ups impatiently building behind them
as an old lady
hobbles across with her grocery sacks
and as she straggles on
a jolt flings her finally into a seat with senior's cane-cart
between Morrow and Sorauren, and on the railroad south of the Lansdowne bridge the factories
       in the southern scrub are scrawled with familiar tags
when a shudder,
stop,
inelectrically off.
Dead in the street,
til it chunks and shivers
downhill to Little Portugal and the pragmatic brick blocks wired back and forth from telephone
       poles and cables strung punkishly over tracks and cars and churrasqueiras and pool bars
       draped in cock flags,
Rua Açores! unbeautiful and clunky, boxy and jigsaw, dentists and barristers, bakers, men
       smoking by the lights of bar signs, fumes in the glistening drizzle on an evening
       commute.
The street's for going home on, blue coolers thumping the floor, plaster-stained and paint-
       splattered,
yet the briefcases and blackberries are out
and the lingerers idle on americanos in the store fronts,
and the working men of Dundas are rusted and old, prematurely retired, playing poker and pool.
Where do they live now,
unemployed and gelded,
these men who vote conservative
and won't work sixteen hour days bitter at illegals with debts and families still on shores of
       slaughter happy to eat and be alive and take buses from Scarborough for ten bucks an
       hour?
And south of here bosses are boiling, all'em ingrate clerks if they let that mulatto in again after
       all I do, cutting their cheques despite it all in the red or the black, cutting and cutting
and they want me to pay higher taxes, do they? Roaches, they come and they go, with a million
       more in the walls who'll work for half as much
and those hard-working managers who gripe about strikes and all the hard-working citizens
       who'd kill to earn half so much money.
But down the cables the mess of rooftops opens it canyon
to the gridiron glow of skyscrapers
where it is enough to drink cocktails in the right bar with the right cut of suit and sunglasses or
       even a tailored hat
and the profoundest words and songs spin easily out of your social life,
not while you're sitting at your desk on a Saturday with a note book declining drinks at the Red
       Room.
A tangle at traffic lights holds back the sirens:
MOVE YOU SONOFABITCH
the last blue collar man on Dundas
shouts from a fire truck.
Everyone trained to stop
and not enough asphalt to budge.
The conductor waves his hands, move along, move along,
a man in charge in an emergency.
Click-tak electric
round to a rumble at the Ossington bend by the pupusa stands shuttered and empty.
Hard to the right like a hard-on,
24 hr Phở, the brown brick project
circumcised of its urbanity
(Kensington fluttering
lanterns and saris,
a flower market, Cordoba
of art and bravado,
Cante Jondo,
and jongleurs and students.)
Next stop: Spadina. Spad-ee-nah to you.
Deng Da Xi Sie Si.
Chinatown crowd,
everybody pile on, pile on,
the city's culture is as deep as a wok.
And the streetcar follows you,
General Tao, and will follow you to farthest Munchuria,
by the taverns and winding cables spider-webbing street-crack skies
at the McCaul short-turn,
and tinny and fracked it crawls
along Dundas, falafels and newsstands
through a neon mist
of evening rain and screens
diffuse in the scramble,
the cinema and studios,
Yonge Street glitz
red light and loud and all your dreams will come true now they had better there is nowhere else
       to go.

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