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From the archives

Carbon Copy

In equal balance justly weighed

Slouching toward Democracy

Where have all the wise men gone?

By Populist Demand

When urban and rural voters went separate ways

I buy a blue rose to describe
and think of Yeats dipping his quill
in an ah of ink, hoping that
love on the page would be less painful,
or at least more rakish, something
to shove in a buttonhole and watch
wilt, beauty slowly disintegrating
to a bruise. Next morning, saturated
with longing, I stumble to the kitchen
for a vitamin, a bolster
for my sad veins, and discover
the crystal vase full of blue water,
the rose having traded bodily fluids
all night. It’s the exchange part of love
Yeats and I do so well, the bleeding,
fists full of paper cuts. The tributaries
leading to our brains are wide open,
the very thoughts we think, fantasies of you
bending over to wipe up a spilled drink,
catching a reflection in the puddle
of my complete devotion. The only
way I know how to love is to drown
all those inconsequential colours,
the pinks of modesty and the greens
of being soothed, soak myself
in a lack of oxygen, a gasp
whenever you enter a room.
I realize you might prefer
violets, a neat little poem
with lots of shy adjectives, but
that’s not how Yeats sounds to me, all
thorns and bleed, a daunting chemistry
that gusts across the page in sprawls of blue.

Barry Dempster has published more than sixteen collections of poetry, among other books, and has twice been nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award.