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The Republic of Naught 
By Jay McLeod 

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Published by Philistine Press, 2010

All poems © Jay McLeod  
Cover photograph by Adriano Zanni  












Contents

 

Trash

Notes from Abroad During Hurricane Season

To the Dictator’s Daughter

At the End of a Line

Rateshock Shoppers

Planes, Trains, and Dishpits

Last Time We Talked

The Scholar

The Dishwasher’s Last Will and Testament

Artie

Don’t Work

Back in the City

Rosemary

Walter Lives on the Edge of the World

The Rime of the Ancient Chimney Sweep

Saturday, 2007

Success

perhaps by the end of my working life the hockey players will be off strike

The Dishwasher’s Chant

Things to Do Before I’m 30

The Republic of Naught


 

 

Trash

At the end of the day

It all amounts to the same

Tread lightly

Stalker-azzi

The road to bling-bling

Is paved with good intentions

A car in the swimming pool

A series of revelations in the supermarket

Fliers

 

Feel the almighty love of Dr. Filth

Rain down

Superstar alimony

Millionaire child support

For drafted actors and actresses

The kings and queens of canoodling

Hard rock goners

South beach marauders

Lottery winners

Drowning in accolades

It can happen that fast

 

The supermarket

Is the heart of commerce

Many folk write letters and e-mails

Of support and diligently

Follow the sitcoms

And reality shows

 

 

 

Notes From Abroad During Hurricane Season

 

 they're sleeping on their roofs

to get out of the water

a couple of lean months

at least

half a world away

we bicker about municipal politics

and "The Return of the Sequels"

ever myopic

held in thrall by

failed applications

character assassinations

faked celebrity weddings

a puppet government

fallen to insurgents

the hatchet man in another country

living off the rented time

of soldiers and pollsters

it seems anything but real from here

all the worlds a gas

when your home's washed away

and you haven't the wages to rebuild

at least the weather's pleasant there most of the time

meanwhile

we maintain radio silence

we watch the damage in advance

the hurricane's path

in the space of a single day

via satellite

several thousand swept out to sea

failed by geography

tropical out-ports

the men and women

a generation now disappeared

from the edge of the world

beyond the verges

of anything we know

or would care to watch

for longer than ten consecutive minutes

 

 

 

 

To the Dictator’s Daughter

 

Cleopatra on T.V

The dictator's daughter

Is pleading for understanding

Notwithstanding

A change of heart

Your everyday warmonger

Illegal combatant

As for me

I've got no car

No Swiss bank account

Or a jet to Brazil

There's a CSIS agent in the apartment next door

Monitoring my every cough

Got a get-out-of-jail-free card and a ticket to ride

Meanwhile

On TV the dictator's daughter is begging for leniency

Railing against NORAD

As for me

I'll live off the land

Go mad

Die young like Tom Thomson

Become a wholesaler in vestiges and reminiscences

Like throwing haymakers at a counterpunch

A kings' ransom in crow

You can't hold down what you never found

Imelda Marcos

Pleased to meet'cha

They're coming for me

Hoser of fortune

Going to knock down my spider-hole

I'm feeling charitable

Down and out at the Laundromat

As free as a roll of American quarters

 

 

 

 

At the End of a Line

 

From the end of a line you’ll call

Requesting

Something basic.

I will borrow your manner

Politely

Murmuring something

Cryptic

About the weather here

Or the inconsistencies of the higher ups’ marketing strategy

As we haggle over the price

Over what must surely be an Eiffel Tower

Or some prime swampland

In Cape Breton.

For my part,

I will quiz you for discounts from light years away.

For your part,

You may wish to speak with my superiors-

Tough!

This is not a democracy, friend.

It is always midnight.

It is always raining.

We will each have something in one another’s world view

Confirmed

Before quitting each other

Along the Jersey Turnpike on a cell phone

Or the former dictators’

Gallows

Global denizens

At the end of a long, nearly interminable line.

You could be in India.

I could be on Mars.

In thinking so, neither of us would be wrong.





Rateshock Shoppers

 
you don't know how he does it

business class traveler

platinum Amex

wants a GM car

in Canberra

next January

and a hotel room

with a view of the pool

he can't believe what you're telling him

that's rate-shock

he says "buddy business is bad,

it's killer"

he's from Florida, of course

which I have always imagined

as a trailer park next to Disney World

beside a golf course

all the ching you can snort

a piece of Paradise Pie

but for the occasional serial killer

or hurricane

how many more will be dead by then

the madman on the plane

the wild-eyed activist

the insurgent with the video camera

but not this guy

as for me

I'll be back East

shovelling the driveway

paying down my degree

that's sticker shock

the toast of NAFTA

strange bedfellows make strange business

as yet to be outsourced

 

 

 

 

Planes, Trains, and Dishpits

 

I walked forty-five minutes

each day to wash

dishes

for more than a year

when I dropped out of school

the walk home seemed

even longer

this was usually cause I’d stop

frequently to sit on

benches and

stare at the stars and the

river

and occasionally nothing

in particular

 

After

I got back into school I

thought I

had it made

and then found the call centre

four years went

past

an instant that stretched

into eternity

of bussing

biking

walking

and bumming rides

finally I worked up the

wherewithal to skip the country

altogether

I’ve been taking planes

every year or so since then

and I still don’t know how to drive

a fucking car

 

 

 

 

Last Time We Talked

 

The last time we talked
Your fangs were at my neck
And I was dying to let you in

Last time we talked
I was much smaller than this
And much younger
A spectacular failure
I was christened with ignorance
Now you've got some dishes to wash
Race you to the bottom

The last time we talked
It was Captain Overtime
Cheap thrills
A leave of absence
At behest of the management
Deject on the block
And hangdog summer days
For the neighbourhood type

It was psyche-ops
A clove of garlic
Operation: Elvis
And the drums of war

We chased each other around the apartment
Grandstanding Atlantic trash
Grafting the skin of the scam

 

 

 

 

The Scholar

 

He’s the quizzical sort

Has a bachelor’s in classics

Reads Virgil and Herodotus

Born millennia too late

What he lacked in marks, he made up for with effort

But not enough for his Masters

Has a middling novel tucked away in his dresser

Perpetually half-finished

Keeps adding pages

Can't figure the ending

Keeps misplacing the characters

Sweeps up at the University

When not driving taxi

Listens to symphonies at top volume

As he flies around town

Romances dead languages

Feels slighted by the world at large

The years yet to be spent

Paying down his loans

Trying to make the rent

Goes home once per year

Right around Christmas

Feels unfairly compared

To his successful younger brother-

A semi-pro hockey player-

He paces the streets of his small town-

The scourge of the Acropolis-

Leaves as quickly as possible

As courtesy will allow

Falls asleep on the train

Imagines the Atlantic as the Mediterranean

Nearly burned through his twenties

Shoe leather and credit

Dreams of less lacklustre days

Job interviews in Toronto

And women fascinated by his mind

Without regard for his career

Thus far unable to penetrate

The closed casket of the Canadian cultural industries

The years spent chafing at the bit

The world of ideas

A bit like Raskolnikov just before

He off-ed that old lady

Considers a career in the military

But can’t do the push-ups

Speaks Latin when the bill collectors call-

Attenuo accipio argento”-

That is to say-

“I have no money”

 

 

 

 

The Dishwasher’s Last Will and Testament

 

Back in the day

He was a real whiner

A barely published

Seldom laid

Never paid kind of writer

Dropped acid and acted out

Scribbled in a notebook

Muttered to himself

He was six-five

And just a hundred forty pounds

Had a buzz cut, but wasn’t a skinhead

He meant to say nice things

But they came out mangled

When he drank, it was all he could do

To keep from getting beaten up or arrested

The nights he walked home

Wanting to die

But for the Grace of God

And a couple of friends

 

That girl he worked with

From the fast food restaurant

They used to be tight

 

She said,

Let’s put this movie

Out of its misery

 

Now she is a medical student

He pushes a broom

Full-time

 

They have coffee every once in awhile

 

He liked bits of “Ulysses”, but hated “The English Patient”

 

Those shows you wrote about

Now seem to have happened to a different punk

In another province

 

Earned his bachelors

By the skin of his teeth

Got his Masters in What-The-Fuck-Ever

 

Sometimes

 

I miss that little bastard

In spite of myself

That guy might be gone

But I’m still writing his story

 

 



Artie 

 

Artie takes the bus to the mall

each morning at eleven

a civil servant

who opted for early retirement

now a cell phone and the bathroom

serve as his office

pulls up a bench

until the pub opens

sports jogging pants and last year's runners

frequently polluted

weathers family and workers

kids bound for school

Jehovah's Witnesses

plebs with delusions of empire

thwarted bourgeoisie

he's one of those

whose mind goes North and his paycheck goes South

a former husband and step-father

a one-time nervous wreck

and holiday maker

he can spot a fake from twelve paces

at high noon

the boozer opens its gates

shooters blazing

a roll of wooden nickels

now it grows dark before seven

he takes a new tack

brand of draught

he can't afford both

cable and smokes on his pension

he's overly deferential

to the bartender's admonishments

the different languages

the chatter of commerce

tries to make a new girlfriend

she says "Come on now, Artie"

tells everyone he has to quit

he says "I wouldn't be with me either, Laney"

he reads the paper

tickles the slots

takes the bus home at nine

long enough to pass out

how often he comes here

how seldom on top

 

 

 

 

Don’t Work

 

There’s no jobs in this town

 

You need a degree

Just to get past

Dishwasher

 

The line cooks are bilingual

The sous-chefs have PhDs

 

There’s no employment in this city

 

Check the human resources:

Answering phones is available

So is light clerical

 

You’d also do well

To play the slots

Until hitting the jackpot

Performing stunts for passersby

On King St

Or racing your shitbox down Queen

Until you get to

Indianapolis or Monte Carlo

 

The local hiring firms

And temp agencies

Have their work cut out for them

 

I’m going to stand here

Passing out

My phone number

Until the mayor or manager or major himself

Calls

To ask if I can start

At anything

This coming Monday





Back in the City

 

Back in the city
Glad to be back
And you feel it hasn't been
Half as long as all that-

The girl at the bar
Actress, acrobat
Wants to be seen,
Playing invisible, kind of at war,
"we" and "she", same as before,
and things haven't changed much
back in the city

-"ah, excuse', madame,
enchente'z, pleased to be
eh-ah-"
and so you will similarly have to wait

staying on keel
"right out of it, eh"
nearly off balance
and it hasn't been long enough yet
to lose your sea legs-
it's hard to stand being away
but then it works out
for the girl and for everybody
and outside the stars burn
as if in her eyes,
the tips of a compass, the ends of a leaf,
wherever they catch, they take

 

 

 

Rosemary

 

She sits at her desk, singing quietly
She sings "tra-la-la, my darling"
Even though there's nobody around to hear
Cutting out pictures from the week's papers
And faces out of magazines
Trying to turn trash into something worthwhile
It's the middle of the night
She's talking to Americans
The people she's cutting out
Don't know her, neither do
The people she's talking to
They don't know she's over fifty
And she makes eight seventy-five
Her husband was bad with money
But he was a wonderful man
Until he passed away
She lives alone and she needs this job
She keeps a scrapbook at home
Full of people that she'll never meet
She sings to herself all the time
Trying to make her life into something sensible

 

 

 

 

Walter Lives on the Edge of the World

 

Walter lives on the edge of the world

By the syringe at the doorstep

And the queue of kitchen mice

 

This used to be a livery stable

 

Neither a slave nor employed

He’s semi-retired

His afternoons spent

Stalking historical figures-

Billy the Kid to Brian Mulroney

 

One day he’ll catch the car that will take him

To Calgary

 

I was insubstantial

Watching him there

From the depths of my hash

 

Ah fuck it, I was dead sober.

But I shouldn’t have been.

And neither should he.

 

 

 

 

Sea Change

 

The thrill worked

 

My nails down to the quick

 

Sun shines behind the clouds

 

Fickle lass, pragmatic

 

How we placate ourselves

 

Waiting for the sea to change

 

 

 

 

The Rime of the Ancient Chimney Sweep

 

Caterwauling

Albatross

Out all night

Heart jangling

Soldier of misfortune

Suffers the slings and arrows

Of outrageous bullshit

Sweeping up at the bowling alley

For some extra quid

He resembles your least favourite uncle

Wears his nerves on his sleeve

Veteran layabout

Seasoned ne'er-do-well

'Tis the season

To check your ticker

Keeps track of

American weather

On American T.V

Even though he's never been

South for a day

Out comes the white flag

A season of repeats

Armchair general

Wrapped in dulse

By turns a seaweed merchant

Partly cloudy

Terror alert- yellow-elevated

The bad old days seem so far away

And still some things

Don't seem to change

Don't bear repeating

Checks his ticket

Still no jackpot

Got permanent dust in his jacket

And a perma-cough

Positively bronchial

Waiting for his ship to arrive

Slaked with hoarfrost

Got a smorgasbord of porn

At home

Jenna Jameson

+ Traci Lords

Still single at forty

Gets misty eyed to think of it

Irish eyes are rheumy

Phlegmatic

From staring down a pipe

Muckraker

He grits through his silts

He'll have to own up

To half a million false starts

It's not glamorous work but somebody has to do it

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 2007

 

They interfaced beautifully

All over the bar:

Lawyers in love,

Cyborgs on the sauce

 

They exchange fake names

And then they get off

Every nights’ a brand-new

Cold call

She says “Let’s go back to my coffin”

 

It’s never been so crowded.

 

He’s hedging his bets

Laying down in traffic

He’s from the South but likes the North’s chances.

 

Collection agents in love

 

It’s Christmas in the meat market

Questions like presents

Shimmering baubles

Fanatics without ideology

Pack the boozer to the rafters without regard for nation

Or century

 

 

 

 

Success

 

The smell of printers' ink wafts from the newsstand
Greenbacks freshly minted
I feel like a success
When I see
Guys dressed exactly like me
In the pages of glossy American magazines
My leather jacket
Burlap sackcloth shirt
Collar turned up
Against the elements
Jeans and sneakers worn right out
I'm the real thing
Dressed for three times the price
As one of these fashion plates
You may have seen me before
Begging for change
On the corner of King Street
Success, burst at the seams

 

 

 

 

perhaps by end of my working life the hockey players will be off strike

 

the teenaged millionaires are going on strike
they make seven figures per annum
on average
it just isn't enough
to be set for life
for Lord Stanley and company-
meanwhile I'm schlepping for four hundred a week
after the luxury tax
EI, CPP and Dental
age twenty-five
the picture of health
without a skate to stand on
MVP of the stop-gap league
paycheck hermetically sealed
oozing with privilege
the right to walk out and find another
profession or wife or life
to up-sell
I'll go on vacation for the next half-century
and these guys can work my job in the cubicle
an elite-level dropout
wrecked the sports car
on the way to the dish pit
take the company jet to Anguilla
with a discount number
sweeping up
do a spot-mop
at the branch plant
ignored by most, reviled by a few
as many similarly healthy twenty-five year olds do

 




The Dishwasher’s Chant

 

We need forks! We need spoons!

Get them on out! They’re all ready done!

 

We need glasses! We need knives!

Get them on out! They’re all ready done!

 

These pans are hot! These pans are hot!

Put them in the sink! Put them in the sink!

 

The trash is full! The floor is dirty!

Take it out back! I’ll get the mop!

 

We need plates! We need cups!

Wash them yourself! I’m all done!

 

 

 

  

Things to Do Before I’m Thirty

 

One day it will happen
I'll be the author of my own demise
I'll take advantage of the company drug plan
Contract bronchitis
And then sue them for workers' comp
Get off the crack
Start doing hard stuff
Strike up the band
Start going to bed at ten
Attain enlightenment
Become a bilingual sales rep
Inherit one hundred grand
In Brazilian Reals
And then fake my own death in a phone booth
Go down to the States
Get deported
Rob Peter to pay Paul
Desecrate a national capital
Do my part to fight noise pollution
Become an active member of my alumni association
Set my clock fifteen minutes back
Exacerbate the problem
Explore my feminine side
Try influence peddling
Have an affair with a country singer
And cry about it after
Stop, drop and roll
Live on practically nothing
Prove Descartes wrong
Lose all sense of accountability
Replace it with a sense of taste
Become a fly on the wall
At a counterfeiters' symposium
Knock on wood
Rap on plastic
Forget to floss
Slip a disc
Work up a good lather
Confess to everything and then take it all back
Save all my roaches
Wipe the prints from the gun
Bungee jump using a roll of red tape
Pole vault the Vatican
Stock up on cohorts
Become a captain of industry
Dabble in real estate
Hire a driver
Incorporate Estonia
Then invade Lithuania-
It's showing up that's important
Rub shoulders with royalty
Rub shins with an heiress
Exchange blows with her dad
To speed up the process
Change my underwear six times in one day
Go down Niagara Falls in a barrel
Relocate to St. John from the peanut gallery
Send my ear to the collection agency
In lieu of further payments
Impale myself with a steak knife
In imitation of the Samurai
Quit begging for sex
Stage a coup d'etat
Get jacked up on gack
Rewrite my memoirs
Go into rehab
Take my place of work hostage
Get married to a dysfunctional wife
Keep my maiden name
Have a dog or a child
Stop at the duty-free store
Collect mucho bric-a-brac
Become vegetarian
Rat out a narc in another department
Attend a Paul Westerberg concert
Buy an SUV if the market allows
Jump from the tallest building on Bay St
If things don't work out
Storm the beaches of Normandy
Start following sports- both amateur and professional
Take out some insurance
Retreat to my dungeon in Montreal
Weep into my teacups while nobody listens
Measure afternoons with coffee spoons
Get middle-aged
Watch reruns of "the Beachcombers"
Languish in obscurity
Face the music- preferably Beethoven
Buy a bear skin rug and a girl scout uniform for the wife
Take the brat to t-ball games
Yield to pedestrians
Have a heart attack at Wal-Mart
Go on safari
Exit stage right
Lance my own tumours
Stop checking the mail
Join the Raeliens
Win the Atlantic Super Seven
Uphold my allegiance to the Queen
Learn CPR
Turn down the Nobel Prize
And then crash the reception
Attend midnight mass
One fatal Christmas
Die of natural causes after getting hit by a bus

 

 

 

 

The Republic of Naught

 

There's a heaven for turncoats

Those about to dissemble

Confirmed unbelievers

Evangelical atheists-

Progressive recidivists-

Robert W. Service-

John Wesley Harding

Captain America

The Ayatolla

The Lesbian Mafia

Slaughterhouse workers

Legions of deadbeats

Lighthouse keepers

Overwired plebs

Acadian driftwood

Travelling snake-oil salesmen

An army of smart alecks

Homesick Jones

Prisoners of Diego Garcia

Schlubs of all stripes

Guano islanders

Repomen and repowomen

Stars to be shot

A man called "Intrepid"

Fictional presidents, both past and present

The Secretary of Defects-

Archconservatives-

Jean Chretien's last stand

The wreck of the old '67

Bastards of young-

Silent film stars-

Various persons named Kevin O'Brien

The simplest chimp in the jungle

Fidelity investigators

Amateur brain surgeons

The nineteen-year-old girl crying on your shoulder

Autodidacts

Honourary finks

Disgraced valedictorians

Amateur warmongers

Stooges for hire

Dial-a-pariah

Certified bumpkins

Chronic gossip-mongers

Roughnecks in training

Pinch-hitters and spoilsports

The kangaroo court of last resort

The losers' circle

The victims' consortium

The Twilight of the Sons of Bitches-

Spring-heeled Jack

The working-est of classes

The most drunken of masters

The bonfire of the vanity of Duluoz

A confederacy of wingnuts

Would-be confidence artists

Turbojugund-

The axis of evil celebrities-

Half and halve-not provinces

Former Maritimers repatriated at gunpoint

The hordes of bedlam

The Dictator's daughter

Students of cryptozoology

Twenty-first century midwives

Charles Foster Kane

Your missing keys and schemes

Hacks of all trades

World renowned line cooks

Professional busybodies

A flock of wide cunts

Several spare embryos

An endangered species of creeps

Reeking Lizaveta

The fucked up white trash in the cubicle next to you

Harbingers of bathos

Steve Purgatorio

Barsluts-in-waiting

Armchair goalies

Kafka on the Klondike

A rotating cast of crooks

The bad Samaritan

Your odious in-laws

The scourge of T.O

The prodigal motherfucker

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Victims of image transversing the multi-verse

Part-time sycophants

Revenge of the Zits

The passions of 'borgs and 'droids

Rhoda, riding the bus to work in the winter

And her children who don't call anymore

Hank Chinasky

Your older alter ego and the booze he rode in on

Trannies and hermaphrodites

The Cape Breton Liberation Army's Women's Auxiliary

Drudge workers and wage slaves all numb to the bone

Forty-year old grocery clerks who still live with their mothers

The erstwhile ballerina

The way of Jerzy Kosinski

Your pickup that got away

Tyler Durden-

The Blame Canada Commission

You, or the face you wake up to

Chairman of the board of dogs

 

...in fact you've been there yourself

before you got caught.



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