Encore Literary Magazine is extremely proud to have permission from the executors of the estate of the late Richard Outram to present work by one of Canada’s great poets. In the months to come, poems by Outram will be periodically featured here, thus helping to keep alive the singular voice of, in the words of Alberto Manguel, “one of the finest poets in the English language.”
Richard Outram (April 9, 1930 – January 21, 2005)
Now That the Gods …
Now that the Gods no longer may be blamed
for foundered fleets, the lost car keys, or death,
and mothers name That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named,
we better pause to draw a second breath
(the victory, pal, may well be to the strong),
then burst like Robin Blackbreast into song.
Now that the Gods no longer take to task
the wanking youth, the wide boy or the goon
who breaks legs for a tenner, we can ask
ourselves those awkward questions, none too soon,
whose rancid answers, disheartening to relate,
still lie like fly-specked fried eggs on a plate.
Now that the Gods no longer promulgate
advice to us, the Lovelorn, or veiled threats
and fiats in conundrums, friend, I hate
to tell you, but you better hedge your bets:
the Delphic Priestess has pulled up her socks
and issues weather forecasts on the box.
Now that the Gods no longer must be wooed
with garlands, virgin’s blood, or mumbled prayers,
and standardless, the fickle rout has booed
the President, let’s toss to see who wears
Grandad’s Masonic apron from the trunk
stashed in the attic with the other junk.
Now that the Gods no longer prove to be
indifferent, as they always were, to us,
we can relax, Sweetheart, and watch TV:
where Moira, petulant, has missed her bus,
nicked her vulva shaving, dropped the toast
Sod’s Law-side down, and burnt the Sunday roast.
Now that the Gods no longer are enthralled
(the Parthenon got antsy near the end)
I want to tell you, Baby, that I bawled
my heart out, buckets, and I meant to send
the alimony, and the kids some shoes:
but I was born, just like you said, to lose.
Now that the Gods no longer suffer God
to suffer for our sins, or not for mine
(yours might make even Yahweh gape, slack-jawed),
I have to tell you that I feel just fine
about last night; but sorry, no repeats.
Just don’t forget to wash the bloody sheets.
Now that the Gods no longer can assume
as sunburst swan or bull to violate
your daughter in the recreation room,
don’t worry, Dad, about her last date:
that guard-dog biker with the FUCK YOU JACK
tattooed below the chopper on his back.
Now that the Gods no longer occupy
the centre stage, but flit about instead
like shifty grips, let’s let Tertullian try
to cast the chorus line: the righteous dead
of this or any Christian diocese
can grasp a half-a-buck between their knees.
Now that the Gods no longer are alive
and that one talent it is death to hide
has atrophied, the moribund survive;
I know, I know, they promised you a Bride;
but while you wait to see who’s coming next
don’t doodle in the margins of the text.
Now that the Gods no longer get annoyed
at blasphemy, let’s call a spade a spade:
you’ve had it up to here with Siggy Freud,
are really pissed with Jung? Your son got laid
last Easter on the therapeutic couch?
I always said Apollo was no slouch.
Now that the Gods no longer are enjoined
by God to get the finger out, I think
you’d better take the relics you purloined
back to the Sacristan, because they stink
of Incorruption and (now here’s a pretty pass!)
Big Daddy wants to celebrate the Mass.
Now that the Gods no longer are the Gods
and Man remains the Joker in the pack,
be thankful for whatever odds and sods
blind chance provides. There is no going back
to square one, sucker: hey, no problem friend,
we’ll get our act together in The End.