A Poem from ‘Tenderman’ by Tim Bowling


The Tenderman’s Brief History of the Late Twentieth Century

Quebec threatened to separate, we killed the salmon.
The last chopper left Saigon, we killed the salmon.
Someone took a potshot at the Pope.
Someone winged the President of the States.
Someone plugged a Beatle.
We kept on killing the salmon.

The computer came into the home,
many people on cellphones stopped
using words like “cripple” and “Indian,”
they lined up at bank machines,
they swiped cards and burned CDs,
they taped shows to watch them later,
unreal shows about reality,
highlights of the wars for oil,
they camcordered their birthday parties
and the weddings (never the funerals),
and we killed the salmon.

Some of the salmon we killed
were made of chemicals and plastics
and raised in pens
and they died listless in our nets.
There weren’t as many of the other kind,
but we killed both.

Children went to daycare in plastic diapers,
pre-school care before school opened
and after-school care after school closed.
The wharves and the streets were mostly clear of them . . .
for fear of sexual predation
and fear of accident
and fear of the deadly random . . .
the fields and riverbanks were mostly clear of them.
Less seen and less heard
they watched DVDs in mini-vans
and had scheduled times to play.

By the end of this period
we hardly ever killed the salmon,
we rarely got the chance.
But the salmon died, keep dying.

It is hoped we will someday reach Mars
and walk there
on the planet stained with all the blood
we did not spill, that eluded us—
evanescent, drifting ether,

Re-printed with permission of the publisher from The Tenderman, by Tim Bowling, Nightwood Editions 2012.

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Tim Bowling

Tim Bowling's twentieth book, a novel titled The Heavy Bear, was published this spring by Wolsak and Wynn. Born and raised near Vancouver, he has lived in Edmonton for the past twenty years.