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  • Irving Layton 1912-2006

Montreal 375


"...the first whorehouse raid I saw on De Bullion Street (when I was six) has given me an ineffaceable picture of the human situation: people laughing at the humiliation of others, maliciously enjoying their helplessness and discomfiture. Sweet, sweet human beings....A poet has his images and symbols handed to him very early in life ; his later poems are largely explorations he makes into the depths of his unconscious to unravel their meanings."

Irving Layton

De Bullion Street

Below this broad street inverted bell jars

Hanging from wooden crucifixes drop

Tiny moons upon the shaven asphalt

Rouged whores lean lips to narrow slits: they stop

The young soldier with his bag of salt.

Under the night's carapace, the soft lanes

Are listening ears where sudden footfall

Starts a choir of echoes. A red light winks

Viciously; and the wind's occasional

Sigh lifts from the garbage pails their stinks.

Here private lust is public gain and shame;

Here Oriental and the skip jack go;

Where those bleak outposts of the virtuous

The corner mission and the walled church grow

Like haemerrhoids on the city's anus.

O reptillian street whose scaly limbs

Are crooked stairways and grocery store,

Isolate, is your dreaming half-shut eye:

Each virgin at the barricaded door

Feels your tongue-kiss like a butterfly.

© Max Layton


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