Tom Thomson in Doubt
Lay down them projects for the crackling stars.
The hourglass sifts itself. Stars sprawl and blaze
in every each direction, and their howl
torments him into sleep.
There was a point
from which they all emerged, of infinite mass,
through which he right now passes possibly through,
knowing it not.
But then, what does he know?
And what could tell he to another ear?
Ears tilt away from him now when he speaks,
and people form strange patterns, fields, as if
a magnet he, and iron filings they.
“Lay down,” he just repeats, “them projects.” He
gives often to himself advice, and trusts
himself, though less these days, to get it right.
Thomson in Stereo
The all-day all-night FM radio station
that broadcasts just south of his cerebellum
has switched formats. Now
it’s Greatest Misses From Your Teens and Twenties:
a looped guitar set on Repeat Repeat
overdub-echoed, greased with Frippertronics;
an anxious dream in which, again, again,
he do, he say,
exactly the wrong thing,
or miss the meaningful, inviting glance,
or stand on shore as the last boat, last chance,
pass by his little island. Twist the knob,
the song remain the same. He needs anten-
nae longer than the ones he got to hear
the tune of glad heart that must somewhere play.
Tom Thomson in his office, Thursday
Fills out grant applications. Honestly.
Although they asked him not to. That's, you know,
against the rules.
Is honesty, that is.
And knows he therefore will not one red cent
get from them this year.
Nor desires he to.
Rejection is his muse.
He thrives on it!
(Who else can say they thrive on anything?)
These days, that is.
(His father's phrase.) But
more strong than they by far: For he can smile
and hoist a planet onto shoulder, he
can laugh at pain (and knows more pain than they)
more pain, more love, more lust, more everything!
He is made stronger what does not kill him.
And what does kill him, make him stronger still.
Tom Thomson in Flanders Fields
The poppies grow, between the crosses row
by regimented row, and as they bob
pathetic Tom bobs too (I mean sym-
pathetic, for our man is overcome
and only refuge he can find is in
corrective fantasy: 1916
with Thomson gun in one hand, Thomson girl
in other, doffs his cap he, take his leave,
and head to France to shoot up several Germans.
(Ignore the fact that he’s a pacifist,
and closest he has come to shoot a gun
is his excessive use of bullet points;
it’s his fantasy, for Christ’s
he linger for a while, then go home.
Troy Jollimore’s poetry has appeared in Ploughshares,
The Malahat Review, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, and
other publications. His book Tom Thomson in Purgatory won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry in 2006. His symbiotic relationship with the fictional character Tom Thomson is
the subject of a forthcoming documentary short subject, Me and My Other: A
(Half-)Life in Poetry.