Cool Pastoral on Bloor Street

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I. Consider the tragic fortitude of mannikins, the courage it takes under casual poses to do nothing interminably each day.

To face unflinching (through sunlit glass that bars them from it) the rushing surf of life within reach where they must stand marooned on their islands' plastic turf,

and not to cry out: more heroic than those Romans the lava rain stunned to statues -- misshaped by the panic that twisted their limbs, glazed with their pain

in black rock -- friezes of agony.You would never know, from the relaxed swivel of this woman's wrist as shecompletes a backhand with her racket,

that she will never take anotherswing, or from her smile that she has stood balanced here on one foot all summerlike one of Dante's damned, and not cracked.

2. 'Cracked' is my father's word for 'crazy,' as in 'You'd have to be cracked to pay that much for a pair of shoes.' He's not crazy, but he forgets, and today

as we pay out his visit's hoursstrolling on Bloor, he thinks up the same questions again minutes after he'snodded and smiled at answers to them.

Looking for things to look at and notthink, I focus on another grove of mummers: headless, their necks poke outlike worms from the smartly turned-over

collars of turtlenecks and jackets.You can tell they've also lost their arms from the way the sleeves plummet slacklyoff their shoulders -- although they, ashamed

to show the mutilation, act cooland tuck the cuffs into their pockets. I look at my father -- hands trembling,head crazed like china with minute cracks

through which years exit invisibly --and must remind myself his show is kinder, the long-running comedywhere he's played every part, from fresh-faced

mooning lover to child-duped parentto doddering senex: still free now (while heart and limbs play their duet)to do a walk-on, ad lib, bow out.

He sweats a little in the sunshine. Summer stock, lacking the tragic poise that freezes these actors in their scene,we move on towards a shadier place.

© Reibetanz John