SIR JOHN A TURNS TWO HUNDRED
I have fond memories of Sir John A Macdonald,
(Canada’s first prime minister
who would have turned 200 today
had he been a vampire).
I have fond memories of John Mac—
not the man, of course,
the Hamilton high school.
For years my sister danced in competitions there.
(She danced competitively lots of places,
it was a great way for me to travel,
but something I could never appreciate at the time,
helping my mother lug bags of costumes and shoes).
She danced in Hamilton annually
at Sir John A High.
I never saw the place with students, only
with sequinned tots and pre-teens
with long fake eyelashes and too much blush
and taut hair and ticking tap shoes.
If I tell people now about
how many dance competitions I attended
they say something like,
‘Oh, lucky you, all those girls
and you that handsome boy’.
I was never handsome and rarely was I lucky.
This was no exception.
The girls were dolled up so much that they were fake,
or they were mean and called Brodie and me
things like Dork and Dorker,
or Ugly and Uglier,
and I was always the more pejorative one.
Brodie’s sister also danced.
We were bored lots together.
One time in New Jersey we spent days running around
whatever bumblefuck suburb we were in.
(We rode with the girls on the bus down there from Toronto,
tormented the whole time,
with the dance teachers smirking on,
thinking we were having fun being made fun of).
Those first few times in South Carolina
we made prank phone calls and found every nook in that theatre
and Brodie’s dad decided to take us away for a day,
and we went deep sea fishing,
and I got so sick I spent the whole time trembling in a blanket
beside a garbage can below deck
(I have never been deep sea fishing again).
I remember Sir John A High as a sprawling school,
a huge theatre that made it perfect for dance competitions,
and so many levels that it had an escalator.
Every year for one weekend the place was crawling
with these little dancers.
If I had been old enough to get high I
would have been so tripped out.
Feathers and flashy fabrics,
Spandex and sparkling glitter.
Brodie and I had seen enough dance routines to know how they go.
We had lots of time to wander.
We probably knew these venues better than the architects who built them.
At Sir John A we found stairwells and unlocked doorways,
A way onto the roof,
And the maze of its hallways.
The first time we found the way out
of the public area we climbed up
the motionless escalator
and scoured the shadowy hallways.
We were still young enough to think
school was a venerated institution,
so being in an unsupervised school
was a thrill we could not fathom.
In this one long hallway we found an open locker.
Then another open locker.
All the lockers were unlocked.
They were full of stuff.
Books, papers, binders,
shit left behind by students in a hurry
to get the fuck out for summer vacation.
Naturally, we started going through
the strange and exciting finds.
Then we left behind intrigue
and welcomed chaos.
We tossed out all the shit from the lockers,
emptied them all out and left the mess
in the darkened hallway.
Then we thought we heard someone coming.
We ran the hell out of there.
That was how we found the way onto the roof.
When we thought the coast was clear we
tiptoed back through that disastrous hallway.
That was Canada, there:
Treasures left orderly in good faith,
scattered by disenfranchised
and bored explorers in a new territory,
lining the empty hallway,
becoming a tousled tiling
that made sense in its own way.
That was how I knew Sir John A.
(And sorry about the mess we have made).