luv song for rob ford

luv song for rob ford
(a work in progress)

Rob Ford wuz here – graffiti in toronto ravine

ever smelt the early
morning smell of green
in deep ravines
seen the flash of red
cardinal or
the red winged black
bird poised for
flight    the bushy- tailed
fox slinking away through the
          have you
crested davenport hill
on bathurst                  stood on
what was once
the shoreline     seen
the city slope
down to the lake
the cn tower standing at
phallic attention
waited on queen for the bright-eyed
trundling along
on a wintry evening
shoulders hunched
up above your
ears                  seen the spadina car move
through continents as it traverses its north
south axis         the ossington bus carrying africa on
its back making its way up to eglinton                         have
you stirred up the dust under the trees at queen’s park
at afrofest as the many strands of africa
coalesce to listen to the beat thought lost
long ago   listened to mapfumo
cherished  chiwese
as tuku music talked back to you
walked any of the many
trails in high park that make
green mockery of the city
watched the ducks being
ducks in their iridescent
duckishness  stood under the
garish lights of kinko’s
seen another face of
the city at 2 in the morning
all pretence gone    making
images black  white
& coloured     walked
along bloor as tired shopkeepers put
out their garbage
bought walnut cakes
from the korean store
an ice cream from baskin
robbins across from christie pitts
a falafel from gazal
stood in line at the bloor cinema
borrowed a video from queen video
or suspect that earns its name
honestly   had a beer
at the brunswick   late night nachos
at sneaky dees    have you
ever smelt the early morning smell
of this city
familiar as a lover’s smell
as it rolls over groans
sighs and lets her many
many lovers loose
some too busy to see her virtues
some only too willing to
curse her flaws
others indifferent
all linked willing or
unwilling moving through
yet another day in the city        have you
stood cheek by jowl with
the young man you don’t trust
ever    too close for comfort
to the suit  with her brief case
offered your seat to the old
jamaican lady hugging her
bible close  as the street car rocks
its way across st. clair
sat across from the young bay
street type working or
pretending to in these
times that try then test
the best in us
ever seen schools disgorge
their screaming
laughing  we- are-the-world
populations onto playgrounds
loved these hard streets with your feet
marching against the bomb
against war
against  apartheid
for a woman’s right
to her body   for men
women & children we don’t
know a long
long way away   against
the many myriad  ways
power runs amok
holds us hostage
as it does today
making us all
communist     have you
wined on university to the
beat of a caribana band
watched the pride of the
that other nation unfurl its
rainbow  for us    will you
can you
have you
cycled or walked
across the viaduct spanning the
valley of the don
looked down to where many
have embraced too soon
what comes to all
as the city reaches out
to bind
them to it  to us   with tendrils of steel
eaten a roti on
bathurst      have you
sat at dooney’s when it was
drank an espresso
or capuccino and watched the
world saunter by
paid homage to the french
in upper canada
and eaten a poutine
the only place you
will find gravy today    gone
up to eglinton
where sometimes  wanton bullets
have sped
with brutal disregard
for a people who have survived
so much   had a patty
or dumplings on spadina
a somoza on gerrard
seen the young students
from central tech
edgy in their youth
their energy flooding bloor
and bathurst at noonday
or raised your
eyes up           up to where
moriyama’s vision of
space and light creates
a visual prayer to books
at yonge & bloor
to learning without
ads or logos
&draws the every in
us to the lure of words
                                       have you ever
taken the pulse of
this city   felt it quicken as the world’s rhythms
join the first heart beat of the mississauga
to allow for a moment when the
possible moves closer
walked along davenport road
clotted with cars on an early
morning and listened
if you walked softly
quietly enough
to the tramp
tramp of the first peoples who
first bent the grass
into path then trail
followed by farmers
to defy the historical
odds against them &
remind us all that
we are
newcomers to turtle
island                       have you ever
through kensington
where jew and black met
recognised the each in other
where not that long ago you
could buy a squawking chicken
for sunday dinner and had
a rugla  along college where
the unia was a refuge
for black folk unwelcome
then in this city             have you ever
been to a black
church   talked to a black mother
any mother who has lost
a  son a daughter
explored a schwarma
on yonge    understood  how
the frightened the
persecuted the talented
have brought a fire to
this  place             this space
still held in trust seven
generations into the
future                  followed the ghost of
garrison creek as it winds
its way underground past
the lcbo at st clair & alberta
under christie pits
all the way down to the
lake   seen the don come
alive again     the lake welcome us
once more   have you
cycled around
this city bike lanes or not
sparring with cars
taken a street car on an early
morning towards the sunrise
along queen to
the beach sat on the shore
listened to
the gulls    smelt that smell
we know from before
time when we scavenged
beaches for food
taken the ferry across
the blustery lake
with its cargo of  children
bikes lovers
nudists  hikers caribana
partiers or just plain folks
living in the moment that
is this place  this space      have you
nusrat fateh ali khan
summon angels at harbourfront
send them floating across the lake
all the way back to mecca
or david rudder invoke our
father through africa
have you    will
you can you
hear fado meet funk
see reggae and klezemer
shake hands
laugh as bhangra sits down
eats with calypso and chutney
rock with folk and r& b
as zouk and hip hop break bread
to the strains of mozart & beethoven
here in
this place they and we
call a meeting place    t dot
the rappers say     the place
we all love
to hate that is still
          have you
       been at the parkdale
tavern when it was
felt the energy
crackle of an evening when
welfare cheques arrived
stood back
                  behind the yellow
line in the subway
waiting for blast of
air down the tunnel
given a looney to the homeless
man standing
outside the station      watched
the squirrels’ tails
purl the wires as
they prepare for the long hard
of  winter   heard the city
exhale one long sweet
green breath as spring
enters                          grieved with a city for shoeshine
boys young girls taken too soon
young men too angry to talk
except through guns
laughed at the army sent
to rescue us from snow
and nooobody                 wishing
for a viaduct across
the growing chasm between jane
finch and rosedale
the bridle path and
flemingdon  while regent
gentrifies itself                  have you
seen how the many tongues
of a fractious world ever more fragmented
cleave communities out of
a hard strange city licking
shaping  them lovingly
into little towns
did you
have you
would you
              a dream            a city
on a hill               call
it a meeting place
call it  say
its syllables           echo
its name  with bullhorns
for when the pulse slows
and anomie curdles
into anger             when the train has
left with the gravy
that never was
anything but us
all that will be
left is
          rob ford wuz here

m. nourbeSe philip

10 thoughts on “luv song for rob ford

  1. Susan Gaby-Trotz

    Hi norbeSe
    Your ode to Toronto is beautiful and captures much of the cuty’ essence. Kathleen O’Neil sent it to me, and I’ll pass it along to others with your permission.


    This really moved me and reminded me why I love Toronto. I hope everyone gets a chance to read this and then tell Rob Ford that they don’t want their city ruined by ideological cuts.

  3. Pingback: Extra, Extra: A Picture-Perfect PS and Questions for Rob Ford, in Verse | news | Torontoist

  4. Steve

    this poem is too poetic (but nicely written!) i’ll make a straight-to-the-point-white-guy-rap-version. stay tuned!

  5. jocelyne marchand

    wow – sorry I took so long to read this, But WOW
    makes me want to take the next flight to T dot

  6. LAB

    Hello Ms. Nourbese Philip!

    How are you doing? If you recall, I was the one who gave you the directions to St. Jerome’s for your reading from Zong! I really enjoyed this poem and am interested in its analysis. Do you mean that you were aspiring to write a “white-guy-rap-version” poem about Rob Ford? I’m not sure I understand your comment.

    Also, because I work in the area of “‘criminal’ justice literature” (of which Zong! is a prime example), I was wondering if you could write a poem that incriminates Rob Ford based on some of the recent news releases, including his uttering of a death threat to a fellow politician and the knocking down of a councillor, Pam McConnell, at a Toronto council debate, and also his illegal substance abuse. A poem like this would be perfect for an innovative chapter in my dissertation.

    Please let me know if you’re going to take up this challenge and where I can expect to see the poem!

    Thanks very much,


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