The Only

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The Only by John Climenhage, 2001-2005 oil on panel 6"X 8"
The Only by John Climenhage, 2001-2005 oil on panel 6″X 8″

The Only may be the heart and soul of Hunter Street. The owner, Jerome Ackhurst, originally owned The Only Cafe in Toronto, then sold it to come to Peterborough. The bad reviews on TripAdvisor really can’t capture the ambience of the place, the walls covered floor to ceiling with posters and prints, its patio beside a daylighted section of Jackson Creek, or the fact that it is the official headquarters of the arts community.

Twenty-five years of breaking all of the rules at The Only Cafe by Sam Tweedle for KawarthaNow »

The Only by Justin Million
Video by Laura Thompson
The Only

I’m stuck at the light
on George and Brock

and in the middle
of Brock to my right

a troubled man
is trying to shout his active mind

quiet, the constant
August sun

having glazed the angry
globe of stubble above his neck

making the compulsive raking of his face
with his hands all the easier

and to my left, east on Brock,
I can’t quite see her or the car

but there’s a woman and alarm
burning half the downtown’s ear

but my light just then changes
so like the rest of the city has already done, I forget her

and move down the street
the light off all the plate glasses

shining a dollared light,
the glints off every troubled head

can move fast too
but still becoming no one,


real bad
forces but the writers of soft poems

so, right on Hunter Street
to feel better,

no one I can see in immediate need
being not yet near The Red Dog

so it’s all so terribly easy I can barely hear the screaming
now, the car, the lady, the silence of the possible help moving now toward her deafening―

I’ve almost reached the only bar,
I like to claim a back table, have my back

against the wall, seems to force the writing;
I enjoy taking myself

to easier and easier places,
outside of poems at least,

plenty of down up and down
folk smoking

their hands free and hair
growing, light

from the lighters
lighting their fuckoff lanterns,

finite local
biological lotteries all―

the shine off all our anxieties
radiates downtown, lasts,

only the lowest waters
spitting into the creek beside the garbage cans reflect us back―

I try to remove one second of light here:

for myself,
outside the poem,

I need to be careful,

I need to get across how desperate the centre is
without allowing room for developing vultures to then have even more reason―

ah, the beautiful youth,
their skin these worried puddles smiling

I find every puddle in a person moving,
but my god, that alarm from earlier somehow

like Quaker stink still
moving through me,

I finally enter the bar,
sanitized by seeing three people I enjoy

despite their disturbing talk
of the astrology cure,

an unforced error due to the oncoming

otherwise we are all trying
to love each other without religion

trying to find the stars when it’s dark enough,
for the face of no god,

and that being reflected back to the heart, the Youtube
research we do to quell our deepest moving troubles,

the alarm in my head,
the woman’s awful shout circular, maybe

was there even before I saw her, no way
of knowing with the music this loud,

the wheels of Torontonian imports splitting
our young local puddles, the young run off

with all their hearts,
the drones doing promotional shots

of new condos near Pete’s Subs
gassing god,

the Wheel turning ‘round
drowning the large scrapes

on the knees of the new coffee-soaked and disappointed
workers; from the seat of the world

the crown,
the bar-breath here full of prayer for no king,

everyone staring into each other
sad, like expansive saxophone,

the plants around here dappling us
on the summer patio, the cast-off light from our inners

further the inner light―

I order a tall double gin and soda
and beg for two limes,

enter my seat,
poems then can’t climb out the angry asshole,

instead kick the eyes outside the window,
in the way the webs and hair inside shake in the ceiling fan wake,

the green of the bar paint,
the wood of it, the amount of ideas that died here over the years

an entire forest
bent over,

the kids
the astrological fallout of not being able to smoke in here anymore,

the ceiling fan above me
working harder than god

the beer-branded mirrors
reflecting brand new sides of whatever detail of the lie

they’re performing tonight,
that metallic car alarm

still ringing
the immortal ear

to whatever the punks have sadly become,
the Lynchians,

the power of the dollared gaze,
the gaze almost always on the youngest & bubbliest puddle,

the fear of stars that have been there forever,
to dying your hair grey to avoid the worm of retirement, of voids,

of the car alarm of the soul,
the complicated existence of the modern soul,

the bottomless puddle
under shallow duress―

Long ago,
when the night was much bigger

and didn’t need the houselights raised
for the rousing blowjob

of those who light the lighthouses
to signal their similar virtue,

we would search our own horseshits
endlessly, grow our beards longer and never

get any kind of catalogue spot
for it, my houselights down

because the next folk’s also, I can pick up the slack
for no stars, no rating, file the story of my luck

under the puddle
where there is room for all of us―

My brain to my skull with this one drink in me
a weekend away,

away from the alarm and the red puddles
on Brock, the shelter of red hooch, red weather,

the old railyards
where stubbled folk attempt to rise by sinking things,

are eaten like
the rich’s dandelions

who run the yellow of the flower over their cheeks
to carry the sun,

who strip themselves bare in the least poison-deployed
body of puddle water,

and the well-paid helmets downcreek
never thinking of those who would drink even the untreated water

that water

All the bad poetry I have yet to read
distressing, the double of the gin not yet piling in me right,

keeps the alarm on
and on―

the length of the poem doesn’t matter, keeps what might happen

like the ditched can hitting a shallow hick’s puddle,

the can

the horror movie of it all,
that damn alarm now back and sharpening,

the tree of it all, the sauce,
the temporary birds, we landlocked Icaruses,

these puddles
falling in on themselves, the sky

puddling with alarm,
the man on Brock stunned by the promise of wings

and then
them no longer being there,

that “being there” we’re born with
expected by my pinkness, the Beginner’s Package,

a coin over
both eyes in waking,

no coin needed to lose
to the puddle,

the alarm on Brock no longer alarming
by the third double going down now

every stitch of drink
getting drunk

the kaleidoscopic eye
forming inner Icaruses,

my personal museum-behaviours tumbling now,
that fella on Brock, the wings in him crowning now

the alarm-form of the woman
on Brock, her accounts closing

despite meeting every
late fee and feather, just waxing poorly,

at some point I lose my bubbles
to the puddle, all lost, all here,

the poets around here
accosted by what to do,

what’s the damn key,
the aggregate,

you can’t cut it,
even with good stuff,

just one long attempt here, tradition and no,
the edges climbing over the edges,

the endlessness of every single day
you would think there was one really meaningful beginning ripple, but no,

the smoke machines out front have always been flickering,
alcohols instead of wax-demolishing suns,

every movie ending between
Parkhill north, Water east, Sherbrooke south, and Rubidge west,

the puddle down here widening,
because everyone outside spitting into it,

cycling through who should be dear Brandons, Ondrejs, and Dougies,
forming the inevitable cure which is this dire connection

someday gathering all of us
equally at the end

of the rapids―


This web page is part of The Climenhage Project Walking Tour.
View a map of more locations here »

© John Climenhage 2020

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