“Single Man’s Song” by Jacob Scheier

Jacob Scheier


after Al Purdy

After he makes love to himself
the not quite middle aged single man
listens to his sigh
sail to the end of the room

With pants around his ankles
and wearing a grey wool sweater
she called his rat suit
he peers at his cock’s sad pug head
and returns to the Kraft Dinner
he has been eating with a ladle
astonished and a little frightened
by his immense freedom

He pulls up his pants
and walks out the door in his rat’s royal robes
taking glee in his ignorance
of not knowing the precise nature
of his fashion crime
only surely he has committed one
if not several and is free
to get away with them

As he clashes down Queen Street
the oak leaves applaud him
and laugh at his jokes
I am myself again
he sings into the wind

Not that she would have stopped him
from wearing that sweater of course
only told him the truth—
that he looked bad
freedom it now occurs to him
is no one caring
what you look like

At home he imagines someone watches him
for imagining otherwise is unbearable
he cannot call this witness god
instead thinks of himself as being on a TV show
though maybe a TV show watched by god
where he is a lovable sort of man
for wearing such an ugly sweater
but knows now its magic was contained
in her dislike for it
in the way she gave so much thought
to what he did
and sometimes hated what he did
and loved him never any less for it

And while only the day before
he took relief in draping his sweater
over the sofa arm
and flinging his underwear
to the four corners of the earth
he now hangs his rat suit carefully in the closet
and the scratching of the hanger’s wire stem
sliding along the aluminum
is a chime bringing him to a moist day in April
that felt like November
when despite her protests
he bought the sweater
for the change in his pocket

He only said then that he liked it
not that he pictured clear as the day before him
a widow in a time of war
knitting the sweater’s basket weave
in a cabin where a doe slows by the window
and stretches her small mouth to a birdfeeder
half full of rain
and her slender legs are momentary sundials
but all of this goes unseen
by the woman
as she draws the needles together
and now pulls them apart
in a time and place
when what mattered most
was staying warm

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets


Jacob Scheier: “I wrote this poem in response to a rather canonical Canadian poem, entitled ‘Married Man’s Song’ by Al Purdy. Purdy (may he rest in peace) is somewhat of an icon in Canadian letters, though was barely noticed in the U.S. (except by his friend, Charles Bukowski). ‘Married Man’s Song,’ by way of summary, is a sort of argument in favor of infidelity (though not without irony). I wanted to complicate the romanticism of this poem with a rather unromantic depiction of single life—to which I had, at the time I wrote ‘Single Man’s Song,’ recently chosen for myself based on rather romantic notions somewhat along the lines of Purdy, as well as Shelley and a host of other unhappy, however ‘free,’ poets.” (web)

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