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Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea

Mingling Voices

Series editor: Manijeh Mannani

Give us wholeness, for we are broken.
But who are we asking, and why do we ask?

Phyllis Webb

National in scope, Mingling Voices draws on the work of both new and established novelists, short story tellers, and poets. The series especially, but not exclusively, aims to promote authors who challenge traditions and cultural stereotypes. It is designed to reach a wide variety of readers, both generalists and specialists. Mingling Voices is also open to literary works that delineate the immigrant experience in Canada.

Series Titles

Poems for a Small Park
by E.D. Blodgett

Dreamwork
by Jonathan Locke Hart

Windfall Apples: Tanka and Kyoka
by Richard Stevenson

The dust of just beginning
by Don Kerr

Roy & Me: This Is Not a Memoir
by Maurice Yacowar

title image

Why ZEUS AND THE GIANT ICED TEA?

 

The city

Robert’s Prison

A Good Day

The Big Shot

Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea

On the Trail of Ibn Battuta

 

THE THREE AMIGOS

El Mexicano

The Two Xs

The Muscle

 

In the vault of the keeper of dreams

The Secret

Ask the ’stache

The Method

In the Dojo

Who’s going to fulfill my unreasonable expectations?

 

THE SULTAN POEMS

The Sultan’s Heart

In the Petticoat’s Palace

The Sultan’s Epiphany

In Petticoat’s Kingdom

By Day

Beneath

In Search of Another Ending

Her Return

Where the Garden Used to Be

A Gift for Rats and Spiders

The Sandstorm

What the rat reads in the corner of the dungeon

They Tremble

By Night

The Palace’s Story

He Sees Water in the Desert

She Leaves a Poem in His Parapet

Look Upon This with Full Eyes, Prince

The Sultan Wakes

 

Best Before

Just the Handshake

The Drop

The Urn

The Big Thaw

The Failed Experiment

All Your Questions

The Last Generation

The Great Indian

Crash landing

Restart?

A brief history of Gandhi

We love Robot

 

Some Thoughts on Some Poems

Special Thanks

About the Author

Why ZEUS AND THE GIANT ICED TEA?

This is the story about a series of stories.

I don't write poems for publication. I just write them. For myself, typically. So when it comes down to having to assemble all your eating-Wheaties-at-breakfast poems, your depressed-out-of-your-little-pea-sized-brain poems, your god-damn-I'm-horny-as-hell-poems and your hey-wouldn't-it-be-cool-to-write-a-poem-about-this? poems into a cohesive collection, well . . . how do you go about that exactly?

It's not so easy. Maybe some artists (and I know some like this) can just grab a handful out of a drawer, pop 'em in a whirlyque, spin 'em around, collate them and voilà! Une collection. But I'm way too anal for that.

My first collection of poems wasn't so bad to assemble . . . thanks to lack of experience. I'd never expected my poetry to find publication in book form. Considering how underwhelmingly my fictional work fared, it was just too unlikely for me to entertain much fantasy on the subject of a published book of poetry. And yet, through some coalescence of connections, luck, hard work, and (dare I say it?) talent, I found myself having to put together my first collection of poems.

But, like I said, that wasn't too bad. I saw Poetaster, my first book, as an introduction to me and my work. As such, I just gathered up all my poems and picked out eighty I liked the best, keeping some eye to how they worked together. Poetaster was essentially a thematic sampling of the diverse sort of work I'd done up to that point. A "Hello World" grab bag. That was the "concept."

But what to do when you're asked to put together a SECOND collection? I didn't really want to do "Random Poetry by Leopold McGinnis, Part 2." I'd introduced myself; now I had to do something different. You know . . . razzle-dazzle 'em. But how? After my first publication I'd started looking at poetry books in a different way. Not just in passive enjoyment, but more in a "Why did they pick these poems, and how did they organize them together?" spirit. There were plenty of random collections, but I grew increasingly intrigued by the books that presented a number of poems strung together by some common thread. I liked the idea of doing an entire collection on one theme . . . but because of the vagrant nature of my writing I wasn't sure I had enough poetry on any one topic to make a book. And a not-so-quick hands-on assessment proved I was correct on that front.

(I'm getting to the "why this book is called Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea" bit. Just bear with me for a sec.)

But as I was slogging through my stuff I realized that I had quite a number of poems that were not thematically similar but formatically similar, to invent a word. Narratives! They were all aiming to tell a story of some kind, in their own interesting and unusual ways. Even better, when joined together, they formed a sort of Voltron team of poeticstheir collective grouping bringing something new to the poems themselves, adding layers of meaning and excellent other powers that I couldn't take credit for creating. Shouldn't any good collection raise the individual pieces within to higher levels, open up a new horizon of understanding above and beyond the parts? What good is a giant robot if you can't combine that giant robot with six other giant robots to create a super giant robot? Not much, I tell you!

The interesting thing for me about this collection is what it explores in terms of the narrative format both intentionally and unintentionally. These are all story-structured poems. However, together they take us on a tour through a zoo of forms. Some poems here are almost short stories in poetry format. In "The Secret," I could be accused of just taking a short story and inserting copious line breaks. Others are autobiographical"The Big Shot," for instance. Some are realistic, many are dreamlike. Some follow a traditional narrative structure of beginning, middle, end, moral. Others just hint at a brief piece of a bigger story. Despite all being poems, they represent a wide variety of stories and ways of telling a story. None of these poems aims to talk about narratives or ostensibly play with the narrative format. And yet, as a group, they do. I like that. It's like a poetry playground put 'em together and see how it comes out.

Even more interesting, this collection posed to me the question: "When is a narrative a narrative?" That is, how do you decide when a poem is a narrative? Even a plotless poem about feeling sad is on some level a story, whether explicit or not. A descriptive poem about a flower implies a story. Why this flower? Where is it? Why is the poet driven to talk about this flower? So when it came time to start deciding what did and did not qualify for Zeus, I had to make tough decisions. "The Secret" obviously qualifies . . . but poems like "Who's going to fulfill my unreasonable expectations?" and "The Last Generation" were not so cut-and-dried. There are no obvious story lines there . . . Anyway, I put a lot of thought into this, and in the end, for one reason or another, I decided that all the poems in this book met the criteria, however vague, for narrative. This in itself was a fun exercise, and perhaps one the reader might find entertaining to consider while reading through the collection.

Which brings me to why this collection is called Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea. Mostly it's because I needed a name for the collection, and Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea was the poem title that, if put on the cover of a book, seemed most likely to encourage someone to pick the book up and take a look. I mean . . . that would grab my attention! But I also feel that the poems in this collection sort of follow Zeus's dreamy train of thought in that poem. These poems move from one kind of story to the next, as one thought might move to the next in a daydream. There's no wholesale conclusion, just a lovely voyage, like a trip through the Tunnel of Love, where you pop out the other end hopefully feeling all warm and fuzzy and having added a few smooches to your belt.

Anyway, that's the story. I hope you enjoy the collection.

— Leopold McGinnis

ZEUS AND THE GIANT ICED TEA

The city

and in a dream

the voice from above said

I can give you this dream

of eternity

if you know

that you can never have it

 

and before him

he saw a city

of such vast expanse

and vibrancy

that it lay home to a million million families

in a million million generations

all in testament to him

and his dreams

and his dream families' dreams

and their dreams

spreading out

towards the perimeter

of forever

forever growing

 

and he saw a network of streets

more complex and beautiful

than any spider's web

glistening in the midday sun

with a million million shops

hustling and bustling in place

like flies trapped for dinner

and in the centre of the city

grew an enormous spire

the palatial centre of this fantasy

anchoring everything in place

and on each level

were a thousand rooms

and up and up and up

more than a thousand stories

the dream reaching out

to a sky with no limit

no conclusion

and even though it was so high

that there could be no top to it

and even if you could

ever stand on its ever growing peak

you'd never see the edge of the city

stretching into infinity

 

And in his dream

he knew that his dream

had built all this!

 

Then a brick falls

from the tower

in his dream

then one more

and one more and one more

and then a million million bricks

raining down like dust

when a sea of sand

from some unknown desert

starts to sweep through the streets

submerging this spider's web

in dust and dunes

and people frozen in place

become buried in houses

as it all crumbles

erasing years and years of dreams

as if they never existed

as if they never meant anything at all

crushing lives as if nothing

ever held them up

swallowing the dream whole

and stamping it out for eternity

struggling as they might

to keep back this fate

the city crumbles in their hands

like trying to hold onto sand

as if it held some shape

as if it had a will to be held

and him knowing at the end

as it all flicks away

in a speck of dust

that it

none of it

the dream, the tower, the collapse

ever actually

existed

 

and knowing all this

the voice from above asks

knowing that eternity

is only a dream for mortals

meant never to come true

knowing that in the end

this all will crumble

around your heart

that it is never really there

and never ever was there

would you still build the city?

would you still build the city?

 

And in the dream

he knew the answer

It was more vivid to him

than the memory of the city itself

Yes, he knew the answer

Would you like to know how the story ends?

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