Fast Poems

November 14

Prelude at Dusk

The days are gettin’ shorta’ now.
Yes by god they surely ah’.
We just got rid of Halloween and now they’ve got
the Christmas junk spread all over Wal-Mart.

Cashiers swipe a minimalist symphony
product and price, poop-pooing Bryars or Reich.

We proceed leisurely and head for the parking lot,
home again, home again.

I glimpse the sun behind gilt pine boughs, a second
then gone, fades away in my rear view mirror.

The wife wants to pickle beets,
jar them up, stored for a winter day
or Christmas dinner. I carry a fifty pound bag
up the stairs, wheezing like a pinched balloon.

November 15

If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

We come by malice honestly,
Darwin would say, half-starved monkeys
evolved to save our communal ass, to fight
the honest beasts of jungle and savanna,

rummage through trees for berries left by birds
and nuts forgotten by squirrels,
decayed carcasses passed over
by hyenas and jackals. No legs to sprint,
no claws to slice, no teeth to bite off bones.

But we honed a large brain to plan,
fingers to shape, clutch, and live by.
This death-defying vaudeville
spawned philosophy, art, and common sense.

We would have the other man’s stuff beyond need,
smear colours on our faces, hoist up
kings those who rip off the best joints.
The marvel, we endured,
gouging and tearing to dominance.

Humility, taught the Desert Fathers,
more than faith itself, more than fasting,
and I go to bed tired and empty and dry.

November 16

Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

He drives to party meetings
in a GL-Class Mercedes-Benz,
lawyers and professors sustain
the six naught collectivist life style
because it’s easy – discuss Marx (Karl)
over conspicuous malts after golf,
footprints bite deep in the mud
tomorrow’s fossils.

Students, what the hell do students
have to do with anything? Knowledge
for the cream of the crop, comradeship built to last,
consumption in a house by Vinoly,
and greedy kids in designer togs.

All-weather performance and the ability to tow
various lifestyle accessories, standard niceties include
powered and heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control
and a power-folding third-row seat.
A hard-drive-based navigation system is available.

Your brood convert their school to supply centers
of crack cocaine, who knows except the cop
in the corridor? Charlemagne had a throne in Frankland

forty seven years; smarter than any man alive.
Made a pope swear him king of the world.
Made it, Ma! Top of the world! Short years
Later his kids let him down and his Frankland

Fell like a house of cards, restored to the call
of crusade and the world’s never been the same.
Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei,
quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit,
sage Alcuin saith.

“The best argument against democracy
is a five-minute conversation
with the average voter,” said Winston Churchill.

The sun slithers down the second day,
pulchritudine una certa salutis venit et transit
in a split second if it shows up at all.

You give me quiet, stirring the pots and pans
tonight in scientific precision.
I wait until the sun drops a bit more
and I recite a prayer my mother once knew.


November 17

Intercede with Christ our God, O Father Gregory, to enlighten our souls, lest we sleep in sin unto death.

Nameless, faceless hoodies, the kind social workers
love to love, spawned in clotted neighborhoods,
heads stuck in boxes, nowt honor, nowt duty,
wired to get and spend, love them

in this godless city? Who is there to chasten?
Policemen hide behind shields or dustbin lids.
Burn ‘em down, down to the ground, to get stuff,
gizmos and trainers, running, always talking.

And you, Theophilus, think it’s politics,
mindless, godless feeders, no White Goddess,
a cavernous maw, fragmented glass shards,
news from here and there, news, news from everywhere.

Recall your faith in a pendulum
swinging back and everything would revert.
No pendulum, my darlings, and we ain’t got no swing.

Burnt chicken and al dente zucchini for supper,
fast food with water and a cox pippin for dessert.
The skies shoot down rain wants to be snow
and it is still too early to trudge up the fourteen stairs to bed.


November 18

Do not despise the works of your hands. To you is due praise, to you is due song.

Dogs bark and bare their teeth
naught we see with eyes, naught the green world,
armies thunder down gridded streets
the medium is the message sage McLuhan guessed.

Underground, women read Times best-sellers
spend money, redo their homes, get fired up
mistake dogma for truth, sure
as Reformation church wreckers.

convinced of what they can’t see with eyes,
but know justice keenly as liberals do
know there is us and them, a tool
in the village, dupe for the elite, you live

not for politics, but paperwork
a predisposition toward greed,
and I said to an old Jew

in Montréal one time many years ago
near Park Avenue by the Mountain, but Rabbi, I said, the WASP has forgotten
his traditions, his faith, why can’t he have a reformed sect or an orthodox sect

of his faith as you do? He has left his faith, his family –
and the old man snorted as he looked down upon my patch of tomatoes –
I planted in a garden a couple yards square – but you’ve come up
with the answer, my boy, without knowing it, they’ve given up their old faith

And built a new one which they would fight for –
I chuckled at this looking up. You laugh? They don’t have anything worth fighting for, teacher. As he turned to head east up Henderson, he looked back and laughed –
take away their wallets and their portfolios, and take away

the lifestyle and you would have a bloodbath worse than the pogroms.
Your garden, my boy, is small, but it is very beautiful: remember never leave
the soil, it’s all you really have. That was a long time ago but I never have.


November 19

It still takes me five or ten minutes
to get used to the stink of chickens boiling
in the big pot, headless, swimming in the foamed water
so we can pluck their feathers, before we gut

and clean them, stack them tenderly in the freezer.
All summer long we feed them grain, grass
and apple bits. They are engineered to lard on weight
and in eight weeks or maybe ten ready for the chop.

While rosemary, chives, oregano, and thyme
are doing their bit to add to our Christmas feast
after the snows are comfortably down
to hide the weeds and leaves unraked on the lawn.

We mimic old-fashioned rhythms of time and season
We bend and stretch and reach for the sky
when the sun escapes, the foul smelling air
behind the purple mountains and through the trees.


November 20

The heavenly tabernacle is she in truth.

The godless materialists quantify machinations
of the soul, relativity replaces honesty
obesity, morbid obesity, for obedience,

the family relative to where you stick it and pull it out again
not a sacrament chanted in holy places,
country churches bought and sold where farmers could rest

and farmers’ wives could pray to the maker for sun
and rain in goodly measure, to have a month of May
with no starvation dragging into June, but still

a bushel or two of soft and smelly spuds
and one pig left for the gun. Not a good time
of the year to celebration the myth of spring.

Ring a ding-ding for the gentry, the cream of the crop.
They will tell you God was just a way
to keep the good folks down, but for good folks

God was a path to clamber up, and He himself clambered up
through the soil into the roots and after goddamn spring was done
helped to make spuds and cabbage and Elderberry wine.

November 21

My mother waits to enter the temple
of the Lord. She has subpoenaed in prayer
eighty-seven years growing wise with time,
what time she could feel, what time she could know.

She waits for papers delivered, for papers signed
the first time in eighty-seven years growing wise with time
her rooms joined with sun and stars commingled
to circle about the pathways of bliss.

In a theater long ago in Hamilton – Ontario –
she took me to a concert performance
of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the first long one
known to man and a real dilly to play.

Half way through the second movement, the longest
second movement known to man – at that time –
the orchestra lost its place couldn’t find its way,
it had to stop and I remember forty odd years later

the conductor said, take it from A. My mother
waits to enter the temple, and she has known all along
she would get there. Trust has been her strength
and finally it will shine from clerestory windows,

and arches pointed true by their Gothic builders
and she will wander up-and-down pale and perfect.
A fourteen-year-old girl listens to the choir sing Rejoice, O thou
fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.


November 22

On that day, let him who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away.

Our democracy has diverted rivers and streams,
Burned and cut forests, dried babbling brooks
and even flashed fire across the purple mountains.
The creatures that lived there dead and gone,

but democracy soon wastes itself.
We immolate tradition, trash compromise,
consumed with righteousness, our side
is the right side of things? No less pain

no less proud, a less selfish or ambitious
than the kings of old. Polar ice caps melted
by well-meaning men in German cars, in posh bars,
well-meaning men from tower blocks

vote to be correct, passions the same
as any sharecropper’s son: to get by, to make money
and run. My father spent forty years in the towers
the self-made man, a cooper’s child bent on money

bent by money, but still held a vestige, taught Sunday school,
wore a suit, had his hair cut regularly until the seventies
worked loyally in the old postwar way, would sit
when his work was done and watch the young men,

the MBAs striding down St. Clair Avenue in a summer morning rush hour,
shirt sleeves rolled, ties askew and he used to say,
those young bastards will sell the business in five years
and move on, feed like sharks on the next one.

My business was built up in the back of a car, hour by hour
year by year, until it took off and offered a good service.
I think I cut him off in his tirade and called him old Mr. Fezziwig
and all he did was mumble something about neckties and the way they
carry their jackets. Frauds are free of liturgy.

November 23

At that time, they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them.

A need for a dose of malt
and a long glass of cider, and I’ve mastered,
like polytrophic Odysseus, the knack of silent tears,

passed over JoAnne with a smile. Obey,
walk in silence and acquiesce. The Fathers,
when Rome was exhausted, shrunken,
when roads bore permanent cracks

twigs sprouted between flagstones,
when the mail-riders stopped, when the walls
of the bathhouses collapsed, and worse,
when civil servants moved up country,

the Fathers spoke with humility about piety.
How far away am I, and my footprint deep
for much electricity, junk food in boxes
and cans, weighted down in the sand

by the voices that chatter by my head like
chickadees in the bent branches
of the crying birch in my backyard.


November 24

We are going up to Jerusalem…

Brits and Yanks turned their gods into buyers,
And sellers, saw little in nature.
Industrial Revolution recast in the New World.
And how we love to hate them,

fast food and light beer and Rambo
the most popular movie of the Third World
high-powered guns and blood and death
Obama, Czar of prepackaged, we love

to hate a template of America, and we tiptoe
in the world discreet, maple leaves
on lapels and caps. I’m from Canada
no one guesses the accent, USA Lite.

And I ask what part of America you prefer
to hate, can’t be the landscape, most varied in the world,
can’t be the cities, most exciting in the world,
can’t be the shopping, most, most
must be the people, the horrid people.

You can’t hate Jews of New York City
you can’t hate blacks of Chicago or Detroit,
nor Asians, natives, Hispanics – but Western Europeans,
most likely Brits – absolutely – liberals hate all white Anglo-Saxon,

Protestant Americans and the Europeans hate
the British that is native Britons with as much folly
as Arabs who blew up the buses the July in London, buses full of
Caribbeans, Pakistanis, Indians, Arabs, and a few whites
blows struck against Western imperialism.

The dog that bites the hand that feeds it is a bad dog indeed
if the bad dog gets good press good press indeed.
The slow inexorable march to a winter begins with the rain

wants to be snow just as the water I drank
wants to be wine but I am not the knight of the sorrowful face
and it still tastes like water and I think of bed
after the sun moves behind the purple Hills
to escape the ceaseless noise of tiny machines.
November 25

She stopped the mouths of the so-called philosophers who had been gathered to dispute with her.

Katherina, St. Catherine put down the pedants
in the Temple so well she was martyred for it.
New York Times or Boston Globe
and the rest who cast the line, sinking
not from online but the same old bilge

all the news once infuriated, now bores
retired accountants, investment bankers, a lawyer or two
roaring around America on Harleys, seen
to be wild. I yearn for a beer or a glass of my cider
or half an inch amber malt. But it won’t happen yet.

Fish and beans again for supper and an apple
for dessert.


November 26

You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes.

For My Almost Friend, Charlie
He was put away five years for a dare
near Jellybean Square, a seller not a buyer
a mix of humor and courage that was rare
and at sixteen died inside, his hair set on fire.

The social workers proffered opinions
local police gave it a toss,
a jolly aging gang of minions –
he waits the ferryman to paddle across.

Three years younger than all the licks
and thought that life was not so rough
before the fire he dreamed of chicks
and how he would steal all that stuff.

From this day forward let parents beware
there is an army charging down the wire.

November 27

Stout-hearted James, persuaded by thy noble wife, and fearing the dread tribunal, thou didst scorn all fear of the Persians with their profane decrees.

Industrial Revolution driven by steam
Fired by coal; apples all the way from Chile
You’ll have to look hard to find a bag of Valley
Apples in the super stores

Cheaper to burn the oil, no thought
For the farmers scratch the soil and plant,
drink oil to put an apple on a shelf
Off-sourcing cheap orchards and who gives a fuck.

Through taxes squeezed by the government store
And the seasons they go round, and the libs
Go up and down and it cannot be any other way
For the Maritimes are too white and too poor to pay

For the swamp breeders of Upper Canada
And Joe Howe had the right idea, let the mother
Fuckers in Canada go it on their own
And by God and the Empire, leave us the fuck alone.

Joe put it better than all that,
He knew the St. Lawrence is a drain
through which we are sucked, too poor
and white. Chester voted for union to keep

The ocean view safe and dry.
So it’s the Sharia in Victoria and we can’t sing
Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war
And I hear din of an army charging down the wire.

November 28

And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it.

Flat bread and canned oysters for breakfast, coffee, black
and half a grapefruit and the rain pours down from morning
till night and it’s not quite three weeks. I’m not halfway there.

It’s easier to have an opinion than to give up something
you love. It’s easier to be convinced of one’s rightness
than to obey and it’s easier to let guilt dictate our looking back

and our going forward. The three things easiest to hit
in today’s fast-paced world — Americans, traditions,
and God. The Romans lost their way through centuries of decay

ridden down one cold March, no money, no will
to fight back, the American natives betrayed by steel
and Kentucky fried chicken, no will to fight back. We
who had the ways and means let go for TV

watching the circus when the vandals approach
riding across the deserts by night laughing and drunk
by the moonlight on the foamy waves. Tonight

my snack will be nuts and a bottle of Perrier water
with Rose’s lime cordial.

November 29

Nails were driven into his hands, feet, and head, and he was commanded to run.

Predilection for generalization, sixty inch screens
McJihad both sides now. Theocratic or economic
waste one too easy to trigger

one too cool to react, but when the money goes
the lever will balance. Times, CNN, BBC hate
whole nations, inventors of materialism,

heads cocked when we spoke in country pubs
throughout England, cafes in Paris.
Flipside blew up buses and towers brought down capitalism

a towerful of Africans, bus full of Arabs
and Irish. Blacks and whites and yellows and browns,
some protest, some point, mishmash,
like fog that sweeps in from the sea,

unqualified, as dirty and proletarian as anything
on Yankee TV. We must pinpoint our hate
like a smart missile, like the ones the Americans used

in Kabul, knocking out a single house in a row
taking out a front tooth and not spoiling the rest.
This is the kind of hate we should have.

November 30

Out of Egypt have I called my son.

The stand of larch along a back road
weaves wind in fair-haired branches
mermaids in the waves of the sea.

The larch, last to leave its color
on a cold and damp forest floor
a surprise to the first full snow.


December 1

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

My grandfather took my chubby hand in his paw,
a cooper’s hands planed barrels fifty years,
six days a week, gripped the shark
toothed cross saw to cut pines into staves.

I never wanted to start a mile and a half walk
from Western Shore to Martin’s Point every Sunday morning
of a holiday in Nova Scotia, but it seemed
I had no choice and was dragged there and back.

But I could see the sandy paths leading down to the silver
ocean, sun climbing its high summer way
just hot enough to appreciate the lemony
smell still and cool inside the old Anglican Church.

The trace of tobacco and hair and toothpaste
and the catatonic railing of a minister
made me laugh into a sleeve. Not so bad as starting out,
in those days a boy didn’t have a choice but to walk

to church with Grandpop. Hand numb, I knelt by him
closed my eyes and I could just about smell
french fries, salt, vinegar in aunt’s tavern. All happy
because it would be ready after the walk back.


December 2

At that time, the scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

No wine, fish, and no oil today
things get tough and there is no other way.
And tomorrow morning at the first light of day
We go to cut a Christmas tree and drag it all the way.

No thoughts, passions, does humility come
from this, no twisting or turning from godly diss.
bless us and keep us safe in the night
it doesn’t get any better than this.


December 3

Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?

I lack the atheist’s naive faith,
never to believe pines and chickadees
perched in boughs and strings
that bind the universe tight

ten millennia of passion and hysterical prayer
as accidents of biology, outbreaks of chemistry,
or a mess of records, jump started into victory
or failure by dumb and unimpeachable science.

The venerable Yeats called science the religion of the masses
and how many punk professors make a comfortable living
with their mantra, I have issues with organized religion?

I’m not comfortable with punk professors and pedants
with puritanical conceits, preparing students for Trivial Pursuit,
hell, you might as well read a newspaper or watch tv.


December 4

Dance for joy, O earth, on hearing the gladsome tidings; with the Angels and the shepherds now glorify Him Who is willing to be gazed on as a young Child Who before the ages is God.

I saw a fox, a silver fox at the end of the garden
peeping over an embankment at the edge of the woods,
he caught me unawares. I thought he was a cat then a bob cat.
I stared, knowing my time was book ended by his sensible care.

In the growing mist of a settling Nova Scotia fall afternoon
he began to ghost into the gloom, but before he disappeared
the oblique shafts of sunlight found his face and an instant
I could see the fox, the silver fox and then he was gone.


December 5

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy.

Easy for you to say hard for us to do
leap for joy. I cannot leap

until I lose at least thirty more pounds.
I’ve lost twenty pounds in the last two weeks

no malt, no cider, pressed from organic apples
new Prima apples, developed in 1973

by American pomolgists to be scab resistant
sweet tasting, and crunchy,

and when I have lost 30 more pounds
I will rejoice in the day and leap

six inches maybe a foot into the air.
The atmosphere of my planet

is dense and sags just above the surface.
Sometimes it is so dense I can barely breathe,

gravity weighing so heavily on my spheres,
Someday when I am small enough and thin enough
I’ll fly away, sweet Jesus, I’ll fly away.


December 6

He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.

Two bottles of malt
stashed in my cider cellar, a cool, dark place
ready when the time comes.
I sit here in the dark
and listen to them call
a moan makes the angels doubt.

Tito Colliander saw the carnage in Russia,
watched days turn to nightmare,
the ogre, godless materialism, rooted itself
and Tito fled to Finland, summoned its heroes

took to skis to save mothers and kids, turned
to the Desert Fathers, distilled a thousand pages
into a small book, and he said the life of the spirit
is not based on thinking and pondering long hours but by doing.

Humility the hardest lesson, more than faith
if you find peace in you, so will God, angels,
Mother and Son. So I hear the faint susurrahs

from my cellar door, from cider and malt.
I jump from a chair, go upstairs and watch tv
with Joanne, Perrier, and the cats.


December 7

By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.

Strong enough to make you cry,
The yearning driven by fear,
Not putting enough goodies by
Forcing a curse and a tear.

You go from there to here
Church and family defy
Naught far and not near
You’ve severed every tie

Picket fences set up a sty
Now, more than you can bear
Emigrate to the East Coast, fly
Trading down to God’s country,

Google what chunk of sea front to buy,
Homesick for the theater and shopping up there.


December 8

If a man does not know how to manage his own household

Once, when eleven and hopping mad
I kicked a hole in the wall
down at the end of the hall. I felt my shoe
hit the wall, jumped back
shocked how thin the plaster was,
terrrified at such a hole. I thought
dad’ll whale me now, he threatened
and even took off his belt
and it was a long belt, he never hit me.

My mother hit me once or twice across the face
when at school I discovered the word
bullshit, repeated it home from school
I thought it sounded comical.
Bullwinkle the Moose and I transmogrified
into Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
But I was a squirrel with a sore cheek
and no more bullshit for me.

But my father knew better than to hit something smaller than himself
and so devised a much more severe and cunning punishment
for a hole kicking at the wall in the end of the hall:
he sequestered LP’s: Elvis’ golden hits volume two
(found later fifty million Elvis fans can be wrong)
Dion and greatest hits of Bill Haley and his Comets.

They were gone for weeks, years
for a kid with the time ratio of a smart dog,
a kid in suburban south Ontario. When the orchards
still blossomed as we walked to school
before the bulldozers and tractors steamed into town.

December 9

He clearly promised them that they should bear a divine child, from whom was born the Uncircumscribable One Himself Who became a mortal, and through an Angel commanded them to cry unto her: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee.

A chubby teen pushes a stroller
down Main Street, Kentville. Spongy
bouncy, grins at her friends in tank tops
ripped off shorts, roly-polies fast
food, msn, America’s next top models,
a lifetime on the hips like venus von willendorf
with a pony-tail.

The first image of mother and child
and how myriad the millennia
when mother and another child
dressed all funny to anyone who has come to look

at this madonna and her kid
so carefully swaddled in the stroller
until she gets the light,
crosses the street and waggles out of sight.


December 10

O Menas, with them that suffered and died with thee; and He doth grant thee the crown incorruptible.

Where were you Holy Minas
when they wheeled the crippled up old Jew
off the Achille Lauro into Mare Nostrum?

When my mother dumped
in a home for mental crackers?

The pagans hiding in the rat holes
concrete tunnels, fished out
like weasels, abused then shot
abused then hanged by the neck

Where were you General Saint Minas
when all this cropped up?
I pray to you nightly, your grey steed
and silly Roman armour,
before I close my eyes? But you did your bit
centuries ago, got yourself killed in Alexandria
multicultural swamp where Romans
invented glass. Your booming voice encouraged the Christians..

So you got stuck in: a slice with a sword
and then the Angels took you up.

Does our free will down here
outweigh love and care of the saints above?
They sometimes put their shoulders to it
and rescue us from our fates. Can’t they say
let’s put the war off for year or two
to see if things can change?

It seems the saints’ love is a fragile love
and I wonder if the Mother came
in vain and better it would to remain
in her garden so far away, walking sometimes and reading
the book that all the masters paint in the Annunciation scene.


December 11

τί ζητεῖτε τὸν ζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν;
Why do you seek the living among the dead.

Found Poem

Sorry, this is the first time I’ve checked my email all day!
Too busy to be on the computer with Christmas on the way!
I’m not sure if he responded to you or not
I don’t know where he is, not here right now, the snot.

And so I’ll respond in case he doesn’t bother.
We’re both figuring we’ll be home early in the afternoon,
but neither of us knows exactly when, late or soon
I would guess by two or three or four o’clock.

and then I’ll be running out again, making time
to pick up sweetie from the babysitter at five.
I hope to capitalize on some child-free time
at home tomorrow afternoon to keep my brain alive!

Not 100% sure what we’re doing Christmas Eve,
but I assume we’ll be going to church, or not.
LOL Does that answer help at all, or not?!
If you’re in Bridgewater just give us a call –

there’s a good chance at least one of us will be here.
And sorry I missed your call the other day.
I was picking the baby up and didn’t notice
there was a message until it was too late.

There’s just been entirely too much to do this week!
We’ll meet up somehow after Christmas, though!


December 12

O sacred Spyridon, thou gavest thy mind divine wings with the Spirit’s light

Old beauty’s puffed up pride they deflate,
what’s to come they brashly hint,
with fetid meat they win the Tate
next year they’ll try with bellybutton lint.

Your protest enfeebled, they will scorch
your outcries, they will debase
their panegyric to greed, a useful torch
to eat away at elegance and grace.

They lack the skill to draw a foot
or shape a grasping hand
they make art with shit and soot
sprinkled liberally with a bag of sand.

Marketers and merchandisers: art a misnomer,
as blind, as useless to their age as Homer.


December 13

We cry to thee: O Saint Herman, pray that we be saved.

The snow down can fall
the Sonnenschein for all I care
across the tips pines and spruce
wave to the Northwind that blows

from out the Atlantic halfway to Plymouth
or Portsmouth I suppose, from some mysterious
circle dancing in the waves, our Sargasso Sea
all the way to Lunenburg County

overlooking hills and highways cut through slate
poor land for farmers and their wives and children
run here to counterbalance the Acadians,
curbing their mini empire and sharpening poles.

Remember Québec and 1627 the sorest exodus of all,
but the Huguenots don’t whine. Sharpening poles
is what we did best, grazing cattle on sorry patches
of ground with cabbage and an acre of spuds.

December 14

No wine no fish today and I’d love to have some cabbage
and a boiled potato or two, with melted butter
settling on the top, and pepper and a pile of salt.

No wine or fish today, and I feel like quitting
the whole day thinking about what to eat
and what to drink, drink, drink.

We fast from grace, we fast from beauty’s care
“I’m not comfortable with organized religion
gives me the scare.” We fast from emptiness

we fast from grace, we fast from what
went on before, and from being poor
and now with winter coming on we are
pallid and sorry to have to close the door.


December 15

Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him…?

I worked so hard to blank my head
of thought, of love and hate and dread.

Never could get it right, emptied out
in the morning, always full at night.

Better to be busy I thought than still
no room for Buddha then, no room still.

Read a Psalm a day when I was a boy
trying to lasso a cloud with rope

or was I trying like Cassius Clay
to rope a dope beyond all hope?

And that’s about all that David’s done:
A loaf of misery leavened with fun.


December 16

The Prophet Haggai, whose name means “festive,” was born in Babylon at the time of the captivity of the Jews.

I wrapped up all the stockings stuffers early this year
nothing else to do but work, watch movies and sleep.

No Aberlour or Laphroig today
no nosing amber, here in the desert

forty days and nights grow lighter by the hour.
What a way to celebrate the coming of the Lord!

I sit down here deserted, bored by humility,
bored by the saints above, and when it’s over

I’ll stuff myself over the optional amounts.
Just to get my all back from the Mother of God

and her beardy little Son. I will hear the cattle talking
on Christmas eve, and I will go their way soon enough

so make way for the prodigal one.
And I’ll have fun, fun, fun till daddy takes my T. bird away.

Forty days and nights grow lighter by the hour
I hear fairies dancing in the snow-drizzled bower.

December 17

Great are the achievements of faith! In the fountain of flame, as by the water of rest, the Three Holy Children rejoiced. And the Prophet Daniel proved a shepherd of lions as of sheep.

Lord Jesus Christ
with hand on my shoulder, telling silly jokes
Son of God the father,
an Indian man dies and arrives at the Pearly Gates.
“Yes, how can I help?” asks St Peter.
“I’m here to meet Jesus,” says the Indian man.
St Peter looks over his shoulder and shouts,
“Jesus, your cab is here!”

Have mercy on me a miserable sinner,
you are not alone in the world
love and fear you postulate
but forget to mention nastiness, stuff
makes us give up God, our weapon of choice,
await the Hale Bopp Boogie
worship the old gods of the desert and the mountain places
turn to Buddha, get and spend,
little we see in nature and trees to hug.

Despair of the old masters, despair of the Eliot metaphors
of desert places, Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
Stop biting my ear, Son of God the father,
Forgive me the sins, I have committed
against your divine Majesty.


December 18

Dance for joy, O earth, on hearing the gladsome tidings; with the Angels and the shepherds now glorify Him Who is willing to be gazed on as a young Child Who before the ages is God.

No evil, why do you turn to mind
massages and pedicures and manicures
video conferencing with your guru on the coast, spend
thousands going here, there to share your rapture.

Bush was worse than Saddam Hussein
picked by the scruff of the neck out of a rat hole
a G.I. doctor picking at his teeth
in a careful Western kind of way. But Saddam would be your bed fellow

what it says and no matter what it does
a man’s world giving you airplanes to fly
fashionsto get to be anywhere you want to be
and be what you’re not you see, a godless
goddess at home dissatisfied with two heartbroken kids

And a husband who prefers work then
and in the imagination of millions
of girls who think they work, but put in time
for tickets or an airplane to fly around the world

Captured by godless materialism you unsay
your history, worship your captor
night and day, when all you really have to do
is look over your shoulder, close your eyes and pray.


December 19

Boniface was moreover given to drunkenness and riotous living. Nevertheless, he was generous to the poor, hospitable to strangers, and compassionate to those in misfortune.

The conditions outside cold and crisp
not insightful to morbid one-way streets
a bottle of my cider from Prima apples

Clear pink amber so beautiful, squeezed
from the soil of the Annapolis Valley orchards
Prima, a man-made varietal, hearty and pink

Rests in my bottles stored in my cellar
and when the last night turns to day and day into evening
dance on the table and celebrate the King.

December 20

Ἡ Παρθένος σήμερον, τὸν προαιώνιον Λόγον, ἐν Σπηλαίῳ ἔρχεται, ἀποτεκεῖν ἀπορρήτως, Χόρευε ἡ οἰκουμένη ἀκουτισθεῖσα, δόξασον μετὰ Ἀγγέλων καὶ τῶν Ποιμένων, βουληθέντα ἐποφθῆναι, παιδίον νέον, τὸν πρὸ αἰώνων Θεόν

Tired, watching the snow wondrously straight
down no wind to blow. We can no longer claim the perch of poets
writing up and rhyming the wounds of beauty
no place for old men like Yeats and Auden
old posers laid to rest.

Desert Fathers are the place lodged in hot places
the edge of Empire. I wonder if St. Jerome
knew that all his labours would purpose us and last two thousand years?

But a plain and simple fact when Augustus Caesar
laid out his moral five year plan and carved it out on stone,
it flopped as soon as his daughter Julia,
with the corkscrew hair was exiled
for her shagging around and the Empire stood
another fifteen hundred years west to east and up and down.

You don’t need to be good to hang around.
So why did they fast there in the desert
lean and hungry men and why did they sit on columns
for fifty years at a stretch?

Crazy as we godless ones
bombs and gas now God’s no longer around
to forgive our sins or to kick us in the ass.


December 21

In Bethlehem now beholding Him in swaddling clothes, that holdeth the earth within the hollow of His hand, we all offer our prefestal songs to the Mother that gave Him birth.

The plow will come to me away so late
To clear the arteries on this longest night,
And dig a track home, a pathway to my gate.

No one to censure, no one to berate,
I follow an eighteen wheeler‘s Christmas light,
And hope the plow will come to me away so late
Across the Pictou Causeway the winds inflate
A tunnel through the trackless places of the night
and I must dig a track home, a pathway to our gate.

And I thank God that trucker‘s there to fix my fate
Happy to see Rudolph’s red ass pictured in light,
The plow will come to one away so late.

At the causeway’s end the sniveling winds deflate,
My angel with eighteen feet disappears as I exit right
To find a track home, a pathway to our gate.

It’s just a storm on winter solstice night
And I see electric candles, familiar sight
The plow has come to one away so late
And dug me a track home, a pathway to our gate.


December 22

Then they that are found in trials and adversities flee unto thy church O Anastasia, they receive the august and wondrous gifts of divine grace which doth abide in thee.

For once the winter winds are still
Shining night centers on the moon
day is done the dusk hoves soon
over the stream that turned the mill.

As they edge along the silver light of the sloping rill
wide-eyed animals of night hear the same tune
frost has composed on the window pane, runes
etched along the snow with an icy quill.


December 23

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.

Eliot spoke of desert places
a tawdry metaphor for the refuse
left behind. I think that he would laugh aloud
were he alive today. I think you’d hear him
shuffle on his way.

So I’ve got these poems
one for each day spent in the desert
pouring water on the sand.

Better than a silly line
about a cat. The plants that grow
by the windows circumscribe the time
I’ve spent trying to close off a meager rhyme.


December 24

Kontakion in the Third Tone

Dance for joy, O earth, on hearing the gladsome tidings; with the Angels and the shepherds now glorify Him Who is willing to be gazed on as a young Child Who before the ages is God.

A fourteen-year-old girl
beholds a choir intone Rejoice, O thou
fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.

Newton said: This most beautiful system of the sun,
planets, and comets, could only proceed
from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.

All variety of created objects
which represent order and life in the universe
could happen only by the willful reasoning
of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.

Einstein said: The scientists’ religious feeling
takes the form of a rapturous amazement
at the harmony of natural law,

which reveals an intelligence of such superiority
that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking
and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.

A fourteen-year-old girl
beholds a choir intone Rejoice, O thou
fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.

Copyright David Conrad


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