My Sixty Eighth Birthday
You slap a pink balloon and it buffs you
in mid-air, darts back and then digresses
unbound, bouncing flippantly on the floor
So my thoughts bounce after they are slapped
By a word to two, they go to formulate a string
Of reactions, a string of words to answer what she asked
But they only bounce back a bit, drift to the floor
And she expects some kind of answer, I must sit
Down and form each word, to make a sentence
Then frame them in my brain and shoot them off
To the tongue and it prepares, lips pulled back. What
Did you say she demands? She jumps out of her chair
Drops her cigarette stub it hits the pink balloon
Which explodes with a bang. And the conversation ends.
OH, CHRISTMAS TREE, 2018
Sting of winter stabs the forest people
those with faces, whiskers and smiles but
the legless, scaled guys too, give space, don’t
feed with your hand, don’t feed all, they can
fend. Choir of coyotes, the eagle soars
across the sky above terrified crows.
Blue, blue sky under clouds, frosted talons
tallest pine cloud-pricking pine. Jo is here
in all of this knit together in prayer.
Dizzy I tumble on a deck out back
try to cut a spruce into size that fits.
My head rises to aether where
oxygen is thin, and my body needs a lot of gas
to trim a tree, so I slam into a balustrade,
stiffened the dorsal and when I crawl to right
me I gaze out across hoar frozen yard
and spot Victorian lamb chops of a bobcat
he smiles at Mr. Two-Legs down on four, his grin
vanishes into dead and dying ferns
grey bastard, I pull myself up, you
can google bobcat see the smile and smirks
Mr. Lynx Rufus, rare in Nova Scotia
coastal, better the inland forest.
This must be heaven on earth, birth
and rebirth of forgetting and knowing
once more. Walker Percy knew how to fall
and get up again, read signs and between
lines. Knew the pain of a fox as freezing
comes on, the ribby wolf, shot down stealing
eggs and chickens from Farmer Brown’s barn.
Pelt hangs still. spiked talisman on the door.
The forest opens up the clearing made
for children to abide in peace and warmth,
long sleep till dawn, lea of stars in pine grove.
Ankles swollen, knees burn
time has myriad
wiles to turn me down,
cardboard angels flap wings
and holler, memories of haste,
black hair, matching beard, look
at the photos and glass
I’ve walked the wrong line,
thick old legs got me here,
new business my aim
sixty-five years stamina
to turn and walk the right way,
game legs and all.
Dave, it’s called aging,
don’t make a big stink
can’t make a poem
to put myself to sleep
rolling fits, youth and age.
You’re no worse off than most,
they got drugs for swollen legs
and sleep. I wish they had
pills for courage.
PONTE SANTA TRINITÀ
the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars Who glided past as we chattered ~ Dante
When I caught sight of her moon
beam smile, the nimbus of silence –
she chilled the gossip on my lips –
gilded then in my memory
constructed the scene in my mind
to remember, the turquoise suit
she wore buttoned up the front,
the chat I fit into faded
from my hearing, and Richard Strauss
my favourite, and then I recalled
the turkey was superb, Carol,
the pumpkin squash very tasty,
oh, it was just pumpkin, not squash.
I have a daughter who can sing.
The thin strands of talk still loiter
in my mind, words like the delta
of the Nile spilled out for miles.
But her smile, polite, slight under
pink cheeks, gathered so tightly up
I carry like a photo ripped
from a book, it was the first sight.
She passed from my view, and then she
became a her, no chance for you
all words emptied into the sea.
GOOD OLD HEART
Locked up locked down
the heart has ways
to keep you safe at night.
Puffed-up old fist
squeezes out the bad blood
coursing through your head
the firewall keeps out virus
stops you going viral too,
beats like mad when you do
what you shouldn’t.
Break out, break off,
it will break if you let it.
You go down, go round
get lost, lose control, stretched out
on a gurney, wheeled to a room.
Bend down nurses, look over me,
I’ll gaze up at you,
forget I’ve come to thee
to die amid your silky crevices,
ski down the slopes till death
do me part.
My heart attacks me without my moving,
Fingers clutch, no clues for the falling man
No bumping, thumping, punches my recall
of all that went before, the cheats, the lies,
and fond goodbyes made to burn, the thieving
and grieving, the laughs when their backs were turned.
You can fool the head, and the body too,
but you can never hoodwink your heart.
Honesty and kindness are what it craves,
all it takes to get you round the uplands
downlands of the journey you wander through.
I close my eyes, I cannot sleep
I open my eyes, I cannot see
Images left and images I greet
the box does this to me
Nothing sweeter than a harvest
Of my herb garden, in late September
when maples begin to tweak
blown cloudlets from my nose.
Basil mixed with sage and rosemary
Hang in the basement to dry.
The vast domain of summer’s heat,
Decline and fall again.
A BOOGIE WOOGIE FEELING
I left my heart in Minnesota
I left my head in Illinois.
They stole the gas from my car
motivatin’ with all my joy.
Jumping up and downon top of police wagons,
burning what they can not steal
city blocks razed to the ground.
I slipped on the shit
of San Fran’ sidewalks
when my head hit the curb
I heard the army of pasty kids
Face masks proper distance
Fuck them, only for stupid
White folks, fuck white folks
Fuck them and their universities.
“If we don’t get it, shut it down”
The facebookers, middle class
jobless, refried clowns
bussed in and bought
by Eastern geld, the mark of soros;
bruited about the stinking news
stuffing heads then smack them down
not a worthy enemy, aberrations,
won’t go away. Round them to the cliff face
like the Sioux bucks of old
drive them over the edge, might hurt, but not for long.
A CURLY MOMENT
Ja, es stieg auch mir ein Engel nieder,
Meinen Geist nun himmelwärts!
Und auf leuchtendem Gefieder
Führt er, ferne jedem Schmerz,
~ Richard Wagner
The poem must be made before it’s too late
my dear. I see you Curly in the chair
and I must make it, so each brick I set
must lock in perfect placement between you
slouched there reading and the you of my dreams.
Right harmony: words and bricks, rhythm, rhyme.
In cities and towns, amid trees and sky,
Nova Scotia, Ithaka, I returned
for a winnowing fan; when I find it
this will be written and you will be calm.
I first gazed on you a lonely Easter
kind-invite to dine at your mom and dad’s,
turkey that bit back, a rainbow of goop
in colours the plants were to indicate,
and in the middle of the tête-à-tête
the cherub in a turquoise suit glides
effortless like a cirrus through the small
talk, blessed old Laertes and his wife.
I had a Curly moment years ago
demanded I look to the sky and I prayed
walking up the Rideau Canal, despair
before I knew how. I saw your smile,
faint brown hair waft in the ethereal
breezes, the icon clear there in the sky
a minute and was gone. I went my way
turned at MacLaren Street, piled into bed.
The image returned and the angels
verify this each evening when I plead
is this love? Yes deep and uncloven love
unformed by things, unshaped by want or need.
guides and pushes us forward, must be love
Against the darkness of time and demise,
and can our love really guard against death,
can it bring us out of the free fall? Love
is God, what we know is admiration
and what we have is true Divinity,
we are part of God, He is part of us
and we can’t go down to death. I can still
stroke you and hear you mornings when you kick
the sheet from the bed and fire a ripper
that rattles the cats off the bed. Can I
cup your rosy cheeks, look into your eyes
gaze through brown eyes into eternity?
Flashes of celestial light flicker there.
Nothing will snap the bond that links us up
our senses tell us. Our transfigured love
relaxes or tightens the ligature;
can we separate love from desire?
Hard to do it, the biggest hard of all
my dear, is want. The Desert Fathers tell
Us cutback our wants and love God. Can I
curtail my craving and cherish you more?
When you brush your teeth before a mirror
and grin at me with soapy lips, I know.
Outlines brushed by a master, metaphors
breathing truth and adoration, warm cheeks
bred of Ireland’s fens and Scottish hills, beams
that melt Nova Scotia’s briny ice cakes
and toss them back into a swelling sea.
Smiling, a modern, over-rated act,
Mona Lisa with a Polaroid grin,
like a new Ford off the lot. Believe in
or Christ the Rembrandt rabbi showing gaps
in his teeth. Love, the word depreciates,
what you can pick up through evidence
through the salty tang, through the French perfumes,
through the sun-play in her hair, the tightening
stomach, the want to possess, knowing you
can only lease with time and work. Her soul
floats into the aether, and I follow,
a June bug banging against the window
the light once blinding, now beyond the clouds
rolling in off the ocean, and guided
by the saucered horizon of her smile.
Love defies simile or metaphor,
It’s incomparable, but it can be felt
and grasped through a thousand different deeds
it can be seen. God- is-Love flows through trees
flowers and bushes, reinvents itself
every season. Every night after wash,
brushing, pills and more, I kiss your forehead.
You are all but asleep, and I turn over.
Then there’s the night when writching and turning,
sloth swings, rocks the bed, and I go fetal
on my side, till you settle down, and black
Shadows overtake you, or we both hide
in Ringo’s green garden beneath the sea,
Lennie the Blowfish, Baron Barracuda
Diver Dan, and his mate the Mermaid Queen,
flipping her fins on a coral, twinkling.
We lie and listen to the live and dead
forget memories gone before, then say
s’agapo like a rimshot, poetry
in that, I’ll build a billboard of my love.
I hear angels catching one another,
they sing for us, know our love is grafted
from their Father in heaven, and they know
sap in the trees from love, lambs and tigers,
they know fondness is part of this patter,
the cellular level: birth, growth, and death.
We’re half way and what they know is that death
is birth and growth. Our love burns fixed like stars
in the darkling sky, unites and joins us
in perfect balance like a charged atom,
an atom that will not be split. Then science
is love and God is love, the equation,
attributive qualities of numbers,
spinning, still, together, apart, creepy
when you think like that. So, come on Curly,
let us go back to bed and sleep on it.
DAVE SAYS GOODBYE TO CLIO
Do you wonder will death be fast or slow
when time skipped along, languished, laughed and ran
mixed up in a creaky now, almost gone.
Your old friend has run out, phony comrade,
lies you told live today a myriad.
The same stream flows over you when you fawn,
in the desert strayed from your caravan.
Sirocco down from purple hills will blow,
you dominated the revels, now a sideshow,
some old dame with a coffee cup, your fan,
cracked face and you forgot her gaping yawn,
caught silly green flies from her lily pad.
Soul blown across the sands like a nomad,
too dizzy to jump up and take her bow.
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
Tumbling down sand dunes and gagging on dust
I spied you in the far, a fuzzy ghost
in the glass house luminous through the rust
desert winds howling up a ruthless gust
caught me with my pants down, I was lost,
Tumbling down sand dunes and gagging on dust.
I scuttled toward you my lungs percussed
I emptied my pockets no care the cost
for the glass house luminous through the rust
proffered me the dirty comforts of lust
too petty to bear me, the nerve to boast,
Tumbling down sand dunes and gagging on dust.
I sank by the spotless house we discussed
the one with father, son, and slice of toast
in the glass house luminous through the rust
some place to sleep when old age will bust
up my desire to run, to find sanctuary lost
Tumbling down sand dunes and gagging dust
in the glass house luminous through the rust.
ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE MORNING
Your eyes blink in the first snow fall when you
turn them on me, as I follow behind.
Leave footprints so light they defy meaning
no box contains them, no lies entice them
no hook-billed hawk scoops them off the planet’s
white crust, you can sweep away with a broom.
Spaces in Mozart’s notes, you learned by rote
still live in the sparkle of your footprints
across the frozen field, the skeletons
of milkweed make stalks for stars in your eyes.
we mistake humility for lily
liveredness like stupid kids in playgrounds
we stomp the heels down til the crying starts.
Sing prayers for the weak and unsuccessful,
Out on the new formed ice lines the slow road
be fast as fast be slow the joke is on
all of you and my angels share the joke
only they can know, position to know
they see your brown eyes look up and they smile
in pale sunrise amid December clouds.
Light as snowflakes, Booker’s spidery fingers
on a keyboard, they waltz across the air.
TEN LINES FOR JOANNE’S BIRTHDAY, 2020
I love you by the minute, by the hour, and the day
packaged in my memory by months and by years
I never planned to be so happy, but I prayed,
and you sent angels to answer my prayers.
You gave me a generous helping of your time
the greatest gift you could give, and I’m supposed
to come up with a gift that matches this in rhyme?
It’s harder to spot, at midnight, the murder of crows
in the pines sleeping. You gave the black, brown, and gray
to all our Julys and Januarys, our love and our years.
DUM DA DIDDY DUM
Death blanks us with pain, panic, sweet silence,
breezes weave through pine boughs, as birds fill death
with song, the silly chickadees scramble
for one seed at a time when they could peck
all they could get their beaks on in one shot.
The endless salt flat where you have nothing
to say, cannot think of a word to say,
flappy tongue now dry, energy of words
gone, comely eyes close, sweet silence. Cluttered,
fleeting days fade, not what I created,
but what I saw with my other eye, tight
around my heart. The one muscle that kills us,
keeps us alive, if there is a devil
and I think there is, his monster triumph:
to persuade us our heart dies when it stops.
We are blanked at the end. We poets know
the heart continues to beat after we
shovel off the snow of February,
flopped miserable, shaking in a snowbank,
beats strong without a gloated mini-me
it once drove forward. Singers know it beats
to their song once they let go. The joke
when it funks a beat is when it starts. When
we start, leaping into life from the warm
clammy to the dry and cold the first shriek
when the doctor slaps to jump-start the heart
and we cry louder, knowing the countdown
has begun. Plato would say we assume
the flawed mantle of the perfect shadow
hear it hum like a ghost in outer space.
His star student would say don’t glorify
the form of the pink slick homunculus,
it is what it is, take the next fifteen
centuries to discover how it works.
They proved a man can live without a brain
without courage, but not without a heart.
Proven by science, most men have no brains,
lack a backbone, figuratively, but
who can live without a heart? Can’t they still
love? No, stupid, without a heart they’re dead.
Plato’s right then. No, the Greek had his head
In a vacuum. The Maker made the heart
With a bang, not a brainless picture show.
My heart defibrillates, darling, for you
I’m glad you’re an Irish girl, and not an evaporate dew
Bespangled flower at summer’s end. breathing the desert blasts
of August. Gold- splashed mornings and nights in our king-sized bed.
mislaid oodles bar much better than this.
God is love incarnate, universe is an Eden for our
making and he tossed us into it and we were bound
to go deeper sun circling the lines of our
living room, the avocado knows and the amaryllis dressed
in green turns its head, led by light, reaches for a strato
sphere of sorts. Cats know, loll across a room
bagging rays before night crawls on. Before
Supper is set. We rule the space that lets
moon dance shadows, but love makes the distance
long and short, makes time entwine, weaves daybreak
Light opens and closes the eyes to time.
Love places it on the plate clean and neat
Just in time for us to eat. Splashes down
the river winds , we may drink as it runs
Irretrievable to the sea, fishes
in Nova Scotia clean salty slivers
of light, trace their slimy way back to us.
Hard to write paradiso, but the work
Must be done and here we are settled down.
I write a paradise here with my wife
JoAnne and the words effortless as life.
I THOUGHT I DID
I saw a ring of angels
stepping in the sky
only a summer sunset,
I heard the angel voices
chant above the clouds,
only autumn breezes
whipping up the yard.
I thought I felt angel wings
brush against my face,
only tabby’s tail
tickle as I lie.
The all-holies Grand Pop
knew and saw, we top
with selfies. Leave
the cosmos altered
time always still,
a river never the same.
Don’t step in.
the virgin spring
now has left the building.
A Gone Friend, the Poet George Johnston
Pallid over pine boughs the souls of men
wreathed around the pastel moon swirl clock wise,
a land fog blurs the contours of the sphere.
I’m a voyeur, disrobe the naked moon
trying to squeeze out a fart on the can,
light-years away from the moon, but Luna
doesn’t seem to mind, she grins at my shame.
My boxers rest on the floor and I yank
them up as I rise. George Johnston told me
It’s bad luck to spy on plena Luna
through a window. I’m sure he shied away.
But I am alone with her tonight and stare hard.
I wonder if his soul whirligigs round
He was that sort of man, white beard breezing,
George up there and me here, taking a crap,
Agitated, staring up through the screen.
Who can tell by words or notes the warble
In robin’s throat. Sits in a maple tree,
Eyes the tilled soil in my garden patch.
Hears the hum of worms drilling through layers
smells them tunneling as they find the crust
Fuck all this bob-bob-bobbin he twitters,
I’m going for raw worm flesh in the dirt,
the craving sears through his raging red breast
like lightning flashes in the dry summer.
Sometimes, deep in the woods he sings, sated
with worm meat, a seed or two, notes spill out,
high notes, an Old Dutch Organ, fugues from Bach,
Mozart on pianoforte, spun from time,
weaves through trees, through wet green leaves. Which comes first
the robin’s egg, blue Greek sky on the sea
or his arpeggios scarped from the world?
He doesn’t know or care, voice fills the air
then drops as he lands on the branch once more
eyes ablaze and nostrils flared for new worms
dug up to the cooled autumn air at dusk.
SONNET FOR EDMONTON
Hours float high in the atmosphere like strato
Nimbus clouds, minutes rain down on an empty
House, cats know why, I see them sniff the air,
My nose wasted on food and wine these years
Cannot winnow out loneliness and its cousin
Solitude. It’s like grief, you go through stages
An hour before the planned departure and an hour
Afterward, the ache most acute, room by room
Emptied and I don’t get the traces to tide me
Over, just a silly, shrieky sob when the last room
is cleared. So it’s complete, and sure enough
the first hour’s gone. One hundred and sixty-three
to go, the clock marches to the beat of the same
old drum, slam, slam, slam, and down falls the rain.
DEAD GOATS AND OLD FRIENDS
Cumulonimbus fills my head, my brain,
right out to the skull, the battered old ball
fringed with coloured hair, shiny in the night.
A mist sputters landward from the sea
shrouds the end of my road thick mist, horror
dead and dying sailors, I cannot find
heaven, or peace like this. Arguments spew,
like bowling balls guttering down the lane
roll from the return hood, not what I want.
pray the son of man puts his arm round
your shoulders, cursed freewill wrecked a planet,
if I die before I wake pray the Lord
my soul to keep. If I die tomorrow
what then? the lord keep my soul, what is soul?
Years ago in Greece I bickered about soul
in a fish taverna with my old friend Jones,
Trevor, Naxos brandy and retsina.
We opted for boiled goat and French fries.
We stood on the headland where Theseus
dumped that plump bitch Ariadne then sailed
away to Athens. That man had no soul
said Trevor, caught the pale moon sliding
into the wine dark sea, thick flat and congealed
like blood about to dry, soulless sailor, a stupid
tale said Trevor, I had no words to disagree.
WESTERN SHORE TALES
Older I get the sole measure of truth’s
Mother Nature, what she does where she goes
o’er cold, sharp moon or hot, clammy night,
busts our patch, yip-yap rattle of raccoons
the gob-smack of coyotes when we slaughter
chickens and leave the leavings at the edge
of the yard, where trees stand closed in flat ranks,
still sway of the planet under pale eye.
Our same-old world detached from this, our skill,
Love and hate, building, wreckage less valid
who cares the boy kills his dad, fucks his mum,
a good boy, he didn’t mean to do it.
Sophists formed a pseudo-science by it,
a silly story, arguments and greed
duplicity, who makes the movies now
ha! who has the news neatly weaponized?
World beyond window-viewing grows distant.
plant lilies, vegetables, let the snow pile
plan to go nowhere. Remember the days
when men were men, women double-breasted.
When work a walk away, food grew, silent
on the low sloped hill, and a boy there was
who stepped furtively through the old barn door
into shaded gloom, never saw a cow
close up or a pig standing in a pen.
He dreamt them forty years on til the barn
fell down, seeded over, and some fat guy
cuts grass on a John Deere E180.
On Christmas Eve we drive by the old house
At midnight to hear the animals low,
Trusting to Jesus they are silent now
no forerunners, ghosts nor stumping deaths.
NOSTIS ET NOBISCUM
After unscrewing of the mind
When proteins forget to jump
ignore the molecules, unwind
when you fall upon your rump.
When you fall with a heavy thump
Your limbs undone by time
That renders you a useless lump
void of rhythm and void of rhyme.
A tattered fox trots down the road
Three-four time, hunting for some food
The forest heaped with brooding drifts,
Empty stomach and joints are stiff.
He twisted to glance back
Down canyons of piled snow
I try to hide my tears
And curse the rifle left on a rack.
A relaxed stomach, a near smile
You announce your presence to me
Snowflakes whirl a while
Like a flash of eternity.
When the moon drifts into view
The mechanics of the universe
Uncover what is old and new
What is better and worse.
The frorward glance, scented hair
Eyes flash, then turn away
I know she too is you, and stare
Forget the prayer I could say.
Telltale signs at every turn
When beauty stands unknown.
I reach out and then I burn
Down here at the window alone.
Every poet is born of phoenix brood
Feeds on flesh and swims the stream
Of whisky, douses fiery heart,
after heart fibrillates and off-beats.
Ambulances and nurses, spirits
Of night, the heart is joking, payback
Subtract some years and suborn
The boxy parameters, you born
Of phoenix brood sword whirling
Jeb Stuart riding down the squealing pigs,
financed tools Antifa, planned out,
Orcs with smart phones, what dirty money
buys. Whipping their sore asses with the flat
of his saber. The sun has set on Jeb,
on courage without reason, grit without reason.
But they charged, yodeling a war cry, courage
Too old for boxes to close out
But it will arise one day and rescue a planet like ours.
WHERE DOES HEAVEN BEGIN
Where does heaven begin
it doesn’t says the atheist with a grin
wait for me Jack, cries Jill.
Cold wind coaxes me up the hill
panting, me not the breeze, the chill
fingers me, with a riddle.
What you all want to know
How and where do you go.
And do we reap what we sow?
AFTER THE FALL: PARADISE
Fox cannot sleep off winter like a bear
nor coyote or wolf, and lynx must ferret
through wafting drifts, instinct mingled with fear,
grasp the future, taste winds from colored lights,
know how far they will blow, trek ice and snow.
tough to make a living the longest night.
The endangered clan, our eyes dart about
from covert, sinuous shadows at dusk
juddering, jumpy as the beasts go out.
We can’t pierce the gloom and jump back again,
the clan is gone, no we, the I remains
beyond the cave and into the moraine.
No favours are begged, no truce is taken,
surrender by lad or lass not a choice.
Walk in the woods, night best to awaken.
Bow down in obeisance, softwoods pliant
dim spruce, weeds of the woods, motley coloured,
clustered pines nodding at the moon, giant
white pine, sugar maple, red spruce, hemlock
old man of the woodland dominated
edgy explorers, on dickering walks,
two hundred feet tall, boomed down rivers, masts
for the King’s navy, master of the woods
roots so long field mice used them to compass,
pattered miles along them. Come-from-Aways
under the canopy, oldest species,
cursed the darkness while sauntering for days
and the yellow birch, smells of wintergreen
grows for three centuries, if we let it
logged by early woodsmen at three foot span.
Short sighted, baffled, four million years ago
Lucy, barely able to lift her head above
savannah-grass at summer’s end as winds blow.
Danny Meadow Mouse, hunted in terror
His need to live squeaks as Red Tail the hawk
Or Hooty the Owl, shriek out their error.
This time, back to the woods, empty handed
like Buster at the dump, they feed their gob.
Then the wolves descend from the uplands.
Natura, Our Mater, we’ve misbehaved
never fit in, we always the dug the most
gold, the most silver from your belly shaved.
We frustrated Natura from naturans,
As if Darwin could grow his own garden
left Eden a long time back, left the clan.
Bad teeth, puerile claws, backed by a brain
Split into attack genes and god protein
Split between the brothers Abel and Cain.
Here by nurses, and hearses, and sunshine
heart shuffled two and four, tough to remain
to take each here ignore each there, each time.
Tightness of chest, pain that winter won’t undo.
An effigy of forest, with faces,
whiskers and fur, and the winding snakes too
so give them space, don’t feed em with your hand,
they can carry on; hear through the window
rowdy choir of coyotes, the eagle band
soars in the blue, blue sky above the crows
terrified under clouds, frosted talons
finding ways to feed eaglets in pine boughs.
The highest white pine, not maple or spruce,
a cloud-pricking pine alone for the eyrie,
where wind rips, they wait for chicks to unloose.
Dizzy I tumble on the deck out back
ripping a Christmas tree to a handy shape.
My head hit the frail aether with a whack,
heaven is thin; I need a lot of gas
to trim a tree. I slammed on the railing,
gazing out across the hoar-frozen grass,
caught the grey Victorian tufts, a bobcat
smiles at the two legs down on fours, his grin
disappeared into the dead, dying mat
of the woods, grey bastard, heave myself to.
Google bobcat, find the smile and the wink
rare in the damp Nova Scotia mildew.
This must be heaven on earth, in thrall
grasping, forgetting and the knowing
first fall – Walker Percy, knew how to fall
and rise again, he could read the signs,
keen the gut of a fox as the freezing
comes on, the carcass of a wolf, cracked chine.
Now is my way clear, now the meaning plain:
I have seen these things in a shaft of light
temptation shall not come this way again.
Stand at the bedroom window eye the snow
newly fallen, scan for animal tracks
pockets of shadows in the light, winds blow
through the branches of the pines in my yard
fill in the footprints of fox and bob-cat.
catch the crystal silence, wait for the stars
to polish the patina of the snow
I stand for hours wait for the breezes
Of Mother West Wind to wend high and low,
shadows at twilight as she sees her way
home late to the Purple Hills. Then the moon
washes over the turn of night from day,
takes the stage, when Fox pokes out, from the hutch
of fir boughs sniffs the snacks I left for him,
Lynx troubles the hoary doubled up brush,
steals from the shimmer, and beyond my land.
Old Man Coyote raises his nose to face
the moon-beaming sky and rhymes off a chant
of thanksgiving, maybe a veiled threat
to someone in his way, sure of himself –
the wolf pack fixed in the Highlands, dead set
howling where the moon collides with the sun
at the shot rays of white light into green
a hundred miles high, below vermilion
the wolves fear blinding luminosities.
The moon they figure floats beyond their reach
washed in plum, rose, azure, over tors and leas,
pallid splashes of moon-glow bathe the hills
in gold, charged particles bang together
say the astronomers, in layered twills.
To kill a hare or field mouse the wide eyed
wolf or coyote, lynx or fox, they all yip
and troll the lowlands, feathered swirls abide
collisions between gaseous elements
in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged atoms
blown like fairies released from the sun’s rent.
Angels’ ascent en masse when dross is sunk
sing their Maker’s joy. Pray? of course they pray
For their fallen comrades, dead coons, and skunks,
chucks, beavers, foxes, coyotes, crows, and jays.
Saint Whitetail, Saint Bobcat, Saint Blackbear, paw
hosannas heavenward, intone God’s lays
of forest, brook, streams that smile and laugh,
meadows, tunnels and dens, this prayer they make:
God, we beseech Thee, defend us from crimes
of the day, roll up fond shroud
of night, may your boughs
Protect us, may we find food and sleep.
Dear God, uncreate the greed,
spite and slave-driven dread
rape and rot to land and sea, from talons
and landward fangs of men.
Show us, Holy Mother
how we are created in Your image.
This is as close to heaven as I can be
Gazing out my window, overhearing
Ice pellets weigh down the weeping birch tree.
Boreas swallows his breath, late in spring
sweet whiff of pine drifts by the forest path
balance the weighing scales, on osprey wing
and the owl stuffs gobbets into its young
learn to fly by summer’s end, time to hunt
autumn, tail the measure, foot on the rung
come to the mountain candidus, falter, who
will be your pilot, you will fathom when
you see Her, Blessed One, who chooses you.
THE TRIM: PURGATORY
I catch your reflection in the mirror
as you clip my hair, the cat is jumpy,
patrols, meddlesome, on the counter-top
by the edges of his world, high and low.
St. Lawrence Night, night of falling stars,
in the blackened fixéd dome, falling lights
that swim across the flickering universe,
blaze full of hydrogen and nitrogen
say astronomers. You say filled with souls
of lovers well met down here in the swamps
the valleys, hollows, highways, and off ramps.
Sidereal fays breeze up the sable sky.
I see your unwavering eye where pain
and perseverance clash and spy the cat
where hunger and curiosity strain
tug him this way and that, upstairs and down.
Scene from Auden’s master not pain nor joy
is crucial, the flashing heartbeat is all.
The planes of pigment and insidious
collocations, the fall of Icarus
grasping at fairy light before his time
whose splash into the deep, off some drab shore
of a lowland sea, misrepresented
in fake news, as a pebble plopped in waves.
But Icarus crashed like a bomb of light
steamed the sea and dried it up undoing
fear, a resurrection, a frozen flash
only a godless man could overlook.
We discovered the Maniot churches
littering dry-back finger of Maina.
JoAnne and I ignore Dutch masters for
Fra Angelico’s creamy-faced virgins,
angels in rapture, not frozen in time
their wing-beats eddy in the empty air,
Giotto’s cherubim against silence.
Twenty years we’ve fit, unfrozen in time,
touching the while. Her concentrated eyes
leafing over my disheveled hair, hands
plying scissors and the machineries
of a cosmetologist lend order,
a professional, snips and clips, combing
a covenant through my hair, steady hands
still the vile pitter-patter of a heart
convulsed by change, begins to make headway.
Firmly on forehead, as her eyes meet mine
in the glass, cat leaps on my lap, knows when
the job is done, need weighs, it’s supper time
jumps, scatters clipped cobwebs across the floor.
The woods drone the dog days clamor, birds doze
Foxes and coyotes protect the marches,
We turn over say good night, I love yous
over and over again, each night, times
morning too, autumn noises birds chirping
in the yard. It is hard not to woolgather,
when Fortuna’s wheel turns, stocks shelves with days
Like boxes in an Amazon warehouse.
Here we winter in a house with shadows
in corners and lights stirring in darkness.
Restless phantoms, we heard at the Guildhall
in London, below ground in the circle
bricked out to be a Roman theater, ghosts
of men slaughtered for pastime, shouting crowds,
near the stone-faced St. Lawrence Jewry built
to guard resentful shades met by the way,
living dead still stroll past, like the hours
trotting past us now, work, war, and prayers.
After work, side by side, Joan FitzAlan,
Countess Arundel, and William the Earle,
praying eternally in the Chapel.
Close on to smiling, the Earle found a wife
for perpetuity, hollow cheeked gal.
We took many shots there, pondering us.
Chubby Infanta in a broken frame
The Count of Paris in a daisy field
russet hair curled like gossamer ribbons
and me tight-smiled, a kid who’s got to pee.
Two legs thin, and wet, little feet knotted
I wonder were we friends before this life?
We locked in one elliptical orbit
in the spiraled galaxy on the rim.
Tenderness last to fade when the brain dies
My mind still works, body chased by time still
Pulsing hearts into dust, when quarks dance back
to the bang, sparks of light fickle in space.
Owl hoots his prey under watery moon,
And χάρις fills the hollows every night
I am here, you are there, all anyone
needs to know, pattern clipped out at the bang.
Green by the ruined cloister of St. Anne
Sun dazzled faces, nose, cheeks, we looked on
as string, bobbin, and gravity, we spin
some days you the string, and me the bobbin.
Ring-shaped molecules, round and round we go
old walls, Viking gates, shambles and two tots
circuiting Roman ramparts. We tramp by
roses, as eagles eddy in spring air.
Tight in the puff you stitched, mid-winter night
Chill winds through the open window wake me
solitude catches my gut til I pee,
back to bed and eyes trace the cloud of you
wrinkled blankets topped by a tuft of hair.
Hurry Dave lie still. I’m doing the best
I can, light up Kobo, back into Tom
Jones, seven hundred forty-three pages
reader tells me I’m eighty six percent done.
Don’t mess with mister in-between, reading
Dickens, Fielding, Shakespeare, Ovid, Homer
au courant when the river flows backward,
swallowed in time, twenty years to read dwems
Dead white guys, Thornton W. Burgess
to JoAnne each night, Old Mother West Wind
dancing down the Purple Mountains by dusk
to gather up Merry Little Breezes,
how Jimmy Skunk that egg sucking bastard
got his white stripes, she trolls into Lethe.
Angels stand, speak low, and with a bad ear
I can hear them fending off the night-shades
Infecting, haunting our hearts, minds and souls,
pray nights for peace in Europe’s shadowland.
I hear them shift over floor boards, spot them
Through parted curtains when the moon is bright,
Blue, white, pallid gold. I can hear them when
Old Mother West Wind searches stray Breezes
in the night pines gathered at our skylight.
She brings order to the place, and my hair
my greying cosmos spiked atop my head
fleeced through the years, sunset on a damp night
she paints in colour when needed, brings youth
to age at least on the sides of my head
and tabby cat, paces on the sofa
each paw stigmatizes silken cushions.
Guided by an archangel JoAnne stabs
my chest to grab my heart and she cups
in hand, finely balanced, all arranged by
splish and splash of an expanding cosmos
the older I grow, the less I argue.
Fire cools in my chest, eyes look in through my head
Muscles slacken here in the trees behind my house
My good friend, to be here turn, turn without leaving
My good friend, the moving I have is in the leaves.
ESCAPE FROM GIRL AND BOY LAND
I cannot find my callow times in dreams
all these years, a restive core ticks away,
braininess, rare like sunshine in April,
my gaffes sneak by the troubled chimera,
years stacked up, sniffles and snuffles long gone
but they steal back at night to ensnare me,
and I ponder, oleaginous me,
bloated, cracked by bad luck and computers
the conqueror tool, you have the classics,
all the news, facebook, assbook, and twitter
babes with big tits, mothers I’d like to fuck.
A man of middling talent, quick dying
νοῦς and vertù fade, withered ambition,
I observe the days’ wane and take solace
in my ending. It has been an unease
a blotch, a blain, down spills the endless rain
and given the chance to do it again,
my stomach burns, my eyes water, I strain
to mouth my prayers for an old bear, whose time
has come to find the best place in the woods
to lie down and nestle, alone, unmourned
with new-found comrades, a murder of crows,
angels circling high above the bower
my final home. I was a young man, quick,
in a third-floor room around the corner
from Lewis Street, Ottawa, awakened
by a hooker bouncing on her coil bed.
I smell her smothering perfume and laugh
at the poor bugger who takes a snootful
close up, and hearten when day dawns. I would
end my seclusion, my inheritance
of solitude, move to another room,
larger, on the ground floor of a brownstone
on McLaren Street, off Bank Street, behind
Pandora’s Box, a long way from gofers
on the Hill. Jumping off the Laurier Street
Bridge, looking for death and feeling groovy.
Solitude followed the cub when his dam
left him fend in the woods, bones and sinews.
But the sweetness of women, lips and tits
and butts usually brought me back, or wine,
drinking heavily after sex, as wine
the leveler, remember the gateman,
decline of the race, softening of the man,
mediocrity and flab, twins, beware,
mostly beware of flab, for in his rolls
the cub into a lion grows and grows,
I see it mirrored in the swollen eyes.
An hour of fading time, an hour
in the cellar, surfing madly, alone
every night. I wander into the woods
and hear a vixen shrieking at her kits
maybe I’ll meet a yipping coyote band
roaming alongside railroad beds, hungry.
The ego-driven me is gone, old bear,
Dave in a cave, I can hear the hunters,
chattering men, ridiculous in orange.
Beetling bullies that keep coming on,
Barristers and bankers with Mi’kmaq guides
stalk me, wounded, alone to fight with them.
Unleash their pueling dogs, snap at my heels,
I rip out the throat of one, break the back
Of a second, but they just keep coming.
An old bear angers slowly, lashing out
at smelly dogs and their stinking masters
stopping to tipple from silvery flasks
wielding pointy sticks. i can hope to crash
through them all and lose them in the woods
and charge the light at the mouth of the cave.
A white-haired man with a cane blocks my way
dogs rip at my heels, while I can still stand,
make one last strike, and attack the huntsman,
in one swipe bash his head from his shoulders.
The blood sprays over my nose and the dogs
unlock my heels, whining about the corpse.
Howling some and others lapping the blood,
his comrades shout off the dogs, pulling them
from the corpse. He was I think their headman.
They howl louder than their dogs, stand by him,
maybe they will worship me, the spirit
of the cave, the spirit of the forest,
fire up their Polaris seven hundreds
I am left here alone with a thousand
intonations nattering through the night.
Between instinct and fear, I test my luck,
and 2day d hol wrld S realy 4kd ^
The science of greed, gadgets sold and bought,
politics of widgets, dogma of goods,
puritans in liberal weeds, coast to coast
coagulating, hardening like a scab
that cannot be picked off, it is no place
for old bears, only the cubs bunched around
garbage bins, in national parks to pick scraps,
Colonel Saunders, the brothers MacDonald.
Who the hell would want to waste gas buying
cardiac arrest, stroke, kidney disease,
how could a hamburger and fizzy-water
arrest the world? Science of objects, more
devastating than cannon and missiles.
The bombards hidden to keep peace, ticking,
but we use boxes and screens, palm held dreams
to get the job done, mewling crafty ones
sprung out of the desert, over the ghost
of Traianus, Imperator Caesar
Trajan son of Divine Nerv’Augustus,
newspaper, tv, social media,
google it and see. No more desert sand,
let me bustle back to my forest home.
It’s much too late, we have pawned the farm,
after the War, church, family, honour sold,
in a yard sale, for Facebook and Costco.
And gave up heaven and hell free of charge,
gas apples from Chile and let Valley
macs rot on the ground, off-gas and in-gas,
Yankee pears than Bridgetown bartlett and clap.
Pay lads pogey, grand-dad, father, and son
smoke dope, play Gameboy all the live long day.
In-gas labour from the south to pick fruit
Infuse the plan with scat geld, and pull out
the plumbs, bull doze fields, it’s chuck from the south.
I sleep better through fast and faster days,
when prescriptions translate my waking eyes.
Three hundred fifty-three thousand babies
born each day, as we embrace solitude
unshackled codes, and grinning Facebooked eyes
glimpse the black bear in a raspberry patch,
pressed and squeezed by the ignorance of friends
and relations, their traumas of childhood
Impinge on the purity of the air.
Too much monkey business, we be shoppers
a database, soak in more than we can ever hope
to process, be seen doing good, thin ice,
no land lines to the forest heart, hard by
this crystal fountain where fairies caper,
sparks from the big bang, dance and sing to me.
Sequestered here it seems clear, and nightfall
bittersweet, laughing climber, violet caps
and berries with moon greening to bright red.
Baneberry feed to your enemies, root
and leaf are venomous. A long-sleeved shirt
when you pick the fruit of the dewberry,
raspberry and blackberry, spreading from
the forest mark, with bunchberry, dogwood,
while yarrow pallid and blonde, be father
to the son reaches heaven, flushed, few, good
for the godless, in tea relieves sadness
for chattering classes, leaves for toothache.
Aster umbellatus white, slender, tall
bog Aster nemoralis: “low wiry”
a purple bonnet nods upon its stem.
Flowers with different views, no need to shout
in the streets, to stab, behead, or explode
the ancient desert shrines, the flowers hum
with breezes and smile, they sleep long and full,
meander back from the barking orders
multiply like moss on an unlimed lawn.
An old bear’s nose sharp as ever, I smell
Helios’ fingers in clusters of pine
spruce, scrub oak, birch, and ash, where no robin
sings, nor finch, just the rattle of the rooks
in pine boughs, and crows laughing high above,
bastard fliers chasing my friend the red
tailed hawk, who sails aloft to escape
the pointless rant, long as he has protein
to course his wing tips. I hear his screeches
although I cannot see him anymore,
but I know he can see me, he can see
deep into the soil. I turn to my den
fumbling over tunes with my clarinet,
squawking and squeaking, and puckering up
sliding into sublime notes, tone perfect.
In one faith, no faith, pollution of thought
and we just got back from a whirlwind trip,
Brandenburger Tor, ruins of the Wall
Sliced between families. Sliced between loved ones
Ninety-one miles a constricting snake
hissed the mantra, think like us, or get lost.
We snap a selfie standing by the Wall.
Oh, kiss me through the hole of this vile wall!
I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.
Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straightway?
Tide life, tide death, I come without delay.
Thus have I, Wall, my part dischargèd so.
Exit WALL, spinning out his hasty rotes
I come to balance my wit, and my words
and play again the perfect string of notes.
A SHAMBALA DREAM: A VISIT TO DAD’S
I come from the Liberal Mums Party
bring more migrants into Western Shore
to save them from western imperialism
and I go to a workshop in Chester to cope with Trump.
How to live the next four years without Barrack
and Michelle, I live life without a center happily
god free and my children all share these thoughts
with me, I shrink from the word beliefs
assumes a life science can’t describe.
But as Louis said what a wonderful world.
The best of all worlds, free now to explore myself
free to grow unfettered by god, family, and the rest,
eat organic, vegetarian. Poor old dad, sits
in the corner and stares uselessly into space.
I can’t imagine what goes on in his mind, besides
Mondays my window for him is slight,
it’s dressing a float for the march with pride
at the shambhala center tonight.
Stand back from the boxes and wait awhile,
Wait for the sun to rise, turn off the screen
Stare at the sky donning a shroud of gold
raise your hands to the fleeing moon and stars,
outside the withered limes baptized in life
wait for strife to resound in front of your face
ugly, direct, eye to eye, nose to nose
like turner’s prize without the cloying smirk.
Your fear will shove you back into the chair
weakened by dread of the immigrant air,
you do not belong here, AC cut off
from DC, your mind bouncing off the walls
when they take you to the desert to pray
whilst men in masks paint you red, white, and blue.
THE EASTER RISING
Suas an phoblacht
Our Easter rising starts about half past
nine when my eyes open to a spear of light
piercing the blinds, and I roll over to
scratch my right cheek. JoAnne turns with a moan
to greet the Resurrection with her customary fart
sits up on the edge of the bed. Then the cats,
our ministering angels, seek to break their fast,
tread on my balls, purring as if they know
the pain their paws impose, stigmata
of claws, puncturing the vulnerable parts
of me, so I smack the tabby,
and as his twenty pounds take flight,
I swing my feet across an empty plane of bed
kick off the covers and wait for the wife
to find her feet, and she does. What
do you want to eat and I reply, since
its Easter and we’re rising I’ll have two soft boiled eggs,
with toasted soldiers and bacon. Deracinated old prods,
we rejoice with a heavy breakfast and a walk in the woods.
THE VALENTINE NAME-GAME
Through unclosed doors and open windows you can
Trace the rose blown into the room by the fan
And each day like a box without a lid
Finds only one way to do what God has bid.
Pose no question of the lass that walked and ran
Say nothing in anger nor strive to be rid
Of the open sea and the singing sand
The rays of the sun will not burn up or forbid
the row of days and rolling years that we may
brand our own here by this icebound bay.
Kid gloves and warm coats for the snow covered strand
and go together you and I now, amid
the fixed stays of this ever shifting grid –
the rose’s good looks fade by my JoAnne.
THE GOOD OLD RED, WHITE AND BLUE
How far inside can we retreat,
we teletubbies, proud drivers
of merks and beamers, satisfied
of our gods of false bazaars?
Callous ‘til the holocaust comes
to our street, our locked and fêted
wards. It’s right to pay for the world
our fathers took for granted, sans
le désagrément of Jesus, sans
l’honneur et l’obéissance, good or evil
– our wee biosphere tries to hide its sins from view
to sweep them under a coil-rug, or paint
its profile pictures red, white, and blue
“SAW YOU THE WEIRD SISTERS?”
They haunt my dreams
And my waking hours
The witches now three it seems,
And my gaffes nip
At my feet, like a stray
Dog begging for a scrap of meat.
Like ghosts in the forest flitting from tree
To tree you draw me out of this safe
Warm house, wife, books, and cats
Locked behind me when I venture out
Crossing my chest furiously,
When I go, bloodless into the woods
To meet the sisters, my chest locks in the gloom
Blood calls up love and tears, but there is no love
No tears, but laughter like a November breeze
Weaving through the branches of the night.
It is my blood pounding through my heart
My love like a dirty little street-boy cries in the dark.
It took years of greying hair and rounding belly to know
That blood and bone can never trump the floating souls
The empty wonder of self and sickness, godless gainers
Out in the night beyond this window sill, murderous
And keen, trampling down a rolling field of asphodel.
THE IDEAL GAS LAW
It passes from the heart
through the stomach and into the legs
I can just mosey up this sunny road
through thickets of pine and oak,
forget the heavy branches nodding greeny heads
and don’t imagine they nod at me or you
and I don’t care if they nod at anybody walking by.
You can’t personify a thing if God is just a lie.
No, they are simply branches, referred to in botany
as a ramus, a woody structural member
connected to, but not part of the central trunk of a tree.
In a time of godless materialism there’s no place
for allegory, not even in English 101.
All you get there is ideology, and dogma takes the piss
out of poetry. John Donne has been dropped
and replaced by the psychoses of Sylvia Plath and T.S. Eliot.
And for fuck sakes, you cannot catch a falling star
because stars are basically large balls of hot
hydrogen gas, and the macroscopic properties of a hot
gas are governed by the Ideal Gas Law of chemistry.
By the time I reached my door the exercise is done
and so is the sun. The wife sniffs the fetid air
and slams the door with a bang.
WIND AND RAIN
For Monica Hylton In Memoriam July 24, 2015
She passed into paradise
like a reed shaken by the wind
never more to seek the living among the dead.
Fired no more by the hysterias
compelled her to proclaim. Out of her heart
will flow living rivers of water.
A SONNET FOR ST. VALENTINE
A desperate search for appropriate rhymes
with valentines, hearts, the clichés of love,
not minced like modern verse, but columbines
pure metaphor, unmixed, from above,
like the line of a madrigal, unbinds
our fancies in the stuff dreams are made of
words that agents and editors brand crimes,
like Rome, who struck him from the lists thereof –
Valentine, gentle saint, pinioned hard by
the Milvian Bridge, tortured for acts of love.
As stony centuries are born and die
his grace returned to us rising like a dove.
JoAnne and I join in the amorous throng
With seafood, cider and a Willie Nelson song.
We go more Byzantine every day, gathering up
swarms of races, an army more sophisticated
more enfeebled every day. It started with a thousand
farmers nestled in seven hills, huddled together to survive
growing strength and power of the need to survive,
speaking one language, one blood battling it orders
founding fathers, led by a vagabond prince
from smoldering troy, burning and molten palaces
to mud brick hovels and as centuries roll into millennia
became romana, pox romana, diluted perceptively,
transmogrified into what the Italians called byzantine
and on May 29, 1453 the last vestige of romana was blown to pieces
by Hungarian cannon sold to the turk for gold. No more perfect
example of a notion bent, shaped by stubby swords
and civil service into an empire building bathhouses and roads,
posting philosophy and art along those roads and there’s a time
when ripples die on the flat top of a pond.