the potato peeler strips

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the potato peeler strips

lost 31: the potato peeler strips

out of biscuits out of biscuits this revolution won’t be tweeted with dead wives, say, unless 6 or up to 5 ‘god particles’ are sought. matter gets its mass.com flower power dreams, how slowly t, hings change. (general hellier) PALU, a literation that remembers, accounts for each going against the grain; we seem to have run out of biscuits. access intelligent people who disagree on cordite, on how long it takes for a good mould to form, on farewell intercourse law, how it becomes the massive cloud race in a wintry sky. the potato peeler strips downing and arounding the peel, while a gentle argument about the weather forms an important part of a little crow. laughter ritual, by which a person can signify kindly interest in one’s husband, have sex with another. she gave, finding herself where scraping behaviour is never tolerated. ever. let’s hear what she has to say: the cricket pavilion, as you know, even if parents/participants are relatively sane, hasn’t quite been the answer. a heart, muscle made of sharkbone, muttering.

Reference: But the heart is a muscle made of sharkbone and mutters, from the poem Anatomy by Monica Ferrell

This blog is about writing; it’s valid to veer away from poetry for a while. So the next piece is not poetry but writing that is almost poetic in its play on words. It’s an excerpt from Sesquiotica, a blog that is based on the use of the English Language:

gecko, get-go
Posted on June 6, 2012

Montgomery Starling-Byrd was back in town on yet another global word-tasting expedition. A few of us joined him for dinner and drinks. He happened to be seated next to Elisa Lively, and I canted an ear to their conversation. Which did not disappoint.
“Well, we ran into trouble right from the get-go,” Elisa was saying.
“From the gecko?” Montgomery said.
“No, from the dog. It kept taking the food.”
“From the gecko,” Montgomery said, seeking clarification.
“Yes, right from the get-go. It liked lizard food right away.”
“As long as it didn’t like lizard for food.”
“Oh,” Elisa said, “that’s a whole other tale.”
“Another tail from the gecko?”
“No, that came later.”
“Where was the tail from?”
“From the gecko, but later. Not from the get-go.”
“I’m afraid I’ve lost the thread of the tale here,” Montgomery said.
“Well, the gecko’s tail was threatened. Actually the dog pulled on it and wouldn’t let go, and the gecko dropped it.”
“Autotomy,” Montgomery observed (that’s the word for when a lizard drops its tail).
“It wanted its autonomy, yes. So that was the end of the tail.”
“And there was no more.”
“No,” Elisa said, “it grew another one. Geckos do that.”
“Indeed they do. It’s a kind of insurance.”
I just about choked on my wine stifling a giggle at the thought of the Geico gecko and its accent, which is not quite as plummy as Montgomery’s.
“That happened more than once,” Elisa said. “But the worst was the noise.”
“From the gecko?”
“Yes, from the very start. Especially from the dog.”
“Why?”
“It didn’t like the noise the gecko made.”
“Ah, yes: ‘Gecko!’ That’s how they got their name. It’s from Malay.”
“The poet?”
“What?”
“‘I burn the candle at both ends…’ She named the gecko?”
“The… Oh, no, the Malay language. In Malaysia. Not Edna St. Vincent Millay.”
“Oh. Well,” Elisa giggled, “that gecko burned at both ends. It made a noise the dog hated. And so the dog barked like crazy. And the gecko made more noise.”
“A sort of gecko echo.”
“Yeah! And at the other end there was that tale.”
“The end of the tale.”
“Repeatedly.”
“From the gecko.”
“No, not from the get-go.”
“From the dog?” Montgomery furrowed his brow.
“No, from the gecko.”
“Are you insane, or am I?” Montgomery said, staring abruptly into his wine glass.
I intervened. “Montgomery! Do you mean to say you are unfamiliar with the Americanism – and Canadianism – from the get-go?” I pronounced it slowly and clearly.

(read the rest at http://sesquiotic.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/gecko-get-go/, sesquiotica.wordpress.com. I’ll put a link to the main blog address on the ynklings blogroll.)

From another ‘word’ blog, Logophilius, The Lover of Words, http://logophilius.blogspot.ca/

Ray Bradbury: Literary Artist and Hero
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury died today.

Of course, I only ever knew the man through his works, but he sure taught me a lot about what our language can do.

Ray Bradbury is one of those literary artists whose work straddles the line between prose and poetry. He’s the one who taught me that there is so much more to a great story than just the story, that there’s so much beauty just in the words themselves, the way they string together and sound and feel on our lips, regardless of what they actually mean.

Ray Bradbury, for me, was a wonderful poet who just didn’t worry about adding those incessant line breaks that make poems look like what we think poems should look like.x Consider the beginning of The Martian Chronicles:

One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.

And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer’s ancient green lawns.

Read that passage out loud. Listen to the words. Feel the words on your lips and tongue.

“…housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.” This could be a line straight out of Ginsberg’s “Howl.” And can’t you just feel the pulsations when you say “cottages and bushes and children”?

And consider the images that he forces into your mind! Can you see the closed-up buildings, the housewives, the icicles?…

Finally the poem part of the blog, or rather what to do with your best poem(s): Introducing the inaugural Walrus poetry prize. The juried winner will receive $5,000, and his or her poem will be published in the December issue of The Walrus. The readers’ choice winner — to be determined by public vote — will receive $1,000. Finalists to be chosen by 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize winner Karen Solie and Walrus poetry editor Michael Lista. $25 entry fee includes a one-year, ten-issue subscription to or renewal of The Walrus magazine.
Enter via the web page by July 31,2012. For more information, read Michael Lista’s kickoff post on the Walrus Blog. For full contest rules and regulations, go to the Walrus website. Please address questions and comments to poetryprize@walrusmagazine.com

Until next time, enjoy the new blogs Sesquiotica and Logifilius if you are into words, really into words!

peng peng and lost past rewite

rewrite lost 36

I’ve decided to put the prose novelly pieces from lost past first, leaving the nutsy prose poems for the stalwarts who hang in until the end, those with a nutsy streak (with an eye to possibility) to their own makeup. It’s been slightly edited already. I have begun to make better poems from the earlier lost pieces, but won’t put those on the blog as they’d be considered published. I know only the true soul-matches will go on to read them.

I’ve decided to rewrite this part of lost past, changing one factor. Now Phillip doesn’t die before Florence gives gives birth. I’ll go back and rewrite other parts later, but this is a start.

It was just a little house on Albert street. Perfect, easy for her to get to doctors, the hospital eventually. That’s the way you did it in Canada her friend Mrs. Haazen said. She’d met Mary Haazen years before at a church social; Phillip said she was one of his best customers and she always had water for his horse and tea for him and Frank. She was older than Florence, but the easiest person in the world to get along with. She and her husband lived in a teeny tiny house that Gwen loved. It’s like a witch’s house mum, a good witch’s house, Gwen liked to say.

Now the Haazens would have to take streetcars to get to see the Vincents and vice versa, and that made a good day out. It was the first time Florence had ever looked at the city really. She’d been into it now and then but now she could take note of the parks, the churches, the old buildings and the new ones. Their house was down by the old docks, near Griffintown. It was an interesting place to live because there were still a lot of Irish families there, and the griefs from the old world didn’t seem to exist here, not among the women anyway. She found new friends. She was happy really, except that Phillip was going downhill very fast. Thin and grey, nervous. He slept a lot now. She was seeing that her father might not be around when the baby was born.

He knew now, of course, but pretended to be as excited as if the baby would be his first, ignoring what was happening in his head. There were days when his own pretense of excitement was all that seemed to keep him going. The thrill of what Florence Louisa had finally told him, of two babies, not one, as the doctor had discovered. No wonder Florence was so tired, carrying all that weight in front of her. Yet didn’t she look even more beautiful to him. He tried not to think about what was going on in his head, couldn’t imagine how she would cope once he was gone.

It won’t help, Florence, to moan and groan. I hope I get to hold the wee babies, but if not, that’s the way it is. So try not to fret. You’ve got some money in the bank, and there’s some insurance. Not enough perhaps, but you’re a pretty woman, Flo, love. You’ll be the one marrying the rich widower. They’ll be flockin’ to your door.

He went with her to buy the cribs and all the things needed for two babies. It was slow going, but the excursions made his days, and all was right with his world until the pain was so bad, the painkillers not working and he willed himself to die. She knew this. He’d told her about it, about hypnotizing himself to die quickly. Still he hung on.

Florence was exhausted and wondered if she was strong enough for the birth. she was thirty-six and feeling it. Just in case, she spent time straightening out Phillip’s papers, making her own will, arranging for care for Gwen. They’d started to call Gwen ‘Winnie’ at her own instigation, but choosing a new name was a bit different from being grown up enough to take care of herself. Florence knew that if Mary Haazen took Gwen in, and Mary had already agreed to that, Winnie would get an education. And she’d be loved; Mary had always wished she’d had a daughter as well as a son. Mary said she’d take the twins too, though Florence felt that would be too much. Her Uncle Leonard’s daughter would happily take them if necessary. Gert and Bill didn’t have kids of their own after years of trying. All seemed set. She set about cleaning every cupboard, folded all the clothing neatly in drawers. Washed and waxed every floor. No one would say she’d been a slovenly housekeeper, remember her that way. Such grim thoughts. Florence was one to be prepared though, and if all went well, she would be coming home to a neat house.

A few weeks later she woke Frank at 3 a.m. You’d better take me in she told him. Phillip watched as Frank took over, sank back into his pillows. I hate to stay here while you go through this he said, holding her hand through a contraction. I’ll be fine she said, kissing him with a sudden passion, surprising both of them considering the occasion. He, of course, couldn’t read her mind, know she thought she might never see him again. Never kiss him again at all. Worried that he might not even be there when she got home, if she came home. Anything could happen to him or to her. In the taxi she wondered about love, how passion could remain so strong through long illness, through watching a love disappear slowly before her eyes. He was so thin and grey. Who ever thought the chances were that she might go before Phillip.

Frank knew what to do, which was to take his mother to the University Lying-In Hospital on St. Urbain Street. Stayed, paced the halls like a couple of other people were doing. He was as frazzled as a new father, almost old enough to be one he figured. In any case, he was very much the man now, man of the family, a man who had to take care of two new babies, two boys as it turned out. Brothers. Two, after all the years he wished he could have more brothers. At fifteen, it was a lot to think about. Gwen, Winnie, he reminded himself, would help, but she was only twelve and upset about her father, how he did little more than stay in bed or on the sofa, how he barely could lift the newspaper, or be interested in what was happening in the world. He only came alive when talking about her day, or Franks’s latest exploits, or the babies to come. Frank couldn’t be her father after all, didn’t know how to respond to his sister’s bouts of crying.

And Florence had survived. now three months later, the little house was noisy with babies crying. Phillip loved having them near him, and the warmth of his body in bed or on the sofa seemed to calm them. He felt like he was being of some help. But Florence was worn out; so many diapers (and her babies would not sit in wet ones if she could help it…) nursing, sore breasts, the Victorian nurses’ visits, still getting meals on the table.

 

Winnie was getting fractious. No sooner had they moved to this new house and made new friends, than all her time was taken up with crying babies and their real or imagined stink.  Florence felt for her, and let her go.

Frank was thinking about work now, because that’s what a man did. He went to work. Part-time to start, until something came up. He didn’t go to school much, but Florence made sure he was always registered, hoping that maybe he’d get a good teacher, or get interested in something, anything that would get him to graduation. Mrs. Haazen was a big help. Her own son Charlie was out driving a taxi now, and the little witch house didn’t need much cleaning these days.

It doesn’t matter Mary said to Florence. If I clean it it just gets dirty again all by itself. I’ll wait til it’s really filthy and do it up then. Makes sense, right? And she’d come and wash Florence’s floors, help feed the twins, sit with Phillip orbabysit for an afternoon so Florence could have an afternoon sleep. Florence would have collapsed without her, emotionally as well as physically.

She felt she had started to grieve even though Phillip was till with her, lapsed into melancholy, when nothing seemed good or positive about life. How could she cope when he was gone. She couldn’t imagine it, and she would remember how he looked when they met, her sailor in his shiny shoes and cocked cap, his grin, how he had seemed from the start almost more interested in being with her, being close, rather than rushing her into bed. What rotten luck to have this monster growing inside his head taking him away from the life he’d love on the sea, and later from his loved farm.

When the twins were old enough to sit up, she’d put them in the stroller Phillip had bought for them, one with a wide seat, room for the two babies. If they fell asleep, she’d sit down wherever she was, sometimes on a storefront steps or in a park or on the steps of a house for rent. Wonder why she couldn’t cry. Until eventually she did, and it came in torrents. She got thinner than ever, not minding much what she looked like.

Winnie’s bursting out this morning hadn’t helped. I hate the twins! I hate them, and I hate hanging diapers on the line, I hate washing bottles with a bottle brush. I hate scalding them. Shhussh, Florence whispered, going over quickly, cupping her hand over Winnie’s mouth. Your father will hear you. And that would start tears, both of them, clinging to each other until Winnie pulled away.

What could Florence say then. It was her fault after all. She should have turned Phillip away those nights, but how could she have. How could she not comfort him, let him do the one thing he was able to do. How could she not let him be a man as long as possible. Well that was her thinking at the time, her decision, and now here were the results. Two of them, each with a powerful set of lungs. Squallers both, as if they were in a competition. She was so tired. The y decided to name them Leonard and Albert after her own twin brothers. She hadn’t the energy to think of anything else. Leonard Frankland and Albert Phillip. That took care of the name problem nicely. Mary Haazen and her husband stood for them at the christening, through which they howled the whole time. The minister could hardly be heard.

Slight edit, peng peng

cloned with roundworm fat gene, the mining of asteroids in as little as two years, our stony next place in the universe to live never the opposite way round as the system tends to lock and jam. an average human sees a million; using four cones. peng peng, i’ve said this before: the thing about life is one day you’ll be dead. it is never the opposite way round as the system tends to lock and jam, utterly unremarkable in every way, a stationary mic. as soon as a wild thing is listed, seems it starts to disappear. when all the animals and birds are listed, well, in a shoe factory all stories need to look like something, have their own tongues, peng. the click and fricative gone after moving through a dipthong. a worm wheel, yes. if i’d agreed with you, would we both be wrong/ glands of intense physiological activity a drain on energy, and never the opposite way round.

lost 36 so peng peng, lamb

lost 36  so peng peng, lamb

cloned with roundworm fat gene. the mining of asteroids in as little as two years, asteroids our next place to live. it is never the opposite way round as the system tends to lock and jam. an average human sees a million; some with four cones, might see more. peng peng’s, and i’ve said this before: the thing about life is one day you’ll be dead. it is never the opposite way round as the system tends to lock and jam, utterly unremarkable in every way, a stationary mic. as soon as a wild thing is listed, seems it starts to disappear. when all the animals and birds are listed, well, in a shoe factory all stories need to look like something, have their own tongues, peng. the click and fricative gone after moving through a dipthong. a worm wheel, yes. if i’d agreed with you, would we both be wrong/ glands of intense physiological activity a drain on energy.

Next excerpt from lost past (working title)

Gwen was a slim lanky girl, outgoing, who had easily found friends in the neighbourhood where her school was. A couple of them, Dorothy and Gladys lived close to the school. They’d come to the farm a few times and Gwen seemed happier. Eleven years old already, and a beauty.

The farm has to go, Phillip said. I’ve had an offer. The buyer wants to tear the house down and put in a set of houses. There’s not much left anyway, and you are tired Florence. I can’t manage the stairs much longer…

The bracing Canadian climate hadn’t been a magical cure. The tumour kept growing. Phillip was philosophical about it. He worried about her, about the children. The only thing he was able to do lately was turn to Florence at night.

Strange he said to her, how I can still be loving to you but not do much else.

That’s because your real brain is lower down, Phillip Frankland, and the tumour is only affecting what’s inside your great hulking skull.

Now she was pregnant. She hadn’t told Phillip yet, certainly hadn’t said anything to Frank or Gwen. It was time to go to the city, move close to downtown so Frank would be able to get a job in a few years. Nothing out here for Frank. Maybe he’d be more enthusiastic about school if he didn’t have to go so far to get to one, suggested Phillip the optimist.

I’ll join the Navy Father. Don’t need high school for that!

All Gwen could think about was being closer to downtown, to excitement, to movies! Can I buy a lipstick mum? A flapper dress?

It was just a little house on Albert street. Perfect, easy for her to get to doctors, the hospital eventually. That’s the way you did it in Canada, her friend Mrs. Haazen said. She’d met Mary Haazen years before at a church social; Phillip said she was one of his best customers and she always had water for his horse and tea for him and Frank. She was older than Florence, but the easiest person in the world to get along with. She and her husband lived in a teeny tiny house that Gwen loved. It’s like a witch’s house mum, a good witch’s house.

Now they’d have to take streetcars to get to see each other, and that made a good day out. It was the first time Florence had ever looked at the city really. She’d been into it now and then but now she could take note of the parks, the churches, the old buildings and the new ones.  Downtown was growing by the minute..

 

Their house was down by the old docks, near Griffintown. It was an interesting place to live because there were still a lot of Irish families there, and the griefs from the old world didn’t seem to exist here, not among the women anyway. She found new friends. She was happy really, except that Phillip was going downhill very fast. He was thin and grey, nervous, and slept a lot now. Their father might not be around when the twins were born.

He knew now, of course, pretended to be as excited as if these babies were his first, ignoring what was happening in his head. It made Gwen a bit jealous, until Florence talked to her. Don’t be jealous Gwen. Spend time with him, make him laugh. You know he won’t be here much longer. To her credit, Gwen rallied. Her father liked to hear her read anything, even from one of her, what he called soppy, movie magazines. There were days when his own enjoyment in her, and his pretense of excitement about the new babies, was all that seemed to keep him going.

It won’t help, Florence, to moan and groan. I hope I get to hold the wee babies, but if not, that’s the way it is. So try not to fret. You’ve got some money in the bank, and you’re a pretty woman, Flo. You’ll be the one marrying the rich widower. They’ll be flockin’ to your door.

He went with her to buy a crib and all the things needed for two babies, and all was right with his world according to him, until the pain was so bad, the painkillers not working and he willed himself to die. She knew this. He’d told her about it, about hypnotizing himself to die quickly. And it seemed that way. In six weeks he was gone, dressed in his new suit, small in his brown casket.

Florence was exhausted and wondered if she was strong enough for the birth. Just in case, she spent time straightening out Phillip’s papers, making her own will, arranging for care for Gwen. They’d started to call her Winnie at her own instigation, but choosing a new name was a bit different from being grown up enough to take care of herself. Florence knew that if Mary Haazen took her in, and Mary had already agreed to that, Winnie’d get an education. And she’d be loved; Mary had always wished she’d had a daughter as well as a son. Mary said she’d take the twins too, though Florence thought that would be too much. Her cousin Gert, Uncle Leonard’s daughter, would happily take them if necessary. Gert and Bill didn’t have kids of their own after years of trying. All seemed set. She even cleaned every cupboard, folded all the clothing neatly in drawers. Washed and waxed every floor. No one would say she’d been a slovenly housekeeper, remember her that way. Such grim thoughts. Florence was one to be prepared though, and if all went well, she would be coming home to a neat house.

You’d better take me in she told Frank a few weeks later.

He knew what to do, where to take his mother. He got a taxi, stayed with her at the University Lying-In Hospital on St. Urbain Street. He was as frazzled as a new father, almost old enough to be one he figured. In any case, he was very much the man now, man of the family, the man who had to take care of these two new baby brothers. He couldn’t keep away from the viewing window, marveling at the ways of the world and of women. At fifteen, it was a lot to think about. Gwen, Winnie, he reminded himself, would help, but she was only twelve and missing her father badly. He couldn’t be her father, didn’t know how to respond to his sister’s bouts of crying.

So Florence had survived, and now three months later, the little house was noisy with babies crying. She was worn out, and on top of everything, Winnie was getting fractious. No sooner had she moved to this new house and made new friends, than all her time was taken up with crying babies and their stink.

Florence felt for her, and let her go. Frank thought about work now, because that’s what a man did. He went to work. Part-time to start, until something came up. He didn’t go to school much, but Florence kept registering him, hoping that maybe he’d get a good teacher, or get interested in something, anything that would get him to graduation. Mrs. Haazen was a big help. Her own son Charlie was out driving a taxi now, and the little house didn’t need much cleaning these days.

It doesn’t matter Mary said to Florence. If I clean my house, it just gets dirty again all by itself. I’ll wait til it’s really filthy and do it up then. Makes sense, right? And she’d come and wash Florence’s floors, help feed the twins, babysit for an afternoon so Florence could have an afternoon sleep. Florence would have collapsed without her, emotionally as well as physically.

She needed time to grieve and didn’t have it. When the twins were old enough to sit up, she’d put them in the stroller Phillip had bought for them, one with a wide seat, and room for the two babies. If they fell asleep, she’d sit down wherever she was, sometimes on a storefront steps or in a park or on the steps of a house for rent. Wonder why she couldn’t cry. Until eventually she did, and it came in torrents. She got thinner than ever, not minding much what she looked like.

Winnie’s bursting out this morning hadn’t helped. I hate the twins! I hate them, and I hate hanging diapers on the line, I hate washing bottles with a bottle brush. I hate scalding them.

What could Florence say then. It was her fault after all. She should have turned Phillip away, but how could she have. How could she not comfort him, let him do the one thing he was able to do. How could she not let him be a man as long as possible. Well that was her thinking at the time, her decision, and now here were the results. Two of them, each with a powerful set of lungs. Squallers both, as if they were in a competition. She was so tired. She decided to name them Leonard and Albert after her own twin brothers. She hadn’t the energy to think of anything else. Leonard Frankland and Albert Phillip. That took care of the name problem nicely. Mary Haazen and her husband stood for them at the christening, through which they howled the whole time. The minister could hardly be heard.

Look for the next section in the next ynklings…

lost 35 manufactures edges

manufactured edges

often you’ve rearranged them as on the surface of your fridge, the 100 trillion microbes that call us home. patterns of color and light and human artifacts, manufactured edges, transparent backgrounds, the blues overblue, a pear blossom evolving into delicate oriental graphics, and the viewer trying to work out how this magic has come about. the organic process envelops the maker in its path, and the receiver; give me a storm, if it be of a replica made from silicone polymer and rat heart cells swimming in a container of ocean-like salt water, let my eyes swimme in the pleasure of your bit of ultra-thin silicone polymer, appendages, a design honed by more than 500 million years of evolution… don’t feel good; even if you were a mantis shrimp, your rainbow unimaginably rich, as berrigan declares, this is the only way to bring faith to the public and the public to the faith. where there’s a will, I want to be in it.

I promised to talk about Mathew Tierney. He lives in Toronto, has a background in Math and Physics as well as Literature, and has just had his third book of poetry published. (the first by Wolsak and Wynn the last two by Cormorant Press.)

In Hayflick Limit I was especially taken by language and unexpected images:
the sun a sprung/ spocket. sky atilt/
Wondering why there is a jellyfish on the cover, I came across Tierney’s whimsical line:
He’s sure of this/ he’s swallowed a jellyfish
There is music in his words: in writing of wasps in a diner, he describes one as:
Lefty with the lame wing/ rowing circles on the sill
His careful observing of his world is almost haiku-like.
I enjoyed, for their humour and intelligence, poems about unusual phobias such as
koinoniphobia, the fear of rooms, geliophobia, the fear of laughter, lutraphobia, the fear of otters.

The new poems in Probably Inevitable are thick with reference and images – a lot happens, one interesting thing on the heels of another.

In a poem called ‘Addressing Human Resources’, about love, and luck and death, Tierney uses Billy Bishop’s story as a loose skeleton in which you get to ponder… how humiliating it must have been for all those 72 pilots Bishop shot down…
imagine: being shot down by a Canadian…

…Billy’s MO
was to prowl the sky on rogue missions, end-run
then swoop on a dopey, green German.
Fill the theatre with bulletss, sun at his back,
his victim the sole witness to the silhouette
loping like a wolf across bedsheet white
towards the call, Opa with a look in his eyes.

In ‘Fairyland’, tale of a school trip to the Grand Canyon,
upon opening a Tupperware container, he describes
my tomato’n’mayo sandwich says whoa
with Wonder Bread lips

Whichever book you’ve read or will read, you’ll find phrases that make you stop:

the bare bulb hangs like every wrong idea I ever had
east-west goes the sun, like a comb-over/fooling no one
how many honks make a metaphor
late summer memories bend like humidity on a window-mounted air conditioner
parse a finite interval infinitely and you’re Bill Murray in Groundhog Day
her quavering voice the hinge in the afternoon, a jewelry box lined with black velvet
synaptic traffic’s like having too many remotes

These are not Billy Collins poems, always, and immediately, accessible; but poems by a poet who can liken a man’s smile, to a scratched lotto card. They are poems you can spend hours with, being continually surprised, satisfied that you’ve been exposed to interesting juxtapositions, sequiturs and non-sequiturs, lit with intelligence and, often, humour.

A selection from ‘Fairyland’:

the R. Colorado twinkles like faith
the mile-deep strata an argument for floss
in variegated gummy pinks. Nana’s dentures
flapped when she talked; Dad sighed and dropped
nine G’s on a new porcelain set. She, ninety-something,
greeted her chocolate ensure each lunch
with a scabbard grin.

From ‘Speed Dating in the Milky Way’:

All we share are endorphins
and a longing to twin circadian rhythms
with that special someone on a plush California king
about to go superliminal.

Here’s part 2 of my new writing adventure:

1912 – 1918

The little farm with its one crop, melons, melons, melons. You should grow melons, Florence’s twin brothers counselled. This part of the island is known for growing them. You’ll sell them all.

And they did, with Florence doing most of the work, and Frank learning to use the horse and plough, and Gwen taking care of the chickens. She hated the chickens. They were doing well with the chickens, the fresh eggs. Phillip would go up and down the dusty roads nearby. The houses were few, far between, but their owners worked in Montreal centre or on Jean Talon. Near the train station was a good place to rest, and people coming in from downtown would pick up the last of his eggs, melons too in season.

These were good times for Frank, the times with his father. They’d sit on the wagon, Frank kicking his feet.  The station was mecca for Frank and his father would set him free there for a while, When Frank got back to the wagon, his father was usually asleep there, head on some folded gunny sacks.

In one of his gloomier moods, his father said Heads are funny things. We use them all our lives and then they kill you. why would they do that, do you figure? 

Frank had no answer to that.  His father didn’t like sympathy. No chance to ask How are you feeling father? The children always called him father, though they called their mother Mum. It was important Frank thought, to always call him Father. To be respectful. Show that he was important to them.  Even his mum called him Father often. His father, meanwhile seemed to be shrinking, not talking as much. He used to say to Florence how he hated not being able to do the heavy work.  He’d stopped saying that, but when a hired hand was fixing a roof, digging a septic pond, taking care of the two old horses, he disappeared into his bedroom, the one he shared with mum.

Florence watched him, tried to look into the future. Frank had to go to high school, needed clothes. Gwen too was growing out of everything. They all needed shoes.  She took out the ironing. One thing she could do for Phillip was to keep him in freshly ironed shirts. Crazy for a farmer, but it helped sell eggs and melons he said. made up for Franks ragamuffin appearance.

We have to sell some acres, she said one day, expecting him to object, but all he said was What should we sell, what part?  The farm was a big one, and more than they could use, even for hay.

The southern acreage, Florence said. It’s near Jean Talon where the stores are. Maybe someone would want to build close to the streetcar stops. 

Bit by bit, the farm got smaller.  Every once in a while, the pressure was off.  Phillip even bought a suit.  For my funeral, he said, and Florence could only tease him. For your next wedding, she said. This farm is hard on a woman. I’ll soon be in an early grave, and you’ll be marrying some rich widow…

lost 34 tactics

tactics


a soft slide, a catch with a kick, then more sliding, the dirt hissing down, or your boot, or all of your skin ruffling, and then it may be you who turns out to be a swath of scarth, swaddled at the bottom in scree, or forcing a wasp to the top of a window, dropping a teabag into a cup over and over, forgetting to boil the water. 1year of unlimited laser hair removal sessions. like john cage, not frightened of new ideas, only old ones. microbes that rely on the hydrogen and carbon dioxide in their superheated deep-sea vents for growth, excreting waste products like methane. how bald can you be. what can you afford to be without. fingers, hands, glial-synapsial connections, seeing the indian pipes, ghost flowers, at night. down by the river.

After a summer break, it’s back to ynklings, with a new twist. I’m going to add some prose pieces I’ve been doing. They should string together into something longer – we’ll see. The first section is of my grandparents landing in Portland, maine, from Southhampton, england, in 1912.

May, 1912

Passengers thronged, pushed up against Florence Louisa, gripping the passports and Gwennie’s hand. Where was Phillip. She couldn’t see him anywhere.

She was glad of her good wool suit, of the skirt warming her ankles on this November 30th. The sun though, was strong. Her wide-brimmed hat shaded her face. The slim cut suited her height, her tall willowiness. One good thing about growing up hungry, you stayed slim.

After the Titanic sinking in April, fares to fill up the ships in November had gone down considerably. It had helped them make the decision to come to her brothers in Montreal now, while Phillip was still able to be part of a new life. Perhaps the doctors were wrong. Perhaps he didn’t have a tumour. Perhaps the clean air of Canada would be good for him, and he’d get back to being her big strong sailor-husband. How handsome he was in his uniform. How happy she’d been that day in Devonport when they’d married.

It had been a long cold voyage. At least they’d been able to get a room for the family, thanks to her rich brother. It was small; they kept tripping over each other and it was hard to keep as clean as they were on the farm. Washing shirts and blouses and underclothing in that little sink, hanging it in the stuffy room. Paying to have a bath! The smells of steerage driving them out on the decks as long as the weather wasn’t too bad. Too many people too crowded together. What a relief that their ship had arrived safely. Never again would she cross an ocean if she could help it.  The Ausonia was only three years old, but it was really only a cargo ship, loaded up with immigrants, and third class wasn’t the easiest way to travel. Those knock-down berths…

Dry land again, thank the lord. The only one who’d enjoyed the ship, apart from her retired sailor husband, was Frank, and she’d just let him go. Eight years old and too quick for his own good. He hadn’t fallen overboard, whether that was due to him spending time with his father, to her warnings, or to the sailors watching carefully over small boys who darted everywhere, in awe of the behemoth they were travelling on. He wanted to be a sailor too; at least that’s what he dreams of this week. Does Canada have a navy? he’d asked, and yes, Phillip had said, he was pretty sure there was a navy.

She took Gwen’s hand, gave strict orders for Frank to stay near. Gwen still looked wan, though sturdy for a six-year-old. Her seasickness had continued right down to the last day. It was a bit of a worry; if the immigration authorities thought that she wasn’t healthy, they’d send her back…That turned out fine; they’d seen many children who’d been sick all the way over and the child didn’t have a fever or other worrisome symptoms.

She put down the suitcase that she’d been lugging since they’d left the Ausonia, got Frank to put the other one next to it. He’d been a trooper; that suitcase was really too big for a little boy to carry; almost made her forgive him for asking the men on board for cigarettes, the cheek of him. Phillip carried two more cases. There he was, talking to Peggy Knowles whom they’d met on board. Peg had made the trip from Southhampton, England, where her son lived back to her home here in Portland, Maine every year or so. They could find out from her how to get from the dock to a hotel. The Vincents would take a train tomorrow to Montreal. It wasn’t far. It would be good to see her twin brothers again. Would she be able still to tell them apart, she wondered. There wasn’t much luggage; the big trunks would be sent later.

The train trip would give them an idea of what America was like, get a feel for it, for the people who lived here. They’d have to keep an eye on Frank. He’d be looking for a smoke. It was his newest passion; how did he ever get started on that? Not in Forder Farm cottage in Devon, that’s for sure. Probably on the back streets of Portsmouth when he stayed with her brother, or knocking about his shipyards there unsupervised.

But here they are in America, on the way to Canada. Meeting Peg was a good start. Maybe they’d keep in touch, write letters once in a while.

Gwen had gotten some colour back. Florence was invigorated, excited by the thought of a fresh start in a new country. Meanwhile, Phillip looked tired. He was smiling though, looking around at everything, ready to do the next thing.

She took a long last look at the Ausonia; small ship that she was, she’d carried them safely.

A sudden fondness for the vessel came over her; they had enjoyed the dining halls, the piano in the evenings. Frank investigated everything – how the tables were attached to the floor, the big clock that was set daily, the chart that showed their location at sea. Milk every day for the children, though Frank wouldn’t drink it. She’d bought a postcard of the ship, had it tucked away to bring out one day, remind the children.

Until next time then, when I’ll include some of Mathew Tierney’s poetry.  He read at The Tree Reading Series on Tuesday night, the 28th.  His poems are treasures.

percent age scribbly gum

lost 33 percent age scribbly gum

we cut nature up. humour me, predict when caravans will fly; it’s a test, eggs laid between layers of old and new bark, the tracks of her gravid roaming revealed. words in wrong and senseless combinations, pacific plastic patch as big as texas; still the frantic crawl collide and crash headlong into the walls of the tract, head-butt into each other, push on past, stop, swerve a little, hit each other from behind. words beginning with /b/ in every language involve explosions, birth and loud noises, zigzag tracks. prey plankton, fish eggs, sea skaters, larvae of the scribbly gum moth. light flimsy flakes. tunnels whirl, accelerate and decelerate. scribbly gum moth, slang-worded as soon as she hits bark, the. gnomonicity by a percentage of pavement; self-similarity in upside-down scale. as in fractals the bark falls away– no practical obstacle now to the creation of an efficient index to all human knowledge, ideas and achievements―to the creation of a complete planetary memory.

if ‘nem’ were a size, what size would it be

small; small; little; little; little; little; little;
small; little; little; small; little; little; little; little;
little, of course; little; little; little; little; little; little; little; small;
small; little; little; medium small; small; small; little; little; little;
little; little (size of a mouse); little; little; little; little;
little, n implies negation; small; small; small but not tiny;
med-small; little; little; little; little; little; little, little, little; little;
little; little; little; little; small; small; little;
little; little; little; little; little; little
or maybe medium; medium small; med-small
or maybe
big; big; big; big; big,
neither, na, both

Found poem based on the work of Margaret Magnus, http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage/

(Photo:foramin, very very very small, maybe nem-sized.)

If you are interested:

Poetry Parnassus interactive map: a verse from each olympic nation…
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/interactive/2012/jun/26/poetry-parnassus-interactive-map?fb=native

Two poems, a longer one and one nem-sized:

Many of us know Rick Black as a haiku poet and publisher but here is a lyric poem from Before There Is Nowhere to Stand, an anthology of poems arising out of Israel / Palestine. Rick is a book artist and poet, and the founding editor of Turtle Light Press. He lived in Israel for six years, studying literature at Hebrew University and then working as a journalist in the Jerusalem bureau of the New York Times..

BOUGAINVILLEA

Candles are not yet
aglow like sapphires,
the braided challah is still uncut,
quiet beckons

and the last #18 bus
is packed.
People are returning from Mahane Yehuda,
the outdoor market of Jerusalem —
inhale the scents of cinnamon, cardamom and curry,
piled high in mounds,
the barrels of pickles, sour and half sour,
the pickled herring, creamed herring, matjes herring
and piles of fresh dates, smooth and sweet,
and chocolate ruggelach and babke, oval sesame rolls
challahs with raisins, and hot pita

and crowds shoving, bustling, hustling, bargaining, shouting, mobbing,
elbowing each other, shuffling along beneath the bare electric bulbs
hanging,
suspended like the lights of the George Washington Bridge
above the ducans,
“Melafifon — 40 shekels.”
“Tut, tutim — fresh strawberries. Pilpale — peppers.”

Dressed in streimels, flowing robes, silk skirts, pushing
baby carriages, shlepping plastic shopping bags,
speaking a mélange of tongues — Hebrew, Arabic, French, English and German —
shoppers ebb and flow like waves rushing and receding
from shore,
from one merchant to another. They gather like flocks
of seagulls, then disperse past the green-leaved clumps
of garlic, bulbous clumps, dry, hard like the noses of passersby,
bright, shiny eggplants, globular. Go ahead,
imbibe the scent of fresh cut oranges, tongue the bits of halvah,
gently press the avocado skins and squeeze the tomatoes
at dusk on Shabbat,
and taste the loaves of challah woven into the prayer shawl
of our people’s history.

Emitting plumes of black diesel smoke
the bus leaves the market, stops at the Central Bus Station
and chugs up Mt. Herzl into the ethereal, blood-soaked air
of Jerusalem
and there —
in the fading, tarnished light descending
on the city and the Jerusalem pines —
just past Yad Vashem —
there,
the bus, its red and white sides gleaming,
clinging to the hill stubbornly
and climbing it like bougainvillea,
there
the bus explodes:
skewering flesh, shattering glass, shrieking in the quiescent streets,
and sobbing,
there
overturned like a beetle
helpless, writhing, unsilent

there
like a crushed violin
its mangled strings
twisted
notes
shrieking in the sky
and the ambulances wail
“Holy, holy, holy!”

and the pines
in the golden, Sabbath sunlight,
(for candles will soon be lit),

glow ineffably, more beautiful
than ever,

and God remains
in his own way, silent.

We are near Ein Kerem,
Ein keloheinu, ein, ein, ein…
There is no
God
like our God.

There is no
king
like our king.
There is no
redeemer
like our redeemer.”

And the angels cry
and the ambulances wail
and survivors lie on the pavement, wounded,
having fallen back down
in the Vitebsk street,

a violin’s strings
broken. But, if you listen
carefully,
perhaps you’ll hear wind
in the pines,
perhaps you’ll see
starlight glisten
off shattered glass,
and off bougainvillea petals
that are still climbing,
reaching up

in prayer.

From: http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2012/06/two-poems-from-before-there-is-nowhere-to-stand.html#more

New Rooms

By Kay Ryan

The mind must
set itself up
wherever it goes
and it would be
most convenient
to impose its
old rooms—just
tack them up
like an interior
tent. Oh but
the new holes
aren’t where
the windows
went.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2012).

Please leave comments! About anything!

[b, d, g, p, t, k]

lost 32 [b, d, g, p, t, k]

in fact, all words sound like what they mean and if she resembles a possum, that rememberable thing that w. wordsworth mentions in the preludes, and is sniffting around my real estate agent’s kitchen, she may be a possum. one leaf will move in. hasten then sir/madam to e-bay for the ten-tonne metal bridge thieves took yesterday, (will melt down), plastic bags fluttering as if filled with wind, impatient futurists, and/or billions of wicked thoughts. on water, in air, a different direction from another, pronounce the stopped consonant, block the flow of air through your mouth. is this my grandfather? i have made this passage longer; i don’t have time to make it shorter. thank you pascal, but if leaves fall from a tree, or an open metal flute is made to sound an octave above its length, think midpoint. they, understood, kneel backwards on the bus, inspect a larger p bound in sturdy maroon as was meant to be. again i recall your mind suspended in a scene from a christmas globe, the snow ever slow-falling inside p,t,k (its tiny world).

Photo credit mine, with Carol A. Stephen’s new camera!

cass

a type of building material piece of furniture like a lamp table a point a locus a site tree sap to remove tree sap for making syrup type of telescope a little hill just part of what we do casual in spanish clay material a mid-sized grass-covered valley between two knolls to be cool as in she’s got cass a gear found in swedish clocks a grandfather you’ve never known an attempt to seduce the proper name for a female to fish sediment in beer root beer ginger beer a warm earthy woman of middle years and ample proportions to take a picture furnished with excellency wealth prestige a sepia photograph is this my grandfather?

Thanks to http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage/ Margo’s Magical letter Page, by Margot Magnus

Enough then of these confounding pieces, and on to a poem for the season that I’ve always liked: (I also like to rename this poem and read it as as It Is A Small Planet)

It Is a Small Plant
by William Carlos Williams

It is a small plant
delicately branched and
tapering conically
to a point, each branch
and the peak a wire for
green pods, blind lanterns
starting upward from
the stalk each way to
a pair of prickly edged blue
flowerets: it is her regard,
a little plant without leaves,
a finished thing guarding
its secret. Blue eyes—
but there are twenty looks
in one, alike as forty flowers
on twenty stems—Blue eyes
a little closed upon a wish
achieved and half lost again,
stemming back, garlanded
with green sacks of
satisfaction gone to seed,
back to a straight stem—if
one looks into you, trumpets—!
No. It is the pale hollow of
desire itself counting
over and over the moneys of
a stale achievement. Three
small lavender imploring tips
below and above them two
slender colored arrows
of disdain with anthers
between them and
at the edge of the goblet
a white lip, to drink from—!
And summer lifts her look
forty times over, forty times
over—namelessly.

Here is a poem by Jonathan Wells from his collection Train Dance. The statue called Echo lived in New York’s Central Park until recently.

Echo

White as x ray bone she rises through
The trees in stone as if she were sublime,
As if she knew what this grace was
And she was only nine, framed
Between her errands and her games.
Her nymph’s body surges underground
Not knowing what this buried love
Is for.
Beneath her neighbors play Frisbee
On the grass and strangers take her
Photograph. The final sun pours
Into her sealed eyes and mouth as though
She were the saint of radiant stillness
Who says this marble flesh is a prison
Stone yet the mind flies with
The confetti of birds, soars into
The beliefs of summer.
Silence succumbs to air and the blossoms
Sail down, the clocktower’s fretted hands
Notched against her ribs.
Questions flood her blood
And darkness, flee and then she’s gone,
Taken from our vanquished arms but
She still speaks in the autumn leaves,
In the furrowed bark, in the singsong
Of the childrens’ swings.

Jonathan Wells’s collection, Train Dance, will be published by Four Way Books in October. Photo and poem from:
http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/category/poetry-2/

no gills wears leggings

lost 30 no gills wears leggings

a keats no gills wears leggings, and exercise. exercise excessive. hey man, i just asked for a light, not your life story. you didn’t have to tolstoy me. only because his surname has sex in it. joyce notes the irish have a rich vocabulary because/ don’t read much/ epistemes particularly then; from where do they get their souls; sediment cores intelligent reclusive geek. from the seafloor plankton populations significantly erroneous, first specimens, garages. homes too serious to be taken seriously, grouchy packs a good kick. excessive control, eats pizza, only stick volumes – those leggings are so gilgamesh. legit, you’re looped – part of the loop out of the/part of the loop, long, slender hairless tails, elongated fingers, knobby knuckles they had clocked. particles through some move, flagellation that loops – a spectacular show for us, mary, pink grumpy. take the phrase “(blank) or (blank),” replace the blanks with the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money. all the virtues i dislike none of the vices i admire says winston; it’s due tomorrow. i totally have to hemingway that term paper tonight.

It’s been too long since my last post. Computer problems that may/may not be fixed, but I offer this questionnaire that will have poets thinking about what they like in poetry, what they know, whether it’s important to know anything about other poets, and what they know/say about poets says about them. These questions would be just the thing to start off your next critique group… from:

The Best American Poetry http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2012/05/questionnaire-by-anthony-madrid.html

May 16, 2012
QUESTIONNAIRE [by Anthony Madrid]
1. Name some poets everybody in your milieu likes, except for you.
2. The opposite. Poets you like, but none of your friends do. Poets you are always having to defend.
COMMENTARY ON 1 AND 2. These two questions are supposed to get at opinions and tastes for which the person receives no applause. Things like that occupy a special category, for sure, but it’s not like the contents of that category reveal the person’s Authentic Taste.
Authentic Taste is whatever you like or dislike irrespective of all applause, including your own. A fundamentally unknowable category. And here it is further obscured by the fact that a certain kind of citizen gets off on holding perverse opinions. This is how they “know they’re in the right.”
3. Never mind other people for a second. Off by yourself, name some poets whom you really should like—’cuz they’re just exactly your kind of thing—but you just don’t.
4. The opposite. Poets with whom you have virtually nothing in common, but whom you truly love.
COMMENTARY ON 3 AND 4. Baby poets never have answers for these questions. They are all invested in defining their tastes in a way that coheres, makes a statement, is portable, can be summarized. Consequently, whenever they see something is written in a style that they supposedly approve, they treat the thing like family. That poem or poet always has a place to stay. At the same time, baby poets exclude all kinds of stuff on principle, and so even when they like it, they don’t like it. They explain away their liking in the same way I used to explain away my liking the Monkees. I don’t really like them; I just like listening to them and singing along.
4 (b). Poets you’re embarrassed to like, exactly because your liking them reveals what a shallow, tasteless, sentimental, unintelligent person you really are.
4 (c). Poets who proved to you that {your stupidasshole ideas about what makes for good writing} were wrong.
COMMENTARY. Again, I’m just trying to get past the baby poet in all of us. I have asked people question 4 (b) and had ’em come back with a rigmarole of great names. “Shelley, Keats…” It’s quite frustrating. You wanna say: “Look, answer the question in such a way that you’re not implicitly bragging.” But with a lot of these customers that’s like saying, “OK, grow a new head. Good. Now lemme ask you all these questions over again.”
5. You know how T.S. Eliot allegedly put the Metaphysicals back on the map? Suppose you were an arbiter of taste like that. Whom would you like to put back on the map.
COMMENTARY. This is actually a really loving and affectionate question—provided you’re not dickishly asking it of someone who, you know damn well, doesn’t know anything about old poetry. But when the person does know things, you often get a response that is a joy to listen to.
Some of the most valuable ten-minute conversations of my life have taken the form of somebody telling me about an old poet whose reputation deserves reviving. Edmund Waller. James Thomson.
6. Poets you regard as your personal property. I.e. it literally annoys you, or at least makes you uneasy, when others like this poet, because you cannot believe they like him/her for the right reasons.
(I call this the Emily Dickinson question. Anyhow, for me, Dickinson is exactly this poet. When I first saw Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson on a shelf in 1997 or whatever it was, I thought: “Totally get that. Totally.”)
7. If a photo were suddenly gonna be all over the internet, a photo of some famous person or celebrity reading your book, who would you want it to be. Name a few people.
(Corina Copp knows what I’m talking about with this!)
8. Poems you’ve wept over more than once.
9. Poems you have thundered against.
COMMENTARY ON 8 AND 9. Question 8, of course, will have rather more authority than 9 with persons like myself, who go by the Kama Sutra theory of pleasure. The less voluntary the response, the sexier. (Goose bumps, too, have a lot of authority on this model.)
Meanwhile, the thunder question might be the most intimate one on this list, insofar as it’s basically a given that if you were thundering against some poem you were denouncing a lot more than the poem without realizing it. Or maybe you’re too savvy for that. Maybe you always draw excellent distinctions between the poem and the poem’s influence and the kind of person who would be excited by it, and so on and so forth. Perhaps in discussing the poem itself you always maintain a steady tone of amused superiority.
In which case: Get lost. Can’t you see we’re trying to get something done around here?
10. If, twenty-five years from now, we were to find you on a bench in the New York City subway, drooling on yourself and rocking back and forth and reciting something from memory, what would it be?
COMMENTARY. I think Edward Lear must have regarded the above question as the Supreme Index of Poetic Goodness. Likewise, the author of Peacock Pie. I asked Nadya, the other morning, what her answer would be. She thought about it a while and said, smiling, “Adze-head.” Here’s the piece she meant, a much-repeated item in this household:
Across the sea will come Adze-head,
crazed in the head,
his cloak with hole for the head,
his stick bent in the head.
He will chant impiety
from a table in front of his house;
all his people will answer:
“Be it thus. Be it thus.”*
(*Copy-text: The School Bag, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, eds. London: Faber and Faber, 1997, page 4. The poem is listed as “Anonymous, Irish, sixth century.” Translation by James Carney.)

paper bird wisp whisper

lost 29: paper bird wisp whisper

mourning of/why. black, eyed peas. remember what i teach re re-formation of a grammatic nonsense a forklift garbling of speech and syntax, either omission or confusion; you occasionally observe people-watched particles (sky the seamless gray is their) inability the to/from inflection of the retail she/tail, paper burr paper bird wisp whisper waver of she-oak, dithery particularities a spelling like has = ha’s her obstinate use of the words ba-silicate and ruttish – so that ended well! problem preferences with uneven ‘all’ bar ‘omnes’, your common-puncture fairytale mobster. wing hum, sintext omission of or confusion with style, a shakespeare quills lackluster fashionable, his short sweet flash trash collaborative, jessica, wings outstetched. prefix-conjunct, monte pseudo, vulture: the polished tomb, emanuela, her favoured fungus pestalotiopsis microspora. one, and a fling of dunlins chirm of finches the downy-coated dinosaur unearthed in china and 245 million tons of plastic per year, parcel of hogs mess of iguanas – be will sweat lonely they. yon exultation of larks, mine.

I’ve decided to treat and tantalize with part of a poem by Mark Tredinnick, the Australian poet who won the $50, 000 2012 Montreal Poetry Prize, with whom we had dinner and a chance to hear him read and talk about the flora and fauna of down under. This website has a good sampling of his poems.
http://www.terrain.org/poetry/27/tredinnick.htm
From Fire Diary

thornbills, nature bipolar

Nature, he thinks, is bipolar and worsening with age. Manic,
one day, she spikes high
into the forties and runs naked, blazing with ideas, through

The foothills. Down again, the next, she looks out from under her hair
at the wreck she’s made
and cannot think where to go from here. For days she weeps.

Is it possible, he wonders, to mourn like a forest? Like a house
that’s just a tin roof now?
is how he feels in the blue-black morning, but he hasn’t

Earned his sorrow. His is only risk fatigue—the shadow side
of beauty. Fire is the madness
in us all. And with it, periodically, he torches all his dreams

Of safety and starts over. When the future comes, if ever she comes,
she’ll speak, he knows,
a new species of language, in which one word for love will be fire,

And the other will be rain, and he will sleep like silence on the black terrain between.
— Originally published in PAN: Philosophy Activism Nature

A shahai by Louise Vaillancourt. I’m republishing because I did not mention last time that Louise is artist and poet; both poem and photograph are hers.

 

A quote from Joseph Campbell:

‎”Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.”

from A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

A reprint from Slice of Life, a literary journal of flash nonfiction from Cork, Ireland, that has just published my poem to frobisher and back: the chrome set. I’m so impressed with the images that editor Sandra Jensen uses to illustrate each piece. Perfect. Thank you Sandra!

 

 

to frobisher and back: the chrome set
Claudia Coutu Radmore
after Stan Dragland

he is sorry he mentions the possibility of going to frobisher bay. she wants him to go. we need the money she says. he agrees to go to frobisher bay for eighteen months.

she spends some of the money he sends home on a plastic and chrome living room set that she orders from the eaton’s catalogue. when he comes home for a break after six months, he loathes the new furniture. he flies back to frobisher and the family is glad he’s gone. (he will have a brief affair with a nurse.)

she gets to know mr smith from next door very well. mr smith works in the refrigeration department at eaton’s.

in frobisher he feels honoured to meet a gentle but famous oblate missionary who gives him an 8 x 10 photograph of himself meeting pope john paul II.

he gives his sixteen year-old daughter’s photo to a french co-worker in frobisher who is twenty-five. that man writes a letter to her. his daughter answers it briefly for politeness sake.

he misses his daughter’s graduation from teacher’s college. he sends through a friend, an enormous frozen fish called a char. no one knows what to do with it. we do not have a freezer.

she feels lost during the day. dr. b puts her on valium.

his now-best-friend in frobisher sends the daughter a photo of himself sitting on his bed with her high school graduation photo pinned to the wall behind him. he is not attractive and the daughter does not answer the letter.

on his second trip home he invites his frobisher friend to the house. the daughter retaliates by having her boyfriend come over, sits close to him on the plastic sofa.

at the end of his eighteen month contract he asks his daughter why she did not like his frobisher friend. he is not pleased when she says she says the man gives her the creeps.
he has acquired a projector and two movies in frobisher. one is too sexy he says to show his children.

she has done her hair tonight and wears a fresh dress, and evening-in-paris cologne. from the back bedroom the daughter hears the whirr of the projector, the crackle and creak of the couch, their muffled sporadic chuckles.

she’s a bit disappointed in the movie; all it shows is a woman hitch-hiking on a country road. all she does is raise her skirt just above her knee. she thinks, my goodness, those men up north were desperate! still the movie brings back the wild whirl of early days when they went for picnics, the excitement of being deep in the cremazie woods on a blanket, alone with her catholic boy.

Note: That gentle but famous missionary was Father Pierre Henry, missionary Oblate of Mary, who lived on King Williams Island under the same conditions as the native people. The book Kabloona by Gontran de Poncins, has a section about him

Image: Light after the Fog, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

The Poetry Conversation: Comment from a poet who also grew up Catholic:
Your Catholic poem (in the last post) resonates with all that is unspoken about what we learned.
I read something recently about swimming in a sea of nuance. . . all the rules
of Catholicism are meant to serve, but they sure don’t prepare us for what
happens when we leave the books behind. . . or what we feel when we are
reading those books. Maybe that’s why your poem works so well. Leaves
wide open spaces for us to “fill in the blanks” with all of our own uncertainty.

initiations

what is the half-life of memory? they never told us these things about little paper rhombuses skating across other rhombuses flaps rising string winches; the nine-inch head of one serious fiery red t-rex lunges out to bare its complicated incisors. the wow factor mice see potatoes lemon lime she wrote while dreaming carol ann duffy: yeah. i mean, i think poets should be private and invisible and listeners, really. so, it is a different way of being a poet, to be a laureate. philip levine: you know, we have our private lives, and that is where — the poetry comes out of that. and it is a very solitary act, have to get in and out quickly, flip a grin (it misses…) walk into the tangerine grotto gutted put yourself back together with vinegar and brown paper – won’t bore you with details of my day; secrets of the bulk barn and the carwash will die with me, as will those of the veggie aisles at freshco par/ts of s/peech. remember if anybody ask xiaotu the library robot can i touch you xiaotu say sure – cost you 20 yuan: paraphasia paragram a writing beside, a parachute a parallellogram

What isJulie Salverson, Issue 40, 2011, and little paper rhombusesJon Mooallem, Issue 17, 2005, Maisonneuve Magazine, Ten Best Sentences, Drew Nelles to Ben Kaplan, Spring issue.
http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/04/30/happy-birthday-maisonneuve-to-celebrate-editor-drew-nelles-gives-us-the-magazines-ten-best-sentences-ever/
Carol Ann Duffy and Philip Levine, a conversation in www.dailymail.co.uk

I was reading John Steffler’s poem, Beating the Bounds, about an initiation into a certain kind of life, and which follows a section of my own poem below. It made me think of initiations in my family, not quite so dramatic. They didn’t even happen at home, but at school. Elementary school, but later High School. D’Arcy McGee High School, on Pine Avenue, to be more specific, across from the Hotel Dieu church and hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boys and girls were strictly separated. Hall doors on every floor divided the two sides; brown paper blanked out the window in each door. The girls were on the east side; we only got to use this grand front door when we were late. It was almost worth the detention. The Congregation of Notre Dame nuns ruled our side and the Christian brothers ( I think) ruled the boys. My initiation happened on the first day, in several ways; this is one of them: (photo: fotoproze)

advice and consolation

Dad said Don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire
Whoever told you
we’re supposed to be happy.

First religion class in high school and I sit at my desk
upon which lies a blue hard-covered book, no dustcover.
This book is yours, says Mother St. Hugh Maureen, the tall peak

of her white headdress shaking with palsy,
and you may keep it. Each year you will be given
another volume to keep. They are your life in Christ.

She continues, What do people want most in life?
and our answers shoot back: money, love, a good job, talent
nice clothes. Cream Puff, as we come to call her, is exasperated but dogged.

Something that each of us wants, she prompts, a word that encapsulates
what everybody wants. Encapulates? That throws us. Maybe a big house
or a convertible? That could be what encapsulates means.

We are eleven-year old Catholic babies purposely kept
from thinking during our first seven years of school. Smart though.
We quickly deduce that we are in for another four years

of guessing what the teacher wants us to say, but this time it’s nuns.
We don’t know much about nuns. Look at your books! She quavers
with a little display of impatience and frustration

(She will confess this on Saturday evening
when Father Griffin comes to hear confession;
she will worry about it until then)

So we look and there’s the answer staring at us in gold
on the front cover of our new books: The Quest for Happiness –
Happiness, we shout together, pleased to have the answer at last.

It’s been a problem ever since, the golden quest shadowing decisions
sticking like burrs to every project, every relationship, every situation.
What do you do when you’re not happy then? You flounder.

Pray, said the nuns.
Pray, said the priest.
Pray, said page one of the Quest, but you may not like what you get.

Sleep with your boss, said my mother. He’s been eyeing you for years.
(But we’re both married!) Things are different now, she said.
He’ll make you happy for a while. Go for it…  

Beating the Bounds

John Steffler

When I was six years old, my parents,
along with other adults who’d never spoken
to me, came laughing and acting silly,
picking me up, giggling, “Now we’ll show
you a house you didn’t know about.”
“A big house.”
“A secret house you knew about all the time.”
So I was frightened, seeing how serious
it was that they were so strange,
although I was probably smiling,
and they carried me and other children my age
to the river and said, “Here is the marble
floor,” and put my bare legs in the fast
place between stones and it was colder
than I remembered it and the tugging of dark
cold water became my legs, the Fox Island
River became my legs – afterwards when I
was falling asleep or sometimes just walking
along, the bottom of me would be moving away
like that – and they carried me, tickling me,
singing ridiculous songs among rough
brown stones up a valley past caribou
where it was cold and held me up on top
of their palms so I faced the sky and someone
with fat fingers that smelled of sheep held
my eyes open until the cold air and white
sky burned and were too bright and my eyes
brimmed like two cuts and I felt those cuts
go right into my name and they said,
“This is the roof up here, you can’t go
higher than this,” and that wind and sky
were my eyes then, they were in my name,
and the people pushed me through a patch
of alders and a patch of spruce the wind
had bent, saying, “Here’s a young cub
we’ll take home and raise,” and “Push him in front
so we won’t get scratched,” and my skin
was crisscrossed with cuts, so I felt
those branches, smelled the alder musk,
the sharp edge of spruce like a coast,
a burning fringe, a noise around me holding
me in and they said, “This is the west
wall of the house you live in, remember
it,” and the day went on like that, they
pushed me against a cliff to the north
so I felt its jaggedness in my spine,
they sat me in black soupy peat and said,
“Here is your bed, it is nighttime,” they
took me down to the sea and made me
drink it and told me that was the south
and the kitchen, “the garden,” someone
laughed and give me a capelin to eat, rubbed
scales on my face, the backs of my hands
and “Over there,” they said, meaning
over the hills across the gulf, “that is not
your house and the people who live there
are strangers to you, not enemies if
you deal with them properly.” “They
speak a language of farts,” someone said,
“they gobble like turkeys when they fuck,”
and although my body was made of all
it had touched that day and my ears were full
of my parents’ voices and the voices
of their friends, in my heart I was still
frightened and felt like a stranger among them.
From Lookout, by John Steffler
Copyright © 2010 by John Steffler

Granada Sings Whitman
by Nathalie Handal

By the river Genil
lovers sing what belongs to the water,
a shoemaker sings the dream he had,
his helper the dream he didn’t,
a man sings to the woman
on the broken mattress,
death at midday sings,
on the banks of the Darro
a blind thief
collecting golden poplars sings,
and so does the crevice of quivers,
the saints flaming in la Sierra
and the men rehearsing a country.
They know nothing stays,
but when Whitman sings—
they allow his voice
to take them apart.

Handal‘s poem is from the Poem-a-day, Academy of American Poets website

This next Poem By Sherman Alexie is quite different. Don’t give up on it  though; it’s a surprising piece. Just as you start to think, What is this?, it takes you into it.

Mark Bibbins, Editor, The Poetry Section| May 3, 2012

Pachyderm
1.
Sheldon decided he was an elephant.
2.
Everywhere he went, he wore a gray t-shirt, gray sweat pants, and gray basketball shoes.
3.
He also carried a brass trumpet that he’d painted white.
4.
Sometimes he used that trumpet as a tusk.
5.
Then he’d use it as the other tusk.
6.
Sometimes he played that brass trumpet and pretended it was an elephant trumpet.
7.
Every other day, Sheldon charged around the reservation like he was a bull elephant in musth.
8.
Musth being a state of epic sexual arousal.
9.
Sheldon would stand in the middle of intersections and charge at cars.
10.
Once, Sheldon head-butted a Toyota Camry so hard that he knocked himself out.
11.
Sheldon’s mother, Agnes, was driving that Camry.
12.
Agnes did not believe she was an elephant nor did she believe she was the mother of an elephant.
13.
And Agnes didn’t believe that Sheldon fully believed he was an elephant until he knocked himself out on the hood of the Camry.
14.
In Africa, poachers kill elephants, saw off the tusks, and leave the rest of the elephant to rot.
15.
Ivory is coveted.
16.
Nobody covets Sheldon’s trumpet, not as a trumpet or tusk.
17.
On those days when Sheldon was not a bull elephant, he was a cow elephant.
18.
A cow elephant mourning the death of her baby.
19.
In Africa, elephants will return again and again to the dead body of a beloved elephant.
20.
Then, for years afterward, the mournful elephants will return to the dead elephant’s cairn of bones.
21.
They will lift and caress the dead elephant’s ribs.
22.
By touch, they remember.
23.
Sheldon’s twin brother died in the first Iraq War.
24.
1991.
25.
His name was Pete.
26.
Sheldon and Pete’s parents were not the kind to give their twins names that rhymed.
27.
In Iraq, an Improvised Explosive Device had pulverized Pete’s legs, genitals, ribcage, and spine.
28.
Sheldon could not serve in the military because he was blind in his right eye.
29.
In 1980, when they were eight, and sword fighting with tree branches, Pete had accidentally stabbed Sheldon in the eye.
30.
When they were children, Sheldon and Pete often played war.
31.
They never once pretended to be killed by an Improvised Explosive Device.
32.
Only now, in this new era, do children pretend to be killed by Improvised Explosive Devices.
33.
Pete was buried in a white coffin.
34.
It wasn’t made of ivory.
35.
At the gravesite, Sheldon scooped up a handful of dirt.
36.
He was supposed to toss the dirt onto his brother’s coffin, as the other mourners had done.
37.
But Sheldon kept the dirt in his hand.
38.
He made a fist around the dirt and would not let it go.
39.
He believed that his brother’s soul was contained within that dirt.
40.
And if he let go of that dirt, his brother’s soul would be lost forever.
41.
You cannot carry a handful of dirt for any significant amount of time.
42.
And dirt, being clever, will escape through your fingers.
43.
So Sheldon taped his right hand shut.
44.
For months, he did everything with his left hand.
45.
Then, one night, his right hand began to itch.
46.
It burned.
47.
Sheldon didn’t want to take off the tape.
48.
He didn’t want to lose the dirt.
49.
His brother’s soul.
50.
But the itch and burn were too powerful.
51.
Sheldon scissored the tape off his right hand.
52.
His fingers were locked in place from disuse.
53.
So he used the fingers of his left hand to pry open the fingers of his right hand.
54.
The dirt was gone.
55.
Except for a few grains that had embedded themselves into his palm.
56.
Using those grains of dirt, Sheldon wanted to build a time machine that would take him and his brother back into the egg cell they once shared.
57.
Until he became an elephant, Sheldon referred to his left hand as “my hand” and to his right hand as “my brother’s hand.”
58.
Sheldon’s father, Arnold, was paraplegic.
59.
His wheelchair was alive with eagle feathers and beads and otter pelts.
60.
In Vietnam, in 1971, Arnold’s lower spine was shattered by a sniper’s bullet.
61.
Above the wound, he was a fancy dancer.
62.
Below the wound, he was not.
63.
His wife became pregnant with Sheldon and Pete while Arnold was away at war.
64.
Biologically speaking, the twins were not Arnold’s.
65.
Biologically speaking, Arnold was a different Arnold than he’d been before.
66.
But, without ever acknowledging the truth, Arnold raised the boys as if they shared his biology.
67.
Above the wound, Arnold is a good man.
68.
Below the wound, he is also a good man.
69.
Sometimes, out of love for Sheldon and Sheldon’s grief, Arnold pretended that his wheelchair was an elephant.
70.
And that he was a clown riding the elephant.
71.
A circus can be an elephant, another elephant, and a clown.
72.
The question should be, “How many circuses can fit inside one clown?”
73.
There is no such thing as the Elephant Graveyard.
74.
That mythical place where all elephants go to die.
75.
That place doesn’t exist.
76.
But the ghosts of elephants do wear clown makeup.
77.
And they all gather in the same place.
78.
Inside Sheldon’s ribcage.
79.
Sheldon’s heart is a clown car filled with circus elephants.
80.
When elephants mourn, they will walk circles around a dead elephant’s body.
81.
Elephants weep.
82.
Jesus wept.
83.
Sheldon’s mother, Agnes, wonders if Jesus has something to do with her son’s elephant delusions.
84.
Maybe God is an elephant.
85.
Sheldon’s father, Arnold, believes that God is a blue whale.
86.
Some scientists believe that elephants used to be whales.
87.
Sheldon, in his elephant brain, believes that God is an Improvised Explosive Device.
88.
Pete, the dead twin, was not made of ivory.
89.
But he is coveted.
90.
If Jesus can come back to life then why can’t all of us come back to life?
91.
Aristotle believed that elephants surpassed all other animals in wit and mind.
92.
Nobody ever said that Jesus was funny.
93.
Then, one day, Sheldon remembered he was not an elephant.
94.
Instead he decided that Pete was an elephant who had gone to war.
95.
An elephant who died saving his clan and herd.
96.
An elephant killed by poachers.
97.
Sheldon decided that God was a poacher.
98.
Sheldon decided his prayers would become threats.
99.
Fuck you, God, fuck you.
100.
Sheldon wept.
101.
Then he picked up his trumpet and blew an endless, harrowing note.

From The Awl  http://www.theawl.com/about
The Awl intends to encourage a daily discussion of the issues of the day—news, politics, culture (and TV!)—during sensible hours of the working week.

Sherman Alexie’s collection, Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories, will be published by Grove Press this October. He lives with his family in Seattle.
http://www.theawl.com/2012/05/a-poem-by-sherman-alexie

From Poem-A day website:

The Practice
by Aaron Shurin
They mistook me for illumination — a revenant in walking shoes — so I gathered significance and spread text… stood beneath the seven cardinal points with arms upraised — practical telepathy — in a white paper suit like a flag of surrender, thunder at my back… I was an open man of the open streets — a burnished sieve of common purpose — scrawled on walls, thrashed cans and blasted caps for equivalence. I wasn’t alone — the boulevards teemed with wiggly kids and mooing parents slow as boulders. In the Plaza Palabra on a green iron bench a grand senora suffered the odes of schoolboys and thugs — smiled behind an opal fan while they searched for words to match their tumultuous nights — and all words fit… In July — volubility — I hoarded cherries, catalogued their juices — were they Rainier, Blood Nut, Royal Ann, Squirrel Heart, Rosebud or Bing? —then swallowed them one by one like detonations…initiations…In a fever of taxonomy I followed a squadron of dragonflies right to the vanishing point…Incarnation is a provisional state, but stretches outward like noon. For practice, I wallowed and stretched…

Send comments by clicking at the end of the post, or on the ‘conversation cloud’ at the top of the post. It feels strange not to be posting every day, and though I loved posting like that, it feels good to rest from doing it.

my mother’s birthday/ pruning the locust tree/buds in a jar 

Claudia