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…
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:
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…