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


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.