Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't Say My Name: A Lament

Forget the nights we walked together drunk,
Like strangers, thru the whirling downtown streets
After dancing to the wail of honky jazz and
Sitting on cold concrete stage, passing round
Bowl of grapes, whiskey flask, under full
Bawling moon cradled by starless sky immense,
Talking of the dead writers who haunt our dreams,
And the glamour girl, martyred, whose sultry gaze
Haunts your studio walls.

Forget the sunny days driving sweaty hours,
Miles and miles down clanging, banging back roads
To bask on deserted sandy blanket beaches,
Wading out into cool waters, the ground spongy,
Loose between toes, the pure shallow lake
Stretching to hill-marked horizons.

Forget the rainy nights, late coming over, a few
Quiet knocks at your lonely, expectant door,
Climbing creaky crack hardwood stairs,
Sinking into soft chair, with bottle of wine
Brought specially at your request, under
Stained lampshade light watch in wonder, delight
As you bring another blank canvas to life, electric.

Forget the gut rot, the hangovers, the rendezvous’
With Fate down blind back-alleys where
Shifty-eyed barflies congregate to bullshit
Sly, dark girls in candy-colored dresses.

And forget that last night sitting out under patio roof,
Feeling the first sad chills of fall, cool, chatting up
Hot shot hipster guitarist all dressed in leather,
Local young poet, sullen, beat, starved and beared,
High school geek, grown but still the gawky grin,
With jovial old man claiming to be great great grandfather.

Drinking too much and, still, drinking more,
Time continues to tick, the countdown until
Those bar-beating hacks you wait on,
And wait on, demanding their orders,
They take you away—forever,
Into the night.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Don't Ask Me to Write a Poem Today

Don’t ask me to write a poem today,
Can’t you see what I’ve been through?
Days on days of coughing and choking,
Crumbling nerves and sweating thru clothes,
Rewashing the same old t-shirt and jeans,
Having to borrow a dollar from the neighbor
Who has to borrow it from the bank that
Has to borrow from me to do so.

Don’t ask me to write a poem today,
Don’t you see what’s going on?
The president is making insane demands,
Calling on us to die for
Democracy in far off countries,
And now wants us to cover the cost of his
Socialist-corporate agenda.

Help! he’s bringing shame to our moral lack of decency.

Meanwhile we eat day old bread, drink expired
Milk and suck sugar cubes for sweets
As he wines and dines the
Faithful fundamentalist, the oil tycoon,
The right to lifers, the
Left to right and left of center.

Don’t ask me to write a poem today,
How can I afford to make such a concession?
I tried to pay my last phone bill with one and they
Sent it back covered in illegible criticism.
Who is going to pay me for my work, my time?
There it goes...vanishing quick, quickly vanishing.

Where does that leave the seeker, the student,
The saint? Trapped all day in long lines
That lead to nowhere, with nothing
To do but wait, wait, wait.

Don’t ask me to write a poem today,
I’m not a machine or some assembly line producer
Giving you fresh insights, visions, illuminations by the minute,
Clocking out at five to go home to wife and children who
Want none of it, laughing in my face when I offer to share
What I’ve finished. They even call me faggot.

Don’t ask me to write a poem today,
What more is there to say?

Don’t ask me to write a poem today,
You’re going to have to find your own way.

Don’t ask me to write a poem today,
Today, tomorrow or any other day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Here we go again, another blackout town. A town
Like all the rest. Fact every town’s the same, at night.
And it’s night when I make my way, away from all
The scurrying, screaming, gawking day-hustlers.

The endless footsteps headed down some nowhere street.
The punishing rain like spray of gunfire under the
Cold gaze of streetlamps. The stinging glare of a
Million signs that hang like neon snakes off buildings
That seem to stalk my movements with bullet-hole eyes.

A gathering of dead-enders by a doorway, dry
Under canopy cover to the same motel where the
Desk-clerk shoos out all frowners and loners with grim authority.
GO AWAY. NO WELCOME. The words spray-painted on the door.

Out of nowhere a woman takes me by the arm and speaks in
A voice full of false lust. “You ain’t from around here, are ya?”
Cracked lips curl to reveal bent, smoke yellow teeth.
“Well I’s bet I can make you feel more at home.”
I burry my hands in my pockets, hunch over,
And keep moving.

Steam rises from grates like ghostly pitchfork arms as
I catch glimpses of others who pass by.
Pale faces, sallow faces, faces faded of hope.
No acknowledgement.
Is their life behind those shattered expressions?

A man more resembling a wet dog, half-naked, filthy, kneeling
In the gutter trying to wash but only dirtying himself more.
He catches me with crazed, shimmering eyes and says,
“Cleanliness next to godliness,” rubbing down
Bony shoulders and jutting ribs with a brillo pad and cheap wine.

Another man, this one in a suit with peroxide hair but no less
A beast, shouts mad words over me, spittle flying as he
Shoves a pink pamphlet in my hand, all about salvation and
Ruin. Our ruin. I throw the crumpled papers on the ground,
Watch as they quickly shrivel up, going all soft and blotchy.

Far off sirens pierce thru the blackness. Car horns
Blare, the traffic roars along, their fumes hanging
In the air, pungent, harsh, choking-harsh,
Like death. My death. Her death.

But what choice is there, now?
What’s done is finished. Over. Obsolete.
Gobbled up by an unquenchable past. Got to
Keep on moving. Where to next?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Seven Poems

Lonely Prairie Home

Open field where nothing grows
Dead meadow open breeze blows
Each year the farmers collect smaller harvests
And ever winter we grow weaker, more famished.

What is this disease of the land?
We hope for better next year but still the same.

I hate the gray days of endless want.
The dry creek bakes in the sun.
There is emptiness all around.
No more shall the leaves turn in fall.


The tree bark is thick, brown.
I want to eat it. I want the crunch
And the digestive rumble, rupture all.
Resist not the wounding of organs, choke.

Broken Associations

I want to believe but past records show
The ache wrought by beauty’s curse.
It is from this knowledge I escape learning.
How the heart continues to beat, unknown.
The time of living has not arrived, woe.
Come together at once!
Nothing is here to stay.
I pray for you. Do you the same?


You, out! Now. My room
Is not to be disturbed.
Cracks line the walls which are
Bare and white.

Black is the sun which I turn from.
See me not. Close the window. I dream.
Come in. No, it is hopeless, and so are dreams.
What? You with answers. Send them away!

Night is here to stay.

My Vision


Exploding the page
My mind the trigger
Words left in wake
Like craters

Wham-boom! Exclaim!


To make it so I can’t mistake
The I for another I.
Whose I? Mine I?
These subjects left undefined.


The woman at the bar takes a
Drag from her cigarette, exhales
The bitter loss and nostalgia sift
Through the curls of smoke


This is the day of promise
Wishing only a wink away
I control all, don’t you see?
Flick, flick, click
This is the world—
My love screen glow

No one but me
Shall enter

I create the whole
Disregard the fragments
What left with then?
Half-formed expression. Me! See?

Beat the Dog of Repetition

Don’t make me beg for your affections
These knees already scarred and bleeding

The pure wisdom of water
Drink from thy cup

Suck blood from the wounds
Never can get enough

Eat the earth, the day, the night
Make nice with shadows, taste the light

Hurt the dog
He lame, brute

Curse him, like all the others, doomed,
Justified, return to your caves: stay

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The spider crawls across the floor and so goes my heart. Over and over it tries to call to me; I shut it out. Heavy, heavy, nothing I can say, nothing worth saying, to tame, to draw out the patterns that twist and curl, connected in their intricate web design.

Silence now, but still it lingers. Creeping, at first, then growing, rapid, towering like a rising tide. When will it break? Never! I drown my love in an ocean of desire, swirling and moaning, and—

Thoughtless, unconscious, I lie upon the beach, waiting to be taken out to sea, to join the frothing waves that lap at my feet. The crab scuttles on pin-needle feet. A wave crashes against the rocks. This can’t be right. Soon the dark clouds will roll in and rain will hammer down, washing what’s left out into the rushing currents. Take me! Take me! Only I’ve forgotten how to swim.

Wake now! The dreams are not dreams, only the mind’s broken screams. Thoughts like seepage from the sea, drip, drip. There is no consistency. The flood is soon to resume. What to do? What to do? The spider scurries up a wall, pauses a moment, plotting then disappears into through a crack. Gone.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


There was a knock at the door, I got up off the couch to answer it, there was Nick standing in the dark hallway, the pay laundry next to him, chugging thru another endless load. I greeted him with as much enthusiasm as I could muster and invited him in. Immediately, as if on instinct, he went for the bottle of Chivas Regal that sat on the extended ledge next to the breakfast nook, there with the few other bottles. "You mind if I take a shot of this," he asked, taking a backseat to courtesy. "No," I replied. "In fact, have two, might as well, since I can’t drink anything," I said, "not with the drugs they've got me on." His was the first familiar face I had seen in almost two weeks, since falling ill with some sort of throat infection, strep, virus, not all that sure, the old British doctor, with deep-lined Beckett face, who I’d seen earlier in the week, not offering much in the way of a formal diagnosis. Typical walk-in clinic. Look you over a moment or two, feel around where its bothering you and, having finished with formalities, write you up one prescription or another and send you on your way, next, ha! Efficient, you’ve got to give them that. For whatever that’s worth. Next thing I know, Nick’s over by the kitchen counter, dish towel in hand, cleaning up a spill made in one of the frying pans, having poured himself out a little too towering shot. I tell him as much, and he replies that it’s for sipping, then proceeding to slam it back. We talk for awhile, about nothing really, school, getting caught up on things. He didn’t have any intention of coming to visit me, necessarily, so he tells me, but was just out driving, a few runs, here and there, and then suddenly found himself near the church and realized it was my block and decided to stop in. How nice of him. But it's true, the way these roads loop around in this city, the way they tend to always be circling inward, it seems, as long as you stay within certain borders and not drift off onto the highway, you’re bound to end up going just about everywhere, the city as maze, as it were, or else you may wind up going halfway up a mountain, completely lost in some dark backwoods region, retracing the paths and roads you followed to get out there, which happens, on occasion.

Anyway after that we end up going downtown, even with the clouds and the rain, the fresh air doing me some good, after being cooped up for far too long, far too long, not even being that productive, a little bit of reading, but not much, just being sick. Isn’t it strange sometimes how after recovering from some recent illness, looking back, you realize you were a lot sicker that even you were aware of at the time, in the midst of it, thinking you would be ready bounce back anyday, as the days and weeks carry on? You need something to compare it with, I suppose, to relate it to, outside of your present condition. Yes, for the body naturally adapts to whatever set of circumstances it finds itself in, for survival. At least I was sleeping well. Downtown we stop in at a couple of the book stores. Actually three. All in a row. Well there’s the used record store, maybe not even used, and also the clothing store, some chain-brand-whatever, in between. Usually skip over those. Also while walking around, notice both the Pita Pit, the one which we often would hit up after the pub for late-night snack, and the old cool fifties style diner, where we would drive to mornings for eggs, sausage and hashbrowns to go with our hangovers, had both closed since the summer. Pity. And across the street the new city building, now fully erect and open for business, hovers over, like a great modern monstrosity, blocking out the view of the harbor. This used to be a swell street to wander down, minimal traffic, unique, artsy sorts of stores to stop in, peruse, to hang out at, dig the scene. Used to be. That’s all slowly being moved out, in favor of the mass shopping centers that are all the rage now. Maybe, but they only fill me with rage. No, not rage. Not anything, really. It all feels so unreal, so disconnected. But we adapt to it, in time, live with it. The gap widens. All you can do is run from it, hide away in little book stores, pass the time, waiting it out. In one of the stores Nick shoves a copy of Dubliners in my hands, tells me to get it, great read. Its two bucks. The price is right. Also grab Thoreau’s Walden and Other Writings for another four dollars. Meanwhile, at my urging, he picks up a modern translation of Crime and Punishment in almost new condition, ten bucks. "Including my brother's, this is the third one I’ll now own." It’s the only one you’ll ever need I reassure him, and it’s true.

After that we walk down the block and around the corner to the Thirsty Camel, one of those, how would you describe it, new-age, laidback, hippy joints, exotic eastern-pop music that greets you when you enter, with a menu consisting of things such as Indian-spiced hummus pitas, organic fruit smoothies, gluten-free cookies, and so on. The tops of the tables are all made of corkboard, with a hard plastic covering, protecting the newspaper clippings attached to them, for the patrons to read over while waiting for their orders, presumably. I don’t bother to read the one in front of me, but instead pick up a copy of some locally distributed paper/magazine, whatever you prefer, skipping over the feminist action articles and landing on a profile of the Sri Lanka/British MC, M.I.A., a promotion for her new album. I skim it over while Nick orders a chicken pita and tea. The waitress who brings over the tea is a pretty young thing, with teased shoulder-length black hair and smooth features that, at first glance, had me mistaking her for oriental. She advises Nick on proper procedure with this particular type of tea, a mate (maw-tay) full of finely ground herbs that you drink thru a metal straw. Very strong, she warns. And bitter. First you pour in some of the hot water, wait for the ingredients to rise a bit, then add the rest, and enjoy. It really is bitter, I find out, trying a couple sips Nick offers me, but not altogether unpleasant, with a bit of kick, would drink this over shit coffee any day. True, there’s decent coffee, freshly ground of course, but what bloody effort, and the buzz, the kick you get is never that satisfying, more that kind of anxious, uncomfortable feeling that gives you the urge, I fall into the second person at the mere thought, to jump into a shower, clean yourself up. Maybe not quite like that. What does it matter. I see my former neighbor, the one who used to live in the suite next to mine, attached, separated by only a thin wall, come in and place an order. His hair was a lot longer than I remembered it, but the soft-spoken, almost timid, approach, yes that’s him alright. What has it been? Eight months, since they moved out? And not a single noise complaint since. But I suppose that’s what you get for living next to a librarian, or whatever it was he did, travelled a fair bit if I recall. And his wife, where did she work? Oh yes, I remember seeing her behind the counter at one of the second-hand places. But that’s only volunteer, I think. But still work nonetheless. I’m glad I’m not working right now. School takes up all my time as it is. Or else I would find something, somewhere, try to at least. Not even enough time for that as it is. Being sick didn’t help matters. I start to get antsy sitting there, watching Nick munch down on his pita, thinking about the work I should be getting back to, soon. Still, good to get out. He takes a call from someone, having to verify his identity with them, before they will begin. They talk a few minutes, hard to pick up about what exactly, making some sort of places, then he clicks off. "That was Dave. He’s so formal over the phone, then he tries to make a joke," he shakes his head in disgust. "That guy. Anyway I’m going over there later to hang out and drink gin." "Sounds like a good time," I say, wondering for a moment if he’s going to invite me to tag along, having not seen Dave since that night at the Chrome Horse, back in the spring, before it closed, and not since he moved back into town. He doesn’t though, not even as a gesture, but it doesn’t matter anyway since I can’t drink, and would have turned it down anyway, too much work to get to. Nick starts in about how I should be drinking green tea for my illness, and just in general really, going on about all its health benefits, this from the same guy who I've always known to be constantly smoking, bumming smokes every chance he gets in fact, every opportunity that arises, on campus, or anywhere else. But to each his own. Nick decides to order us both a couple of green tea lattes, no, that wasn’t the name, but the equivalent to it at any rate, a mocha latte substituted with green tea. The cute black haired girl brings them over, Nick has a try at talking her up while I smile at her, trying to maintain interest, engaged, then finally look down, staring into the green and white frothy swirls of my drink in front of me. Two weeks without a single thought about any girl. Too much. Well, there was one girl, occasionally, but she’s a long ways away. I really should write her, soon, now that I’m finally better, after the work’s out of the way. But there’ll always be work, always in the way. At least get thru this weekend, catch up on late assignments, then maybe think about other things, people.

The latte turns out to be delicious, energizing but calming at the same time, mellow, a smooth buzz. When we get outside, not raining anymore but still beautifully dreary, I make a suggestion to go up to one of the second-hand stores, nothing but an excuse to walk around somewhere, feeling good now, energized, almost wired but not quite there. But Nick having other plans, we simply start walking back in the direction of his truck. As we approach a group of disenfranchised goth punks hanging around outside one of the shops, seeing an opportunity, Nick asks to borrow a dollar, to bum a smoke, naturally. But I don't have one, tell him to just go buy a pack, he's going to eventually, at some point, between now and whenever, later. "You don't know that," he snaps back, "nothing is certain, I'm not necessarily going to do anything." "Yeah, maybe that's true," I reply. "But based on your past actions, I would venture to say it's a pretty safe bet, odds are, you will." Then: "Twenty bucks, how 'bout it?" He declines and, with simple resignation, I say, "That's all life is anyway, a gamble." We reach the truck and start off, driving back to my apartment. On the way he points out the Conservative's election signs that have been defaced, vandalized, with red circled Vs spray-painted on all of them, all in a row, some even having the -onservative covered up with duct tape and replaced with -orrupt, brilliant! Only too appropriate, Nick agrees. As we draw closer to home, I’m suddenly filled with a weird notion, and, turning to Nick, for whatever the reason, suggest to him we both turn out to vote, forget the usual apathy, and not for the Liberals either, not NDP, but for the Green Party. Even making a whole argument for it, why it's the right way to go, the decision to make. We’ll feel better for it, I tell him, having known we’ve exercised our democratic right while avoiding contributing to the laughable bullshit party system we’re presented with, in the guise of real Democracy, yes. We can even go smoke a joint and play music or something, afterwards. When did I suddenly become so politically conscious? I must be getting old, the first signs at any rate. But whether I believe it all or not, most of the time, thinking on it now, it just gives me a headache, futile. What does it matter? Will it matter? Who knows. Once parked outside, before I get out, we make plans to meet up next week, on campus, get back into the boxing. "Sounds like a plan I can get behind," I say. As he drives off, I head towards my suite around back, back to the work.