Ode to Saskatchewan towns along the Yellowhead Highway

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Let them say that he wrote crap poetry but that he loved the sound and feel of words: words, names, two, three or twenty at a time, coming together like sprocket and chain;

like the names of Saskatchewan towns picketing by on the Yellowhead Highway, rolling in your mouth: Langenburg, Churchbridge, Bredenbury;

bright words on green backgrounds, Saltcoats, Yorkton, Orcadia, Spingside—sweet town of freshwater rising—rising south of Good Spirit Lake, where, let them say;

he dreamed of a girl in the city of bridges, 200 hundred miles away, that he had a black, 1964, Chev Impala, hardtop, that his friends called the Staff Car;

let them say he loved the long slow curve just east of Theodore where he drove sensible and slow ’til he passed the Co-op service station, and Motor Hotel then cracked open the modest but decisive 2-barrel, 283 cu in V8;

and let them say, just like they used to say, that he hauled ass all the way to the big city—the evening coming on and the sun swinging low and the chrome trim gleaming;

past Insinger, with that banked bend around the Holy Ghost Church, where he stood on the accelerator and the frame creaked coming out of the curve—and the hood’s silver molding sighted Sheho;

let them say that he tooled by Tuffnell, all four windows down in the airless heat with Foam Lake floating in the distant prairie shimmer, below that green water tower you can see for miles and miles;

rattling over the tracks, onward to Leslie, west by northwest with Nantucket Sleighride, Mississippi Queen, spitting dust up off the front speakers;

to Elfros, and the small bridge by the farm with five acres of car bodies;

waving at Mozart and coasting through Wynyard, until he passed the graveyard, the big centre cross throwing its shadow over the Touchwood Hills;

on to Kandahar and the smell of cattle in the valley down from the Steak House;

sailing south of the saline shores of Big Quill Lake to Dafoe, where he’d come to a rolling stop then steer north lifting that black body over Grand Funk tracks at 80 mph, then slow for the turn west again;

sweeping by the thousand hidden stories of Jansen, Lanigan, Guernsey;

and let them say that by Plunkett, Viscount, Colonsay, the Impala was humming steady as time and cruising smooth and rhythmic as Midnight Rider, harmonious as Suite: Judy Blue Eyes;

into the cooling dusk of Elstow and Clavet, where, on the return trip, the Chevy’s front-right retread will come off and go jackrabbiting into the ditch;

and let them recall that Saskatoon is a Cree word, beautiful and suitable for any old poet who quickens at the memory of high summer and prairie haze and a dark car with an 8-track;

and JJ Cale’s, Call Me The Breeze—those muffled beats and palm-damped chords pulsing and reaching right into his bones, shuffling him on down Broadway with that green light baby…

Grow Mercy’s year-end list of unwarranted propositions–revised and ready for 2017

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  • I believe that words, in moments of grace, as Elie Wiesel said, can attain the quality of deeds;
  • that despite the crazed magnificence of our vanities, our screwy obsessions and our generally clingy, messed-up lives, our deepest desire is to be each other’s joy;
  • that our inner void—that shadowy thing at our heels that yawns like a canyon when we’re silent and alone—must not be leapt over, but into;
  • that you can love the earth and not love God, but you can’t love God without loving the earth;
  • that quantum entanglement may be one more name for God;
  • that mycelium, like the cosmos, will remain mysterious, likewise the mind;
  • that the mind is not separate from the body (except perhaps for Benny Hinn, certain psychics, and a few thousand French revolutionaries);
  • that the big bang is not an event but a model failing to describe our beginnings but succeeding somewhat to describe our oneness;
  • that a sock prefers the single life;
  • that poetry can slow time, reanimate a capacity for surprise, and give back one’s being ;
  • that snowflakes are the ghosts of fallen leaves;
  • that sidewalks long to be broken up by grass;
  • that grass under stone dreams of sun;
  • that should you get anything absolutely right in life, it is critical you go back to correct it;
  • that if scientists were mere sceptics we still wouldn’t know about the Copernican system of planetary movement (without which our hubris would have gone unchallenged);
  • that beauty is intoxicating, and laughter is champagne;
  • that when the impulse to go walking strikes, follow it;
  • that doubt is necessary and healthy but that the spirit of scepticism is a sickness;
  • that most things we hold as true are by way of other authorities, so it’s critical we pick our mentors well;
  • that it was exalted certainty that sent the boxcars to Birkenau and not iffy disconsolate minds—which is to say that the primary reason the world is terrifying is because of fundamentalism—in any of its forms;
  • that to live without faith (fundamentalism being the furthest thing from faith) is impossible, and to attempt it is a castration of life;
  • that there are fish swimming around with coins in their mouths, but we still have to go get our nets;
  • that imagination stands on its own, but reason without imagination is dead;
  • that in wonder or blunder, we receive our lives through the eyes of others;
  • that the cosmic weirdness of grace means God loves Mr. Trump as much as your child…and that the cosmic weirdness of mercy means that “Donald” may yet find correction and direction—which brings us to the cosmic weirdness of hope;
  • that a cultural obsession with sex is not a sign of social depravity but an indication of deep loneliness;
  • that if and when we humans become fully real we will no longer impose ourselves upon creation but see ourselves as one aspect;
  • that we are all beautiful tellurians—all in your own way;
  • that science is humble in theory but not so much in practice and that this is what it has in common with religion;
  • that reason needs a trellis, faith needs a frame and theology needs poetry;
  • that both the existence and non-existence of God can be proven by symbolic logic—and a formally valid argument can nevertheless be false;
  • that the argument of infinite regression is absurd, and the world rests on the backs of an untold succession of turtles;
  • that positive universal claims and negative existential claims are not testable in all possible worlds—and all ravens are black, except for one or two, maybe;
  • that presuppositions are held viscerally and emotionally and half-consciously, and are located in the kidneys;
  • that God is a verb and not a noun;
  • that the word piffle can be appropriately applied to a plethora of propositions—including several of these;
  • that things repair themselves if they are unplugged for a while, including humans;
  • that our deepest and dearest beliefs are not logically verifiable, and if they were, life would cease to be;
  • that Simone Weil was speaking wisdom when she said, “Every separation is a link”;
  • that miracle is still the best word to describe life’s origin;
  • that love and mercy are stronger than hate and violence, which pretty much sums up Jesus;
  • that Friedrich Holderlin was brightly shining in his wooden tower when he wrote, “But where danger is / grows the saving power also”;
  • that hope trumps fear, and apokatastasis trumps apocalypse;
  • that time is not a line, but folds, bends, winds, swirls, and has a thousand shapes we move in and through and that death, while hard, hard, hard, is just one of those shapes;
  • that love is not discovered like some gleaming gem at the top of a mountain, but comes to find us in all the fractured layers of our lives;
  • that (paraphrasing Abraham Herschel), the older I get, the less I admire clever people, and the more I admire kind people;
  • that yesterday I knew many great and grand principles of life, but today all I know is that a hug can be healing.

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Happy New Year dear ones!

 

 


After the memorial

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For family and friends of Connie Howard

Shoved back into the world again
(that miserable comforter)
to pickup where you left off.

Except, it doesn’t work that way.
This mark on your life is far too significant,
and only by rote, by habit of sunrise and sunset,
do you turn the next page,
            your hands shaking,
to read the new words that blur in the salt-swim of your eyes.

And even as your new chapters are written,
you will come back to this passage…for the rest of your life,
for some part of you will step out of time and stay there,
        with her,
            forever.

Or perhaps it’s like this: as much as everything has changed,
      and as much as you will change,
her luminous past will overlap your future,
and despite the pain and loss give extra light—twice the light— 
            often, even, heavening  your earth.

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For those who have made requests, and perhaps for those who were unable to attend the memorial: Here is a link to the thoughts and the prayer, written for Connie.

And here is a link to Connie’s Blog,  Sorting It Out, which not only documents, over the last five years, living with cancer, but is a testimony on living, truly and courageously, with an inclination toward celebration.

(The photos above were taken from Connie’s blog)

Let the heart be moved again

    by the green hills,
    grass whistles,
    willow huts
    and pillow forts
    of our childhood:
        our spirits transparent,
        flaring out of our skin
        like beams from dawn.

Let the heart be moved again:
    that first kiss under starlight,
    this shaft of mote-filled light
        bursting through a crack in the tool shed,
    these songs of white-throated sparrows,
        black-capped chickadees
        and that symphony of lazy river,
    this warm rain, these diaphanous faces
        of people in coats on cobble streets
        leaning in under lane lamps,
        arm in arm.

Let the heart be moved again
    at such a time as this:
        these evening years,
        this darkening road,
        these unstinting losses,
        this search for home, that far glory,
        this short steep flight,
        and everlasting fall
        toward the gracing,
        the forgiving,
Reunion.

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