Some hard reality for dreamers – and a warning for the rest of us

Happy April 1st, and happy Poetry Month!


 And here’s a slightly edited version:

Have you had it up to here
with all those creative-come-mystic types going on
about the quiet wonder of the quotidian?

Do you, too, cringe when you read the reviews?
Poet enters into the everyday and emerges enrapt.
Artist finds numinous splendour in the prosaic stuff of life.

Whatever happened to the daily grind, the brine-soaked
reality of every morning—their minutes
passing like anchoritic decades?

I swear, if I read of one more apple-cheeked author
who stands amazed under an ordinary afternoon
I’m going to shoot myself!

That snow mixed with salt and sand is not marzipan!
It’s slush!

That sunrise is not a host of seraphim with wings of flame!
The burgeoning leaf is not the hale harbinger of…
blah, blah, blah!

It’s chemistry, astronomy, biology.
Its physics! All physics!
Always been physics!

Okay, maybe “sunset is an angel weeping, holding out a bloody sword,” *
but that’s because it’s bloody tired of everyone’s delight
in the predictable movement of the planetary system.

Hark! Everyday is not Christmas. Life is NOT a box of truffles.
It’s a string of purgatorial Mondays. Or if your lucky,
a boring slide to obscurity.

You want awestruck? Wait for the giant flash on the horizon.
Wait for the Four Horsemen, the Seven Trumpets,
the apocalyptic haemorrhage.

Wait for the moon to burst its seams
and bleed its achromatic pall upon the earth.
Then go oohing and awing.

Don’t be a schlub. At least win a lottery.
Then maybe, for a while,
you can go telling people of the élan within the mundane.

For the sake of all that’s marketable, don’t let them fool you.
Don’t relent to wonderment. Don’t accede to mystery.
It only breeds trust in the supposed sufficiency of any given day.

And if that catches fire we’re all screwed.
The stage will crack, the façade fall.
The ad will atrophy and the cult of consumption crumble;

and all our sacred edifices—with their theatres of envy and rivalry—
will collapse into laughter,
uncommon kindness, and liberated longing.

* a Bruce Cockburn line

Approaching the 45th American Presidency


The following poem was published in Vancouver’s Westender yesterday…Thank you Westender!


Approaching the 45th American Presidency

I leave Planet Earth Poetry at Hillside Coffee
after listening to an enjambment of poets
fervently consider the current state of the American presidency,
and on my way home remember I need to prepare and marinate
the chicken for tomorrow night’s dinner,
                  that’s the chicken
I bought from Drumpf Meats earlier in the day that I thought (although
I didn’t ask) was fresh-fresh, but was in fact alternatively-fresh,
as I found remnant formations of ice crystals in the cramped cavity,
and the oblique neck, stuffed within, was polar-stiff,
and the gelid giblets, notably the orange-hued heart, was glacial-cold,
meaning this or more: that the bird hadn’t come straight from the abattoir
to its place behind glass, but had spent time in cryogenic rime,
and I remembered too,
                  that a chicken
can live without its head for an ungodly duration,
which beyond all reason,
made me approach the fridge
with unimpeachable apprehension.

How to make something good happen: counsel for the perniciously officious politician


I could point to the ocean, the chickadees, the aspen trees,
tell you to consider the Carthusian monks
—you could learn something,
especially from the ocean.

I could tell you to listen to the silence at the entrance of a cave,
go to your knees,
crawl in
and watch the neat rows of bats hang like laundry.

You could take a tide-pool bath,
let the wisdom of water wizen your skin,
or sit cross-legged on the sand and gaze inward,
follow the capillaries at the back of your eyes,
down the veins, down the arteries
all the way to your heart, where,
hoping your return, a young monk sits waiting,
saying nothing, which is not  nothing,
doing the nothing  that is not-nothing.

I could go on giving examples,
hinting at true states fit for governance,
but the fact is:
seduced by the hubris of the grand display,
driven by the gluttony of a fragile ego,
you’ve become the serial deploy-er of pernicious policy.
Fact is, without study, in humility, “believe me”,
you can’t make anything good happen.
What you can do,
is leave stuff the fuck alone!

I’m not sure what effect poetry has, or has ever had on politics. Marginal I suspect, especially today, considering the broad cultural shift to the visual. And yet, to my light it continually begs to be written (even, as is the case here, if its best effort is to create a scene for a judiciously placed expletive).

Still, protest poetry, social justice poetry, is at least as ancient as the Old Testament (the prophets were not averse to use purple language). And of course there’s a rich history of the protest poem, particularly during the sixties (Dylan, Levertov, Adrienne Rich, Ginsberg etc.). What’s more, in Russia, poetry could get you killed: it was the poetry of Osip Mandelstam that so agitated and angered Stalin that he had Mandelstam’s life end in a concentration camp.

For me, all I know is that in a world moved to a frightening precipice by so-called leaders the likes of Trump, Putin, Kim Jong-ul, one is compelled to use whatever creative outlet they have to raise a flag, unsettle the craven egos of the emperors, speak some kind of truth to inhuman powers. Not that this will effect change, only that it is right.

We need a different kind of flesh


What we have is marvellous but it lacks resilience.
I know this because once I was sitting in a café
                                                  sipping dark coffee,
and the light sifting through the windows
had this powdery softness
that sometimes comes early-to-mid-morning,
before surrendering to the brawny glare of afternoon.

And I had just noted this thought about light in my notebook,
when a white-haired person wearing a blue bandana 
                                                  and gardening shirt,
rose to leave and—silhouetted in that full-flowering light—
signalled a simple acknowledgement of my presence.

And what rushed to fill me, inexplicable and irrepressible,
                                                  was joy;
so intense and primal that I was brought
                                                   to tears
and would have been overwrought,
                                                  had it endured.
Yet how I longed for it to endure
(but hadn’t the frame for it).

It was this experience that convinced me of an afterlife:
where, at some forever-open café we’ll all be changed
and in a peach-tinted flash receive new flesh, new bones,
bodies made to bear ancient crimson flames,
                                                      and so,
go out into glad afternoons, magnificently naked.