Marshall MacLuhan

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Marshall McLuhan

Black ants drip off my pen.
They crawl across my journal
organizing themselves
into marching battalions.

It doesn’t matter what each ant
weighs or means. What counts
is the accumulated weight
of all those ants. Just twenty-

-six of them: that’s all it takes,
as they divide and multiply,
shuffle their feet, form and reform.
All this jazz about medium

and message is meaningless
when internal organs start to fight
and the body’s civil war
tears me into tiny pieces

that the ants seek out,
reshape, rebuild,
and reconstruct into
new and relevant meaning.

Absence

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Absence

I left my father lying there
unable to look him in the eye;
I was his only living child,
but I never flew back to say goodbye.

My absence tore apart my heart.
I couldn’t face a hotel room,
no house, no friends, no family,
in the town I once called home.

I remembered my dad for a little while,
but then his face just fled.
Now I seek his smile in this photo,
but his eyes fill me with dread.

No life, no light, no focus,
nothing that I recall;
I look at him quite helplessly:
but he can’t see me at all.

 

Doppelganger

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Doppelgänger

When I walked in through
the hospice’s glass door
I met myself walking out.

A curious sensation:
seeing two separate versions of me
side by side in sympathetic union.

When I got to my room,
I looked in the mirror:
how long had I been like this?

My two-faced, double head
joined at the neck,
a Siamese twin of myself,
never knowing which was which
nor whether I was coming or going.

What grief there will be
when the mirror shatters
and nothing remains
but a black space
adorning a broken
wall in an empty room.

Stepping Stones

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Stepping Stones

Two years ago
today,
a lovely lady
read me
a death sentence:
my biopsy result.

She poured me
a poisoned chalice,
my personal
Gethsemane,
a cup from which
I had to drink.

I sat there in silence,
sipping it in.

Darkness wrapped
its shawl
around my shoulders.

‘Step by step,’ she said,
‘on stepping stones.’

I opened my eyes,
but
I could no longer see
the far side of the stream.

Comment:

I am searching for a title for the poetry book I wrote in 2015, while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. My original idea for a title was Echoes of An Impromptu Metaphysics. I was reading the Spanish metaphysical poets during the treatment period and their voices resonated in my verse. The second attempt at a title shortened the original to Echoes. However, that didn’t really gel with what I was writing and what I was writing was not a metaphysical treatise: it was something simpler, and more personal.

We have all, as writers, gone into ourselves in that search for our own unique authenticity. My Echoes were authentic in the sense that they echoed other writers; but did they portray me and the search I was making? I wasn’t sure that they did.

I abandoned Echoes for a whole year (2016) and returned to it in January 2017. The space between writing and revision was most beneficial. I had begun blogging in April 2016, and the blogging experience had sharpened my vision. Reading other authors allowed me to see what I was doing that they weren’t. Preparing my own writing for perusal by a wider audience developed my critical skills. Is this really me? Is this how I want to portray my world?

I still don’t know. I am still looking for a title.

Cribbage

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Cribbage

Red and white markers
chased each other
along the S bends,
past the skunk lines
to the final straight
where a single space
awaited the winner.

I don’t remember
who won, nor do I care.
But I know we shuffled
the cards and dealt again
as we waited for sleep
to descend and bless us.

We fasted that night:
no food, no water.

When midnight struck,
we put away the deck
and pegging board,
and bade each other
goodnight.

“Sleep well if you can,
my friend,” you said.

“Tomorrow  will bring
a much more serious game
that neither of us
can afford to lose.”

 

Waiting

 

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Waiting

I remember pushing
my father around the ward.

“Cancer,” they said.
“But it’s kinder
not to let him know.”

In those days,
it was better to die
without knowing why.

Did I betray him
by not telling him
what I knew?

Two weeks we had,
together.
He sat in his wheel chair
and I wheeled him
up and down.

I lifted him
onto the toilet,
he strained and strained
but couldn’t go.

“Son,”
he said, sitting there.
“Will you rub my back?’

How could I say no?

That strong man,
the man who had carried me
on his back,
and me standing there,
watching him,
his trousers around his knees,
straining,
hopelessly

and me
rubbing his back,
waiting

for him to go.

Terminus

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Terminus

A terminus,
this waiting room in which we sit,
a left-luggage office
where, wrapped in blue gowns,
human packages
sit restless,
waiting to be claimed.

Tagged with a label on the wrist,
we wait here,
abandoned for a moment to our fate.

Our choices disappeared
the moment we walked in here
and surrendered ourselves to the system.

Now we lack free will
and freedom of choice,
yet still we wish to choose
our destinations,
not knowing that terminal
and terminus both mean
nec plus ultra:

the Pillars of Hercules,
the end of the world as we knew it,
and our own world’s end.