Memorial Service

15 May 2002 Pre-Rimouski 141

Memorial Service

In the funeral home we meet, crack jokes, exchange
greetings and pleasantries, renew friendships,
shake hands, avoid eye contact. Family members

greet us, recall our names, mention us in the same
breath as the dearly departed. Musical chairs:
we shuffle from hand to hand. Discomfort is both

mental and muscular. We tighten our faces
into skeletal smiles, peeling lips from teeth.
We search for washrooms, step inside, recover

breath and balance. Outside, empty chairs await.
We shun reserved seats, drift to the back of the room,
close to the exit. A polished pianist plays

Beethoven, some Bach, music that softens the soul
for the family’s sucker punch of intimate loss.
A sister stands up and speaks: growing up together,

so close. Sibling comforts extract a tear. All sigh.
She breaks down. Packets of Kleenex, strategically
placed, spring into action. Someone sobs. Like the common

cold, it affects us all. Service over, we pay tribute with known
family members. One after another, we offer our last
respects, and leave. Someone says “Follow us home.

We’ll celebrate.” Another discovers a flat tire
and calls the CAA. A man phones a Chinese take-out.
I hobble to the door, locate my car, and drive
the long way home, sitting in the car, all by myself.

Baby, it’s cold outside

IMG_0689

Baby
it’s cold outside
(2016-2019)

damaged and diminished
no longer great but grating
gritting grinding worn-out teeth
stamp collection of small islands
seeking annihilation

no longer a leopard or a lion
a cat’s paw of wind
drifting a rudderless craft
without captain or sails
crew abandoning ship

Britannia ruling no waves
making waves in land-locked lands
billows of bitterness
filled with sweet nothings
torn from a long-lost love

a disunited kingdom now
untied not united
its shipwreck revealed
verbal Freudian slip
so many between cup and lip

lemmings at cliff edge
no blue birds over
white faces frowning down
denying anonymity’s oblivion
old lady of Threadneedle

a wheel-chaired cripple
stay-cationing in the Caymans
stooping to conquer
a hollow centre that won’t hold
though she can’t stand up straight

Tug Turmoil towing
drifting and shiftless
a common weal of festering
failures and faithless
flying enterprises

Eden 2

 

20180823_152000-1_resized

Eden 2
(1956 AD)

Mushrooms
cremini oysters pearl
love them

love them not
garlic mushrooms
flash-fried
in atomic frying pans

nor magic mushrooms
nor radioactive fungi
spores parachuted down
mushroom grey
clouds

built this berth canal
an umbilical cord
birthing oceanic links
not division
nor destruction

Eden’s Garden
a walk in the park
an earthly paradise
closed to many
open for few

lost now
that projected paradise
not much room
four maneuvers
all things
vanished in a flash
horizon’s banana
split in an instant
everything lost

20180823_152000-1_resized

Operation Merciless

IMG_0730 (2).JPG

Operation Merciless
(1916 & 2019)

what can we
will we do
we raise our eyes
to silent skies
sing hymns and arias
who listens
nobody replies
we must do our duty
lambs to the slaughter
bleating as we march
our bleeding hearts
pleading for release
this earthly bondage
a bandage over eyes
decimated they tell us
one in ten of us
each must give a finger
a toe everyone must go
ten percent of everything
we own docked
a spaniel’s tail
a boxer’s ears
I cry out why
as I lie on the gurney
hoping to hell
I will not die

 

 

 

Joy & Love

IMG_0194

Joy & Love
(1936 – 1969 AD)

sunbathers sunbathe
swimmers don’t swim
except for one silly fool
in a clear patch of water
swept clean by the current
towed under by the undertow

swimmer fights back
goes against the flow
tires so swiftly
raises his arms
throws up goes under
comes up throws up

a beach ball thrown
misses the target
kicked with more accuracy
a soccer ball heavier
lands by his side
he grasps it hangs on
kicking more slowly

sun-bathers sprint
across sand to the shore
linked hands a life-line
reaching out through the waves
to rescue the swimmer
no longer fighting back

summer-sun kisses
resuscitation
sun-bathers victorious
this great chain of being
restoring humanity
sweet victory of man

Cogito ergo sum

 

IMG_0057

Cogito ergo sum
(1812 & 1942-43 & 2019)

I think therefore I am
what I am but what am I

a man who borrows and buys
who runs up false credit

sneaks away from unpaid bills
and reads fake falsifications

or listens to such things on tv
talk shows where noddies nod

finger-talk shaking their heads
and grinning so much people can

even see them smile while chatting
with them on land-line phones

I am at the center of my universe
egocentric terracentric heliocentric

a boiled egg this world a cracked
shell this starry firmament

and me with my silver spoon
poised to dig into worldly riches

stuffing them into my mouth
as I lie in the ripped steaming

horse’s belly behind me dead cities
the whole world flaring into flame

ahead of me this winter snow my fate
an albatross noosed around my neck

 

Comment:

Poetry is made up of little touches, a metaphor here, a line change there, a word less, an idea more.  As a result, poets dabble with their verses, shifting them around, sliding them about. I call it “shuffle and cut”. Some arrangements are more effective than others; the big question: which is which? Every word-change alters tone, emphasis, meaning, exposition. What, for example,  is the correct place for “the center of my universe”? Should it start the poem? Should it appear in the middle? Which is more effective? While one answer may please one person, that same answer may displease somebody else. As poets, we must make choices, we cannot always “have patience and shuffle the cards”. Somewhere, the cards, like the male deer who visit my garden, must stop. But where do they stop? Where do the words make their final stand?

Cogito ergo sum
(1812 & 1942-43 & 2019)

centered on my universe
terra- helio- ego

I think therefore I am
what I am but what am I

a man who borrows and buys
who sets up false credit

runs away from unpaid bills
reads fake falsifications

listens to talk shows on CBC
tv shows where noddies nod

shake their heads or smirk
grin so much people can

even see them smile while
talking to them on the phone

a boiled egg this world cracked
shell this starry firmament

me with my silver spoon
poised to dig into worldly

riches stuffing them into my mouth
I lie in the warm steaming belly

dead this horse behind me cities
whole worlds flaring into flame

ahead of me this winter snow my fate
an albatross noosed around my neck

IMG_0641.JPG

Stones (3 May 1808)

IMG_0664 (2).JPG

Stones
(3 May 1808 AD)

stones once thrown
can never be brought back
nor words once spoken
nor the bullet
once released
from musket or gun

here lies who knows who
face down in the dust
shirt soaked in blood
body pierced with lead

nor water time nor love
can ever flow back
beneath that bridge

some kneel some pray
some raise their eyes
to uncaring skies
every one of them dies
shooters
those waiting to be shot

even the soldiers
reloading their guns
never understand
how time’s tide runs
ebbs and then flows
until everyone goes

this you
lying face down
on cobble stones
well know

 

Comment: 

The poem is drawn in part from the Goya painting of the shootings, El tres de mayo de 1808. The painting above is a close-up of Geoff Slater’s latest mural, still in progress, at Macadam Railway Station in New Brunswick. “If only the stones could speak, what stories they would tell.” This re-post was inspired by a visit to Seasons of the Witch on  Mr. Cake’s Cake or Death site with its images of Goya’s Black Paintings. So, we have a continuing Goya mini-Fest, May the Second and May the third.