Shadows

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Shadows

My front door stood open,
but I thought I’d left it
closed.

I tip-toed in and called:
“Is anybody there?”

Echo answered
‘… there, there, there …”
then silence.

I walked
from room to room,
startled by shadows.

I opened doors,
looked under the table,
searched behind chairs.

Nothing. No one.
The house stood
still and empty,

save for the fear,
the silent fear,
that lurked
like a remembered cancer
and occupied each room.

First published on this blog, Shadows, 27 April 2017. Here now with some minor changes and a voice recording.

 

 

 

This Carving

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This carving may be gently touched

It doesn’t act like a bear.
Its head bears a Cocker Spaniel’s short, sharp stop.
Its jaws are wedged in a grin.
Its tongue hangs still.
No saliva drops from its chin.
Motionless eyes.
This carving’s tame.
Children may sit safely on its back,
may stroke the mighty muscles.
It’s perfectly safe.
Woodworm, like moth, have left holes in its back.
More: many a crack ensures its tameness.
Its shoulders hunch.
Sixteen wooden claws chisel the concrete museum floor.
It’s nearer ear is chipped like my grandmother’s tea-cup.
There’s lots of room for slips between cups and this bear’s lips.
I can sense death’s closeness.
Suddenly, I know you’re in there, Bear,
alive, alert, angry, hungry.
I feel you move:
cold sweat covers my false, carved skin.

Mist

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Mist

Mist and I lose my bearings:
men become trees become men
and the clammy damp
waves through my bones.

Hollow sound of my feet
where wraith-like white
pools in the street.

I whistle:
and the moon gleams bright
with whitened teeth.

Comment:

So much mist in town yesterday, all along the river, and winding out from the river to the road. Beautiful, and so mysterious. Shapes shifting, looming out from the trees, then fading back in again. Cars, so difficult to see, and regular landmarks magicked into never-before-seen monoliths so I had to slow, and squint, and double-check all those well-known streets and directions. A baffling world, it was: in its magic, truly mystifying. 

This poem is from my first poetry collection, Last Year in Paradise (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1978). It was published by Fred Cogswell, a wonderful New Brunswick poet and editor who gave help and encouragement to so many young poets.

Wednesday Workshop: Writing from Inside

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Writing from Inside
Wednesday Workshop
07 March 2018

Crave More: I hate those words.  I always choose a cart with the shop’s name on the handle. I can handle that. I can’t handle a shopping cart that screams Crave More at me every time I stoop down and place another item in the wire grid. If stores were honest they would write Think More and Crave Less on their shopping cart handles. But I bet that would quickly cut into profits.

Anyway, there I was, in LaLaLand, leaning on my cart, still half asleep, when this ghost drifted towards me. “Help me,” it said. “I’m hungry. I need food.” I woke up from my dream, looked at the ghost, tall, skeletal thin, cavernous eyes and cheekbones protruding, grey face drawn with shame. The single word “Sorry” came automatically to my lips. Then I too felt shame. I looked at him again. “I only carry plastic.” The excuse limped heavily across the air between. I saw something in his eyes, I knew not what, and I turned away.

In my mind, I added 120 lb of muscle to the scarecrow frame. Took forty years away. Filled his body with joy and pride, not shame, and remembered how he played the game, hard and fast, but true. I ran my hand through the card index of former players that I coached and knew: their moves, and attributes, the way they played the game, their stronger / weaker side, their playing strengths, their weaknesses. I remembered him holding up the Champion’s Cup. But I couldn’t remember his name.

I pushed the cart all over the store in a frantic search for him. He was nowhere to be seen. I went to the ATM and took out cash. I could hand it to him. I could tell him he had dropped it. I went through a thousand scenes. I could invite him to the snack bar. I could tell him to buy what he needed and follow me to the  check out lane. A single opportunity. One chance. That’s all we get. Miss it, and we blow the championship. Take it, and we win the game.

 

Brick

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Brick

Red brick the universe,
red brick crumbled
sparrow crumbs now.

Red brick,
not lily-white limestone,
nor chalk,
white cliffs,
will tumble,
tugged down
by fierce tides

Red brick
and rough:
sand-paper,
the builder’s hands,
life- lines fortified,
unfettered brick dust.

Red brick,
heart, liver, lungs:
red holes, not black,
where red roses
flourish.

Red brick,
shattered into red
dust and this sun
a dwarf brick
shrinking in its
innocence.

Red bricks:
their dust become
gas giants,
Saturn’s rings,
useless wooden wagons
drawn up
in second hand westerns.

The huff and the puff:
brick shit houses,
these red brick
universes, built to last
way beyond
those dreaming spires,
that failed, will fail,
and still fail to inspire.

“Here endeth
the second lesson:
Book of  Brick.”

Nobody’s There

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Nobody’s There

 Reality:
a red brick
sitting on the master’s desk
in the ivory tower
of a Cotswold Manor.

The history master enters,
sees the brick,
sizes it up,
seizes it
and, without looking,
hurls it at the window.

Summer term:
the days are warm.
The windows are open.

End over end,
the brick tumbles
through blue air
to land with a thud
on the quad’s black tarmac
right at the feet
of the school pastor.

He looks around.
There’s nobody there.
The brick must have
materialized
out of thin air.

The pastor shrugs,
stoops down,
picks up the brick,
puts it in his briefcase,
and carries it away.

“Here endeth
the first lesson:
Book of Brick.”