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.

 

This Fragile Light

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This fragile light
filtering through
the early-morning mind
filled as it still is
with night’s dark
shadowy dreams
their dance demonic
or perchance angelic
as light rises and falls
in time to the chest’s
frail tidal change
the ins and outs
of life-giving breath

Bright motes these birds
at the morning feeder
feathered friends
who visit daily
known by their song
their plumage
their ups and downs
as they dazzle and spark
breaking the day open
with their chorus of joy

Blind

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Blind

Warmth in a color,
with heat visible to the touch
and shocking pink a shock
to seeking fingers,
not one that you and I,
gifted with sight,
would ever understand.

Blindfolded, they wheel me
round and round the garden
in my teddy bear reality.
Gravel scrunches beneath
the wheels and I am flooded
with the inability to see, to know,
to be sure of the shadows
that are no longer there.

The ones who push me
talk and tell but cannot show.
How could they hold a rainbow
before my eyes or let me hear
the northern lights crackle the sky,
their visible Niagara a curtain
of fairy lights dancing up and down?

And those glorious organ notes
quivering the body, angel voices rising,
falling, grasping at my eye-
lashes, peeling my eye-lids apart.

Song of songs and the singer
deaf to his own sublimity,
oh dealer of cards, fingerless
pianist, bold dancer prancing
on your amputated stumps.

Comment: Raw poem, written for Gwen Martin who opened my eyes to the fact that blind people can perceive color through their finger-tips.

Minus

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Minus

“The earth is geoidal, i.e. earth-shaped.”
These words, dictated to me by the geography
master when I was about fifteen years old,
taught me that teachers didn’t really know
all there was to know. Nor, indeed, did they
need to know everything. “I don’t know,
I’ll check and tell you later,” breaks the myth
of infallibility but sets up sympathetic links.

“What do groundhogs eat?” the little girl
asks her classroom teacher. “Spaghetti,”
comes back the instant answer from one
who doesn’t know that every day the child
watches the groundhog that lives in her yard
devour delicate New Brunswick violets.
“Spaghetti, with mushroom sauce, of course.”

Then one day comes the spelling test:
“How do you spell minus?”
M-I-N-O-S.”
“Wrong. Try again.”
M-I-N-A-S.”
“Wrong again.
You think you’re so clever.
Everybody knows it’s
M-I-N-U-S.
Don’t we class?”
The class breaks into shrieks and giggles.

Everyone knows how to spell minus:
even the one who has just read how Theseus
followed Ariadne’s thread to escape from
the Minotaur who roamed the Labyrinth
beneath the Cretan Palace of Knossos.

That one was present too, in her own mind,
at the Siege of Minas Tirith, when Gandalf
held five evil kings at bay and Aragorn fought
the nameless Dark Lord who dwelt beneath
the shadow in the land of M-O-R-D-O-R,
a Lord not so powerful M-I-N-U-S his ring.

Four Geese

15 May 2002 Pre-Rimouski 020

Four Geese

Early this morning,
high above the car
in the sky’s giant highway,
four geese flew overhead
honking.

 A welcome sign of spring,
they reminded me of summer sunshine
as they framed themselves
for a moment in the moon roof.

“Remember those happy days,”
they seemed to cry
as they carved their sky path
far above my head.

 I remembered a moonless night
with the admiral out ahead
steering by the stars
and, seemingly sightless,
the great flock following.

That night
I pinpointed their calls
leaning back, looking up,
straining my neck,
and for a moment
there were no stars,
just a feathered blackness
shutting out the Big Dipper
as it hung in the sky
above the river St. John.

 At Montmagny,
on the St. Lawrence River,
the great white geese
will soon be gathering.

White on their arrival
they will drift like snow
and accumulate on the land.

 Alban angels,
harbingers of spring,
guardians of summer’s perfection.,
they too will blotting out the sky
and leaving me breathless,
overwhelmed
by my many memories.

 

 

Not On My Watch!

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Not On My Watch!

The black-and-white cat
sits in the window and watches
the ginger cat who lounges on the porch
and watches the five deer
who stand in the woods at the garden’s foot
and watch the neighbor’s little dog
who watches the raccoon
who disdainfully removes the garbage can lid
and fishes out the food, scattering
paper and wrappers and cans
as four crows sit in the tree and watch
the wind as it whistles the papers
round and round in a windmill
that wraps itself round the feet
of another neighbor who is watching
the raccoon with open-eyes
as a seagull flies above him
and bombs him from above,
damn seagulls, and the bird poop
falls right on my neighbor’s watch face
and he cries out
“Oh no, not on my watch!”