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.

Losing It

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Losing It
Island View

I searched for it everywhere: in the dry, dusty
pages of age-old books, in the spaces, white,
between words, in silences between bird songs,
in grey skies where raindrops formed into clouds,
in the pause between each cat’s paw of wind.

Nothing. I couldn’t find it. This morning
I searched for it in my shaving mirror.
I stirred the shiny film on my breakfast coffee
hunting for it. My Morning Glory lay open
on the operating table of my plate: nothing.

Mourning doves on the feeder called me by name.
The flicker drummed me a soothing rhythm.
I closed my eyes, dreamed of the river rising,
and found myself on an open beach. Homeless
hermit crab, I wandered listless, combing
seaweed, leaving fragile lines, footprints to
bear witness to my presence on this shore,
but as I looked for it, I knew I had lost it.

Comment: 
Forget-me-not. My father’s birthday. He would have been 108. Happy birthday, dad. I’m still wearing your watch.

Baby, it’s cold outside

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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

 

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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

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Russian Roulette

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Russian Roulette
(1789 & 1937 & 2019) 

trickster mind
bred in heaven’s
half-acre
gateway to counterpane
sleep-full forgetfulness

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise

lions tigers panthers
elephants rhinoceros
slipping off the ark
sliding into oblivion

soul’s dark night
empty the house
spun Noah’s wheel
no more bets
the stakes are set

space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
spins onward into what

wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

Comment 1:
I am intrigued by the ideas in this poem. Sitting in the eye surgeon’s waiting room this morning, I watched a video on vanishing wild life. The result: I added some images to this poem and elaborated it a little bit more. There may be some twists to the cork-screw, some more spins of the gun’s roulette wheel. I am not sure that I am finished with this one yet.

Russian Roulette 2
(1789 & 1937 & 2019)

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise
unless the magician
waves his wand

who loads the gun
points the pistol
pulls the trigger
fires at lions tigers
elephants leopards
pushing them off the ark
sliding them into oblivion

soul’s dark night
land’s desolation
all covered by rising seas
Noah spins his steering wheel
les jeux sont faits
rien ne va plus

space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
spins onward into what
a roulette wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

Comment 2:
Told you I hadn’t finished with it. Here’s the next version. Great to live in a bilingual province. What a pity that so many people do not speak both official languages. If you have read this far, let me know which version you prefer. I am going for the one below, the latest edition.

Rushing Roulette
(1789 & 1936-39 & 2019)

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise
unless the magician
waves his wand

who loads the gun
points the pistol
pulls the trigger
fires at lions tigers
elephants leopards
pushing them off the ark
sliding them into oblivion

soul’s dark night
land’s desolation
all covered by rising seas
Noah spins his wheel
steering space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
onward into who knows what
a roulette wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

messieurs et mesdames
les jeux sont faits

rien ne va plus

.

 

Operation Merciless

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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

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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