#poem

To a brother, now gone.

Adopted by wolves,

The baby was.

Taken on a heavy moon night

When the wet grass turns to ice, and the wind investigates what the day left behind.

The gray mother-wolf carried the tiny boy

Through the hollow and into the forest.

Brushing his tiny face against soft leaves

And supple branches, until turning twice she curled up with the babe

And fell asleep.

The baby lay for a while in the heavenly fur,

Snuggled with the warm animal, smelled

The dog smell,

Framed by the damp forest scent

and looked out past the fur and leaves,

glimpsing the silver apples of the moon.

This baby, raised on bitter wolf milk

Grew stronger and dog-wise

Until one day, in a clearing, when the boy was older,

The pack saw humans on a brown leaf path.

They froze, and turned, fleeing into the thick trees

Of that autumn palace.

The young poet

In a small house on Rumber Lane,

a boy lived with his mother and sister.

This boy spent his time in books

And dreamed of composing lines of glory.

 

The young poet, standing in the hall with the last shadows of day,

Watched the beetles make their way across the stone floor.

Looking up as the trees turned gold in the last rays,

He saw the neighbour coming home from work.

 

The neighbour, a big man, carried his bag on his shoulder

And smiled arrogantly at the women passing by.

The young poet watched how the man moved,

 With the wide heavy motions he made.

 

The neighbour’s daughter would meet the boys by the river

On Sunday afternoons

And raise her dress for them.

She wore no underwear.

 

The young poet was never invited, but

By hiding in the trees

He had seen her reveal herself,

Her body golden, shining like embers.

 

He had only a few friends, one boy,

With a sour breath, smelled of piss.

This boy would wet himself in class.

Deep down the young poet despised him.

 

The night grown dark,

The young poet turns to his book and reads.

Writing down words of interest,

And reciting lines that appealed to him.

An old man remembers his days

 

What happens to our time once it’s past?

Weeks melt into years

Success and tragedy,

Lunch and dinner,

Trips overseas,

Love affairs

All eaten up by time

Until Sunday night comes and silently crying

You wonder where it all went

And you are lucky to take another breath

At 85.

He was lucky to succeed, only out of university by five years

And already managing his own branch.

Flying in and out of Europe,

Nights in New York.

She always had shiny hair

And all the money she wanted.

Her baby was born healthy,

he held her hand as they left the hospital.

But he drank

And she was selfish.

He died one night in the rain

When his car crashed into a tree.

She was shocked for a while,

But life goes on.

She married again,

And had another child.

This one was not so well.

Her black hair turned grey

And life sped away.

Never to know the secrets of the universe,

Never to stand above all,

But watch the sunset and the pink evening sky

And take pleasure in the small things.

 

Broken and beaten at last

The old man sits in his home

Thinking about the things that had past.

Red sky at night,

The blueness of the Pacific Ocean,

The softness of his first love.

The memories flashed into him like electric shocks,

His son, drunk, crashed his car into a tree

And he was lost fifty years ago.

His daughter in law

Only interested in clothes and cars

And meeting strange men in bars.

Their daughter had grown up

To be a surprisingly good woman.

Responsible and happy.

It was a pleasure that she was nothing like her parents.

The man smiled and closed his eyes,

The heater was warm and helped him dream of times gone.

The time he bought a boat and sailed around the Islands,

The time he cut a fingertip off while building his house.

Regretting nothing, but knowing he never beat the world.

The world had the better of him.

No one came to see him for his birthday,

But listening to the rain on the road outside,

He heard a train pulling on the slight incline,

And wondered what the news would bring on world affairs

Tomorrow.

Cold on the moon

There were the times long ago

When she would wake me in the night

And take me walking down the lanes and across fields.

Gently she would lead me through the dewy grass and mossy stones.

Once she pointed to the sky

And said: “It would be so cold to live up there.”

I looked into the sky where the diamond moon

Shone through wispy clouds.

Years past and there were Christmases, birthdays,

And holidays on the beach.

These moments of happiness seemed to slow the sadness that passing days always bring.

Later, I would visit her, and she would start up from her bed

Wild hair, searching eyes

She would cry out for a pet

That had been dead for years,

She would call out its name.

I would try to explain that the pet had died

But it would not calm her.

Other times she was scared and asked for help, or complained of the pain.

Now every time I walk along frost encrusted paths on winter nights

And think how much she would have loved to walk with me,

 I look at the moon; I think how cold it must be.

 

What gives life, also takes it.

What gives life also kills it.

The waves of the ocean breaking on black rocks,

The swift bird settling on a pink flower,

The moon, heavy as good luck,

Sitting on an old, grey-bearded cloud.

 

These beautiful things give life to poetry,

But if you forget to catch them,

These things also kill the words.

Like an animal in the night,

The words flee into the forest and are lost.

 

That woman, my wife, full of life

Moving softly on the sand,

The water filling the prints she leaves,

Her smile and happy eyes

Give birth to the words.

 

Grasp the work when it is there,

Wait for it quietly and encourage it with good thoughts.

Nothing is guaranteed.

The man whose job it is to cut the wood in winter,

Must cart water in summer.

The oil painting of a woman, nude.

 

The oil painting of a woman,

lying naked across a red bed

with a fat, happy baby searching for her breast,

and a blue sky in view from the window,

hung in the dining room for two generations.

It was painted by a woman with a great talent.

When I was a boy, my grandmother told me

that the artist loved my grandfather

and had given the painting to him.

The woman in the painting was the artist herself

and the baby was the baby she never had.

Now, as a man

with no living grandparents,

I often wonder why my grandmother

had allowed such a painting to hang in the home.

Was it because it is a beautiful image, the flesh so soft and sensual,

The colours so clear and bright?

 

I only remember dark flashes of my grandfather,

I remember him as a happy, kind man.

My grandmother, a widow at the time she stood me before the painting,

Smiled at some hidden memory and asked me if I liked the picture.

I nodded and said I liked the baby.

She was satisfied, and we stood a while,

On that dark winter afternoon,

We looked at that painting, lit only by weak sunlight

Until my father turned on the room’s light.

The brightness broke the spell and we both looked away,

The electric light was too bright and harsh for that moment.

It hangs there still, like a spirit that haunts that room,

that woman forever looking out, searching for love,

while that baby, forever tiny, caught between a smile and a yawn,

begs to be born.

The Waves of dreams

Breaking further and further out to sea,

I watch the log drift out toward the horizon.

I suspect the wood has broken off from the forests

That grow around this bay.

I pick up a piece of driftwood I find on the sand

And feel how smooth the salt water has worn it.

It is soft like a lover’s skin.

 

How beautiful she looked

On that summer night

On the beach,

Nearly naked

Dressed in white moonlight

Like a bride about to wed.

How the moon smiled that night.

You said there is no human face on the moon,

It is instead a hare, a celestial hare outrunning the dogs of the sun,

Eternal flight, pregnant with hope and always looking back.

 

The beach house was not ours

And I said I did not want to stay there

So we found our own place

Run down and hardly clean,

But on the water’s edge.

We could sit outside and rest our feet in the water.

Did I dream

Or was the light from the ocean so dazzling and clear

That I lost my senses?

Hold me tight and whisper to me

So that I think of the seaside, that night with you, again.

Snapshot of city life at Christmas.

Open the window

and feel the wind.

See the leaves dance along the street.

Hear the cars pushing, always pushing forward.

The windows are lit for Christmas.

People push along the sidewalk,

pushing each other with arms and elbows.

I saw an empty park yesterday

and out of the bush and long grass

stepped a black rabbit.

In this city park, it stopped

and ate some grass.

 

Angie of office 93

She works in office 93,

A third floor view of a parking lot and a tree.

It is nice enough. At least she can see something.

A cold cup of tea upon her desk

A telephone and a computer

Stare her in the eyes

And ask her, ‘what is the point of all this?’

He left her last week, emailed her a note,

‘Get checked,’ it read, ‘I may have given you…’

She shudders.

‘I got it on the night I didn’t come home.’

She thought about the email and sighed.

Now she looked at the cold cup of tea

And dreaded having to get another

She didn’t want to have to talk to anyone.

The street at five was terrible and cold

The clouds hung on the tops of the buildings

And the advertising signs glowed redder than hell.

She let herself into her small cheap room

with no space for a proper kitchen

The bedroom just off the hall.

She puts on some music and cooks some food, enough for two.

At six a knock at the door

And she lets him in; she hasn’t seen him in years.

He was handsome when she knew him in high school

But now he’s turning fat

And his eyes are watery and always red

But she is glad to have company.

They ate in the cold room,

He looked from her hair to her breast.

She watched the clock near the door.

They sat on the bed and turned on the television

And soon he made his move.

She let him go, and he went all the way.

She was awake when he left, but she gave no sign.

He didn’t lock the door.

She turned to the window and looked at the darkness

A glow came from the city ten miles east.

Outside the street lamps glowed,

The man, his clothes wrinkled, his long hair over his ear

Tried to keep out of the puddles.

 

 

Mostly Mr. Hyde.

There’s a guy I know,

And he sits around all day getting mad,

Or he works at some store or wherever he can get a job

And then he goes out at night running.

He looks for fights; he looks for trouble.

He’s crazy, and he’s angry

He’s never been in a stable relationship.

He starts dating girls; then he starts to agonize about their past boyfriends

Or over thoughts that he’s not good enough for them

Or they’re not good enough for him,

And he starts to break them down and drive them away.

I tell him he has low self-esteem

I tell him not to worry about the things he worries about

But it only gives him more things to twist over.

He tucks a knife into his running shorts

And then he’s off into the night, running all year around,

In summer heat or winter rain,

He goes for hours.

Sometimes he comes back and you can see he’s been fighting.

Some car driven across a driveway, and they don’t give way to him

Or some teenager yelling something at him out the window of a car

While it’s parked at a red light,

Or someone won’t get out of his way.

Most of them regret doing it when he loses it,

Sometimes he finds guys just as angry as himself.

One day, he’ll stab someone

And he’ll go to jail.

I wonder: what’s he got to lose anyway?

A refrigerator full of beer

And some poetry books.

That’s all he has.

He writes poetry sometimes too

Like me.

His writing is good, but that’s not enough.

He’s a mad dog, tearing at his own fur.