Life and Loss

Freezes & Thaws [I & II]

Freezes and Thaws I

She was sure the package
would not arrive Friday.

They’re kicking up
an awful fuss!
The Post is cutting back
deliveries!

The people of St. John’s were they,
especially in matters concerning
government, doctors,
or postal workers.

In her account of things,
it’s us, vs. them.

They’re closing everything
down here now.
Nothing left in Newfoundland,
no work, sure not a store left Downtown!

I’d almost believe her
if not for the waves of
new store-fronts.

It’s clear.
Nan’s world,
not the city,
is shrinking.

Oh, no mail Fridays now
?
I ask, knowing
this is not so.

She’s a cold one today.
Be sure you keep your hat on tight,

her morning words
are often weather related.
Blow ‘da head off a ya.

It doesn’t seem that bad
by my window, Nan!

I use the fact
the living room
is at the opposite end
of the apartment,
to defend incoming predictions
of untenable weather.

Nan often concedes,
since it’s a theory
she thought up.

Yes the wind is on the back, see,
so when ya go out be careful!

We’ve lived together
since Pop passed away,
and I came from Ontario
to attend University.

Not raining at least, hey?

This is my tactic:
to negate one element,
with the absence of another.

If there’s enough wind to blow the head off ya,
at least it isn’t the rain whose
every drop would fill a bucket!

Too hot? At least it would
be dark soon.

Well, at least it isn’t snowing, hey?

and the battle continued.

No, she returns,
but they’re callin’
for heavy snowfall
around the Bay,
whether or not now
we’ll have it,
nobody knows.

Hard ole day lookin’ out!

Freezes and Thaws II

Last semester,
in German Post-War Film,
I learned about
freezes and thaws.

Relations with Nan
are like the wax and wane
of Soviet-ruled East Germany
before re-unification,
when, The Wall torn apart,
thousands of separated hands,
grasped to reconnect.

Like the professor says,
it’s a matter of
constant freezes and thaws.

This fact’s echoed again
this term, in Soviet Cinema.
Khrushchev would allow
more liberal arts to be made,
then, in a cold-snap,
everything has to tow
the party line again.

Did you hear about the
ghost ship from Newfoundland, Nan?

I don’t bother mentioning
its name, Lyubov Orlova,
is that of a Russian film starlet.

Keep it simple.
Current events.
Weather.

During periods of thaw
our exchanges are
almost fluidic.

The warm water of
communication extends
beyond courtesy.

I keep my door open and
she can see me
from her rocking chair.

This leads to
open fraternization
on a variety of news items.

Yes, and wherever that ship
ends up now my son,
them rats are getting off her!

She’s heard about the ship,
which means we can
further the discussion.

The boat is lost.

Nan suspects,
it was intentionally set adrift,
by the Port Authority,
most conveniently,
in International waters.

It’s filled with
what the British tabloids
are calling cannibal rats.

Yes that’s true Nan,
I mean there is no way
to track the thing now,
since the rats took over.
No radar or nothing, hey?

I know that when I move out
in the Spring
it will be harder.

The mornings quiet
as an empty water.

Instead of painting her apartment
twice a year,
she might have to do it
every four months.

The fleet of miniature spoons
that adorn the walls
on massive collector shelves
will be taken down more often,
each one soaked in a sink
of polish and hot water,
then returned
to individual hanging positions,
like hundreds of miniature
violins, dangling by their necks.

They tell of her life and family,
who always send a spoon
when they move West.

Every province is there,
even the Territory’s.

The Prime Ministers up until,
and including, that fella Trudeau.

The royal family,
one spoon for every marriage
worth mentioning,
up until poor old Diana.

Birthstones.
Provincial flowers.

Their cleaning is
guaranteed to soak up
at least half of a day.

Well, at least it’s gone from our area, hey Nan?
Do you need anything while I’m over at Sobeys?

I’m good, Nan.
I have my key if you’re going, just lock the door.

Yeah I have class shortly.
Talk to ya after!

I sip on coffee,
and scour the paper for
something to top the ghost ship.

It won’t be easy, but,
something always washes up.

Just then,
the familiar boots
followed by the shuffling
of our mail box
being filled.

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poem for La Mer [NIN]

Graduation

I am almost done it,
that quest I told you about, and
I promise I will make it back,
and I will no longer try to
save you from yourself.

I will let the kiss in the bus stop
rain go unnoticed I will not
smile at the driver from
outside, dampening with
every extra tug back toward you
in your sleek bomber
you with those Docs on your feet.

Because I have read more
of Gilbert and Gubar now.
I know it is me who,
like every power hungry fool,
has been your bane, and
I know the boon is knowing better
than to tie rocks to a feather,

I am going to shut in on myself,
I am the book of hate for objectified
love,
but I still miss you.

I will find a way
to make it back
but I will first
eradicate, even that
foolish desire.

I will run through the library
with the scissor of open books,
I will emulate no other poets.

I am here now.

Note of Hunger

[In The Footnotes]

There was a rat
in the heart
of Dickens that
ate away at him.

You can find everything
in the footnotes.

You can spend hours
in their margins.

You can arm yourself.
You are Spy vs Spy.
You can give
everything in the text

a shot of adrenaline,
a battery charge.

A rude wake.
A muffled tear.

The smell of the workhouses
comes up through the floor.

The sounds of
the children
as their bones
become brittle
in hard beds.

The claustrophobia
of the chimney sweep
is given legal parameters.

A rat makes its way across the
secret history of
snuff and Mudfog
to snack on the
salivating eye of a student.

I roll up my sleeves.
Not to get to work.
But because it’s warm
in the workhouse.

My eyes aren’t dry they
stayed up with the orphans
long enough to hear their
stomachs churn in on themselves,
nibbling at the lining.

The riots are breaking out,
the poor are organized
with fire and fury and
the full stomach of the court
is foul, is fallen into full view.

You can smell it on their breath.
Something is rotten.
Something is happening,

in the footnotes,
you can hear the heart
of the orphan
beating to Beethoven’s 6th.

Smashing with a frail fist,
the locks on the food cupboard.

PR men don’t exist yet,
they’re still wet dreams in
Hitler’s unborn henchmen,
but propaganda is as old
as Constantine.

All the King’s men
can’t hide the
footnote.

The one that breaks the truth up
passes it around in
edible, ingestible morsels.

The collection plate is full.
The cup runs right, right over.

Everyone asks for more truth.
Everyone dreams of escape.

Nobody gets out of it without answering.
The clergy are not even safe.

Footnotes for all of them.

Let them have knotty
endnotes, if not.

Your Story

I met you on Route 18.
It was the ugly morning
two after my Mick’s ashes
were put besides his father
and his son’s bodies.

You could see that
I was willing to listen to just about anything
that was not my vacant body
colliding with each bump
in the road and swerve of the transit.

This is the route to his house.
The one I took every weekend I could get off
from the butcher shop in the grocery store in town.
This is the last time I am ever taking this bus.
You see that I am clutching an acoustic
in a flailing black coffin.
Like it is all I ever had.

You start telling me about your quest.
To bring Home Hardware to its knees.
They stole your idea,
your patent pending,
for an apparatus that is both
tape measure and magnifying glass and level.

They stole it right from under you,
and you didn’t care what stood in your way,
you were getting it back.

I thought about the windshield wiper guy,
and that movie that I think only robots
don’t tear up watching,
especially when you told me

how your wife left
and your kids were all grown up
and nobody was on your side
but you were gonna spend your days
making that corporation pay.

It wasn’t the money, either.
It was the truth.
You wanted the world to know
so you had the paper
write an article and you made copies of it.

You let me tell you about the guitar,
and how it was a piece of crap,
truly beyond repair, no strings, warped.
Mick had told me to take it one day last spring,
and it was that ugly day,
when his remaining children,
puffed chests and dry eyes,
had left the wake to go hear the will called out.

When I was told I was not to be their
upon their return, I left.
I left the crowd who
didn’t know my grandfather,
not the way I did.
Not as friend.

I walked past his house.
I finished my 6th beer.
I opened his pickup because
he never locked it.
And I turned it on and
put in the Johnny Cash cd
I had burned for him
a few years back,
when anything that impressed him
I did with a son’s joy.

I wept a little. I cried some more.
I got out with a mission.
I would go into his house
that was never locked, one more time
and I would take my guitar.
My useless, weak instrument.

And I would learn to play
Silver Haired Daddy on it.
It was a song he had cried to many nights
when telling me his own father’s story.

You, Windshield Wiper Man,
you had to ask then, why was I returning
the guitar in its tattered vessel now?
And so I told it true.

His children had called the police.
They had told them I had broken in,
like some criminal, and stolen the only thing
I had left with.

Something he had given me.

So the officer had forced me
to either return it,
or face charges.
It was only right.

Then, you looked at me,
and we shared that moment,
that realization we had both
been put on quests that were
about more than money.
More than family.

Truth.

I told it all then.
How his children had become suspicious when
I started spending time with Mick.

How they had flown in from the West Coast
most having avoided any contact with him,
unless he was buying them condos.

They had learned to roll
their eyes in every language
when he got a few drinks in
and started to tell a familiar story.

And I was suspect.
Because I was interested
in every one of them.

That was when you looked at me,
strange man on a strange quest,
and you said that
no matter what they did
they knew they would never get his
love or respect
not like I had,
and that was all they could do,
was try to take everything else,
even a broken guitar.

You told me
“your story is his story”
and nobody will take that away.
Nobody can.

Then you got off at your stop,
heading toward that massive
Home Hardware.
They were gonna hear from you.
Until you ran out of time.

Seeing Permanent Red

They say us red heads have
tempers like East Coast weather
unpredictable and vicious.

I would argue this point but
it would only send me into
another full blown raging whirl wind.

I turn into a Snickers-less Joe Pesci.
I become Oppenheimer.

Without a moment’s notice.
Even my Jekyll is more like
most people’s Hyde.

Today when I could not find my hat
I felt like I needed it
like some average Junky,
then the more I couldn’t find it,
the more I became Herbert Hunke.

Suddenly I was a barrel short
of 12 angry monkey’s.

I miss a bus and start mumbling
to my room:

“How in the history
of all the holiest fucks
of fucking fuckers
have I lost this goddamn hat
when I have yet to leave the
house today?”

The theories get elaborate, fast.
Some kind of starving, stray
micro-goat-like creature
which normally subsists off odd socks
has not found one lately and has
decided to get brazen.

I must still be wearing it I say,
and pat my red, slowly
sweat-gathering
heavy hair.
Nope.

I check the legs of jeans
startling my bed’s frame
like crusty farmer clothes on
rickety, birch fences.

My inner Shining
declares that
Genes got me here
to begin with.

I go to punch air
and I hit the corner of my door
gashing open my hand,
now I’m bleeding and
cursing and mumbling and
tossing clothes around
like a baglady at the last
Sally Ann sale of the Earth
positive that any second I will
start to shit out everything
I have ever lost
and that’s a lot, a lot, a lot of shit.

By the time I give up and
put my hoody on
I’ve missed another bus
I’ve screamed in italic’s of cuss
I’ve prayed like a desperate Catholic
to a Mexican pick up truck’s Jesus-rust.

Curse this temper of mine.
All it was ever good for
were broken Super Nintendo controllers
dry wall craters covered in NIN posters
and a good post-meltdown chuckle
like the one just now,
while writing this poem.

Maybe that’s enough.

Leaving Lost Angels

I am emptying at your move
I have no choice but love
I no longer fold my hands for anything
but rest
I have earned
every scar
and all I know of capes
could be squeezed,
uncomfortably into
a dire, match-book mattress,
I only give up when
it protects you.
Tonight I push the bill
off the bar and no longer
snort my way back to sick,
warm, real abandon.
I don’t live in the name of
Rimbaud, Kerouac or Morrison,
this little thing is mine,
and only mine.
The easiest part was killing it
in my head .
Otherwise,
the hardest part is being
aware you are MISSING
irreplaceable days,
and in finding your earnest hope,
for a chance
to live out
what many might call
average lives,
you get to partake of
each individual
dynastic star from
the purview of
cell, stone, and bars.

Lou I Knew Ya

for L.R.

Took me all week to get thru to ya,
I heard the lines in NYC went black
flickered quickly without a notice
and that the hobo kings and queens all
danced for you that night I heard that
the songs were played in every country
and that every musician who had never
said it before was now saying it over and
over. How you were the greatest Lou.
I heard someone awoke from a dream
of you and Nico on some Henry James joyride,
her on the handle bars you in the clouds.
I heard it went overhead the state of Russia
and Denmark then Home, to the borough,
to the suburbs, and then downtown, back to
the easy commotion and hustle and drip.

Back to the light to bargain with.

People Love Puppies

It is morning and you
cannot tell me you
are happy to be outside
in the sunshine
not if you are like me
and you stay up later
and sip beer and tap at keys.

There is no coffee shop
jazz smooth enough
to straighten your
knotted neck, and a light
but effective sharp jab
of pain around the temple region
is just praying you try
and focus on the screen
or a page or anything
that is not a puppy.

The patrons are all
gathered around one,
a baby black thing that
is going to be loud
and annoying before it dies
and leaves the family
in shaky tearful messes
on the floor, and not
before it leaves a couple
hundred runny sloppy ones,
to step in still warm,
to curse at while half gagging
on the mysteriously pungent
stank that manages
to come out of
a toy bred ball of fur
and teeth and drool.

But that’s it, nothing
you can do about it-
you cannot stop them
before falling in love.

What can be done?
People love puppies.

The Nightmare of the Zombie

It was the way it always is.
I was in a cemetery with Judith
and we were talking about how
bizarre the whole fame thing is.
How it’s absolutely the work of
bad ju-ju, of hocus pocus, of mice
transformed into the size of men,
of ants and birds and bad things like that.

I guess it was the wine, and the moon,
and the small vortex that opened up,
sort of like in Quantum Leap, so
damn conveniently at the end of each episode
before little Jerry O’Connell got shot by
angry white men or run over by a truck.

We ended up in Los Angeles, but it was
more like a Ridley Scott L.A., and I realized
I was in one of my dreams again, or
I took too much, man. Then I chuckle
while repeatedly saying,

“You took too muuuuuch, man.
Took too much.” just like
del toro’s Gonzo, until Judith
points out the old cemetery
and we wander over.

It’s huge. Like,
a shopping mall of carcass’.

And of course the song from
Return of the Living Dead
plays on some ghetto as a punk
with a Mohawk and a chain
from ear to lip walks by
and spits near my feet.

And then the first heads
start to pop up,
and before you know it
they’re all there.

Orson Welles.
He looks about the same. Belligerent, too.
Hemingway. His head is sort of a mess.
But he has the same jovial spirit!

Bukowski is there.
And Marilyn Monroe
looks pretty damn good.

Which Judith notices me noticing and
makes some ridiculous comment about

how I can only get it up for the paranormal and
cartoon chicks, and I say something like

Jessica Rabbit is practically human.
It’s all her voice.
Shut up and let’s meet some
zombie celebrities!

Everything was going really swell.
I was like a kid in a decomposing candy shop

I talked about Fitzgerald with Ernest ,
and about drinking with Chinaski,
and movies with Welles.

Then we made the mistake of going to some
fucking party and you just knew something
shitty was going to happen, it just felt bad.

The kids at the party just dissed all of them,
if they knew them at all, and called them misogynist
or said they were drunks, or both.

They said Orson Welles was
slow and over-rated.
And no Tarantino.

I wept.

They said Hemingway was
just a representation
of the patriarchy,
and a dirty man,
and Bukowski they
said made Ernest look
like a fucking saint.

I sank.

I don’t even want
to re-describe the way the
feminist crowd devoured
poor Norma Jean.

I understood
where they were coming
from but at the same time,
even a zombified Marilyn was
exhaustively enchanting.

In the end, the old stars left.
Bukowski and Hemingway said they

were gonna go to a fight,
or have one themselves,
whichever happened first.

Poor Orson went looking for some old woman.

Marilyn went out the window rather than
spend another minute with all the bores.

That’s usually when I wake up.
Sometimes me and Norma make out first.
There I said it.

She Took My Hat

I danced with a girl in the mud once.
It was sloppy. Our feet made schlepping noises
as we strove to disengage them from each
wet, mucky step. It was like fly paper for flies.

I remember she had this big, brilliant smile like
a clown the whole time, there for my amusement.
At some point she absconded with my salt and pepper cap,
like it’s an old skipper hat black and white freckled in color,
not the hip hop all female act, Salt n Peppa.

Nobody would ever steal that shit.

Women have always been good at stealing my hats.
There was my “New York Fuckin’ City” black with white letter,
a ball hat I cherished a gift from my aunt.
Lost that one in a hospital after a friend of
a friend od’d on E like the first night I met him,
and I forever the Gordie Lachance, went along
in the ambulance along with some random blonde.

What her deal was I am not sure.
Ambulance chaser in a skirt?
I couldn’t have been any more blind.
I tried my classic lean in on her in the elevator but
she was just in love with that hat. And she got it.
Didn’t even cost her a kiss.

I’m such a lush for people.
I’ll take anything you have.
A word exchanged in an empty hospital bed,
in the dark, where nobody is around,
or a deep muddy dance to George Clinton
on some old abandoned air strip.

My fedora in 2011.
Liberated by a wild night at
some after hours bar.
Another two skipper caps at least in BC.

It’s really been a pleasure though.
Who the fuck am I kidding?