Sunday, February 7, 2010




In that slum of a neighbourhood

you were the Butterscotch Man.

Old. East Indian. Seikh. Kind.

Long white beard and hair

pouring out of your turbin.

And as I can remember you now

fifty-four years later

you were a cloud circling the peak

of Mt. Sumeru

the world mountain

that walked among children

handing out one hard butterscotch candy to each.

You’re always there in my childhood

on the corner of Douglas and Hillside

by the totem-pole telephone booth

everyone jimmied for change,

reaching deep into your tattered sportscoat pocket

with a look of gleeful gratitude on your face

that the light had smiled upon you like a child

asking for a candy.

We were too busy playing for keeps

to know how or when you died.

One day we just knew you did.

And we broke into your small ratty house,

that crutch of a box that could barely stand,

and we saw how poor you were

so much poorer than us

and even though you had an address

here in Canada among us

and stared out through the same windows

at the same demeaning day

at the doors of the deperately poor as we did,

how inestimably far you really were from home

and how alone.

There was so little to steal

who could have robbed you?

But I remember the strange calendars

no one could tell the time by in sanskrit

shedding the pictures

of the same unnamed goddess

in flaming sunset colours

like the petals of a lotus with its eyes closed.

I can’t forget the calendars.

Or how we went on looking

for large hairy black wolfspiders

hiding in the darker corners

of your abandoned rooms

we could drop hot match-heads on

to watch them run like startled wicks.

Some kids grow up like saplings.

We grew up like sticks.

But that one butterscotch candy

you were always good for

like some unknown kindness

we could infallibly depend on

however the rest of it hurt

has kept on releasing its sweetness in me

over the years

like some philosopher’s stone

that rolled down from a very high mountain of a man

that still stands before me in his turbin

even at this distance

through the bluing of time.

I can still see you on any clear day

like snow-capped Mt. Baker on the horizon

across the Straits of Georgia

all the way to Washington State 

from the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

And if you were alive now

I would thank you better than I ever did then

when we approached you like a bird-feeder

apprehensively as birds.

You were handing out

your wisdom your life your light

the largesse of your spirit

without words.

Now I’ve come back alone

for all of us who’ve gone our different ways

like the wind and the waves

and the heavy clouds

of the world we shared back then,

some to prison

some to god knows where

and some to early graves

like the seeds of bad beginnings. 

And it’s not that I want to set things right

because things are never really wrong

to a strong mountain

that knows how to stand on its own

among humans

without blocking the light

and there never was a time

whenever I saw you as a child

I didn’t look upon you with delight.

But now as a man

I see you as a long dark night

streaming with stars down the Himalayas

like the eternal Ganges whose waters

I imagine myself standing by for your sake

to throw my heart in

like that shoot of a rose of blood

you rooted in our ancestral starmud 

like a Taj Mahal of light in the slums

of a North American night on earth

where the children who went to bed

in that cast-off neighbourhood

like unanswered prayers

stoically beyond their years

like prodigies of disappointment

brutally acquainted with the dark side of Santa Claus

wondering why they weren’t worth much

to the people who were supposed to love them,

remembered you

and how much of the world can be saved forever

like the taste of kindness

in a half-finished butterscoth candy under a pillow

as hard as stone

dreaming of a huge big-hearted mountain

that thawed the milk of human kindness

to run down our lives like the lifelines

of the melting ice-cream cone

you looked like to us in your turbin.


May this rose of a poem

find you everywhere

like the children’s eyes

you opened like moments of light

to star in a dark world

as if every one of those timeless moments

were the lifespan of one of your many afterlives

handing out candies on the corners

of all the myriad worlds

where the children run to your shining

like children of the morning

with eyes as bright as morning dew

to greet the Butterscotch Man

and pry open his fingers

like the sun on Kashmiri flowers

to see what he’s got in his hand

that would taste like love on the native tongue

of any land as wise and old

and as compassionate as his forever is

or as ours was then

unfeelingly young by ten.

So thank you.

Thank-you from all the children of when

the world was a shabbier place

than this homelessness of now

but somehow you always managed

to corner a little kind place for each of us

in that spacious heart

that seemed to understand

how to stand forever before us

in a turbin of snow

like a sacred mountain

in the body of an aging holy man

as if the deepest secret of life

were as childishly simple

as a hardrock candy in the open hand

of the Butterscotch Man.

































Is it so hard to imagine a world

where we’ve all stopped dying at our own hands

where we return to the more human illusion

of having personalities instead of brands?

Where the living cells of our flesh

are not virtually mineralized

by the logos and memes

of the new periodic table

of mutant elements

that have deranged

the molecular structures

that once stood behind our names.

There are cuckoos

there are xenophobic changelings

in everybody’s nuclear nest

smashing eggs at the roots of the tree

they were born to sing in

like a mass infanticide of whole notes.

Our first mother’s womb

was a generous open place

that gave freely of itself. 

Now we conspire to steal our way in

like something in our food

to tamper with the face we’ve always wanted

like an airbrushed photo on the cover of a magazine,

still-lives of sexy semi-nudes

posing like menus with attitude.

We’re all jawing the stale gum of our lives

like the psychotic cud serial killers chew

when they’ve slaughtered all their sacred cows.

Nanochips have deposed our mitochondria.

God’s eye is flyed with pixels

and everyone is looking

for signs of the end

in every blue beginning

like a corpse that can’t wait.

And the muses of our heartless arts

conspire with us like

hatred of the bad

hatred of the good

perversion of the root

coercion of the flower

as we sign our names like skidmarks

to the new designer dreams

that can see eternity in a sound-bite

and in the workings of the universe

the most successful snakepit

of all our corporate schemes.

TV turned the stone over

and now we can look into things

we’ve never seen before

like birds in the eyes of a cobra

paralyzed by the mesmeric horror

of watching what happens to the others

day after day after day

as if our destinies

were merely a hypocritical kind of luck

as if our eyes were embedded like jewels

in the keyhole of a door

we’re all looking through on the inside

to see what they meant

when they called the world Babylon

and Babylon a whore.

All those candles in the night

we kept burning

like gestures of faith

in someone returning

have suffered a major meltdown

and now we’re Peeping Toms

in the windows of existence,

billions of tiny Tom Thumbs

sticking our opposable thumbs

in everyone else’s pies

to gouge out the plums

of their incredible Oedipal eyes.

We’ve reversed the spin

on the polarity of our stars,

we’ve navigated away from the old skies

with all their analogue cliches of shining

like web-sites digitally streaming

the last live reality show on Mars 

to expose its scars as ours

soon enough.

We’ve reversed the spin

on the polarity of our eyes

and now we’re looking out of the darkness

into everybody else’s lies

like the original sins

of our own myths of origin

that have always tried to finish us

right where we begin

knowing we’ll fall for it all over again

like a sure cure for obesity impotence and pain:

elixirs of pharmaceutical snakeoil

injected directly into the brain

like messianic chemicals

that can raise the dead from the living

like a gift that just doesn’t know when

to stop giving.

Is it so hard to imagine a world

given what you know of this one

where the dead don’t legislate for the living

and any sign of life in the cemetery,

any fragrance any colour any taste

any action any twitch of life

that trips the switch of your boney fingertips

and turns something on

that isn’t already too far gone to call back

isn’t an event on the flatlining horizon of a blackhole

to the other side of a brighter world

as abhorrent as dawn is to a ghost?

Is it so hard to imagine a world

that isn’t one of Mother Hubbard’s old shoes

crammed with too many children

chewing on leather to live,

a world without human traffickers off its coast

coyotes at its border

overturning lifeboats of refugees

or taking off their shoes

to dump the pebbles of the road out of them

like the skulls of desperate, helpless people

who couldn’t swim through sand or water

to save their own lives for love or money.

Standing in one of the four gates

into the mystically-walled garden

of an unenlightened North America

down to its last green leaf

looking out over the thresholds

of its paranoid coasts

is it so hard to imagine a world

where people don’t treat people

like climacteric plagues of swarming locusts

all looking for a green card to nibble on

like spring leaves on the tree of life in the dead of winter?