Sunday, November 13, 2011



Try a little humour I said to myself

as I held a Baretta up to my temple

to blast my way like the C.P.R.

through a tunnel in a mountain

to the seaward side of Hell’s Gate.

I tried to keep it light as a can of American beer

but beer to a Canadian poet

goes a lot deeper than that.

It isn’t a career it’s fate

and there’s nothing you can do about it

except try to engineer your suicide

like the Little Train That Couldn’t

to make it look as if you were laying track line by line

across a waterbed of four thousand square miles of muskeg

when you fell through a crack in the social net

like a childhood event in the life of Icarus

that keeps you from getting up off the ground

even at twenty-five below in a snow bank

drunk out of your mind

like some Canuck Dionysiac

dumbed down by his revels

after the Eleusinian mysteries of the sacred bars close early.

Revelation arrives here

like the memory of the night before

to a hangover that just can’t believe it.

The prophets of delayed insight

like the lag time on a star

see things in black and white

and hide in the bellies of killer whales

dressed like logos

protesting through their blow holes

the desecration of the seal hunt

haemorrhaging like ice-floes

in the ruthless gloaming

of the land of the midnight sun.

Imagine living in a mindscape

where you can’t dig wells or graves

half the year round

because the ground is as hard as an Irish nun.

And who needs rockets to get to the moon

when we rise per ardua per astra

through bolts and bars to the stars?

We reach cruising altitude

through a long runway

of dams and canals and locks

that elevate us slowly

like salmon swimming up stream

against the flow of time

like mystic beaver waterclocks

to enlightened extremes of undisciplined bliss

just before we die.

Fanatics of fair-mindedness

that balance life with death

by giving each its turn

to put an end to the argument

by seconding the suicides

of the winners and losers

in Last Duel Park

to make it a fair fight.

I’ve lived sixty-three years here.

I was born here

in the salmon-fishing capital of the world.

Campbell River, British Columbia.

And I still feel

like a political exile

who’s just taken sanctuary

on the grounds of the Canadian embassy

somewhere in my home and native land.

Here in Perth, Ontario,

out in the sticks

you belong to an extended tribal family.

Closer to town,

a distinguished blood line

of imperial ancestors

rooted five generations back

overly posed in sepia-tinged daguerreotypes

that look like they were painted in nicotine stains

against a backdrop of white with liver spots

and placed in funereal frames

to form a long scornful gauntlet

of moral opprobrium

down the long echoing halls

of the municipal mausoleum

where I go to buy my garbage-tags.

And where are the women

who gave birth to these stalworthies

of pride and place and privilege

in an imported milieu of cultured hypocrisy?

Were none worthy

of staring back at me disapprovingly

or were their hearts so big and compassionate,

their wombs so generous,

the ones who didn’t expire like daylilies

had to go so native to survive

they weren’t worthy of mention.?

Anyway, point is.

On any average day in Canada

since I was born

in the pantry of the world

I’ve felt like an endless Thanksgiving

I spend with myself.

My hospitable passport

a welcome mat I can drop

in front of any threshold in the world,

a screening myth for what was done

to the natives around here.

Maybe that’s why I feel

more homeless at home

than I do on the road.

I’m not staying long enough

to push the host out of his own house.

Good spiritual manners

and I’m a mannerly Canadian

are as much about timing as content.

Space may define the body of my country,

but it’s soul is time

measured in mountains and glaciers

and vast seabeds of prehistoric oceans

in lakes big enough to be the vital organs

of an entire continent

and stars so ferociously bright

in the absolute night air of mid-winter

they’d burn holes in anybody’s flag

like cluster-bombs of white phosphorus

were someone to try and naturalize them.

When you’re living in a country this size

it’s inevitable that you’re going to feel

like a small person forced to do big things

just to survive.




Why do you always come broken to me? Why do you never come whole and full of heart? I can barely remember the person you wanted to save from yourself. I recall the inspiration you were once to everyone around you, but who are these anti-muses of Logoland you keep wearing around me when we both know because we’ve been there, there are no phases on the dark side of the moon you can put on and take off to mask your faceless emotions. Most people only need three to get them through the rest of their lives, but you were Queen Honeybone, and you needed hives to house yours. And that was okay when things were sweet and every wildflower in the starfields prophesied in its sleep that no eclipse would threaten the honey again tomorrow. You were the black rose back then who wore too much make-up on your eyelids, because it was more important to you, as it still is, that more people saw them than you saw people through them. If you were too much of a sleaze-bag to call it lust, you called it love in those years to take the danger out of it and bind hot blood to you on principle, but when I first met you, I didn’t see a lot of chain marks on your skin, but when I looked in your eyes, I could see a lot of lost keys to an abandoned paradise you didn’t know what to do with. You were a knock-out, it’s true, as cruel and sexy as a winning hand in strip poker, and no one knew how it happened, but you were always the one that ended up with brain damage. I remember that back alley drugstore you used to carry in your purse, and that tiny emergency room behind your secret zipper where your dirty syringe was bagged like a snake in its own coils. And how, whenever I got into bed with you on those bad starless nights in the Glebe, when the snowbanks soaked up the blood of the barfights and the light of the streetlamps like tampons, and we tried to fuck ourselves to death out of desperation, I always felt I was making love to you in the back of an ambulance screaming to get to its own accident as fast as it can. You told me once how cool you thought it was to be the last militant suicide to jump from the Peace Tower. And then they put up the butterfly nets. And you took it as a personal insult. I got caught like a polar bear on an ice-floe in more snowstorms of coke with you that most Inuit have survived a blizzard. Long nights with our backs up against the wall in sparsely furnished studio living rooms that looked that way for real because to live the way we did meant you were only passing through. Brooding candles and mystically bruised bottles of dark wine. I once defined a mediocre poet as someone who was looking for a home, and a great one, as someone who knew he wasn’t going to find it. And you inferred from that you had to be a genius. And given what I wanted from you that night we discussed poetry like an occult science in the Kabbalistic candlelight of Third Avenue, who was I to argue? And though I wouldn’t say it then because I hadn’t died enough yet to know the difference, looking at you now, I am reluctantly repelled enough by your twisted strategies to coax my wavelength into being just another one of those loose threads in your flying carpet to tragically agree. You’ve gone way beyond me into hyperspace like a multiverse blowing bubbles like the spheres of expanding mirrors in a time warp. But it’s your tail, not mine, you’ve got in your mouth like the gaping zero that always let’s you know what time it is in infinity. Forever always comes back to the specious present of here and now as if it had never left in the first place. You can wear a lot of thresholds out on a back country road when you don’t know where you’re going at night, and I didn’t for light years after you left your Schick Lady’s Razor uncharged on the sink. I should have known by the way you put your lipstick on like revenge in that tiny squinting mirror on a spider mount you ripped off my telescope, it was time to turn off the music and close the doors of perception. Good night, my friends, good night. May you bear my absence as lightly as I do yours. It’s profoundly Keatsian to make a gracious bow to the mail man before you jump from paradise without a parachute or a star map’s permission to land without consulting the tower. I wanted to avoid a holy war between your angular stars and my celestial spheres, but you were never in the mood to be wrong and I was always out of white flags I could hang from the window like tragic bedsheets.

You had a band. Queen Honeybone and the Drones, and then you had the drummer. And that was that. I gave you back your black snake blues bass guitar like a total eclipse of the moon and decided I had better things to do with my bodily fluids that turn them into tears and spit on the stars you once walked on like a lead singer belting out revolutionary cliches of social behaviour you were the worst example of. So love went to work for the post office like fan mail and I headed deep into the country like a wounded wolf to look for herbal cures to urban maladies. I would occasionally remember you in the morning when I was listening to the honey bees humming in the locust trees powdered with pollen trying not to impale themselves on its Draconian thorns. And I’d write poetry on the flakey picnic table that drove slivers through my wrist like relics of the true cross that wanted to see me bleed from my stigmata to prove this was my real afterlife. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. And I lived for years like a witchdoctor in paradise with six thousand stars overhead visible to the naked eye against a darkness as thick and rich as Turkish coffee that turned Medusas into hookahs. And I saw how gently, everywhere I looked, whether at the ants orbiting the muskrat’s skull like tiny black satellites constantly making course corrections, or groping in the dark without a flashlight for the fuse-boxes of the fireflies in a black-out that came like a revelation of how fragile we all were, I saw how gently death carried the brides of life across the threshold and let them go again in the spring like wild grapevines and deadly night shade. By then I was enough of a herbalist to know the difference between a maenad and a witch. A good drunk and a bad acid trip. Though there was always something dangerously seductive about that hourglass tatoo on your ankle. And the way anyone who didn’t know when they were making love to you that timing was as important as content, disappeared by morning when you woke up like a cannibal that had gratified her sexual appetite. Sex might be food. Desert before dinner. But it bites when it comes down to who’s going to eat whose vegetables. And you were always the one with the inexhaustible golden spoon around your neck. Remember the Chimo Inn when I hung your bag of blow over the toilet like the sword of Damocles and asked you to choose it or me? And you hesitated. You lost control in the moment. You saw your reflection on my silver shield and you turned to stone. You shattered like a chandelier of a tree in an ice storm. And I watched how you struggled to shed your skin to make a new start together like an antidote to ourselves. And how your fangs turned into wishbones and broke apart between your pinky finger and mine and mine got the bigger part three out of four times. If I’d known as much cowboy Zen as I do now I wouldn’t have mistaken a fortune cookie for a real koan and wasted my time trying to break anything open so we could both be free of ourselves together. Sex was always a tsunami in a dead seabed on the moon with you, but what all this time away from you has taught me, is that without love in the mix, there’s no weather. No lifeboats. No shipwrecks. No mermaids calling you to the rocks like an old habit you thought you’d kicked in rehab. And there’s not much of an emotional life to a nightsea that’s flatlining in intensive care. Even if it’s a smart move to give your musical career a good scare now and again.

But I’m not trying to inflict pain upon you for the pain you afflicted me with like the black madonna of killer bees. You were the Aztec Catholic and I got lost in the deep woods like the infidel you made me out to be. The missing thirteenth imam of the Shiites who conscientiously objected to your holy war and more a warrior scholar of the Druids on his own than when I was with you, spent my days trying to decipher the shadows of the Kufic script of the wild apple trees in the exiled orchards around Westport in paint. I fell feloniously into paradise where things encountered each other like bees and flowers spontaneously. They didn’t swarm. And for nine years my heart got along famously with the spearheads that were embedded in it like the relics of bygone Indian wars that drove me off the reservation deeper into the wilderness than any tempter would dare. I said who I was in my solitude and buried my name in the night sums it up pretty much. I watched small things slowly grow for the longest time. I checked a garden every morning for the local news of what went down in the night like corn to a raccoon or a rabbit to a pack of coydogs who got their viciousness from the city that looked upon the country as a pet cemetery where what you once loved unconditionally had a cold-hearted chance to live. Either that, or they didn’t have the integrity to kill them outright. So the wounded were dumped at the side of a dirt road like good physicians to heal themselves. Some people put maggots on their wounds to disinfect them like the corpses of children who died of scarlet fever under their pioneer headstones lost like skulls in the grass epidemics ago. I cauterized mine with fireflies. I sipped home brew with covens of witchy women who asked me if I’d be willing to paint sacred murals in their Satanic shrines in virgin blood they’d blessed for the job. And they didn’t mind when I told them I was into painting country landscapes, but I couldn’t get as rural as all that because I was irreligious without meaning any disrespect to the judas-goats that bound them to the farm. And after they saw my work and caught a whiff of the wolf in me they left me alone to my own hunting magic like Orion on a winter night. A truce between the apostate sheep and the shepherd of wolves without recourse to a lawgiver like Lycurgus to separate the helots from the Spartans. And there I lived among my nine bean rows with one of the noblest women I’ve ever slept with, an artist from Westmount, who was nicknamed Black Savage, though she looked like Nefertiti, who was reputed to be by others who could see deeper than me, the most powerful witch in Ottawa. Sex was never a ritual. It was always an initiation rite. The new moon at its darkest. And then one day Lilith was gone from the garden to see if she could become as famous as Eve without standing in my shadow.

Alone again, heretically, with the black farce of my unconverted personal history repeating itself like an encore of evil clowns, I couldn’t help thanking you in absentia for how much you’d left undone to help me prepare for this event like the foreshadowing of a sad fact embedded in the black pearls of the mystery like a new moon whose youth was eclipsed by the darkness of the truth within her. Queen Honeybone, the Huntress, come back to renew her virginity in the toxic pools of her unicorn eyes spiced with horns and stingers. It’s death to see you again at your bath. But this time I’m not running from your hounds like a white stag or a wild boar. I’m not the shipwreck you tried to turn into a tourist attraction with a marriage proposal that was on the rocks before the first mermaid opened her mouth to sing. This time I’m waiting like a wolf pack of submarines on the moon in all your vital shipping lanes for you to make the first move. And when the jewel at the end of the witching stick of the wizard you broke goes down like the third eye at the end of my dick below the water line, kaboom! Up periscope! Like the lilaceous lifeboats and spotlights of the daffodils trying to trick the sun into shining at midnight to look for survivors in an oil slick. With no chance of history repeating itself like a negative whole number in a burning sea of incommensurable decimals of crack cocaine half a tone off that black bass snake blues guitar that used to sit in the corner like a cormorant on the rocks off shore and sing hauntingly beautiful snake charming lullabies to herself whenever she thought everyone else was sleeping. Queen Honeybone, once the princess bride of a genetic nightmare that pedalled in death like a pyramid, waking up, too late, weeping, with no one at her side but a flowerless wind in the deserted courtyards of her hive. You snorted the pollen and now you cry the hive’s deprived of honey. There’s nothing left to tempt the bears with as you rail the stars of Ursa Major on the one-eyed mirror of a reflecting telescope that finally got what she saw coming. Though it brings no one any joy to catching a falling star and lose a good guitar.