Sunday, November 20, 2011



A muse walks in the door

as if we’ve met somewhere before.

Is there anything more tempting

than a woman with a vice

and a wound so deep

you’ve been falling for light years

into a black hole you call love

lonelier than the singularity

that hasn’t reached bottom yet

but hears there’s a whole new world

on the other side of her hourglass figure

if you ever do make it through

to the far shore

of her kind of abrupt Rinzai satori

gone, gone, altogether gone beyond.

She reminds me of the city lights of Port Angeles

seen from the southern tip of Vancouver Island

on a clear night by the sea

across the Straits of Georgia.

Fairy dust at the foot of an extinct volcano

starting to get active again

with every upward thrust

of two continental plates

along the San Andrea Fault

trying to leave a mark on the world

by shifting for themselves.

And it’s not always easy

to distinguish between

inspiration lust love and an earthquake

one from another

when the earth shakes under your feet

and the walls wobble like musical saws

in a house of cards

clear-cutting your old growth forests

with a complete disregard

for the senior sonority of the sequoias

or the sound of the wind

in the laurels of their poetry

when Apollo’s trying to get his hands on Daphne.




Everything I wanted to be.

Not me.

Just like you.

I remember getting up early

every Saturday morning in Victoria

and going out with my mother

and two sisters and younger brother

and sometimes my grandmother

to scour the acres and acres

of East Indian woodlots

drying the newly split

book-shaped slabs of wood

as if someone had just put out the fire

in the Library of Alexandria

and left this toppled tower

of bottom-feeding erudition

on the outskirts of town

for beer-bottles left over from the night before

and wild blackberry patches

we had to get to before the sun and the birds did.

People went there on a Friday night

to drink and fuck in these heavy swells

of reeking spruce and fir

with Prussian blue mussel shells

still clustered in bunches to the bark

like the sea’s answer to grapes.

We dumped the stale beer out

along with the used condoms and cigarette-butts

and if it weren’t for the fact

we were swimming in wood

we might have been mistaken for pearl divers

given how we came up for air

gasping with excitement

that we had found another one.

It was all just a big impromptu Easter egg hunt

put on by the local church of Satan

for those kids the Easter bunny had missed.

Two bits a dozen

or two cents a piece

stacked like spent artillery casings

in a two-wheeled wire-mesh grocery cart

that made the bottles clink

like a Glockenspiel in a hailstorm

everytime my mother moved it

to a more strategic location.

We didn’t come like gypsies

or crows or seagulls to the woodlots.

This was a full blown military occupation

and our survival in between welfare cheques

depended on it

like William Carlos Williams’ little red wheelbarrow

in the rain beside the white chickens.

We drank the black blood

out of the arachnid eye sacs of the berries

crushing them against our palettes with our tongues

just like John Keats

crushed that autumnal grape in his ode to joy

just before they went too mushy to pick

and took on a mouldy taste

that felt like spider fur in your mouth.

Powerful green breakers of berries

that could suck you down into their undertow

and hold you in their depths

like spiny sea urchins, sawfish, razor-wire

or giant octopi with thorny tentacles instead of suckers

you could stick like stain-glass sunflowers to a window

if you know how to lick them just right

to make their suction cups

in conjunction with your spit

stick longer than lipstick French kissing

a pricey glass of champagne.

Even then I was dreaming of the finer things in life.

Thoroughbred goblets one day

but for then those noisy beer-bottles

like the sweating horses of pussy-whipped Neptune.

And would you believe it

we were all together happy back then

laughing at what we had to do for a living.

We were salvagers of a shipwreck

that had been cut up for firewood

and these long-necked empties in our hands

as if we grabbed a flock of cormorants by the throat

useless to everyone except ourselves

after having delivered their message

like a lifeboat at the end of a James Bond movie

to those marooned here on a Friday night

weren’t beer-bottles but Greek amphorae.

Na. I don’t believe it either.

You make things up to adapt to the lack of them all

when you’re a kid

when you’re poor

when you dream just so

you won’t lose the habit of it

when you fall between the cracks

like a penny down a gutter

because you know too much

by the time you’re six

about what happens when you throw the full moon

like a coin down a wishing well

and how little difference there is

between the things that don’t happen

and the things that aren’t true

and the things that just go splash like Basho’s frog.

But happy, yes, in moments like that

collecting beer bottles in the East Indian woodlots

on the outskirts of town

as if we were shared the same joyous delirium

of improbably getting away with something like our lives

because were desperately ingenious

in the way we’d make walkways through the blackberries

by throwing down planks end to end

and topping our tin laundry buckets

and leaking silver collanders

that always reminded me of bleeding starmaps off

with the furthest, the best, the sweetest we saved till the last.

When you’ve only got the slimmest of half a chance to make it

the future’s always more innocent than the present

and the past might be out on parole any day now

for things you shouldn’t ask a kid to understand

even though you know he does.

Everyone I wanted to be. Not me.

Just like you.

When I wasn’t preoccupied

with beer bottles and blackberries

abandoned orchards of peaches plums apples

and the geraniums and marigolds

I’d steal from the neighbours gardens

for my mother who would invariably ask

as she was transplanting them

without expecting me to answer

where they came from.

Buckets of peanut butter

heavy as bells chafing our shins

as we tried to walk with them like awkward steeples

at the backdoor of the peanut butter factory,

running an extortion racket on telephone booths

by knowing how to tip the horseshoe of the receiver

upside down for loose change

that had run out of luck.

All the local churches

playing musical chairs with our souls

in a game of hamper hamper

who’s got the hamper this month

and who suffered their little children to come unto us,

potatoes too bruised for the potato factory,

a face cord of salmon from the fisherman

coming in with their catches to refuel

down by Johnson Street Bridge

where I’d collect pigeon eggs under the girders for friends.

When it wasn’t this

I was teaching myself algebra

from an old khaki green Salvation Army math book

on my grade six summer vacation

my mother had picked up for a dime

because after a fighter pilot, a cartoonist, a paleontologist,

a street-wise prodigy found dead in my bed in the morning

from an accidental suicide,

I wanted to be an astronomer.

Except for most of all my love affairs

I have suffered few wounds as deep

as when I used to cry in my sleep

for inconsolable hours every night

between the ages of seven and ten

because I’d been born too early

to step foot on another planet

where you didn’t have to walk the plank

to get at the beer-bottles and best blackberries

before the sun and the birds did.

Everything I wanted to be. Not me.

Just like you.

But hey, look at me now.

I’m a poet

and I’m more spaced out

than I could have ever been

in anyone’s air force

and even if I haven’t discovered

a habitable planet to put down roots in yet

I’ve been walking on stars for light years

by putting down planks like poems end to end

to gorge on the choicest blackberries

on a Saturday morning in the East Indian woodlots

as if I were happy again

even among all these luminaries

with better myths of origin than mine

being what I am.

Just like you.

Not me.

Everything I wanted to be.

In spades.

In cornucopias and windfalls.

Buckets full of blackberries.

A rickety grocery cart

clinking with two dozen beer-bottles

the spoils of a Roman triumph

as we rode our golden chariot through a slum

me, my brother and sisters,

sometimes my grandmother,

and Mum.