Saturday, November 26, 2011




The howling of wolves.

Venting the agony in the wasteland

of nightclubs, bars, jails, parking lots

in the grubby all night greasy spoons

with the pizza oven in the window

and a heavy snow falling outside

at three in the morning

when the ghouls like us were out

like afterhours carnies from the Ex

the hooker in the corner

the pervert in another

the dealer in a booth in the middle

and hot camera for sale

by a drunk in another

who isn’t ever sure of where or who he is.

And the Mexican restaurants where we were banned

permanently for life twice

because no body drank as much as us

and our outrageous bullshit was good for business.

And everybody knew how difficult it was

to be an alcoholic artist those days

and get some really good work done

that never pays much

until after your dead

and everybody puts your picture up on the wall

and thinks of it as a signal honour

you got arrested first in their restaurant.

You didn’t live in the big homey

awkward cheap rent run-down houses of the Glebe

before it was gentrified back then

by the real estate agents who crashed our parties

to entice our women away,

property for property,

you encamped, tribally.

Parties ran from house to house

like waterclocks of booze

and every fourth bucket of a house

had a porch and a beached whale of a couch

you could sit out on in the dark with a candle all night

and listen to the music coming from the back of the house

and three doors up the street

with a toke, and a girl

who thought

as you let the story of your life in art

drift off into the cool night air thematically

like smoke from the end of the spliff in your hand

you were a wickedly dangerous genius

who could only be saved from himself

if he took her beauty and her pain

and her body to bed for a muse.


The howling of wolves

like a displaced tribe of Sioux among the Seminoles

lamenting the only holy war path left to them

was the longest way home,

venting their agony

in a self-abusive wilderness

of longing, madness, and aspiration.

Ferocious false starts to damaged careers

as a litmus test of who was sincere or not

as we ran our tongues along the razor’s edge

of the things that we would say

and the things that we would not

and the things we would do

that we were willing to bleed for

to prove we were crazy enough

to be who we said we were

even in absentia.

Singers, poets, painters, mimes

and the wannabe agents

and mythically inflated producers,

the editors, publishers, girlfriends

trying to con a candle into a constellation

so they could be as important and controlling

as a contract with a bad ear.

And I still very much doubt

if there’s any more murder

in a terrorist cell

than there is in a room

that’s just given birth to a new poetry mag

and all the editors claiming paternity

are arguing among themselves

for equal visiting rights to the baby

even before it’s out of the incubator.

Nightfall over the city

and the stars no brighter over the capital

than they were over Toronto and Montreal

but something colonial and sinister

about the way the ass-kissing

quislings and collaborators

thought they were dimmer somehow

and wheeled Toronto into their poetic agendas

like the Trojan horse through the gates of Ottawa.

So many sleepwalking through the snow

talking to themselves

as if they had a pillow over their mouths

they could scream through

or dream

as it dawned on them in the streetlights

outside a negligent poetry reading

things are often as true as they seem

and how hard it is,

what a lonely brutal discipline it is

to try and convince the moon you’re wounded

when you’re only bleeding for poetic effect

to howl with the wolves

so crazed by the lunacy of what they longed for

and knew was so utterly unattainable

even the echo of what they asked for

wouldn’t be given back

when they broke off the engagement

to the coyote pack that practised

mimicking their derangement

as if to feel that way

were creatively stimulating

and not self-destructively real.

Snarling backwards thirty years later,

raising an ear,

baring a fang to the past

as if it were a crucial snake pit

in my formative years,

trying to weave the downed powerlines

in an ice storm of broken chandeliers

into paradigmatic creatively visual

magical mystery tour flying carpets

bejewelled with my tears

that so many now are as threadbare as crosswalks

at the corner of Bank and Fifth

laid like welcome mats

for the public to wipe their feet on

before the revolving doors of aesthetic perception.

But it’s as hard to turn

the memory of a bad acid trip

it took years to come down from

into a flying carpet

that’s going to sell as well

as a genie’s latest line of touch lamps

where you only have to clap once

when you enter a room

like the light coming out of the darkness

and your reputation’s

made in the shade for a lifetime

until it gets real dark

and the full moon breaks out above the city

and the wolves begin to howl

and all up and down the Valley

from Ottawa to Kingston you can hear

the dogs, the cowed dogs, begin to whine

like a Japanese two stroke

compared to the big-hearted snarl of a bad Harley

with a throttle for a throat

with all the bridges it’s ever crossed

burning in a quarter ounce aluminum rear view mirror

with a big heart-shaped gas tank

metal-flaked in cherry red

full of fire and freedom and tears

that would rather wipe out honestly

on the newly gravelled dirt road ahead

than the black ice

of the treacherous highway behind it

that’s been unravelling like a snake with its head cut off

for light years.




Only thing I ever saved up for in my life.

A telescope when I was thirteen.

Sixty millimetre, alta-azimuth mount,

three lean skeletal folding crutches for legs

black rubber tips at the ends

old mens’s canes

that sat it down bluntly on the earth like a spider

with elbow eyepieces and extension lenses

and a cool blue white enamel tube

so smooth and pure

it felt like the skin of waterlilies

and tasted like the moon

on the lips of the morning glory

in a total eclipse of bliss

as I had known it up till then.

A wonderful object. A work of art.

Second only to a woman’s body.

Mystic tangibility at last

though one will bring you closer to the stars

than the other that just looks at them.

This was the glyph for A

in my very first alphabet

and that was all that would ever stand

between me and the stars

as I had known them up till then.

Late nights on a high rock shelf

up on Heartbreak Hill

the name of an old prison

converted into a junior high school

where seven hanged men

were rumoured to be buried on the grounds

that were all that remained of it

along with several dozen cows

away from the lights of the city.

Away away away

from the drunken fist fights,

the screaming wives,

the crying children no one could help

just me and my telescope and a stray cat

that waited for me every clear night

on the path up through

the wild fields full of scrubby broom

to follow me as if she weren’t quite sure

she wanted me to know she was there or not

to the one spot

in the whole, wide, wondering, fucked-up universe

I could focus on something

without being afraid of it

or in my neck of the woods

trying to hunt it down.

I was spaced way out there

with this great blue heron

eyeballing fish in the night

like a native with a spear of light

posed forever over a hole in the universe

as if another constellation

had just made the front cover of the sky.

I was in the mythic company

of radiant swans.

I was among cold bright remote things

that grew more mysterious

the greater the distance between us

and deepened in the darkness

that made us seem more like intimates

alone in a big vast space

with a stray cat and a brand new telescope;

none of us with any clue

about what we’re doing here

but anxious to find out.

Clarity can be a knife in the wrong hands

or the scalpel that takes the tumour out in the right.

But if you’re wounded by the truth

you can’t be healed by a lie

and you might like what you see

but have you seen what you’re not

always seemed like the best advice

I’ve ever given myself like a Zen mondo

I’ve found incredibly hard to take.

It’s like trying to tell the difference

between bad whiskey and good

by which one of them

is trying the hardest

to get drunk on you.

Stupid minds get stuck in the starmud.

Middling ones get lost

in the clouds and the moonlight.

But the true genius of insight

is clarity.

Is a cold, dry lense

with no dew on it

but the whole of the sky and all of its stars

like lapis luzuli

or the translucent immensities

of a star sapphire

for an iris

or emerald in the case of a cat

as I had known it up till then.