May 31, 2010
These poems were written as a cathartic response to all the murders of my youth. Jack and Robert Kennedy. Martin Luther King. Malcolm X. The picture of airport runways filled with airplanes unloading the bodies of Americans killed in Vietnam. It was as if the world was in a state of rage… When I was at university I went to a George Wallace political rally in Detroit. What I noticed about the Wallace supporters was the intensity of their rage. It was as if one of their family had been murdered in their living room in front of them. And they had been forced to watch.They were there as families. Not just men. But wives, and grandparents, and children. It was like church. And Wallace himself. He had that look in his eyes that you see in photos of Hitler went he was giving a speech. (Maybe all demagogues do.) And I remember Wallace pointing at the protestors who filled the upper decks of the Olypium where the rally was held. And he smiled. ‘We know places we can put you after we win.’ (Or words to that effect.) And Wallace’s followers smiled. Many laughed. And patted the heads of their children as if triumph was a comforting certainty.
nick the miner
twitches his ears and his eyes
in his suit for special occasions
killing the flies
that refuse to be shaken.
to the prosecution’s case
and agrees with its conclusions.
‘life is sacred.’
nick mumbles with a sense of pride.
the defence’s case
hands on his hips, eyes on the floor,
barely audible words flee from the defence lawyer’s lips.
‘my learned colleague displays a strange disguise
dressing up vengeance as some sort of appertif.’
a flock of chuckles rose from the gallery.
‘we must not escape one truth
what is on trial here is crime itself –
do we just forget auchswitz, hiroshima, mai lai, pontchartrain, guernica?
what is this crime, in history’s terms,
but wind through some teeth,
breath down a street,
tears at her wake.
vengeance is the outlaw’s virtue.
mercy the rule of the blessed.’
‘even if gods,
we could not mend the past.
let us preserve the memory of this
girl in the murderer’s hands.
since death ends all
slaying my client will only seal his victim’s fate.’
the judge addresses the jury
‘let no one asy why we are here
guarding our memories…. pockets in knots
we are those
who did not survive birth and lived.
we are condemned to weigh the evidence
as if we were gods,
the possessor of all possible facts.
we have had enough of a joy
that flushed the heart
and leaves the lips chapped.
let us decide,
knowing that outside… in the stillness
not a moment has passed.’
May 30, 2010
I’ve had dreams. Nightmares. In which I felt guilty. For what? I’m not sure. But it was something very serious. I would wake up in a sweat. Wrought with angst. If only I could remember. Someone told me that it was Catholic guilt. For the original sin. Eve tempted Adam with the apple. And every morning during high school when I opened my lunch, there was an apple in the bag. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I wonder if that was what Eve said to her mate.
the accused takes the stand
x flower child…. root bound
barb’d wire head band
pointed nose…. gargoyle
hair that scourged his face.
kept rushing to the defense
of his eyes. words
cluttered in his mouth.
the sort of person who never has
a bad word
for anyone and whom
no one ever trusts.
at the courtroom
bleach’d out eyes
trembling with apologies.
overhead neon lights whispered
before the harvest
learning to fly.
across the room
around the accused’s head,
licking their lips,
the prosecution states its case
‘I will state the prosecution’s position clearly.
let no one mistake our claim.
a girl’s body lies defenseless,
now ruptured from her soul.’
the prosecutor’s glare turns from the courtroom to the jurors
their eyes begin to soften
like a box of chocolates
that have sat too long in the sun.
‘we reject all forms of mercy.
we beg for haste.
this rift must be mended.
this horrid tale must have its end.
our case is simple
based on the facts.
murder needs its answer.’
with all eyes upon him
the prosecutor turned
took his seat
smothered a chair.
May 29, 2010
One of the things one speculates upon (when death seems like an option) is a final message. When final means just that. Except if you survive, your final message seems somewhat trivial. I like what W. C. Fields is supposed to have written on his tombstone. “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” Final messages or thoughts are an illusion. Still one would like to say some kind of farewell. Which is what the murder victim is cheated of. No last wave. No last good-bye. My father’s life has always been a lesson to me. He had not aspirations for immortality. He was born. Survived a war. Had children. Watched them play. And died. Like a stone that is skipped across the water. And then sinks without notice. We’d all like to be remembered. (I keep thinking of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer when Tom attends his own funeral.) But with the billions of people who have existed on the planet wouldn’t our presence be lost in the multitude. And if we all shouted goodbye and that goodbye rang down through eternity, wouldn’t it make an awful racket. In a way, I’d like to just – disappear. Quietly. Without notice.
a philosophical cop leaned against a wall
munching on a hot dog
what sort of creature is this MAN
who reaches for heaven and then licks the earth
what sort of creature is this MAN
who once calls himself god
and then is able to swallow his pride
the philosophical cop looked away,
licked his fingers, and finished his coke.
in the crowded courtroom
perspiration drips from a nose,
hangs like a metal from an earlobe,
forms beads around necks,
headbands across brows
fills bras with pools
straightens out pubic hairs
drips drips drips
behind panting flys
and 14 metric nights.
chrome plated shades
black satin jacket
rhinestone studded jeans
smoking a cigarette
one set of lips
between the others
until the murderer’s touring glance
shoots a spark between
her eyes sparks
in her heart.
May 26, 2010
One summer I worked at a government agency dealing with a new pharmaceutical program. We had to deal with the problems that druggists were having. The fellow at the desk next to mine was tall dark and handsome. We’ll call him Matt. Matt could have been a candidate on one of those reality shows like the “bachelor”. When he worked he had a habit of humming the theme music from the original Star Trek. We struck up a friendship. At lunch Matt often talked about his family who seemed bizarre. I had a picture of my sister in my wallet and Matt asked if he could meet her. I told him that she was already dating someone else. Something about him struck me as ‘eerie’. Our contract finished and we went on our separate ways vowing to meet again for drinks some day but never intending to keep the promise. About six months later there was a terrible murder in a subway station of a young girl. The murderer was never discovered. About a year after that I was reading an article about a woman who had been murdered in her apartment. The killer had picked her up at a dance club. She was about 15 years his senior. When questioned the killer said that the knives in her kitchen drawer had spoken to him, imploring him to kill her. I looked at the picture above the article. It was Matt.
the second witness responds to the question
a fist falling…. a girl below
circling like a ring
bowing their heads
except for a
kid with asphalt eyes who screamed stop
and the scraping of her fingers
as they tried to escape beneath the sod
there wasn’t even
a french girl beside me burst into tears
the moon passed
over the sun
each time I try to explain how I felt
I fall back
a fist falling…. a girl below.
in the maple leaf
lowered the flag… half mast
hoping the gentlemen would reach for their pockets
and the ladies’ eyes would all be cocked;
a reporter twisted his chin
a mailman plundered his ears
a girl wrapped in snakes and roses yawned
a cop saluted
someone’s aunt waved so long
a stenographer postponed her period.
the testimony of the third witness
I noticed the crowd
I saw him on her
I thought it was love
I heard someone
in the crowd
this is murder.
I’m going to burst at the gut with laughter.’
my eyes shudder d.
her face was born into my memory.
the last words from her lips was
May 24, 2010
Life does not exist outside the trial. Life does not exist outside human consciousness. Or at least that is the way we operate. We live in a cocoon of our own limitations. As a species and a social animal we look into the group. Like the group in Plato’s cave we only see the images cast on the walls. We do not see the fire that causes them. Or the greater light, of which the fire is only a faint imitation. Personally I feel cheated. I want to understand more. But also want to avoid the new age pseudo sciences. Why were we put here if we are to remain ignorant? There has to be more to life than Oprah and Reilly.
about the third witness
long brown hair flowing like dandelion seeds in your breath
kneading her heart with her
as if the world had awakened into her dream.
using her despair as a fix
she laughs with her mouth
‘the world is constipated with flesh.
the earth is fat with us.
communication is buggery, what she needs
is a good laxative.’
an old lady…. someone’s aunt
sits in the last row of pews
thinking that these problems we all go on about
are a social disease.
everything could be cured
if we exercised our prayers
and washed behind our knees
as she holds her handkerchief
over her mouth and nose
so she won’t catch a dose.
the account of the first witness
leaves litter danced a jig
as the sun played with the moon
pigeons posted in trees
balloons filled with screams
the crowd stood around the scene
holding their eyes
seeing him shelter her with death
I’m sure it was an
he had found his victim.
she had lost her breath.
May 22, 2010
A kid at the high school I work in told me a story. Perhaps he embellished it. But he was talking about a basketball game he was at. At another school. When he said something. He tended to be boisterous. And a little glib. The kid behind him took offense. And put the barrel of a gun to his head. Nothing else happened. As if that wasn’t enough. But it was a sober reminder to me that kids today live in a dangerous world. Not because human nature has changed. Or that teenagers have some how morphed into some evil creatures. But their world has become weaponized.
out of the belfry almost mating
with the judge’s toupee. darted left
almost entering a woman’s scream. looped
over and up and to the right
sergeant at arms ordered curtains drawn
leaped from the floor to the judge’s bench
the courtroom turned blind. all the could be heard
was heavy breathing, wings flapping, a child like screech
laughing like a gatling gun.
the second witness consents to an interview
life is……………………………………… like Jack Benny
a private enterprise…………………… swinging his arms
a short term……………………………….volleying with grins
loan……………………………………………love in his eyes
the flesh…strokes the shag
off the rack…on his chin
someone has worn before.
death is socialized sleep.
you get the rest you’ve always wanted
without having to pay
with your dreams.
mary, the master thief,
who has stolen 16 hearts,
a dime store lover,
is buried in a blush.
in a panic she scours the room
has anyone noticed
her leaving the ladies’ room
forgetting to flush.
May 19, 2010
For a short time I considered going to law school. I had just finished my Master’s degree in philosophy and one of my profs suggested that I might consider teaching ethics in law school. (My chances of getting such a job would increase if I became a lawyer.) The idea had some appeal. (Money.) But there was something about going to law school that bothered me. Like becoming a missionary in a leper colony. I didn’t think I would last.
plaster crack’d slowly
paint peel’d fell
ceiling in flurries
like thin ice
cock roaches all 20 legs
across the hardboard.
one stopped to
was crushed by a flake.
profile of the prosecutor
bicycle teeth that flicker in his words. canyon
in his chin.
his eyes are too close
an unnatural saviour eloping with a cross.
there are no limits
to his smile.
he keeps all his movements catalogued in files.
he measures his days in gowns.
he counts his relationships with a computer.
he attributes his success
to two factors;
he was born with a criminal face
and never confused convictions with his career.
the first witness reveals herself
running her fingers like a comb through her hair. on the hour
her face is drawing thin.
an uncomfortable smile (like a child’s after she has knocked over a vase of flowers)
memories that lay cold and lifeless.
sheets that were seldom crowded.
on a whim she turns and addresses the camera:
‘It is easy to feel gay when one is young.
but wisdom is accumulated with years.
life is nothing
but dimly lit corridors and hushed voices.
(pointing her finger to her face)
and next week I’ll be twenty-one.’
May 14, 2010
Murder seemed to be a preoccupation of the 70s. Especially in Toronto. Where we went from a several murders a year to dozens. Of course we blamed it on the effects of the American media. We were confused. And angry. Our perfect little city had monsters in it.
about the jury
12 (7.5 x 4.5) apostles
gathered for the murder trial brunch
hands in his pocket
holding his invention SWEET MALINDA
her appetite is her profession
curlers for credentials
A RETIRED COP
bouncer in an old folks home
A NIGHT CLUB SINGER
flexing his dimples FEMALE IMPOSTER
beauty abandoned for makeup
A SOCIOLOGY STUDENT
coughs and takes notes
how is what one feels related to what is spoken
too many reasons buried in bottles ‘hell is for those who will not be nervous.’
TOO YOUNG stenographers
hands that start at the elbow
everyone has their price.
give me enough pieces of gold
and I can rent you a victim.’
cub reporter buck teeth
in a pew
pressed against a large bosomed woman
blood heated to steam
woke-up startled arousal
her hand in his pocket.
concerning the lawyer for the defense
skin pulled tight like a sheet over the dead
across his skull
a slit for his words
his eyes crawl out through 2 holes
his body too small for his clothes.
he stands on his toes trying to make a favourable impression
perhaps he thinks
he might pull an upset
by blindly shooting up the courtroom with words.
if he won
his name would be on everyone’s lips
beautiful women would worship him on their knees.
each of his remains would be cherished,
they might even bottle his gas,
and he could spend his reclining years
May 11, 2010
My wife reads murder mysteries. Teens love horror films. We live in a world where people make a living out of scaring people to death. Harmlessly. Why? Is it the same thrill that people get on a ferris wheel? That feeling of impending death. Knowing that we will survive. Is that what life is? A thrill ride. Except we don’t survive.
the air in held it
and then pushed it out.
each spectator took his turn.
some pinched their nostrils
some used cigarettes
to filted the air.
everyone was moderately pleased
that they’d been given the chance to breathe
until a pungent sound
from the corner
of the courtroom
where a little old man
had let his diet play a tune.
about the judge
behind the bench his robes hang regally
across 65 years old eyes
chair with roots
hammocks of flesh
sw ing ing
below his waist
down his bones stocking
overflowing in his shoes.
as a kid he used to swallow
caterpillars farting butterflys
just to hear them scream.
a cat lay on the window ledge
into a perfect circle
bathin’ in heat
opened one eye
saw the cockroaches
scurry around the feet
of a room full of spectators
through heavy traffic
closed that eye
opened the other
watched the judge
hurtle his fury upon the courtroom
like a downpour
upon the rush hour
closed that eye
a perfect straight line
May 10, 2010
While I was working on this piece I was reading a lot of Mircea Eliade. There are iconic images, archetypal characters and scenes all over the place. I saw the whole thing as a kind of Greek play that once performed, was played again. And again.
the mortician’s aside
smiled dimples like gulls
against a falling sky
I remember the fresh salty air
I assigned a blue evening
to the occasion.
I arranged the powder
on her face.
organized her smile,
pruned the terror from her eyes.’
lineup of the possible murder suspects
devouring ears in contact with almost every thought
flaming enormous eyes from burnt norton
confessing to any crime to suicide
like he was taking out a
loan to sexual mathematiques
to pay off the punishment that he caught
faithful wife in his purse
living inside a brown briefcase
‘crime is just the violent extension of business
but I don’t think that makes me
capable of murder’
outside the courthouse
bleachers filled with clouds
TV cameras pan late afternoon scene
RCMPolice stand behind barbed wire
Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx Xx
protecting the courthouse from wind erosion
reporters sharpen their tongues
a mink dressed up in a woman
selling postcards of her operation
a loner 2 lovers in the grass
discharges trying each other on
homosexuals demanding equal time
woman’s lib; lips swollen into megaphones
behind the din a dog salutes the flag.