face down in the mud

November 27, 2012

I was reading about the Battle of Cannae. Hannibal’s famous fight against superior numbers of Romans. It was the greatest battle in the second Punic War between Rome and Carthage. 60,000 Romans died in the battle. Some who initially survived the battle begged the Carthaginians to dispense them, their wounds begin so horrendous. Other Romans were seen smothering themselves face down in the mud of the battleground so that they wouldn’t suffer a long painful death.

I’m a peacenik. And yet I find these tales of battles fascinating.

Christians burnt down the library in Alexandria in the early days of the first millennium. It set western thought back centuries. It is possible that instead of discovering America in the 1400s, we could have been landing on the moon.

You hear people saying that one should be careful what you put on the net because it is there forever. Really? I think we have an exaggerated idea of how permanent the net is. It could be destroyed. (By a comet passing too close to the earth and wiping out all memories on computers. By heat. By lack of maintenance. Accidents.)

Is time moving faster? How could we measure it? I have more respect for the brief existence of insects. Our own lives are very brief.

Is Mitt alright?

November 17, 2012

I’ve been hearing voices. Everyone has memory flashes. In dreams. Day dreams. And one recalls songs .Or at least rifts and lines. But these are voices. In crowds. Calling my name. Its very odd. I turn around. And though there is a crowd around me, no one is calling my name. No one is approaching me.

Report on the news. Man in coma is communicating. Medical breakthrough. We can now communicate to those we thought were basically unapproachable. A problem we might wish to discuss. What if the person in the coma has multiple personalities.

Mitt Romney keeps talking. Has he had some kind of breakdown?

Marco Polo

November 12, 2012

Next to Johan Vaaler, who invented the paperclip, the most under appreciated figure in Western thought must be Marco Polo. I remember how excited we got in grade 3 when our teacher began to explain Marco Polo’s incredible journey to the exotic East. It was, I think, the beginning of my interest in the afterlife, in science fiction, in alien life forms, in heaven, in reading. It was a tale that emphasized struggle, endurance, and patience. And their subsequent rewards. And it actually happened. To a young boy.


 

Trash

November 10, 2012

I wrote a series of poems based on the summations of cheap pulp fiction novels in a book called “Show me the good parts” by Robert George Reisner. They made the short list on the CBC Literary Awards a few years ago. I’ve never been able to successfully reproduce the pages as they appeared originally. There were words all over the page. I had to reorganized the lines using n dots.

The book these poems come from is called TRASH.

……………………………………………………………

Handsome Hank

switchboard operator irene………………………………………………widow rich bernice

supporting 5 felines………………………………………………………..heir to crystal clear water

……………………………………………………fortune calls
……………………………………………..hello……………. room service
send me something for my wrinkles

my wrinkles are lonely

send me something for my purse

send me handsome hank

irene’s fiancé………………………………..handsome hank

…………………………………………………..shuffles his hair

mumbling to the tunes…………………..walkman

…………………………………………………..in his head

i’ve got to have my space………………double dipper………i’ve got to have commitment

…………………………………………………..pirouette

…………………………………………………..fool’s charm

…………………………………………………..gold ‘n smile

if you want me…………………………………………………………………i still owe 300 bucks
how can you go to her?……………………………………………………on my studebaker

…………………………………………………..handsome hank

irene cries……………………………………. let’s…………………………bernice cries

love = pain…………………………………..meat on……………………danger = pleasure

…………………………………………………..the hotel roof

…………………………………………………..banging a

…………………………………………………..cross the sky

……………………………………………………………………..bernice climbs up the buttons of handsome hanks uniform dragging him to the edge of the roof

………………………………………………………deep kiss her tongue

weeping……………………………………………. plunging

irene……………………………………………………..like an

falling……………………………………………………..elevator

to………………………………………………………………down

her………………………………………………………………..his

knees……………………………………………………………….throat bernice leans backwards

drown…………………………………………………………………..over the roof’s edge

…………ing in her………………………………………….handsome hank

tears…how could he?……………………..smiles seductively… slips…oh shit!

Irene grabs her……………………………….lose their balance……….…lovers

…………………………suitcase………………down 14 floors…………plunge

runs thru the lobby………………………………………………….but something

……………………………into the street………………………….breaks

……………………………………….looks up………………..their fall.

…………………………………………………..and is buried.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

House of Cards

at friday night poker

jack shuffling the deck dreaming about aces

thinning mortgage cigar smoke

tropical family scotch

hair

smiles finally! the cards have turned!

at their apt. his wife jill

waiting

by the door the knob

crying out her life a microphone
i’m sick of muscle fingers

i’m sick of stale beer breath

i’m sick of flaccid fagged out hours

i’m sick of ashtrays brimming with promises

i’m sick of bills pills sheets still

i want my life back!

i’ll find someone who cares!

at the canadian tire store

high school basketball star stretch

slam dunking

shelves

i need someone to hang my drapes jill asks

stretch offers to help i’d be happy to pay

they return to her apt.

looking around confused
you ain’t got no windows stretch cries

jill smiles

and i ain’t got no drapes

 

The Gunfight

November 7, 2012

My dad and I loved cowboy movies. We’d sit and watch them for hours. Most of them were dreadfull. The Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers singing cowboy films were awful. But Howard Hawks and John Ford made great movies. And then there were the TV westerns. Bonanza and Gunsmoke were the most popular TV programs on television. Have Gun Will Travel, Bounty Hunter, Maverick were all terrific stuff.

This story/prose poem is one in a series published in a book called “Making Movies”. You can download it for FREE. Makes a nice Christmas Gift.

http://www.feedbooks.com/userbook/18682/making-movies

……………………..

1.

Around a table four men playing poker

one is a squat man close to the earth

a farmer curly red hair invisible eyebrows divided by a scar

shirt sleeves rolled up

two buttons of his shirt undone

suspenders and trousers a suit jacket hung

limply over his chair

to his right a small thin man spider wearing spectacles

bank teller holds his cards close

close to his eyes to make sure they aren’t counterfeit

to his right the gambler dressed to win

three piece suit white silk shirt shoe string tie black curly hair

a smile hidden in a wrinkled mouth

the fourth is a blacksmith shirt stained sweat arms burned

from the elbows down hands awkwardly large

anyone care for breakfast kitty the owner of the saloon smiles

behind a deep purple dress with flat mirror buttons

i’d rather refill my pocket the blacksmith good naturedly grins

how about a couple of eggs with eyes bacon with sides

coffee with cream the gambler smiles

what have you got the gambler asks

pair of aces the bank clerk greedily grins

beats me the farmer replies

ménage a trios the gambler grins while strangling his tie

don’t you ever lose the farmer complains

no one can be so lucky and not own the stars

calm down bill the blacksmith says

restraining a yawn swallowing his eyes

dealing out a new round the gambler places the deck on the table

teller and smith nibble at their cards

the farmer rises pointing at the gambler

with a gun

sitting calmly the gambler holds his cards with five fingers

another finger beneath the table

fondling the trigger of his gun

two bullets splinter the table and the farmer’s brain

the farmer’s eyes are open round in surprise

hand drops gun fires into the floor

falls back into his chair

blood spits out of his head onto his shirt

it’s a new shirt

the farmer gasps and dies.

SET DESIGNER: All the indoor scenes, the saloon, the house, the farm, were shot in a warehouse in Toronto. I think the place had been used to store furs or something animal… you could still smell whatever it was. Sam had to live there while we were shooting. He had to; it was his furniture that we were using as props. I don’t know how he stood the smell. He told us that at night he could hear creatures scurrying across the rafters. He wasn’t sure whether they were mice or ghosts….

SAMUEL BREMMER: To save money we decided to make a western. Everyone wore old clothes they’d found in attics or picked up in the ‘Sally Ann’. They were close to the clothes that people wore in the 1800’s. Fashions for the poor don’t change much over time. And the men, except for Anthony, didn’t shave. We shot many of the outdoor scenes in an old abandoned farm near Pembroke, built, I think, about the time the story is supposed to have taken place. We used some of the locals and the crew as extras. And of course with horses you don’t have to worry about the date of the model…

MUSIC DIRECTOR: We had some trouble with the background noise. We didn’t notice it until we started to edit, but all the indoor scenes sounded dead, hollow. Solving this was more difficult than it might seem. I had to go out and record outdoor scenes. I went into the middle of the woods. I used some very sensitive recording equipment and discovered to my dismay that it picked up the sound of my breathing. So i had to re-record by leaving the machine by itself for a few hours. And then later i discovered that part of it was ruined by the sound of an airplane. So i had to do it all over again. The third time i was again frustrated. The recorder picked up the sound of a tree falling in the woods…

SCREENWRITER: In the original script there was much more dialogue… which Sam managed to eliminate in many ways… either by eliminating it all together or by making it almost inaudible behind the breathing of horses, or the sound of running water or by having more than one person speak at the same time. Sam explained these changes to me by saying that we were not putting on a play. Film is visual, he said. I asked him why he didn’t do the whole thing in pantomine. He didn’t like that. Maybe that’s why we haven’t worked together since….

SAMUEL BREMMER: I am nothing but a bag of voices… if they leave then I am…

SAMUEL BREMMER: I was very pleased with the farmer’s death. I played the part of the farmer myself, not only to save money but also I think because i liked the fantasy of being killed. And then of course surviving one’s own death….

2.

rain falls down

a river pouring out of a cloud

a man on a horse approaches a farm house and dismounts

knocks at the door a woman in grey opens

the door light flows out into the rain

through the kitchen window is seen the rider holding his hat

the woman turning away face in her hands

veil of darkness rain and silence rain and silence

out the back door the rider leaves heading toward the barn

rain pours down ditches swell rain barrel overflows

SAMUEL BREMMER: There was no rain in the original screenplay. We shot all the indoor scenes first in Toronto while keeping an eye on the weather conditions in Pembroke. Then it occurred to me that the rain could be a fundamental part of the picture. This meant of course that we had to re-write and re-shoot some scenes. And then we had to rush up to Pembroke and hope it wouldn’t stop raining. I sent one of the crew ahead of us just to shoot the rain falling. Luckily for us, because shortly after we began to shoot the scenes on the farm the rain stopped. Looking back i think the rain shaped the film. As if the gods were smiling down upon us…

You can see the two men dragging themselves toward the finish line. Their tongues hanging out. When you hear about the schedule they keep its a wonder someone doesn’t die. I can’t imagine the stress. Always smiling. Being upbeat. My mother was upbeat. When she wasn’t depressed. These are symptoms of bi-polarism not the mentally healthy. But the race for the Presidency fits the frantic pace of modern life. People thought the 50s were the rat race. ‘This is ten times worse’, (to quote Dylan). Contemporary life is like a tornado. Sucking everything up in its wake.

Tights were not included

November 3, 2012

Vanity. I found its birthplace. Like the planet in “Alien”. I know where the monster springs from. Eyeglasses. I had two. One broke. I had to replace it. I went to one of the mega stores. They have thousands of frames. It matters more what you look like than what you see. This was my first pair of glasses. For the real world. Rather than books etc. I’ve used reading glasses for some time. But this was walking around glasses. I wanted John Lennon glasses. (Trotsky wore them too. Actually I think everyone in the 19th century wore them.) I was talked out of them. Now I’ve got Clark Kent glasses. Tights were not included in the sale.

 

When I was young I was always amused by the old guys in bars. Drinking and ranting about things that no one understood. Perhaps at one time they were dime store philosophers but alcohol had scrambled their logic abilities but not their appetite for beer and argument. And then I reached that place myself. Discussing the same things that had been discussed decades earlier. There was never any resolution. Only the shadow of things that seemed important.

…………………………………………………………

THE AMBASSADORS

Gerald sat carefully down. Spilt in the middle of the parking lot. A glass of beer in his hand. He looked back at the stores. Lined up like criminals. Wanted in Japan. So lonely in their emptiness. Thoughts of apples rotting in the compost. Thoughts of the last of the great plazas in the city. Replaced by malls built by Vandals. Fake villages of enterprise. Children painted with different colours of lipstick. Cars parked like patients in the EMERG. Waiting obediently for their prognosis. Some of them sporting clever bumper stickers. Others declaring their affection for the Supreme Being. And still others wearing faded messages long forgotten. Some of them might have been written by Irving Berlin.

“Careful,” he said.

David stood over him. Waving back and forth like a flag. The one with the stars. Handed his beer down to Gerald. Who set it down. Beside his own. Then David struggled to set himself down on the pavement. First kneeling. Then sitting. He picked up his beer and took a swallow. He looked around at the parked cars, the large apartments in the distance, the planes climbing the stairs behind him.

“So, this is life. I’ve known friends who came here. Sent postcards. Back. But I never really believed it existed.” David took a drink. Beer was flat. Tasted like piss. If he knew what piss tasted like.

“You don’t get it?” Gerald wanted to ask something else. But got detoured. By the postcards. Ideas dressed like harlots.

David looked around again.

“It’s flat,” he said. “Like the prairies. Except there’s no wheat. What happened to the wheat?”

“Man.” Gerald shook his head. He pointed to everything around him. “This is what we’re leaving to posterity.”

David looked at Gerald. He shook his head.

“Posterity. No body likes a woman with round shoulders.”

“Posterity? You dragged me out here in the middle of the night into the middle of the parking lot, huddled between these cars, to talk about posterity?”

“I lost a woman in a bake shop. Thought we were in love. But she preferred the cup cakes. Isn’t everything so obvious? No tricks. Nothing very mysterious.”

David looked around. He looked at Gerald and smiled.

“Of course it is. If you look at it in the right way, there is no sky. There is no up. All these bad habits that we have inherited from the Bible. And all those other narrow books. Do you think that if there had been paperbacks in Moses’ day, the ten commandments would have been written in sand?”

Gerald smiled, satisfied. But he was wrong.

The smile on David’s face was replaced by impatience.

“What am I supposed to see?”

Gerald took a swallow of his beer.

“Asphalt.”

“Asphalt?”

“Like chocolate cake. Sweet to the eyes. Everywhere you go. Miles of miles. Beds of asphalt. A plague. Some virus spread on the Springer show. A kind of bomb. Blew up. Calling itself civilization. But destroyed just the same. We have fucked ourselves.”

Gerard raised his glass. And drank.

“Hell, I’ll drink to anything.” David raised his glass and finishing it.

Gerald slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand. Fortunately he had put his glass of beer down on the asphalt previous to his performance.

“Nothing left. No mules. No goats in the butcher shop. No beasts in the wild. No llamas on the tennis court. A big black flatness. Acres and acres of parking lots. Driveways. Highways. Basketball courts. Tar and nicotine. Rots your teeth. And your sense of perspective.”

“Basketball courts?” David looked puzzled. He didn’t like the feel of thinking outside the bar.

Gerald glared at David.

“The point is that all that will be left on the planet are the ruins of our society. Like those cities high in the mountains of Peru. We’ll just be one big fucking mystery. Like a cue ball. The whole planet.”

“To who?”

“What?”

“Mystery to who? You said that there’d be nothing left.”

“I think you’re purposely trying to undermine my point,” Gerald said.

“If we’re going to be a mystery,” David said, “we have to be a mystery to someone. The sound of a tree falling in…”

“Okay,” Gerald conceded. “For the purposes of this argument we would be a mystery to the aliens.”

“You didn’t mention aliens,” David said.

“I didn’t.” Gerald said. “Aliens will land in space ships and won’t find anyone home.”

David shook his head. Thought for a moment then smiled.

“Well, at least they’ll have some place to land.”

Gerald glared at David for several moments.

“You don’t appreciate me,” Gerald said.

“Are you going to finish your beer?” David asked glancing sideways at his empty glass.

“I’ve been trying to raise your consciousness.” Gerald gestured with his hands. Which he normally never did. It was the alcohol talking. “She was fat. But I loved that girl. With her stubby fat fingers in the frosting.”

Gerald finished his beer. Stood up. Could not. Fell back down. Then proceeded on all fours. Crawled towards a car parked close by. Pulled himself to his feet. David had watched all this and began to laugh.

Gerald wiped his mouth with a windshield wiper. Leaned against the car.

David tried to climb to his feet. Just as unsuccessful as his friend.

“If those aliens landed,” Gerald said, “we’d be quite an example of humankind.”

Gerald staggered over to David to help him up. The two men leaned against each other.

“Real ambassadors.” David laughed as the two friends staggered arm in arm back into the bar.

%d bloggers like this: