New and old poems

Settling back into a familiar environment in Ottawa these last few months has meant, for some reason, that I have not given myself the space to sit and write. I have time. And sometimes volition. What I lack is the ability to overcome the inertia of life’s moments .

One day, I’ll sit down and try to put words to the feeling of comfort, love, freedom; and the stifling claustrophobia, the nostalgia of home. The work of putting into words what it is to be alive is less of a project and more of a process – one that I’d like to continue. Sometimes, when I realize it’s been ages since I last wrote, I revisit old writing, hoping to spark something inside me. And it often works – enough to get me writing, even if the final product isn’t worthy of anyone else’ eyes.

New and old poetry:

Two years ago, I spent 6 months in Nunavik in the small Inuit village of Kangiqsualujjuaq. It was a beautiful, tragic, joyful, inspiring, exasperating, humbling time. I wrote a lot while up there, and after a few great editing sessions with my talented and dear cousin Stephan, and a lot of time to settle, a handful of pieces are as ready as they’ll be for the eyes of others. For more on the North, read Martha Baillie’s In Search of Heinrich Schlogel.  A fantastic novel and meditation on the North.

* 2018

**Nunavik (2015-16)

*

You have watched me through a crook of  branches

How have you seen me, moving through the years?

parting their stocks, husking cobs with steady, wizening hands?

am I strong? Do I stand an obelisk amongst the cracking shafts

bent in fingers of October howl? have I had purpose, my teeth

in peach-soft kernels? have I been straight and sure, smiling wisely?

 

these years you have watched me through a crook of branches

you have thought me strong, unwavering, bristles of adventure

growing on my chin

 

did you see the crackling light, my knees

in a rasping desert copse? did you see drops of blood parched

and flaking on my shins?

 

you have made something without my bulk. covered

in the pencil sketches of a child’s dream, a rose-coloured tunnel

you have become God

 

but you will be nothing

at the end

 

Spring

the blizzard grinds into soft flesh cheeks of spring

pelt the world with frozen lattices

origami into the ruffle of feathers

unflinching on a grey and swaying branch

it has transcended old hearths and rattling doorknobs

strangled failing army officers with hemorrhoids,

oxidized throats, chafed the angry skin of brittle limbs,

torn at family fabric

an overgrown garden of tiny feathers lie

for months, til they are consumed by a lithography of soil.

you sweat into the prickly bend behind your knees which is

soaked in expectations, the warming wind, a sun that is

toxic with eyes, and pins you to the same fluttering spot

where your head spun like an owl

 

**

the cycle

the kid everyone knows

is the kid whose insides

decorate one                       smoke peeled

room, one                       busy

funeral                       parlour

with traffic to match

the birth rate

what sage prophesied

a naked man, worn-out

leather draped on bone,

with a beard–

running over bearable

embers of blue ice

to a crack where he slips

beneath the roof

to look for mussels –

would never

sit down again

he would disappear

die?

a knot is not hard to tie

a loop is not hard to tie

a noose is not hard to tie

its like this, and then this,

I tie it, you remember

(actually, everyone does)

and then you’re done

you’re under that ice

it’s like when you put your  feet

into the snow, or your hands,

long enough they burn

and the burn goes away and then

you just don’t feel anything

anymore. once you’re down there

everything just turns off

even your ear drums freeze

so you can’t hear them talking

its not bliss, its just nothing

who never imagined

the ruinous contents of a bottle

half-empty, half-empty?

 

which mother gave her life

to a boy, her son, to eat

and walk into the warmth

of a far off winter camp

and where is she now?

 

where is her spirit in these

surrogate bottles?

 

End of a day

A stomach hollow emptied out each night

like the frozen body of a skinned fox in the snow

(soon it will be sinew and bones only)

 

when sun slides behind winter taiga – docile white ptarmigans

from afar, howling violent on approach – heaps

that grey and disappear behind ceaseless wind

there is not enough meat in the hollow to hang hopes

just frail sinew of that forgotten fox

twangs and resonates in the yawning glut of night

 

yellow globes in the river’s black bellows where

hooded children silenced by gutting wind, frozen stones

no more words

 

surely the little beast went blind before drifting away

 

it is an irreversible hollow and the night goes on

 

 

Nicholas: 2 poems

I

the birds are back

twitter in treeline brush

stunted spruce.

they are late. he has gone.

no more

steady muscles

silent in ripping wind.

 

his soft mouth pulled

a squinting smile.

 

snow melts in May; scrapes rock

clean and boggy – a cigarette butt

caught on granite fills its plastic

pores with brown, living water.

 

It is not Nicholas’, his hand

can hold nothing now

for the rest of time.

 

II

this is a poem for you

even though you can´t hear me

even though everything goes on

while you decompose

 

I wrote something else about

you, but it just sits

waiting for time to forget,

you´ll go too, I know

 

you´ve already faded

like everyone does –

give it a few years

you´ll hardly be a synapse

 

just flowers and permafrost

ok, I´ll probably never forget

you, and your sisters won´t

and your brothers –

 

My mind from a rocking chair

I rearranged the jars in the kitchen cupboard today

I moved the peanut butter into the fridge, shuffled

the dusty barley one spot to the left, put almonds above the stove

hid my guilty nutella behind something – I don’t even remember –

maybe the oats. the little vitamin jars I left right where they were

it snowed – not like the rains that come and go

old passions that turn blue and indifferent –

no, this snow was steady: hard, brash and delicate.

I sat in my rocking chair reading a story by Hugh Hood

 

wandering the streets of Montreal talking and laughing

with my lover between kisses as we passed

garden-rimmed brick mansions bantering and drawling

with the whiny well enunciated voice of a grainy

 

Jimmy Stewart, or a bespectacled newscaster talking

out of one side of his mouth, puffing into the studio’s

carpets and glass. Mr. Fenessden – was that his name?

– was remembering the drive to Williamstown

 

he was dying. an old bearded friend of mine in Indiana

told me the older you get the more you think about

your own death. I wondered am I old? between feeling and not,

warm yellow rays moved through leafy trees

overhanging Mr. Fenessden’s shimmering Raisin River

our lovers’ cheeks brushed to rosy by the sharpness of autumn

our eyes still warm, still brash and delicate. when I looked

up from my book, out from a petrified window

the snow continued its numbing project, powdering the icy street

 

with arctic air. some local Inuit boys ripped down the road on their ATVs

I finished what was left of the oily grilled peppers I had eaten for dinner

I rummaged through cupboards for sticky and sweet

managing a batch of almost healthy almost vegan energy balls

I thought of Mr. Fenessden’s dilapidated yellow house, the one

 

he never bought, crumbling under the weight of years

under the steeple of a scorched and sleepy town

his life whirred by me like a film real, a steady thing

like the snow – but there was time yet until the night

put darkness beneath my eyelids

so I got to shuffling around my cupboard

but I didn’t move the vitamin jars.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s