but do not
the sun rises red-eyed
after another long night
tending to the needy side
of the planet.
This poem came about because of a plane journey, a six hour plane journey, with no inflight entertainment. I could have used the downloadable app but I couldn’t imagine watching out of date Jason Bateman movies for 6 hours on my phone, so I picked up a Craig Johnson novel, The Cold Dish, to get me through the flight.
This is the first novel in the Walt Longmire series. Walt is a sheriff in modern day Absaroka County, Wyoming. His wife has been dead 4 years and his life is a bit of a mess but there are various people looking out for him including his best friend, Henry Standing Bear. I know what you are thinking – an American law man with a Native American sidekick!! Anyway Craig Johnson navigates this well enough. There are a number of women in Walt’s life, including his daughter Cady, his dispatcher Ruby, a café owner Dorothy, Vic –his deputy, and Vonnie – a romantic interest. Vonnie is rich, beautiful, and troubled. They are all strong women and they don’t take no shit from Walt.
Walt is at Henry’s bar talking to Vonnie when he gets a call from Vic that a body has been found in a gulley up in the mountains. Walt heads to the scene, the body is hard to get at and the crime scene is complicated by the fact that a herd of sheep has surrounded the body, shat upon it and chewed at the clothes. The body turns out to be Cody Pritchard, a local boy who was involved in the rape of a girl from the reservation and got off lightly. It’s early morning by the time the crime scene has been secured and there is this moment after a long night where Walt, the narrator, says : “I gazed back up to the patch of sage and scrub weed and watched the sun free itself from the red hills”.
This is what amazes me about novelists, they have to handle character, plot, dialogue and create a world for characters to inhabit, for events to occur and they still find time to come up with lines like I have just quoted. So that was it for me, I spent the rest of the flight trying to come up with different ways to describe the sunrise. The first attempt you have already read above, here, for better or for worse, is attempt number 2:
The sun rises bleary-eyed
having spent another night
one of those wild
to which, we
are never invited.
As for the book, it’s well worth a read. Craig Johnson creates believable characters, characters to care about, to root for and the whole thing meanders along laconically with lots of witty banter and joshing – the kind of joshing you would find in a small town cafe at 10 in the morning, one of those cafes with gingham tables and a robust waitress with chemically damaged hair who won’t take any shit from the bunch of plaid shirted retired guys who turn up every morning to shoot the breeze.
Photos : Sunrise on Planet Cistern.
A legend in his own time
a legend in his own mind
a legend in his own right
our very own contrarian curmudgeon
our Christopher Hitchens lite,
on the screen every night
lamenting this, that,
the state of the nation
in his orotund hands,
an after dinner stroll
a postprandial perambulation.
we can all agree
to give the bible a break
it’s been thumped so hard,
it’s like that kid at school
the one with the permanent flinch.
they will abandon
like a rumpled sofa
at the side of the road,
like an old pair of sneakers
the ones that are causing
that strange smell in the basement.
Here we go, live and nasal, for the text see the previous post.
lt’s been a sordid year
a tawdry year
a year of constant sleaze
each new low
trumping the old low
with evangelical zeal
but we’ve finally hit rock bottom
we’ve finally hit the floor
I’m talkin’ about
I’m talkin’ about
I’m talkin’ about Roy Moore.
The sun with rare generosity
beats down on the solar panels
on the roof of Vincent’s log cabin.
The first sentence of his organic novel
–The abattoir, for once, was silent –
sits alone on his laptop screen.
This is the seed from which will spring
plot, character, content.
He gets up, walks out through the kitchen door
through the tortured arch of his driftwood arbor
and into the vegetable garden
where he urinates in a jagged arc
sprinkling life-giving nutrients
on the unsuspecting butter lettuce.
Returning to his desk
he taps out another sentence:
With his mother’s mop, he wipes
the blood from the kitchen floor.
Why so morbid?
It’s warm, he’s feeling drowsy,
he detects a faint signal from a long-dormant source
like the distant ping from a submarine
at the bottom of the ocean.
He should invite someone for dinner,
the lady who sells jam at the Saturday market, perhaps,
or the angry sculptress – she of the tangled hair,
the scrap metal raptors, the acetylene scent.
The jam lady it is.
Bottle of wine from the retired lawyer’s vineyard,
salmon from the gnarled fishermen down at the dock,
try a little humor,
ask her if raspberry jam is a male preserve,
make a nice salad. What’s the worst that could happen?
This poem first appeared a little while back in “The Basil O’Flaherty”.
too much of a good thing
gorge, and your gorge may rise
not a canyon, a narrow valley
Gorgeous George inspired Muhammad Ali
who went on to beat George Chuvalo,
a blow to the face may cause swelling,
not such a good thing.
that is what I did
or should I say: emigrate
same thing, in mom’s eyes.
This Daily Prompt thing is becoming addictive. What happened to that long post I was going to write about U2’s new album which I haven’t yet listened to: how http://www.allmusic.com gave it 2 1/2 stars out of 5; how Rolling Stone gave it 4 1/2 stars; how the Guardian gave it 2 stars and 4 stars (2 different reviews); how Variety called it their best album in years; how some people just don’t like Bono and decide what they are going to write before they listen to the album; how U2 have always been polarising; how I can’t listen to “The Unforgettable Fire”; how I don’t think Bono became a mature lyricist until “Achtung Baby”; how the last album “Songs of Innocence” has 7 tracks on it that are as good as anything U2 has ever done; how the Edge treats every note like it’s a precious object; how I am biased because ever since I relocated from Ireland to Canada, I have become far more patriotic than I ever was when I lived there.
So, last week I tried doing a WordPress Daily Prompt using the word “Zoo”. It’s a challenge, I guess, and a bit of fun. When I came back to the poem over the weekend, I found that it was still moving…here is the revised, extended version.
Don’t normally take part in daily prompts, my brain doesn’t work that fast!
……..I’m so distracted
I’ll follow you
if you follow me
……..I’m so distracted
I just got a like
……..I’m so distracted
did I walk that back?
did I retract it?
did I walk that back?
did I retract it?
’twas the best invention
’twas the worst invention
’twas communication’s new dawn
’twas the end of communication
’twas a pain in the neck
’twas incipient myopia
’twas why we evolved
with opposable thumbs.
What the FK?
I can’t see
a way BK
you are now.
Anderson and his panel of pundits are discussing the Robert Mueller investigation into collusion with Russia when…..
out of the blue, Anderson
in that earnest, honest broker way
that he has, says:
“What if there is no there, there?”
and Carl Bernstein concedes
that it is possible there is no there, there;
and the Trump surrogate
with the smug certainty
that only conservatives can muster
says categorically there is no there, there;
the rest of the panel joins in
and they all charge like lemmings
to the edge of an existential cliff.
I am profoundly disturbed by this
because if there is no there, there
then I can’t go there
and what if I call a friend
to meet for coffee
and I say: ”see you there”
but when I arrive there is no there, there
just a vacuum that suggests that
where we are over here
is nothing more than a fever dream
and if there is no here, here
and no there, there
then where the hell are we?
For John D.
fecund, moribund, quincunx
rhizome, rissole, piss-hole in the snow
phenom, pheromone, genome
lissom, blossom, possum.
This poem is all about sound, association and perhaps, memory. The first three lines are an homage to the sound of ‘un’. The phrase -“fecund moribundity, moribund fecundity” – was uttered by my friend, John Damery (John D.) during a discussion about the music of Neil Diamond – his oeuvre, his place in the pantheon. This was some time ago but it has always stuck in my head, it has a brevity and clarity that could only have been brought on by the consumption of 5 or 6 pints and the ingestion of greasy chicken. After a long legal battle (not really) he has recently granted me permission to use it in a poem.
The fourth line is the workhorse of the poem, the engine, the poem’s midfield general. It inverts the ‘mo’ from the first 3 lines to create the ‘om’ that dominates the last two lines. it also introduces ‘iss’ which makes an appearance in the last line. As for “piss-hole in the snow”, I defy anyone to find a finer example of bathos . The fifth line is all about ‘om” but note the clever inversion back to ‘mo’ in ‘pheromone’.
The sixth and last line has a slick softness to it like blancmange. As promised the ‘iss’ from ‘rissole’ and ‘piss-hole’ makes an appearance before morphing into ‘oss’ and in a final stroke of nothing that remotely approaches genius, the transformation of ‘om’ into ‘um’.
quincunx (a word that flirts with obscenity):
an arrangement of five objects with four at the corners of a square or rectangle and the fifth at its centre, used for the five on dice or playing cards, and in planting trees.
a continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals.
Both words were used in an article in the Irish Times on the poetry of Seamus Heaney, sent to me by John D; ‘Cartesian dualism’ and ‘Binarism’ were also mentioned (and Jesus wept).
a compressed mixture of meat and spices, coated in breadcrumbs and fried.
My mom used to make them, although I remember them as being more like a hamburger patty without the bun…thanks, mom!
Photo: English Bay, Vancouver, A-MAZE-ING LAUGHTER, by Yue Minjun.
wheel well icicles
rear screen wiper on thin ice
seat warmer up high
high, so that
is what that
switch is for.
A haiku and a slimverse together for the first time – 29 syllable madness. A terrible beauty is born.
Now, a poem that died and came back to life.
some said he got what he deserved
he was just another ocean liner
looking for an iceberg
but I had to observe, you know,
not all disasters
are waiting to happen.
The Fallen (2017)
Goodbye Reince Priebus
no longer will I contemplate
the strange music of your name –
those slender vowels reversing,
no longer will I look for meanings, explanations –
A salve to be applied sparingly to a wound?
Put some Reince on that cut, son!
a rinse? a douche? a poultice?
Latinate portliness – a Shakespearean character,
a writ to slap someone with- Habeas Priebus,
or a complicated skateboard manouevre:
He executed a perfect reverse Priebus!
Reince, it’s been a slice.
will you do the fandango?
Anthony, we hardly knew you,
but thanks for letting us know
about Steve Bannon
and his auto-fellatio.
Alas, poor Stephen,
like a rumpled sofa.
On Reflection…. Donald Trump
America has given birth
to a giant orange child
a zaftig infant Gulliver
striding the ravaged earth
of his own imagination
trampling whole villages
View original post 69 more words
Despite what he says
not everybody knows,
not everybody knows
like Leonard knows.
Not everybody knows
that the best songs
are about loss,
ways to say goodbye
and that age
can be laughed about
but not at,
if I had a hat
I would raise it to Mr.Cohen
perched up there alone
in his tower of song.
I have posted this a few times before, but since today’s the anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death I thought I would give it another outing.
A note on the genius of Leonard Cohen:
Below is the first verse of “Suzanne”. Notice how he doesn’t hit a conventional rhyme until the chorus where he rhymes ‘blind’ and ‘mind’. He repeats that pattern in the next 2 verses.
“Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever
And you know that she’s half-crazy but that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind”
These poems are part of Oddball Magazine’s lead in to the anniversary of Election Day 2016. Versions of the poems have appeared previously on this blog, although the first poem is radically different than the blog poem.
Check them out here.
Now I lie here so out of breath
And over –opiated
Maybe I couldn’t catch up no but
Maybe he could have waited
Opiated….The Tragically Hip
This is the song I went looking for, the day Gord Downie died. I couldn’t remember the title, all I had was the phrase “over-opiated” which had been stuck in my head for years. Why? I don’t really know but maybe it was the triple iamb and the repeated ‘o’? Unlike a lot of The Tragically Hip’s music, this song was never in heavy rotation on Canadian radio, but I knew the song that contained the phrase was on the album ‘Up to Here’ and I knew I had a cassette tape of that album which I had bought back in 1990.
That was the era of the cassette tape and over the years, as tapes became extinct and compact discs, then streaming, took over, I stop listening to the album. So on the day Gord Downie died I found myself looking everywhere for it, eventually finding it in the storage space between the front seats of my red 98 Ford Taurus station wagon. There was some serendipity to this, because the only tape deck I have left is in the Taurus station wagon. A cassette and a Taurus sound system – not exactly high fidelity, but then the Hip were never really about high fidelity; put the vocal and drums on top of the mix and let the rest take care of itself. Besides, the sound system isn’t bad. There are 4 speakers , 2 front, 2 back, and if you switch everything to the 2 rear speakers and the bed of the station wagon is empty, the sound is actually pretty good, good enough for a bar band with 2 guitar players that sound like Keith Richards and Ron Wood but not as sloppy. I don’t normally drive the Taurus except occasionally to take stuff to the dump, but on the day Gord Downie died, I drove it around Vancouver all day listening to “Up to Here”. Yes, I was one of those guys you see in a parked car with the windows closed, beating time on the steering wheel.
And it struck me what a good rock lyricist Gord Downie is. Much has been made of his talent as a poet, and he is a talented poet, but writing lyrics for rock music is a different skill. For me, both rock and blues are all about the set up and the punchline. Take this for example:
“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Cryin’ all the time
You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Cryin’ all the time
Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
and you ain’t no friend of mine”
….Leiber and Stoller
Simple maybe, but deceptively hard to do well. Here’s Gord Downie from Boots or Hearts:
“Fingers and toes, fingers and toes
Forty things we share
Forty one if you include
The fact that we don’t care”
Or this from the same song:
“I feel I’ve stepped out of the wilderness
All squint-eyed and confused
But even babies raised by wolves
They know exactly when they’ve been used”
In fact, I could quote the whole song, because for me it’s as close as anyone has come to a perfect lyric. Or how about this from “New Orleans Is Sinking””
“Ain’t got no picture postcards,
ain’t got no souvenirs
my baby, she don’t know me
when I’m thinking ’bout those years”
But Downie is also at heart a folk singer, a teller of tales. “38 years old” is about a guy serving time for avenging the rape of his sister; the story is told from the view point of his younger brother. I don’t think there’s a more devastating chorus than this one, anywhere in popular music:
“Same pattern on the table, same clock on the wall
Been one seat empty, eighteen years in all
Freezing slow time, away from the world
He’s thirty-eight years old, never kissed a girl
He’s thirty-eight years old, never kissed a girl”
Not all song lyrics look good on paper and Downie is an idiosyncratic singer who stretches and bends words to fit the song, but here’s a few more random samples from the album:
“In my dreams, a candy coated train comes to my door”
“Pumping hands and kissing all the babies
Ain’t no time for shadowed doubts or maybes”
“Pulled down his birthday suitcase
Brown with dust from no place
Said, “I think it’s time we made a start”
They danced the waltz of charity
No car garage, two kids for free
They were pissing bliss and playing parts”
“Up to Here” was the Hip’s first album, they want on to make many more, to become Canadian icons. Downie even wrote songs about hockey. When he died he was eulogised by a tearful Justin Trudeau and Canadian radio played Hip songs all day long. All deserved of course. Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Gord Downie – not a bad list to be part of. But Downie, was different. The rest of those artists came out of the folk music tradition, but Downie’s genre, modus operandi was bar band rock and his genius was that he succeeded in blending poetry with bar band rock. Just scroll back up and read that last verse, a short story in six lines. Rave on Gord. Now take a listen.
Slim came to me with this one, apparently he has taken up bird watching.
The low November sun
hits the silver birches
and the cherry tree
sending the bush tits
and the black-capped
into a flitting frenzy
Who pulled the alarm?
Which one is my nest?
Where did I leave that worm?
Followers of this blog will, of course, remember Slim’s only other attempt at a poem about nature:
you call your
self a tree?
my bank has
Thom Yorke takes a walk on Halloween Night (a triku)
The night howls, fog curls
a thin cloud bisects the moon;
at the graveyards’ edge
an abandoned well
at the bottom of that well
Thom Yorke cries for help.
The dead wake slowly
grey fists punch through mounds of earth
Thom Yorke cries for help.
This poem appeared last week in Oddball Magazine.