Author Archives: sdtp33

Of Fish and War (Re-Mix)

 

Nha Trang

At the National Oceanographic Institute,

among tanks cramped

with circling neurotic fish

(Hit the glass. Stop. Turn around)

there is a multi-coloured specimen

whose toxin,

the sign says,

renders its victims

“unconspicuous or even dead”.

Further north

in the Hanoi War museum

conspicuous beneath glass

lie the dog tags

of dead American soldiers –

to a man

young, buzzcut and hopeful.

 

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Photo  taken outside The Hanoi War Museum

 

Happy Hour on The Tap and Barrel Patio

 

Patiology

The girl, two tables down

angles her right shoulder forward

every time she makes a point.

 

Beside us,

the expensive suits and haircuts

play with their phones

like fishermen on the dock in Mykonos

playing with their worry beads.

After four beers,

they relax into loud brodacious banter.

 

The glass towers flare as the sun goes down.

 

Happy Hour Friday

on The Tap and Barrel patio

and Monday morning

seems a lifetime away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem (A Turn of Events) in Cyphers Magazine

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Cyphers magazine has published one of my poems – “A Turn Of Events” – in their Spring 2017 issue. I am really pleased about this, it’s a short poem but it’s one of the few that I have written that I don’t think needs to be fixed in some way. Cyphers is a Dublin based print only magazine which has been in existence since 1975. I have been subscribing to it since that time and I cannot recommend it enough. The current issue contains a number of tributes to Leland Bardwell, one of the founders of the magazine, who died in 2016. She was by all accounts a fascinating character and an original and playful poet. Here are a few lines from her poem “The Party Ended Yesterday”:

The sea in party frock

punched the air, slapped in the new.

The mountain moved across the light.

This and two more of her poems are included in the Spring  issue.

Cyphers can be found at http://www.cyphers.ie

If you want to subscribe to Cyphers magazine, you can do so by writing to the following address:

Cyphers Magazine, 3 Selskar Terrace, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, Ireland.

Subscription rate is €21.00 for three issues including postage

In Britain £20.00 for three issues including postage

US $36.00 for three issues including postage

Doldrums

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Early Sunday morning, Slim and I head down to “The Post-Coital Beetle” to watch Manchester United play Spurs; early because of the 8 hour time difference and because neither of us subscribe to the sports channel showing the game so we can’t PVR it, plus The Beetle is open and we get to watch the game and shout abuse and/or encouragement at the screen in the company of like-minded people. We both order the all day breakfast; it’s called that because it’s available all day, not because it takes all day to eat it. I ask for the eggs over easy, Slim, in an outbreak of irony, orders sunny side up.

It’s nearing the end of the season and the United manager, Jose Mourinho, the surly one, is showing signs of cracking. In a game during the week, he tried to hold onto a one goal lead by switching a to 4 defensive central midfielders and nearly lost the game to a very average Spanish team. Today, he starts with 3 central defenders, and 2 full backs;  one of the central defenders is playing in the full back position and one of the full backs is playing in midfield. Ten minutes in and United’s French striker, Anthony Martial, is sulking around in a state of Gallic pique, because there’s no one to pass the fucking ball to him, which is what I shout at the screen:

“There’s no one to pass the fucking ball to him!”

Plus, there’s something seriously wrong with Wayne Rooney’s hair, he seems to be going bald again, despite his much publicised hair implants.

Predictably, United lose. I turn to Slim for a comment, my nose streaming and my eyes watering because I put too much hot sauce on the hash browns, and he goes all tri-syllabic on me. “Doldrums”, he intones:

Doldrums

end of the

season and

United

look like a

 

team about

to put on

a fucking

garage sale.

And he’s not finished, “I have a bone to pick with you”, he growls. He is wearing a white T shirt stretched over the helmet of his pot belly. The T shirt says: “The end is nigh, and not a moment too soon”. Apparently he’s pissed off because I removed one of his poems from this blog. The poem was called “Moab- an Obituary” and it was his response to the dropping  of very large bomb (The Mother Of All Bombs) on Syria by the US.

MOAB – An Obituary

A sad day,

the Mother

Of All Bombs

is gone, she

 

is sorely

missed by the

bombs she has

left behind.

I explained to him that I had seen Hasan Minhaj on The Daily Show doing  a piece on how serious journalists like Jake Tapper of CNN had started making snarky comments about Donald Trump. His point was that this is a bad thing because we need serious journalists to be serious and snark undermines that seriousness. I thought the last verse of the poem was too snarky.

“Well’, Slim says, “here’s some snark for you, go fuck yourself!”

I point out that this is technically not snark, but he has already stormed out of the pub, leaving behind a sausage which I finish. High point of the morning, really.

 

Fareed Zakaria is Stealing my Stuff

I was watching Fareed Zakaria and Don Lemon on CNN last Friday night; they were trying to make sense of  the ongoing tragic farce that is the Trump White House and Don Lemon posed a question which could be summarised as follows : “Is Donald Trump crazy like a fox or crazy like a fool”. It was clear that Fareed thinks that the needle has been stuck on ‘fool’ for quite some time. At one point, he says to Don something like “look, you have to understand that Donald Trump is a performance artist.” This sounded familiar to me, so I looked back through my blog posts and there it was in a poem I published on Reuben Wooley’s website :’I am not a Silent Poet” back in January 2016. Here’s the poem, but please click on the link above and check out Reuben’s excellent site.

Trumped

I get it now

Donald T

Is a performance artist

Like that guy in Beijing

Sucking dust out of the air

With a vacuum cleaner

Or maybe he’s

one of those mirrors

In a fairy tale

Reflecting only

The worst in ourselves.

 

Fareed, I’m waiting to hear from you.

 

Arrhythmia

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Arrhythmia

out here where real estate agents

explore the frontiers of sleaze

I default to fish tacos, pale ale, unease

 

and the air is stained with memory

and the air is strained with memory

 

out here where real estate agents

explore the frontiers of sleaze

 

and I can’t be adrift

because that would suggest

that I’m floating

it doesn’t rhyme every time

 

out here where real estate agents

explore the frontiers of sleaze.

 

looking at me (2)

 

 

Eroica

 

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Our resident poet, Slim Volume, and I sit down once a week for a classical music appreciation session. As our guide, we are using a book called “The Vintage Guide to Classical Music”, by Jan Swafford. This is an excellent reference book. It contains explanations of various musical terms, essays on the significant classical composers and a “best of” list for each composer. This led me to what Jan Swafford describes as possibly the greatest of the nine Beethoven symphonies, Symphony No.3 .

The symphony was originally dedicated to Napolean Bonaparte but Beethoven changed the name to “Sinfonia Eroica” or “Heroic Symphony” when he became disillusioned with his hero.

The first movement clocks in at seventeen minutes and is described by Swafford as an “indefatigable outpouring of dramatic intensity”. At the end of the movement, I paused the recording. Slim was staring straight ahead in what appeared to be a catatonic state.

“So, Slim”, I said, “what did you think of the first movement?”

He blinked once like a dishevelled owl and replied: “It sounds to me like there’s this man wearing big boots and he’s stamping around a large dimly lit house. In the house are rooms where violinists and flautists are playing. The man with the big boots occasionally opens the door to one of these rooms, but quickly gets bored listening to the violinists and flautists. He signals this by slamming the door repeatedly.”

We obviously have some distance to travel.

 

Down and Out in Idabel (re-mix)

sunrise 3.25

 

This is another re-post, not a lot of time to write currently.  The poem originally appeared in issue 38 of The SHOp poetry magazine which was a fine magazine, unfortunately they closed up shop 2 years ago. I have made some minor changes here. I later used the dog and the armadillo in a song lyric.

 

Down and Out in Idabel

How Myron found himself in the parking lot

of the Holiday Inn in Idabel, Oklahoma

looking out at the road

on a Saturday morning in April

– after a breakfast of brittle bacon,

sausages slick with grease,

dry fluorescent scrambled eggs –

is not important.

The road pauses,

a skittish dog roams;

Myron’s eyes are drawn to a dead armadillo

upside down on the hard shoulder,

empty beer can in its claws –

Old Milwaukee. Prehistoric drunk. Someone’s joke.

A pick up truck passes

a pick up truck passes

a pick up truck passes

over the fence a cow chews grass

and makes a meal of it.

Dogwoods bloom.

The cow moos like a reluctant foghorn.

Myron’s mood turns;

he thinks about the cow,

Manifest Destiny,

the plight of the bison

our lust for red meat

while greenhouse gas

shimmies upwards

ice caps melt

glaciers retreat;

and looking down

the road to Shreveport

buoyed by the prospect

of seeing Idabel

in his rear-view mirror

he quietly resolves

to recover what he was

before sadness lodged

like a wet sack

in the back

of his head.

 

 

 

Rhymin’ (Neil) Diamond – the Good, the Bad and the Internal

The great Paul Simon once said: “I’d rather be a llama than a whale”. Ok, maybe he didn’t but perhaps he should have. Anyway, this is not about rhymin’ Simon, this is about rhymin’ Diamond who once said:

I am, I said

To no one there

And no one heard at all

Not even the chair

Implying that, in a room containing inanimate objects, the object most likely to reply would be a chair. But all smart ass carping aside, that chair is important, not just because it rhymes with “there”. The chair suggests that Neil is in a room, and there is only one chair (“the chair”), so Neil is most likely lying on a bed and of course he is alone, so alone that he has resorted to talking to the furniture. Without the chair, he could be anywhere, it becomes the focus of his existential crisis. This is a “pop song”,  grab the attention of the audience or they are gone and it has to look easy and that’s hard and he does it through that one detail, the chair.

It has to be said that Neil is perhaps not at the same level as Paul Simon when it comes to poetic, sophisticated lyrics, but he has his moments. Take the first verse of “ Cracklin’ Rosie”:

“Aw, Cracklin’ Rosie, get on board

   We’re gonna ride

   Till there ain’t no more to go

   Taking it slow

   And Lord, don’t you know

   We’ll have me a time with a poor man’s lady

There’s that internal rhyme happening – board, more, Lord, poor -and all those ‘O’s’, fifteen in total! And the assonance in the chorus of

“Cracklin’ Rose,

You’re a store-bought woman”

It goes a bit downhill after that – “you make me sing like a guitar hummin’” – hummin’ and woman – ouch!

But, for my money, Neil’s finest moment when it comes to writing lyrics is in “Sweet Caroline”. The song, admittedly, is not without some absolute groaners:

“Where it began,

I can’t begin to knowin’”

And that’s the first two lines.

Even the chorus, which contains that finest moment is a syntactical nightmare:

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

I’ve been inclined,

To believe they never would

Oh, no, no

I have wrestled with this for some time and the best I can come up with is this: ”I’ve been inclined to believe that good times never would never seem so good”. Think about that too long and I guarantee that steam will come out of your ears. But it doesn’t matter, because all that matters is that rhyme between “Sweet Caroline” and “I’ve been inclined”. He could have gone for “fine”, “wine”, “mine” etc but there is something about “inclined” that is so unexpected, so colloquial, so conversational. It surprises every time you hear it. And of course, the acid test of any chorus is how well it does in a pub or bar late in the evening and everyone is a little hammered and some skinny guy on acoustic guitar hauls out “Sweet Caroline” and everyone is just waiting to belt out that chorus and I guarantee you that the volume will perceptibly increase when they reach that line and everyone takes just a little credit for recognising just how clever it is.

Where have all the Good Rhymes gone?

Another post from the past.

Where have all the Good Rhymes Gone?

 I’m not sure when rhymes all but disappeared from modern poetry, but pick up any recent collection and you would be hard put to find a single rhyme. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, on the other hand, stop anyone in the street and ask them to recite their favourite poem and invariably, if they reply at all, it will be a rhyming poem. So people like rhyme but if poets have stopped rhyming where do people go for their rhyming fix?

The answer of course is popular song. Pop, folk, country, rock, rap, hip hop could not function without rhyme; obvious rhyme mostly, rhyme that can seen coming a mile away. If you hear ‘dance’ there will be ‘romance’; if you hear ‘night’, it’s going to be ‘alright’, if you hear “love’, there will be a ‘sky above’. This can be boring or comforting depending on your point of view. But there are rhymes in popular song, rhymes that avoid cliché, that manage to surprise. For example:

The bridge at midnight trembles

The country doctor rambles.

(Bob Dylan from “Love minus Zero, No Limits)

Or more recently, check out the “The Trapeze Swinger” from Sam Beam[i] of Iron and Wine who writes songs of such fragile beauty that it feels like they will fall apart if you touch them.

But please remember me, fondly

I heard from someone you’re still pretty

And then they went on to say that the Pearly Gates

Had some eloquent graffiti

 Or, from the White Album:

I’m so tired, I’m feeling so upset

Although I’m so tired, I’ll have another cigarette

And curse Sir Walter Raleigh

He was such a stupid get[ii].

‘Trembles, ‘rambles’, ‘poetry’, ‘graffiti’, ‘cigarette’, stupid get’, all rhymes that don’t resort to cliché, that manage to surprise and there are many more. So if there is anyone out there reading this, send me your favorites, let’s get a list going! Only two criteria: 1) the rhyme must surprise 2) no rhymes ending in ‘ution’ as in “make revolutions/ not institutions/ dilution/ is not the solution/ to pollution/ make restitution…enough already.

*******

[i] Why has Sam Beam not been made poet laureate of the United States of America? He could have written “Trapeze Swinger” alone, and he would be streets ahead of anyone else. Graffiti on the pearly gates -‘tell my mother not to worry’,  ‘rug-burned babies’, ‘a trapeze swinger as high as any savior’; check it out here:

[ii] Some websites write this as “stupid git”, but the album liner notes show it as “stupid get” which obviously rhymes better but also it would be more likely that Lennon being from Liverpool would use the Irish (and also Scottish) pronunciation ‘get’ rather than ‘git’ which is more common in the south of England. By the way, Wiktionary suggests that ‘get’ is related to the word ‘beget’, whereas I think it is more likely that it comes from the gaelic word ‘geit’ meaning ‘fright’ or ‘terror’. The meaning has since morphed into something close to ‘jerk’.

 

Las Vegas

This appeared some time ago, thought I’d give it an outing.

 Las Vegas

tattooed junkie

frantic call box

all that glitters

raddled toupee

prime rib buffet

entertainers

not so prime

cadillac

fossil fool

hot spot

for the uncool

synthetic jewel

neutral desert

Umbrage in Umbria (Remix)

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Umbrage in Umbria

In which Diane Lane

plays an American woman

recovering from the pain

of a recent divorce.

Sandra Oh will feature

As her quirky  sidekick,

Tonto to Diane’s Lone Ranger.

Smoldering local love interest –

Xavier Bardem or Antonio Banderas –

they’re not Italian

but if you want “smoldering”

you’ve got to call in the Spanish.

We’ll need a Brit,

Maggie Smith, perhaps,

as a sage but ageing dowager.

Max Von Sydow is still alive

(I’ve just googled him)

he could be the priest

but that might be too much Swedish gloom

we need wry and twinkling.

Morgan Freeman, I’m thinking

an explanation will be needed

as to how he got there.

Richard Gere will appear

near the end,

as the ex-husband

rich and massively contrite

now that his bimbo has fled –

the philandering bastard.

And as for the umbrage

taken by whom

because of what

you’ll just have to wait for the movie.

Slimverse for Earth Day

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What Can I Say

to leave no

footprint we

must fly but

never land.

On Hearing that Justin Trudeau had approved the Kinder Morgan Pipeline

there are 3

certainties

death, taxes,

corrosion.

The Stack (remix)

And what a

beautiful

plume we have

here, Nigel,

 

a plume with

time on its

hands, look at

it loping

 

across the

sky like a

giant Chinese

dragon, let’s

 

hail a cab

to find the

plume’s end, where

the last wisps

 

of vapor

drift upwards

and a blue

mist hangs, yes,

 

there it is

in the sky

to the west

stalking the

 

cars in the

parking lot

outside the

big box mall

 

while the sun

bawls and the

sky gets all

indignant.

 ***

April foregoes Cruelty for a Day/ The Lad Poetry Project Revival Part 1

 

The Lad Poetry Project Revival Part 1

The April meeting of the Poets’ Circle was a dry affair in more ways than one. The Serious Poet, at the invitation of The Accomplished Poet, read his 40 verse poem about the Canadian Constitution and afterwards spoke for an hour about the making of the poem and his creative process. The Serious Poet wore, as always, a Mountain Equipment Co-Op black fleece vest, a pale blue button down shirt, a pair of Khaki pants with more pockets than any normal human being could use, and a pair of Merrill hiking shoes. His creative process?  He apparently decided at the outset on a six line verse with an ABABCC rhyming scheme and added the restriction that he would only use rhymes that had never been used before in an English language poem; a daunting task, as you can imagine. However, being a professor of literature at a local university, he had his resources and with the help of a few grants, he had a group of his students devise a computer program that would check all his rhymes for originality. This involved compiling a data bank of all the rhymes in English Literature, a process that took ten years and an ever changing band of students. In the end meaning and clarity had to take a back seat and the resulting poem turned out to be a real head scratcher, a masterpiece of obfuscation delivered in a dry monotone. To make matters worse, there was no alcohol at the event; April, the cruellest month, being a dry month for some of the poets in the circle who try to prove once a year that they are not cravenly dependent on alcohol for enjoyment and invariably prove the opposite.

Slim and I got out of there as fast as we could and headed for The Post-Coital Beetle…..to be continued.

Cherry Blossoms Bloom (3 haiku)

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Cherry Blossoms Bloom

I

cherry blossoms bloom

well-dressed ladies from Beijing

pose with hand on hip

II

cherry blossoms bloom

the air is sticky with greed

houses, for sale, sold.

III

cherry blossoms bloom

the wrecking ball’s lazy swing

petals, debris, spring.

These 3 poems appeared separately in Spring of last year, I thought they worth assembling together. They are probably the only poems ever written about cherry blossoms and the Vancouver Real Estate Market.

A Poem and a Prose Piece up at Rat’s Ass Review

I have a poem (American Carnage) and a prose piece (Agent Orange has a Dark Moment) up at Rat’s Ass Review as part of a collection of poems under the title Such and Ugly Time, related to Trump’s first 100 days. Take a look, I’m the fifth poet as you scroll down – lots of good poetry in the collection.

Also check out the rest of the Review, the submission guidelines alone are worth a visit.

Both pieces appeared previously on this blog.