Category Archives: Photography

Toad at the Gates of Doom (poem)

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Toad at the Gates of Doom

Outside the Gates of Hades
sits a cross-eyed toad
beside a burnt-out serpent
a broker and a phone

Outside the Gates of Heaven
sits an angel in disguise
beside an incontinent bishop
with ecstasy in his eyes

and the sign on the gate says:

Closed for Renovation
no judgement today
if you’re looking for accommodation
clear off, go away.

God is on vacation
taking a well-earned break
there’s only so much suffering
one true God can take

So, get your ass back down there
be good to everyone
drink lots of water
and try to get along.

 

(This poem came about because, for a brief period, I was listening to prog metal. Brief because, like all things prog, the talent rarely matches the ambition, the concepts. Pink Floyd were a progressive band but they were successful because they could write songs and had one of the best lyricists in rock, the concepts were secondary. Prog metal players, from what I can tell , are accomplished musicians – the guitarists can play at incredible speeds and the drummers sound like they are descended from the octopus but the lyrics are banal at best and the melodies vestigial. The album titles, though, are always interesting and that’s where this poem started – I was playing around with making up titles for prog metal concept albums…the poem evolved from there.)

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dVerse.

Freckles (a quadrille)

 

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Freckles

freckles are stand-offish
they refuse to connect
like scarecrows in a field
like mute sentinels……
(that last line’s a tad too poetic for me)
meanwhile I wait cravenly for a connection,
another “like”
to ride the radio waves,
all the way to my screen.

“Freckles” is the prompt over at dVerse (a quadrille is a 44 word poem)

High Plains Sushi (a dizain)

 

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High Plains Sushi

this bar is insured by Smith and Wesson
according to the sign upon the wall
Charlie studies his empty beer glass and
time, his old enemy, slows to a crawl,
there’s a Tuesday night two for one special
out at Wanda’s Ranch, but that’s not what he
needs, or wants – he craves that high plains sushi,
tuna, wasabi, sake in a cup
he sits five thousand feet above the sea
and he just can’t….he just can’t get enough.

This poem was culled from  another song lyric/ poem, the original can be found here.

The form used is a dizain, 10 lines , 10 syllables per line, rhyme scheme..ababbccdcd…and I don’t mind saying…I think I strained something trying to conform to it.

For a more detailed discussion of the form, see Rosemary Nissen-Wade’s excellent post over at dVerse.

 

So Long, Halong (Poem)

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So Long, Halong

As we ride out of Cat Ba

through a valley circled

by limestone crags,

a compilation of pop ballads

 

from the seventies and eighties

oozes from the speakers

and the affable English backpackers

at the back of the bus

 

groan in faux horror

as Aerosmith follows Bryan Adams

follows George Michaels

follows Michael Jackson

 

but when the Bee Gees launch

“How Deep Is Your Love”

the backpackers quieten down

and the driver stops honking his horn

 

at the dogs, children, women

in cone hats and cyclists

with finely balanced cargos

who drift carelessly

 

in front of the bus

as if it was an invisible

visitor from the future,

and we all strain against

 

the tug of the song’s chorus

far too cool to sing along

except for one backpacker

let’s call him Nigel

 

or Christian, or Jason, or Justin

who, in a high piping voice

declares his oneness

with the song’s embattled lovers.

 

This poem was first published in Oddball Magazine, and is a re-post from 2016. Participating in Open Link Night over at dVerse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Off The Grid/ Rooster Gallery

 

 

 

 

Living Off the Grid

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” .

It was also published previously on this blog, thought it was worth a second look.

Taking part in open link night over at dVerse, check them out here.

 

 

 

Brexit at Tiffany’s (Redux)

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This a post from February last year, I thought it would be worth another read. Ever since the UK slipped on that Brexit banana skin, it has been suspended in mid air bracing for a collision with the ground. It won’t be long now.

Brexit at Tiffany’s

I ask Slim for his response to a recent report that Nigel Farage thinks it would be a good idea to re-do the Brexit referendum. We arrange to meet for a few pints in ‘The Post-Coital Beetle” to discuss his response and catch up. Slim is late, so I get a booth, and order a pitcher of Blue Buck. On the television screen suspended from the ceiling, two ex-soccer players – Matt Holland and Phil Neville – are discussing possession stats for the English premier league; apparently, the team that keeps possession of the ball usually wins. Not rocket science, but then Matt and Phil are not rocket scientists. They both look trim and fit in their English sportscaster casual wear. Phil is wearing a beige V-necked sweater, a white button down shirt, tight black pants and fashion sneakers. Matt is wearing a black crew neck, tight black pants and, yes, fashion sneakers. They look like their mothers dressed them.

I have never met Slim’s mother, but I doubt if she would have dressed him in the outfit he is wearing as he bursts through the pub door like an overweight, balding Kramer – faded baggy jeans, a MEC Gore-Tex anorak whose wicking days are long over and a white T shirt, one size too small, with the message “Fragile” on the front. He slaps a sheet of white paper on the table and says:
“Here you go!”

On the paper lies the following poem:

Disparaging Nigel

Nigel Farage
will be remembered forever
as the man who made
the word, ‘wanker’,
seem inadequate.

Very good, I say, “disparage”, “Farage”. What do you want to call the post?

‘Brexit at Tiffany’s’.

Ha! Or how about : ‘Guess who’s coming to Brexit’!

Slim looks like he has just swallowed a cup of Drano.

I think you’re missing the fucking point. It has to be a movie or book with ‘Breakfast’ in the title, like, say, ‘Brexit of Champions’ or ‘The Brexit Club’.

Well, anyway…… so it’s not a homonym, it’s not a synonym, it’s not really a pun, what is it?

It’s a malapropism.

Who took Sidney Poitier to dinner?

Katherine Houghton

How did you know, no one ever gets that right.

I know because every time you have a few drinks, you ask the same fucking question.

Poutine?

Why not? Life’s short.

It’ll be even fucking shorter if we keep eating Poutine.

We both lean back and laugh. On the screen above our heads, Manchester United score a goal and the colour commentator says:

“See, what just happened is that United have put the ball in the net and it’s been proven time and time again that if you want to score goals you have to put the ball in the net”

**********

looking at me (2)

A Brexit poem from Slim’s locker:

Come what? May?

Hard Breggsit?
Soft Breggsit?
Breggsit  over easy?
Not on the menu.

Poems that I had most fun writing in 2018,……3: Don’t Play in the Traffic

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Over the next few days, I will be posting poems that I had the most fun writing in 2018. They may not have got the most views or likes, but they are (perhaps) the poems I found to be the most satisfying.

Don’t Play in the Traffic

they met on a zebra crossing
it was a pedestrian affair
she had an air of competence
he…just had an air
they went downhill from there
to her house
in the middle of a roundabout
near the station
one morning they looked out
and the cars had changed rotation
the clouds were tinged
with a tawdry shade of orange
the sky was diffident
the sun judgemental
things would not be the same
would not be the same again.

 

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Poems that I had most fun writing in 2018,……2:Dog in a Tartan Skirt (Edit)

 

Over the next few days, I will be posting poems that I had the most fun writing in 2018. They may not have got the most views or likes, but they are (perhaps) the poems I found to be the most satisfying.

Dog in a Tartan Skirt 

There’s a dog wearing a tartan skirt
outside the window of Starbuck’s;
a tartan skirt, a belt, and a knitted white sweater;
its little dog legs are moving frantically
on the wet pavement,
while across the slick road
and the sodden green park
the ocean sits
like a slab of lead,
no crashing on the shore today.
South of the border
America blunders around
trying to remember
where it parked
that big car
that everyone admired
and envied.
The people look to God
but God, once again,
is moving in mysterious ways;
I, for one, wish He would knock it off,
enough already with the mystery
could He not for once in His eternal life,
clarify something?
I mean, for fuck sake,
there’s a dog wearing a tartan skirt
outside the window of Starbuck’s.

Poems that I had most fun writing in 2018,……1: Earth (quadrille)

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Over the next few days, I will be posting poems that I had the most fun writing in 2018. They may not have got the most views or likes, but they are (perhaps) the poems I found to be the most satisfying.

This poem was written in response to the dVerse challenge to write a quadrille (44 word poem) about “earth”.

Earth (quadrille)

wind and fire
earthling, earthenware
is buried in
hearth, dearth, breath
can also be found in
don’t fear the reaper
clear the room
Neanderthal
the Lord’s Prayer;
David Bowie
was the man who fell to earth
Major Tom observed
that planet earth is blue.

The Chester Beatty Library (Poem)

A slightly different version of this poem was published a while back in The Galway Review .  I am posting this edited version as part of dVerse’s open link Thursday.

The Chester Beatty Library                                   

In the Chester Beatty Library
Four elderly ladies
Permed, perfumed and powdered
Stroll past the ancient texts
The papyrus and the parchment
Seemingly unimpressed
By the evidence before them
That ever since we could stand upright
We have tried to leave foot prints
In the wet cement of time.
What intrigues the ladies,
Is how these fragile treasures
These artefacts and amulets
Were safely transported
From their exotic homelands
To the airless glass cases
In which they now reside.
They explore this theme together
In intertwining solos
Like a modern jazz quartet
Like mythical creatures
Compelled to talk forever
Because they believe
That to stop
Would be to die.

 

If you are ever in Dublin, the Chester Beatty Library is well worth a visit. The photo below is not the Chester Beatty Library, but it was taken in Dublin in September. I am including it here to show that the sun shines in Dublin but the clouds are always on the move.

 

Radisson

Home (from Oscar Wilde to Bono, haiku’s)

Oscar (3)

Conversation (hibernoku)

a low Dublin sky
a sentence hangs suspended
cut off in its prime

interrupt or die.

‘Hibernia’ is the classical Latin name for Ireland. A hibernoku is a haiku (seventeen syllables, 5-7-5) with an additional 5 or 7 syllable line, because for the Irish, seventeen syllables is a cruel limitation. The poem must contain an Irish reference and must allude to the weather in some way. In most parts of Ireland, ‘hibernoku’ is pronounced ‘hi-bern-o-koo’, except in West Cork where it is pronounced ‘hiber-nok-oo’.

Photo: Statue of the eternally quotable Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square, Dublin.

 

Sandy Cove

 

Weather (abandoned haiku)

an easterly wind
clouds move in convoy ‘cross the blue dome of the sky.

This started off as a haiku, but I felt like letting the second line run.

Photo: A sunny mid September day in Sandy Cove, Dublin.

 

Vico

Family (haiku)

yep, had a few drinks
with my brother, my sisters
sibling ribaldry.

Photo: View looking south along the coast, from Vico Road. Dalkey, Co. Dublin. Bono owns a house nearby ……where all the streets have names….I checked.

 

End of Summer double septo

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End of Summer double septo 

like a wasp in late August
circling a bin of regrets.

This poem is a double septo also known as a quatorze, it consists of two seven syllable lines. Sometimes, I find that the five syllable lines in a haiku create a flatness, a po-faced solemnity…wasp in late August…too much oracle not enough bounce. A seven syllable line allows room for rhythm.

Obviously, I made up the double septo bit. Recently I wrote a quadrille as part of a dVerse prompt and it got me thinking about arbitrary verse forms. A quadrille is a poem of exactly 44 words, it doesn’t get more arbitrary than that.

Earth (quadrille)

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This poem is in response to the dVerse challenge to write a quadrille (44 word poem) about “earth”.

Earth (quadrille)

wind and fire
earthling, earthenware
is buried in
hearth, dearth, breath
can also be found in
don’t fear the reaper
clear the room
Neanderthal
the Lord’s Prayer;
David Bowie
was the man who fell to earth
Major Tom observed
that planet earth is blue.

A Scarecrow looks back on his Life

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A Scarecrow looks back on his Life

Before Oz
I had control of my life
I had a purpose
a reason for existence

a modus operandi:
stand in a field
and scare crows
that’s it, that’s all.

It was lonely at times
I admit, particularly
at night, but occasionally
a farmer returning

drunk across the fields
would stop and tell me his life story
then fall asleep, snoring
and farting at my feet

and yes, oh yes
I listened in on
acts of intimacy
on hot summer nights

and heard sounds
that made my straw curl;
then Oz occurred
and it was no longer

about presence
it was about absence
the absence of a brain;
children would circle me

and sing that stupid song
suddenly I was pathetic, forlorn;
what got me most was the
sheer illogicality of it all –

to yearn for a brain, one must
have a brain to begin with,
sometimes, I think the sole function
of a brain is to yearn…..

(…hang on a second, I’m sure I saw that same crow yesterday. The little bugger won’t come within twenty feet of me. I’ve still got it….)

This poem was inspired by a dVerse prompt to write a poem from the point of view of a character from The Wizard of Oz..a scarecrow, a Tin Man, a lion. I played with that a bit.

 

Yosemite (the poem)

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Yosemite

The sun is slowly leaving
the party that is the day,
things will not be the same.

When he finally tumbles into his room
at the Mariposa Lodge outside of Yosemite
which the Miwok Indians call Ahwahnee
meaning Large Mouth,
Myron turns on the television
to find Patrick Stewart
shouting into the camera in blank verse
and even though Kenneth Branagh is nowhere in sight
he quickly deduces that this is Shakespeare,
Macbeth, in fact, but a strange one,
there are soldiers in Soviet uniforms and a fridge
and of course bad things are happening, off stage.
Then the bottle of Salmon Creek Pinot Grigio
which he had at the Butterfly Café,
starts to take its toll
(‘butterfly’ is the English word for Mariposa),
and lulled by the convolutions of the language
Myron falls asleep and in his dream
Patrick Stewart is staring at him.

“ Brush thy teeth”, Patrick yells,
spittle spraying the inside of the screen.
“Brush thy teeth
lest thou rise
foul of breath
In the sulphurous morn.”

 

This poem appeared a little while back in The Galway Review 

(It’s open link night at dVerse, so thought I’d give this one a bit of exposure)

The Vancouver Folk Festival 2018 (Live From The Wisdom Tent)

 

 

 

Back in mid-July, I attended the annual Vancouver Folk Festival at Jericho Beach Park. It was a beautiful sunny weekend, hot by Vancouver standards. The beach, adjacent to the park, was crowded; beyond the beach the bay was busy with paddle boarders, swimmers, yachts, kayaks and of course, tankers. The north shore mountains looked down on it all, a little miffed now that the ski season is long over and all the attention has moved to sea level.

Highlights of the festival for me were Ry Cooder (and the Hamiltones), Wallis Byrd, Darlingside, James Mc Murtry and Neko Case. The performances were less politically overt this year, there was a sense that enough had been said and the diversity and inclusiveness of the occasion and the creativity on display was sufficient response to the ugliness, racism and bigotry currently on the march in some parts of the world.

My friend, Slim, got a free weekend pass by volunteering at The Wisdom Tent. All he had to do was turn up once a day and dispense wisdom for an hour. Slim is not a man known for empathy, so his choice of volunteer job surprised me. He could, for example, have volunteered at the recycle stations explaining to people the complex and arcane choices available to them; or perhaps, he could have dressed up in a tutu and sold raffle tickets, all perfectly good options. But no, he had to sit in a hot tent, imposing his gnomic bromides on the defenceless public.

Live from the Wisdom Tent

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(I sat in on one of Slim’s sessions and secretly recorded it. The following is an edited transcript of the recording. Note: Slim sat behind a trestle table, his visitors approached one by one. I did not transcribe the sometimes withering and profane responses to his proffered wisdom.)

walk past the writing on the wall
look neither left nor right

*************
always whistle past a graveyard

*************

today is the first day
of the rest of your life
tomorrow is the next

*************

walk towards the noise
walk towards the noise

*************

neither a floater
nor a settler be

*************

to find the person of your dreams
you must first fall asleep

**************

if you’re feeling abysmal
pepto bismol will do nothing

**************

talk softly
don’t carry sticks of any size

**************

be all you can be
then try harder

***************

like a frog down a well
we only know the walls.

***************

to leave no footprint
we must fly and never land.

***************

never drink anything blue

***************

life is waiting for the other shoe
the secret is……..hang on, is that James McMurtry starting on stage 5?

(male voice) hey man, where are you going, you’re supposed to be here until 4?
(Slim)…you should get rid of those dreads, you’re not from Jamaica.
(male voice)…who was that pot-bellied old fart?