Category Archives: Photography

So Long, Halong (Redux))

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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.

 

Toad at the Gates of Doom (Edit)

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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 a corpulent 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.

Brendan’s challenge this week over at Earthweal is to write of a voyage to the Otherworld. As he explains:

I have used the medium of Irish myth, but voyages to the Otherworld are universal. Journey there this week from inside your own story-cycle, and report on the news you find there.

I was born and educated in Ireland and that education did cover Irish (pagan/Christian) myths and legends but the dominant Otherworlds by that point had become Heaven and the everlasting fire of Hell. Irish Catholicism is indeed a rough beast . Somewhere in between these poles, the minor worlds of Purgatory and Limbo floated. So when I read Brendan’s quote I thought of this poem (previously posted)

Note on the title:

This poem title 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. An exception would be Pink Floyd ( Piper at the Gates of Dawn) who 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.

Living Off The Grid

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 another look.

Jim Hendrix in East Vancouver

The Left Hand of God

Industrial Strife

The Big Picture

Artist: Nelson Garcia and Xochitl
Year: 2007
Location: 1030 East Cordova


I came across this Jimi Hendrix Mural in East Vancouver, close to Container Brewing (that’s why I was in the area). Apparently Jimi Hendrix had a strong connection to Vancouver, his grandmother lived on 827 E. Georgia Street . The area around the mural is quite industrial, so it was a surprise when I stumbled on it!.

The Ghost of Hangovers Past

I’m taking part in Sarah Connor’s Excellent Adventure also known as the Advent Calendar and my poem , Christmas Cheer, appears today on Day 13 depending on where you live in the world, it’s still Day 12 here. So please check it out, and not just Day 13 which I share with Anmol who delivers a poem of such quality that it makes my poem look like…….well…a hangover, but also all the other days for some excellent poems.

Profuse (not all prompts are equal))

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Profuse

I was going to pass on ‘profuse’
too easy to rhyme
too open to abuse
no room for the obtuse
that was my excuse
then I felt the pressure
the tightening of the noose
my face turning puce
I thought “what’s the use,
yield to the Muse
yield to the Muse”.

This is one from back in the day of the Daily Prompt, the prompt was “profuse”.

Ducks Chillin’ (Thanks)

Ducks Chillin’

Thanks for Jeff Tweedy
Thanks for Annette Bening
Thanks for Michael Stipe
Thanks for John Lennon.

Thanks for Lucinda Williams
Thanks for Jurgen Klopp
Thanks for Paul Durcan
Thanks for Roger McGough

Thank for Sally Rooney
Thanks for Saul Bellow
Thanks for T.S. Eliot
Thanks for Elvis Costello

Thanks for Billy Collins
Thanks for Bob Dylan
Thanks for green lakes
glacial silt, ducks chillin’.

Brendan over at earthweal asks us to give thanks!

Also taking part in OpenLink over at dverse

A Surfeit of Slim (“Bob Dylan’s Worst Line Ever” and “The Most Over-Rated Album of All Time” ) revisited.

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Last week there was a Simon Pegg retrospective at our local cinema and Slim invited me back to his one bedroom apartment after we watched an early showing of “Shawn of the Dead”. Slim had prepared dinner and by that I mean he had peeled back the tin foil edge of a take-out carton of butter chicken, removed the cardboard lid, and handed me a plastic fork and a can of Old Style lager. He then lapsed into one of his silences.

I found myself noticing the beads of condensation on the clear plastic lid of the steamed rice container. The rice was long past fluffy. The evening stretched before me like a Sunday in Ottawa. My only recourse was to ask Slim an irritating question.

“So, Slim”, I said, “who do you think is the better poet, Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen?”

Slim’s  face wrinkled in disgust. “Bob Dylan’s not a poet”, he snapped,“ he’s a poetic songwriter”.

“And Leonard Cohen is…..?”

“Leonard Cohen is a poet who writes songs”.

“Ok then, what’s your favorite Bob Dylan line, verse, whatever”

“I can only think of the bad ones”

“So what’s the worst Bob Dylan line ever?”

Slim blinked once like he was accessing a folder in his brain with an internal mouse.

“John Wesley Harding, ‘As I walked out One Morning’, third verse:

‘Depart from me this moment

I told her with my voice’.

It’s like saying ‘there’s going to be a jailbreak somewhere in this town”

“But that’s “Thin Lizzy”.

Slim looked like he had taken a sip of battery acid.

“My point is they are expressing the obvious just for the sake of a rhyme. It’s obvious that the jailbreak will be at the f….ing jail and how else will he tell her except with his voice, they’re in a field, for f… sake!”

“Oh”, I said, reaching for a poppadum.

After Slim’s brief outburst, he lapsed into silence again and did his impression of a lizard sitting on a rock. The not unpleasant smell from the Indian take-out mercifully masked the usual faint odour of sour sweat emanating from Slim’s bedroom. His bedroom door was closed, a yellow light leaked through the gap between bottom of the door and the threadbare carpet. The room  pulsed  in a vaguely sinister way.

I began to panic; he could pull out his blueprints of the Star Ship Enterprise at any minute. I was about to ask him why so much depends on a red wheelbarrow, but thought better of it. I reached for my phone.

“Slim”, I said, “I was looking at Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums of all time, the other day, do you want to see it?”

“Not really”, he replied.

“Ok”, I tried, “what do you think is the most over-rated album of all time?”

“All right”, he sighed, ”show me the top 10 albums.”

I passed him my phone and he studied the list for a few minutes, then pounced.

“Number 7, ‘Exile on Main Street’, by the Stones”

“Really, why?”

“Because, it’s awful. It’s recycled 12 bar, refried boogie, Jagger sounds like a cat being neutered. It’s not even the seventh best Stones’ album. Creedence and The Band did this kind of thing a few years before and a lot better. This is the sound of the Stones throwing in their creative hand and saying, ‘enough, we’re tired’. It’s the artistic equivalent of taking a package holiday to Majorca. Look, it’s listed higher than ‘The White Album’ and ‘Kinda Blue’. Absolute bollocks!”

“Kind of…”

“What?”

“It’s ‘Kind of Blue’ not ‘Kinda Blue’

Slim looked at me like he was wondering why he bothered to speak to the rest of the human race at all.

“Well”, I said,”why do you think Rolling Stone rates it so high?”

“Because, it’s a Keef album and, to rock critics, Keef embodies the rock and roll spirit, the dead romantic hero, except he’s not dead. He’s the guy who would never have hung out with them at school. Plus, there’s this legend of the Stones hunkered down in a house in France recording the album, escaping from the tax man where in fact, Mick, Charlie and Bill never stayed at the house probably because they didn’t want to be around Keef’s junkie friends. Anyway, Mick didn’t think much of the album at all”.

“Really?”

“Look it up”.

So I did.

This is Mick Jagger talking about ‘Exile’ in “According to The Rolling Stones” (Chronicle Books, San Francisco):

Exile on Main Street is not one of my favourite albums”.

“…when I listen to Exile it has some of the worst mixes I’ve ever heard. I’d love to remix the record, not just because of the vocals, but because generally I think it sounds lousy. At the time Jimmy Miller was not functioning properly. I had to finish the whole record myself, because otherwise there were just these drunks and junkies.”

Exile is really a mixture of bits and pieces left over from the previous album recorded at Olympic Studios…..These were mixed up with a few slightly more grungy things done in the South of France. It’s seen as one album all recorded there and it really wasn’t.”

“So there’s a good four songs off it, but when you play the other nineteen, you can’t, or they don’t work, or nobody likes them, and you think, ’Ok, we’ll play another one instead’. We have rehearsed a lot of the tunes off Exile, but there’s not much that’s playable.”

 

Photo of detail of a Botero painting in Museo de Botero, Bogota, Colombia

Talking About Evolution (2 poems)

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Watching the Knowledge Network

The earnest English anthropologist
is talking about evolution.
He shows a film of long-haired men
digging on the shores of a lava lake in Africa.
Later, one of them appears wearing a big collar,
a big tie and bushy sideburns.
He has a collection of bones
which he assembles into a skeleton.
A debate follows
about the significance of tools
in our leap from ape to man.

On the coffee table is a copy of “The Little Red Hen”
as retold by Maria M. Southgate M.A. B.Com.
I make an astonishing discovery.
On page thirty-six, the little red hen
is cutting her field of wheat
with a very sharp knife,
and immediately I think:
those idiots, those bell-bottomed fools
as the clamber over each other
into our bollock-naked past
they have completely over-looked the tool-wielding fowl.
All the degrees in the world,
and they miss something so barn-door obvious
I found the above poem today in a box in my basement, while doing a pandemic purge. It was probably written in the late eighties. The odd thing is I was trying to figure out how to respond to Brendan’s prompt over at earthweal, in which he asks us to write about ”evolution” and this poem turns up out of nowhere. (There was a rejection note from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin of Cyphers magazine, saying she liked it but it was too much of “a one idea poem”.)

In the same box, I found another evolution related poem, which again I had completely forgotten about. I had to ask myself, have I actually evolved as a writer since then……and, you know, I’m not sure…..there is still that tendency to be facetious….talking of facetious, here’s the other poem..

Gorilla

There was a young lady from Orilla
who fell in love with a gorilla
in Toronto, at the zoo.

She could not stay with him
or have her way with him,
she did not know what to do.

Then the government
gave her a grant
to build a halfway home,

a micro-climate
for the primate,
a keeper out on loan.

With visiting rights
and hot jungle nights
all her problems were solved.

Until one day
I’m sorry to say
the goddamn gorilla evolved.

Dog in a Tartan Skirt (Redux)

 

 

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
having clearly decided
to take some time off,
no crashing on the shore today.
South of the border
America blunders around
trying to remember
where it parked
that big ass car
that everyone admired
and envied.
The people look to God
but God, once again,
is moving in mysterious ways
and I, for one, wish He would knock it off,
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.

 

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse.

Also taking part on Open Link Weekend over at Earthweal.

 

The Wisdom Tent at the Vancouver Folk Festival

 

 

The Vancouver Folk Festival was cancelled this year for obvious reasons, we will miss it greatly…this is a post from 2018.

Highlights of the festival for me that year were Ry Cooder (and the Hamiltones), Wallis Byrd, Darlingside, James Mc Murtry and Neko Case. The performances were less politically overt than previous years, 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  on the march in some parts of the world.

………….

That was the year my friend, Slim, got a free weekend pass to the Festival  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.)

Slim:

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?

The State We’re In..

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The State We’re In..

the stock markets bounce up and down
like a man who’s landed on a trampoline
landed on a trampoline
from the top of a tall building;
the analysts are nonplussed
nothing adds up
two plus two does not equal four,
only the postman comes to the door
we watch documentaries, comedy specials,
Scandinavian crime dramas cold as an autopsy table
we learn that Miles Davis was a creative genius
an addict and a hard man to live with;
we learn from a childhood friend of Joe Cocker
that as a young boy, Joe had two Weetabix every morning
we watch a Diane Keaton movie
she falls in love with an Irish tramp
and still anxiety crackles like static in the background.

 

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

 

Home (from Oscar Wilde to Bono, because of the day that’s in it )

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Because it’s St. Patrick’s Day (week)….some excerpts from my last trip home.


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 

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

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.

Participating in Open Link Night over at dverse

 

Gravity, Don’t Fail Me Now.. (gym gnostic 2)

 

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And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through….Bob Dylan

Know your gym……Slim Volume

 

gym gnostic 1

two geezers
pink and steaming
towelling down
after a shower
discussing gravity
how it is not fixed
how it decreases
with distance from the earth’s core
how, if one was to climb to the top of Everest,
since weight is the product of mass and gravity
one would weigh less at the top of Everest
and Slim’s thinking
this is one fucking erudite conversation
and he wants a piece of it
so he points out that
one would regain that weight
on returning to sea level
and one of the geezers replies
yeah but you’d probably burn 10,000 calories
climbing up and down the fucking mountain
and a nearby jock encased in breathable fabric
says shit, I’d burn that in 40 minutes on the rowing machine
and Slim fires back wryly
keep telling yourself that
and the locker room erupts in laughter
and in that moment
basking in the unbearable lightness of banter
Slim defies gravity and levitates
above the bacterial swamp
that is the locker room floor.

Slim Remembers an Embarrassing Incident (POEM)

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Slim Remembers an Embarrassing Incident

in which,
believing his girl friend
has left for the pub,
in search of his glasses
he walks naked from the shower
into the living room
of his London flat
sporting a rogue erection
and is met by a chorus of
SURPRISE!
which quickly dies on the humid air
as does his aforementioned erection

and he thought she had forgotten his birthday.