So Distracted / Smart Phone (with apologies to Dickens and Darwin)

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So Distracted

Snapchat
WhatsApp
Instagram
Facebook

What?
……..I’m so distracted

Text message
Twitter feed
I’ll follow you
if you follow me

What?
……..I’m so distracted

Spotify
Pokémon
I just got a like
from Pakistan

What?
……..I’m so distracted

So distracted
So distracted
did I walk that back?
did I retract it?

So distracted
So distracted
did I walk that back?
did I retract it?

What?

 

Smart Phone (with apologies to Dickens and Darwin)

’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.

 

Anderson Cooper Gets All Existential

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Anderson Cooper Gets All Existential

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. (a Poem and a Deconstruction) …Redux

 

For John D.

fecund, moribund, quincunx

fecund moribundity

moribund fecundity

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’.

Notes:

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.

rhizome:

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).

rissole:

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.

 

 

Elements/ First Winter in the New Car (haiku plus a slimverse plus a bonus poem)

 

Elements

 

 

 

First Winter in the New Car

wheel well icicles
rear screen wiper on thin ice
seat warmer up high

arse-scorching
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.

Elliot

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.

 

Two Poems by Jim Feeney

oddball magazine

The Fallen (2017)

1
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 –
Reince?
A salve to be applied sparingly to a wound?
Put some Reince on that cut, son!
a rinse? a douche? a poultice?
and Priebus?
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.

2
Scaramucci, Scaramucci,
will you do the fandango?

Anthony, we hardly knew you,
but thanks for letting us know
about Steve Bannon
and his auto-fellatio.

3
Alas, poor Stephen,
abandoned
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
swallowing…

View original post 69 more words

Driving Home with Leonard Cohen (3)

Driving Home with Leonard Cohen

Despite what he says

not everybody knows,

not everybody knows

like Leonard knows.

Not everybody knows

that the best songs

are about loss,

endings,

so long,

ways to say goodbye

closing time,

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”

 

What I Did The Day Gord Downie Died.

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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.

 

The Low November Sun (Chapter 2 in which Slim writes another poem about nature)

 

Slim came to me with this one, apparently he has taken up bird watching.

The Low November Sun

The low November sun
hits the silver birches
and the cherry tree
sending the bush tits
and the black-capped
chickadees
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:

Nature Poem

you call your

self a tree?

my bank has

more branches.

 

Thom Yorke takes a walk on Halloween Night.

 

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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.

 

Another Go at Autumn/ Andrew O’Hagan at the Vancouver Writer’s Festival.

 

 

Autumn

The leaves on the trees

bordering the field

have abandoned

that chlorophyll thing

and are leaking

yellows and red

like a paint store catalogue.

 

I have played around with this poem a few times in previous posts, some poems are never finished,  I guess, they are just resting. Perhaps, in the case of this poem, it’s because the subject was pretty much nailed by John Keats in 1819 at the age of 24.

John Keats

My friend, the poet Slim Volume, once gave me this advice:

Avoid autumn and death,
They’ve been done before;
There’s little more to say
On either score.

Also, waves like marathon runners
Collapsing on the shore,
The inexorable march of time,
Don’t go through that door.

Autumn in Vancouver means it’s time for the Vancouver Writer’s Festival. Last Saturday I went to see the Scottish novelist and journalist, Andrew O’Hagan, talk about his adventures as ghost writer for Julian Assange and his ultimate disenchantment with Assange,  whom he now regards as an unprincipled narcissist. He also read from some of his own novels. He talked for close to one and half hours and is an engaging, intelligent, witty speaker who in the course of his readings imitated a range of voices from Marilyn Monroe to a group of Scottish people in an old folk’s home on New Year’s Eve. But it was a question he took at the end that more than anything else stuck with me long after the talk ended.

He was asked by an audience member whether he thought that the internet and the platform it provides for self publishing through blogs, websites etc was a good thing in general for English literature in that more and more people are now writing fiction, poetry etc. He replied that initially he thought that it was a good thing but now he wishes it would stop, primarily because of the poor quality of what is being produced. Writers are not taking the time to edit and re-edit their work, they are in rush to get something out when maybe they should be waiting. Writing, like all art, requires hard work, diligence and talent.

The next day, the sun came out after a week of constant rain, so we headed out for a walk on the beach. As we left the house, this line popped into my head: ” we walked out today to celebrate the absence of rain”. I’ve been writing haiku’s recently as a kind of mind game, a poetic Sudoku, so by the end of the walk, I had this:

we walked out today

to celebrate October,

the absence of rain.

When I got home, I went straight to my laptop and posted the poem. An hour later, I had a look at the poem again and I trashed it immediately. It was flat, wooden and had that self-consciously poetic tone  that haiku’s sometimes have. In addition, I had destroyed the rhythm of the original line by trying to adhere to a syllable count. This might have been better:

we walked out today

to celebrate

the absence of rain.

It keeps the assonance of the ‘a’s’ running through each line, plus the half rhyme between ‘today’, ‘celebrate’, and ‘rain’ and it keeps the ‘b’s’ in ‘celebrate’ and ‘absence’ close together. In addition, it’s an internet friendly length, three lines long, just the right length for clicking on and moving on.

On the other hand, I could just tuck the line away until I find a better context for it.

Is it just me, or is Andrew O’Hagan looking over my shoulder

 

 

 

2 Poems up at I Am Not A Silent Poet

Reuben Wooley over at I Am Not A Silent Poet has posted 2 of my poems. The first poem I reblogged in the post previous to this one. It’s a haiku about Northern Ireland Politics, which is quite a large subject to squeeze into seventeen syllables, but I gave it a try. The second poem is looser, maybe too loose now that I read it again, but with topical poems there isn’t time to chip away at the poem.

Both poems appeared previously on this blog, but check them out and the rest of Reuben Wooley’s excellent magazine.

https://iamnotasilentpoet.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/northern-ireland-the-morning-after-atavism-by-jim-feeney/

https://iamnotasilentpoet.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/text-messages-from-the-underworld-by-jim-feeney/

Ship Wrecked

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Ship Wrecked

The ship of the world sails on

while America founders on the sand bank

of an old fool’s dreams.

 

“Danish Oil and Natural Gas…….has transformed itself into the world’s largest offshore wind farm company spurred on my Denmark’s aggressive efforts to decarbonize its economy.”

“BMW prepares to mass produce electric cars by 2020”

“China plans to spend $360 billion on renewable energy capacity by 2020”

“in May, India cancelled 14 gigawatts of proposed coal-fired plants, while seeing a steep dropoff in coal imports…”

Quotes from Corporate Knights Magazine , Fall 2017

 

 

Post-Election Rag (redux)

This poem was written earlier in the year, but it is still , I think, depressingly relevant. It also appeared with 4 other poems in the online magazine Anti-Heroin Chic

 

Post-Election Rag

 

(Walk that back

walk that back

I know I said it

but I walked that back.)

 

Attack dog surrogates

inveterate invertebrates

re-stock the swamp

with old white males.

 

Post logic, post truth

snake oil and kool-aid

re-stock the swamp

with old white males.

 

Post Obamacare,

post pussy-gate, post gator aid

re-stock the swamp

with old white males

 

Inveterate surrogates

attack dog invertebrates

re-mail the stock

to the old white swamp

 

re-stock the swamp

with old white males.

 

 

Gravity, Don’t Fail Me Now.. (gym gnostic 1)

 

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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
toweling 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.

Between Chris Rock and a Green Place

 

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Back at the start of the summer. I spent the weekend in Gibson’s landing on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia; a knick knack tidy little town where one is never far from an art exhibition or a market selling jalapeno red pepper dip or a shop selling jokey hand towels; the kind of town where people go to follow their bliss and frequently catch up with it and even if they fail, a freshly baked muffin or a gluten free pie is always available as compensation.

Add to that, some magnificent views of the coastal mountains, Mount Big Thing and Mount Next Big Thing, and some good weather and you have a perfect place to relax, read and enjoy the sun, which I did, bringing with me a Rolling Stone, a New Yorker, the previous weekend’s Sunday New York Times (it takes me a week to read it) and Bruce Springsteen’s excellent autobiography (the Boss can write).

Both Rolling Stone and The New Yorker had articles on Steve Bannon.  Matt Taibi’s piece in Rolling Stone was funny, caustic and concise; the New Yorker piece by Connie Bruck rambled on forever, generally adding to the picture I already had of Steve Bannon as a dangerous amoral individual. One quote got my attention, from an anonymous friend: “he never fit in the world of investment banking, – he was this gauche Irish kid”. Over in the New York Times, there’s a piece on Jimmy Fallon, turns out he’s Irish too: “I’m Irish, I need all the luck I can get”; apparently his stage mark is in the shape of a four leaf clover. I would like to point out  that the shamrock which is used as a symbol of Ireland is actually a three leaf clover (it was used by early Christians to explain the concept of three gods in one, the Holy Trinity, those 5th century Irish peasants must have been a clever bunch, if they could grasp that one). Never mind, Jimmy Fallon is talented and likeable, so he can be Irish anytime he wants.

Back to the New Yorker where Calvin Trillin writes an article titled “The Irish Constellation” in which he explains that for a long time he thought the Orion Constellation was actually called “The O’Ryan Constellation”. He stretches this extremely lame joke way beyond the point where it is even remotely amusing. At the end of the article he describes being at a talk about The Orion Constellation in which an Irish man who, he says, has an accent like Barry Fitzgerald,  gets up and makes a comment that reveals that he too is under the same misapprehension regarding The Orion Constellation. Laugh? I nearly cried. By the way, for those of you under the age of a hundred, who don’t know who Barry Fitzgerald was, he was an Irish character actor who won an Academy Award, for playing an Irish priest (no surprises there). He died in 1961, my mother thought Barry Fitzgerald was old.

My wife interrupts my reading to tell me that Sean Spicer is Irish American and likes to wear green shamrock covered pants on St. Patrick’s Day. This is more than irritating, the only consolation is the sun is out and I’m getting a bit of a tan. Yes, that’s right a tan, I mention that in case by now you are picturing me as some  helium-voiced shillelagh swinging, freckled-faced mick. Maybe I’m being a bit sensitive.

I turn to Bruce, one of my heroes.  As I said above, Bruce can write and when the subject is New Jersey, Asbury Park or his early life, he writes really well. It turns out Bruce is half Italian, half Irish: his mother is of Italian descent; his father is of Irish descent. His mother is hard working, positive and supportive; his father is miserable, disappointed, drinks too much and is prone to unpredictable rage. Later in life, his father becomes mentally ill. Bruce suggests that this mental illness and perhaps his own depression came over with his Irish ancestors who came to America to flee the famine. C’mon Bruce, throw us a bone, if you have to indulge in facile causation, perhaps you might concede that your gift for language and story-telling, your talent for writing laments (The River, Downbound Train) comes from your Irish heritage. This is all getting too much, I look up and down the beach and wonder if the other people hanging around enjoying the sun know that I’m Irish.

Then rescue comes from an unlikely source, an article in Rolling Stone about Chris Rock. Apparently Chris is a U2 fan. On the day of his father’s wake, he found time to run to the record store and buy a copy of “Rattle and Hum” which had been released that day. “I love Bono”, Rock is quoted as saying. Flash back to North Florida, early eighties and I’m driving along a coast road close to Amelia Island, sand from the adjacent dunes drifts across the road, the sea is doing that blue sparkling thing, I’m listening to “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday” on the radio, hearing it for the first time, and the hair at the back of my neck is standing on end. “How long must we sing this song”, the old politics is being rejected by an Irish band and they are playing my music – rock and roll – not some maudlin shite dispensed by  some bearded guy with a banjo and a beer belly. You see back then if you asked anyone two things they associated with Ireland, they would say drinking and terrorism (terrorism that was partially funded, ironically, by Irish Americans). But Bono broke the Irish stereotype and for a while, at least, Ireland was cool. Ireland was where U2 and Bono lived.  I have been a fan of Bono ever since.

So, all you republican ersatz Irishmen out there with your shillelaghs and your shamrocks and your antediluvian politics, look for a personality somewhere else,  co-opt someone else’s imaginary identity; dress up as Mounties, wear lederhosen, I don’t care, just leave us alone. By the way, the current Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadker, is gay, fiscally conservative and the son of an Indian father and an Irish mother. In other words, he is a complex human being not a cartoon.