Tag 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.

 

Rugged Individual in a Cowboy Hat

Rugged Individual in a Cowboy Hat

He weighs about 300 lbs
is wearing a cowboy hat
and an XXXL tee-shirt,
made by an underpaid worker
in a communist country.

This paragon of rugged individualism
this zaftig freedom fighter
this ersatz John Wayne
is telling the interviewer
he doesn’t believe in vaccination passports

because, you know, I mean
it’s a threat to our personal freedom

if we go down that road
what’s next

and I’m thinking
yes there are slopes out there
and yes they are slippery
what next indeed…
driver’s licenses
birth certificates
visas to enter countries
security checks in airports
customs
concealed weapons licenses

but most of all I’m thinking
God help the horse
God help the horse.

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

Runcible

Runcible

The other day
I came across the word ‘runcible’
as in ‘runcible spoon’.

The word was invented by Edward Lear
as in ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’.

There is something risible about the word ‘runcible’
as in ‘laughter provoking’
which is different than ‘laughable’,
‘laughable’ has connotations of contempt
as in ‘derisible’ meaning ‘worthy of derision’,
‘derisible’ is almost an anagram of ‘desirable’
but back to ‘runcible’,
there is a great bounce, a great versatility to the word:

he walked out the morning after
humming a runcible tune

he had a runcible air about him
an odour that lingered
long after he had left the room.

the sun rose, red and runcible
in a diffident sky

I once spent the best part of six hour plane journey trying to describe the sunrise. There was 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 had 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.

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.

the sun rose, red and runcible
in a diffident sky
.

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

Mr. Cahoots

Mr. Cahoots

In the dream
I’m walking in East Vancouver

the setting sun illuminates
the low shoebox buildings

the streets are empty
except for me
and the guy who’s following me

his name is Mr. Cahoots

he’s wearing a pink top hat
a pink frock coat
pink flared pants
and gold boots

mostly he follows
but every now and again
he scuttles past
and walking backwards
he gives me the jazz hands
and laughs in my face

his eyes are manic
his nose is aquiline
and I know what he is saying
although he isn’t saying anything

he’s saying
You! You are not in control!

he’s saying
You! You are not in control!

In response to Brendan’s prompt over at earthweal

Write a dream poem using its language and rhetoric and dark sense. What moony light does it cast on the day? If you care, add to the poem or a note with any associations from waking life that the dream seems to be commenting on. If the dream is your unconscious speaking to you, what is it trying to help your waking writing mind to see?

My sister died recently after a very short illness. She was the eldest, there are six of us. I had the dream described in the above poem around the time she died. A family , particularly a large family is, in some ways, a collection of vantage points and we lost our top vantage point, the one who had seen it all. Now five seems like a very small number.

Exhibition

Exhibition

They’re taking photographs down by the water
in front of the cubist whale
float planes take off from the harbor
the mountains slumber in the morning haze.

Inside the convention center
paragraphs of opaque prose
attempt to describe the genius
of Vincent, Vincent van Gogh.

But if painting is the medium
there is no need for go-betweens
it’s all there on the canvas
the painting is what the painting seems.

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse

Photo taken at Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition, the convention centre Vancouver

That Poetic Hum (edit)

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That Poetic Hum

That poetic hum
your ear always on the alert
for the cadence in the everyday,
that unconscious internal rhyme
there’s a barber shop on Dunbar Street;
or that line that requires a non sequitur
she was a woman before her time
and you say to everyone’s irritation
in a town lost to time.
Then when you find that seed
that germ of a poem
you are lost to all around –
family, colleagues, friends
your head in the clouds;
and when you poke your head through
the accumulated cumulus
you come face to face
with another poet who says
that last line’s a bugger, eh?
and you say
it most certainly is
it most certainly is.

This is a revision of a previous post.

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.

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!.

Wander List

Slim’s Trip

he was appalling in Nepal
patronising in Patagonia
fractious in Frankfurt
stoned in Estonia

he was paralytic in Paris
he had a toke in Tokyo
he was hammered in Hamburg
stoic in Stockholm

apoplectic on the Appalachian Trail.

A version of this poem was posted in 2018.

Moth Balls, Skunks and Cedar

Lichen on Cedar

Moth Balls, Skunks and Cedar

Last night it teemed with rain,
now the garden fence steams in the morning sun.

That fence has been there
oscillating between disrepair and repair
since we moved in.

The posts are the weak points,
when you dig down
the ground teems with wood bugs and weevils
gorging on that succulent cedar.

The garden shed is also cedar.
One summer, a family of skunks
made their home underneath it.
They would regularly strut across the lawn in single file
father, mother and two young skunks
tails cocked, sphincters primed
afraid of nothing or no one.
I wrote a haiku about them
and then when they were no longer
of literary value
I spread moth balls
all around the entrance to their hole,
an internet remedy which did not work.
It’s a tad quixotic or ironic or both, isn’t it,
trying to use smell to get rid of skunks.

All that summer
as we sat drinking on the deck
and the evening sun warmed the cedar shed,
the odour of skunk and moth balls
that naphthalene-mercaptan cocktail
would hit us in gusts, in waves
like halitosis at a party
and inevitably, invariably
I would turn to anyone within boring distance
and say,
as our noses twitched in disgust,
“Isn’t nature marvelous? Isn’t nature marvelous?”

This poem was originally inspired by a prompt from Brendan over at earthweal, see below. The theme today over at dverse, courtesy of Claudia is:

“Write about your own, your neighbour’s or your city’s garden – or one that only exists in your imagination. Write about harvest, growth, decay – where ever the word “garden” takes you.

So I thought I would give the poem another outing!

The prompt from Brendan over at earthweal was this:

For this week’s challenge, TEEM. Write a poem that introduces the reader to the environment you live in –a landscape shaped by time with a culturally diverse ecosystem (with human, animal and non-animal elements). Widen the focus, deepen the gaze and green the voice. “

The Grand Scheme of Things

The Grand Scheme of Things

Be they grand or otherwise

there are schemes
and there are things

but in the grand scheme of things
there may not be
a grand scheme of things

what matters
is how we react
to the failure of schemes

be they grand or otherwise.

The challenge from Peter over at dverse is to write a circle poem in which the first line and the last line are the same.

Waiting for that Vaccine (aka Limbo Blues)

Waiting for that Vaccine (aka Limbo Blues)

today I remembered limbo
you can’t stand too far from the track

the first line is about memory
the second is a disconnected fact

Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud
Van Morrison does too

today I remembered limbo
Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus

existential boogie
do that existential thing
been waiting for that vaccine
summer, autumn, winter, spring

if you’re looking for an answer
don’t ask Albert Camus

that dude’s been dead a long time
he can’t tell you what to do

and old Rene Descartes he said
I think therefore I am

well I call that a beginning
I don’t call that a plan

waiting for that vaccine
waiting to cut loose
hit me with your best shot
of that antiviral juice

Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer
I don’t need no appetizer
hit me with your best shot
of that antiviral juice

Over at earthweal, Brendan asks in reference to the pandemic “What tools in the poetic repertoire are there for describing and naming and calibrating it?” A good question!

This poem is adapted from two other poems – ‘Limbo Blues’ and ‘Existential Boogie’. So the form I picked is a sort of mutating blues and humour is a part of my poetic repertoire (although not everyone might agree ), so I used that!

Party Animal (Slimverse* – The Journey, Episode 2)

Party Animal

in he walks
like a bull
checking out
a paddock

the air shifts
nervously
eyes lower
bells jangle

(Episode 1 is here)
The following is a memory and like all memories it’s under constant revision. What’s significant I think is that it was the first time I realized that Slim was taking this whole slimverse thing a bit more seriously than I was. As I remember it……..


I invited Slim and the rest of The Poet’s Circle over for a few drinks to celebrate something, I can’t quite remember what it was and to be honest, it doesn’t matter.
The evening began relatively smoothly with an intense discussion about accessibility (no surprises there) and I made an emotional speech about the end rhymes in Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne”. The conversation moved on to verse forms – cinquains, tankas, sestinas, halibuns, what happens if one turns a haiku upside down -fascinating stuff. Then Slim chimed in and asked where our own invention, the slimverse, fitted in to this pantheon. There was an awkward silence. Eventually, The Accomplished Poet spoke up. I should add that he is indeed accomplished and his compact vivid poems, mostly about his garden, have been widely published. He politely suggested that perhaps a 3 syllable line was too limiting, that making poetic music with such a restriction is quite difficult.
Now there was another kind of silence, the kind that ensues when a lion tamer drops his whip. Slim said quietly “fuck you and your fucking garden” and aimed a punch at The Accomplished Poet’s head, who, perhaps because of all that work in the garden, is quite agile. He ducked Slim’s punch and kicked him adroitly in the crotch. When the applause died down and Slim could speak again, he uncharacteristically apologized and gave The Accomplished Poet a hug, a doubtful pleasure given Slim’s personal hygiene issues. The evening ended on a happy note with a raucous rendition of “Suzanne”, everyone hitting the end rhymes hard.
Later that night Slim and I wrote the above poem which stretched the slimverse form to two verses. History in the making.

(*Slimverse – four 3 syllable lines)

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse

Names ( Slimverse-The Journey, Episode 1)

Names 

those that can

stand alone

those that can’t

hyphenate.

Looking back now to 2016 when the above was written, it’s hard to believe that slimverse was once an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. Now, it’s 2021, year 2 in the age of Covid and slimverse is, well, still  an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. The above masterpiece was composed by Slim (Volume) and I in the early hours of the morning following “the Poet’s Circle” Christmas Party which was held at the Accomplished Poet’s house.  It was a fun-filled night of poetic over-indulgence and excess. The Accomplished Poet (an avid gardener) read a poem about pruning as a metaphor for the editing process involved in writing  a poem, it was tortuous but accomplished. The Upper Case Poet had a minor shoving match with our newest and youngest member, the editor of an edgy E-zine called “Capslock Off” – no prizes for guessing what the argument was about. Slim hung around the buffet all night like a dog that had come across a bag of pork chops while walking in the woods, then later insisted that he had an invented a new word : “tumultaneous” – when tumultuous events occur simultaneously. He was met with benign indifference. But that was all back when Slim and I were in each other’s pockets before our estrangement, our parting of the ways, but more about that later…….

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

Cuban Heels

Cuban Heels

Your high society mistress has long since left your bed
and that Scandinavian seamstress has you hanging by a thread

those so-called glitterati won’t return your calls
and your two-toned Maserati is running on nothing….nothing at all

but when you walk out in the morning
you’ve still got that strut
Cuban heels
nerves of steel
when you walk out in the morning
you’ve still got that strut.

Peter over at dverse asks us to think about opening lines, check out his entertaining and informative post here.

The Sun God (poem)

juxtaposition

Over at earthweal, the challenge is to write a poem about Deep Time. This is a poem about a place where time is deep and the air is thin.

The Sun God

Myron volunteered once
as a caretaker on an island
in the middle of a lake
in the High Andes
North of Puno,
the Altiplano.

The top of the island
was as flat as an anvil
and every day
he would climb up there
from his lake side cottage
to study the funerary towers
of Silustani
over on the mainland,
using his large binoculars.

It was never quite clear to Myron
what exactly he was taking care of.
He had a house,
a dread-locked alpaca
and three guinea pigs.
The guinea pigs were housed in a wired compound,
inside the compound was a miniature mud hut
with a thatched roof
and three open doorways
which the guinea pigs retreated through
every time he approached.
He thought,
perhaps he was supposed to eat the guinea pigs
it was clear that they thought this also.

Located close to the funerary towers
were the remains of an Inca temple
worshipping the Sun God,
at that time in his life
Myron was losing faith in atheism
and the Inca worship of the sun god
had a certain logic to it.
Without the sun where are we?
Where are we, indeed!
He wasn’t overly keen on human sacrifice
but he had to admit that the Incas
dealt with the blood well,
channels and drainage being an Inca thing,
knowledge they acquired along the way.
Subjugate, assimilate,
and so it goes forever.

Myron thought he would use this time to write
but mostly he sat looking at a blank page
listening to the tinnitus in his left ear roar
and in the absence of his fellow human beings
he began to think that the alpaca was judging him,
the way it stared at him from under its matted fringe
and down its long nose.

One night he found himself shouting abuse at the alpaca.

The next day he left for Puno
and got drunk on gassy lager
in a pizzeria on the ragged, dusty town square

not far from the shores of Lake Titicaca.

This poem was previously published in The Galway Review.

Make America Serious Again

Make America Serious Again

make America serious again, Joe
it’s time
it’s time

all those rabble forming
Capitol storming
sons and daughters
of Fox News
and The National Enquirer
with their MAGA hats
and their saturated fats
and their uniforms from Costco

kick them to the curb, Joe
kick them to the curb

those blond surrogates
with their perfect teeth
and their android eyes
those slick grifters
those cocaine sniffers
those arse lickers
with their Bannon leers
and their licorice souls

kick them to the curb, Joe
kick them to the curb

It’s time , Joe
the world needs
a man on a white horse
at least for a while,
it’s high noon, Joe
the orange buffoon, Joe

kick him to the curb
kick him to the curb

it’s time, Joe
it’s time.

Taking part in the Open Link Weekend over at earthweal, check them out …one of the most interesting poetry websites and Brendan’s editorials and challenges are always fascinating.