Tag Archives: poem

Whiskey In The Jar – A Deconstruction (the Thin Lizzy version)

Whiskey In The Jar – A Deconstruction (the Thin Lizzy version)

I have often wondered why
when he encounters Captain Farrell
while going over the Cork and Kerry Mountains
(or are they the far-famed Kerry Mountains?*)
the protagonist first produces his pistol
and then produces his rapier.
Surely the rapier is redundant
once the pistol is produced.

(*In the Dubliners version, it’s “the far-famed Kerry Mountains)

Whack fall the daddy o.

Apparently people occasionally wonder what “whack fall the daddy o” means. Well it does not mean anything, it’s kind of like Irish scatting, what singers do when they run out of words.

I once wrote a sea shanty in which I used a variation on whack fall the daddy o. Here it is :

Sea Shanty

Oh. the herring were running wild and fast
as we sailed out from St. John
and the cod were plump as Mary’s arse
on a Sunday morning after early mass
with sausages on the griddle-o
and rashers in the pan
whack fall de diddle dairy oh
whack fall de diddle dan.

Take it away, Phil….

Bucket List (a ghazal, sort of)

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Bucket List (a ghazal)

mountain climbing in County Meath
put it on my bucket list

fly fishing in the Sahara
put it on my bucket list

snow shoeing in the Serengeti
put it on my bucket list

surfing in Saskatchewan
put it on my bucket list

stop hiding behind a shield of sarcasm
Really? Put that on my bucket list?

write a ghazal about everlasting love
aw fuck it, put it on my bucket list

stop peppering my poems with profanity
that’s a prohibition, it has no place on the list.

Why I have difficulty writing haiku (again)

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Why I have difficulty writing haiku

problem with haiku
definite article is
first casualty

next casualty
indefinite article
makes me sound little

like Japanese guard
in prison camp in movie
world war two movie

who for some reason
is speaking English (how? why?)
with staccato voice

or perhaps I am
po-faced guru on mountain
dispensing bromides:

crow flies at midnight
in front of luminous moon
affair ends badly

all because I am
in service to, at mercy
of, syllable count.

High Plains Sushi (2)

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High Plains Sushi

This bar’s insured by Smith and Wesson
Says the sign upon the wall
Vern studies his empty beer glass
Time slows down to a crawl

Audrey, the lank-haired waitress
Watches from the bar
Order something soon, she yells
Or get the hell out of here.

There’s a special on at Wanda’s Ranch
Tuesday night 2 for one
But Vern doesn’t have the appetite
He doesn’t have the wherewithal

There’s only one thing that he wants
And he’s going to get it soon
High Plains Sushi
High Plains Sushi
Hot Sake in a cup
Five thousand feet above the ocean
And he just can’t get enough

Two guys from the goldmine
Old Arsenic and Rock Face
Have journeyed up from the centre of the Earth
To join the human race

But no matter how hard they try
No matter what they do
In the glow from the pool table
They’ve still got that subterranean hue.

Something’s warming beneath a heat lamp
Looks like deep fried road kill
Beside a tub of mashed potatoes
It’s making Vern feel ill

There’s only one thing that he wants
And he’s going to get it soon
High Plains Sushi
High Plains Sushi
Hot Sake in a cup
Five thousand feet above the ocean
And he just can’t get enough.

 

I spent a little time once in Elko, Nevada. There was a sushi restaurant in the town which served individual portions large enough to feed a small Japanese village. Elko hosts an annual Cowboy Poetry Festival. Interesting place. The theme over at dverse is food poetry.

This version of this poem appeared before as a dizain, one of those poems that keeps changing shape.

Sound Heard While Replacing The Basement Toilet (plumbing tanka)

Sunrise over Planet Cistern

Sound Heard While Replacing The Basement Toilet

a ghostly whoosh
echoes down the open pipe
a toilet flushing

in a neighbor’s house uphill
yes, we are all connected.

I hardly ever do this but here’s a challenge to all you poets out there: write a poem about plumbing. There are no rules, write about anything – an ode to your favourite plunger, a sonnet about a dripping tap, a haiku about flexible hoses!

Link back to this post if you like, so I can read your poems.

Savannah (extended version)

Savannah

At night, the rotund tourists
roam the street below
drinking light beer from plastic cups
and watching the river flow.

And Chuck, he’s in a restaurant
playing his guitar
for the plaid shorts and polo shirts
and salesmen at the bar.

And life is neither good nor bad
it’s somewhere in between
Chuck thinks that one day
he should leave this river scene.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you feel every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

Karla’s in the house again
trying to catch his eye
her hair is blond and crinkled
makes Chuck think of frozen fries

and when he hits another chorus
she stands upon her chair
chugs back her mojito
and punches the empty air

and he knows that in this deck of cards
we all can’t be the ace
and if you’re going to take a fall
then try and fall with grace.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you feel every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

Jane, the late shift waitress
her husband’s out of town
Chuck thinks that later
he might ask her around

and he’ll forget about alimony
and the rent that he owes
he’ll forget just about every thing
if Jane comes around.

Time’s a slowly burning fuse
time’s a disappearing muse
in time you heal every wound
time’s a slowly burning fuse.

This is based on a short poem I had published in Cyphers magazine. There are other versions of it, even a sonnet, but I think it’s finally settled down.

Taking part in OpenLinkNight over at dverse.

A Lai for Bob (Tangled Up In Blue)

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A Lai for Bob 

adenoidal snarl
it’s about a girl

mostly

but sometimes, the world
and how it turns, or

maybe

it’s a frantic swirl
of images, words

let fly

with venom and spite
an angry prophet

raging

but he’s more than that:
clown, joker, poet,

snide sage

in a feathered hat
an imp at sunset

dancing.

I thought I would give this poem yet another outing, as an excuse to post this excellent version of Tangled Up In Blue by KT Tunstall

(Taking part in OPen Link Weekend over at Earthweal)

The Sun God

juxtaposition

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 that,
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. and also was posted over at earthweal.

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse.

NaPoWriMoan (Day 11)

NaPoWriMoan (Day 11)

NaPoWriMo
eleven days in
and I have nothing to show
last night I rummaged through abandoned shoeboxes
in the dusty attic of my mind
(I apologize for those last two lines)
and there’s nothing there, bro
there’s nothing there………bro
I’m moving in slow mo
I’ve lost my mojo
my get up and go
I have met my Alamo
or is it Waterloo?
I’m running on empty
no quid pro quo
NaPoWriMo
NaPoWriMo
nineteen days to go
nineteen days to go.

Scenes from a Restaurant in the Time Between Variants

Scenes from a Restaurant in the Time Between Variants

the guys from finance
hold their wine glasses by the stem
and every now and again
they do that swirl and sniff thing

the girl in the tight dress
is two drinks away
from feeling comfortable

a couple out on their first date
have discovered too late
that they have nothing to say to each other
the long evening yawns before them

the bathroom door bursts open
two bros wearing dark suits
and built like refrigerators
emerge, their eyes pulsing
with guilty energy

it’s happy hour

cocktails are fifty per cent off
and all the cocktails have jokey names
Insane Moose
Milantini
Rogue Zamboni

nothing on the menu escapes description
the Market Crashin’ IPA
has a dry hopped finish with a touch of citrus
the Failed Priest Sauvignon Blanc
is full bodied with gooseberry and melon grace notes
and that beet and feta salad we’ve ordered
just happens to be a personal favorite of our waitress
she loves that hint of sourness
the cheese brings to the dish

she’s a dancer, by the way,
lived for a while in Saskatoon.

Taking part in Open Link over at dverse.

Of Fish and War (Edit)

Of Fish and War

In the city of Nha Trang, Vietnam
at the National Oceanographic Institute
among tanks cramped with
circling neurotic fish
(Hit the glass. Stop. Turn around)

there is a multi-colored specimen
whose toxin,
according to the description,
renders its victims

“unconspicuous or even dead”.

Conspicuous behind glass
further north
in the Hanoi War museum

lie the dog tags of dead American soldiers

to a man
young, buzzcut and hopeful.

This poem was written a number of years ago, after a visit to Vietnam. The news out of Ukraine this week, for some reason, made me think of that visit and what happens to a whole generation on either side of a conflict when leaders decide to go to war.

It appeared in Open Link weekend over at earthweal.

Now also in Open Link over at dverse

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Photo  taken outside The Hanoi War Museum

Existential Boogie Revisited

Existential Boogie

I’m sitting in a café
smoking a Gitane
yes, I’m sitting in a café
smoking a Gitane
I’m reading Jean Paul Sartre
and wondering who I am.

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring.

If you’re looking for an answer
don’t ask Albert Camus
yes, 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

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring

And don’t talk to me
about Immanuel Kant
yes, don’t talk to me
about Immanuel Kant
well I know that you want to
but you can’t

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring

and some people like to quote
Martin Heidegger
yes, some people like to quote
Martin Heidegger
well, all I can say is
go figure

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring

Rene Descartes said
I think therefore I am
yes, old Rene, he said
I think therefore I am
well, I call that a beginning
I sure don’t call that a plan.

Existential boogie
do that existential thing
you can do it in your armchair
summer,
autumn,
winter,
spring.

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse

Poem in Leonard Cohen Anthology “Before I Turn Into Gold”

My poem “Driving Home with Leonard” has been included in David L O’Nan’s anthology, ” Before I Turn Into Gold”, a collection of poems inspired by the work of Leonard Cohen. That’s the cover artwork above by Geoffrey Wren and the book contains some very fine poems and more wonderful illustrations by Geoffrey Wren.

Thanks to David for including me. The book is available here on Kindle and in Paperback. Check it out.

Also check out David’s Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art Blog here.

Tales from the Gym (I love the smell of nostalgia in the morning)

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

Know your gym……Slim Volume

Gravity, Don’t Fail Me Now

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.

“A man who is tired of the gym, is a man who has been to the gym”. Slim Volume

Two Bros

Two bros on a mat
one on his back
hands clasped behind his head
legs bicycling like a capsized fly;
the other,
the one with the green hair
and the tattoos of a religious nature
is grunting weights .
Fly bro, it appears,
is having girlfriend problems
and is experiencing
some kind of vague existential crisis,
green hair bro listens carefully to his tale of woe
and after some reflection says:
It’s life, man,
stop trying to understand it,
no one can

and then, as if startled by his own profundity,
he repeats: no one can.
Out of the mouths of bros….

in the background a bearded jock
in a tight black T shirt
his muscles packed with powdered whey
his eyes a steroid yellow
is down on his hunkers
knees akimbo
moving sideways
across the  floor
like a slow motion crab
across packed sand at evening.

Wild Mind

Wild Mind

I’m on the bedroom floor
doing some stretches,
above my head
in the blue rectangle of the skylight
an eagle soars.

I’m thinking about an article a friend sent about “solo polyamory”.

I start a poem:
he was a sensitive guy
he didn’t have the armory
for solo polyamory
he wanted to marry
settle down
maybe do a bit of farmery
somewhere far away
from the clamor,
the goddamery
of big city life.

Well, they can’t all soar like an eagle.

Apropos of nothing
I think about my recent technology issues.
Last week I spent an hour talking to a nice guy from Apple Help,
he was in Arizona, temperature in the low sixties
down where Fahrenheit still rules,
I had iPhone issues which he did not resolve,
he could not meet my iNeeds
but as a result my IOS updated
and every time I turn on the phone
it asks me about my iPreferences
my preference would be to turn on my phone
and be left alone
but call it coincidence, serendipity, synchronicity
because of the update
my Spotify app does not work
so I decide to delete the app
because every time I use it
I think of Joe Rogan
spouting bollocks about freedom
and if, and it’s a big if,
I ever meet Neil Young
I want to be able to look him in the eye.
Now I’m algorithm free
and I’m listening to music
on a chunky old iPod
I found in a drawer
and you know what?
It sounds good and I picked all the songs myself.

I think of an opening to a poem:
he walked into the room
his eyes like fugitives
looking for a window,

I think of a song title:
Stuck in E Minor Again


I think of a song chorus:
born in the wrong key
there was always something different about me
until you came along
and changed my song
now it’s all sweet harmony.

Sappy, yes, but is it sappy enough?

I think of that eagle
I think, what is that eagle thinking?
I think he’s thinking this:
Man, these thermals are good
I could stay here all day.
Hang on a minute
is that a mouse on that garbage bin
in the laneway north of King Edward
east of Dunbar,
they don’t call them eagle eyes for nothing.
Forget the mouse,
I’ve got soaring to do,
soaring to do before the day is done.

In Brendan’s excellent post over at earthweal, he posits, among other things, that “our brains themselves have been disrupted by digital media.” He also says:

The mind must feed on wild sources; greening is both invitation and surrender. Dogen, again: “Are you going to improve yourself or are you going to let the universe improve you?”

Well, that’s where I started.

The Trucker Convoy Protesting Vaccine Mandates Crosses Burrard Street Bridge

The Trucker Convoy Protesting Vaccine Mandates Crosses Burrard Street Bridge

as seen from the park below
the trucks look like toy trucks
driven by children
which is partly true
given that the logic of their rhetoric
resembles that of a petulant child
and I’m being hard on petulant children

the blaring horns sound like
the dying groans of white male supremacy
the Canada geese look puzzled
the crows go crazy in the trees.

Taking part in open link weekend over at earthweal

Forest Gumption

Forest Gumption

Sometimes driving by an empty field at evening
on an island somewhere
where we have gone to get away
from whatever it all is
I experience, out of nowhere, a primal longing
and I imagine stopping the car
and crossing that empty field
to enter the forest beyond
a forest that is shutting down for the evening
all rustle, chirp and squeak
and walking through that forest
I encounter in a clearing
a deer illuminated by a shaft of sunlight
the deer stares at me doe-eyed as I pass
but does not move,
as I continue down the trail
a ball of white gas darts between the trees
keeping pace
there’s a whiff of sulfur in the air
in another clearing I come across a log cabin
moss on the decaying cedar roof,
a thin wisp of smoke exiting the chimney
I walk across the slick green of the porch
and open the door to a room
smelling of mold and mouse shit
there is no furniture except for a table,
a chair, and an old fashioned typewriter
I walk to the table, sit down
and start to write this poem
I get to the point in the poem
where I sit down to write the poem
and there’s a knock on the door
I walk across the creaking floor
and open the door to a tall stranger
dressed in black, his wide-brimmed hat
pulled low over his eyes
“I’m in your poem”, he says,
in a voice that has travelled centuries,
“I’m in your poem, what happens next?”

(apologies to Stephen King)

Over at earthweal, Brendan asks us to write about “wildness”, that’s what I started with!

Also, taking part in Open Link over at dverse.