Friday, December 19, 2008

id -- an answer to echo


semiotic spaces

ungrammatically linguistic

primal utterance of elements

subatomic fractals seed



flowering swirling mass of subjectivity

never fully formed absolute

only uncertainty exploring forgetting itself


Saturday, December 6, 2008



1 + 1 = 2
this is called deja vu

what do you think
are you reading this new

or have you been here


# of funerals you've attended
# of weddings you've attended
is a function of your indifference


( your age x 1.5 ) - 7 = oldest age of lovers you should take


the time it takes a space spider to spin its web is inversely proportional to the reason the ocean bleeds roses in April


happiness divided by regret is ignorance squared


greed to the power of power is insanity
and also equals money
(which we know from previous proofs to be the root of all evil)


surface area of covers you steal


surface area of the bed you usurp


time you spend in the doghouse


twice nothing is nothing


hope + fear + sun + trees + alone + houses + books + helping + guilt + boldness + self-deprecation + moonlight + childhood + water + writing + perhaps + running + fall + bees + hardwood floors + legs + variety + watermelon + forts in the woods + tears + screaming from the rooftops + coffee + cormorant + freshly cut grass + oranges + doubt + friendship + wind + learning + losing + crawling in the gutters + when it all first came crashing down + sugar + work + what we most want + what was before we remember + all those things that will remain unknown = life



***which is to say that I am in everything and everything is also in me***


The shortest distance between two points is a writer and a beer.


a dessert often served with ice cream and coming in forms such as pumpkin, hoof, rhubarb, blackberry, entrails, cream of toast, etc. is
3.14159265358979323846... (but I can't tell you why)


1, 2, 3, 4
who's opinion matters more?

2, 4, 6, 8
whose do we appreciate?

not others (CLAP! CLAP!)
not others (CLAP! CLAP!)




in the end
everything will be OK

people do whatever they have to do in order to make themselves happy

because if it isn't OK
then it's not the end


your greatest joy is equivalent to your greatest sorrow


the only thing less than your time is the time you don't take listening to other


life = love = life = love = life = love = life = love = life = love ...

Friday, October 24, 2008


So it is. All trials are only circles. The hurricane falls into the shore, mingling sand-surf-beach-rocks-electric-air, the false lull before the plunge. The innards of the ocean throws up a curtain of sleet that spreads like a comforter onto a king-sized bed.


"You can't rush destiny."

No, I guess you can't. Just like you can't sail around a tempest, for if you did they'd still ask,

"Why were you late?"

And you'd have to say, "It was because of a storm."

Then they'd ask, "It must have been bad?"

And you'd have to say, "I don't know. I sailed around it."

No you just can't rush destiny.


The moment of not understanding is an opportunity to learn.
-- bell hooks


I love that all our things are mingled together, love how your stuff is a-clutter, crumple towels, jeans, and bras. I love to find traces of your passing when we're apart, love the way you're spread on the floor like a cyclone.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A day alone. Time to reflect, to recollect what was given, what remains. Back to the Falls. The prayers I had uttered there all answered, just not in the order received. Back to a time colored heartache, a grey shade of blue on a starless sky, curling, shivering into earth. A thin strand stretcheing to eternity, showing where that berg of memory has sailed since calving from a glacier of lives never lived. When again was that day it fell apart? Where was that fault line to be found?

A false lull -- something quite as ordinary as the drop in pressure before the restless expenditure of a thunderstorm. Remembrance soaking my senses: the scent of morning in the forest; sound of beachrocks chattering in the tide and the taste of salt water; a thread of light flickering from the last embers of a fire to dance, all yellow, all yolk, before the mirrors of my eyes.

I hold my breath, watch as that small spark falls faintly to rest in my hand. This moment becomes all moments, becomes this pen shaping symbols, crafting vessels into which we pour meaning -- becomes something other than myself. "Listen more carefully," it says, "Then you will know."

In still silence a tether is cut, these syllables set loose from the past leaving only a dream, a dream that has always been true. For all things were given. All things remain. And I am held in life's embrace as the soil nourishes a seed to flower to see only the sun, as joy can reside only where once was sorrow, as surely as dawn. I am in love.

Sunday, August 31, 2008



The world teems with life.

The great to the small –

oak trees,


blade of grass

bends in the embrace

of day’s only eye

which made the world bloom

as a rose decorates a garden,

as the seed that remains.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why does a squirrel leaping from branch to branch never fall?
Because they have no fear of falling --
they can let go of one limb before clinging to another.

Some flowers for Hope...


Wind, water and winding sheet,
bring me peace and sunset,
and let me wake when others sleep
that I may walk through dreams.

Ok, listen. This isn't chess.
This isn't the makings of a neutron bomb.
Really there's no places that we differ
except that I am actively speaking out the voice within me
while you remain silent.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I'm not sure if you know; you talk in your sleep. I never slept well beside you. I lay awake at night a million miles away and sometimes you spoke... Your words came mostly as nonsense but somehow I understood them all, saw them in your waking life, your moving through the world, your interaction with others.

One night as I lay awake you told me that the flame had gone out and that it was a sort of loyalty or duty that kept us together, not a passionate love. And though for me a fire blazed I could see where that came from, I saw it every day -- the flower withers; the seed remains.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


So what have I learned? What has spinning fire taught me?

I’ve learned not to trespass at nuclear facilities. They grab you and put you in a cage in back of a white pickup and go through all your stuff. It’s not usually good if they find kerosene and chains and rags. I just stay well clear of the military as a general rule since then.

I’ve learned how fire can draw people in, the illusion of its control. Yet at any moment a wad of flaming cotton could set loose into them. And it’s amazing how many people ask if they can try. I usually say, sure, but that’s sometimes gone badly -- especially for one girl in a nylon dress at a Cadillac dealership I set up outside of. The authorities showed up that night too. Just the cops this time though. Not the nuclear henchmen.

I’ve learned the recklessness of fire and that flames themselves do not burn, only a chemical/physical reaction. Fire. The thing that brings smoke, glass and metal; the first sign of war; the last gift of the dead unto the living. Fire. Eternal as every inferno on a beach and every small candle flickering in a window, for every catastrophic explosion a spark going out, the only element that keeps us together and our greatest threat. What I’ve learned from fire.

I’ve learned that you’ve got to expect things to go wrong. For every moment of peace there is the striking of a match to scorch the earth. For every part joy there is a part of suffering and for what seems a sure thing there is a leap of faith. So fire has taught me something of life and now when I meet with goodness I remember sorrow, when I see the brightest light I remember a searing darkness. And I have learned that a life without fire is like a year without summer, and that if you dance with her, or near nuclear reactors, you’ve got to expect to get burned.

What I’ve learned from fire.



Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

==================Robert Frost===============

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My relationship with fire

I came home from work with a headache. I walked through the front door and heard the sound of water in the shower, was going to call out to you when I heard another sound and noticed his boots by the door. I didn’t know what to think and so I just walked back outside, went downtown and had a coffee. It wasn't like I felt hurt. I was just taken back. It was only after sitting there for a while that I remembered -- I had been seeing someone else for months. And what did I do? I never said a word, and from then on I always called to let you know I was coming. Because people do whatever they have to do in order to make themselves happy , and anyways, who am I to judge.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Souls are fires whose ashes are the bodies."
--Kahlil Gibran


Sunday, July 27, 2008


Here is a mountain of many flags

Here a hornet of bees

Here is a time colored heartache

A fiat of muppets

Not blackbirds fly but stones

Here the pages ring off the hook

Sun circles the moon

Here eyes taste

Here we here

Here is military intelligence and honest politicians

Here compassion

Here humanness

Here care

Here is a mountain of many flags

Sunday, July 20, 2008


"Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people -- otherwise there wouldn't be any religious people. But don't listen to me. I'm just the messenger. And you should know that these messages I bring are open to broad interpretation; they were given to me as symbols and signs like satyrs and angels, adders and icons -- just a thought of a whimsical mind.

"If there's one thing I've learned over all this time it's that there is no objective truth. Think about it. A scientist says he wants to study the effect of gravity and the weight of the world falling on a newborn child. He says his study is neutral, with no preconceptions. Now, how can that be when he himself was once born and lived out his days held fast to this planet by said force? How can he be objective, 3rd person omniscient? How do you put all that lived experience in brackets in a flesh and blood world? How can he claim to be transcendental, claim to be a god, and remain neutral?

"You see, science is no more than another religion, and rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. I am Hermes, the messenger god, the god of travelers and thieves. You should know better than to listen to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Standing on a barachois,
stone still above the high watermark
among driftwood,
seaweed and twine,
a razorbill
unhinges its beak and bawls.

If this pen had been the barrel of a gun,
had these words been bullets,
I would have fired upon it,
as cherubs take potshots at us,
if only to silence the squawking.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ockham's Razor

It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer.

Monday, July 7, 2008


graffiti on time and
like a binding spell

and winding sheet
let this spirit come to me
yet send it in peace or not at all

never the deceiver
for things unspoken are not always unsaid

never forgiven
for you may do me no harm

but what I want to know
if I am
or I am not
in your heart

Thursday, July 3, 2008



Everything speaks in its own way. The earth speaks. The plants and animals and insects and birds speak. Everything has a voice. This world is not mute, only waiting for us to say a word it understands, to recognize the many names by which it calls itself.

If we should come to listen to the world around us, if we should come to hear its voice and learn to whisper back its words, the clouds may pause in passing, the sleeping hills may shift and rumble, a blade of grass may bend.

Everything has a purpose it means to carry out -- sometimes important destinies lay hidden inside pebbles and crumpled leaves, between the fine fibers of a feather. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to breathe (for the mind to become still) for all things to be revealed, so we may listen to a shell...

...and hear the sound of the sea.

photos in collaboration with Tom Craig (the poor fella who's trying to teach me to use a camera)

Friday, June 27, 2008

The horizon darkens. A wind kicks up, drawing me in, and then suddenly a calm, a deep breath before the plunge. This I can tell you -- though I know not from where -- a storm is coming.

Monday, June 23, 2008



Sometimes silence speaks louder than words -- a look that cuts through to a vein, a verb whose barbs dig deep, seething beneath the surface like a stingray under the sands, waiting, coiled to strike, and again and again after the tears subside.

Sometimes silence has nothing to teach us, sitting numb, cross-legged on a stone floor -- nothing in chanting or meditation with sight shut off. No... nothing waits in the space between some words; that white space where the letters float like driftwood on an ocean or the birds in the trees I beg to bring me honey.

Sometimes silence is a soul on fire, wishing there was a reset button on life; the days you love someone who doesn't love you back, listening to the same sad song on repeat, tearing the pages of poetry from your favorite book and cursing the sky; the days there's no quiet to be found in talking. Sometimes silence screams. Sometimes silence is the hiss of a snake.

And sometimes it's that sound that makes us learn. Without giving voice to those questions nature could never correct us, the deafening roar of experience, of seeking out answers. If I only sat in silence there could be no consensus and no one could disagree and in that way I could never move forward, I could never change. This is why I craft words. Not because I think I'm right or because I see some great truth. I speak and I write because I realize I don't know. I make this noise because I want to find out, and if I said nothing then I would remain as I am, only a wisp in the wind.


Some quotes from Kahil Gibran:

"They say that silence resides in contentment; but I say to you that denial, rebellion, and contempt dwell in silence."

"Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it?"

"Deliver me from him who does not tell the truth unless he stings; and from the man of good conduct and bad intentions; and from him who acquires self-esteem by finding fault in others."

"The poet is he who makes you feel, after reading his poem, that his best verses have not yet been composed."

"Art is a step in the known towards the unknown."

"If I knew the cause of my ignorance, I would be a sage."

"I never speak without error, for my thoughts come from the world of abstraction and my statements from the world of reference."


A quote from the Crow:

"Silence makes us strangers to each other..."


This post is a response to my friend and fellow seeker and writer BBC. Many times he has questioned my rational for writing, has asked why bother littering the internet with ramblings and poetry (as he so poetically puts it, "The monkey crap in the ruts of time and space"). And though he may not realize how seriously I've taken his line of questioning it's something I've struggled with myself. Another of Gibran's sayings that I take without a grain of salt is:

"Poetry is a flash of lightening; it becomes mere composition when it is an arrangement of words."

If you follow this line logically one would wonder, why bother writing at all, why bother striving towards the poetic. BBC, I think, is making precisely this point and I have trouble coming to grips with the repercussions of this -- maybe why I've spent so much time formulating this response to him.

I made the conscious choice some time ago to give up on argumentation. I don't believe that anyone will be convinced by a reasoned, premise based argument. I believe that any truth that must be explained is only a half truth. So I've come to believe that no one's belief can be changed except by their choice, by their own self-reflection. And so I close with a question... a question that I'm sure BBC has a poignant answer for:

Why do you write my friend?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Phoenix rise every five hundred years. That's sort of convenient. There's not much around to remember. But what must their memories be -- to live and die the years of earth and fire -- what do they think on their pyre as ash? How do they come to terms with time when time and existence are linked to the coming and going of the planets, with the birth and death of a system?

Meteors, however, rise on cycles unknown. The same rock running from gravity over stretches and bends. What are the memories of stone? And what must they think of the Phoenix, that creature tied to flame and earth? As the meteors blaze and quarrel with the firebird in the night sky they speak their experience:

All things begin in fire,
all things give way to ash.
Ash becomes stone becomes fire.
We are one and the same,
in a time you can't remember,
and again in time you can't see.

Just as they feud on the dark canvas, painting a pointless streak overhead, we resist what we must become, the rock and fire and ash, burning and hardening in Time's garden.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Crow Gave Wings

He lived on a mountain, high up, alone. So high there was never a cloud between him and the sky, but they lay about, rose at dawn, fell away at dusk like a blanket, dividing his world from the rest. He had no idea how he'd gotten there -- had never been to the base for the depth of the dew and treachery of the descent; never been to the peak for the cap of thickly formed snow and his having no coat against the cold. He lived in the caves, the cliffs and crags. He simply was, among the sun and stars and moon -- thought Venus his only friend, and when she blinked into the cloudless twilight he was comforted by her watchful presence, her constance and bright, so that he only felt alone in the seasons she did not shine. His life continued such under the clear sky, and each day he would ask, Who am I?, Who am I?

One evening a pure white crow came to rest on an outcrop of rock. Though he'd never seen another creature before he was without fear of the corvid, felt drawn by its wing-falls as drifts are drawn by the driven snow. And he spoke, for he still spoke crow. "Where have you come from friend? Can you tell me what lays beneath these clouds and do you know the stars above? And can you tell me, cousin, what truth you've come to know?"

The crow replied without a sound, giving him two long feathers, pure white, and spread its wings and leapt from the cliff into his memory, showing him how to fly as the Evenstar appeared in the east. And he thought, I will go to see her, I will find that spark.

As he took to the air the mountain unfurled around him and a huge stone dragon shook the frost from his form. The two seemed suspended in that moment above the mists, the dragon's wings spreading like beach rocks rolling in the tide, his eyes glass on fire, the snow hanging incandescent about the two.

"You are my heart," he said to the boy, "Taken to flight that has ended my long sleep. So I will follow where you wish to go, as I must."

They looked to the heavens, to that one bright light... and so a crow gave wings to a dragon's heart that he might find Venus, as the clouds lay about on that clear and snowy night.

Monday, June 9, 2008


He was awaken. Through the window a cormorant was at rest on the rock, stretching her wings against the rain, settling again, sleek fisherman.

He did not notice it move. It was simply gone, naturally processed, siphoned elsewhere.

He would capture her, hold her memory for good, if not for the battery in the camera or his belief that what is wild and elusive must stay so.

He opens the door and skirts the splattering sky below where the eaves should be. Still a salvo strikes his neck, clapping applause, punctuating his skin. The goal was not to feel the water but to feel the rain, feel the calmness of the unphased cormorant, like her countenance would stick to the rock after she flew away, mingling with the moist.

He scoots back inside, shakes the water from his arms and runs a hand through his hair. Drips drop on the hardwood floor, anointing earth's oil on varnish.

He catches a glimpse of a seal diving, a question mark slipping through the surface, freeze framed by the routed white wood holding glass.

He questions what he takes for coincidence, elusive signs of a catalyst, inescapable, like the rhyme he struggles not to write down.

No one likes the time balanced on a tack. Everywhere are signs to get things back on track.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's a flower?

My parents built their own home, a two story cedar shingle on a couple acres of land. They cleared half of it, put in a garden and a greenhouse, a cabin in the back with room for four complete with an extension cord from the house and Chinese lanterns. They planted pine trees and aspen, juniper and rose bushes. Dad dug a pond for his goldfish, not like some might dig a pond for a little water feature, I'm talking like six feet deep with lily pads and wild ducks landing in it, dragonfly pattering the surface on clear days. There were bird feeders and nests throughout the trails behind the gardens, where we built burrows and forts and crawled about on the floor of the fir and spruce forest. In full bloom of summer it was not just something to see, it was something to feel; all the creatures and insects, the sounds of the birds in the trees and the rustle of leaves in the ever present Atlantic winds. As a child it filled me with a sense of the world, a world of many small beauties.

Dad was fairly picky about his lawn. He wasn't too fond of moss or clover or weeds, and he reseeded and laid topsoil in a few patches of the grass to try and get rid of the dandelions. Resilient as they are they just kept coming back, pushing their way to the surface after being sheered and turned over with a pitchfork... they came back after being mowed and rooted out, the delicate air born seeds from that one unseen on the tree line bringing forth a colony of yellow. I don't remember exactly when, but I developed an affinity for the dandelions. I never thought of them as a force to be reckoned with, just flowers that no one liked.

One summer, I'm not sure which, Dad turned to herbicide, a powder he mixed with water and put in a green canister with a hand pump on top to pressurize the contents -- you probably know the kind I mean. He went about spraying the flowers and an idea jumped in my mind. Later that evening I went out to the shed and got the cannister. I poured out all the poison and refilled it with fertilizer and the water he used for the tomatoes. I don't think he knew what to make of the population explosion after he'd sprayed a few more times. He gave up on herbicides after that and still every summer dandelions bloom in the yard, the misunderstood flower.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

7-West -- A Restaurant Review

I don't review bars and restaurants like regular critics. I don't call and make a reservation for such and such a time and this particular table. What I've done for the last decade or so, while not writing or reading or socializing myself, has been working in service industry. I've worked in almost a hundred different establishments, I think. I've done this work on two continents and most all provinces of Canada. And so this was the last shift in another cafe in Toronto, the overnight, 11 - 8 AM. It's a cafe called 7 West. Here I am serving an empty restaurant. It's 2 AM....

Sometimes I take the little packet of sugar and just barely open a corner. I pour out all the sugar. Then I take the lid off a salt shaker and gingerly pour into the empty sugar packet until full. Then I fold over the packet and put it back, as neatly as I can, amongst the others (a little time bomb waiting for someone to put in their coffee). That should be a gauge on the "love-of-people measuring stick" for how long I've been in service and for how much I like working overnight.

Then I have a rush of late night couples come through. Let me tell you how I think about customers, from the waiter's point of view. I believe the best service is invisible. I think I've done my job correctly if I'm barely noticed, so that when the customers leave what was most memorable was their night, their company, and the space (lastly). Anyway, why should we intrude on your evening? Then there's customers who seem to want to interact with the staff (probably worked in the industry, like the Australian couple on table 9).

Then everyone's gone. You look in the mirror and everything goes blurry. The caffeinated buzz and closeness gives way. All the candles are still lit but daylight is creeping into the window, above the glass and concrete housing the people who come to this cafe and put coins in my pocket. And this our space, just a little-old brick house held by people like me (who are themselves held up by coffee and cigarettes). Maybe I should do some cleaning. The boss likes it clean (I've been in hospitals less clean than this cafe).

I suppose any proper review of a restaurant should mention food... so, what I can tell you is 7-West has great food (even the staff eats there). I particularly like the Virgin pasta (I tell customers that there's no meat in it but it's seductive anyway), the primavera, chicken penne, and the nacho platter. Every chef does these dishes a little different, but they all come out in good portions and hot. Do me a favor and don't order the chevre or the Moroccan bean soup. I have a hard time bringing those dishes to people at the tables without apologizing. It's not that they don't taste alright. They just look a bit... well... presentation is everything, right? Also, I should mention that table 10 on the first level is the choice seat in the house. Table 10 has a secret for the discerning eye (the lines I left in the drawer there reads, "If you've got a curious mind, if you've have a curious heart, if you're the kind of person who likes random writing in hidden places, then leave some words in the drawer at table 10").

And now the sun is up and my time here is at an end. The server coming in to let me go is a half-hour early (thanks Alex). That's the nicest thing about this industry. It's real and it's human and all these other servers, just like me, I've worked with over the years are still present in my mind. It's what I most love about this work, and it's just why you should check out 7-West. Delightfully urban. Staff nocturnal. Hearts and umbrellas at dawn if you've worked with us.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A little meta-fiction

I thought I'd write up a story and put it in a bottle, and then maybe throw it in the ocean... or Lake Ontario... or maybe just a puddle somewhere. I hadn't gotten too far with the plot up to then. All I had was, 'story in a bottle.'

And I thought, 'Well, seeing as how I don't have a story yet I might as well get a bottle... of Jack Daniels.' Then being left in the predicament whereby I had a full bottle when what I needed was an empty one I did the only reasonable thing and got ossified, as any self-respecting artist would, until I found myself babbling away to the walls as though they were sentient beings.

Anyways... I almost had my empty bottle and was about to start in on the story to put inside when I started to get hungry. I figured that I'd best get something into my stomach to soak up all the booze. I thought about going to the corner store until I realized that I'd spent all my cash on the bottle I'd almost drained. I stumbled over to the kitchen to see what I could find in the way of food there... opened the fridge to find plenty of condiments but no food. 'Drat,' I thought, 'The curse of the single man!'

I got a spoon and had a few scoops of mayonnaise... then I had some mustard and some ranch. My insides started to turn and curdle. I checked in the freezer and found some hot dogs in an open package. I would have microwaved them if I owned a microwave, but as I didn't I just bit into one of them. It was like eating a Popsicle, except it didn't taste like sugar and fruit... it was more like a meatsicle... a crunchy crystalline bland substance mixing with Jack and mayo and mustard. 'The hell with this,' I thought.

I went back to my room and sat at my desk. In my drunken stupor I'd taken half of the uneaten sausage with me. I poked it into the empty bottle. 'Now there's a story for someone to try and figure out. If that washed up on your shore you wouldn't have the first clue how it'd all happened... how it came to be like that. But that's the beauty of a story... that sometimes it's the not knowing that makes for the twist in the tale... makes the imagination work.'

I thought about what it is to be a storyteller... thought how you can't trust people to tell their own tales and how everyone gives you a necessary fiction... like a defense mechanism against the unflattering things that we do and the way that we want others to see us instead of as we truly are. I thought about telling a story where fact was less important than fiction and then I wrote these lines... in the hopes that you'd know better than to believe a word I said.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


There are some people who live their lives according to great mantras like, This Too Shall Pass, or Everything Works Out In The End. They'll tell you a catch-all phrase, Accept Loss Forever, or, Don't Pine Away Over Old Flames, but when I bite into them they're all just lemons, they all taste the same, and I can see them coming a mile off like the tightening feeling in the back of your mouth before you eat salt and vinegar chips. They wait for you to say amen, like they divined some great and mystic truth and curled it into six syllables or less, when the complexities and intricacies of life can't even be encapsulated in all those religious texts. Life is such that wisdom is not knowing and folly is to presume to know, but I don't tell them because I'm not sure and because I think they should believe whatever may bring them comfort. And what do I believe? Ask me one day when you're not feeling so good.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You can't eat the air and you can't drink the sea...

(This photo was gaffed from The Independent, a newspaper in Newfoundland. I'm sure the by's won't mind at all.)

I'm from a sleepy little place on the East Coast of Canada called Newfoundland. My people (like most peoples) are very proud of where we're from and it's becoming a tradition, in the capital city St. John's, that each summer a group of enthusiastic youth plant the flag of the republic in a prominent place overlooking the city. I don't capitalize republic because Newfoundland has never been a republic and probably never will. We have an "accepted" flag already. This one is more like a banished flag from long ago, a flag that was flown by rebels when our province was administered by Britain.

It's good for tourism and the local vendors sell piles of T-shirts and hats and replica flags to those visiting the island. I always like to tell people that we're the only place tough enough to put pink in our flag (don't think you'll find many others) and that it's not something that should be taken too seriously, just a gimmick, and that Newfoundlanders aren't too interested in divorcing ourselves from Canada. We've been screwed over by some of the deals we've made with the country and the other provinces, especially regarding resources like hydro and fossil fuels, which sees other regions making huge profits because of technicalities. For example, there's a deal in place whereby Newfoundland provides electricity to Quebec at rates which seemed reasonable in 1972 before the oil shocks. Now Quebec re-sells this power to New York State at a profit of roughly 4 billion dollars a year and Newfoundland can't renegotiate the contract until 2042 or something ridiculous like that. Even a billion dollars a year would mean that a province like ours with a population of less than 500 000 people would be a wealthy little place. But that's just sour grapes as far as I'm concerned. Why should Quebec or the rest of the country be responsible for stupid deals our government made decades ago?

For the last number of years a debate about this flag and the prospect of independence has been raging in the local papers. "What's wrong with the flag we've got?" some say. "Why would we want to strike out on our own?" say others. In many ways I have to agree. Not because I'm unpatriotic or anything, but because the world we live in is much more complex than that. It's a global community we live in now and by choosing to accentuate the differences we have with others would be to isolate ourselves, to become an island adrift, and counter-productive. I think it's important that people are proud of where they're from, but nationalism, in any guise, is a dangerous thing, and harping on about the republic that's never been as though it's inevitable is sheer folly. We're a lost people, wandering in search of ourselves and our identity, the things other than hardship that bind us together, and many rational thinkers in the province are boiling over because we seem to be merely treading water.

A big part of this comes from the fact that so many Newfoundlanders have been forced to move away from home, to leave our quite place for the big cities of mainland Canada, like Toronto and Edmonton, in search of work and in search of a future. Even though things have never been better in Newfoundland it still has the highest rates of unemployment in the country and our main industry, fishing, has all but disappeared due to over harvesting the stocks (something else we must take responsibility for instead of blaming the federal government in Ottawa for mismanagement). I'm one of the people who's left home. I've been on the move for almost a decade now, trying to find my place in this world and yet trying to hold on to where I'm from at the same time. This is a shared experience of our people. That we must all go away and hope to one day return, called back by the sea and the stone, by the ruggedness of the landscape and the people, the sense of community and belonging that we don't find anywhere else.

Some days I find myself yearning for home. I look through all the pictures in my shoe box -- my friends and family, the ocean that was in my backyard, the gulls and the whales and the icebergs, the music and the pubs. But more than anything what I long for on these days is the feeling of being there, the way I'm a part of it all and not an outsider as I am in these huge smoking cities filled with people watching the time and markets. I miss the stillness of my town at night, how I could walk the streets and hear only the lapping of the waves, a distant fog horn. I miss the way the sun hit the water. I miss that feeling that all Newfoundlanders know, and why we kiss the rocky ground each time we return. I miss home.

(all the images in the clip below are from in and around St. John's. Ron Hynes is one of our best known bards and his song has been in my mind all day)

Monday, May 19, 2008

I write these words only for myself... I write the whole day through... letters and fiction and truth (as true as true can be)... I try to tell the story that's eluding me... the one that got away... and all I have left to go on is this hook... bent into a ring that's never going to be a circle... I've got a pen and some paper... a clipboard that says... HOW ON EARTH DO YOU LOSE 5 BILLION PEOPLE... when all I can think about is how I lost one... how I lost myself and I write the whole day through... a dream beyond hope that you would come back... as some would count beads on a rosary I count the syllables on this page... a pagan prayer to no one... instead of alone...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Falls 2

I'm writing you this letter today with loose leaf on a clip board and a pencil.
I've been wandering around Niagara Falls, watching the mist rising to meet the precipice of the escarpment.
There are thousands of birds, some I've known and many whose names I can't say, and I wish you were here.
When I walk above the swirling waters and hear the thundering tumult in my ears I feel drawn into it
It calls out from that last moment, the space between the stone and the surface where the edge shows through,
ever replenished, ever replaced, to the bottom and into the undertow.
I'm set adrift, an umbrella turned upside down, caught in the eddy current and cycling and circling.
Its handle holding my hand.
I'm standing on the shoulders of a giant and all this water is held up by some fabric over a thin metal frame.
I've been walking around thinking about you and your time here,
about the inspiration for a shape poem that's traveled so far and so well.
The water falling like hair.
The bridge like a cord spanning a great distance.
It all comes back and the wish is that I had someone to share all of this with,
someone who could have shared the journey.

I sat and had lunch in The Secret Garden.
On the way out the door I noticed on the last table a book,
The Book of Answers.
I don't know if you remember it from before.
It asks you to hold it in your hands,
to think on your question for a few moments and then just open it up to a page.
You must know the question I asked.
When I flicked to a spot on the first try it said only two words:
Move On.
I closed it again and walked out, thinking, 'I can't,'
and how all this day you've filled my thoughts
like the light rain now falling on this page would fill that umbrella to the brim
and my heart beating like mad and I think, 'Yes... yes I would,'
I feel lifted by the elements around and the wisdom they speak,
for we love what we love, not only what loves us back.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I see these elements upside down














step as the rain comes up
to empty this bowl to the brim

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In Brackets

I walk outside and see a tree (one of many trees), a late bloomer. It is still shedding its last leaves from Fall and is budding red blossoms when all the other trees are green, pushing for Summer and Summer's bounty.

A man runs to my greening lawn. Seeing me on the porch he stops running, as though I would judge him for his hurry, trying to save the face of a stranger, and once he thinks he's out of my sight starts running again.

But I don't really care. I think (in truth) he should slow down and miss his bus. He should take time to be late for work and watch the starlings come together in pairs.

I think about editing. I don't want to write first person, don't want to say Summer or Spring when for me it's Winter or Fall. What I want is to say to you all that there's more to this than just Roman script and lettering, more than just the words can describe.

This is about heart. This is about reason. This is about finding ones place in a fragmented world and how at times words of fiction are more important than fact and science (matters).

And this story, that goes no further than the front steps where I see Spring and Fall and humans running, is what it is.

Friday, May 9, 2008

She never said anything out loud,
the words seethed under covers.

She spoke with her eyes,
with her air her

fist mark left to be found in a pillow.
When there was something to be said

there was nothing she could say,
so she didn't speak in anger

as she didn't speak in joy
that first time I said, Love,

just smiled and turned
the flowers on the bedspread to a heart.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

maybe all life is born of the same one soul

each like an ember thrown from the fire

looking for salvation alone

burning brightly in the sky for just a moment

before becoming ash

and falling back to earth

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yom Hashoah

Today is Yom Hashoah, The Jewish Remembrance Day of the Holocaust. I wanted to write a little background on the poem that's below. I'm a Newfoundlander. Our province was an independent state until 1949 at the close of the war when we joined Canada. The main industry has always been fishing. At the outbreak of WWII many Newfoundlanders volunteered (there was no conscription in the state), in a lot of cases because it was a good paycheck at a time when our economy was in bad shape (still is today). People actually signed up because it meant that they'd get a new pair of boots, a luxury very few Newfoundlanders had known. Some of the first Allied soldiers that helped liberate the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen were from my home and it left quite an impression on them and on the collective memory of our people. This poem is based on accounts I've heard of that experience. This piece was posted a little over a month ago but I was inclined to repeat it today, and was encouraged to do so by a friend of mine, Lynn. I hope anyone who stops through here today will take a moment to think about lessons that we should learn from a terrible time in human history, and how we can all be more aware of atrocities that persist up until this present moment.



We were fishermen
from a quiet place.
Poor, but strong --
we'd seen holds
bursting with the catch,
snow-shoe hare
snared, wrenching,
begging for a cracked neck.
We'd seen remnants of caribou,
paunched, quartered, putrid.
We'd seen Normandy,
been butchered and exploded,
smelled detritus in our nostrils,
heads leaning to the hail
raining down
like lightening zippers.
We crossed country
wearing half-khaki grime.
We saw bombed out cities
painted Kilroy.
We died and we cried.
We killed and we died.
That our journey should end
with so grisly a sight
writhing before our eyes
like cod below deck,
how can we go to sea again?
We were fishermen.

A Path by the Water -- for B.B.C.

Waves rolling on the shore; simple, unashamed
of etching arcs and curves on the coast.
Its language is all its own,
different from mine;
not full of conjecture;
meaning no harm
and no good by
lapping shanti,
lapping shanti,
air and sea spray;
a flowing infused mist
rolling seemingly gently like
hundreds of horses on cobble-
stone paths the high water mark
lined with beached driftwood and twine.
Waves rolling on the lucid shores of time:

shanti, shanti, shanti.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spare Change

I walk down the streets and hear the same words repeated day after day, “Spare change?” I dig deep, coming up with quarters, nickels and dimes. I take them with me from the dish in the porch at home, the place everyone drops their coins on the way in the door, what was left over from coffees and bus fares, from the bakers and butchers, the pay phones and vending machines that for some reason found them unacceptable – the weight was wrong. Some of them faded. Some new. The taste of a thousand hands and machine oil, the million miles traveled by the penny to become...

“Spare change?” I dig deeper. Beneath the sods and sewers and subway lines, beneath the sleeping bags in the alleys, the shopping carts rattling with bottles leading shoeless Joes down unnamed streets. Beneath the woman in front of the liquor store who claims she wants bread. Beneath the kid on every corner with a cardboard sign saying, Made a mistake... just want to go home. Under the junkie who turns down a free sandwich, seemingly ungrateful for your great act of charity, his stomach too withered for solid food now can only accept Ensure shakes and...

“Spare change?” I run my fingers along the seam of my pocket, coming up with flakes of tobacco set free from the pack, some lint. I have nothing more to give for the cold hard fact is that change comes only from within, and not from the beggar, not from the down-trod and homeless, not from the ones who've slipped through the cracks, but from you. You who are rich in happiness and in health and in gold. You who feel a vain form of pride when you lower yourself to the level of those you think are beneath you because they sit on the sidewalk, your brothers and sisters, your forgotten family. For in this life we are all one and truth be told it is they who are loved by the God and you who must dig deep for... spare change.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hier j'étais riche en bonheur et aujourd'hui je suis pauvre en l'or.
Hier j'ai suivi la mèche du vent par l'air et aujourd'hui je marche avec les ailes cassées.
Laissez-moi ne pas vous trahir.
Laissez cet esprit venir à moi.
Mais envoyez-le dans la paix ou pas du tout.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Choose your own adventure -- take 2

The thing with this form is that there are only two options at the end of each section so it's not fully inclusive... basically you would have to be invited to write a section... that's why I asked that one of the two choices links back to me... so that I could invite all of you in due time... the way I envision it as long as the links run to the particular post for each section, time shouldn't be a problem...

I asked Human Being to write the choice ASK THE BOY WHY HE'S ON YOUR MOUNTAIN... I made the mistake of asking BBC to write a section based on option 1 -- EAT THE BOY FOR BREAKFAST... thought it might appeal to him...

I can see from the comments that this is going to be quite tricky... I'm open to suggestions on how this could be smoother and more interactive... I'm going to ask Debra Kay to write the first option (EAT THE BOY FOR BREAKFAST)... once the first few links hit I think it may be a bit more clear... basically, once the writer completes each new section they will have to let the previous writer know where it is so the link can be set... give me one of the two options they've come up with... and invite someone else to participate...

Please let me know if you're interested in writing a section... and any criticism/ideas would be appreciated...


Incidentally, I think I found a way to work this that is more accommodating... if you read through the story and find an option that's not written yet and you'd like to write it up just leave a comment after that section... I'm just going to keep working away at the story over time...

Choose your own adventure -- a community writing project

You remember those neat books you read when you were a kid? The kind that asked you to make a decision and told you to turn to a particular page depending on what you choose? I think it would be a fun project to run on-line. I'm going to write up the first section and then throw it out into the blogosphere and see what we all come up with. I've been thinking about it for a couple days now and have come to the conclusion that there will need to be a few rules if this is going to work.

1. If you participate you MUST offer the reader TWO options at the close of your section.

2. ONE of the options MUST link back to me (I've started a new blog to keep track) and one MUST link to a new participant.

3. Sections should be no more than 1000 words.

4. No profanities or explicit content.

I think it's necessary to have one link back to me so that I can keep track of the content and add new bloggers from my end. I won't necessarily write up the next section but may simply link on to another blogger. I'm not sure that this experiment will work as I envision so I reserve the right to change rules and add new rules. Please leave a comment if you'd like to participate and I'll try my best to include everyone (don't see this being a problem at all). It may be a problem keeping everything updated in a timely fashion so if anyone would like to be a team member on the new site and help me that would be greatly appreciated. Hit this link to read the first section.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reckless Burning

When I look back I see flames licking up into the night, stretching behind me for years and years like a string of watchtowers -- places where a phoenix came to rest and thought for a moment of going to sleep. I'm in a park collecting kindling and leaves, but they're still too damp from winter to take my spark, and so I throw in some books, some words I've held for too long, all dried up, because I'm tired of making a pyre of other peoples hearts. I want to walk in the daylight again, where I don't need reckless fires to show where I've been.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ordinary Life

It's hard some days to find meaning and see a beautiful world. You could amble through the city on weary feet with a weary heart listening to the same sad song on repeat. You could love someone who doesn't love you back and, no matter how much you tell yourself not to, you still see their face in the faces of strangers pushing past like a tempest among the buildings, pining away over old flames like a burnt out tree. But that's nothing more than ordinary life.

And you're stuck in the hustle of the rat race, trying to catch a rush hour train, when you trip and fall on the stairs. You're the prophet at the bottom selling sign language, begging for change. You're the people in the cafes talking about other people in other cafes and how so and so said what-not about who. You're the man clipping articles from the paper announcing the death toll, holding a placard saying, The end is near. All of us seemingly so alone -- all leaves on a tree, one by one falling away to the last end. It's hard to find beauty in it all. But that's just ordinary life too.

Ordinary like how everyone says they want peace, but it never comes. Ordinary to be too smart for your own good but too stupid for others. To tear people down and to diminish. To doubt and envy. To be strong and consistent and never be able to say, I don't know. To see all of life as just the everyday in the face of such mystery and coincidence. Ordinary as the lightening that there's no worldly explanation for.

But it's also ordinary to see that nothing joyful can come without some pain. To take time and step out of the death you're born into. To breath. To watch the moments pass by. To learn that the quietest word you can say in the language of the deaf is, Listen. To see that though we all meet our final ends alone everyone suffers that loss, even if the departed was unknown. When we realize there's two sides to every person: them as we wish them to be and them as they are, more than only the sum of some parts. And to remember that there's nothing I could do about lost love, that I couldn't have given you a reason to stay. That life is lovely. That happiness is a choice. That the world brims with possibilities and that ordinary is so much more than everyday.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I hear a million different voices speaking in tongues,
their words just empty vessels I fill with meaning.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pipe Bomb

Everything serves.
It's when some claim to serve a higher purpose I have to see a sort of ignorance hard at work.

That's a verbal detonator cap. Now let's look at the shrapnel, the chunky, crude rumblings of a servant. Important words like hope, divine, truth, right, fire, piss, dirt, time, life. Those nuts and bolts of the serving meander. The sense of light and dark in a winter forest where a man hangs from a maple tree, his hands bound behind his back with rags, a mucky bile oozing from his leg to a puddle in the snow.

A pound of very high velocity plastic explosive, also known as C4, asks: Why does the tree have to suffer the weight of his body? Must the tree also serve?

Well I don't know. I never really thought too much about the tree before now. That's a good question. But rather than answer it let's just put the pipe bomb down by the tree next to the puddle and set it for thirty seconds or so and obliterate the tree and Judas and everything around in one big shebang -- turn them to confetti and letters meshed with the screaming, snowy air.

Now I'm going to take off and you can observe this on your own. I've seen bombs go off before. It served no purpose.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Question and Answer -- another chain

This chain works by answering the last question in the comments section and leaving one for the next person. I'll try and put them up into the main post as they come in. You may participate multiple times.


Where do poems come from?
Poems grow on the inspiration tree -- a plant that few are able to find even after years of searching -- all the flowers which grow on it are different colors.

Is there any reason you should not freeze a poem?
There is no reason I am aware of you should not freeze a poem.

Can we really eat our own words or is that just something people say?
Surely we can, and we must!
We may choose to dine on our own words... it is preferable, though, if said words are delectable and delightful on the palate.

If I write poetry for unrequited loves, am I a romantic fool or a brave warrior?
Sometimes bravery is the quiet voice that whispers I will try again tomorrow, and sometimes it's better to be a solitary soldier than a popular mediocre. So you are neither a fool or brave, only yourself, a poet who feels.

So poems actually make a difference?
If even a small light flickers, yes.

May I tell you everything?
Yes I want to hear your story...
and that flicker does comes form a pearl...
You are like a shell in a turbulent stormy ocean who's eaten up a grain of sand and now is musing over her pain... and everyone comes to watch you with aahing and oohing...
"She's got a pearl!"
That's what they say...
And this is what makes all the difference... you go on producing pearls to be seen ... shells with no pearls are eaten up!

Can you tell me what they are converted to when they are eaten up?
When they are eaten up they go back into the poetry machine -- sort of like a Play-doh press -- so poets may make more shells, and one day maybe more pearls.

Do poets stay up late at night and furiously smoke cigarettes while balling up sheet after sheet of frustrated paper and tossing them idly over their shoulders?
Poets do what they need to do. Toss them, turn them, throw the words against the wall. Eat and mull over phrases. Swallow and taste their remains.

Which words do we thirst for most?
We thirst for those words that bring us truth, even if it be a bitter tasting truth.

Why is intolerance an affliction of a lazy mind?
It has something to do with all the sawdust and cat fur clogging the vacuum hose.

Are you going to turn the page?
Yes, I am going to turn the page, but not until the page decides to turn me and my misconceptions.

What misconceptions?
This misconception that poetry is written just by words...

Anyway, do we write poetry or poetry writes us?

Do you know the difference?
No I do not know the difference.

Do you?
Yes I do...there's no difference since the coin has got just one side.

Head or tails?
I have always preferred heads over tails. Heads are where hearts are protected, and allowed to reach out beyond the (rib)cage...

Is there such a thing as a good cage?

Friday, April 11, 2008


A voice leaps from a still spring
it's a duck's voice that leaps out from the still spring,

the voice of a lone albatross,
Still, the voice springs though no one can hear

no one can hear the voice from the still spring
that befalls the abyss of an indifferent world

A spent, drained world ripe for a turn
Spent, almost dead, or maybe a slight flicker?

One flicker. One breath.
I see.

See beauty in the abyss of a lone albatross, the leaping voice, the spring now still

seeping beauty, showering grace, shedding light -- its solitary insight

A beautiful voice, alone not lonely
An abyss as deep and still as the stream serves to shatter the silence with resonant glee

The voice leaping from the spring is the echo of the only sound there is...

This is another chain poem. If you'd like to participate please check the comments section and add a line at the end of the chain. It is easier for the next person to know where they are if you re-write all the lines which precede yours.


1. This chain is called ECHO and in order to get that effect I require that you repeat one word (or make a rhyme with one word) from the line before yours.

2. Please use plosives. Plosives are hard "P" or "B" sounds. A good way to conceptualize this is to pretend you are speaking into a microphone. Often p's or b's POP into a mic. Sometimes plosives are useful (say if you wanted to write a poem about a pipebomb you could use a lot of them so the poem sounds like an explosion). In the same way D.H. Lawrence used a lot of "S" sounds in his poem, Snake, to make the words slither and hiss down the page. This is an example of the sonic quality of the words we choose. In this chain hopefully the effect will be that the lines bounce from one another like a beach rock thrown down a ravine.

3. You may add more than one line if you wish.

The first line:

A voice leaps from a still spring

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chain Poem

We walk a seven day mile

that meanders without our consent.

We go where time goes when it's gone,

boulders on our shoulders,

breeze in our shoes.

We choose the touchstones that we carry

but not how far.

Listen to the Crow --

look to the future.

All ways are circles.

All goings are returns.

We walk a seven day mile.


This came together beautifully... thank you all for participating and for your thoughtfulness... Human Being, the only reason I made any rules was so that you could break them... I live by the same rule as you that at least one has to be broken... Debra, beautiful line... the travelers meander as does the time... what do you think... I added a line after Honor's line to qualify it and help the flow into the next line... I love that there's slant rhyme on "shoes" and "choose"... pure gold... Andrea... thank you for being so accommodating regards moving your line... this was a great example of teamwork... and BBC even though he didn't want to play brought a real nice spark into the mix... I'll ask him if he minds us using his line but I'm sure he won't because he doesn't believe in ownership of thoughts and words... thanks buddy... if you all like we could try another one of these again soon... let me know what you think... again... thank you all...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

We walk a seven day mile...


no plosives...

no more than ten syllables...

this process isn't instant...

take your time...

we walk a seven day mile...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


If I must I shall persist
in wanderlust, in loneliness... your reflection
seeming in a crowd,
twisting your hair,
turning to be the
face, the voice,
someone else. There
was a sun shower double
rainbow after a train
into the west,
into the waning hour
until bedtime
when you left --
looked up,
saw Venus,
saw that all my loves
had been together
in one day --
you melted my heart.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sentential Logic

Between the roses and the thorns
truth slumbers fitfully

as the sons of sorrow
are the poets and the prophets.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

After Kahil Gibran

A wing of my heart beats broken,
not even a breath falls on your ghosts

when I pause to let them walk by.
When I see your face on a busy street

I tell myself it's just broken wings
and this stranger is cheered

by seeing another stranger
in a strange land.

Friday, April 4, 2008


We were fishermen
from a quiet place.
Poor, but strong --
we'd seen holds
bursting with the catch,
snow-shoe hare
snared, wrenching,
begging for a cracked neck.
We'd seen remnants of caribou,
paunched, quartered, putrid.
We'd seen Normandy,
been butchered and exploded,
smelled detritus in our nostrils,
heads leaning to the hail
raining down
like lightening zippers.
We crossed country
wearing half-khaki grime.
We saw bombed out cities
painted Kilroy.
We died and we cried.
We killed and we died.
That our journey should end
with so grisly a sight
writhing before our eyes
like cod below deck,
how can we go to sea again?
We were fishermen.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lake Portage

Me and Jed had carried the canoe for a couple miles when we finally came to Lake Portage. It was disappointing to see it was all dried up -- only beach rocks left over like once was an ocean rolling where we stood. The gulls flew overhead and there were crushed shells beneath our feet.

"I know," said Jed, "I never really figured we'd catch any fish either. But the hike was worth it all the same."

I thought it was a fairly fine line that Jed had cast, as I didn't think he had a click to begin with. And there's ten thousand clicks in a clue.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I ask myself questions and try not to answer by reason. I keep looking in my sketch book for hints or the words of writers. Kerouac said, accept loss forever. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But that's just more reason -- who can accept loss never had anything worth losing to start -- and it's certainly not me. Perhaps someday that may change and I'll let go; the fuel in the fireplace will finally meet its match.

My heart says that day is not today and that some things I still can't accept.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Room of Dreams

It's one of those dreams
you realize you're dreaming
and you're a step ahead of the tour,
creating the space and time.

A castle of domes
built in layers
sitting in the clouds
and the sun.

The room of crystals,
prisms refracting light
like a million rainbows
so the floor isn't there.

The room of rain on the left,
but I've not brought my umbrella
so let's continue down this passage
and through that small arch.

Notice how the ice inside
has only now melted
and we've got to squeeze around
to get into the room.

Red clay and beach-glass,
the sound of the sea.
The feeling of home and comfort
of family and friends long gone,

and a portrait size mirror on the wall
in which you can see yourself wither
every day when you wake up
and forget how to dream.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tip of the Cane

Just one monotonous whir buzzing by you,
the lights of a streetcar the
tip of a blind man's cane,
a needle on a record playing nothing --
the machine that is man.

"Fucking sighted people," Heath said, "Another one tells me to watch where I'm going I'll lose my shit altogether and smash my cane over their head."

He was usually a lot more mellow but I knew right away he was having a rough day. I couldn't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to live in his world. He had a rare form of myopia that affected the nodes and cones of his eyes. His vision slowly faded on him from the time he was a child until now, at age thirty, he described it as wearing swimming goggles painted all white. During his descent from normal sight to no color and no shape he'd gone through a bout of severe depression, and at one point even tried to take his own life.

It was almost nine o'clock and I was going about my closing duties in the restaurant, sorting out the days cash and trying to clear up the checks for the last few customers still at tables. Heath and I had worked together for about a year at that point. More to the fact, he volunteered in the restaurant where I was employed. He rolled cutlery and stocked and organized the service stations with coffee cups and condiments. He took out the trash and felt his way around the kitchen, cleaning up any mess that the cooks had left behind when they dashed for the door once the last order went over the pass. His self-appointed duties usually took him a couple hours, so that by eleven when the owner showed up to lock the doors the business was all set for breakfast the next morning.

For Heath, all of this was part of a routine that provided a kind of stability and normalcy to his days. He'd kept this up for ten years or so without ever getting paid a dime for his labors. At the outset of his arrangement with the restaurant he'd asked about the possibility of regular employment, of being put on the payroll like all the so-called "able bodied" staff. He provided the information and forms from government services that would have supplemented fully half of his wages and given tax breaks to the business for employing a "handicapped" person.

The owner said he looked into the details and found that the economics didn't work out, as the increased costs of insurance and installing safety equipment for the blind were far greater than the tax exemptions offered. He told him that it simply wasn't feasible and put the blame squarely on a poorly thought out government program, though my belief was that he was just as happy to have Heath work for no money. Either way the situation seemed deplorable and most of us servers gave a couple dollars out of the tip cup to him when we closed down. I appreciated that the work he did would normally have been my duties, and I suppose I wanted to make up for the slight he endured day after day, though I guess it was naive to think five bucks could do that.

The owner, generous fellow that he was, allowed Heath to make himself something to eat after his work was done, usually a sandwich and some fries. Once or twice when I'd first started at the restaurant I'd offered to buy him a beer, but he'd always declined. He didn't drink or smoke or use any drugs, not since his time spent at rock bottom. For Heath the greatest pleasures in life were to be found in green tea and the occasional night of karaoke -- he loved to sing and had a great voice. I think that it was the very simple things, the work he did, the tea breaks, the routine he stuck to, that provided the foundation on which the rest of his life was built, and the simplicity of it was what kept him sane.

As for what had gotten under his skin that particular day I can't say for sure. I knew better than to ask because he'd surely have just deflected the question and said something like, "Oh, you know, the same old bullshit." He wasn't one to complain or share his problems with other people all that often. I know that he hated having to go out in the daytime. "Too many people rushing and bustling about," he'd say, "Pushing me out of their way and passing their smug little judgments without even noticing I can't see a fucking thing."

He hated having to go to new or unfamiliar places. He didn't like the grocery store because he had no way to figure out the expiry dates on bread or milk or cheese. He didn't like taking the buses or subways because there was no way for him to tell which was his stop. He didn't like the pharmacy or the corner store, the barber or the pizza place. He wasn't especially fond of anything that had to do with money changing hands because of the number of times people had ripped him off. One time he pointed out to me that there's actually a braille cell in the top corner of every bill, one of the few services the government has seen fit to bestow upon the blind. The problem, he said, was that unless the note was crisp and new it was tough to feel the difference between a fifty and a five. For most everything in an average day that sighted people do without a second thought Heath was relying on the honesty and good nature of strangers , and those of us who see perfectly well can attest to the prevalence of those two traits in the population.

And it was the small percentage of people who would go out of their way to take advantage of his disability he disliked and feared the most. He could never know who was watching him. Every time he entered his own apartment the thought crossed his mind that some enterprising hood was hot on his heels, or, worse yet, was already waiting inside. He really had no way of knowing. He wasn't paranoid or anything, but the uncertainty was what he found most unnerving.



Thursday, March 27, 2008

Best Newfie jokes come from Newfoundlanders

You just get yourself one of those books of matches with the coat of arms on it and bend up one and light it. Blow that one out and leave the open pack next to something like a gas line. If they get it it'll kill them.