Thursday, December 31, 2009

chain poem

please add a line on this emergent poem in the comment box... follow along after the last writer... if you want to see another example of a chain poem hit this link...

post script (2 January 2010)

I would like to say thanks to everyone who stopped by in the last few days and helped out with this collaborative poem... it came together beautifully. Thanks to walking man, Mariana Soffer, human being, Echo, /t., Harlequin, Francis Scudellari, Cinnamon, Shubhajit, and Mike (I would encourage you to check out Mike's blog and the project he's started there... he's a new blogger and I'm sure he'd appreciate the visit). If you'd like to see the contributions from each of the writers, please see the comment box of this post. The poem as it stands now has been added below.

I'd also like to say thanks to BBC, Lynn, and Sorcerer for leaving thoughts as well. I'm all about the community and the interaction here in the blogosphere, and you guys make the biggest difference to me. Peace and best wishes to all...


static and silence on the phone line
tracing wires, nothing broken found, I listen to the white noise whispers

it just draws space apart

so many lightening rods
buried underground

so many expectations
buried even deeper than the rods

but space is curved
distance is relative
who now where is what?

i know there's an alien
living in the phone lines
the static is
when he's crying
over some spilled electrons
and silence is
when he sits on the curve of space
waiting for us to speak...

crackle, pop, sputter
something silent sounds


[tk tkk... zzt]


...a problem, houston


... but as long as there is static and sound I can hope that I am not totally alone....

because the static may be
a language
I haven't yet learned

though it rings with more than noise in my ears, my heart knows its intent

my heart, heavy, knows it's sent...

And there is a black blood syllables would sound through lines,

And someone would come and blow the fury,

And one day it may sound not like someone but One

and then,
when the pause between
seems to last
just a half breath too long,
you wait,
an eternity in an instant

and then, there is your voice and memory calls me back to my stake in things
when silence is broken

when static is cleared
and distant voices
bring a song together
in distant lands

Friday, December 25, 2009

Question and Answer -- a found notebook

This post is a collaborative effort and I invite you all to participate. The text you see below was written by human being in the comment section of my previous post, and she has graciously allowed me to share it here. Have a read, and if you would like to play along go to the comment box and answer the last question, then leave a question of your own. If you would like to see another example of this kind of collaborative writing, check out another question and answer that we did last year.


i got on the bus hastily... so happy i was leaving the cold behind... the only passenger on the bus was the driver... and a Nike gym bag left on one of the front seats... i told the driver about it... he just shrugged... i took a seat by the bag... opened it to find any clue whose it was... i had returned many lost bags to their owners before that time... there was nothing in the bag except a notebook... so heavy and old and dirty... on the cover you could read, the book of changes...
i opened it... on the first page a very beautiful handwriting read:

this belongs to all and none... and is written by all and none... you can have it as long as you'd like... but when you want to depart from it, you should answer the last question and add a question of yours... no matter what your answer or your question is, you will change in a way there will be no return to it... that's what this book is doing to you...

i started reading the questions and answers... and tried to imagine each person who wrote them... it took me years to read them... to understand them... and to think if the answer to the question was a good one or not... good in the sense that it could help me to go on...

then one day i felt i could depart from the notebook... i answered the last question:

- when do i get there?

- when you don't want to get there anymore...

and added this one:

- can i ask no more questions?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

He looked at her, standing there in a fluorescent windbreaker. It hung from her body as though draped over a broken umbrella frame, the pockets weighed down, the left side white from the snow. She fumbled in her pockets, searching for change.

"Go on," said the bus driver.

She went past him and took a seat near the front, setting her Nike gym bag beside her. She had close cropped hair and dark eyes. Her face was swollen and red. Her hands looked coarse and hardened, and everyone on the bus could smell the heavy punge of living in the same clothes, of piss and shit and open fires. No sooner had the bus started moving than she closed her eyes and her head nodded to her chest.

That winter was especially cruel and it wasn't unusual for the temperature at night to hit 45 below. After every cold snap the story was repeated in the newspapers: homeless person found dead under bank of snow. Some days they were found in backyards or in seats out front of the Greyhound station, and sometimes they weren't found until spring. One story emerged of a man burned to death in a dumpster because the candle he lit to keep warm had fallen over, igniting the garbage in which he slept.

Some said it was their own fault, that there were shelters and organizations to go to. Others said it was the responsibility of the government and that more should be done. Still others said it was drugs and social decay and a loss of religious values. But all the talk and fine words amounted to nothing on a cold night in the richest city in Canada.

The bus banked around a corner and her head shot up.

"Stay away from me!" she yelled as she jumped to her feet, pulling a hunk of granite from the pocket of her windbreaker. "Don't fucking touch me!"

The driver hit the brakes and she fell in a heap in the aisle. He got out of his seat and started towards her. She struggled to her knees and she threw the rock at him. It landed well short on the floor with a dull thud.

He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to the front. He pulled the bar to open the door and shoved her with his boot into the snow bank.

"That's what I get for trying to help you, eh? You fucking bitch!"

As the bus pulled away the passengers saw her through the condensation on the windows, lying face down in the snow, and one of them noticed her gym bag, still sitting on the seat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Poem for poets

stray thoughts aimless of the target
constructing and destructing what's said before

an unnarrated dialogue between
mirrors and screens
punctuated by pulsing plosives
and caffeinated lights

when I write
my jaw tightens up

but it's so soothing when the world is rough
to taste beach rocks chattering in the tide

hear Cyprus trees

see cinnamon tingle my tongue

and the wake in the water
reflect the glistening gold
sun of a million years ago

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rough Work

It must be all in my head. Where am I? Am I? What's that noise? It sounds like static.

--How does he look?
--Not at his best.
--What’s wrong with him?
--I don’t know.
--What do you mean you don’t know? Were you not just looking at him?
--He’s not at his best.
--I see.

Everything stops. Everything except that radio. Now I hear footsteps pacing. The floor is concrete. Or maybe it’s hardwood. It’s difficult to say. That must be footsteps.

--What do you think we should do with him?
--I think we should do nothing.
--Do nothing?
--Won’t that come back on us?
--Do you think it would be better to put him out?
--He might get away.
--I see. Yes. He might get away.

Again with the pacing. He must always be pacing. If only I could see. If only my hands were working. If only I could make a sound. Then I could tell them. A raven caws. Maybe it’s a jackdaw, or a magpie. Not so far away. It’s a lifetime away from here.

--What about the machine?
--The machine?
--The machine from before.
--The machine.
--Well what?
--Can we use the bloody machine?
--I don’t see why not.
--The machine then?
--Perhaps best if we don’t.
--Is there a reason you think that?
--It may not work.
--Why not?
--It didn’t work before.
--Yes. You’re quite right. It didn’t work before. Hmmm...

Will he never stop pacing? Maybe if I grind my teeth they’ll hear. I can’t take much more of this. I wish I could stand up. Wait. I am standing up. Am I? It’s only in your head. Static from over there. Somewhere over there.

--What’s that noise?
--It sounds like he is grinding his teeth.
--What is he doing that for?
--Perhaps he’s under some stress.
--What could possibly be causing him stress?
--I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because he can hear what we’re saying.
--He can hear what we're saying?
--I don’t know.
--Well, damn it, what do you think?
--I don’t know.
--Yes. You don’t know.

It must be concrete. That’s boots on concrete. That’s why me feet are so cold. I think I can feel my feet. No. I’m not standing on my feet. I’m lying flat on the floor. I’ve been like this forever. I don’t know anything. I can’t remember my name. Did I ever have a name?

--What if we asked the other one?
--The other one?
--The other one from before.
--You want to ask the other one?
--Yes. Do you think it is worth asking the other one?
--I don’t think so.
--Why not?
--I don’t think he would have much to say.
--And just why is that.
--He’s dead.
--How did he die?
--I don’t know.
--You don’t know?
--Are you sure?
--Am I sure of what?
--That he's dead.
--Then perhaps we’d best not ask him?
--Perhaps not.
--I see. We’ll have to think of something else.

I heard him say that. It can’t be all in my head. Who’s dead? Is that what I feel? Is this death? If death is the absence of everything, then I’m dead. I'm other. Or I’m one. But then, I can still hear the static. I can still hear the boots. Do I hear boots pacing on the concrete floor?

--What if we just left him?
--I don’t think we can.
--Why is that?
--There won’t be anyone left.
--Of course there will. How could there be no one left?
--There mustn’t be.
--But there is.
--There won’t be.
--How do you know?
--Because we’re to make sure.
--You and I.
--No one left?
--Not a soul.
--I don’t know.
--You don’t know?
--No. I don’t know.
--And we must?
--We must.
--I see.

Please. Please. There’s nothing left. Nothing left to tell. Nothing left to hear. Only boots. Only static. Only ravens. Only the voice in my head. It has to be in my head. Is it in my head? This has to end.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Terza rima

Two brothers lived in a city so fair
That no one who visited felt alone
Or threw to the wind their hope or their care,

So fair this city. To me it's unknown,
For I heard this tale second-hand, the name
Of this fair place, so let's call it Atone.

As I'm inventing, let's spice up the game
And say this city was not as it seems;
Say this city was fair only in name.

Perhaps in Atone the gold tower gleams
With the blood of the martyrs and rebels;
Is it gallows making use of the beams

And the stone of archways? Are prison cells
Stuffed so full that the bars brand the convicts,
The floors filthy, in the air wretched smells?

I leave it to you what this tale depicts;
I should tell only what things I have heard
About brothers, about family conflicts.

Each brother knew of the other no word,
Raised by different families of different class.
They shared one father; his title conferred

On one son, but not the son of the lass
He sought when he went to the bordello;
For, in truth, he was an unfaithful ass.

The lady, his wife, did certainly know,
But for a tale of brothers, let suffice
That one was born high, the other born low.

The father was Nimrod, a man of vice,
Who pranced throughout Atone in dainty dress
With bells and jewels intended to entice

Any unwary blossoming young Miss.
When Nimrod had pranced his fill he would sit
On a brick wall, and feign the greatest bliss.

Lucky for the reader, chance would have it
A picture of the pandering father
In his oft found pose I can now submit.

You must now wonder, why should I bother
To tell a story of such an egghead
As Nimrod? Well, it's only another

Step on the path of the story you tread,
And you know it soon will lead to a fall,
To his breaking. Then enough will be said.

His wife home pregnant, from pubs he would crawl
To the night-town district in broad daylight,
This foolish Nimrod had no wherewithal.

He drunkenly followed where lust invite,
He fell up the stairs and into the room
Of his mistress, who worked hard to excite

Masquerading manhood from his costume.
Then she squat down and loosened her girdle;
She put in his face her bosom perfumed

With lavender and sweet smelling myrtle.
She writhed and rolled all around his fat gut;
He sprang up -- then her womb which was fertile

Accepted the seed. Then that lousy mutt
Staggered and wobbled towards his abode;
All his clothes inside out, and still half cut;

He made of a doorway his own commode.
The citizens of Atone jeered at him,
"What depravity! What of honor code?"

Then some had their fill, right up to the brim
When he told them to mind their damn business;
Some swore they would tear him down, limb from limb;

But perhaps their hate and jeering dismiss
Nimrod not for his infidelity,
But for his part in their oppression. His

Job for the tower of absurdity
Repossessing the homes of the down-trod
Made him apt to their animosity.

He finally was home, spared from the hot rod,
And was told a rebellion had begun.
He shuttered and bolted his doors -- asked god

To protect him till the violence was done.
And so it was, thought not through divine grace,
Nimrod lived to see the birth of one son

By his wife, one by his mistress. In case
You are worried that this fool got a pass,
I tell you, no, for him was saved a space

Beneath a high brick wall from which, alas,
He was pushed and crashed, in the end to succumb
To gravity. But before he was cast

Named his sons Twiddledee and Twiddledum.

Friday, December 4, 2009


"You're some rude!" That's what she used to say. We probably were, by any definition of the word, exactly that. But when you're a class full of kids from the scabby part of town, the kind of kids that wrestle at recess and pack rocks in their snowballs at lunch, "rude" isn't a word that carries much weight.

Missus Walters (I almost feel bad for the old bag thinking about it now) should've been teaching at a prep school, or at least a place where telling the kids you'd call home on them was a threat. She was a washed out nun who sang louder than anyone else in church, one of those high and mighty types who got on as though she'd never done anything wrong in her life. God only knows what she did to deserve us.

Jimmy Coady was the kid in the class who usually got the worst of her wrath. I remember her grabbing him out of his chair and then picking his desk up over her head and shaking it until all his books and papers showered down onto the floor, a punishment for being disorderly. She'd send him to the principal, or make him stand in the hall, or get up and sing in front of the class, as though any of this was going to curb his behavior. And always with that catch phrase: "You're some rude!"

It happened that in this same strange time in our lives there was a new champion crowned in the World Wrestling Federation, "Ravishing" Rick Rude. His signature move was to put his hands behind his head and swivel his hips and ass when his opponent was down for the count, like he was pure sex and mockery. We all thought this was great, the ultimate humiliation, and of course it was only natural that we'd pretend Missus Walters was the one who'd been body slammed.

I remember one day when Missus Walters was in full effect and she called Jimmy rude for what must have been the tenth time that day. She turned her back to write something on the board and Jimmy stood up on his chair and did Rick Rude's move. All the kids saw him do it, but I think they were too surprised to react. I was the only one who laughed. (I admit it. I laughed.)

She turned around just as Jimmy got back into his seat and she stared at me, at my big dumb grin. She stormed down the aisle and up to my desk, and before I knew it she slapped me across the face, one of those open-handed zingers -- WHACK!

"Go to the principals office!" she yelled. "And if I hear a peep out of the rest of you, you'll be following him."

My eyes welled up as I left the room.

When I got home that evening my father asked me what happened -- though it was fairly obvious from the welt on my cheek that an adult-sized hand had slapped me. He called the school the next morning and said that I wouldn't be coming back. From my bedroom upstairs I could hear him shouting into the phone (I'd never heard words like that from my father before). It was the last I saw of the place, and the next week I was enrolled in a non-denominational school in the city.


Post Script
Missus Walters opted to take an early retirement package the same year I left. She still goes to church and sings louder than anyone else.

Jimmy Coady was locked up in the Whitbourne Correctional Facility for Boys in 1995 after a spate of shoplifting incidents. Jimmy was released in 1997 and was arrested later that same year for assaulting a kid in his neighborhood with a bat. He was sentenced to three years in Her Majesties Penitentiary. I have no idea where he is today.

"Ravishing" Rick Rude died of arteriosclerotic heart disease in 1999. He was 41 years old.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Toy Trains

Someone said, leave. I was going to say leave. That was before, no after, or already always at last. I was a banker. Rest an elbow on my desk. Maybe my chin. My eyes fell on paper. So many numbers. Meaningless more I look at them. A system for knowing that one isn't two. That ears aren't eyes. Woke up. Train banked the corner. Slammed my nose into the window. Some small red river runs. Missed my stop. Late again. Or early. Coming or going? Who can ever know?

Where's that hanky, that hankering. One eyelid glued shut. Like to pick the crust later, or before. Enough for now. First drink coffee. Two sugar. No three. But don't stir. Watch the cream. It swirls. Cosmos in a cup. Don't drink it. Just look. That old man. Younger than me. Maybe another shade. Another lamp light left on. Or still dark? Am I above ground? Doesn't matter.

Get on now. Blanket over my face. Don't want to see those stars. Just one tattooed on my neck. My shin aches. My hair hurts. No. Other way around. Lie down. There. That park. Concrete jungle gym. On track. Lots of time. Just a minute. A wrinkle. The tongue gets clogged. Maybe burned. Told you it was hot. Just look. Look away.

What's that noise? Make it stop ringing. Always ringing. Almost always. Sounds the color green. Or orange. Nothing rhymes with orange, except orange. Write in circles. Punch the numbers. Without stopping. Stop sometimes. Just toy trains. I'm never on one. Sometimes though. Don't want to be late. Don't want to be early. Someone said, leave. Someone said, leave.