Poem #24: Pencils

Never wrote a single line in ink, all
graphite lyricism, swabbed by constant indecisive eraser smudges.
Dixons, Ticonderogas–the works–
torturing a pencil until it was shorter than my pinky finger,
burdensome, my forearm earning its exercise from hours
of writing and mindless music in the background.

Ticonderogas, however, were the best, always one in the single
helix spine of my notebook. When the eraser f!attens,
sparse of any more use, I would sharpen and remove
its green-metallic carapace, extending its lifespan surgically.
Although pencil lead tends to fade with every closing of covers,
I enjoy knowing that however old the words become,
I’ll still be able to read my sloppy handwriting,
and know its age is not finished.

Poem #23: As If I Could Taste Heaven At This Height

In my mind I was better than this.
I am only a letter to you. Writing you in the dark.
Can’t even tell if I am still smiling, let alone nodding
through everything said to me, an implication of encouragement
lost in the delivery.
The crafting noise of woodpecker in early morning helps me
forget almost putting ice into my milk.
And I want to laugh out of context.
Every smile a silent mechanic effortless in its arch,
pendulum happiness reversed, instantly a reflection upturned.
If only you were the paper I sketched verse, perfectly blank.
Surgically, I rake the leaves out of the lawn’s hair,
the posture dad taught me.
A crowd of possible words massacred in mind.
Chores are eventually bereft of their own title,
a surrendered habit. Never thinking the same thing twice,
while doing so. All we are, talk and clatter.
She, the clock, and me, spinning in her hands.
Invertebrate clouds morphing into unspoken,
unearthly contortions. A wind so pure curled in my
palms raised, then departed from my fingers’ slit reach.
The wind in my face, Heaven, I question,
plying me to taste its particle?

Poem #22: Twin Lights

Twin Lights

He cannot see the end of the road.
All the water has gone dry, tasting bitter.
Filthy, pitiful hands scratch on the parchment,
Plying at words forsaken and accident.
At his neck hang thy lock and thy persimmon,
Resuming constant delay without permission,
As the earth moves beneath and behind,
And he is conveyed forward as if on a belt.
For merely pondering a single inquiry
Thrown into the deepest ditch at the side of the road,
He asks roundabout for his destination,
Haplessly finding no such abode.
Why did you leave the keys on the table?
Because I did not think I was able
To keep myself alive
Long enough, to turn the key and drive.
The wind blows the question along;
Deserts of blizzards whistle sheer,
Playing an empty cadenza of a song,
And a single car passing disrupts all this only for a moment.
Tassels of icicles are suspended on branches, and the fire—
It is crying, aching, dying out
Within his heart, smoldering on the route,
Given the circumstance that no telegram can wire.
And in his pocket, wrinkled and worn,
Lies the parchment with one last sentence:
Irritably the finality of frozen desire, edges torn,
In penmanship expressed with such calm clairvoyance.
At his side glimmers in transience
A steel lustre in sombre fluorescence
Handled so delicately, mirrored with existence,
Trudging along with reminiscent persistence.
And plunged into his very heart, this steel lustre
After an echoing silence he cries out, without audience,
“Teacher, I’ve finally the Answer!”
And scenery fades—twin lights returning to incidence.

Poem #21: Inflection


The void is compact within a balloon; it could pop and be out of my hands any time.
The trees hold up the sky so it does not fall.
Take a brick and put it in the wall.
Is reality here or did you put it in the closet again?
Something knocked on the door: I am not home.
She is still standing and I am rolling on the stormy sea.
Somebody will you help me!
Ceaselessly the waves cascade.
She is still standing and I am wandering in the woods.
Somebody will you find me!
Glimmering her eyes, the colour of these summer leaves.
She is still standing and I haven’t a clue of where my shoes went.
Wither the wind blows—hither I hear her footsteps play soft upon the ground.
Refine the diamond all you want—it will never shimmer as radiantly as she.
Why buy a spirit at the store when you already have one?
They do not even sell any.
Take a picture.
Remember how to remember.
A time better than this one.
Forget forgetful things; best leave them forgotten for now.
The void becomes stamps null.
A happy balloon for her.
Someone knocked on the door: she is home and so am I.

Poem #20: Velvet Ribbons

Velvet Ribbons

Something in my eye—is it gloom again?
A myth made for morose men
Tells of those chosen by subliminal declamations,
Who scream at the sky and one-sided reflections.
Shells I wish not to collect,
Resound after an emptiness that forebodes catastrophe.
Esprit de corps and an emotionless elect,
Survives in the torment of the earth and mind, the decimation of body.
A star of serenity shackled in the dark,
Cringes as all but a heart hung dry.
Lead fingertips and sullen footsteps refrain distance beyond the mark,
And rivers like strands of string dangle over the edge.
Visions of a disembarking vessel down murky lanes,
And voices captivate my memory locked away from hearing;
Traveling tranquility trails on an endless turn of a road.
Never did I remember to check the time.
Hungry will I be by tomorrow as soon as tomorrow remembers.
Wheels crunch the dirt of the road,
My eyes are but passerby,
And latched hands are unlatching the door.
Shimmering rays of gold brighten up the field.
Barley brought in for the season,
Fidgety wagons creaking down wide bridle paths of grey,
And stained slacks and happiness are opening the farmhouse door.
A vague recollection unintended,
The house needs to be painted soon.
Chips away every second for a memory:
Exchanged till cessation decides to make an arrival.
Fluttering laced dress, white on the smoothness of skin,
Summer eyes and lucidity of complexion, says to me,
“Supper smells wonderful, my dear.”
And these memories of simplicity and warmth echo, as I am homely once again.
Removal of miniscule expectancy,
Deafness succumbed to repulsions to and fro,
Are incessant trifles to the shocked of heart.
Suddenly the rampart of soundness has been breached.
Returning to a hundred miles distant:
Crisp and flowing wind through golden crops
Consoles me, and a rampant grey is shunning the sun,
While bursting forces shatter the stems and splinter the earth.
“You silly.”
Breezes of complaisant remnants return over my heedless frame,
“My sweet, there is something I must tell you—”
As velvet ribbons clothe my fading attention.

Poem #19: The State Theatre

The State Theatre

The traffic lights are a different
Shade of green tonight,
And I lost my hat.
The movie was so good,
It was really long too, you said,
And maybe the seats were uncomfortable, too,
But your hair wasn’t in the way,
Your head beneath my neck.
The balcony steps out and it takes time
To learn the whole storyline,
The movie better than I had expected.
I had to look twice,
To see that you were crying,
And I cannot tell if my eyes
Said they were sorry, or if my hands
Holding yours could draw down
The curtains to stop the movie—
I can’t reach that high,
With all this sore doubt, unable
To bend my arms.
I am still under the flickering lights,
And you shiver to go home,
Walking four blocks away to your car—
And I would hold your hand,
But dad would definitely see,
And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
A kiss on the forehead means so much;
Stop spinning, my thumb spinning round
Yours, no, my head, my thoughts
Scattered on the ceiling, stop spinning.
You knew I would hold
Open the door for everyone,
The stairs a clatter for escaping shoes.
Passing by the people
Smoking on the sidewalks,
You said, let’s be best friends,
Because I don’t care about
The generic movies that everyone
Is angry that you haven’t seen,
And you don’t need popcorn
To place in your heart a better
Scene of the true stage directions to
Actually make this night memorable;
So why didn’t I just kiss you?
The rain after the show
Smoothened out the sky,
The streets heavier with cold,
And the snow is receding, flattened, dirty,
Mud sputtering from anxious tires blathering,
With kids splashing in the puddles.
Dad has never once asked
If I am the man I ought to,
With all these questions knocking:
“Where is she from—didn’t you say—
Why don’t you take—are you going to ask anyone—
You should buy her a corsage—are you ignoring—”
Please, stop lying, I tell myself, I shouldn’t
Go on like a bloody rag doll.
Hey, get up, that door will take you to Front Street,
Right on out—the movie is over.
Is it the right time for me
To ask you these questions
I’m always guarding in my mind?
You know this body is not my own,
This painting in a frame still unfinished,
My queue blurry and uncertain still,
The movie still having a long way to go—
But please don’t drop me, even if
You have to go home for dinner
Because your mom wants you back.
Hey dad, I told myself we were
Exactly like the two characters
Following that exact script in one of
My favourite movies.
And now I understand why stage left
Wasn’t where my heart was,
And centre stage the audience is
Awaiting, expecting, pleading, worrying, gnawing
For the moment for me to say and act
Those lines under the starlit stage—
And who needs applause when holding
That person’s hand means so much more.
You say, those aren’t your lines,
It doesn’t matter, and I said
If you want to cry on my shoulder, it’s fine,
And I don’t care about the ice that stiffens there,
Nor do I care about the things
Everyone seems to say backstage
When you’re front and centre,
Because they just need to stop,
My words cannot speak through my hands—
And please don’t demean yourself
For being you, because I don’t care
What the bloody world thinks of you,
Just being unjust.
And I’m no critic to critique,
But I don’t want to be the cliché line bound to fade,
And you can’t go home without love;
I don’t believe anyone can.
Just leave the poet inside your head,
You told me, but I can’t;
I saved you a seat up on the balcony,
The red seats empty on the ground floor.
I had forgotten this name given me,
Till John said it in the aisle, and
If only I could hear my character’s name—
No, I need to say it myself,
Say that I am myself, me being me,
Say that the stars on the ceiling are not
A joke, not a hoax, allowing no vile darkness
In the crowd, but a sign of
Something I need to show the audience—
That I am not as lonely as a star.
I’d rather hear you talk to me
All night, than hear myself talk to thick darkness.
The fake step at the bottom
Of the stairs is after my ticket,
Useless, but a stub, and will you slip
Before me? Please don’t break her heart,
I’m a fool with a hammer and glue
To try and fix things as such,
But a fool needn’t know how
To draw a smile upon your face.
This night, I am waiting, watching,
The clock tower obscured in the dusk,
And I never watched your car leave,
But dad turns on the radio,
The river below the lot a glossy ink,
And let’s just leave, dad, just let me sleep—
I don’t want dinner when we go home, dad,
But thank you though, let’s go in.
“Sir, it’s not a heart that I am looking for
In the lost-and-found.
Oh, never mind me, thank you, I found it.”
Dad, I love how homely and luminous
The flashing theatre lights seem to dance
About in the street shadows,
And the weary black letters
Look like a gathering plea to come
And relax, the velvet chairs always
Vacant somewhere to watch a fine show;
“It’s great—”
I breathe, in the ashen, smoky, Front Street air,
“It’s great at the State.”
Hey, there’s wind down the curb,
Brisk, invisible, borrowing the sound,
And all I can ask is to go take a stroll down Cass Street;
But I worry, dad, why was it so
Cold to her, yet just plain to me—
This exiled wind?
Oh, I don’t need to know, dad,
You don’t have to think so hard for an answer,
But I found my hat inside
After the show, you know;
I just wish she had her own.

Poem #18: Light Over Charlevoix

Light Over Charlevoix

The azure eyes looking down at me,
(Why can’t it stop, why won’t it stop.)
She is telling me to come sit up in the willow tree
With her, watching the Sun escape
And the branches tremble as I climb,
Till I sit by her side
And her hair is a waterfall on her shoulders,
Flying like mist in the wind.
Over the bay there is a light from Charlevoix
That makes me feel hollow,
And I know that the dead rhetoric
Tumbling, rolling, flying in a crumbled-up mess
Is something no one wants to simply pick up
And throw away—
So why do I find the need
To read it over and over and over?
(Why can’t I stop thinking, why won’t it go away.)
A grievance pleads to my ears
After a moment that I took her hand in mine,
And I don’t know what all
The songs in our heads mean anymore,
Yet the scene around me turns white
With the illness of expectation,
Plaguing that which I blame,
All that I do not understand,
On the buildings that have
To hold up the sky,
And I still am not tall enough
To reach the ceiling of it.
(Go away from me, stop playing with my head.)
The only reason I can cling to
When the red light glares above the street
And a man who had one too many an aperitif
Collides with the hand that I let go,
Is that I can only assume to blame
The Sirens slithering into view,
And the sky is either
Too empty or too narrow
For me to understand why
Her face is so clear and hopeless;
And the humans being so temporal
Do not see me shaking without end
As they shove me aside to prove to me
How much you can belittle
Words that the wind carries
Like pointlessly crisp leaves in an open autumn.
(Tell me why, give me one reason that is not filthy.)
The sky has become so narrow and close
That the stars are beginning to sting my
Comfortless frame, senseless
To the flow of the air,
Crushing this body
That is not even my own.
(How can you call this fine, how can you seem to just pass this by.)
And they are lifting down the box—
(Stop crying, why won’t you stop crying like a fool.)
The box has been covered by now,
And I am more lonesome than the walls,
Because they used to see the hand I hold every
Day that I spill over in jealousy for,
And the spiral staircase I go down every morning,
Feels like a prolonged hallucination,
Dreadfully common to me now.
(Why did you have to, why didn’t you stay.)
My hand looks thin before me,
And my feel fail to hold their balance
(Why can’t it end, why won’t my mind stop bleeding.)
Upon the cement I walk along,
And the winds planted over the lake
Are harvesting a storm, the eye
Swirling with all the rancour
I could ever set aside from the lustre
Of this world in the midst, paining me to
Relieve the emptiness in the bottom of the well
Before something miserable replaces that too.
And the jazz playing down at Randy’s
Has become as silent as
The dead rhetoric I finally decided to
Toss away, along with the mask
That resembles my contradiction—
And I cannot keep my breath
From pulsing like the waves of
The storm raging, sinking my heart
Like the stones skipping back at me,
As if I were the unstrung marionette
That was worthless enough even with
The strength upon its wrist for
A chance to save a life.
(Tell me why the chimera kills my imagination—
Tell me how to keep the voices from coming into the room—
Tell me why I abandoned all these songs we had—
Tell me why the breeze hurts so much—
Tell me why the lion roaring at me is no companion—
Tell me why the Sirens liken to all my variance—
Tell me why I can’t see my eyes in the mirror anymore—
Tell me why another story had to die—
Tell me why I can’t learn anymore about myself—
Tell me why the dulcet lake before me
And the tree coloured with affliction
Seem to want nothing more than be amiable—
Tell me why the light over Charlevoix doesn’t ever leave me in any way—
Tell me why the doves always seem so peaceful—
Tell me why all this sorrow tastes like grey pudding—
Tell me why I should stand up and know why—
Please can’t you tell me?)

Poem #17: Looking Out From Restaurant Windows

Looking out from Restaurant Windows

Hanny, make sure you do not step into that puddle;
the view is so aimless and subtle,
looking out from these unclean windows.
At the lake stumbling toward us,
never seeming to reach beyond the shore:
if not to have a drink, then what for?
Still above our table swings the chandelier,
lingering of its light, the water damage
in the ceiling something I don’t fear
dad couldn’t resolve, either—but he can’t correct
the widowed sky outside, without a hand to hold,
its cascading sympathy like a confession,
the rain as diamonds shattering upon the sidewalk,
like the taps of our fingers on the table as we talk.
Crumbs of your food sitting on your jacket:
they’re so hungry to be noticed, but we just
seem to always let them go.
“Dad, how come when I’m not around, you have to stow
away and do things I wish I was there for?
Like going out for ‘delicious beverages,’
and speaking in the third person in the store?”
Even so, I admire the ambulance driving slow, hushed,
while a Mustang peels down the avenue,
trying to impress some flyleaf witness.
Mitchell Creek is running right round the bend,
and I wish I could see the river’s end
from the window, but I can only view part
of the bridge, the sentinel of the creek.
The food arrives before I even know,
the bill curtly expensive under the tarnished glow
of the dim chandelier light on the auburn seats,
for simple people eating simple food,
listening now and then to folk rock back beats.
A walk and dinner all in one,
living so close to the restaurant as we do;
must be why Auntie Jan and Grandma Millie
enjoy it so much. Today though, this moment of today,
I’m fasting for this day to end weakly, right away;
I’m eating fast, I laugh, looking out the window,
seeing all the gulls, a white halo above the silver bay.
I’m so full, but in no such hurry,
to leave today behind without a worry.
In hindsight, I think I spent most my desire
looking out the window than at my plate.
Walking away from the chandelier, its tiring ire
fading with the last shift, I step into that puddle,
happening to look back; and isn’t it a shame that they
clean the windows right after we leave—
only to become dirty again?

Poem #16: A Night at a Concert

A Night at a Concert

This night smells of brimstone,
needles in the atmosphere
piercing the bones of clouds keeping us all together,
a heart burning, dripping brimstone upon the road.
I cannot borrow the tears of rain shivering
all in one piece;
the sidewalk is boiling from the colour of pale skin
to the cardboard hue like packages in the mail.
The taste of cherries were in my mouth, but
it’s all gone rotten, and
walking downtown never tasted so foreign—
oh, El Shaddai, save my soul!
This music is hypnotism, the traffic hungry
for movement—oh, let me move mildly free.
The big trucks passing would rattle the house,
but home, it refuses to see with human eyes.
Hesitant as the fogbanks curling on the horizon,
I’m strapped in silence,
sodden with all the secular kids,
in so little room to cross the road, hundreds at a time—
my knees are jerking just to jump back in the car ride home.
Modesty—what a suffering word,
but don’t we love to live with it?
Oh, El Shaddai, save our souls,
For we hardly know what we are doing.
why do we need so much space to get
through the door? One concert over, a thousand
more bands to see; folding and unfolding feet
treading a crosswalk of inhibition, rain settling
on these blank downtown corners—Union Street, steaming
of brimstone, like a river of hot coals.
This movement, this consuming, irrelevant, inevitable
movement—beautiful, isn’t it? Afford me this
rationed breath to move, to escape nowhere, and
I want to know the colour of everything
without it hurting: to know the colour of a true
walk downtown, the colour of loving life. Now, here,
I hear the rhythm shaking, the chords being cut;
Music—where are you in this mess?
Here, now, this is how my head will lift on high—
Oh, El Shaddai, help me save this world,
for we don’t know where it’s going.

Poem #15: We Had Two Gardens

It was enough, the wild asparagus growing outside the fence,
unconditionally for the entire family, but only
my parents would eat it. I would pretend to wield dry tiger lily
stalks as rapiers, pretend that our property extended
beyond the painted stakes.
When everything was growing, I would feel claustrophobic
never venturing out of the backyard, smaller than the leaves
that walked with me in their own winds.
The forsythia behind the travel trailer, still and warm,
like a sulfur bush fondling its half-life, soon
as summer ceases.
Two gardens that my mother never found satisfaction,
uncovering wild myrtle from the woods between our house
and the neighbor’s, tangled in leaves from last year
and leaves from years before my birth.
The world within our meager acres enough to
frighten our mother to bits if she couldn’t see us.
As a child I never knew whether to stop my dog from tearing
up my mother’s flower garden, or laugh from a hidden distance,
and wait for the screen door to slam,
scrambling through the garage and into the front yard,
eavesdropping my dog getting “a talking to.”
I couldn’t keep the gaze of a flower,
not even the tallest tiger lilies, still higher
than the tape measure my dad would seasonally determine my growth by,
not the tiger lilies, like children’s finger paint, the
infant hands reaching towards curiosity and its excavation.

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