Saturday, February 6, 2016
Fire engines, police cars, ambulances --
they go by day and night near where we live
up the lane from the corner triangle
of fire hall, police station, hospital.
We hear every siren disrupt the air
like it is inside our front room. It all
excites my small son. The bright red as well,
the silver, the black, the white -- together,
sounds and colours are for him the single
language of what brings wonder. Now something
is going on right on our block. My son
runs to the high window, steps with startling
precision onto the baseboard heater
cover, tries to climb the ledge, the rigging
of the blinds. Wild attention in his eyes,
he points, utters his urgent not-yet words.
He wants only to hear the vehicles,
the outsized versions of three of his toys,
see them speed to a stop across the street,
then see the firefighters jump to the curb
in their boots, helmets, goggles, hooks and ropes.
I am no brave, strong, wise Odysseus,
I am a man in an old apartment
paying bills, rent, electricity, food,
to keep my son, his sisters, his mother
and me merely afloat. What I hear
in the street is no alluring high song;
it is the repeating instant of fear
blaring the emergency through my hours --
our building a roar of flames, no escape,
dire sickness, earthquake, us without supplies.
I am no ancient sailor manoeuvring
past the cliffs and rocks of an island shore,
yet everyone and everything I love
can appear far away and lost to me,
and an instant can tempt me to ruin.
And I hold my son so he will not fall.
And I hold to him. I kiss him, breathe in
the miracle smell of his hair, his skin,
keep the side of my head pressed against his
so neither of us will feel the alarm,
only the peace flowing within his skull.
And I am tied to him, and he to me,
our arms encircling while the vehicles
arrive in numbers and the sirens’ sounds
swirl close, louder, louder now, terrible --
he and I act as a ship’s mast that holds
a sail that fills with wind and steadies us
on the sea waves winding around the world.
Friday, July 10, 2015
When they put tablets on each other’s tongues,
knowing it was time, and the young woman
gave a tablet to their child, saying to him
over and over, stroking his hair, sleep,
and they lay down, the small child between them,
they interlaced in quietness and stillness
that conquered all circumstance, they tasted
the worst anyone could taste and then even
when their eyelids lowered as if weighted
and the capability to speak left them,
and they were being swept into nullity,
they continued to resist, they touched hands
across their dead child the moments before
the men with guns aimed at them forced the door.
They lay again where they lay together
the first time, sharing within kissing mouths
crimson glaze-coated confectionary,
laughing as the pieces melted through them,
they lay in the long viridescent grass
gazing into the deep blue forever
of the sky, the sky a door open wide,
a white cloud floating by, they lay again
where they turned together and were ushered
into the original flesh of pure faith,
and the day they lay there and their last day
were one and were what they knew now of days,
and this day alone lifted and carried them
beyond division of future and past.
Then when the two could no longer hold on
and their hands fell away from one another,
they were taken up in a wild waiting,
a desiring outside all categories
of thought and feeling that was also an act,
a withdrawing into itself, a filling
itself again in grass, sunlight and air,
as in a never ending birth, neither
bitter nor sweet, that they in human love,
the love the end that it begins, crystallized
in the flesh as what was sweet, cancelling
what was bitter, they were gone, they were the way
they had known the sweetness, they were the candy
and the way they had known the touch, the candy.
Monday, July 6, 2015
We discover together a long bramble wall,
and come back on half a dozen days in August
to where there is blackberry after blackberry
for me to put in the container I bring and for her to put in her mouth.
Is it okay to pick the red ones? Is that a bee?! Is it?!
No, it’s not a bee, it’s a wasp, I tell her. Bees, wasps -- don’t be afraid.
My three-year-old picks and picks until she’s tired
and asks me if we can go home. My container is full.
The countless blackberries left -- for sparrows, raccoons, squirrels,
for the air into which the fruit rots away.
Will the blackberries be here again?
Yes, they’ll be here again, I say. They’ll vanish and reappear --
they’ll come and go and come back
through their places in the bramble,
they’ll travel from this blackberry bush to this blackberry bush.
It’s a sorrow bush. It’s a joy bush.
Can we come back here again?
Yes, we can, I answer. I’ll pray we will.
We’ll come back like people with prayer notes,
and we’ll fill our hands again with blackberries.
They’ll stain your lips, tongue, chin and cheek with their juice,
they’ll explain you like the wine that you will one day drink.
Whatever we ask for, whatever words we use, the blackberries
will be here, like prayers that grow in empty spaces, like blackberry-prayers.
A murder of crows stands along a power-line,
and I hear nothing all morning but the cawing,
and see nothing but the shapes of blackness --the sires who deal out death, find and eat the dead --
and then I recall sitting naked hours in a chair
in a hot, bulb-glare-bright, urine-soaked cell.
Waking another time, face to a cement floor,
in a lock-up out of an old TV sitcom,
breathing in cleaning-bleach fumes, vomiting.
Striding proudly into a cell in North Vancouver --
the place I had always wanted to be.
Where I could rehearse my image of him
and try to be him and dream he loved me.
Hometown RCMP jail. Smooth grey walls.
Pure white bowl. Steel ledge bed. I hear my heart muscle
contracting in rhythm as if working wings.
Almost hear it caw. Almost feel the valves,
the membranous doors allowing the blood
to flow in and not out, out and not in.
Know now my heart is the scavenger of my blood --
its one need is to fill its emptying hollow.
I have brought it to a barred concrete box
to clench, to unclench -- to plead in this way
for blood to flow with force in through a door
to the son I am, and out through a door
to a father cawing down the corridor artery,
and back again to where sons and fathers
must begin and end, and meet in nothingness. Crows
fly off then up to the tops of power-poles.
I want the caws and carcass-dripping beaks
to show me the way to no right or wrong,
good or bad, love or hate, to instruct me
in how there is nothing more than the hearts
of those judged to be lost, apart, punished.
I want to walk in the heart of the criminal,
the father and son who are free, the man
who holds within his core the blood that beats
through the slaughtered, the alley crow, and the flower,
even as he is led away in the sun to be killed.
Friday, July 3, 2015
I find webpages and see the faces
of two of your now forty-something siblings,
and imagine how you looked in middle age.
Study even the obituary notice picture
of your mother, seventy-eight, for clues.
But you are twenty-two. It is late summer,
you are wearing white pants, a simple blouse,
you stand at a distance and smile slightly,
and let me take a photograph of you.
You are there in sunlight, in my cells --
you are there, you are twenty-two.
Meals I did not sit and eat with you,
and my food and drink without you now,
all of it nourishment for the cells --
the cells vanished along with what they held
of what I was and what I knew of you
and since replaced with new cells,
and the cells still here, which will vanish.
I saw somewhere among a poet’s lines,
What is not of flesh, we won’t remember.
And I know that the cells of the body
both remember and disavow the body.
And the living flesh is its testimony
that it can only remember then forget.
And the sunlight falling all around you
acquits itself and you, and continues falling.
And what is of the body, we will remember,
as it is what we can possess, and can’t last.
And what is not of the body, if we imagine
it is another body that can only remember --
still it can’t save us. The body will forget us,
and if the spirit can tell us it knows us,
or which among the scattering and fading cells
comprised us, we won’t be there to hear it.
Far inside the cells of my body now,
where I am only barely a body, in sunlight
you are twenty-two, and you remember
and you forget, and neither come to me in touch
nor invisibly hold sway, and you step toward me.