Dunes (a poem)

oh, we watch those holes,
those wholesome moans.
the velvet breath.

we coalesce
we lift.
we drift.

rolling, washing through the grass.
the summer sun reflects
across our teeth.

the heat,
the breeze,
we float with ease
and rise to disappear.

oh, that frothing mist awaits:
that great blue orb of the sky

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“Whalesong” and other poems

Yesterday I found myself looking through old notebooks and found scribblings of old poems I was working on throughout the last few years. After spending so much time away from them, it was exciting revisiting those notes with a new perspective. I’ve been going through them casually, rereading and rewriting, and I’m looking forward to having a new batch of poems to release soon.

The first of these is “Whalesong”, posted last night. I haven’t had a chance to set up the link from my “poems” page yet, but that should come soon. Maybe I’ll group these new/old poems together in a collection of sorts. We’ll see.

It’s been interesting so far, coming back to those notes after such a long time. I feel disconnected from them, but perhaps also have a better understanding than I did when I started scribbling them out. It’s hard to explain, but it’s an interesting experience. I usually write poems very quickly, in a day or so, but I’m liking the results so far. Hopefully you do as well.

Happy writing.

Whalesong (a poem)

needles scraping bone,
heel and sole.

sliding cold inside your boots
you bear the weight of all you love,
while inches underneath
the giant gods of other worlds relay
their shepard songs.

empty aqua loneliness.

they disappear,
soaring softly into darkness and
sinking,

willing,

deeper than the sky is wide.

their dreams are of a solid state;
the breath that leaves their backs a
force of nature,

strong enough to rent the field on which you stand that now,
to us,
seems still as stone.

Cloud Factory (a poem)

She dragged her hand across the ground
and dug a little pool
where water drops like tears collected,
shimmering and cool,
and in that surface I could see myself
with eyes imploring back
but they seemed to lack some hint of life
– some shade reduced to black.

I told her what I meant and hoped
that she could see it too,
but where my eyes were losing color, hers were filled
with green and blue,
and so she took my word and helped me on
against the failing light,
that friend of mine whose heart could share
the burden of my plight.

From time to time my sight awakes
and beauty crashes through
and all the clouds of my indifference
dissolve in vivid hues,
but when the wheels begin to turn again
in those machines of doubt
the sky seems darker than before and little
helps to lock it out.

And even so she’s here beside me,
painting colors with her words
– the shapes of rainbows, stars and ladybugs,
soft melodies of birds –
It’s happiness around the bend, I think,
and friendship is the key;
her love conveying all those notions that
were nearly lost to me.

Uncle Jonathan’s Wake (a poem)

Of tales I’ve been told in my youth, years ago,
there’s a few that I really can’t tell anymore
if they’re stories of make up and yarns of pretending
or memories with almost all truth at their core.

It’s the ones that the parents of my parents told us
and the ones that they’d heard at the same age as me.
On the knee of some elder by kerosene lamplight
in houses in places where homes used to be.

While the wood in the stove crackled warm in the night
and brew in the kettle boiled blacker than tar,
they’d sit round the table in towns since forgotten.
So long ago now no one knows where they are.

No power for TV, no money for books,
no radio stations with top forties songs.
They lived off the land, off the sea and the shore,
and their muscles were sore, but their hearts were strong.

While the boys on the mainland were lining their pockets
and patching the elbows on suits that they owned,
they’d wake in the night with a terrible fright
of the frost driving nails through the cracks in their bones.

And they’d kindly recall, in tales that were tall,
of the things that men jigged from the waters so deep,
of horse-headed mummers, burned ships in the fog,
of fairies and worse that made away with the sheep.

Most of them are gone now – faded with time,
we never wrote any down, and now I wish that we did.
At this point the only ones I can remember
are the stories I witnessed firsthand as a kid.

But the thing that I wonder at most of it all
is my memory of Great Uncle Jonathan’s wake.
And I’ll tell you the best that my mind can remember
but I can’t guarantee how much sense it’ll make.

It was just after Christmas and my toys were still out.
There were just a few days left until the new year.
We had Uncle John’s wake in my grandparents’ kitchen
and Grandfather gave me my first taste of beer.

Old Johnny was flat on his back on the table
with his Sunday best on and brand new wool socks.
Aunt Maggie, his widow, was yarning with Grandma
lining bottles of rum by old Uncle John’s box.

Us kids were all wary round Uncle John’s corpse
cause he’d told us old tales that had filled us with dread.
But my father assured us: “Old Johnny won’t ‘arm yas,
not a ‘air on yer ‘ead, neither livin’ nor dead!”

So we laughed and we danced to accordion music
and chased ’round the kitchen like little kids do,
and Grandma caught Grandpa trying to give me some grog
and said “Only some beer! Just a small sip or two!”

And Grandpa obliged and opened a homebrew
as black as molasses and older than sin.
It tasted like earth, all murky and bubbling
and he clapped on my shoulder with a devilish grin.

The cold night rolled on and the wake came to life
with a stomping on planks and a musical roar.
Not a one cheek was dry, from crying or chuckling,
by the time a loud knocking rang out on the door.

“Oh mummers! T’is mummers!” Aunt Ellie announced
and the kitchen broke out in a cheer and a shout:
“Merry Christmas, good mummers! Come in, ‘ave a grog!
We’ll dance, take a look, and figger you out!”

There was one with a mask made of old burlap sack,
mitts on the wrong hands and pants stuffed full of straw.
A couple had bloomers on top of their heads,
but the one in the back was the strangest of all.

His old beaver hat hung down over his eyes
and from it, old feathers stuck this way and that.
His clothes were all colors, blue, yellow and green,
and his smile was wicked, like a sneaky old cat.

The rum flowed like water and the pot belly crackled
and the room got so hot Mother tied back the door.
Then the power went out so we fired up the lamps
and the mummers broke out in a jig on the floor.

When no one was looking, that feathered old mummer
took a flask from a pocket on his colorful chest
and drank back a swallow and passed it to Johnny
who sat up in his box and drank down the rest!

I jumped to my feet, and I let out a cry
but Mother and Father just laughed at the sight:
“Ol’ Johnny looks jealous that we’re havin’ all the fun!”
and my late uncle started to dance with delight.

Old Johnny was shuffling and prancing around
with his thick wooster socks slipping ’round on the boards
then the room started clapping and singing along
and not a tear in the place was sad anymore.

His toes flew a-tapping with his hands at his hips,
and we all started clapping along with the beat,
and poor Uncle George with his fingers a-fiddling
couldn’t match the lightning in Uncle John’s feet.

He swayed to the left and the right, all around,
and danced up a storm of a jig for the crowd.
His stocking-clad feet tapped a flurry of steps
as he jumped on the table to applause that was loud.

Then the door flew open on Grandpa’s wood stove
and flankers and smoke whirled out into the air.
While I rubbed out my eyes, I thought I could see
more shadows than just Uncle Johnny’s up there.

He jumped back to the floor without missing a step
and was joined by the mummers, laughing loudest of all,
then he finished the jig with a stomp and a bow,
but when the music had stopped, he appeared to grow small.

Uncle John asked the mummer for another good drink
cause his legs had gone stiff and his feet cold and sore,
but the mummer sighed “No, that’s the last of my grog,
but I’d say you’ve got time for just one good dance more.”

Then my poor Uncle Johnny took Aunt Maggie’s hand
and old George played a waltz that I haven’t heard since,
and the wife and her husband shared a good long embrace
as graceful as any princess and her prince.

And when it was over, they had tears in their eyes,
but they must have been happy – they were smiling too.
Then they sat with the rest, to call out the mummers.
That was my favorite bit – finding out who was who.

There was Una and Gord, from down ’round the Cape,
and Young John and Sadie and her cousin from town,
but the last of the mummers, the one with the feathers,
must have snuck out the door when we’d let our guard down.

Now by then it was late and the rum near all gone
and the parents said “Youngsters, you best get to bed,”
and we never found out who the sixth mummer was,
and if the grown-ups found out, they for sure never said.

You can laugh all you want and call me a fool,
say my story’s made up and my head’s full of rocks,
but the next day before we all buried old Johnny
Mom stitched up the holes worn through his new socks.

And that mummer? Well we never saw him again,
not one Christmas after, but we did hear some things.
Queer stories of things that happened in winter
when strangers with costumes came to dance and sing.

Now the mummers are gone, for the most part at least.
And Christmas is not like it was long ago.
As a child I know I’d have laughed at the thought
of a mummer come knocking, but the doorman saying “no.”

So much has been changed, and it’s not all for bad,
but I hope that some old ways still have a chance.
I know I’ll never forget Uncle Jonathan’s wake
or that stranger who let him have one final dance.

Where No Man Comes (a poem)

this void of land,
this spear of sea,
divides with lonesome lines the air.
the livyers, swaying, fold with fate
as eons fade from being,
and hearts of stone pulse beneath
the fragile frame
of mountains.
each beat an eternity;
a flicker consuming
the rise and rot
of ages.
the pitiful remains
of some benign beings persist
as subtle blurs in elevation;
refined beyond recognition
by the birth and death
of countless seasons.
no witnesses remain
which might exclaim, yet maim this majesty.
those which have are all but disappeared,
their true undying legacies
rebuilding what was ground away.
their lives unending
mending
all those scars begat by greed.

Driving on a February Night (a poem)

ahead, red eyes glare through the dark
as overhead, bulbs burn brighter than any star.
great wheels roll and rumble, beneath and behind
and the rattle and scrape of a hundred gears pulses away,
relentless; unaware and unmoved
by your restless writhing.

behind your eyes, that broken mind
and bleeding heart beat on and on
in stubborn time with some pretense of strength,
but that’s gone too, you fear.

outside, the frozen tundra sifts
from white, to blue, to grey,
until the austere sky reflects
and swallows whole its solid self,
leaving wisps of winter dancing in its wake.

how long now til familiarity fades
and you might breathe some novel air and smile
at the shapes and sounds of things you’ve never seen?
those echoes everlasting might soon die,
if only you could feel some promise below your feet;
the world with all its weightlessness pushing back
from underneath.

In the Rain (a poem)

she smiles.
nose pressed against my neck
as rain dives all around,
clapping the soil
with moisture;
filling our breaths
with the sweetness of spring.
I kiss her head as hair,
wild in wind,
envelopes my face.
I used to convince myself that
beauty and cruelty came only
as accomplices.
I was so wrong.
I love you, I whisper.
she smiles.

Return to the Fjord (a poem)

as a child I watched those hills
rippling and shivering in an emerald haze.
the mighty birches swayed with the breeze,
the ancient tides sloshed in on kelp-dressed granite shores,
the sun melted lazily into rocky, barren peaks.
and in the coldest dark, the moon would come to dance
on the water

and I came back one last time
to scrape my heels on salt-stained rocks,
to feel the feathered fingers of mossy twigs brush my face.
aching to taste the earth on the wind and remember,
remember,
the breath of owls in the night;
the sweet stench of shore at low tide;
the warmth of the garnet sun as it chased away the stars.
but now the trees are gone;
the hillside scarred;
the waters grey.
where ground had been, now lies the floor
and walls, fences, climb higher each day
to keep out the world.
fumes fill the heavy air and the stones succumb,
as if to fear,
as engines roar to pave the road
through the land that man should not have found.