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Title: Coming to Grips with White Knuckles
Author: Brown, Paul Cameron
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Biography

Previous titles by Paul Cameron Brown include fiction, poetry,
chapbooks, illustrations and broadsheets by a number of Canadian
and American presses.

". . . A master at evoking mood and atmosphere" The London
Free Press

". . . Beguiling writing indeed" The Canadian Author and Bookman



  Credits

  Many of these poems have been published in:
  Bogg (USA)
  Wyrd (USA)
  Germination
  The Antigonish Review
  Writers' News Manitoba
  Pierian Spring
  South Western Ontario Poetry
  Repository
  Poetic Licence
  Writers' Quarterly
  Poetry North Review (USA)
  Minor Offences
  Gut
  Sepia (UK)
  When Is A Poem (companion issue, League of Canadian Poets)
  Konkrete
  Wot
  Jimson Weed (USA)
  The Camrose Review
  Interior Voice
  The Atlanta Creative Alliance (USA)
  Yellow Silk (USA)
  Earthwise Poetry Journal (USA)
  Authors
  The Pegasus Review (USA)



  Toute est dangereuse, tout est necéssaire.



  COMING TO GRIPS WITH WHITE KNUCKLES
  By Paul Cameron Brown



  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  King and John Streets (For Isabella Valancy Crawford)
  Colette
  Chinatown I
  Toronto
  The Draper's Cloth
  Poet's Are Magic Beings
  Casha
  The Jolly Tupper
  Vertigo
  Bedroom Glass
  Ahoy
  The Poetry Pond
  What Became of the Sixties?
  Sixties Hangover
  Dash Into Realism: Escape Pad From The Sixties
  What Colour Is Love?
  Chain Letter
  Slaughterhouse
  Lavender
  The Necklace Garden
  Pillage
  Desire
  Preening
  Chance Upon
  Leaf Doctor
  Tussaud's
  Vulcans
  Dry Guillotine
  Mangroves
  Pondicherry
  The Clearing That Is The Trees
  Humboldt's Current
  The Gingham Dream Utterance
  Juniper Trees
  Distemper
  Night Winds
  Amherst Island
  Ancient of Days
  Constantly Deliberation
  The Drunken Boat



  KING AND JOHN STREETS
  (FOR ISABELLA VACANCY CRAWFORD)

  When the shadows are hungry
  animals on walls
  and theatre goers are
  parliamentarians engaged
  in a repast or feast
  of words.
  the lone house stands
  as a stone shard or sliver
  about to disengage itself
  from the eye.

  For behind boulders of tenement
  walls and vines creeping
  to match the red brick of
  sumac and the parrot bill of fire escape stairs,
  I watch the building
  cylindrical in the darkness
  crouching thin air
  as if an awkward child
  were about to make strange
  for the dozenth time.

  There are few things to duplicate
  plaster held by the bite of wind,
  open poverty like lesions
  refusing to move.
  neglect that festers
  to pop the endless seams
  of the mind like burning
  radiator caps,
  scalding water to lighten
  the lanced up eyes of vermin who
  lather these swollen rooms.



  COLETTE

  The waitress mainlines
  the cup under the saucer
  balancing it on the
  waistband of her arm
  much as a junkie
  might tie a tourniquet.

  Wiping the glass edge
  of the table
  clear of croissant crumbs
  & watching the barely dry
  reflection of her own
  image going thru the emotions.
  the California chic
  pothouse & gardenia
  bloom effect of
  her work is enough
  to leave a dirty smear.



  CHINATOWN I

  And a little farther
  the Fu Manchu mustache
  curved in mock epic proportions
  of a scimitar un-sheaved for action,
  perhaps the executioner's progress
  his victims entombed to their skulls
  in rolls of quivering earth--
  the parting of the ways
  coming as your coin drops
  to the rasp of his
  tin cup chuckle.



  TORONTO

  Quennelles. Lady of the Gold Horse with Diamond Eyes.
  A bottle of Napoleon brandy for the Count and two Persian
  lions carved in wood.
  Salads Nicoise.
  Dinners at Pré Catalan in the Bois, a Toronto equivalent.
  A girl named Chantilly burning charcoal in the forest.
  I drank a cocktail with the girl of the white polo coat.
  Or as the cynic said, my pipe is the tent, the tobacco
  the days of my life.



  THE DRAPER'S CLOTH

  I imagine stars at the dragon's tail,
  eyelids ringing with butter.

  I want to brush palms as
  lightly as two sparks.
  take the wand of your waist
  in two plush hands
  with the pitiless gesture
  of a sparrow

  We part the leaves in breath,
  arouse trees in envy.
  I sense colours more vivid
  than your tongue
  after wine,
  explosions to cap the wind.

  To enter you in argument--
  a bough creeking in underbrush,
  svelte panthers hiding.

  And afterwards, sheets are open galleys,
  oarsmen ploughing breakers
  across both sea and night.



  POETS ARE MAGIC BEINGS

  She sits within the Magic Lantern
  --that facsimile for pleasure,
  decor of wineskins where
  at $2.50 a garment
  extravagance comes extra;
  skin like rosy flames
  the whisk of smoke
  at hearthside
  sunlight about her face.

  Cherubs arise from those lips
  and battle lines are drawn
  about the sweet curvature of her breasts.
  A tight cashmere sweater rides
  comfortably two of the finest King's
  deer headstrong thru Sherwood Forest.

  And, Merry Man,
  firmly planted in Lincoln Green,
  the plodding turf growing at odds within my soul--
  give this brief to the Sheriff at Buckingham;
  I cool my heels, the soft doe lies prostrate at my feet.

  She's loveliness,
  hair drawn as curtains
  signalling the clouds,
  eyes that beckon twin doves
  to flight, in swift passage, like the arrows.



  CASHA

  A child-like fawn
  moistened nudging &
  joyous breath,
  an allowance for leave
  as her gentle hand
  budges my sibling cupping.

  And walking in a field of gardens
  --our Jardin des Plantes--
  a molecule in depth
  flowery pennons
  near Picardy wet.

  Casha tendrils here pinion the eye,
  little Annabel Lee
  with the sunshine wet in her parting hand
  that all the birds in grace sigh
  at Saint Francis breathless.



  THE JOLLY TUPPER

  Sun on the eiderdown
  breaks tiny corners off the bedspread, declares green plants its bidding
  before summoning Fragonard's maiden
  off her swing--so richly dressed
  in picture from the sunlit wall.

  Expensive tabac from an imported humidor
  etches tiny leaves
  their stems as faces against the glass,
  rich aroma, trèsor, like the Jolly Tupper print
  preparing his bowl,
  drawing on the clay stem
  as if from a height watching ships come in.

  Smoke cold as blue fungus over outside buildings
  follows horses with hooves to split cobblestones
  stuck in the city's eye,
  more than mountains around
  the stone filled ravines
  of the rich man's heart.



  VERTIGO

  We're travelling down a carnival road, are met at intersections by
  varying faces: poets as eyes in collapsed black holes, even the
  universe as extension of the stellar poet. Then, they are transformed,
  become worm-pickers, masons, longshoremen who subsidize their
  poetry with the real task at hand: making waste, laying trestles
  instead of women to prove a point.

  This is necessary. I'm defending it, find it both believable and
  interesting. Meanwhile, troubadours and wandering minstrels eke
  out a living on storybook memories, join Marco Polo if he ever
  lived. Seek out the Great Khan in a box of cookies or within a
  magnum of champagne depending on circumstances.

  The Grand  Lunar is watching. Her pallor commands true poets to
  roll over, gaze at silver buttocks make a commitment to the art
  beyond spray painting, ghost watching, navel gazing.

  The sky is the final home of the soul, the Sage himself a wanderer
  announced.

  It was a warm spring evening. Lilac bounded from antler brown
  twigs only recently inert. Everything dissolved at once into crying.
  The world itself became a tear.



  BEDROOM GLASS

  Counted three white pigeons
  on a roof, near a gable
  silhouetting a barn;
  as an afterthought
  killed as many nervy bluebottles
  on the bedroom glass as
  warnings to myself, perhaps,
  or the elements pelting the window
  with ice beads, tiny crystalline
  versions of those distant elephantine birds.



  AHOY

  Image throttled in the subconscious,
  romantic throwback--
  the mind on a voyage round land's end
  to eclipse pyramidal fires
  set as beacons along rock strewn shores--
  her skeletal inhabitants on ice flows
  wrapped in bearskins
  with dirks between their teeth
  slapping one another to keep warm.

  Then, alpine ranges carrying
  the plight of the Andes in their mouth;
  a dull, white sail propped against ship's bow
  with a noise like an anvil
  coming loose in the brain.

  More frightening, sailors mutiny on a diet
  of bread as sallow maggots
  march in a quarter horse sized trot
  across the floorboards.
  Such men in the bellows of one's mind
  break out rubber dinghies
  in quickening escape thru the
  maw of an Arctic sea.

  Expiry. Dry rot. Sunken astrolobe
  and an armada of feelings drifting alone.



  THE POETRY POND

  Everyone is a poet, or so the philosopher said. The world teems
  with poetry in much the sense the universe teems with life.
  A poet or two is squirrelled away in every major office.
  Boiler rooms hum with the tooth and nail, robust imagery of
  working class poets. The neurological desire to express oneself
  transcends even social barriers. Be creative, like a brain surgeon.
  My scalpel runneth over amongst all those cerebral ganglia.

  The mind washed clean, scrubbed down. Words burn holes on the
  paper. Firemen disguised as poets douse the heroic flames.
  Sherpas tightly drawn amidst depths of a Himalayan winter
  weather a torrent of words. Groggy, I search for breath, am given
  oxygen but see writing materials.

  In the future, everyone will be famous for five minutes.
  We have been promised this by Andy Warhol.
  In the present, a day in the life of the poet is within reach of each of
  you, my peers.

  Barnum and Bailey's fresh from the publishing scene comes to
  town, will train talent or so the sign read. But the Big Top can't
  accommodate all the poets. Word jugglers sneak under the tent to
  court the ringmaster's favour.

  Poetry is a religion, said the neophyte before downing its meagre
  fare. A window on life confounding reality, fingering experience.
  Feast for the intellect, grace and passion abiding as one. Yet, with
  poetry becoming as all things to all men and with every man doing as
  right in his own eyes, privateers and other assorted scaliwags, eager to
  toss in their lot with the real Empress, lay ransom to this queen of arts.

  Somewhere, every person alive has written a book of poems.
  Bushel and a peck, common as gravestones.

  My mind was a tabla rosa and the poets could not pick it clean.
  And me within reach of this uncontrolled mitosis, arspoetica. I
  dread "have a nice day," is already a populist poem. Think my
  grade 13 biology is hazy but not my ability to count the poets.

  I am holding hands with the poets lest we foam too perilously
  at the crest.

  Sentenced in absentia to torturing words, pulling wings off
  proverbial flies, attacking motherhood.

  Worse, performing illegal abortions on the craft.



  WHAT BECAME OF THE SIXTIES?

  The "Haight," in Ashbury lived up to its name.
  Sexual pioneers became commonplace.
  Agribusiness consolidated the back to the land movement.
  Joni Mitchell remortgaged all the tree museums.
  Flower power became a snivelling joke.
  Groovy and way out once again were associated with corduroy
  pants & fire exits.
  Fascism was taken over and made respectable by Ronald Reagan.
  Jewish mothers and landladies outguessed the War on Poverty.
  Strobe lights were said to cause cultural myopia.
  The Just Society lost another Vietnam.
  Rock music recycled itself in "meaningful dialogue."
  Innocence learned a lot from experience.
  Contemplation of one's navel was resurrected by phenomena
  of the eager and job hunting corporate executive.
  Long hair became a symbol of displacement.
  Au pair girls received a new lease on life.
  Tofu and herbal teas survived even the commune experience.
  Primal scream, therapy, in the crunch, outdistanced everything else.



  SIXTIES HANGOVER

  "We have all been here before.
  almost cut my hair;"
  the refrain from Crosby, Stills. Nash & Young
  reading more like a law firm letterhead than
  any invocation for real social change.
  Respectability, that first casualty of the eighties.
  What, exactly, was a true child of the sixties?

  Here's a few safe bets:
  Valedictorians were few and difficult to find for their "irrelevant,"
  high school peers. Are you listening Paul and Paula?
  Cutoffs. Hitchhiking to California?
  All is beautiful. Laid back. Beads.
  The sixties were a jukebox that came of age.
  Ponderosa shirts were destined to outlive their owners.
  Thirty-three is perilously close to being afraid.
  Elvis Presley, a blimp at forty, missed the sixties or rather
  failed to live them down.
  The hullabaloo of freedom was taken for granted, then shelved.
  Amid a crescendo of killing only a year and one half of the present
  decade duplicates the assassinations of the "violent sixties."
  Even the cop troupe withered, crooned Eric Burton at Monterrey.
  I think not.



  DASH INTO REALISM: ESCAPE PAD FROM THE SIXTIES

  For one, street argot became tougher.
  You had to distinguish between what you meant by calling someone
  a mother.
  The Black Panther influence, no doubt, but a rejuvenation of the
  language. Street fighting man. Butchery at My Lai.
  House arrest for Lieutenant Calley so strangely appropriate for the times.
  So middle class and a tribute to "doing one's own thing":
  Rampant, militant individualism, the hallmarks of expression.
  Sit-ins, love-ins, peace-ins. The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test,
  anyone? The sixties were the highwater meritocracy from the
  foremost "me decade".
  Getting right on target for the narcissism of the seventies.
  Or so it was rumoured.
  What's next in the social roller derby?
  Cutbacks, retrenchments, accountability.
  Even uglier, this new argot of the eighties.



  WHAT COLOUR IS LOVE?

  Sixties idols were built to last.
  A 70's idol is shoddy and throwaway by comparison.
  Whatever became of Carnaby Street or bell bottoms?
  The mentality is alive and well (another dreadful anachronism) in
  smart up-town boutiques.
  The proprietors, though, don't sell little bells to freaks anymore.
  Luxurious Persian rugs, instead, are all the vogue.
  And bail money for vendors hawking copies of Guerrilla on the
  streets of Toronto or Black Panther leaflets in US cities isn't
  needed anymore.
  Who was Bobby Seale? Who remembers?

  The first generation in history, a new consciousness...
  Remember the Greening of America?
  Escape From Freedom?
  The futuristic think tankers?
  consciousness III?
  Bombers turning into butterflies?
  Today's B-52's are punk rockers.

  I like my memories, retreat-like, hazy in myopic seclusion.
  I suspect social historians for the pleasant dribble they write about
  the age.
  The age, like it spanned a thousand years, opened new epochs.
  More like Adolf's remark about his millennial Reich.
  Some doubt the authenticity of the Holocaust. I doubt the sixties.
  It, too, lasted what seemed twelve years.



  CHAIN LETTER

  I'm sitting in a "sixties bar." No put-on.
  All around old Rolling Stones music is playing.
  I can tell it's a sixties bar by the spiffy waiter recycling sheets for
  tablecloths. The sixties was "into," environment.
  It's the eighties now as Heineken was unobtainable in 1969.
  Someone reminds me in order to run a tab a credit card is needed.
  This seems logical but very out of sorts with the people power
  complex I'm nurturing.
  Even the jokes above the bar are old hat.
  This confirms with certainty that Madcaps is Nostalgia.
  It's too built up for Sha-Na-Na, fintails or Nancy Sinatra's,
  These Boots Are Made For Walking.
  In my sensible decade that tune is considered sadistic. Obviously,
  the effect is too sophisticated to imagine I'm even a temporary
  time traveller. Still, poetry is a communicable disease
  invented in the 1920's by a snooty degenerate named Pound.

  I bide my time. It's an oasis for waiting. Old time experiences seem
  strangely current in this campy pub.
  Occasionally, someone in a zoot suit comes in but realizes he's
  missed the last act of Grease.
  Old Blue Eyes might make it here if he looked like Bogart in drag.
  Like them, Presley was by-passed by the theme of this decade.

  There's a fleshy table and chairs with a knock out chick that looks
  like my Bridge Over Troubled Waters.
  The waiter scowls like vintage Ben Casey.
  Beehive hairdos mingle casually with early "Mod."
  Rockers wishing Cherry Reds are served drinks instead.
  Comfortable sleaze.

  The window is up on the future now and New Wave is out to
  spray paint graffiti artists all the way.

  "Either you are part of the solution or you are part of the
  problem." Now there's a sixties homily that still delivers.
  Nice to think the social history of three decades is indistinguishable
  and that silence comes as its own reward.



  SLAUGHTERHOUSE

  You're the aggressor
  and your passion exceeds mine
  but we're in this slaughterhouse together
  and it's near closing.

  Vats of prickly ointment
  destined to repattern animal skin
  and tubs of steaming formaldehyde
  rest casually with the more antiseptic
  thrill of green sawdust.

  Blood is a chameleon, here, changing colours
  en route to sausage and Pram but
  my hotdogs and donuts are
  holding better to the cuttlefish
  in this unnatural forest.

  The stars are a jangle of planets
  in a world where wood became noise;
  each ceiling beam, incidentally,
  is the wrenched out spine
  of a Longhorn steer,
  doorknobs pig knuckles
  bound for Octoberfest fear.
  Even the kindly attendant is an
  ogre spying out porkers' throats;
  will sit under a bridge
  then capsize crates
  of young chickens
  knife ready at hand.

  The squeal of this bovine camp
  is recycled on 40 watt amps
  through more than decibels of rage;
  is a fishly contest designed
  to trade off gruel
  for fresher prospects.

  One armed forklift drivers, for instance,
  with realistic Captain Hook hands
  jab instructions to
  lifeless walls where
  underlings the colour of grey slate
  form a human paste.

  Sound is the monetary exchange,
  rabbit dung the troll's own currency--
  each scrawl of the pen
  confirmed by the work order
  upends living things bent over in pain.



  LAVENDER

  A mind is a ray of light running to the sea;
  an arch of wood upon which birds rest.

  Minds roam the ocean's crest, sit as antlers upon a beach,
  watch eddies of water trap themselves in the sand.

  And minds are in anything but a state of rest--they violate
  physics, make mockery of other bodies not in ready motion.

  I have seen a mind enclosed above fresh air and sunshine,
  frolicking on its own strength, the elasticity of its thought lassoing
  all the stars assembled.

  Golden points of light caught in this sand with an oval sun
  marching blue legions across the sky bring more harmony than
  all the stars assembled.

  Admiral. Fakir. Harem. They are all here as is batik, geisha,
  sarong, teak and gingham. I have seen them in quiet pools near
  the atolls.

  Rapture is a word to be eaten with persimmon and pears.

  The closed wood. Copse and fragrant bush. White mare alone in
  a green-studded pasture aback groves and groves of pleasant
  trees. Bright insects making a curry of the forest floor with leaves
  as trinkets bartered to the wind.

  And the endless sky overturned like a bowl across the horizon.
  Water and air, the two chief elements in a brisk compound with
  earth and fire.

  The land itself nursing a presence by the sea as a lizard might
  devour a fly on a bough above a tree.

  Then there are the granaries of this empire, the washed up logs
  darting into footprints from the inlets. A white sand making its
  presence felt like a tireless magician. Green strands of the
  cucumber bush big with melon, a mother with expectant child
  hushed and sitting by a clearing.

  "The waters of the stream please me more than the sea,"
  coconut groves with hand-me-down messages for the ages.
  Strands among weeds, wine bottles as ferrymen ready for
  circumnavigation around islands crisscrossing bucolic charts.

  And everywhere reefs and coral and sugarbush fish darting
  between the sieve of land breaking bread with sea; exchanging
  colours from many coloured coats.

  Kangaroo, koala, tepee, bayou hula, lei.
  Sights which gallop against the senses, act as brigands to mature
  reason. Faraway in the mountain fastness of the mind, alpine
  meadows look out upon further marvels, exchange cocoa for
  quinine, adjust the mind as a stirrup before a long, night ride.

  The shaman with a hammock in his catamaran dolefully accepts
  the waves as the skin must a tatoo.

  The lovely collision of sound with twilight on fragrant sea-grape,
  the hush of storm clouds preparing to administer their own
  bromide of fire before the appearance of a band-aid patch of
  lightning streaks against the divide.

  Perhaps lavender is a language here, the juxtaposition of mind
  with energy coming to a halt from a brisk canter, then proceeding
  to nibble a currant from my hand.



  THE NECKLACE GARDEN

  For my part, I spied red berries
  on a currant bush
  lush in August;
  the canopy of leaves
  a nesting place for hornets
  clocking one hundred
  in & out of their ice-castle hive.
  Birds had fled in horror,
  there was a pallor
  around the sun
  and nearby a Hubbard squash
  grew like Topsy
  already several baskets in size.

  I threatened suicide
  in this herbivorous garden
  amid wild canaries and butternuts;
  my jangled nerves a lobster colour
  only calmed by more grievously
  afflicted tobacco hornworms,
  their skins pierced by the radar alum
  of wasps.

  Transformed into insect angels
  strumming away the afterlife,
  they arrived as ghosts to comfort me.

  Fresh, spring potatoes grew like serendipity
  under a pleasant summer sky.
  The smell of good earth
  revived above
  the saltpetre muddle
  of the humanoid puzzle.

  Later, the night became a lavender cloak,
  her folds sweet orifices
  of a pleasure bound woman.



  PILLAGE

  It's chess of sorts but
  reeks of you--
  the hand carved emerald rook, for one,
  and so many Black & White squares
  that tiptoe like many a patio stone
  between our warring minds.

  I think of rollaway mats
  lepers use to beg on,
  habitually to die on
  or marked cards that
  outside castle walls
  dicers' oaths
  must originate from.

  I am having trouble
  keeping the pieces straight.

  I mean, you're White
  & concluded the beginning of the end
  with first move; still, I'm prepared
  for nothing short of winning.

  Should we discuss this
  growing stalemate near
  the Bishop's mitre
  and exploding gun
  or against hungry faces of expendable pawns
  raging, as they say, across Seas of Galilee
  on that first night of Storms?

  And, when pressed during attack,
  is it proper logistics
  to prepare the drawbridge,
  fondle another dart
  for a King's crossbow,
  then advance at parapets
  with scalding liquid,
  the oily spillage
  of our tongues?



  DESIRE

  Sleep is a striking woman
  accosted by various men
  while in a dance;
  the warring desires thus
  present themselves as on
  a battlefield--
  hunger comes arrayed with
  red plumes to befit
  his appetites,
  sensuality somewhat
  decked out as a dandy
  in a mauve waistcoat
  and, of course, there is
  Fear, the most thwarted
  of the suitors, bejewelled with a
  flashing sabre, rattling it from
  the tail of his skinny stick horse,
  the pale charger riding
  to intercept the beautiful courtesan Sleep
  bestowing her favours illicitly
  wherein she would but choose.



  PREENING

  The sky is red and comes
  from Montreal--
  you lied to me
  the hemlock of the wind
  is not this January's
  but is ringed with
  steel laughter of
  another winter.

  I saw you wringing sweat
  from the eyes of the road,
  lie down take the season's
  wetness in your mouth,
  push apart moist dampness
  'til one cavity was
  felled and another opened.



  CHANCE UPON

  As she's lying there in sherbet panties
  looking somewhat disaffected, a nez perce
  expression bordered by sleep,
  think of the Sultan's regalia
  his entourage of kings
  chance upon dark laughter from Saladein's[1] concubines,
  Nell's[2] white turn of the knee
  or the pretty bosom of a Confederate
  officer's belle . . . all satin & lace ...
  perhaps, again, the splendid neck
  of Titian's choicest nude.

  To further turn the phrase,
  ponder a basket of fruit--
  the sexual omnipotence
  of its texture a dreamy sensuality
  thickened by red Emperor grapes
  ripened against the elongated nails
  of a Pompadour's[3] milk white hand.

  [1] Richard the Lion Hearted's adversary
  [2] The Merrie Monarch's favourite mistress
  [3] Louis xv's courtesan and adviser



  LEAF DOCTOR

  You said happiness was a bird
  --a hand extended
  could bend its perch.
  span the perfect wings.

  I spoke of swallows.
  lived off flies
  ebbed when flying.
  seldom came to rest.



  TUSSAUD'S

  In the wax museum with Attila and Genghis and Tamerlane all so
  close in spirit with our century.

  At Madame Tussaud's in London: Neill Cream. Burke and Hare. It's
  hard to keep the legitimate heroes straight from the villains. I expect
  Houdini to make this Niagara Falls and appear at midnight
  Halloween.

  With so many real and picturesque notables in abundance, I plan
  the idea of creating my own arch criminal wax museum assembled
  from the hallways and stairwells of my own life.

  I imagine employment counsellors from across the years with sardonic
  laughs and strings tripping off records to make them authentic.
  Then busts of fiendish ex-teachers and hatchet fanatics that
  pass as librarians giving me advanced nausea because my card
  has technically expired. Think the occasional gesture at remembering
  a swine or two from freeway driving might not be entirely out of
  place or that mindless clerks administering my life from afar and
  costing a future deserve an enshrining.

  "A nickel short," droned the bureaucrat, "no transfer," secures him
  passage to my waxworks.
  "Sorry," and "we'll certainly keep you in mind," as a litany of woe
  with its users made to memorize and make good all promises ever
  made.

  Wish the mind and her memories could be enlarged; I would recreate
  my own historic scenes to stand alongside Nelson's Death,
  the Little Princes in the Tower. Detail Israeli Nazi-hunters to
  track down my Adolf Eichmanns.

  Instead of samples from Jack the Ripper's handwriting in the waxworks,
  rejection slips and the stylized, flowery "we'll keep your
  application on file," would be served up as horror epics.

  Dunces that compose form letters made to live out the threadbare
  future promises. Each human roadblock making decisions out of
  ignorance would have his statement dutifully recorded before entering
  a world of his own design.
  Ad agency types made to explain in effortless detail to packed
  houses why their ketchup commercial should stand up.

  Crooked garage operators made to oil and grease the chassis of
  every car owner hoodwinked since the automobile began.

  Football made a crime punishable by fate.

  Shyster store owners too cheap to bag my newspaper made to
  launder all the soiled white pants across a lifetime.

  Tailors that mistakenly think they are being shortchanged
  and become vocal made to attend Sartre courses where "hell is other
  people," doctrines predominate.

  The huckster, the con-man, those who prey on the multitude
  transposed from whatever city of origin then made to tramp the
  streets of Toronto where every wrong syllable or misbegotten
  accent costs them a dollar of their savings.

  My whole museum a living aviary, a subway at rush hour where
  snotty, telephone receptionists are fed a steady diet of the Biblical
  injunction "by words they shall be known."

  Well meaning but ignorant people endlessly poking with the "you
  should smile more," placed in a house of mirrors with durable
  cassettes of Laugh-In.

  Belligerent restaurant owners telling kids they can't use the
  washroom then made to mop up the waste they helped create.

  The world, a stand-up comic throwing away his happy face then
  coming to sit in disgust at the unchronicled petty evil of our times.



  VULCANS

  Adder toothed flowers snake
  the broken ground where
  molten tongues cremated
  the twisted, bunker forms--
  a Latin cross of
  green jubilation
  lies matted atop a
  sweating road, calligraphy in broken stone.

  As trembling shale collapses into thin hills,
  light fuels to cross the Pale.
  A little exploratory weeding droops this lava rain.

  A long, dove fence comprised
  of stones & rattled by ancient slaves
  winds its distance
  along the gully
  borne in fire, percussion caps,
  cretin growth
  lobbed under
  creeping wire.

  Shafts of pioneer light
  delight in coral baskets,
  empty twilight darts the
  agave swords' mauve pitcher plants.

  The 1692 Tremens decimated Port Royal[1]
  --moved a ravine from
  florid to mossy shadow
  where antler shoots today announce
  temperate plants, eclipse by-gone tropic flowers.

  [1] An earthquake destroyed in the seventeenth century not only the
  stronghold of Jamaica's pirates but also changed the topography of
  the North Shore creating Fern Gully.



  DRY GUILLOTINE

  In my childhood, "Verdun," meant madness.
  Bars on the windows, cages around the intellect.
  Time was a poor keeper of souls, it seems, wore out all but
  a fragment of my memories. Musical, poetic. The sounds of clay china
  being dropped on the floor. Fierce Celts with a gift for the muse in
  keeping with their love of lyricism and war.

  Driving by 999 Queen in Toronto accompanies a lot of the above.
  A cuckoo bin by any calculation and a reference not meant to be
  pejorative. A subject so clothed in solemnity only irreverent
  "kidding," can hope to disarm its grasp. Still, the truth must be told.
  In university, no one shrinked from whispering the ultimate fate--
  a stint in Sydenham or a trip down the road to Cedar Springs.
  Delightful euphemisms, the names reminiscent of sonorous rivers,
  tree lined groves, peach blossoms across Georgia springs. Or
  Ophelia's funeral oration wherein Polonius rightfully alludes to her
  sudden falling away amid laughing brooks.

  I am reminded of Charrière's desperate attempt to stay sane on Ile
  du Diâble, the cutting edge of his dry guillotine--his mind's fabric
  giving way to the slightest irritation. In the present, the chant of
  a crowd's "jump, jump," to the would be suicide. Then there is the
  most foreboding type of all dementia, the collective sort. A strength
  through joy movement of the Hitler camp with society's many
  institutions set up along the spit and polish order of the Reich.

  Indeed, if we think of it, we all have a deep knowledge of madness;
  days when the centre is about to break alongside the pit. Days when
  wars on the periphery take hold, colours appear different.

  As a child, madness was watching Ichabod Crane in cartoon form
  outrace the Headless Horseman. In Sleepy Hollow trying to put
  down the panic in himself. Ichabod, the peaceful school master,
  driven to the edge. At war with himself but trying to reassure that
  same self the plodding sound of approaching hooves was only dried,
  bullrush stems hitting against his head.

  Madness is more than Van Gogh offering an ear; Druid priests
  garnishing oak trees in a British forest or plaintive Gauguin
  abandoning his family at 34, mid-stream in a successful career. It
  probably stands behind half the men on skid row, beckons like a
  welcome friend before turning fiend and consuming impulse to a
  bag lady.

  The close relation between the creative impulse and "letting go."
  Between the arts and wide eyed eccentricity. Between wanting to be
  free. And knowing. Hearing if you go on like that you'll end up on
  the Lakeshore. Another pretty euphemism. A dangerous truth left
  like an upturned rock for someone to trip on in another garden.

  The farthest away anyone can be.



  MANGROVES

  How do you survive
  in the mangrove swamps--
  amid the twitchings of fetid water
  & water lice thick as baby tears?

  How, with all the wallow of thick muck
  making suction noises and the teams in relays
  searching nightly with baited hounds, do you pull free?

  Your bamboo pole knows every ploy
  but is a slender craft ill-equipped
  to sparring blows from every quarter,
  the undergrowth necessitates.

  The closeness of the clammy night
  heaved about like so much rotting fruit will draw
  the ants . . . devouring like that abundance of cold, yellow eyes--
  the firefly swarms that mock your heavy steel machete arm.

  Across the drift of darkness
  and the insect life
  you bat in swarms,
  the ultimate danger is not in the cayman giant
  or his reptilian cousin named of copper wire,
  the Anaconda; or even mindless holes, thick black
  ooze that throttles a victim . . . but the two legged form coming,
  searching . . . a spectre on hind quarters with a bolo knife stepping
  free of that beaded circle, the inner camp.



  PONDICHERRY

  Chess pieces resting upon the jade mantle piece
  see sampans move quietly
  thru warm night,
  rich bundles of bougainvillaea crowd market squares
  where deck chairs extend
  to the Persian Gulf.

  Leisured gentlemen
  finger walking canes,
  hold eyelids thick as goblets,
  sharp tridents beside private lairs.

  Skin in puffy whiteness bulges under
  lamp's white glare, becomes copra gathered
  miles from Pondicherry, sesame
  oil in rotting casks.

  And the Indian heat, closing with certitude
  akin to the trance of the snake charmer,
  holds his flute poised with the Bengali lancer
  riding a slow crop over the prostrate polo ball.



  THE CLEARING THAT IS THE TREES

  "They know they are going to the filth of numbers and laws,
  to the games anyone can play, and the work without fruit."
  Lorca

  I want to go walking in troubled marshes
  where cold gray coves leave off the mind
  and the scent of rushes twist the wind
  as fall covers dungeons of angry sparrows.

  I want to go quickly to troubled marshes,
  hear the squeak of brackish waters
  over crocks of sponge bubbles crabbing
  their surface.

  I desire stands of dead brush
  to wave in grave solemnity,
  whimpering little houses
  off forest glades to flicker
  out lamps with
  large dogs poised on verandahs
  like stone gargoyles.

  I want to handle anguish as if
  it were an interesting bauble
  plucked from the shallows,
  a curious snail with ritual markings
  or a mauve shellfish
  caught in swift eddies
  as the tide goes out.

  I want to examine canker introspection
  as a peevish child might
  faint tracings on an old stone
  lodged in the most forgotten
  corner of a graveyard;
  sample its wonders
  fingering the many indentations
  with more than slight awe
  or hear the crashing of waves
  far off from the physical restraint
  of the marsh or this forgotten
  burial plot so near an angry sea.
  Then, awaken as if from a dream,
  rub troubled memories from my eyes
  but never the brain
  for on winter nights just before
  retiring as the wind stirs packets
  of snow or the moon is chased
  by skeletal hounds along Gretal trees,
  there will come the realization
  another day is thru
  with another night to pilot away
  fresh brush & rubble
  before emerging, at night's end,
  from the clearing that is
  the trees.



  HUMBOLDT'S CURRENT

  Cresta roja wine
  --colour of
  arterial blood,
  vena cava of
  the alcoholic soul.

  And seeing bottles bob
  in mainstreams of men's blood
  to pistol whip their reddened eyes,
  Humboldt's current becomes a rash of drinking,
  a map that charts more bloody lies.

  The thirst that passeth
  all human understanding,
  (an alternate Biblical rendering)
  certainly body heat surpasses
  Vulcan's bellows
  adding new faces to Delirium Tremens.



  THE GINGHAM DREAM UTTERANCE

  As I watch the clouds assemble, steam-ship fashion, with funnels to
  alert passersby, I realize the Romanovs tore silk & riches from
  every bazaar leaving the bright spot of this evening studded with
  emerald marks.
  A dot in the ocean is a spark upon which minnows play, their silver
  bellies upturned to imitate the moon's white shawl.

  I am wanting in the delights of the reef narrowly hauled from
  rambunctious depths, the tiniest splashes of green, yellow, blue darting
  in an upturned fish's tail.
  An octopus rock commands squadrons of fingerlings while the eisel
  fish decorates a steeper, coral garden.

  Jet black sand crowns the lagoon volcanic ages' past the innocence
  of this spurting palm while mounds of pitch dark ants deposit slivers
  of rich eggs.

  After a fashion, onyx enamours pearl and pearl ivory as cays and
  atolls are swept to the wiggle of sun's dance on white sand. Eel-like
  islands are only pomegranates undigested by the moon.

  The amber breath of growing leaves is rich dark coffee stolen as in
  a smile.

  Almond drink is refreshing as the tips of cloven hooves to the dried
  earth.

  One might hesitate to watch firm nipples being given as broaches to
  a king but the sandpiper is a river barge commanding slow access to
  the next water.

  Near barely lit lamps alongside make-shift beds, a woman with olive
  skin prepares her toilet.

  Hatchet brown birds beseech her with brittle songs stolen from
  one wing.

  A cathedral bowl lies overturned in the warm twilight of lovers
  kneeling before the growing strength of day.

  Stone stars are flattened by the glare of sun and shell encrusted
  beaches bear a passing resemblance to chalices strung around an
  avuncular stretch of land.
  Perhaps in the hunted meadow near red spined caterpillars feeding
  near the larvae of the elephant hawkmoth, a cistern will open the
  earth and drink as a thirsty spoon.



  JUNIPER TREES

  Sitting as Buddha on a chocolate juniper
  --the theme of madness
  thirty cinnamon centres
  Ophelia squares;
  Brunelleschi floating down a fallen river
  on nougats, perhaps onyx pears.
  The sleek eyes of a cat stare floodlit topaz,
  ocelot rings round her burning mask.

  And sipping dry wine
  Beaujolais, decantered Anjou
  with iron doors not Ghiberti's fashioning but sweet meadows waving
  fresh, summer grass.

  And I at the garnet Buddha box--
  a cold winter day pledging choices
  pale, juniper tree
  the carnival log egging up thick cordial;
  the inlaid satin box hovering about silent, apple wedge
  a child's fantasy, orgeat or bordeaux,
  lactose fudge, bon appétit
  syrupy taste of Burgundy cherry.

  The axe ring of squirting tissue
  with drone of passing feet
  up finger stairs
  until the rustle of cloth
  crosses the turquoise box,
  clamours almond clusters
  into the courtyard cafe.



  DISTEMPER

  Looking into the glassy crucifix of water.
  slits of rock form stigmata across creviced limestone--
  green pools with an occasional fish passing
  air bubbles to the top
  the eerie night crumbling under shafts of starlight
  with the smell of hemlock pods & cedar bringing
  nard and precious stone within
  crowns of natural thorn--
  this body of muskeg pressed onto
  aromatic herbs then borne away
  along the road to a wooded Calvary and
  the sense of Christ
  in that light at dawn.



  NIGHT WINDS

  They made us sit alphabetically in rows.
  Green oranges are sprayed systematically
  in volcanic soil near pummelled surf.

  One stood to answer questions,
  was called after the surname,
  requested permission for trivials.

  Outrigger canoes with barnacles in tow splash
  menacingly near coral reefs. Under a lazy orange-ripple
  moon halfing itself between stages of growth,
  night winds taunt puffish clouds.



  AMHERST ISLAND

  In winter, you were
  a flash of light,
  tundra against
  Arctic floor

  Warm breath
  stirred yr
  summer's breast
  and I saw
  windblown hair
  the colour of kelp
  transfix
  the lavender print
  of a scalp strewn
  shore

  Later,
  tiny bits
  from
  a calico dress
  became domiciled wings
  off butterflies,
  miniature bitterns
  ever more shadowy
  strewn across the Barrens,
  an unbridled strength from that

  Faraway isle released to orchestrate sunlight
  amongst all colonies that flower--
  a statuesque Red Admiral,
  Banded Purple,
  feckless Comma
  all aswirl to the
  pipes of a Devil's Paintbrush,
  stranded drumfish, sage,
  and tubercular ragwort



  ANCIENT OF DAYS

  It's Epsom but could pass for Epping,
  New Forest or Dumbarton Wood.

  There's ivy of the thickest
  English sort not commonly
  found in America; sprigs
  growing across open ground
  mantling it.

  Shiny to the eye, soft encircling
  the touch, I am reminded of blue waters,
  green grass Blake's Ancient of Days:
  an old man's beard stepping from the trees,
  Spanish Moss so unearthly it covers a
  southern forest.

  There are tendrils in herbal potions of unbroken lips that move
  across both dew and clover.

  I see Druids reciting psalms, weaving ivy along garlands
  of oak, the incantation set before a British lake--
  briar baskets carrying the trusting dead;
  food offerings transversing the waters.

  The ivy calls to mind all these things,
  just a sprig held tightly yet aromatic beyond imagining,
  my timorous English settlers seen thru a spate of leaves
  clutching their holly on Roanoke island.


  The End





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