poem – The Storms This Winter

The Storms This Winter


DSC_9109The storms this winter make me afraid

Like I have never feared before.

It seems to be too much for me.

I have grown suddenly old.

Trudging across the tundra

that was my summer grass and my warm sunshine,

destroyed and determined to freeze me to death.

Control of car and control of feet and balance.

These are the questions that poke at me.

My fingers aching inside my gloves from the cold.

My nose hurting after a minute outside.

Wondering seriously if my circulation decline

Is going to net me actual frostbite, something

I thought was just for a Jack London short story.

I only see cars out, frosted exhaust plumes rising,

no people walking.

And one mad woman jogger at 6:25am on a morning

With -30 degrees Celsius to convince her lungs that fire

Was a relative state of sensation,

that black clothing with no reflector tape

Was the perfect chance to end it all

and get run over by an old man

Blinking through his mostly defrosted

attempt at a windshield.

Very late in life to become a killer, so he manages to slide past without

Felony consequence.

Then I see the night nurses walking fast to their cars.

At the hospital parking lot

When I arrive for dialysis

Having outpaced the snow ploughs

a couple of mornings per week.

Winter rolls slowly forward

like the trunk of a snowman

Accumulating weight and momentum,

thickening like slush turning

To frozen worry. The smallest attempts

become a full day’s load of effort.

sony nex f3 20131208 023e

old poem – Beside the Sea at Night

written in 1974 when I was at the University of Toronto



I’m down by the pier now

quietly whispering

steered by a star long lost from sight


Perhaps you’ve seen it

shining so whitely, lightly above.

Here cats carefully peeking,

peek without cat smiles

all night watching for mice,

cats’ fur is washed so clean and so bright.


My last cigarette burns a fingertip.

Frightened little spark

falling into the black, black paint.

They call it the sea.

I hear the brief stinging kiss

and the moon is fairly, squarely, barely the moon.

The moon, the moon, the moon.


Now smelling the salt air.


the damned fishing boats

gleam at their moorings

netting hung out  to dry.

Smelling the fish guts,

gulls gobbled and tore them,

fighting for room on the rocks.


Tasting the hot air,

so hot past the evening,

not as hot as the noon was

not half as hot

as tomorrow will be.



an old poem – Preliminaries to Winter

I am slowly working on  preparing a manuscript of poems old and new.  One of the problems with working on this stuff very early in the morning is that I can get inordinately impressed by material which seems to be wonderful but in the light of the full clear day seems quite a bit less shiny.  This is an old poem of mine from February 1983.  I was 29 years old when I wrote it.

Preliminaries to Winter

Trees reach out into that empty space

the wind takes, when it has a mind to.

They have an extra weight pulling at them.

Sometimes the rainwater, sometimes the ice.

They reach up, and down, and around,

all in a scarred motion.  A tricky business.

Showing your empty hand, a little

like a child’s bedtime prayer.

protection from the dark.

Sometime I wonder if all this

is just the exhalation of a familiar sense of loss.

Or the oration of a close exhilaration.

With the sense of blood in the body

and mind resting in the hand,

then the heart swings open.

Fear forgotten, for the lion is old

and much smaller than I remembered, anyway.

People surround us, waking and walking.

I pass among. I watch their eyes for time.

Pass the butter. Don’t spill the milk.

I would like to say that kitchens are honest places.

Trust in food, but no mice please. Yet a lie isn’t much.

Just a suggestion that helps the truth lie down.

A look that gets followed like water down a drain.

Her eyes were just two eyes. I recall

a cigarette dancing nervously in a hand,

the tightness of concern drawn out, a thin line

wedged out of the summer light.  He played

a simple tune for a puppet jig, but

when the strings fouled, the lines torn out,

there was only the current disturbed, all

muddied water—two tired heads swimming through,

one field mouse caught in a trap, and the rat gone.

February 1983

poem – Endless Clarity Skipping



the water ski boat curled past

the clouds looked down

marshmallows over the

blue steel soup

the crow watched me carry out the garbage

I waved at him

he waved back

I laughed all the way back to the kitchen door

stopped when I walked inside

became serious again for some dumb reason

fouled mood pulled me through the day

and half way through the evening

you phoned and got me angry

and the phone sat down again

I went outside and listened to the wind in the trees

tell me how little I know

how smart I used to think I was

how far I have slipped

then down the road a short iron golf shot away

the fox started across the road

right in the streetlight

saw me and stopped

looked at me

sat down

groomed his coat for a minute

looked back at me

and thought of something to say

changed his mind

shook his head

and walked into the cedar hedge

and disappeared

My Poem – Fictional Clarity

Fictional Clarity

I was usually lying when we talked,
trying to figure out what you wanted to hear.
It was my main form of mental exercise,
Keeping that mythical universe straight.
The real world was green when we began
And I was terrified of being understood,
Unmasked, and pushed firmly away.
We were an oddly matched set of candlesticks.
Dogs both, I read books by the freight car load,
You used them to dress a room.
You never played any sport in your life.
Your father was a monster. Mine was a Dad.
Your mother was a victim. My Mom was a Viking.
Your siblings got beatings. Was that really true.
Impossible to judge. A manipulation?
Your other specialty was to gift me a Delphi Oracle answer,
holding the mirror up for me to see what I wanted,
permitting me to stuff the fool’s gold into my pocket,
the one with the hole in it. The clarity of mud.

Maybe I was hoping to get caught,
Or gathering plot incidents for the novel
I was too damned lazy to write.
One day I realized one enormous truth
That explained a ton of moments of extreme unction.
You had million dollar taste and a sixty thousand dollar income,
Producing megatonnage stress in your life. And mine.
But then I sat down over a coffee and added up
Your list of deceptions involving
Your son and your other boyfriend.
And your best friend who drove you a little crazy
In her neediness, her long climb back
From a thermonuclear divorce.

We were in your bed cooling down like the desert slipping into night
When your other guy, the lawyer called
And you soothed him on the phone
Trying to erase his hellish day.
I sat on the other side of your bed,
Studied your back and the back of your head
In the shadows of your bedroom.
It was winter outside.
I listened to your sweet, understanding words.
Then I tried to think carefully to decode
The lies you must have been telling me.
How did we arrive at this fiction.
When could we put it back on a shelf


Poem – You are the Fellini of It

You are the Fellini of It

set me free
set the broken bones in my head
set the cup down
push me up the hill
push the door open
jump in
it is my dream
and you are the Fellini of it

all the women are ugly
the children are hungry
enough to kill for food
there are boys with AK47s
no, they are hockey sticks
no, they are candle sticks
and they are altar boys
and the church is a boat
and the devil is in all the water

the man tells me about his brother
in the hospital unable to breathe
unassisted and I remember
my mother with the oxygen tube
at home with her cat sitting
watching her as she slept
in the middle of the afternoon

I remember when you kissed me
one kiss for a world’s record or
at least my personal best of 31 minutes

that was before we counted up
every lie we had shared and then
the rest we tossed in a one way
short circuit. Wrap that up
for the Christmas tree, OK?

poem, new – “daring”


You are a long way away, Einstein far.
I am a new man and old, creaky old,
fossil in the dry river bed old,
And meaner in all kinds of ways.

You were never
this sick and never this impatient with the planet. Right.
I have perfected my snarl.  I am the old wounded
groundhog of legendary fame.  You are still Stinkerbelle

flown to another dimension, but your shadow hangs around
staring from the wall by my window.  The one I will wash next year.
You talked like a machine gun
and lit the noon jealous with your smile.

We were not made for each other.
It was a long cartwheeling car crash of an affair, looked
terrific on the movie screen right up until
we both choked on our popcorn.

Glad I escaped your clutches, the ones you used
to throw me over your shoulder on your way out the door
aiming for new toys, a better life
and another matched set of disappointments.

All we have is our past staring us in the face
daring us to blink.