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

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


old poem – Montego Bay Resort (1996)

from The Black Cat Walks Down (1996)


Montego Bay Resort

click here to return to poems' list at the top (for L.)

I waken in the bed
Sunlight begins to fill the room
Opens my eyes wider
But it is not you

The fan spins above my head.
I can hear the surf
The sheets of cotton hold me
In the smallest caress
But it is not you

I stand on the balcony
See the sand and water meet
Feel the wind on my bare chest and legs
Pushing gently at me
But it is not you

Later floating in the sea
Counting clouds then closing my eyes
I feel your hands
Support my head and back
But it is not you

That night when I turn the key
coming back to the room
The empty room
The aching empty room
Is full of you.

Poem – An August Report

The cat is licking the dog’s ear
like it’s an ice cream cone
the bay is singing a little louder
than the leaves whimpering in the wind
the humidity cracked like a giant egg
after the thunderstorm blew through

this morning at dawn in the blue grey light
before the sun was really awake
I watched the heron walk slowly
in the shallow water of the shore
to catch his breakfast