My poem The Geography of Desire is now up at “Kissing Dynamite”, a stunning new online journal with zest and vision! My deep thanks to editor Christine Taylor for giving this particular poem a perfect home. We are a baker’s dozen and each issue features one poet with commentary – insightful and interesting (Andre Lepine for this issue) – so please enjoy. And for any poet friends out there, do consider submitting to this fine journal! Monthly themes arise from the submissions and the turn around time is very quick. And don’t you just love the name of the journal?
Do I have to go to school today?
my son asks from the womb
of his blankets. He’s looking past me
out the window where the sun has burst
through the branches of the backyard
trees, holding its own branch of light
out to him. He wants to paddle it
like a canoe all over the local lake
of sky, until his arms are tired and
he drifts the glad tide back
to where he began.
There’s a right answer
and there’s an answer that feels right,
that comes out arms swinging
in front, feet pointed forward,
no eyes in the back of its head.
Tell me, whose heart hasn’t once
pleaded for a grim green chalkboard
to be erased of battles and dates,
the heavy book closed, grass left
to grow over those graves, tickling
the bare sole of a foot instead?
The heart that will not negotiate
its interior beat has its own history
to live up to, opening and closing its
chambers like the doors of a classroom,
sending new blood out into the body
of the world. Such a river—though
I have the power—why slow? One day
he may stand on the banks of another river,
studying a small face he loves, bright
with its question, this page falling open
in the dusty notebook of his soul.
This poem was first published in North Shore Magazine before appearing in my earlier chapbook “Stealing Eternity”. My son was about 10 and it was a wonderful experience of sinking into that moment, the two of us suddenly oblivious to the rote demands of the day.
A hard uphill climb past faultless
rocks and towering tribes of trees—
heart, leg and arm muscles
pumping steadily, sweating so much
I become a sea of tiny rivers
heading for a self-determined shore,
my lungs emptying, filling, in an
incoming, outgoing tide of breaths
bridging the centuries:
I breathe the air of the living
and of the dead, of heroes and
villains, of those asleep—curled
tight as buds, and those who’ve risen
to reap the blossom of their genius.
Molecule by unforgotten molecule,
the gasp is laid against the sigh.
Now, simply inhaling the storied air
between mountaintop and valley
and returning it, warmed, into the world
becomes historic and intimate,
an act of love in the arms of creation,
a means to living largely in the smallest
of ways, like the length a lotus stalk
will grow to uphold a lily pad.
How my lungs still heave! – as if they
know that breaths not deeply breathed
will amount to a life not fully lived
in the carnal kingdom of the body,
its ecstatic depths not drunk from.
That if I thirst for this, and cannot speak—
so parched my lips—I must climb then
the trail of every tear that can.
An older poem, inspired by the mountainous landscape in which I live, first published in North Shore Magazine before being included in my earlier chapbook “Stealing Eternity”.
As if I hadn’t walked this path
thousands of times before,
I walked slowly from tree to aging tree,
crunching through their brilliant fallen leaves.
Rounding a corner, the boat-dotted sea
rolled towards an undisclosed horizon.
As if I, too, might not know what lay ahead,
I found myself, for once,
standing down from the helm,
sailed by a mounting wind,
waved through the branching shadows,
no hand to stay the heart’s rudder.
As if there are paths within a path,
many journeys, but only one destination,
my feet rose and fell on their own. Begin here,
where the current is strongest, my heart said.
And I strode through that tide of colour,
all the world new again, and I, young.
Another (older) poem from my chapbook “Stealing Eternity”.
Its aged roots like umbilical cords
still pushing into the womb
of their earth mother.
Its stalwart trunk
at the centre of the dancing
Its free splay of limbs
no posturing of the soul,
human or not.
The buried questions
that find their way here,
some even answered
in a mutely mysterious way.
This is the great oak
whose address I remember
whose gnarly throne of silence
I ascended once in a dark hour
when the moon, with a fatherly hand,
drew an amazing gasp
down around my shoulders:
the light by which the bark of my body
listened, then became the listening
of lobed leaves
for more than wind or rain,
became the long roots
until I too reached from the earth that held me,
with praising hands.
This is a poem from my first chapbook “Stealing Eternity”.
that spoiled his view of the ocean:
the tree had the last word,
ending its considerable life
with the Chekhovian grin
of a hole in the ground
that shouted and shouted
until my neighbour
In the newspaper, a photo of a youth
taking the picture of a young couple
standing in front of the once beautiful
Ghazala Gardens Hotel:
the man, shielded
from the sun by dark glasses,
arms loose at his side,
the woman, lion-maned,
her tawny bare belly sliding out
from a spotless white pleated skirt,
both smiling those postcard
“Wish You Were Here” smiles
as if the building behind them
had not, overnight, been destroyed
by a bomb,
as if lives as innocent as theirs
had not been lost,
as if, when on vacation
one must go on
having a good time.
Or as if, having safely emerged
from the shadowy remains
of a Red Sea resort
that lived up to its name,
behind the shining columns
of the bared teeth
of their smiles,
they cannot hear
other carefully constructed
Known as ‘the city of peace”, Sharm El-Sheikh was the unfortunate target of a terrorist attack aimed at Egypt’s tourist industry in 2005. The Ghazala Gardens Hotel has since been rebuilt. This poem is included in my chapbook “Irresistible”, available from Finishing Line Press or Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.
with the precision of birds
the fishermen go out,
slickered and keen-eyed,
hands on the rudder
of the rest of their lives.
Every day, kings
and drama queens get
pulled from their kingdoms,
gasp against fiberglass,
get bonked on the head,
don’t know what hit them.
Early evening, the beaten
and the just plain beat
line up on the long dock
until the last rod-wrestler
weighs in with his picture
that stainless steel hook
a stilled, still shining body
whose open eyes stare back
from a height never imagined.
Sweet Jesus, Jack!
Another poem from my chapbook “Irresistible”, available from Finishing Line Press
the site of an ecological observatory and marine field research. You can read more
about its new purpose here
My poem “Lovers In The Lobby” is now up at Blue Heron Review. Many thanks to editor Cristina Norcross for including it in this themed summer issue: Aspects of Love. My poem is second to last, so there’s a lot of scrolling; you can read it here.
Along the way, please also read my good friend Mike Lewis-Beck’s poem “Purple Love” – wonderful to find ourselves in the same issue! And there are some stunning photos accompanying the poems too!
Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash
My poem “Shine” has just been published in Arc Poetry Magazine 86, the Summer 2018 Issue, available only as a print issue right now. Shine didn’t win Arc’s Poem of the Year award but was shortlisted for it. You can read the poem and the judge’s comments here. I am very honoured to be among the finalists and to have this poem finally go out into the world and what a beautiful journal to make its first appearance in!
I’ve been off the grid for a couple of weeks, away boating where there’s no cell reception or internet or papers or TV! I hope to post more frequently, now that I’m back and almost completely moved into our new house (on a very large island no less!).