I recently had the good fortune to be filmed reading a selection of poems from my chapbook “Irresistible”. It was my brilliant son Stewart’s idea and I really enjoyed the experience! Please do check it out, if you have 20 minutes to spare:
We did this inthe Carcross Desertin the Yukon. The wind was howling and though we found a fairly protected spot, you can hear it gusting here and there in the video (as well as the odd ATV gunning it over the dunes). Many thanks to Stewart for his expertise! Here he is at Bennett Beach in Carcross:
Months now, of leaving and returning,
one birth soothing the long passage
of many griefs at an unexpected death,
your little red suitcase packed and unpacked
so often, it stands ready for the next trip
in a corner of the bedroom.
Months of fashioning a sturdy door
behind which is the home you remember,
opened and closed from a great distance,
a shell you can put your ear to
and be lifted back into a familiar sea.
But the home you remember is not
the home you return to: that mother left,
and was put like a book finally finished
to gather dust on a crowded shelf,
her absence easing a son into his own story.
You stand in the house of your making,
bereft. Once upon a time, you think.
And a dream that has slept for years
in the wide spaces beyond your words,
wakes up like a lion, the darkness roaring
This poem concluded my first chapbook, “Stealing Eternity”, still available for purchase (directly from me). You can probably tell from the picture that my little red suitcase is looking a little the worse for wear 15 years later. A lot of stories (poems?) packed in there!
A searing yowl from the rocky shore.
Again. Again. Stops all conversation
in the dinghy and we motor closer.
A lone seagull is waiting for its prize,
flanked by a dozen seals draped over
the surrounding rocks. The gull flies off
at our approach and the seals slip frantically
from their posts into the murmurring sea,
leaving one black cigar shape well above the tideline
still breathing in the bright promise of another day:
it’s a seal pup, eyes oozing oceans
of green and yellow pus. He lifts a flipper
as I tip a bucket of saltwater gently over him
and then, lips curling, sausages himself
between two rocks. I try pouring the water
over the rocks to drip down on him but
unable to wriggle any further away,
he turns his head, teeth bared.
There’ll be no mothering for this
fast-aging, whiskered face:
he will live unassisted
until the life he was given is taken back,
until the blazing August light becomes a second skin
and the lapping sounds of rising water carry him
off into the salmon-glinting sea of his birth,
until death, not taken from him,
death is all his,
rendering the blurred shapes that swam
once beside him—nothing more
than an unfinished dream.
Another poem from my chapbook “Irresistible”, available from Finishing Line Press here
Is it a miracle
that I found the worm in time—
having gone into my den much earlier
than usual, to turn the computer on—
and saw the dark, exhausted thread of its
body lying in the middle of a desert
of beige carpet, picked it up, barely moist, and
laid it outside on the wet grass, and watched
until it finally waved goodbye at one end,
easing itself into the darkness it knows?
Or is the miracle
that the annelid slid
through sealed doors and windows
to get inside my house in the first place,
that it became a finger pointing
from the Buddha’s hand,
laying at my feet its five paired hearts
and the power of intervention—
of life continued
or of death without comment?
Is there a day without its miracle,
for doesn’t one follow the other
because of a vast accordion of worms
playing now the soil’s anthem, now its dirge,
burrowing through millennial darknesses
so plants can breathe and grow, and
become the planet’s green lungs feeding
the body of this world, each inhabitant
still part of that first inspiration:
the good air of life lived, wholly inspired.
This poem first appeared in North Shore Magazine and later in New Millennium Writing’s 25th Anthology as an honorable mention before being included in my recent chapbook “Irresistible”, available for purchase from Finishing Line Press here (always in stock) or from Amazon here.
Unlike other guys
who reach a mountaintop and leave with it, move it
under the hut of the body
so they can breathe its rare air at will,
see themselves later through anything,
Guy Waterman got stuck on one craggy point
that jagged heaven: it put the bit in his mouth
he could speak to God only there,
called it his kind of prayer. And so his rosary
of left foot, right foot began, decades
of climbing the same mountain, breaking
out of the fog and cloud into a brilliance
of mind and sky. Each time harder to take
lucky boots and crampons off, wear ordinary
shoes: where they tread, a son leaves, is
never seen or heard from again; others die.
Each son lost thickening the Gordian
knot of unspeakable sorrow. How possibly
deter him from wanting to freeze in time
a transcendent moment of no return?
Love stayed his wife: at home, knowing.
Praying for a below zero night. And so
he stepped onto the Old Bridle Path,
nodding his last hello at Agony Ridge,
a few hikers headed down before the sun set.
Had a canteen half-water, half-alcohol.
Had a wind that took his breath away.
Not turning back, instead turning his back
on this world, he struck his father’s
wooden alpenstock into the ice five feet
off the trail and curled up beside it,
placing a period where the small comma
of his body would be seen. Three days passed
before friends muscled him down on a stretcher
for what felt like forever. Finally was.
This poem was a finalist in IthacaLit’s 2015 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Contest and is included in my chapbook “Irresistible”, available for purchase through Finishing Line Press here or Amazon here. I came across the story of Guy Waterman’s life accidentally and was moved to write this poem; he was an accomplished author with a complicated life. For those interested, here’s a link to his story: A Natural Death
At the dinner party, eleven people,
A striking redhead, warmly smiling—
the one whose world had recently halved.
Those of us who didn’t know
wouldn’t have known.
I’m used to death
ringing a bell that won’t stop
singing of loss as love’s
forgotten child—a call to mass
sung down the long corridors
The mouth that can hush it
speaks to me
of a love built brick by brick,
circling a great and dangerous fire,
holding that heat
like a hand to the heart
when only ash is left.
Has lips full of secret amens,
stretching a smile beyond
mere courtesy, until it cracks
me open, I who have not
yet travelled that road
or those blurred miles from home.
Night falls before we know it:
death has a thing for a man about
to retire. Like a virus, it jumps
from acquaintance to friend to kin,
no sympathy for women and children.
Taking on mass and weight, given
a name, it terribly crowds a room.
This being human—to matter.
Through our bodies. Past them.
Her smile all I can see
of love’s fierce alchemy—bright
crack of light escaping a closed door.
Another poem from my new chapbook “Irresistible”, available from Finishing Line Press here and from Amazon here
Death’s an increasingly regular face
in our crowd, mostly dropping by
unannounced, such that I, too, might
turn over one morning, prompted awake
by Brother Jake on our favourite rock
radio station and find you smiling, your
eyes still closed, and nestling my head
as usual into your armpit and laying
my left arm across your belly,
fall through the ice
of a body devoid of breath,
and wonder what bad dream this is.
Forgive me for thinking then of your
Achilles heel—your feet so sensitive,
no one can touch them. For three
decades, just the dare of my hand
hovering over an exposed foot has
got you up and running. I confess to
imagining your eventual acquiescence
as a deliberate act of love to me some
wine-deep night on holiday. Not me
frantically rubbing your feet, rubbing
them like magic lamps, wishing
This poem was first published in the Malahat Review and is included in my new chapbook “Irresistible”, available for purchase from Finishing Line Press here
Variable, the pastures hooved by lives
in full gallop, unbridled by time:
beneath the immutable drift of the sun
move the rounded and risen,
the angled and gleaming, the limbs,
wings, fins sweating with use.
Unstoppably given to their one life.
As the light gives unstoppably—
teacupped in petals, glowing
in a green persuasion of leaves,
slipping through salt-licked grains
of sand, lifted high on a spread
wing, in the flash and splash
of a salmon’s fin, between a deer’s
leap and a dog’s outstretched paw.
And this, the monopoly of earth’s
home star: a bright creeping
into the rooms behind closed doors.
This is night’s good pupil, daily bent
over the riveting texts of our world,
whose gaze, upon turning
a sudden last page, stays warm
on the straightening back of a man,
warm on his unstoppable hands.
Mid-morning along the winding coastal road,
snout pressed to the pavement: a large raccoon.
No swerving – I stop and pick it up
with an old towel from the trunk of the car.
It is heavy, striped fur soft, still warm,
little hands so like mine.
Carefully I lay the body in a ditch
thick with the honeyed leaves of autumn
for I, too, want to die untrampled.
Turning to go, I see a family
of eyes intently watching
from the light-soaked foliage
on the other side of the road,
eyes that look directly into mine.
Like any good mother, she led the way,
taking the unstoppable car’s blow,
last night’s quiet masked bandit,
locked out of our world, shuffling
empty-handed back into hers,
heaped love that padded by, unrevered,
whose conversation with this earth
is now done, opening wide
the mouths of her young.