Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Lighted windows

In the dockside towers the windows slowly light,
One by one, as their owners carefully file
themselves and their lives away
I see curtains and plants, posters and vases
Tiny tastes of their lives, little scraps of their being.
Inside these boxes a million worlds evolve
Betrayal, passion, boredom, lust
An opera of emotions on every floor
And the elevators divide them, shut in and alone
And I wonder, what is it like, what is it like
(I inhabit this city, but cannot say I live here,
Here in this palace, all curves and glass and light –
Beautiful, hateful, hopeful, doomed
I wonder and wonder, where it is that I am?)
In the blank spaces, where nobody lives
Under the bridges and underpasses
Unlooked-for, unloved, the places nobody creates,
there is a sort of beauty
A beauty of endurance, like those who grow old alone,
And on the bare concrete wall, I read my name:
No one.

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She writes sad songs

She writes sad songs with fancy pens
And written, scratches out again
And again she writes in smeary scrawl
A song of love and loss (et al)
And draws another damp, thick line
Through verses good or bad or fine
She writes sad love songs with her pen
Again, again, again.

She thinks, if only she were free
Her songs would spark, would simply BE,
Would simply soar across her breath
And not demand a speedy death.
Her eyes would blaze with verses true
As that is what true artists do.
She writes sad songs and strikes them out
And out and out and out.

I wish I could relate the end
Of my sad-love-song-writing friend
For all I know she writes them still
For good, indifferent, or ill;
And if her pen sleeps peacefully
I hope the same is true of she.
This is the most we can aspire:
Continue on, if we desire,
And find some happiness if not,
Forget – and be forgot.

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Simple pleasures

The simple pleasures remain, at least.
If nothing else, they do remain –
A sunlit glow through a covered pane,
A breeze, a scent, a sudden taste,
A fine-turned phrase or a soft embrace,
They remain. They remain.

If nothing else, hold on to these
These quick-sweet moments, darting bright
Hold on to life and hope and light
All you who breathe, here, now, and still
And still beneath the ocean’s swell
We remain. We remain.

There is no answer, no way to peace
The rot within us will come out.
No cure, no change, no turnabout
This is the fate our hearts maintain.
But the simple pleasures, they do remain.
I do not know how long.

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New poem

Toronto poem

When in the dusk the postern lamps are lit
And over fallen leaves the padded feet begin to tread
Of leashed dogs circling blocks in friendly packs –
the evening air assumes a quiet gentleness;

as lighted streetcar windows pass, all headed east
towards dark red velvet pubs, all brass and firelit
And every syllable’s weight begins to hang
so heavy, as I and nature return to soft
and dark and sweet and smooth and bed.

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Note: If you don’t know who John Yoo is I suggest starting with his Wikipedia page. Then listen to The Torture Memos by my band, the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra. As you ought to know, this is a piece of creative writing that in no way reflects on the life or experience of the real John Yoo. I’m sure he has absolutely no trouble looking at himself in the mirror these days.



A dialogue


I am not an evil man.
In fact I am rather a good one,
kind to animals, generous to beggars,
a good son, a timely taxpayer, a good neighbour.
I always pay more than my share of the dinner cheque,
I never leave my bins out after garbage day,
and my house is well-kept, neat, painted,
in accordance with the bylaws
of my Home Owner’s Association.
So tell me, Abyss, why I see your face
in this perfectly clean mirror
on this perfectly ordinary day. (more…)

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Untitled #whatever it is now

This will count as yesterday’s post if I manage to write another one today. The challenge, I am not failing it…yet, but I am not doing spectacularly well, either.

Anyway, here is poem I wrote on the train ride back from London, asking the all-important question: What would the suburbs look like after the zombie apocalypse?

Along the line the houses stretch out
backs facing, blank windows like empty eyes
these human habitations, cells in the hive,
I see nothing within and nothing without.

Impossible to say, if all of us died
tomorrow, that anything would change –
the blank back houses would look the same,
impassive, distant, petrified –

and all along the silent line
to stretch until the end of time
the silent houses would remain
forever and ever. Amen.

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*Warning: this is kind of a long post. It does have a poem in it, though.*

I don’t know if I’ve told this story before. If I did, tough. It’s important to me.

When I was in 3rd year university one of the things I sang was a Poulenc song cycle called “Calligrammes”. (Yes, my fellow Poulenc nerds, I *know* it’s a mezzo/baritone cycle and much too low for me. I had a terrible case of mezzo envy at the time.). Never having sung Poulenc before, I asked my grandfather to get a me a recording of it for Christmas.

And either because he forgot the title or couldn’t find it alone or because he was just an extremely nice person, he bought me a 4-CD set of the entire Poulenc vocal oeuvre.

Now, when I was in school I worked part time shelving books at the music library. This was a boring and repetitive job made tolerable by a) it being less disgusting than working in, say, an orthopedic shoe store, b) the opportunity to surreptitiously browse while putting things away, and c) you were allowed to listen to your Walkman or Discman as you worked.

(Yes, the IPod hadn’t even been invented yet. That’s how old I am.)

So I took my new Poulenc box set and I listened to it over and over and over again as I put copies of “The Well-Tempered Klavier” and “The Best of Lerner and Loewe” back where they belonged. And I absolutely fell in love. Poulenc became one of my favourite composers.

Buried in the middle of (I think) CD 3 was “Parisiana”, a little 2-song set of poems by Max Jacob. The second one, “Vous n’ecrivez plus?” (Don’t you write anymore?) stopped me dead in my tracks. Partly because it sounds an awful lot like the theme from “The Muppet Show”, but also because it affirms the dignity of the artist stuck working a crappy job to survive.

Anyway, fast forward about nine years to when I started doing the lounge act. Mostly I do Kurt Weill, Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra, and New Order covers, but I thought “Parisiana” would fit in well. So I translated the first song, “Jouer du bugle”, fairly faithfully and added it to my set. But “Vous n’ecrivez plus?” stumped me.

So since I have a show coming up (April 26 at the Cameron House) I thought I’d finally take a stab at it. Instead of trying to translate Jacob’s very France-specific list of shitty Parisian jobs, I used my own list of Canada-specific shitty London and Toronto jobs. Here it is:

Don’t you write anymore?

Did I sell you your Toronto Star
At the local corner store
For you to say, in the Arts-Life page
That I’m immoral and insane?
That my verse goes from bad to worse
And I’m as bad as Charlie Sheen?
Did I make you a fancy drink
At Starbucks down at Richmond and Queen?
I turned in my hat – next one’s green!
Did I sell you a pair of shoes,
Clean your toilet and your room?
I don’t mean to bitch, whine or bait
Make you cotton candy at the fete?
Champion and judge of all,
Arbiter, if you’re arbitrating,
On Friday night against a bar.

If you want to hear it with music, come to the Cameron House on Tuesday, April 26, 9:30!

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