No White Sail, No Sun

Supper time, you’re off—where?
a boat in the Bay?
truant again, last class
before winter break
afternoon grey
as the rail yard shortcut
to another side of town

To learn about God
from a minister
who signs for the deaf
and who leaves the office
by dark, story waiting
in his hands of a storm
flinging waves into the boat
where Jesus sleeps

But you’re not in a boat
you lie on track grass
thrown out of the world
by a freight train
you didn’t hear

In your backpack
a photo of the minister
who ends up
signing your funeral
his hands waving
into the unbelieving air
trying to wake Jesus.


Cento after T. S. Eliot

By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept
at the violet hour
for those who walk in darkness,
swaddled with darkness,
for Boudin, blown to pieces,
where trees flower and springs flow.

Teach us to care.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea.

What is that noise?
Wind under the door.

I have no ghosts pressing lidless eyes and waiting.
I would meet you upon this honestly.
because I do not hope to turn again.

O my people, what have I done unto thee?

To lose beauty in terror,
Lucretia Borgia shall be my bride,
she or the lady in the cape,
arms that are bracleted, white and bare.

There will be time to murder and create,
to be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk.

The goat coughs at night in the field overhead,
What images return, O my daughter,

Memory and desire stirring
in vials of ivory and coloured glass,
running stags around a silver tray,
the wilderness of mirrors.

Weave the wind on the mainland desert
or the rain land

Pray for us now and at the hour of our birth.

#age-and-creativity, #cento-after-t-s-eliot

After T. S. Eliot’s Prelude IV

Worn boot soles
shuffle exhaust, sidewalk
evening, idling cars;
a store-front news screen
flickers mid-east war, and prices at the pump
the hockey score;

A run-on day, one more
smoke and
one more beer
before the drunken sway
to supper
on a TV tray.

the gentle palm nailed and

suffer the little—
and all things
bright and beautiful—

            Wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh

Toy guns fire at City Hall
the world revolves like
child soldiers
cutting throats
inside a mall.


Dead Son

How little time
it takes for a young body
to unpearl

Had I known
the colour of stripped skin
clawed to bone
burned to ash

Had I known
the taste of his name
to my webbed tongue

Had I known
how a feral nail
hangs death
on a life-long calendar

I would know
the never it takes
to say goodbye.


Ophelia I

A stallion stamps under a tree
in the backyard meadow.

At the casement she dreams
he gallops to fill
the nothing she holds in her arms
with blood flowers and weeds
for her hair.

The walls of the palace whisper
her name, tell the tale
of a stallion wakening
dangerous under the yew
fennel and columbine
tangling his mane.

She wants him to ride her
past false dreams and stones
in the wall, past curtains
waving goodbye,

past the field, away to his bed
of wild grass near a stream
that’s not there.

Loving T.S. Eliot Master Poet

Didn’t you place the whoopee cushion on my chair with jokester flair?

Didn’t I praise your ears, your serious hair? Love the fuschia lipstick
a biographer swore you wore in the company of men?

Didn’t I wear the exact same hue as you?

Were you not meant to be a poet god? Communion and last rites
on holy nights writ large? Wasn’t your work a sung hymn?

A Sunday psalm chanted on the page, as in the vaulted nave?
Shouldn’t I behave? Be brave as you were, working in the dreary bank?

Didn’t I thank you? Write this? This set down?
Roll my trousers, wander town? Weren’t you the gentle suffering thing
the American innocent, sans bling, who held a peach within your guilty reach?

Didn’t I dare to eat the fruit you feared to taste?
Wander with you through the wasted streets at six o’clock?
Come to your reading, mimicking your step?

I love your sad delay, your inner dread, your literary craft
the top hat on your head, your quirky poet’s bed.

Weren’t your nerves as bad as Vivien’s at night? What did you say?
The world’s too bright? Too dead? Must I douse the light you shed
on Sweeney erect? What do you expect? Must I now genuflect?

How I love your talent for despair, and indecision
Repetition. And internal rhyme. Is my devotion to you such a crime
as you would have me gone? Can I be wrong?

Didn’t you say the gate of truth would never close?
In the cathedral, didn’t you bow, pull up your hose and vow your life
to pen?

Win a poet’s crown? This set down? Devote your time to verse?
Might I do worse?

Where You Come From

These stored images
belong to you, cracked photos
in albums, preserved
by others against rot, corrosion
drowning, page after page
old faces staring into old cameras.

Your great-great-grandmother from Russia
great-grandfather lost at sea, here
a forgotten cousin, aunt, or drunk uncle
and look, two babies
entering the crossroads
of life’s precious, terrifying moment
between birth and death.

What sound did their voices
make on wind? What stories of the day
did they tell at breakfast
or dinner, if there was dinner—
about how or where
they might have walked
or hidden, loved and cheated
blessed each other, lied

Or told of the day robins
returned to the garden
how arthritis set in for the aunt
who danced
what name they gave the too-early baby
who lay in a box on the stove door.

Look carefully at each photo
hold the fragments in your memory
and even under the weight
of their untold lives, let these faces
weave a line, an ancient thread
to lead you home to yourself.

#ancestors, #heritage