January 2009

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Paper elephants

They lurk that way on the edge of dusk their piston feet pummeling dreams of Bourbon Street until the euphoric chords of mardi gras no longer giftwrap lovers or hold voodoo dolls at bay and yet the sun must still be somewhere running soft fingers down tanned backs and swaying through magnolia trees in a song not fraught with paper elephants or soldiers deserting or lost young tenement women running to the bathroom to vomit up their loneliness at four in the morning the clock the clock ticking life sentences from the mantle and a saxophone mourning kings and jacks flattened in the chaos and why do paper elephants always arrive uninvited and leave bodies behind in rumpled sheets heartstrings snapping like toothpicks until there is only the silence of winter sun on a crashed plane and nothing holding tight to nothing until one small sound rises at last in the vaccuum and a door opens in a small cafe and two hands touch and something flits in the pastel dawn and dancers rise from wooden chairs and flow wordlessly into the morning as paper elephants starve in lights too bright to feed upon.

© 28 March 1975


the sun sets
the way it does
over any batch of
bad buildings
mired in smog
but there is the feel
even the first time
of something
quivering
caged with energy
Manhattan maybe
calling across the clatter
or a home run
still rising
from the ghost of
Ebbets Field,
Dylan maybe
crouching on the E train
or a cop with a gun
pointed into danger
it’s there, something with
long fingers
a hero in trouble
a soul passing
as day dies in Brooklyn.

© 17 January 1976

A week before


waiting now
       and wishing vaguely
I feel this room inch in
images like wings flick past
a hand
   a scarf
      a wave somewhere
one split second of
spring in a field
               and tell me
can you know as well as I
that something careful is
     about to break
and who knows what it means?
an hour
     a mile
             lost kiss/forever
if only I could fence tomorrow in
and if only wishes counted
I’m afraid of forgetting
the minutes beside you
and the way of your eyes
     at the window
something careful is about to break
and it quivers like a thread
                       I want to
tie the hands of the clock together
and wait until the waiting settles.

© 26 April 1976

Second wind


In the second wind
grey armies march
with less precision
through the hometown
and are not so easy to hate.
Seasons ask more questions
and conclusions limp with
wounds from the front;
there are fewer victories
and fewer voices
in the second wind
and I have learned that
I will never be able to
juggle all the parts
without help from many.
In the second wind
there are holes in my shoes
and I do not mock
lightning bolts.
Enemies haunt
less by might than by
asking directions;
some have become
neigbours and I am torn
by what to say
to their children.
In the second wind
I am a stranger
within my own ribs
and I no longer trust
bright ribbons or
promises frozen
by portrait painters.
Dimensions are endless
and calculations get
blown to dust by
notions of anything
constant, which is why
memories deceive and
scrapbooks etch
dangerous shadows
across the morning.
In the second wind
I attack soldiers
not platoons, and I am
more careful of what I kill
and the ghosts I plant inside.
There is less beauty
in the second wind,
and less ugliness,
and I am smaller
that I thought
I would have to be.

© 28 June 1976

Such a long time


You might be dead
or old with wrinkles
it seems so long
since we held each other.
The last time was Sunday
two days ago
in this dusky apartment
with the rain falling.
The next may be
tomorrow
or in an hour
but I am not sure
I can wait that long.

© 17 June 1974


Butterflies pass quickly
are gone
and leave threads of
anxious pain
along remembered rings of
ecstacy
clocks stop only
when time dries on the tongue
or it is about to snow,
and I am aware
so that my breath catches
and tomorrow hisses vaguely
aware of
your tanned outline and
head turned,
your ring
shooting sparks across
fragile heart miles,
I am aware that
you will not be there
tomorrow.
A vacuum gathers
it looms,
it waits
clocks ache
you are beautiful
butterflies pass quickly

© 18 April 1976

A piece of blue sky


Your name
until nine days ago
was a stranger
asleep inside me
I assumed it was dead
and tore up the poem
perhaps that’s
what awakened you,
anyway
you’ve caused a nice commotion
in the castle
and my fingertips
keep asking about you
when you’re gone
yesterday I sent you
a rose
and oh yes
the maid said after
taking you tea this morning
that the snow was
gone from your dresser
and you’d put up
a piece of blue sky.

© 30 March 1976

The pensioner


Within his simple world
inside his third floor room
the best thing is
his diary
kept faithfully
year through year,
not one day missed
since 1932.
The knowledge that
it can be written down
inscribed upon the page
makes it better
to go out for razor blades
or three more tins of soup
and it’s pleasing
to check back through
the pencil marks
and find that it snowed in May
or that Bill came in with a bottle
three years ago today.

© 25 January 1971

Election campaign

Tonight there will be
the rhetoric
the noise, the smoke
and the crowded hall again.
And we will sit once more
at a table on the side
and scribble intensely
to capture the words
and cheers,
the tempo, the colour
and the best town band.

But now is late afternoon and
we have yet to meet, to work
and face our deadlines
which is why
this road from
Grand Falls to Plaster Rock
is longer and lonlier
than it should be
in the dying of this day
the trees so bare
the sun so low
and the hour so all my own.

© 6 March 1971

Dead lovers


There is a hopelessness
in their going home,
arms linked without touching
the moment a corpse
between them,
home just a number
on some door in the night.

© 1973

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