December 2009

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The ritual

On Christmas Eve
my father got his axe
and we walked out the road
to the woods where we
searched along the brook
for not one but two
evergreen trees
and cut them down and
carried them home.
Thus the ritual began.
The first, always
a little rough
and less pleasing,
was presented first,
my father propping it up
by the window
in the living room
for my mother and
sisters to inspect.
they circled it
like birds from the sky
until one by one
the flaws began to appear
- a thin spot here,
a poor limb there,
too spindly on the top -
and a consensus was
swiftly reached that
this tree would not do,
whereupon my father with
a certain practiced sadness,
carried it back outside
and waited just a little
before returning
with the second.
It never failed.
Invariably it was
deemed a big
improvement on the first
and granted wide approval,
some years
judged so highly that it
was still being praised
on New Year’s Day
when the lights were taken down
and the tinsel was put away
and we pitched it out
with the first one
on the snow behind the barn.

© 2007

Men in orange

They are not men
but ghosts in orange with
surly mouths and cornered eyes
shuffling in sixes to
the tune of guard boots
down corridors that
go nowhere,
forever and ever in this
world without end, amen,
ah men without world
such as men are made
by Canada in this
21st century of our lord,
here in our great white north
of born-again government
and human rights for all
except the right to be human
behind these walls.
I see them come
I see them go
when the hour is done
and ponder the sadism
of identical orange, this
vulgar brew of red and yellow
red for ritual election anger
yellow for the cowardice
of penal politics in these
pious poisoned times.
There is nothing here
but the nothingness of
two and three and four to a cell
eight by eight by twelve feet long
bad feel, bad words, bad dreams
the sweat, the heat,
the stench of animals
shitting microwaved food
down foul steel toilets
and never a glimpse of sun
or an honest inch of air.
Beasts live better than this.
Lights glare and cameras stare,
doors whir and click and clank.
Some nights I almost
run when it’s time to go,
guilty for washing my hands
guilty at noticing how beautifully
the moonlight falls
on the razor wire.

© 2009

October doorstep

She was a scarecrow
after the harvest,
there in her unrocked chair,
Indian summer falling
like a mist around her,
so old, so silent
   the fields cut bare
   the cattle gone
   her cane asleep
   against the doorknob
obselete flesh in a black dress
waiting, waiting
for the final page to turn.

© 1974-2009