“Navigator: an Elegy for Gord Downie.”

On Tuesday night, Gordon Edgar Downie died. Gord was the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, Canada’s house band; he had had a severe form of brain cancer; he was fifty-three. The Hip’s lyrics and music changed my life, so I had to respond.

So, I won’t tell you “what the poets are doing, on the street in the epitome of Vague; I won’t tell you how the universe gets altered when you find out how he gets paid…”

Instead, I will tell you this: yesterday afternoon, I grieved for Gord Downie, who–more than any other music icon, Bono excepted–contributed to my formation as a person, by both helping me to deal with anger and sadness, and empowering me to embrace my true self.

I hope you like this.

Navigator: an Elegy for Gord Downie

I want to thank you for the things you said.
They saved my life each night for ten long years;
They spoke to me in valleys and on hills.
From you, I learned to tame the holy fire
Of anger, to turn it into reasoned righteousness.
I’m thirty-three, and I have kissed a woman,
And your words partly helped me take that step.
Moreover, Bono need not sing a broken elegy
To lay my lifeless body to rest on the East Coast,
Because you helped me to know and love myself.

You helped me hear the poetry of city streets,
To find my way in Riverdale, at busy Yonge and Bloor,
On Ward’s Island in the smiling sun of July.
You helped me hear the songs in seaborne silence, too;
In Charlottetown and blessed Summerside, your poems
Helped me to count the stones. You built my heart
Anew, so that the thin glass wall
Between me and the yearning of the world
Lay shattered, next to endless cups of tea.

You built a pigeon camera for our lives;
You carefully crafted the lens of Stanley Cups
And years of pent-up hockey songs
And quiet smells of coffee. You trained
Your careful lens on us throughout your life,
Empowering us to feel our grief and joy
Through endless rants and stark, dark dervish wails.
You broke down all the forests of Kadesh;
You clear-cut them with riffs of bright guitar.
You dragged them off to build a stately house for us,
So spacious it could harbour a whole nation
Amidst the storms of sorrow and of rage.

Thanks, man. And no, you never let us down.
The only disappointment lies with us,
Because we didn’t listen carefully enough.
Your baritone’s still necessary to guide our ship,
To sing us to a higher, joyous state
Where all those in our home on native land
Will live in equity, in heart and hand.

 

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“Connection.”

I share this one with fear and trepidation.

Last night, I felt terribly lonely. To alleviate my loneliness, I listened to a number of late-Nineties pop songs, and I cried…and I wrote this poem, which expresses deep longing for connection with another person. Particularly, I long for touch and intimacy. I owe this poem to the lovely Leigh Nash, and to John Rzeznik.

I hope you like it. 🙂


Connection

The loneliness still follows me each day,

And stalks into my visions every night.

It haunts me with a saxophone’s soft tones,

And lives on in a longing Nineties song;

I want to feel the living flame Desire

That courses through my veins like lightning currents

Turned to the laughing power-chords of Joy.

 

The ache I feel is never memory,

But only yearning for the thing I’ve never had:

I long for sweet connection, with tongue and eye and hand,

To trust that I love someone who will not depart from me.

I hear the yearning whisper in my blood,

And sing its gentle song to every starlit sky.

 

The gentle ebb-tide swell of bass guitar is not enough;

I need the stark climactic cymbal-crash of a kiss,

The whispered melody of day-long conversation,

The chance to see stars shining in my lover’s eyes.

I ache to dance with someone in my good dress shirt,

And split a bottle of wine, and then…I’m sure you know.

 

I have no patience for small, patronizing words;

Don’t soften blows with, “Someday,” or with, “Soon.”

If passion is the force that turns the earth,

Then I would feel this love both here and now,

Although it might still fall quicksilver from my hand.

“Contours of Eternity: the Return.”

In light of a great experience sharing my poetry with some colleagues in California at an academic conference, I’ve decided to reboot my book of poetry, Contours of Eternity. Here, once again, is the link to the book, newly-priced and ready to sell!

http://www.blurb.ca/b/4705289-contours-of-eternity

I hope you like my work!

“Windowpanes.”

….and here is tonight’s poetic contribution. 🙂 It owes a little to Homer, and a little (in the first line) to Radiohead. Happy Saturday!


Windowpanes

I am not bullet-proof, or comatose;

I still respond to all these stimuli.

Although I block my ears, I hear the lash

Of racist discourse on the public’s back;

Nor can the choicest cuts from R.E.M.

Drown out the shells that blast Aleppo’s streets…

And lightning-bolt guitars can’t still my fears,

My fear of failure, or of penury;

My terror that I’ll be exposed one day,

My bright words thinner than a pane of glass.

 

My poetry can make us stop and think,

But does it realize my inner self?

Can any winged words, with crowing voice,

Express the moments when my soul takes flight—

The dance and laughter of a Zeppelin song,

The steady pressure of a longing kiss?

Conversely, can my broken words convey

The stern realities of grief and pain,

Those moments when I can’t get out of bed,

When I will read the B.B.C. and cry?

 

I know my words have substance, but they’re frail.

I am authentic, but I cannot be

Unless I know the limit of my flesh,

Unless I hold myself with all my fear

And turn my searching inner eye upon

The pain and joy that I can always feel.

I can befriend the darkness, and I must;

I always love the light, and I still do,

But I can see it best through panes of glass.

“Sky-Blue.”

This one is about wanting to feel happy, and how the sunlight helps with positive emotions. 🙂

Sky-Blue

I cannot feel the joy that moves my heart,

But I can coat my hands with sky-blue paint,

And listen to the rustle of the wind.

Tonight, I feel too much, and cannot smile,

But I can dance to liquid Welsh guitar,

And meditate upon the pigeons’ flight,

And watch them as they pinwheel through the sky.

This azure paint will smother all my pain.

Its hues will force my fear to fade away

Into its tiny yellow chrysalis,

Where it will hibernate through summer moons.

My sorrow must come singing into birth,

Must whisper to my soul through sombre beats

And pulsing riffs from clean electric bass.

Joy murmurs through a haze of languid sleep,

Through mornings where I cannot feel my hands,

And bursts upon my spirit’s aching sight

Like stunning rainbows in a summer sky.

Sometimes, my aching heart will fiercely burn,

Until the tears will stream like rivulets.

Sometimes I hurt so much, I fear my heart

Will burst its ragged bonds, and leave my chest,

And beat unfettered by its bony cage.

But then, there’s joy. I sometimes feel the sun

And know the healing poultice of the stars;

The summer sun will blow away the dust

That covers all our ancient, yearning loves;

The sun shores up the temples of our dreams,

The golden edifices of our hopes,

With azure pillars and with cloudy floor.

We’ll fill the world with flowers and with song,

And dance beneath the solemn, laughing moon.

“A Thousand Summer Suns.”

On Saturday night, I was in a street party, and a concurrent party at the house of some friends nearby. This more or less narrates that experience.

A Thousand Summer Suns

I put away my tired, aching grief.

Tonight, it sits there, in its little box,

The cardboard box chock-full of dusty shards

Of broken teapots and of shattered loves.

I feel the freedom of a reggae song,

The joy and anger of my righteousness

That melts into a thousand summer suns.

I watch your lively smiles, feel the beat

Sink deep into my freely-spinning soul,

And taste the gentle bite of oaken hops.

I am the azure light that fills the sky;

I am the darkness dripping from each pore.

I dance along the tidy wooden floor

To broken songs by raving London punks

And sketches by the Rasta prophets who

Still long to storm our Babylon by bus.

Tonight, I do not feel that errant grief

That saps the joy from every living day.

Instead, I dwell within the ecstasy

Of ants collecting granules for their hive,

Of fathers dancing with their infant sons.

Of turquoise worlds spinning through the stars.

I send the Sisyphean stone of grief

Along its endless journey down the hill,

And laugh to know that I’m no longer chained

To humdrum melancholy, and to spite.

With calloused hands, I grasp the skidding clouds

That skirt the edges of the solstice sky,

And coax them down to earth, to spread their joy.

The spreading rivulets will flood the earth

With whispered peace and soft-spun dignity.

Our gentleness will win the day for us,

And bring that time when we will grieve no more,

When rivers run with coolest scarlet wine

And every plate is piled high with bread.

My grief prevents the vision’s clearest sight,

But I can glimpse it burning in my heart…

And all our hearts resound the joyous cry.

Tonight, my grief lies still within its box,

And I will write of life in all its hues.

“Song of Joy.”

Last night, I listened to Bruce Cockburn’s “If a Tree Falls,” and it gave me joy. Then I wrote this.

Song of Joy

The ringing chords, like bells, will make me strong

As sonic currents drain the dark away.

I’m borne up by the ebb and flow of song,

By carefree notes that wind around my day

Like moist Israeli vines two miles long.

The steady riff says all that I would say,

Except that, on my tongue, it comes out wrong.

This is not reason, this is joy and play.

This ecstasy is coaxing me; it’s mild,

As gentle as a western breeze in June…

And then, it comes in waves, as fierce and wild

As northern seas that churn beneath the moon.

It asks me to let go, to be a child,

To seek the rainbow that is coming soon.