Thursday, March 9, 2017

What's inside a Rattlesnake Rattle?

             Well. . . . . . . . . . . WHAT??

Two men named Bill (and other poems)

Blogger's note. It's been a while since I felt like sharing my poetry with anyone. Having it "rejected" - booted back in your face for decades - leaves scars. It is traumatic, as is hearing, several hundred times, "We really like your poetry, BUT. . . " 

One editor said, "I hate to turn away what might turn out to be the next best-seller, BUT. . . " (we don't think it has the quality we're looking for). That kind of casual cruelty disguised as compliment is nearly universal in publishing.

The horror of the Stephen Galloway affair ripped the veil off Canada's publishing Mafia, and I am now relieved I will never be a part of it (though I spent the better part of my life longing for it, jumping at it like a balloon that always popped up out of my reach).

It's not that I haven't been published at all. A dozen or so poems over that many years simply wasn't worth the grief. But here some of it is, mostly written a while ago. It means something to me. More than I can say. There's quite a bit of it here, because I've found in the past that if I do a Part 2, no one reads it.

I would say     

I would say that you are springtime,
That lambs
could not be lovelier: laughing bells
Of eyes bright with seeing,
the shining, shone of you.

I would say that you are a
Renaissance painting
of a beautiful woman:

So restored
that the paint gleams; its sheen
Fresh from the brush; its wetness
smelling new.

I would say that you are living
Water:  I see tiny
perfect selves, suspended
upside-down in the silver
Merriment of your eyes.

If true, then I would say that you are
Not my brother; but some other; some
me not yet thought of; next year’s


cast lightly (God’s amusement)
over waters

rendered still.


sweet shy
dark girl          I’ve seen her

here before
she always wore the best clothes
(silvery things/bangles
feathered skirts
necklace made
from the teeth of a wolf)
now I see Gina in the ward

kitchen.        Still beautiful
part Cree                            her hair tied back

she shows me the tracings of
partly-healed               gashes
sewn back together in
a gridwork

on her arms,                                            wrists.

She must be twenty or so
No one comes to visit

Once she had a boyfriend
but he got sick too



This is a strange
Horse I ride, feet
Pointing up, all bloodless and blue
On a long trail of ether.

My brain swims in a vault of chrome
through the removed murmur of voices
and a distant
Clinical clanking.

I will emerge now, slick and
purple as a baby.  The surgeon’s eyes
Crinkle over the mask.

Hands cool as paper, hands that have never
Handled a snake, patiently suture
All of my holes.  The work is true.

Emergency waiting room  
Which is worse:  the spilled
smell of
or the sound
of magazines
growing older
in this
ticking house of death?



My heart unclasped
One day in your office,
Suddenly, all in a shot, the catch
Broke loose, andit
Fell behind a pile of files.

I did not mean to;
It was an accident of gravity.
Earth reached up and pulled it down.

I stood dizzy,
My centre lost, the core
Riven.  It felt silly
to lean over like that.

My face grew hot.

There was no way to put it back.
The space had grown over already;
The fall had changed me.

I left that place different,
Looked outside.  The light
Hurt my skin.  The world
was a new color.

I wiped my eyes, and kept on walking.
A small place
in my chest
Grew still with singing.



(a)     indigo eyes

I am the salt
you are the sweet

        My heartsprung

(horse) of the air,
au clair

ah! care,
to the/stables,
     Drenched with the scent
of hens of hay
of tree:  your/      odor

(of salt
(of sap
(of sea

b) cunningerotic

Lip, let me laugh
You.  Set the salt
           Sally, sashay down
               The hay of my mind.
                       hairborne:  Your
                         face a chiming, a
                                     Brining.  The
                                          of your


c)       Fifth chakra (for ray lynch)

a blues tunnel
blamed open

pitched down
to the base of the soul

                                                                 Mermaids spinning
                                  in your throat, Dear
                                                          heart:  shining vessel,
opened for a song,
shut open,

Wept for a penny

             by / dreaming 

Love is no quick thing

(a halfsonnet/explanation)

Love is no quick thing, Saltstream surprise
Unevening your pearling teeth at dawn:
Quick!  like a foxglove/silvertail is gone,
It tips the world’s rude balance/wild surmise.
Inside my glands the trump of lovedoom cries;
with white kidgloves I’d pluck your soulstrings’ songs
(Inside my brain your lovebeat
dongs and dongs

dongs and dongs

dongs and dongs
                                                                                             and      dongs


Saxophone (for Bill Prouten)

i don’t know who invented this
reflexive question mark of an instrument

but i think it was a good thing

for it’s great to look at,
with fat keys like frog eyes
and a big bell like royal jelly
you could keep flowers in there if you wanted to,
extra socks
or even a clock

Snakes kink too
and this sound is snakey
purply mauve as the deepest bruise
and raunchy
as a man in love

smoked as some cat of the night
disappearing over a fence
it makes leaps
(but only because it has to)

There is no
morning saxophone

this is a sound that
pulls the shades down

a hangover
fading to twilight
or the blackmost
belly button
of the night

Few can wrap their lips around
this gooseneck
without some harm coming to them
for this is an instrument
with a long history of
hollowing out
all but the most hardy

Bird flew into a pane
of glass and was

we don’t know why it does this to people
(maybe it was mad at him
for taking it all to such extremes)

but how could you blow this thing

i ask you

how could you rear back
in some great pained whiplash of the spine
without a sense of
terrible commitment

i never much cared for
saxophones myself
until i heard one blown correctly at last
jazz is a genre i will never understand
but perhaps that’s good
for like the priesthood, one must enter into it

without question
or doubt

two men named bill

i love two men named Bill
and one of them is fancy
one is plain
i love one for his looks
the other for his brain

and when we are together
(and especially when not)
such yearning for his body
pulls apart
the art
of the life i’ve made
here in this patch of shade

one Bill plays the saxophone
the other Bill washes the floor
one writes songs and sucks on bongs
and one’s worth dying for

i’d run away with one Bill
but that doesn’t mean i’d have two
the laws of the world don’t work that way
i’d have to choose
or lose
both Bills
(which would kill


one Bill made two babies
one just made me rue
one Bill’s a restless bachelor boy
the other is painfully true

there are two
sets of eyes
one brown
one blue
four eyes i love so well:

see my soul reflected in the
searching blue
fall in cognac amber
‘til i drunken drown

i love two men
and both of them are Bill
there’s a cost to loving them
so well
when god presents his bill
i’ll have to pay my way
and choose
or lose
both Bills
(. . . which would kill


Gone west                                                         

It seems in my life I have always
moved west, New Brunswick, Alberta,
the boardwalk behind the Quay;

it’s a left-handed sort of life
driving me heartwards, though never,

no never,


                                           that day
when I thought I saw you/  on the boardwalk
my guts jumped:                       it
jerked the hook in my colon
(you always knew about bait)

You know how it was:    I wanted to stand on my desk
on the last day of classes
and shout:  o captain!  My captain!

But you had your own rotation – I saw
it reel from view, and

(helpless to catch you)

watched your spiralling apogee

What is the remotest segment of an orbit?
Booze, blondes.  Too much of
a good thing.  But I did love you.
We wandered, Pooh and Piglet in an
Escher maze, searching for heffalumps.

You calmly said, “Watch this,” and set fire
to my mind.

I saw you as the human yoyo, bobbing up and
sleeping, walking the dog, in and out
and ‘round the world.

I knew you’d be back, like hounds,
like a cycle of blood, like black
fruit springing into tree.  When the
string broke, I hid my eyes, and
said, but it’s only a lute,
it will heal itself,
half-hoping I was wrong.

I don’t know why or how God looks
after you, beached like Stanley’s whale,
stared at by the curious.  I don’t know
how God manages.  It was beyond me.

And so I kept on moving.

Good morning, Marilyn!