All posts by Heather Haley

THIS LOVE NEVER DIES…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this Valentines Day eve when I’m feeling more than a little disillusioned with romantic love, I will share a poem about a mother’s love for her son. Truly eternal.

FAMILIAL FANTASIAS

In the languid night’s tender glow,
through labyrinthian processions
upon an infinite summer catwalk,
we glide beneath a banana tree canopy,
south of the equator where snowbirds go.

Here we are soul sisters once more,
flaunting our glittering gowns,
tittering, kisses flying
though jasmine-perfumed air,
enveloped in a gauze of unbridled bliss
until, within this splendor
no one knows where my son is.

Panic ignites a creeping ivy of dread,
blossoming into a frantic search
the way I searched the one time I lost him
in waking life, when he vanished
into the maw of a vast supermarket,
leaving me to frantically call out
for an eternity/five harrowing minutes,

his absence now a shadow that grows
with the passing years, perhaps a catalyst
for the portraits of Junior that surround,
each frame a shrine to the fleeting nature
of moments.

In his realm my son reigns supreme,
an architect of worlds,
weaving narratives,
parading his own grand designs.

“…The Poet’s Dust…”

Happy Robbie Burns Day! My son and I only unearthed our Caledonian roots seven years ago. After posting Family Tree DNA test results, a cousin and genealogical researcher contacted me and from there, the search began in earnest. She found a fairly close relative which eventually led to our long-lost Ferguson clan/kin. Thank you, Amy, you’re an angel!

We come from a long line of Robert Fergusons and I like to imagine we’re descendants of Robert Fergusson, the 18th poet who “ led a bohemian life in Edinburgh, the city of his birth, then at the height of intellectual and cultural ferment as part of the Scottish Enlightenment. Many of his extant poems were printed from 1771 onwards in Walter Ruddiman’s Weekly Magazine, and a collected works was first published early in 1773. Despite a short life, his career was highly influential, especially through its impact on Robert Burns. He wrote both Scottish English and the Scots language, and it is his vivid and masterly writing for which he is principally acclaimed.” This article discusses the influence of Fergusson on Burns.

I was fortunate to visit Edinburgh for the first time last fall and certainly felt right at home in a city that reveres literature and honours poets, including this statue of Robert Fergusson who “was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard. Robert Burns, who admired his poetry, arranged for a headstone and provided the inscription in 2004. “No sculptured Marble here, nor pompous lay, No storied Urn nor animated Bust: This simple stone directs pale Scotia’s way, to pour her sorrows o’er the Poet’s dust”.

Perhaps my seemingly mysterious penchant for verse and love of language, which always puzzled certain people, might be explained by our heritage and inspired this poem.

ACT NATURALLY

Ferocious as I am elegant
I did not ask for this
protracted neck, pale plumage,

penchant for the pond.
I may appear to be gliding
but my palmate feet paddle.

Neither did I ask to be a versifier,
foolishly speaking
in the voice of a swan.

We did not ask for this fate.
Who in their right mind would,
the gift of life bestowed without consent.

Born with words in my mouth, placed
by an unseen hand, an omnipresence
whether I believe in divinity or not.

What does it matter, my faith?
I can identify with a hissy waterfowl
or the Virgin Mary’s quiet grace.

Blame it on nature.
Biology. Perhaps a tribal resonance:
Yeats, Baudelaire and Burns whispering.

Words surge forth, a torrent,
language coursing through my veins,
language etched in my bones.

PAGE BABY PURGES

 

 

 

Happy New Year my pretties! Eat my dust defamers and bloodsuckers; I am not only moving forward, I am hurtling ahead, resolute and able to compose consistently. Latest poem, first draft:

PAGE BABY

Forecasts foretell the fading rustle of paper,
echoing the decline of oracle bones
and though I roam a boundless digital domain,
treasured scrolls still clutch my heart.

Cull your darlings, for eco’s sake,
as I grapple with releasing their tenacious grip;
bankers’ boxes tucked beneath my bed
brimming with artifacts; broadsides, pamphlets,

postcards, chapbooks, flyers, now contained,
finite, defying the allure of documents.
My successors may not revere their significance,
no meaning when I’m no longer here.

Thus, I must sift and winnow
before my journey into the abyss,
allow ephemera to dissolve into the ether,
including the once cherished,

purging a sort of strength planning
amid life’s gyrations,
as to better leave behind
these oh so poetic chases.

Seeing As Our Desires Guide Us…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A work in progress for those paying attention. Thank you. I’m diligently toiling away on two books, my fourth collection of poetry and a rewrite of my novel, which buoys me amid daily heartbreaking news of strife, war and disaster.

SIGHTLINES OF DESIRE

Seeing the mountains,
however distant buoys me.
Grouse Mountain presides
outside my window,
its Eye of the Wind turbine intrigues,

the way beholding a constellation’s sprawl
casts enchantment,
the way beholding you
enthralls,
the way we stood apart together,

contemplating Vincent’s eyes and irises,
engulfed in cascades of cobalt,
amid a sea of raw self-portraits,
lost in ecstatic undulations,
imperceptible dilations,

transported from the shackles of realism
to a realm of painterly distortions,
to Saintes-Maries,
unfurled before us, as if a canvas,
a portal to the 19th century.

I see your mammal gaze,
sinewy strokes, tumultuous vigor,
the disastrous mettle of your being.
We carve our vision, craft sightlines,
allowing desire to guide us.

GEM IN THE GUTTER…and fuck fentanyl!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough draft, in the wake of another tragic loss.

 

GEM IN THE GUTTER

You were my high
while we were high on life

until crushed by despair,
fatigue of the repetitive kind,

a nostalgic young adult
needing a fix

for the ceaseless crick
in my neck stiff with deadlines.

It was time to become awful,
truly awful, beyond whiny nuisance.

As entertaining as scrolling,
slumming came naturally.

Nothing like the frisson
of secret knowledge to inspire,

my trophy skin
a transdermal channel to oblivion.

A whisper of fentanyl =a boom of TNT.
Ah, progress. How far we’ve come

from slugging rum to facilitate
amputation on the battlefield

to a substance so potent a whiff
can dispatch an EMT.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat,
forget that I am mortal

until the hazy downpour of squalor
viciously stung, and the time came to crash.

PETER SCHJELDAHL, POETIC ART CRITIC

 

“Art has many mansions,” according to revered art critic Peter Schjeldahl. I turn to his articles first. I’m old school, still love magazines and will indulge in a copy of the New Yorker when I can afford one.

“Today the most compelling tend to the tumbledown.” I ponder “tumbledown,” how it applies. Are we to the point of aching for the past so badly we favour anything vintage or gaudy? I suspect nostalgia.

Interrupted by a ding. I forgot to turn off Notifications-a comment from a frenemy taking umbrage with a Robert Kroetsch quote I posted: “In a sense we haven’t got an identity until somebody tells our story. The fiction makes us real.”
DF: “So, Harry Potter is real? Lots of books about him. How about Spiderman?”
“Yo DF, ask a 10-year-old. Both are excruciatingly real to that crowd.”
DF: “Huh?”
“No doubt Kroetch meant “real” figuratively.”
DF responds with, “Bullshit.”

Apparently it’s vital to explain my folly, prove his point. Troll. I don’t respond with “troll. “I may curse like a laid-off oil rig worker but refrain from discord however thought provoking, preferring to employ the Block option. I can live without winning, will happily collect triumph elsewhere. I return to Schjeldahl’s The Medici at the Met to marvel.

According to Wikipedia the guy is a poet as well. The highest form of literature. Explains his facility with language. I highlight resonant phrases: “…virtuosic artifice.” Yes, feigning demands feigning well, going for the gusto. “…ornamenting a milieu of preening style
and often freewheeling Eros.” “Helldogs.” “Vulgate.” “…accidently burlesque ways.” I would like to employ “burlesque” thusly but these days people associate the term with strippers instead of its true meaning, parody.

Sexism. DF’s problem I suspect. I dared to eschew  “…the golden circle of his regard.” Expectations; everybody’s got ‘em and I’ll never meet his.

Sadly, Peter Schjeldahl died October 21, 2022 and I am only now posting this tribute. I’m grateful for how he enriched my linguistic repertoire, awed and inspired with his wit, insights, nuanced semantics of expression, and made me laugh.

Rest in peace Poet.

Poet & Impresario IAN FERRIER taken too soon…

This is the effect Ian has. I adored and respected and admired this kind and gentle man so much; dear friend, poet, collaborator and indefatigable language art instigator. Singer. Influencer. I will miss that singular voice. Effect.

Sadly Ian left this mortal coil Friday November 3rd. Much love and condolences to all his friends and family.

 

Photo of Ian as a young man beautifully captures his beautiful soul. Rest in peace Poet.

WE SOAR

Photo: Peter Haskell

“We will soar, for we are armed
knowing where the lies land us.”

My son and I recently visited New York and the 9/11 memorial, which was equally eerie and moving.  Though effectively a tourist attraction, it was beautiful, evocative and respectful of the souls lost. I wrote the poem below a couple of years after that terrible event.

I still love flying. How human is that, to continue to take risk in the face of tragedy and despite fear? Courage or folly? Both?

SOAR

Before you-know-what, you-know-when,
I flew in an airplane. I won’t say what.
Or when. People are sick from it.
NASDAQ crashed. Family plan with it.

I remained on the upswing. Going somewhere.
Chicago specifically, e-poets’ geo-conference.
I am digerati. A doyenne of new media culture.
Still, airport security confiscates my apple.

My orange. Half my dinner. They take nothing
from the hinky, hacky-sacking Travis Bickle
doppelgänger who must pose more of a threat,
though that’s like comparing potheads to divas.

Pick up my e-ticket. Wait with the other sulky,
wannabe passengers, SeaTac muggy as a laundromat,
air fouled with KFC. Machines vend to the grounded.
Concrete pillars tremble in the wake of each landing.

Since this is before you-know-what, I don’t assume
a 747 will take out the Space Needle or land
right through us. I don’t equate ‘jet’ with ‘bomb.’
I need only worry about the quake. The Big One

Vancouver and Seattle—sitting queenly
upon the Juan de Fuca fault line—are overdue for.
I am anticipating flight, savouring my thrills,
bumpy joyrides, like motherhood.

Junior calls. Yes dear, Mommy will be home soon.
Before the split, his father cautioned us:
Mercury in our mouths. Vaccines.
Population control. Microwaves.
A conspiracy of urologists.
Fluoride. Fallout. Wheat.

He has found a healer. Can he be cured?
We all know I’m doomed to be infected.
I’m the one who will eat tainted salmon
at the barbeque, the one with stretch marks

and eyes closed in the photographs. The one
who defected, the one who didn’t want
what he wanted, sixteen hours on a film set,
baby languishing with a sitter.

He gets on the phone. Another forecast.
I dreamed you died in a plane crash. I saw you
flailing about in the ocean with your books.
Oh stop polluting my trip with your Eeyore pooh.

I am part of a feminist plot against fathers,
and it was a controlled explosion
set off by the U.S. government.
Suddenly he is solvent, taking me to court,
re-staking his claim to our precious cargo,
crusading to save his son from the new world order.

I board. Window seat. Always, despite dire warnings.
Junior likes to compare the people to ants.
Houses are Lego, mountains, papier mâché.
We land. Kurt appears in the flesh, our virtual rapport
downloaded to O’Hara minus the time-outs and errors.

I feel at home in Chicago, loose in its Loop, towers,
Art Institute. Go to live in Chagall’s epic blue
glass dream for a day, emerge bestowed with wings,
like all his lovers and madonnas.

I have not flown since you-know-what,
you-know-when. We are saddled with dread
after witnessing steel crumple like tin.
It is safe to grieve. Cockpits secured.
Air marshals on board. We will fly again,
prepared to take down any motherfucker
who thinks he’s going to hijack anyone.

We will soar, for we are armed
knowing where the lies land us.

ARSONISTS AT HEART

As my heart breaks, I send love and best wishes to friends and family in affected areas and a work in progress from my forthcoming collection. Not much solace sorry, just truth telling.

ARSONISTS AT HEART

Supercharged ambiguity, uncertainty
in overdrive, the opacity of an interminable
summer of corrosive fumes obscures
culpability as we mince toward oblivion.

Hurly Burly Commerce Fair
and haggling traditions continue,
the haze’s origin indistinct from cause,
human error upon human error,

extinguishing efforts wasted
on an alleged civilization
barrelling toward its expiration date,
beyond band aids of sea walls,

green treaties and carbon taxes,
our boreal forest so vast
we burn instead of cut.
Arsonists at heart,

we rely upon smoke screens
to keep the status quo
propped up against
the altar of human industry.

Language in my Blood, language in my Bones

Apparently, I’m a throwback. Shared this with my long-lost sisters. Now I can tell those who ask where I acquired my bent for writing; my DNA! Brushing up on Scottish history, I found reference to Robert Fergusson, the poet.

I only discovered five years ago that I’m a Ferguson and descended from a long line of Robert Fergusons, also the name of my biological father. This Robert Fergusson was an “18th century poet who despite his short life is widely considered to have provided inspiration to the Scottish Enlightenment and for having influenced the likes of Robert Burns and Allan Ramsay.” I will look for him when I get to Edinburgh. And he was quite the bohemian. “Fergusson involved himself in Edinburgh’s social and artistic circles mixing with musicians, actors, artists and booksellers who were also publishers.” Sounds familiar.

ACT NATURALLY

Ferocious as I am elegant
I did not ask for this
protracted neck, pale plumage,

penchant for the pond.
I may appear to be gliding
but my palmate feet paddle.

Neither did I ask to be a versifier,
foolishly speaking
in the voice of a swan.

 

We did not ask for this fate.
Who in their right mind would,
the gift of life bestowed without consent.

Born with words in my mouth,
put there by some outer force,
whether I believe in divinity or not.

And what does it matter, my faith?
I can identify with a waterfowl
or the Virgin Mary for all anyone cares.

Blame it on nature.
Biology. Tribe vibe perhaps:
Yeats, Baudelaire and Burns.

The words burst forth,
language in my blood,
language in my bones.