Healing Power of Music

Got to sing! And play music last night with dear collaborator Keir Nicholl for the first time in about nine months. Reunion! We had slowly and painstakingly been putting together a set of tunes when bam, this damn global pandemic hit. I feel bad for my professional musician friends; it was hard enough to make a living before Covid.

We worked to resurrect his evocative urban ballad, The Girl, The City and The Last Ping, adapted from my poem below. We love folk music and pulled out our version of Down in the Willow Garden/Rose Connolly. Rusty but happy! Perhaps we’ll be able to record and perform in the fall. It will be interesting to see the impact all this isolation has on venues and audiences.

THE LAST PING

After the girl is gone,
long gone, out of character,
statistical, presumed dead,
the Verifying Department
hops to, sniffs out
the revelers, especially
the life of the party,
his liquid engine of beer.
Anyone with information,
to confirm names and addresses,
substantiate stories?
They watch your gestures.
Read your face.

Last seen wearing a blue ski jacket,
white blouse, black jeans.
Phoenix tatto ascending
from the right hip.
Bright, unintentional dropout,
inadvertently delinquent.
Boyfriend person of interest
according to the RCMP.
Always. Constable passes the flyer.
Her cell phone may be dead,
last ping traced—pinpointed in fact—
to here. Right here. Last known location.
Right where we’re standing.
This town. Your pretty little town.

Fuckin’ A.
Check your property,
your shallow ditches.
So petite, she takes up little space
in the psyche,
turkey vultures lead us
not to her
body but a deer carcass.
Parents pray
to repair the squabbles. Home.
Local kids clam up,
weighting the secret with smoke.

A teenaged girl can forget
she’s graduated
the fenced-in yards of childhood
to this vast plain
where condoms provide safety,
sympathy muttered.
She forgot
townies find transcendence in fury,
one vaguely recalling
Eminem shouts,
a catfight in the backyard.
She looked kinda posh,
smashed-herd fumbling,
fawning, pushing. Over. Under.
Dancing. Sending her sailing.

For my Best Friend on her Birthday

We two at my 50th birthday celebration on Molokai

Cathy and I met when we were fifteen and sixteen years old. We clicked immediately and have been tight ever since. She is fierce, intelligent and a savvy businesswoman, always supportive of me, my penchant for poetry and various endeavours, including my son, her godson. She is precious to me and during this arduous Covid time we’re reminded never to take anyone for granted.

 

 

MORE KIN THAN KIN

I often wonder about her,
my soul sister,
often on the other side of the world,
her roiling mind, her great girlish heart.

My sister in wildness,
hoots and laughter here in my ear
no matter how far she may roam.
Her mirth, her spirit, boost.

She’s ascended through more clouds
than most mortals and certain avians,
roamed continents, I vicariously thrilled
or at times boarding the flights together.

We are content in each other’s company,
however distant,
witness to each other’s parade of lovers,
cavalcade of wrath and sorrow.

She is with me
after school, raiding the refrigerator,
fighting my little sisters
or her big brother for the stereo or TV.

No matter how far she may roam
she is with me,
careening down misty country roads
at two in the morning,

dodging skunks and lost heifers.
She is with me drinking tequila
when no one else did,
because no one else did.

She is with me
at every wretched event
that paltry town hosted.
She is with me

dropping acid in Hope, gathering shrooms,
slimy goop by the time we arrive at the bar.
She is with me,
sneaking into the house past curfew,

bribing the cocker spaniel with cocktail wieners.
She is with me,
thumbs out,
riding endless summer BC highways.

She is with me. I won’t let her go.
More kin than kin
we feed off each other,
each return to each other a return home.

 

RETURNING TO THE MOVING IMAGE

 I hope! I’ve compiled a list of my videopoems for a friend working to get me on a panel. As you may know, I founded the Vancouver Videopoem Festival as a program of the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre and then Visible Verse at The Cinematheque. If I’m fortunate I will produce a new one later this year.
The audience is along for a wild ride in How To Remain with a compulsive protagonist resolutely heading toward an elusive goal of perfection, perpetually struggling to stay on, to stay thin.
Tart, taut and terse, Haley’s honed poems of lust and loss, wrath and remorse are imbued with hard-won insight and subversive wit.
Sins are more sinful when the whole town knows.
Swoon Bildos-Director
Fierce, full of stiletto irony, verve–yet rife with sensitivity, Whore In The Eddy explores a winding road of twisted fates.
Beyond Goth
Bushwhack compels the viewer to see—and hear—the forest in an entirely new way.
A blackly humorous, kaleidoscopic trip down Memory Lane, the car a metaphor for power, an extension of desire. Katrin Bowen-Director

No Family Is An Island

Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi

UPDATE:

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I’m re-posting this post from Oct 24, 2011 wherein I documented our autism journey, its heart wrenching challenges. Since then our son has attended Capilano University to earn a certificate in documentary filmmaking, worked a stint at Electronic Arts and attained huge success with his RAYCEVICK YouTube channel. With half a million subscribers, he’s blowing me out of the water! More importantly, Lucas has become a fine young man and an even stronger individual.

My baby turned 17 yesterday. My baby is autistic. ASD. Aspergers. On the spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder, largely characterized by a withdrawn personality to varying degrees, a condition I’ve become all too familiar with, a very nuanced condition. I don’t like the term disorder. I believe there have always been autistic people, people whose neurology is wired differently, both the highly functioning and severely affected. These days it’s called “neurodiversity.”

A colicky infant, I noticed my son’s language delay around age two. I took him for a physical examination and a hearing test, both of which provided relief and positive outcomes. The next step was a visit to Sunnyhill Health Center for Children in Vancouver where he was subjected to a series of tests and evaluations by a team of pediatricians, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and social workers. Junior was diagnosed with a “moderate to severe language disorder,” which to this day bemuses me. Though late, Junior was talking, albeit not as well as his peers. Being my first and only child, I had nothing to gauge his behavior and development against. Being my son’s matrix, I didn’t detect inconsistent eye contact or social awkwardness. We were bonded, Junior affectionate.

Speech therapy was recommended and for the following seven or so years, we worked with a series of speech and language pathologists, one so horrid we turfed her after one visit. Yes, he needed to learn self-regulation but my son is a Continue reading

2021 WAYS OF COPING and transcending the moment…

Dramatic spike in Covid 19 cases, the highest they’ve been. The dreaded third wave has hit and hit hard. BC Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced restrictions for the next three weeks. Bar and restaurant owners are freaking out. No indoor dining. They’re struggling and so many businesses have succumbed. We’re all so weary. What to do except wait it out, cope and hope for the best, and for me, write. Some of my recent output concerns the pandemic but not all because though it feels interminable, this moment will pass. Knowing so might be a rare perk of getting older. A couple of years is nothing in the big scheme of things. So hold fast my pretties, the end of this particular dread is near.

 

2020 WAYS OF COPING

Wiggy weird times
clamorous as a bouquet of wildflowers.
Reports have become necessarily wacky,
democracy a debacle.

Pimp among men
plunked into this particular space and time
to the amusement of some,
the dismay of many.

Some may squeeze white icing
onto chocolate cookies,
bake,
because murder is wrong.

Some may hump, some may waltz
to the harpist on the front lawn,
dance,
because murder is wrong.

An armor-nosed afflicted
squelches his noisy couch
to sit and devour a lonely hotdog
as nearby lung assistant dutifully

spins a homespun door prize,
a personalized No Smoking sign.
He scans channels for virus news.
Genetic detective work

claims it’s jumped
from bat to human
to mink to human,
mutating along the way.

He bolts for a bladder relief visit,
returns to scribble,
write,
because murder is wrong.

THE LAST PING-Itching to Collaborate!

I haven’t produced a videopoem since 2012, since moving back to the Big Smoke and starting a business. Gots to pay my (astronomical Vancouver) rent. Like many people, I have more time these days; perhaps it’s a good time to adapt this poem, The Last Ping, to the moving image as friend and colleague Fiona Tinwei Lam is encouraging. It has mutated into song, in collaboration with guitarist pal Keir Nicoll. We’re discussing this next step, anxiously anticipating meeting up again as soon as possible, continue music-making. Is it just me or is the wait excruciating? The end of a marathon is the most daunting though and requires discipline. We’ve come this far with health intact, I’m determined not to blow it now. (Knock on wood!) Rock on and remain well my pretties!

 

THE LAST PING

After the girl is gone,
long gone, out of character,
statistical, presumed dead,
the verifying department
hops to it, sniffs out
the revelers, especially
the life of the party,
his liquid engine of beer.
Anyone with information,
to confirm names and addresses,
substantiate stories.
They watch your gestures.
Read your face.

Last seen wearing a blue ski jacket,
white blouse, black jeans,
Phoenix tattoo ascending
from the right hip.
Bright, unintentional dropout,
inadvertently delinquent.
Boyfriend person of interest
according to the RCMP.
Always. Constable passes the flyer.
Her cell phone may be dead,
last ping traced—pinpointed in fact—
to here. Right here. Last known location.
Right where we’re standing.
This town. Your pretty little town.

Fucken eh.
Check your property,
your shallow ditches,
So petite, she takes up little space
in one’s psyche;
turkey vultures leading us
not to her
body but to a deer carcass.
Parents pray
to repair the squabbles. Home.
Local kids clam up,
weighting the secret with smoke.

A teenaged girl can forget
she’s graduated
the fenced-in yards of childhood
to this vast plain
where condoms provide safety,
sympathy muttered. Crocodile.
She forgot
townies find transcendence in fury,
one vaguely recalling
Eminem shouts,
a catfight in the backyard.
She looked kinda posh,
smashed herd fumbling,
fawning, pushing.
Over. Under.
Dancing.
Sending her sailing.

 

PLEASE PROVIDE CAMOUFLAGE

IMAGE: KAth Boake W

Though disconnected during these pandemic years I continue to seek. Compose. For you, rough draft of a prose poem, my first in many years, inspired by dear friend Jhim Pattison; sweet, kooky neo-surrealist whom I miss terribly. We could talk for hours, about everything and nothing. An avowed alchemist, Jhim was a stalwart guide on my inward journey toward peace.

 

 

CAMOUFLAGE 

The land is a mother that never dies. Who said that? Victor would know. The 80s was the video decade and 1989 the year my dear friend Victor’s mother videotaped her will, farewells. Tenderness immortalized. My friend was not left out of the will, in fact Victor was the executor. A good son, the kind of son I would be fortunate to reproduce someday, a fine young man, foreign concept in the 80s. Aside from Victor, who shared unerringly, especially his apparitions. Blackbird red against a sky wall of dust, paper doll in firewater, deer head in earthquake debris, uncovering an angel face in the snow. “Yours!” Orca shadow on the incoming tide. Gila monsters, boulders and yucca trees. He took me to the sleeping giant desert, to hear with my own ears thrumming deep within bells of pale blooms, in the fossils of mammoths, sloths and giant bears. Look down. Beneath our feet. Treasure! Look up, past your head. Condors bending the boughs, light a diaphanous linen sheet. Beats! From within, from without. People being people must conjure up gods though red army ants conquer these hills each day. He took me because I forgot to leave. “See, it’s painless.” Let’s live here, in that cloud-cloaked cottage of stone, kit foxes for neighbours. Look at the way she moves through the chaparral! Loping, then bounding, coat the colour of sand, invisible to golden eagles. Cloak me Victor, please provide camouflage. You’re the only soul who can.

FATHER HUNGER

We enjoyed a highly romantic Valentine’s Day. Snowed in, my beloved kindly brought dinner; homemade butter chicken, aloo ghobi and rice. It’s a blessing, spending time with a fellow foodie/sensualist.

I’m reading Eavan Boland’s  inspirational Journey With Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet, thinking about my relationship to my father. Or, fathers.

“And he, the supremely important and attended-to presence.” Despite all their conflicts my mother treated my father that way, always providing the lion’s share. In return he belittled her. And largely ignored his daughters, until angered. “Standing over their statements, their promises. Looking up at them every morning, I felt like what I was, what I would always be: a daughter.”

That resonates. I still feel that way, all these years later. Hence the following poems. Dear old Dad’s been on my mind lately. Haunting me. Father hunger? So many of us are afflicted. I’ve worked hard to accept that I will never win his approval.  C’est la vie.

 

SUMMIT

Our ruthlessly peculiar family
reached its zenith
by conquering ten years
of inertia, indecision and delays
to leave the sun struck flatlands
with ninety-three bucks
and several shreds of dignity.

A mountaineer cannot be confined
to the wide-open prairie,
he must ascend
those fabled Goliaths,
made to see over
but dammit his daughters
must see them,
nay, live in them,
for them, as he did.

A day later the Rockies
emerged from the horizon
shrouded in their immortal grandeur.
Hours later, in a squall
and far from our coastal destination,
the loaded down station wagon
broke down at the top of Rogers Pass.

Dad steadily made his way
through a maw
of flying snow and frozen scree
to the nearest settlement.
We, snivelling, huddled
our skinny girl bodies together
in a nest of blankets and parkas,
blissfully unaware of the lives
mountains take via avalanches,
fern concealed crevasses, hypothermia.

His landing in a bantam mining town
provided a foothold of two years,
working to pay off the motel bill,
squirrel away savings for the final lag
of our journey to Vancouver,
its peaks and a new chapter of peril.

 

MY FATHER’S CHURCH

The four of us hiked together
nearly every Sunday
regardless of season
though we didn’t call it hiking,
we called it going for a drive.

A drive could involve fishing,
prospecting, duck hunting,
huckleberry or hazelnut picking,
a frozen pond. Lungs shivering,
ice-skates anchored my flighty mind,
my sisters’ willowy limbs.

A drive could involve cutting
down a hemlock for firewood,
near misses with black bears and logging trucks.
To our delight, Dad would carve whistles
out of mountain ash then wince at the racket,
much the way he cringed
whenever I pointed to shiny pebbles

and shouted, “Gold!”
“Fool’s gold.” “They’re still pretty.”
Once I found porcupine quills on the forest floor,
foolishly jabbing them into my thigh
instead of placing them in my pocket.
As determined as I was to pull them out
by myself I could not, astonished to discover
that those buggers truly are barbed!

Embarrassed and dreading his contempt
I said nothing the entire ride home
where I was forced to announce
the unbearable pain with a yelp,
offending needles
promptly removed with pliers.
I don’t recall anger.
My father was at peace
in the woods.

NEW IS NOT OVER

Image: KAth Boake W

Songbirds are visiting! Chickadees, towhees mostly. I must work to shoo the neighbourhood’s felines away. I disinfect the feeders once a week to keep rainforest mould at bay.

I’ve been reflecting on how different life has become in this new year. While the pandemic continues its inexorable spread, causing dread, fatigue and grief, other aspects have improved and I am far less isolated. I used to love a somber individual; judgemental, overbearing, withholding and embarrassed by my exuberance. “Okay, settle down.” No wonder it didn’t work out and, never again. “Exuberance is beauty.” -William Blake. I’m determined to spend my precious time with those who accept my flaws and idiosyncrasies and encourage my enthusiasm, expression.

 

JANUARY 1, 2021

 

She’d feared beginnings were over,

that she was caught in a maelstrom,

huffing beneath a perpetual

same-old, same-old,

that the annus horribilis

truly was eternal,

lockdown a revolving door reality show,

Morpheus at the helm

of each interminable day.

Hope gone. Stolen,

along with human desire,

physical contact. Libido

in stasis. Half-life.

Half-over.

 

Yet here she is

at the dawn of a new year,

dancing, as if at a party,

new beau-spurred,

new beau a gift

sharing turquoise and flowers,

new beau bedded,

awakened from her slumber,

transformed by a kiss.

In the morning light

dark chocolate in coffee

makes for a mocha.

New twist for the new year.

 

Things happen,

including the unexpected,

even within this odd limbo.

Life forces cannot be halted,

neither by virus nor firestorm.

And to her surprise

she finds that she is free.

Free to muse, free to expand,

free to chance it all,

free to say anything,

anything at all.

He wants to hear it all.

Hallelujah!

New is not over.

 

COURAGE REQUIRED & What A Difference A Week Makes

 

Happy 2021 my pretties! A couple of first drafts, writing still saving my psyche. Rock on and and remain well.

 

 

BRAVE

Noise Manor born
leather swaddled brave, swoon worthy
Lizard Prince, skull branded,
wicked brained and lens-handed.

Shades conceal peripheral glances.
All-seeing oracular eagle eyes
take me in, propel me
future forward faster

than the magic bullets whizzing past.
Once the tousled raven-haired
son with the most sun,
expert stick handler alights

upon a daily industrious tear
through the cities,
playing power tools guitar style.
Ripped t-shirt death wishes

upon a rock star came true
for so many of our comrades.
Avian marked forbear spreads his wings
to shelter, nurture fledglings.

Knows not fear. Relentless fighter
lightsabers frenemies. Relentless suitor
bears roaring mouths of lily,
slams shut decades of black door

to open a portal to light.
Owns his skin, owns beats like no other,
owns a heart that beats like no other,
worn on David of Michelangelo arms.

Redboned record lover
basks in our spotlight
and is here now.
At last.

 

ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HOWE SOUND

Image may contain 1 person,
dog, plant, outdoor and nature,
according to social media.
Grief out of the picture.
Do we really need
another photo of another pet?

No one else had to mourn
when our mutt expired.
They cared but only being polite,
island vet carting away his bulk
for three hundred bucks,
SamIAm’s passing sad
but no tragedy.

A chaotic death that occurred
while I was on the mainland.
Sam had puked in the morning
before I ran to catch the ferry.
He often vomited after devouring
everything in his path; colossal
mushrooms, deer poop, beetles,
voracious as he was vicious
toward other dogs or ducks.

No fur baby this hound,
though adorable and adored
by our posse,
kids riding him pony-style
or tossing sticks for hours.
My hapless, overwhelmed,
home-schooled and home alone
teenaged son called in a panic,
horror I could only imagine,
sickened as he described
peering into Sam’s unseeing eyes,
I unable to help or take charge.
Dammit! On the one
day I have appointments in town.

Attempting to shield my beset boy
I had not yet instructed him,
warned of the cavalcade of loss
steaming its way straight for his soul
ruthlessly as a tugboat.
There is no way
to illustrate its impact.
Gentle or tough, hushed or brazen
no one is spared from that particularly cold,
hard fact of life.
Hold Fast,
about all one can offer.