Tag Archives: Heather Haley

IF I SHALL HAVE DESCENDANTS

 

The life force and the pandemic persist. We abide. Endure this volatile time of anti-vaxxer protests holding up hospitals and a fourth wave. I think of the future, my son, my one and only precious offspring and wonder what I’ve gotten him into. At 27 he is in no hurry to settle down and have children. Certainly I don’t blame him. I was so ambivalent about the decision that I didn’t give birth until the last possible minute. A good decision, it turns out. He will never be one of my regrets. I do suffer grandma envy though. Who knows. The future is unwritten. Apparently I must write about it. And as uncertain as it is, can only speculate.

 

IF I SHALL HAVE DESCENDANTS

Shall I presume my descendants
will not know my name?
Shall I presume
my descendants will not care?
I care about my grandmother
though I never knew her.
Do I know her mother’s name?
That could be a short bloodline.

Our descendants are busily alive,
some having served in Afghanistan
immediately after breast stroking
through university, its Olympic sized pools.

Several are currently detained in China,
suspended within an excruciating wait
for “quiet diplomacy” to kick in,
while others populate
pandemic frontlines in hot spots
India, Brazil and the U.S.

This is no time to cry.
There is no time to collapse
though we must seek stress relief
and quality sleep; eight hours
every night. Seven minimum.

We have birthed the same soldiers,
priests, evangelists, titans,
police and politicians
every other generation conceived.

Perhaps our influencers,
media personalities and content creators
can save Mother Earth.
I suppose that qualifies as hope.

Is she still referred to as Mother Earth?
That’s what this sweet old orb
is to me and my generation,
the generation young folk
are relieved to see dying off,
for they are more
than mere descendants,
they are redeemers.

I hear the birth rate is slowing
in parts of the world.
Perhaps our descendants
are our mothers.
Know best.

IT ISN’T EASY BEING GOLDEN

Not me but all the phenoms I’ve known. I moved to Los Angeles in 1980 with bandmates Brad, Karla and Randy and our hopes of fame and fortune. The 45s were to open for PIL at the Olympic Auditorium. It was a big deal but we broke up mere days before the event. Like a Lost Girl I wandered, first to San Francisco then New York before returning to the City of Angels where I resided until 1992. I pulled together an exceptional group of musicians to form Heather Haley & the Zellots. Jon Wrasse on guitar, Jeff Moses on rhythm guitar, Mark Francis White on drums and a revolving door of bassists. We acquired a studio, rehearsed and played gigs and developed a strong following, nominated Best Pop Group by the LA Weekly Music Awards. It was a wild ride! Often we’d hear that an A&R guy from some major label was going to be at one of our shows and often it went nowhere. Always a huge let down and I came to realize those dudes had no power at all though they exploited the illusion.  I also realized my shot at the brass ring was diminishing as I got older. This is Hollywood after all. I slipped into a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, unable to see my behaviour was a consequence of feelings of failure, how it provided an escape from pressure. When I went down there I had no doubt I would become a rock star. Ah, the hubris of youth.  I often joke, “I could write a book about it. Wait, I did write a book about it!” My “incendiary” novel, “The Town Slut’s Daughter” depicts the perils of the music industry from a female point of view.  Yes, I can joke about it. Human beings are resilient and c’est la vie.  I found the North Star, survived and adapted other modes of being while continuing to write about the experience in poems like this. (A rough, first draft.)

STRIDENT BIRTH RIGHT

Swoon worthy.
Some rock stars are.
Some rock stars never get old.
Others never die.

Photography came to canonize,
characterize mannerisms,
exalt sin, hips,
the vulgate that is dance.

Photographers subjectify sassy,
singers swallowing microphones,
virtuosic strummers riding bareback,
commanding drummers commanding
from their fort-kits.

Some rocks stars are regal
despite tiny stages. Taunts.
Their facility dazzles.
Essentially lost, rock stars
are trip takers.
Seekers
of song and snowberry clearwings.
Finders
of the lyric.
Diggers
unearthing a distinct call,
inimitable inflections,
a new primitive narrative,
voice,
turning the inward outward.

The hard part; keeping it,
in spite of thieves and saboteurs,
in spite of despotic CEOs,
in spite of The Road,
dry states, dead-eye
melt downs and plank walks.

Hard to hold fast in spite
of blinding lights,
deafening volume,
dizzying flights,
the series of lavish homes
and incessant swooning.
Phenoms must find the North Star
in spite of all the din.

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

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.

 

NOVEL DREAD *Pandemic Poems* Licking my wounds, Writing verse

 

“A wounded deer leaps the highest.”-Emily Dickinson

That’s all I got. Poetry. It’s enough, it sustains me. I’m not deliberately writing about the pandemic or this past year of heartache and dread but naturally one’s preoccupations well up from the subconscious. Take good care of your good selves my pretties.

 

PUNK NUN

She lives well
In this below,
Cast out,
Sheltered in place,
Fallow, content,

Sobered by conditions,
Winter bare
Limbs in place,
Stirrings put to rest,
Apart and rooted at last.

Above the maelstrom
Beyond pangs, chastity,
Fallers/timber tramps
And snares of the past;
Disconcerting desire,
Elusive union.

Vying as little as necessary,
Shy in nature,
She could not attach,
Each coupling, grafting, ruined.

Called “Tree”
She had budded late
Though normally enough.
Rarely penetrated
Though impaled repeatedly,
Conceptions sloughed,
Intimacy a confabulation,
Contortionist offerings spurned,

For when she spoke
Her paramour did not hear.
When she entreated
He did not respond
With tenderness nor sustenance
But rather, grizzled calculations.
When she wept
He promptly left the building,
Rendering her mute,
All clarity in his wake.

All that past now.
She lives well
In this below,
Cast out,
Sheltered in place,
Fallow, content,
Sobered by conditions,
Winter bare
Limbs in place,
Stirrings put to rest,
Apart and rooted at last.

 

NOVEL DREAD

Our newly acquired reflex
Is to move away
The moment someone,
Anyone, approaches.
No time to waffle!

A novel dread of others encroaches.
I’ve often feared others
But now have more good reason.
She might be asymptomatic.
I might be asymptomatic!

We are all shady,
Questionable,
Possibly bandits
Behind the gaiters,
Loitering in the lobby,
Lone carollers,
Solo celebrants.
Partay!
No longer an option.

Nostalgia attack.
I can feel him beside me
When I close my eyes,
Try to sleep at night,
Adept as he was
At removing himself,
Even as we lay together.

Desire for oblivion runs deep.
We craved solitude,
Wished to be alone
And now, utterly alone,
Masked, gloved, concealed,
I wonder
How autonomy survives
A mandate to flee one another.

 

UNSAVE THE DATE / Plague poems…

…say it all, and certainly better than I can in prose.

Try to spill my guts here but I’m never comfortable revealing too much. Apparently I’m a “super-social introvert.” Still I’m not used to this degree of solitude though it equates with freedom, once I tamp down the anxiety. Been writing like mad and happy to share some verse. Stay well my pretties.

 

 

UNSAVE THE DATE

Plague year pall
Over wedding season.
Gloomy groom,
Abbreviated bride-
Hamstrung planner.
Perhaps temperature checks,
Accessorised, matching masks?
But who will admire her lipstick?
How will she kiss her lucky guy?
And who will smuggle in bliss?

While florists go broke,
Whiskery best man’s relieved,
Happily ensconced in his bunker.

 

STILL IN THE KNOW

Does the city teach
Rudiments of urban life?
The corolla, how to sport a crown?
Both must be embraced
To be assimilated, to be chic.
More difficult is learning
To accept my mother,
A Québecois oddly named Corona,
That she skidded into me
While seething squarely.

There had been glimmerings,
As when a hoodie
Becomes a hood,
A mask, camouflage,
An errant clarinet
An instrument of spite.

As when a spangled nation
Tingles or spews
With nothing in between,
Might diffused, though might enough
To take us down with them,
With their rusticated dogmata,
Joy-sticking, foot soldier jingoists.

Boots on the ground
As the coastline burns,
Orca blubber boils,
Pretzel-stuffed crows
And black-lunged raptors plummet.

Messages mauled before delivery,
I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.

 

 

SKOOKUM RAVEN Has Landed!

She persists. Due to a reversal of fortune six years ago I had to leave my island home and return to the city. I started a business which left little time for poetry; reading or composing. Despite that and with herculean effort I’ve managed to produce a third volume of verse and today announce the launch of Skookum Raven. I am able to take joy in witnessing manuscript transformed into book, forged in the crucible of coronavirus. I am still a page baby, a re-emerging page baby. Poet.

I won’t discuss poetics-leave it to the rigour of critics-or defend the form but certainly the right to employ my voice, to claim a quality of life, as life invariably ebbs. There ain’t nobody that can sing like me. I know my purpose and it’s my way of staring down the abyss.

Many thanks to my publisher Ekstasis Editions, to friends and family for their love and encouragement. Here comes the show biz:

There are some rough and wild birds around Howe Sound — West Coast avians like the sharp-shinned hawk, the northern harrier, and the whiskey-jack. Heather Haley, an accomplished mapper of human migration, pair-bonding and predation, takes these feathered frenemies as her starting point in this assured third collection, Skookum Raven. Like her foremothers and contemporaries Gwendolyn MacEwen, Susan Musgrave and Karen Solie, Haley writes sophisticated free lyrics of a witchy feminist kind — but adds some proletarian ferocity with her bus-station grandpas and sketches of iffy guys like Ed the Fence. These are astute, austere poems which sometimes take flight into optimistic beauty — this book is “pockmarked with luck.”

Skookum Raven is a text for the tricksters within. With spondaic pow-bams of language, these lyrics harness neologistic energies to evoke punchy lust, back alley bravado, and coastal croonings on sex, the wild, music and time.” -Catherine Owen

“Tart, taut and terse, Haley’s honed poems of lust and loss, wrath and remorse are imbued with hard-won insight and subversive wit. Her wry x-ray eye cuts to the quick in an array of deftly drawn portraits that will make you grin with recognition. Haley is a master of assonance, consonance and dissonance, intermingled with flashes of a distilled lyricism”. – Fiona Tinwei Lam

“Heather Haley’s Skookum Raven honours the west coast with brilliant side-eye observations couched in words drawn from a wide palette, from Chinook trade language to Pussy Riot. She brings us on a stroll through the village, showing the underbelly of every house and garden, then deeper into domestic disharmonies and unease in relatedness, writing sharply from a woman’s point of view. If any reader has become lulled with the beauties of west coast living, she will shake you into more fulsome awareness of the “hard blessings” shared. “No lotus-eaters we…”-Joanne Arnott

“Haley has the gift of writing to suit her subject in all its raddled variety, from wired and jarring to lyrical and tragic.”-Vancouver Sun

For a preview check out the Skookum Raven book trailer.

If you’d like a copy please visit Ekstasis Editions’ website. Also, contact Ekstasis for details or to arrange appearances, events or media opportunities. For further information: Richard Olafson or Carol Sokoloff    Phone: (250) 385-3378    email: ekstasis@islandnet.com

 

CALAMITY JANES

Feeling embattled? Pour vous, a poem, a work-in-progress for what is there to do but document and reflect as we shelter-in-place? I lost it the other night. In the past I would have run away, though I am seriously considering moving to the Cariboo. “I hate this fucking place!” I feel so hemmed in by the constant racket of various types, the astronomical rent and cost of living. But perhaps it’s just urban life. I miss the woods. I need a vacation! The world needs a vacation. And we aren’t about to get one anytime soon. Again, hold fast my pretties. And as BC’s Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry says,” Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

CALAMITY JANES

We are the beleaguered,
The beleaguered are we.
Each one of us, beleaguered.
Each day, week, month, year;
Beleaguered with corona virus
Or tuberculosis or autism
Or leprosy or slipped disc
Or clubfoot or schizophrenia
Or acne or blindness
Or polio or chlamydia
Or angina or endometriosis or diabetes.
Plus, depression.
We beleaguered are beleaguered
By tornado, earthquake,
Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, forest fires,
40 days and 40 nights of flood.
Plus, anxiety.
We are beleaguered by riots, misogyny, poverty,
Racism, mass shootings or unwanted pregnancy.
Plus, oops.
We are beleaguered by sugar, tobacco,
Opioids and alcohol.
Plus, whatever gets you through.

2020 requires we delegate
Weeping, triage burials,
Battle over ventilators,
Battle over battles,
Sequester ourselves,
Sustain and administer strength,
Swabs, masks, compassion.
Silence disquietude.
Conquer enervation.
Woo fate.
Adapt or die
As Jane asks, “What else is new?”

Why Can’t Things Be Better?

Blog

I’m not leaving. I hope! Holding on, hanging in, so far. Esteemed filmmaker friends Charles Wilkinson and Tina Schliessler are currently working on No Fixed Address, a documentary about Vancouver’s housing crisis, though they refer to it as a “housing situation.” Call it what you will, I’m determined to remain in my beloved Vancouver, though I’m not sure how. My son and I are paying $1250. a month for a one-bedroom apartment in East Vancouver, just off Commercial Drive, reasonable apparently, though I wish I could reduce our living expenses. Even with some help and while working my ass off, we are barely scraping by. Because the cost of living is high too. If only we could quit eating.  Sharing such a small space is getting old as well but at least Junior has an exit plan. I don’t.

I love this neighbourhood. It’s where I launched as an artist, sharing a funky, rambling house with band mate and Zellots drummer Conny Nowe near 34th and Victoria.  $400. a month bought us a yard, driveway, fireplace, kitchen, dining room, pantry and four bedrooms. The scene of many festivities, we converted the basement into a rehearsal space. My boy was born in another funky East Van pad near 1st and Victoria 22 years ago. I’ve lived in this city most of my adult life, resent the fact that I might be forced out. The property management company that runs my building insists that tenants sign a new lease each year wherein they raise the rent to whatever  amount they like. At the rate of $50. per lease renewal I won’t be able to afford to stay. I’d like to settle, focus on work and writing but will need to move again in the not-too-distant future.

Many friends have already left, for the suburbs or even the prairies, especially if they want to own a home. I could go back to the suburbs-grew up in Cloverdale-but I’d be going back. I need to be near the ocean, the wild and fantastic ocean. Perhaps I could move to Horseshoe Bay, or Lions Bay, clean houses in West Van and North Van. But, of course, finding anything cheaper will be a major challenge, perhaps impossible.

We shall see. There’s always a trade-off. Can’t have it all, etc. “Things could be worse.” Sure I’ve endured tough times, times when I had no place to live or enough food to eat but I’ve always responded with, “Why can’t things be better?”

I am trapped but cannot stay. Can I? It’s a huge dilemma. I know I’m not alone and Vancouver is just the latest city to be affected. The problem is global in scale. No solace in that, nor solution. Which obviously, is what I need. Gawd help us all. Maybe none of it matters. These are the end times, I am told, and if so constitute a whole other can o’ worms/blog entry.

 

Girls with Guitars…

…the emphasis on “girls.”

Zellots-label-2-prf-page-001

Working on the Zellots record with Jason Flower of Supreme Echo I’ve had to consider time’s inexorable march, how it treads upon our minds and bodies until nothing of us remains. Also, the folly of youth, the hubris of youth. We were so cavalier about the demo tape we were making, about the band we’d created and the songs we’d composed, cavalier to the point of losing the master and most cassette copies. Oh, and breaking up. We didn’t-perhaps couldn’t-appreciate what we had. The late Peter Draper did a stellar job, recording we fools in the basement of our house/rehearsal space near the corner of 34th and Victoria. I can’t recall where or how he mixed it but lucky for us Peter was a very talented guy. Also fortunately, Jason Flower is a hardcore music nerd, driven in fact to seeking us out and resurrecting our group despite scant traces of its existence. I get the impression it’s like a treasure hunt for Jason. In that spirit and though likely a long shot, we’re going to try to track down a copy of the Lenore Herb video for the launch party. No date yet but the new master is currently in the Czech Republic being pressed. I’m as excited as a teenager about to play her first gig!