Tag Archives: poetry

THE TIME TO FLY IS NIGH

Wing

After years of pandemic isolation, my son and I are flying off  to Winnipeg in a few weeks as part of my book launch tour and to visit friends and family. It should be interesting to see what air travel has come to. I inherited a love of aviation from my step-father, a former member of the RCAF. Forthwith one of my numerous flight-themed poems.

 

 

FLYING DREAMS

Not much to do in a small town.
We’d skip school, drive to Richmond,
hang out in the airport lounge,
swig Heinekens and watch
jumbo jets land and depart,
rarely carded in those days,
no one surprised if you drank alcohol
at age fourteen. It was expected,
like shedding one’s virginity.

My mother never flew in her life,
terrified the first time I took off
in a 10-seat Otter north to Gilford Island
for a summer job of tree-planting,
hapless recruits seated on the floor,
engine cacophony so loud I nearly puked.
I would have been mortified.
Too young to be a hippie,
I lasted four days,
relieved to escape the stench
of fried tofu and patchouli.

My next flight was south,
to Los Angeles to join fellow aspiring
rock stars Randy, Brad and Karla,
share a bill with PIL
at the Olympic Auditorium,
going so resoundingly
I didn’t return for twelve years,
pummeled but resigned
to my tantalizingly close
to-the-brass ring but never-was status.

Surveying the girl
with the Please Kitty backpack,
fevered skin crazed with crimson,
I knew it was to be my last excursion
for a while, for as long as it takes
for everyone to recover
our dreams.

The Land is a Mother that Never Dies…

Photo: Jon Wrasse

 

Photo of moi in Joshua Tree National Monument many moons ago and enclosed, a work-in-progress. Needed to make a long overdue blog entry. It’s been taken over by bots and persistent spammers like Eric who know how to attract visitors.  So busy of late! But c’est la vie. It is also good and more social as we slowly emerge from two years of you-know-what. Every visit or event is a reunion! Going downtown this evening after rehearsal to see dear friend Soressa Gardener in performance at an outdoor concert at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Rock on and remain well my pretties!

 

 

 

CAMOUFLAGE

The land is a mother that never dies.
Who said that? Victor would know.
Victor’s mother videotaped her will,
farewells and tenderness immortalized.
A good son, the sort of son I would be fortunate
to conceive one day, a fine young man
who shared everything, especially his apparitions.

Blackbird red against a sky wall of dust,
paper doll shrivelling in firewater,
glass-eyed deer head in earthquake debris,
an angel face in the snow. Yours!
Gray whale 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,
sprouted in the fossils of mammoths,
sloths and giant bears.
Look down. Beneath our feet. Treasure!

Look up, past your head. Condors bend boughs,
the light a diaphanous linen sheet.
Beats! From within, from without.
Bequests. People being people must conjure up gods
though red army ants conquer these hills each day.
He took me because I forgot to leave.

The city. 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.

 

PRINTEMPS- a poem for the glorious season

PHOTO: Gabor Gasztonyi

And a suggestive-of-spring image by my dear friend and favourite photographer Gabor Gasztonyi.

PRINTEMPS
Yet another ode

Immortal springtime is a tease
though not hedonistic.

The pleasure spring brings
is a fluke, for spring

is a cog in the cycle,
we, mere fallout.

Let’s not speak of winter’s bluster
or those who are dead to us.

Today spring is large
and in charge of the decks,

arriving at last in a verdurous tide
to reanimate petrified desire,

to banish the soggy interminable
from this paradise of cedar

sweetened ocean side rainforest,
to spur us on to breed, breed, breed!

Gambol trails awash
with plashing streams, silver vernal pools.

To restore wanderlust.
To hear the splendid racket,

the shrill trill of red birds deep in a tangle
of cherry tree limbs & pink blossoms.

Such a showy in-your-face transition
after a long dawdle,

the most raucous season,
the glorious season.

FREEDOM’S JUST A WORD

 

FREEDOM’S JUST A WORD

Neither winter nor crumbling highways
will impede truculent truckers
transporting empty containers
fuelled by misguided millions.

American-aping,
peripheral neo-Vikings
off to conquer snowflakes,
smash Ottawa walls
beneath a shape-shifting
FREEDOM banner.

Machinery as weaponry mission.
Blind to delusion,
roadside placarded converts
eagerly buy their cheap wares.

Infodemic intrudes yet again
via global ancient news,
warring and impotent memes.
By now I have moved past fear.

I am confused though.
When did the chasm’s maw
yawn so wide it swallowed all reason?
Humanity.
Objects of hate hated in clusters,
according to seasons of scorn
or whichever clever derision
becomes most click worthy.

But first, tea.
I put on the kettle,
sock-footed and well-flannelled
crawl into bed,
grilled cheese sandwich in hand,
ooze soon meeting the comforter.
Chamomile soothes angst.
Outrage. A little.

I poke my head outside
to meet the weather,
to breathe,
night sky a device
replete with luminous constellations,
lunar phase applications
and bats free as birds.

Reading, Ruminating, Composing, Editing …

…after months of being away.

Finding much inspiration in Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel “Crossroads,” a pastor protagonist inciting me to investigate theology. I was raised in a secular household by lapsed Catholic parents but would often attend church in order to sing in the choir. I’ve realized that being well-versed in Bible verses informs my poetry.

In the voice of Marion on page 437, discussing the afterlife with Russ. “I think the only thing that matters is the state of your soul while you’re alive.” “Is that-Catholic teachings?” “Definitely not. Father Fergus and I discuss it all the time. To me, there’s nothing realer in the world than God, and Satan is no less real. Sin is real and God’s forgiveness is real. That’s the message of the Gospel. But there’s not much in the Gospel about the afterlife-John is the only one who talks about it. And doesn’t that seem strange? If the afterlife is so important? When the rich young man asks Jesus how he might have eternal life, Jesus doesn’t give him a straight answer. He seems to say that heaven is loving God and obeying the commandments, and hell is being lost in sin-forsaking God. Father Fergus says I have to believe that Jesus is talking about a literal heaven and hell, because that’s what the Church teaches. But I’ve read those verses a hundred times. The rich young man asks about eternity, and Jesus tells him to give away his money. He says what to do in the present-as if the present is where you find eternity-and I think that’s right. Eternity is a mystery to us, just like God is a mystery. It doesn’t’ mean rejoicing in heaven or burning in hell. It could be a timeless state of grace or bottomless despair. I think there’s eternity in every second we’re alive.

Buddhist, isnt’ it? “Practice the miracle of being here, one moment at a time.”-Thich Nhat Hanh. Something I’ve been pondering since his passing, how to be mindful and in the moment. I touched on it in this poem I started yesterday, thinking about how precious time-and moments-are.

IT TAKES TWO

We engage in a dance
called Together Then Apart.
Intervals between vary according
to the latest news or mutations.

With enough lovers to fill a ballroom
we’ve moved past the Tango,
past clinging, demands, urgency,
and sexual intrigue be damned.

My time alone runs concurrent
with the time I have left,
prizes both,
however long they may last.

I’m ready at last
to honour my body,
its ability to function,
to serve, to move.
I marvel at the ease

with which he inhabits his,
watch it long and lithe
break free of the stove
to pretend with the Pretenders,
neon fuchsia boa flowing

over sinewy chest,
pink feather clamped
between teeth ala Flamenco,
muscle-grooved arms,
a flurry of fists, raven hair,
flying solo in the moment.

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

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.