THE DAY MY MOTHER CRIED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dammit. Writing about my mother again. That’s her-Corona- in the middle. I’ve always thought we looked entirely unalike but can see a resemblance in this photo taken back in the days of ashtrays and doilies. Our memory plays tricks but there are clues. The place is Winnipeg on the occasion of my sister Donna’s baptism. I remember these lovely Anishinabe women, wish I could recall their names. As the poem states, my gregarious mother had few friends as we never stayed in one place for more than a few years. We appear well-cared for. She loved to do our hair and dress us up. This was early in her marriage. My mother could be tender, but mostly, tough. She had to be.

 

THE FIRST TIME MY MOTHER CRIED

In front of me. That I recall. She cried
for her best hen-party gal pal Sharon.
The pair often cackled together.
Mom had few friends, we moved so often

and Sharon was instantly a sister sort.
My sweet, six year old bum
was on the middle swing
when Mom emerged from the house,

apron clad, perpetual tea towel
resting on her shoulder,
which came in handy as you will see.
Sadness brought out the nurse in her,

sadness aroused tenderness.
Memory evaluations can be dodgy,
so many lost but his one remains.
Weeping, she handed over half an apple.

I looked down.
A tear plashed onto the snowy flesh.
Mine. Mom, why are you crying?
At last, she told me.

Sharon died in a car crash.
Is there a more banal fate
than dying in a car crash?
I’ve nearly died in a car crash

on three occasions.
What kind of fool am I?
A practically-raised-in-a-car fool.
Car rides equalled happiness;

new shoes or a hike in the woods,
laughing all the way.
She dried my cheeks
with the perpetual tea towel.

Toward the end my mother cried
more than cackled
and there was never a tea towel handy.
Not so perpetual after all.

ANONYMOUS ARSONIST-“…this civilization is already dead.”

Is the world on fire or does it just seem that way? It’s on fire and fuck you climate change deniers. I’ve always been intrigued by the town of Lytton, how it’s situated at the junction of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. I like to stop and snap a few photos of the picturesque town on my way up to the Cariboo. Always a hot spot with high temperatures, this freaky summer it’s been devastated by forest fires. Whether intentional or not, naturally humans are involved and I’m reminded of this New York Times article, Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene, by Roy Scranton. Penned nearly ten years ago, it is sadly still apropos, its sound message still ignored.

“Yet the reality of global climate change is going to keep intruding on our fantasies of perpetual growth, permanent innovation and endless energy, just as the reality of mortality shocks our casual faith in permanence.” “The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.”

I wrote a poem, which doesn’t change anything but I don’t know what else to do.

ANONYMOUS ARSONIST

Supercharged ambiguity,
uncertainty in overdrive,
the opacity of a long summer
of corrosive smoke

obscures identities
as we mince toward disaster,
Commerce Fair hurly burly.
Haggling, trade’s primary

exercise of the human mind
is a waste of precious time.
We are clear on the haze,
its origin, indistinct from cause.

Human error, upon human error.
We excel at doom,
fighting hordes
of demons and undead.

Effort wasted
on an expired civilization,
beyond sea walls,
green treaties,

carbon footprints and taxes.
We keep the status quo
propped up
against the altar of industry.

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.

 

PRINTEMPS 2021

PHOTO: Gabor Gasztonyi

Yes, I’m jumping the gun but it feels like spring here on the west coast. Celebrated my March 8 birthday on the weekend with loved ones and our tiny bubble; chicken enchiladas and chocolate/raspberry cheesecake. Must stop feasting but think I’ll take at least another day off to celebrate. Rock on and remain well my pretties!

 

 

 

PRINTEMPS
One more ode

Immortal springtime is a tease
though not a hedonist.

The pleasure spring brings
is a fluke, for spring

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

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 tide
to reanimate petrified desire,

to banish the soggy interminable
from this paradise of cedar sweetened

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

Gambol trails awash
with plashing streams, silver vernal pools.

To restore wanderlust.
To hear the splendid racket,

the shrill trills of red birds
deep in a tangle of cherry tree limbs.

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

the most raucous of seasons,
surely the most glorious.