Monday, December 03, 2007


I sit on my aluminum throne. This spruce and eucalyptus-veneer table was shipped especially from Malaysia. These teak-stained tablemats, Sri Lanka. On that ersatz cherrywood shelf (Bengal), dates from Iran, mandarins from Morocco, gala apples from Chile. This neoprene book in which I draft is from Mexico; the power cord, straight from China. The robe I wear is from Taiwan.

I am the Emperor. As I cross my kitchen (five steps) to lie on my Swedish bed, I hear the murmur of voices around my head. Such gentle hands, the servants that bear me aloft! I have every reason to trust them. But I have my spies, my plants. And now I’m told of whispered connivery: plans to poison, surprise me with a dagger, a well-timed bomb.

Poison, dagger, bomb: they have been planning it night and day, for decades. They meet via satellite, speak to each other through networks in the sky. They wear fezzes, turbans, polyester neckties. They pray to the One True God. I have never seen the One True God, although I have looked everywhere, in my closets, in my drawers, among my genitals, beneath my toenails. I am told my sin is grave. They plan infernos for every single portal of my world.

But: I am the Emperor. I sit on my plastic throne. In this nine- by eleven-foot kitchen, I am surrounded by a collection of clocks. Every day, new clocks come in the mail, direct from Pakistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Venezuela. Invariably they say thirty-two seconds to … is it noon, or midnight? Invariably, I wind them back, synchronize them with the others. Clocks are crucial. Clocks are indispensable. I am the Emperor of Time: I control it from this Indonesian table, this German throne.

-- first published in Geez, Issue 7, Fall 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007


motorboat roar
radio chatter

stillness we have always sought

septic tank quoosh
fridge motor klick

cleek clak wrrrr

slow thrum of heart
in waters of origin

speed-smeared highway a streaked grey funnel
veering, swerving, squreeling tire rubber

oooooooweeeoooooweeeoooo loon across water
layered veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

listen! engines now chainsaw bizzzzing
engines now bizzzzzzzzzzzz on the waters

but warblers are beyond the name of warbler
they are tswee tswee tswee soo soo-soo tswee tswee
aural whisps of breeze...

"among blaring newspapers
& thundering combustion
contemplatives are lost!"

rocks impervious
waters lap round
rocks impervious
waters lap round

-- Prairie Fire, Vol. 27, #1 Spring, 2006

my commentary in Out of The Woodwork

Monday, September 10, 2007


I was going to mix colours, render an eddy
of curving bright green, speckles of red
(touches of inevitable black in the gouache)
inscribed within
“May this year be green,
may it roll through you
a meadow, a wave
raised by the wind of your days.”
Something like that.

But other winds pushed that wave into space.

When I showed you my list of priorities,
the wave was gone.

“Weren’t you going to make me one of your undulations
for my birthday?”
you asked.

Annoyed, I threw the list down.

Now the day is past. “Don’t bother,” you said.
“Your birthday’s coming up: leave it to me,
I’ll make you the warm glow.”

The wave glistens. Distant mirage.
The paints are in the cupboard. Inner retort:
Still no time.

But I can write you this: this lost satellite
wheels in my head, a shimmer, I made it
especially for you:
this green satellite shimmer report.

-- Saranac Review, Issue 3, 2008

Sunday, September 09, 2007


I am a man of few words.

My name
a monosyllabic

Bruce, say,
or Matt or Joe
or Jeff.

You: immense,
surrounded by crockery pots
and children,
cookery books
and washing on the line.

Though I pay the bills,
bring home the proverbial bacon
I’m a whirling asteroid to your Jupiter,
an errant electron spinning round
your gravid nucleus.

Even yet, you wonder why
I need it so much:

why I slip my hand up your nightdress
(that you’ve gathered round yourself, for protection)
with, “If you’re willing, Mother.”

Is it five thousand times now? Ten thousand?

Why that constant urge to thunder and let loose?

When I proposed
it was in Greason’s Hardware,
automotive parts:

“Say we get married, eh?
I make a good wage.”

Today you make a new recipe for me
-- Magpie Pudding --
and when I come home from the gravel pit
my tender, male mouth drops,
my eyes express confusion and surprise,
I eat in silence, then read the paper.

For I am a man of few words.

A monosyllable.

A John, you could say.


-- First published in The Antigonish Review, #148, November 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007


From everywhere they come
from chasms in the galaxies
vents of distant dimensions

to this mountain in the sky
to bend, blend to the thrum
to the thrash & thrap of drums
limbs flaring, flying
a blur of tan & green
swaying in motley unison
to the crack & clap of drums
while around them sellers gather
to spread their coppery wares
menorahs, nose rings, phials,
anklets, opals, viols
while onlookers on the grass
suckling flutes of glass
strum their wooden women
dream wings into skies
rise, weave, whirl
to the tam tam tom of drums
rise, weave, whirl

vents of distant dimensions
chasms in the sky

-- first published in Carve
, Spring 2006


Wednesday, August 31, 2005


It is a white frame house, freshly painted, on a gentle hill. It has no windows, except a little room at top with two tiny round portholes, curtains closed, like shut eyes. Around the house, yellow grass. There are no trees, no neighbours. We are standing in front. "This is our house." These words come as a thought, not from you, not from me. It is understood that here is where we will spend our lives. We go inside, me leading the way. In the darkness, we see ornate heirloom furniture, heavy grandmothery armchairs and sofas with doilies on their backs. The air is musty, suffocating. We need to get out - fast.

We are outside. The sunlight is brilliant. The house is blinding white, too white to look at. All around, an empty yellow plain, leading to a flat, featureless horizon. We have set up a table. On it we have gathered remaining things from our previous life - file folders, candles, some pots, a few odd mugs, two broken pencils, a clock with no hands. We intend it as a garage sale. But it is clear that no one will come to buy.

-- published in The New Quarterly #95 (Summer, 2005)

Saturday, December 04, 2004


is now
a test tube
in my laboratory.
Surrounded by
bubbling beakers
and alembics, I
am peacefully at work
creating myself.
My foetus
is seated
in the test tube
like a fiddlehead
or a face
bowed in prayer.
His transparent heart
under a veil of skin.
glass bead eyes
stare out at you.

--First Published in Grain, Winter 1988; subsequently in Guatemala & Other Poems


The day stands, bright and still.
A sheet of sunlight through the window
lies square on the dusty floor.
I set aside this heart, sad and blind,
just to look.
The day stands, an altar in the sun.
Here, its golden mandala.

--first published in Pouèt~cafëe, Printemps-été 2002

It amazed him to wake up that fine morning and find himself staring through the same eyes at the same trunk, legs, feet and hands. He could move these objects up and down at his own will, and this he tried a few times: first a hand here, then a foot there. It was almost as if they operated by their own invisible ropes and pulleys.

After climbing out of bed, he discovered himself placing one foot in front of the other in little repetitive motions people commonly call steps.

"So," he said to himself, "I must be a human being now."

Why not an orangutan? or a grape?

This seemed very odd.

He made his way through crowded streets and sinuous underground malls. He entertained questions that he kept to himself because, fundamentally, they were ridiculous. Questions like: "Why am I just the same one person? Why not many people all at once?" Or, "Why do people go into restaurant washrooms and always manage to come back out again?" Or, further to the point, "Why do they all keep moving? Why don't they just black out, and collapse in the street?" (With this: a steady rain of bodies and briefcases thudding.)

Rather than content himself with answers to these questions, he began to write these lines . . .

Guatemala & Other Poems


He entered the mucky-webbed
Mossy-toed tree curtain:
Deep damp and green.
Shuttering eyes
Inclining ear in widening
he listened the lisping layers
the swzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
tr tr tr ’nnn KICK! KRICK!
wizzuw wissuw ’nnnn
wuff wuff wuff of wings
into wild waterfalling
shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh of leaves --
’Till the lashed lids raised and the light slashed in
trunks rising out of his eyes like serpents slendering into
women’s arms that crotched and veined into sky blue speckles
Wissssssssssssssssssssssspidernet galaxies
Limp between the limbs.

Oh good this was, so good!
He shuttered his eyes again
breathed deep deep the tendrils and shoots
salamanders ’nnn twisting fornicating bark
blooming feathery lilies deep in lung ’nnnn
all the wet mushrooms
exploding in his mouth like a heart.

“Fragula cathartica,” he thought.
“Cathartica orgiastica!” he shouted and stood up.


Crouching low again –
Inhaling all the jungliness.

Did it matter now
That his watch still ticked
Spreading the span
Of its golden talons on his wrist?
5:31… 5:32 … 5:33 … 5:34 …
fidget . . . fidget . . . fidget . . . . . fidget . . .

He rose and strode out into the sun.

Guatemala & Other Poems

In the corner of the garden
The woman clutched herself. She rocked.
Her sobs were a violent laughter.
All around her, almond trees bloomed.
Birds cheeped in a nest, somewhere high up.
On the other side of the garden wall
Two men discussed the falling prices
of sugar, oats and gold.
Their voices were quite audible.

Guatemala & Other Poems


"Once upon a time," he said.
"Once," he said.
"Upon," he said.
"A time," he said.
Why once? Why just once, among at least two hundred billion humans living or dead, sixty-five hundred quadrillion organisms, one thousand decillion octogintillion septenseptuagintillion to the power of googolplexplexplexplexplexplexplex of stars, gas giants, comets, meteors and whirling cold clumps of earth? Why once?
This upon. Upon a time. How upon? A time, especially a time? How can anyone be upon a time? Why not within? Without? Inside? Out? Under, over, in front of, back of, beside, above, beyond?
"Twice beneath a time."
"Thrice beyond a time."
"One hundred thousand three hundred and forty-six nonagintillion duocentillion sextendecillion times without…"
…a time? Why not space? Space-time time-space space-time times time-space?
Why a? Why not the? Why not beyond above beneath in back of in front of a or the? Why not between a and the?
"Thrice throughout the spaces, two dwarfs and a bear…"
"Forty-nine times within outside a space-time discontinuum, this raven-eyed witch…"
"In a nonillion of spaces contained within each other, beyond all time, beyond all space, here now but not now ever, there was this golden-haired girl …"
"Ninety times twice times thrice at least, this time and last time, and indeed, within a moctogentillion googolplexplexplexplexplex of non-times and non-spaces repeated over and over within time/space multiplied infinitely inside a realm of unrepeatable nothing/something void/fullness, there was - will be - this man, woman, shall we say character, this non-person personage, who cannot ever be or say or even pronounce without an everlasting transient strangeness







First published in CONTINUUM Time: The 4th Dimension (Cranberry Tree Press Annual Anthology, 2004)