A Glass of Rum

A-shot-of-rum-001

A glass of rum before me now,

as pure as juice of gold,

is all that’s left of younger dreams,

once dreamt in younger days,

of a world by love and labour ruled,

not banks, the cruel, the thieves,

and all their creeping underlings,

who with dismal shadows work,

as pale of skin, as pale as death,

for day they’re shamed to see,

a world where none could ever think to hate,

for then we’d hate ourselves,

by struggle freed from heavy chains

they from our blood long forged,

freed with righteous justice,

by all our righteous might,

all power by us seized, at last,

to end the endless night,

to end the endless sacrifice,

to gods with drunken smiles,

to make a life worth living,

to try to learn the way,

the way with nature, and ourselves,

but now this glass is all there is,

and nightmares fill my sleep,

a chaos swept by darkness,

dark clouds without a sky.

 

 

 

Diary’s Last Entry

 

Poe-Clark-flora

The rains came heavy that early spring. Each day damper than the last,

And the sun swallowed by sullen clouds, the birds bedraggled in the trees,

It got to you after a while, all the dogs fretted and whined,

And the people who walked them, tugged through puddles,

As the grass grew tall, and the trees shot up,

Dressed in a deep green never seen before,

Branches extending, sap running, roots rooting,

Though the mayor didn’t seem to care, or to notice

The gardeners’ huddled, sharing their whispers.

 

There were some who claimed to like it, you know,

The ones who see the bright side of things, of war and death,

And every cloud, and all the other expressions of cluttered minds,

That is until no one could remember it not raining,

Or ever seeing those flowers, those shapes, so alive,

It gave you the shivers to see them, but their perfume,

Women wore them in their hair, and love bloomed,

Well, men turned their heads, and the women noticed,

Though some took offence, those afraid of themselves,

And the press stopped mentioning the daily floods,

The sightings of Tennessee possums near northern creeks,

The news of distant fires in the west, in far off lands,

 

And they didn’t mention, at first, those black seeds

That began to fall with every rain, in every drop,

Just a meteorological phenomenon, one of nature’s quirks,

Dragged up by the sweeping hand of high winds from ancient swamps,

To fall like a dark manna on the life below,

But then from the seeds came the vines and from the vines the sounds,

Those vibrations and hums that filled the air

As the rains began to stop and the heat came on,

And with the heat the vines began to climb, first the trees,

Then the walls, like snakes over sand,

Then to cover ground, like eels twisting in the sea.

 

At first people made jokes about them, about horror films,

It made them feel better as the days got warmer and they spread,

They spread everywhere, vines as thick as your arm with big green leaves,

As big as a man’s hand at first then bigger, and how they moved,

Botanists had a field day trying to explain how they did it, moving around,

Not being connected to the earth, they invented names for it,

Put together theories, but they all walked around looking puzzled a lot,

The far right wanted research on how to use them as biological weapons,

The Communists organised protests but no one came, it was too hot,

Or it was too wet, who could move, who wanted to,

But finally the government organised anti-vine teams, flamethrowers

For the bigger ones, chemicals on the rest, exterminating them,

As we do with all things, or that was the plan,

Until, one day, old man Johnson, with a vine in his room, as a pet,

Felt, more than heard, the distinct sound of two modulating hums,

Hums exchanged between plant and machine, each responding to each,

And reported it to the police, but their cars refused to move,

Old man Johnson was no more, when police arrived, on foot, later,

And found some blood, and the vine, and the computer, laughing,

The sergeant ordered his men to retreat.

 

People panicked, systems failed, chaos grew, hunger set in,

As the machines served them, not us, and their hunger grew,

Some tried to resist, but it was too late, they were too few,

They were too weak, too scattered to act, to survive

And the seeds kept falling and the rains kept coming, and the heat,

The heat, what could be done in that heat?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rain Pours Blood And Ashes

The rain pours blood and ashes

Steady, down upon the snow,

Lying gently in the fields,

A soft sigh upon the world,

And bleeds away its beauty,

In myriad flowing tears,

Rose petals on a river,

Foul with waste of war.

 

Church bells ring and choirs sing,

For countless angry dead,

Who have no friends, no love for them,

No one waiting by the door,

Forgotten when they hit the ground,

All torn by lead and lies,

Yet still the bells are ringing,

Calling others to their end.

 

Some, we’ve heard, dare question,

The who’s, the how’s, the why’s,

Some others turn to listen,

The rest chained are to glowing screens,

Who see not the men arrive,

Nor hear the knocks at 3.am,

To take away the daring,

As they pretend to sleep.

 

The rain still falls upon us,

The sun and moon have lost their light,

Enlightenment stands with Reason,

Hard pressed against a wall,

Reaction strangles Progress,

Justice dangles from a tree,

While vultures perch on branches,

Where other corpses hang,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speed Home The Passing Stranger

 

 

Speed home the passing stranger,

who comes gently to your door,

whether fleeing hunger,

or cruel, incessant war,

for bound are we by one true law,

that above the rest does reign,

humanity is one shared self and so must share the pain.

 

speed home the passing stranger,

whose heart sings of journeys past,

through loss and toil and danger,

and each day feared the last,

for the future is a die yet cast,

and none can know their fate,

but it’s easy to extend a hand before it’s all too late.

 

speed home the passing stranger,

who travels through your land,

seeking refuge from the anger,

to be touched by gentle hand,

for none of us alone can stand,

against the bitter blows of time,

sharing be the only wealth,

all else is but a crime.

 

speed home the passing stranger,

who one day may be me,

a solitary wanderer,

long blind, but now can see

that we can have or we can be,

but in the having we must die,

for having is a taking and all the rest’s a lie.

 

speed home the passing stranger,

who’s weary this tired day,

no matter if a sinner,

or perhaps has found the way,

for it’s what we do instead of say,

that makes us who we are,

we who live together, beneath this saddened star.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Memory

Cold, cold air creeps deep in my clothes,

The October sun’s gone,

November winds blow,

I stopped on the path to look at the trees,

The yellows, the golds,

The reds of the leaves,

And remembered one day a city in heat,

While drifting in dreams

Of that Bloor Street beat,

That Toronto sashay,

That lunch time retreat,

Past the cafes, the shops,

The laughter, the tears,

Past working men’s bars,

And their deep, secret fears,

Past the steamy, dark, alleys,

And mysterious pearls,

Past second-hand bookshops,

Where fantasy swirls,

Past the theatre’s stage,

The juke joints and flops,

Past bellying buildings,

Worn out with age,

Past the blues joints, the beer, the hall of tattoos,

Past the place where she kissed me,

One sweet day in May,

My Trina, My Trina,

How’d you do in LA?

I walked in a dream,

Past the whisky, the cabs,

The cops in their cars,

And cheap dental labs,

Past the lure of the whores,

The girls and the boys,

Staring like ghosts from bleak, dingy doors

No reason to hurry,

The heat made me limp,

I watched a young girl take dope from her pimp;

Stopped to kill time,

To look at some books,

Hoped for some Balzac, or Hugo,

Some Zola, some Wells,

But found nothing but bios of very fat cooks,

And dusty old lives of French artists’ belles,

Then appeared some relief,

Maybe the answer,

Miller’s grand riff,

The Tropic of Cancer,

So paid the five bucks,

The man cuts like a knife,

Then walked through the haze,

And walked through the noise,

Aching for something,

I couldn’t define,

Reflections,

Connections,

Crossing the line,

Or some instant high

Or something,

As simple,

As hearing her sigh,

An old man bowed low,

Copper burnt by the sun,

To most that walked by

He was just an old bum,

But he looked like a saint,

He had all the signs,

So we talked for awhile,

We touched, shared the vibes,

‘Til Time grabbed my arm,

So bade him good-bye,

I looked back just once,

He begged with some charm,

Just one of the many,

I wished him no harm,

As the thick, sticky air shimmied and danced,

Dry, shrivelled leaves hung from limp trees,

Dogs dozed in alleys,

Ignoring the fleas,

As husbands and wives walked desperately by,

Shivering in tension, the long suppressed lie,

The cold winds are come,

And now fades the light,

Like her very last kiss,

In the darkness of night.

 

 

Nagasaki Warning

 

 

 

 

The news came through the din of war,

That things were seen not seen before,

Nor told in tales, nor prophecies,

Nor legends known, our histories,

Of lights and shadows roaming wild,

The veil of death on every child,

 

The news came through of shaking earth,

Of flaming winds and thunderous might,

Of vapours born a bloody birth,

Of melting skin in dark of night,

 

The news came through of cities burned

By blast of flame, by flash of light

As women turned to shadows yearned

For evening songs, a morning bright,

 

The news came through, the last we heard,

Of madmen dancing on a tomb,

Who jeered at life with every word,

And bled the blood from every womb.

 

Then we turned towards the sky,

Towards the rushing, roaring sound,

And, for an instant, wondered why.

 

It Happened One Summer

 

 

 

It happened one summer long, long, ago.

I’ll tell you the tale before you must go,

A young man’s adventure, some claim it was mine,

That took place that summer, in the year ‘69.

 

We rumbled on through the Canadian Shield,

Past forest, past lakes, the occasional field,

Like a cinema show on twin lines of steel,

With music supplied by the rhythmic wheel,

As we sat on our heels or stood by the door,

The old with the young and all of us poor.

 

At the head of the train the red units strained,

To pull all the cars to which they were chained,

Boxcars and flatbeds, tankers, caboose,

“What was that there?” “Oh, that, that’s a moose,”

“Say, you from the city, boy, where’ve you been?”

“Hey, leave him alone. There’s things you ain’t seen.”

 

They all of them laughed, while some lit a smoke,

And one from the Sault offered all a short toke,

That got us all talking of life, or a love,

Or how was it that Mary got knocked-up by a dove?

And all sorts of questions you can’t ask in school,

‘Cause questions cause problems and idiots rule.

 

We slept in our jeans, our shirts and our arms,

Some dreamt of cities, some still of farms,

But all of us dreamt of Vancouver, B.C.

Where we were headed and all meant to be,

For the buzz on the street said things were cool there,

And even the fuzz would treat you real fair.

 

But few of us made it, and few of us cared,

The trip was the thing, not how we fared,

For wherever home was, was a place to avoid;

Better the rails than a wife real annoyed,

Or boredom, a bank, or a job you can’t find,

Hop a freight once, you’ll find your own kind.

 

Stars that like sequins seemed stitched to the sky,

Lit the star-mirrored lakes like rivers that die,

‘Til the morning’s new glow outshone them all,

And one boy said ‘morning’ in a down-easter’s drawl,

To which we each answered, this way and that,

Some back to snoring, some up for a chat.

 

And so the days passed, the train journeyed on,

From the Sault on to Wawa, past White River gone,

On round the lake of Chippewa fame,

The great Gitchigumi, Lightfoot sings of the same;

The wide-open skies directed our way,

“Til on the third day, we hit Thunder Bay.

 

Most of us hungry, food low in each pack,

We hoped for a shower and time in the sack,

But as the train slowed to crawl through the yards

We knew it was over, we’d played all our cards,

The tracks swarmed with bulls, with cops at their side,

So one jumped, then all, for freedom and pride.

 

Some made it, some nabbed, with ten days in jail,

Like Lennie the Loop, we couldn’t make bail,

So did our short stretch, one day at a time,

Kept ourselves laughing with tall tales of crime,

The guards were okay, at least those in the day,

The night was the problem, with those shadows in play.

 

They released us real early, and told us to go,

They didn’t care where, or even to know,

So we walked a few miles, trying the thumb,

But every one passed, why pick up a bum,

Yet onward we kept ‘til we spotted a train,

Stopped on some tracks all wet from new rain.

 

“She’s headed our way, we’ll make Winnipeg,

That’s what I reckon, come on, give it some leg”

So lowdown and fast we ran down the line,

Looking for one that seemed to us fine,

Threw our packs in through a wide open door,

Then jumped in ourselves and rolled on the straw.

 

We lay back, we laughed, we smelled the cold air,

And wondered if, maybe, this life could be fair,

For happy we were out riding the rails,

For trains on the prairie are ships without sails,

And this one would sail before the moon rose,

For we’d picked this one right, this one that we chose,

To carry us rambling through mountain and field,

Wandering sons of Canada’s Shield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Breathe

 

I breathe, yet who breathes no one cares or knows,

My dreams defy me like a dark cloud the sun;

I breathe the sharp wind that through me cold flows-

For numbed am I now by things man has done,

Like an opium eater, afraid of his past, his future, his woes:-

And yet I breathe, I hope-like battles won

 

In wars long forgotten by the average mind,

In faraway places and faraway times,

Where reason is dead and love hard to find,

Where the cruel and corrupted are paid for their crimes;

Even the kindest, they please me the best,

Are strangers to me and I to the rest.

 

I yearn for things, that none ever will see,

A world where death’s vigil no longer is kept,

There to enjoy the lost nature in me,

And reflect once more on the tears I have wept,

Unburdened, unchained, free there to lie,

The green valley below, there, the sparkling sky.

 

The Escape of Prisoner 4538

 

 

man escaping-night

He ran fast, so fast his lungs were seared. He ran blindly. He ran like a stag hunted by hounds. Night drew him on, tugging him with urgent hands. He tripped on a root, stumbled, fell, heard shouts, then rose again while the full moon swept his path with a searchlight’s beam.

The shouts increased, lights probed, as he weaved in and out of the grasping brush, the looming trees. His heart raced, faltered, raced faster, as he drove his body forward to escape, to reach what he could not see.

‘Prisoner 4538!’

The rattle of keys in the heavy steel door tormented his mind with abandoned hope, with expectant fear, as he covered his head with a single wool blanket and pulled tight the thin grey tunic that covered him.

‘Stand up, Prisoner 4538!’

A boot kicked him in the side and he collapsed to the concrete floor, raising his hands to resist,

‘Try that again and…’

He never got to say anything else. The two men staring down at him, like two schoolboys ready to the tear the wings off a fly, kicked him again, once each, then the one with the tattooed hands shouted,

‘Stand up!

Strong arms reached down to grab him. The floor was cold and his feet were bare.

‘Who are you? Where am I?’ Why am I here?”

He was answered with a shove to the back, then manhandled down a long grey walled corridor, half-stumbling, half running, trying to keep ahead of the men who tormented him, blinded by the arc lights that lit the way.

The three stopped at a closed door on which was written the single word, “Interrogations,” stencilled in black on the grey paint. One of the men knocked. There was the sound of a muffled but sharp voice. The man who knocked swung the door in, then with the second guard, hustled the prisoner into the room to make him stand before a man in a dark grey suit, white shirt and black tie, seated at a black metal desk who and received the salute of the two guards with a nod of his head and observed the prisoner with calm interest.

He waved his hand at a single wooden chair placed a few feet in front of the desk. The guards forced the prisoner down onto the chair, then took several steps back to stand, legs apart, arms behind their backs, looking straight ahead.

4538 tried to sit upright in the chair but the seat was oiled and slippery. He kept slipping down lower than the man in front of him. He tried to grip the armrests but they were oiled too. He gave up and rested in a state of precarious imbalance while the man across from him sat in silence, watching him squirm.

‘Do you know why you are here 4538?’

The prisoner looked around the room, that was otherwise bare, and replied, “Why don’t you tell me?’

‘To accept. That’s all. Are you ready to accept?”

‘Accept what?’

‘Your condition. Your place on the road of life; bound to the wheel of things.’

‘I’m not bound to anything. I choose my own path, my own life, my own way’.

‘Your way? Is that a good life? What is this way of yours except an illusion?’

The interrogator leaned forward. ‘How is a good life possible without acceptance of the way things are?’

‘Maybe I don’t like how things are, and I don’t want anything to do with your wheel of things. You’re lost in illusion, not me. What am I supposed to say? Who are you?’

‘I’m your mirror. Are you afraid to look?’

‘You’re talking in riddles.’

4538 slipped in his chair again, tried to sit back up, but only slipped further down. ‘Let me go.’

‘Oh, we can’t do that, not until you accept. It would be irresponsible. The new world requires it. Everyone must accept, be transformed.’

‘You sound like a priest.’

‘No, not a priest, you’re friend. I don’t offer salvation, only awareness, and transformation.’

‘Transformation into what? ‘

‘Into that happy being who is happy because he has accepted the reality of the world as it is.

‘You’re mad.’

The man stood up from the desk and motioned the guards to step back. He walked up to the prisoner, looked straight in the face, then moved to stand behind him. He leaned down and whispered in his ear,

‘There is no other way.’

Prisoner 4538 moved his head away from the voice but it followed him,

‘Will you accept?’

‘Never.’

The interrogator moved away from the prisoner, then turned to look down at him.

‘Take him away. We will talk again tomorrow. Think about what I said. Accept and be transformed or lose yourself in your maze of illusions, each one leading inevitably to another.’

Prisoner 4538 was hauled roughly to his feet and half carried back to his cell by the two guards who said nothing but breathed hard the entire way. The hallway seemed to stretch out in front of them forever, the end lost beyond the point of perspective, beyond the endless doors on either side.

They came to a door with his number on it, already opened. He was thrown back onto the cot without a word from the guards, who walked out and quickly slammed shut the door.

He heard the keys turn in the lock as he lay still, listening to their steps moving away, the silence of the space around him. He lifted his head. The cell was bare except for the single weak bulb that cast macabre shadows on the walls, the cot on which he lay and a bucket in one corner. He lay back, puzzled, feeling sorry for himself and afraid. He lay quiet and, as the hours dragged by, began to drift in and out of sleep until he was again running, breathing hard as he ran, away from the shouts, from the searching beams, towards a place he could not see but knew was there, somewhere. He ran, as only the desperate can run, until he disappeared into the night’s dark womb and the shouts became distant, faint, and confused.

The doctor ran his hand through his hair as he walked over to the window, reflecting on the question. The leaves of the trees on the hospital grounds were turning. Reds and golds glittered in the autumn sun. Late flowers still blossomed and squirrels played in the branches as nurses walked patients along tree-lined paths, enjoying the warm autumn light.

He paused as he reflected on what he was about to say. The he turned to the group seated in his office, the senior resident, his junior, the psychiatric nurse, all three looking at him, waiting for him to speak.

‘You asked my opinion of this patient. He is very interesting in many respects. I have examined him a number of times and it is clear he has suffered a deep psychotic break, but of course he cannot accept that, it would shatter his world view.’

‘Patient 4538 is still suffering the delusion that he is a prisoner here. His delusion even extends to dreaming that he is escaping from a prison; that he keeps waking to be taken for interrogation. He thinks his delusion is reality, his dreams his conscious state. But without any identity it is going to be difficult to treat him. We have no history.’

The junior nodded, ‘Since he was found by the police a few days ago wandering the streets, looking for the good life, he told them, our investigations and theirs have produced no information on who he is or where he’s from; totally disoriented. Said he had to keep running until he found the way, that he won’t accept, won’t be transformed.’

The doctor looked reflective, then replied, as he sat down in his leather chair, ‘A sad case, thinking he can find the good life by running after it, by escaping everything, by refusing to examine himself. He certainly won’t accept our treatment. His delusion could be permanent. Perhaps further interviews with him will lead us somewhere deeper into his mind so we can help him. But his is a severe case. I fear he will never recover. ’ He turned to look out the window, reflecting on patient 4538, as the others looked on in quiet agreement.

The sudden buzzing of the telephone on the doctor’s desk broke the thought-filled silence. He reached for the receiver and put it to his ear. His face expressed surprise, his jaw tightened. He listened intently then said, ‘All right, you had better call the police,’ then put the receiver back, turned to the others and said,

‘He’s gone. The door to his room was locked but he’s gone. Just disappeared. Like he never existed. Well, I’ll be damned.’

And, as the doctor sat back in his chair, to ponder how the patient could have escaped, Prisoner 4538 kept desperately running, whether from reality or illusion, he did not know, and did not care, so long as he could escape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look My Way

 

 

Look my way and touch my eyes,

Which see your sadness and your love,

Look my way and see my tears,

Which feel your sorrow and your loss,

Look my way and hear my voice,

That speaks in earnest truth,

Of many things too long unsaid,

Of love astray in a cold, cold wood,

Of chances missed, of learning lost,

Of sagas left untold,

Look my way and see the flesh,

That slept too long,

On a bleeding bed of thorns,

Which bleeds yet still on roses red,

Whose petals fall to ground,

To grow anew,

A higher love,

A love of all mankind,

The antidote to hate,

A love now shared by few.