Archives for category: poetry

these hands are made to reach out and feel
everything that weighs upon them, the light
of stars, the volume of the Sun, no metaphor
these hands raise, test, the elasticity of it all

these hands claw up mountains, cleave them
and make new valleys; if only we could bear
the weight of these hands and all they hold
we all own this responsibility, the shame

there is no way back, the path these hands walk
to the altar to lead the sacrifice, draw the blade
as if it were not really part of us, hold it aloft to the Sun
for blessing, then drive all that feeling to the heart

believing that is where it belongs, as if
these hands are now the hands of God

konkrete pome Maxwell, W.


words that are undersaid,
those that are given,
those that take too much
words that don’t want
to be said, to remain,
words not part of the scene

words that leap out of your head
drop onto the street
and are paved over
by silent machines plying asphalt,
identified with illegible script
that makes them appear official,
while clearly resembling nothing,
the idea of meaning
projected, not found, in them

words taken out of circulation
often lose their meaning
foolishly hide somewhere
to be safe for another day
when they might be forgotten
and return with new meaning
instead they become ghost words
all that connects their syllables to
the river of words washes away
they drift, pale shadows on white pages
hidden in plain view

words can be found in trees, the sky
no one knows what they are
nature writes but cannot read
there is no word for that

This is a short account (Pete and Tink lose interest if you’re not quick)
of Peter Pan visiting the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada in the year 1998.

Peter will appear in the guise of my son, Jarret,
who, at the time, was 5 years old, during a relentless March still deep
in snow, and uncertainty about Jarret’s brother Arlen, but one year old,
diagnosed with leukemia.

Which meant little to Jarret—he loved the hospital because in each ward there is a playroom,
which Jarret called, “the Toy Store”. There was every conceivable toy, book, video game waiting—and Jarret loved each one.
Each night Jarret and I would pack a meal to take to the hospital to eat with Mom and Arlen,
and as soon as we were done, Jarret would drag Arlen from his hospital room,
as happy as could be, as happy as a child should be, to go to “the Toy Store”.

There he would play with every child, any child, oblivious to the multi-branch forest
of tubing and IV pumps, moon faces marooned in wheel chairs and haze of medication —
he would get through to each, Peter Pan ready to lead the Lost Boys in imagination.
And they would find him,

join in his charmed circle that knew only love of toys and refined sense of adventure.
He would play, each child invited, and urged to fly, because the Toy Room was so
splendid it could not contain them;
Peter flying ever upward, urging them onward, to forests, lakes, and lagoons,
adventures against pirate ships, singing with mermaids, faster, higher, to the Island
where only children are citizens and all are admitted, none denied (that love to play).

His triumphant “cock a doodle doo” was the natural finale to another night in “the Toy Room”
the children wild and unwilling to go to their rooms;
parents content their children are still normal;
volunteers truly worked and happy they were here this time;
nurses, though less affected by pixie dust than most, a little light footed;
and the corridor lights shine, wheelchairs stand empty and wait,
while elevators go up and down, taxis parked whether night or day;

listen to Peter’s war cry as it echoes through the corridors, past surgery,
past infectious diseases, past coronary, past oncology, and psychology,
past burns, and urology, it irresistibly crows “OOO o oo o OOO!!”
to call each child to dream harder, to save Fantasy Island from the
dark storms and shoals that surround it, to know that no pirate can defeat,

that nothing can withstand, a true heart at play.

Soft Spring arrives this moment
when children plead to stay outside.
“It’s too early, the sun is still out!”
Soft sigh of parents to deny it is so.
The easy float, day goes on and on;
sweet sound when Spring arrives,
“who remembers so many things?”

photo treatment Ward Maxwell

The sky luminescent pearl, not lacquer,
shifts from blue imbroglio to serene to indigo
hue; rain swirls as wind and cloud breathe great globes
of balloon splattering drops, each visibly bursting as if leaping
from the ground in answer to multiple echoes of countless
splat others at impact.

A thundercloud resplendent as an admiral’s ship
settling into harbour, blows in above us. Lightning
bursts within, impossibly back upon itself illuminating
hidden canyons, mountains of charcoal plumes that suddenly
ignite with giant sparks that leap within, a giant lantern on parade.

Jarret, resplendent, his stance wide, his
weight forward, his green white magenta
water pistol aimed at the skies, aloft against heaven
says, “Pyow, P-yow, P-yow.”

The echo of fireworks drifts to us on the wind.
The night is crackling, popping, echoing with
pings, patters, pongs, POWS and; EXPLOSIONS LOUD
far away.

Cannon, mortar fire, flare, pop caps and tiddly-pangs
we wait, anticipating the stench
of sulphur, cordite, potassium to waft past.

Jarret says, “Fireworks sound like thunder.”
We sprawl at the lintel of Granny’s door,
watch swirls and sheets of rain sweep across the lawn,
our gunpowder safe and dry, stored for another night.
The wind blows backwash of spray upon us.

Jarret and I curl into each other. Lightning arcs
from cloud to cloud. “Listen”, “Quiet”, “Any moment now”
I distract him until suddenly CRACK
unexpected thunder sends him leaping against me.

“Listen to the sky go Pow Pow Pyow,” he whispers
The thunder passes, far off pops and rumbles
I wait for another flash as suddenly

arc flash explodes

thunder clap beside us we JUMP
into each other, Jarret shouting “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy”
raises his pistol, “Shoot Daddy Shoot” he implores

I guide my thumb and forefinger to mimic his salute
“PYOW, PYOW, PYOW,” we bellow into the wind

that echoes, rumbles, in our stomachs. The earth

spins beneath us, an incomprehensible corona.

(note: Victoria Day is a holiday weekend celebrated in Canada. Inexplicably, it’s the day we celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. With fireworks.)

hey hey jelly bean

closets, basements, attics
tents. stairwells, beneath cars
spotlights on clouds
cops shining flashlights into your eyes
who are you? what are you doing here?
nothing officer, just on my way
eye exams, strong light flashing in your eyes
except the doctor doesn’t say
who are you? what are you doing here?

Northern lights, reflected explosions
giant fires far away, Perseid showers
when you are buried in a tunnel and
a light beam shines through the dirt
and you think, thank God
the light shining through your lover’s clothing
she is naked underneath
she knows you can see
because that is what she wants

image by Ward Maxwell

Let’s get this show on the road, said the chalk artist
A pigeon flew at me and made me duck.
Originally, I loved the bow and arrow, but I no longer get that quiver.
I wanted to write an alphabet in a boat, but I floundered at sea.
I got a dog, and wanted to give us pet Latin names — he was going to be Canus, but my friend said “You can’t be Sirius.”
They told us they were bison, but I think we were buffaloed.
I asked the baker where the sun rose, and why — he said “Look yeast.”
He built his novel from the ground up, and missed a story.
A friend lives on a flagpole. Whenever I ask him how he’s doing, he replies, I’m up for anything.
I trapped a skunk in my house but before I let him go, he got me — it was instinct.
I like to read the comics at breakfast — they’re serial.
I can never get away from cats — they keep dogging me.
I wanted to play solo water polo but the pool was teeming.
My bird dog wanted to go hunting — but I quailed at the last moment.
When the spy asked me about the growth on his face— I said, you’ve got a problem — that’s a mole.
Every time Bugs Bunny sees Elmer Fudd he does a rabbit.
He told me it was a good spot to sit and fish, so I perched there.
I helped the fisherman load his catch into his cart. It was hard to push, so he said, “Let’s put some mussel into it.”
When I asked the raptor expert which bird was the biggest, he replied, ”Well, all things being eagle …”
When the inventor was asked what was the heart of his paper engine, he replied, the manifold.
The door is ajar.

Riley’s ode to Trent U. In his own inimitable fashion.

Peterborough, Summer 1978, four poets were broadcast reading their poetry in 1-5 minute spots on CHEX TV’s noon hour variety program. The four poets were Ian David Arlett, Ward Maxwell, Riley Tench and Dennis Tourbin. Overall, thirty segments were aired.

Not sure how we arranged for the motor boat to drive through Riley. It’s live folks!

Peterborough, Summer 1978, four poets were broadcast reading their poetry in 1-5 minute spots on CHEX TV’s noon hour variety program. The four poets were Ian David Arlett, Ward Maxwell, Riley Tench and Dennis Tourbin. Overall, thirty segments were aired.

Peterborough, Summer 1978, four poets were broadcast reading their poetry in 3-5 minute spots on CHEX TV’s noon hour variety program. The four poets were Ian David Arlett, Ward Maxwell, Riley Tench and Dennis Tourbin. Overall, thirty segments were aired.


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