Archives for category: poetry


I’m reading Raymond Carver and I’m thinking about my friend Michael –
not just because he recommended Carver to me, but also because,
it seems to me, Michael writes a lot like him. Call it confessional
poetry. I wrote lots of it. Until I got tired of writing “I” all the time.
Besides, it takes a lot to make your life into a poem. I’m not that guy,
but, sometimes, in your life, there’s a poet and they might make you
wonder, what would it take for me to go there? A quick aside:
I once read about a man who wrote a novel whose entire content
consisted of words that did not include the letter “I”.
I can relate. Nonetheless, there’s something in the delicacy
of Carver’s/ Michael’s ruminations, memories, crows, cars
moments of paradise, all the tangents — he really creates something
out of instants that may, or may not, have happened. It’s a game.
They keep you guessing that way. I’m reading, and I realize,
dammit, the man has just written a poem, gone to another plane,
sung his diary of existence – and I am hostage to him. I will
watch him race for his life across a bridge crumbling beneath
him. We will stare, excited, scared, transfixed, cheer for him,
certain he must fall, anticipate the carnage, be willing to pay
to see that, yet, isn’t it true we secretly pray he makes it? Then,
as the last trestle collapses into the gorge, there, he appears
on the other side, triumphant, arms raised in tribute to us—
the doubters, the small ones, the afraid, those who questioned
if they could believe, we, his readers. Is it an echo that
I think, after something like that, you would have to know,
you’d look back, reflect, and say to yourself, that felt good
it was important to get that written down. Because it means
something. No, goddammit – no, in fact – it means everything.

Michael Dennis’ latest book is now available and highly recommended
https://www.anvilpress.com/books/low-centre-of-gravity


Racky Rocky, quite a name, isn’t it? Got some poetry
to it, unlike some of the names the high and mighty
end up livin’ wit’. Actually, it’s short for Raconteur
Raccoon, get it? It’s all on account of all the talkin’
I like to do, people say I can’t shut up, but it’s all shtick
for when I go through their pockets without their noticin’
nice watch by the way, here you might want that back.
Yeah, I grew up with a magician dad and a mom who
said she was a gypsy. Cards were second nature by
the time I was one, sleight of hand I knew from birth.
Irregrettably, I suffered the pitfalls of a wild youth
and was arrested on a couple of vagrancy charges,
which didn’t matter much, but then I got popped
for pickpocketin’. I was an idiot, acted as my own lawyer,
argued it was compulsive behavior, I needed therapy
not punishment. The court disagreed and rewarded me
with three months jail time, which for a raccoon’s no
laughin’ matter, then 6 months of community service.
For the record, I would have done that on my own
considerin’ it was pickin’ up trash in public parks.
When I was in the can, what did I get? Therapy.
Once I got out I swore I was never goin’ back in.
You want a career in film, you’re doomed to live
on the street, unless you’re one in a million.
Me, I can live on the street no problem, but that’s
what therapy does for you, it helps clarify your goals.
Now, I work kid’s parties, banquets, conferences,
things like that. I can’t tell you how much doctors laugh
when I lift their wallet, return it while I take off
their tie without them noticing, and when I put that back on,
their weddin’ ring’s on it. One guys almost died in front of me
he laughed so hard. That, and he needed to consider a diet,
give up the cigarettes and booze, which for a doctor, you
would think would be an easy sell, but go figure, he was
on vacation, or convention, whatever they call it. I’m tellin’ you
I almost killed the guy. Plus, once, it would have been a struggle
to return this ring, here you go, or not take a little somethin’
shiny, like this lovely watch, oops, didn’t I give that back to you
before? But now, after my therapy, I’m over that and it’s all
about the laughs. And the stories. Did you like the stories?
Say, you recognize this necklace? Here you go. You see?
It’s all about the laughs. The shtick is all the stuff that
happens before I make you laugh. Shtick is the story
ordinary folk pay for. Listen. Without shtick, life is a state
where squares keep waitin’ for magic to happen.
(aside)
Listen, why don’t you have protection with you?
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m concerned for you
your well bein’. You’re goin’ around, askin’ a lot of
questions, there are things that should be left alone,
some things too rotten for even a raccoon to stomach.
People are noticin’, they don’t want these things
talked about, I’m just sayin’, take care of yourself, OK?
You seem like a nice kid.

<Raconteur Raccoon’s portraits are copyright Lianne Côté. You can visit Lianne at https://cotedesign.net/play_01.html. Thank you Lianne! All I asked for was a character and you brought RR to life! wm>


here’s how we get rid of money

First, we build robotic food factories,
then we give food away for free.
Except it will be healthy food
limited sugar, salt, fat, meat. People
will have to learn to cook to make it
taste good, but because of all their
spare time, as a result of not having
to make money to buy food, everyone
will become a very good chef. People
will be weighed when they pick up their
food, and their calorie intake will be determined
according to their body mass index. However,
people will want processed foods, potato chips,
doughnuts, anything deep fried, no matter what.
The only solution to limiting that, will be
make people pay, so that won’t work.

All right, we make love free;
except it’s already free, it’s been free
forever. It’s sex people want and they’ve
always been prepared to pay for that,
and always will, so that won’t work.

I’m all in: we conquer death.
What’s money when you’re immortal?
We become gods, and you know the first
thing gods want is worship, idolatry, blood
sacrifice and anything deep fried, which
someone has to pay for, so we’re right
back to the start, aren’t we? That won’t work.

OK, I’m flat busted, nothing left, no need to escort
me from the table to make room for the players
but, let me leave you with this: perhaps all we
need to do is let those who can, feed themselves
but we can’t ignore the hungry, just so we can
keep the money; and we let everyone who can
own their home, live how they want to live
but no one should sleep on the street, outside
we can manage that; and if people are alone
or need help, perhaps they need more, maybe
support, protection, sometimes money, we
can manage that; because all we need to do
is dig into an endless supply of love, and that’s free.


before anyone goes viral

we all know good times
end, nothing lasts forever
but who needs forever
when it comes to you and me

we live in the inbetween
the kindness of each other
the people we’ve witnessed
the people we’ve been

if there’s ever a chance
for our redemption
it’s what lives between us
and all it requires

is boundless invention
though the endless possibilities
of an infinite universe
seek to create canyons and chasms

that will try to divide us
today, we build bridges
joins, new ways to be
you and me


today’s blessing

is it possible to be thankful for too much
to say, this isn’t what I asked for, perhaps
it’s not mine, that label on the package
that says, “You,” may not mean “Me?”

why not pass this along, I ask, this isn’t
my problem, let those who created it
deal with it, I didn’t make it, don’t tell me
what to do, but is it possible I’d listen?

maybe we should all be thankful for what
flattens us, road kill in the highway of
high speed life, or is it possible to say
thank you, even if it goes against us?

today fills our cup, anoints our head before
our enemies, and it does that so we realize
we’re not really enemies, we may not be one
but does that really matter to our humanity?

Isn’t this the time for us to be thankful
for each other, how we heal each other
despite our fear, how you care for me
as I smile past the distance of touch?

what joy as I behold your face
you, who are unlike anyone else
as we stand on the knife edge together
shall we be thankful, you and me?


I‘ve always been my worst enemy.
Everyone agreed I had that special sparkle,
that inexplicable shine that makes you a star
except — I just gotta get my glow on.
Actually, not like that, it’s more like
my glow on gotta get me. I’ll explain.
It’s my big break, I’m working on a Mouse
short, I’ve got lines, business with the Mouse,
He’s a gold miner, he uses me to light his way
in the mine. As he walks along, I keep digging
gold. I get heavier and heavier, he sags lower
and lower to the ground — hilarious!
I’ve even got myself a new gold tooth
for my close-ups, every time I grin it drives
the DOP crazy! And what happens? In walks
Minnie and my glow on won’t quit. She’s sees it,
everyone sees it! Then she’s way too close,
I’m radiating like a lime light, she’s stroking
my face and blowing kisses at me and all of a sudden
everyone is dead quiet, because the Mouse has not
missed a beat of this, he stands up and says, “Fuck this”
and walks out. Minnie giggles, smirks at me, and walks
out the other way. Like that, I’m done. I haven’t
the foggiest idea what has happened. The director says,
“go home Friendly, better luck next time.” I say
“But what about the scene, what about me?” He says,
“there is no scene, go home.” And I’m done.
Oh now I know what happened, how I got played
like a sap, caught in a war between gods, but,
all I really know is: my glow on was what got me
the part, and my glow on fucked me, once again.


We’re the originals …
the only ones.
No one could ever move …
like us, let alone …
make people laugh …
or just enjoy themselves.
We weren’t stuck in Christmas either…
oh no, we performed all year round …
we were always in demand.
All kidding aside, we don’t always do that.
We heard you met the triplets …
them talking after each other…
completing each other’s thoughts…
well, who do you think taught them that?
Where do you think it comes from?
It’s old candy cane tradition.
Candy canes have been forced
to work together since forever.
Prejudice, pure and simple.
Because of that we learnt
to make that work for us.
Tag scat is one of our traditions.
It comes from Christmas.
Caroling.
Round singing.
Canons if you want to go back far enough.

You know it was always
tough being black and white striped.
People didn’t know how to slot us…
or didn’t care to …
we were told we weren’t white enough …
we weren’t black enough …
to work in film…
or to work anywhere.
(Together) But that’s before they saw us dance!
(Both laugh.)

No one will ever do the splits like us!
That’s for sure! Everyone else uses their hands
to get up, but these stubby little things …
are no use pushing off the floor…
so we taught ourselves how to do it without them.
You know Gregory Hines, the dancer?
He saw us, came backstage, said if they
ever make our life story into a film they’re going
to have to use CGI when we do the splits
cause no one else can get up without their hands.

We danced everywhere in Hollywood.
We toured Europe.
South America.
The world.
Dance is universal.
The language everyone knows.

Now, we teach.
Television gigs.
Broadway.
And there’s always film.
Regrets?
That we were passed over
because of who we are?
How we looked?
Look, long as we held our heads high
we have no regrets.
Our work will always speak for itself.


That, in the end, is the sheer audacity of my neglect,
rudimentary rabbit—you know why they call me that?
That’s what it said in the script, for those shots when all you see
is the back of bunny head, or just a big fat rabbit foot sticking
into the frame for a moment before it disappears, that’s me,
rudimentary rabbit, they said it was because of the accent,
joda con eso, que se jodan todos, maricons!
Like a fool I thought there would be room for two rabbits
in the great Hollywood, but I thought wrong,
especially when I was so much more talented
than any other rabbit whose name shall not be mentioned.
I am properly an Iberian rabbit, and my Spanish heritage shows,
I can tell by the way you look at me, you ask yourself
how could such a handsome rabbit have been ignored
nay, barred from the screen? Because that’s the fact
I could have been better than the original, but no
because I’m too refined, I’m not American enough.
It’s as if my life has been defined by another
and the final insult is, I’m rudimentary rabbit
just the pieces, not this magnificent whole, never
to have my chance, just another bit player, everyone
told me Hollywood is cruel, don’t do it, but I thought
I knew cruelty; I should never have left my warren.
(Rudy is known for rabbit stand-ins throughout cartoon history. GG)


You want to know the worst thing that
can happen to a flower? I know what it is,
can you guess? I’ll tell you what it is.
Take away a flower’s song, stop her
singing; take away a flower’s dance
stop her dancing. You want to know
why that’s the worst thing that can happen?
Because what’s left? Sittin’ in a flowerpot
out on the window ledge enjoying the sun
waiting to drop on some poor schmuck’s
head, that’s what. What kind of joke is that?
Do you know what dropping four stories
does to your roots? Or maybe you get a
close-up while some hairy stinky animal
snorts your fragrance like it’s dimestore
perfume, dragging at all your petals in a
lewd and troubling fashion, and if you say
anything, if you say that’s not family
humour, then try to get a job the next time.
You want to know what happens after
you take away a flower’s song and dance?
I’ll tell you what: degradation. And no amount
of fertilizer can cover the smell of that.
(Ms. Susan first appeared in Silly Symphony Flowers and Trees, 1932, GG)


Okay, this is lunch break, so let’s keep it brief.
I don‘t do that no more, movie hammering.
I’m keeping it real on this worksite, just bam
bam bam bam wham! all day long. Gets me
three squares a day—meals, I mean meals,
it’s slang. I don’t mean the tools, I’m not into
squares, nothing like that, people are always
looking for the worst part of Hollywood or did
I miss something? Isn’t that what you’re looking
for? Crazy tool box orgies with plenty of machine
oil? No? Ok, look I’m sensitive about that, a lot
of folk came out the other side with someone,
but me, seemed I could never find the right saw.
Look I’m as broad minded as the next tool, squares
are fine, I mean, if they’re adjustable then fine
but with set squares everything is ninety degrees
and there’s no arguing. I hate tools like that.
Still, butting heads is part of the game.

The guy who uses me pays an appreciation
charge. That’s what I call it, for the privilege
of bringing me to work, and he’s happy to pay,
because how many guys on this worksite
can say they have a fucking movie star
in their work belt? Not many, is the answer
to that one; although I did hear that Dribbly Drill
has gone back to the metal shop. It figures,
he’s such a gear head. What can I say? I was young,
thought I could be a star, not like all the others
who thought they were going to be stars, no,
I was going to nail this town. When it happened,
it was great. I walloped all the big guys; Daffy
will always be my favourite. His routines kept
changing. Even if it was only the old hammer
to the head joke, he kept it real, always found
a new way to work it. That duck has real talent.
But in the end, sitting around the lot for eight,
twelve hours a day, to do 5 minutes of shooting
and all of it, retake after retake … that’s not what
hammers are made for. I couldn’t take it, I had
to work. Bang things into place. Drive a big spike
and move onto the next one. Movies were nice
but this is satisfying. I can go to the pictures any
time I want, walk out, go home and sleep well.
Okay there’s the lunch whistle, gotta go.
Listen on your way out, let Larry — my guy
over there — know you’re doing a book on
all us cartoon folk, remember him who I am;
shine my handle a little, you know? Thanks!
See you in the pictures kiddo!
(Handy Hammer’s biggest role was in Disney’s film John Henry. GG)
<Handy Hammer copyright Emerson Maxwell. You can find Emerson on Instagram @emersonsmaxwell . Yes, Emerson is my nephew. No, there was no coercion involved, other than familial, wm>

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