Archives for posts with tag: South of the Iroquois Shoreline

The day he tells me they’ve cut away his testicles to treat his cancer,
my father is an old man at the end of the line. Miles away, I am a father,
too, but my eyes are my little boy eyes as my father lowers the mystery
of his scrotum into the bath with me, and the hot water rising counts my
ribs with its small hands: this is how a man’s body takes up the world in
the piling of water against white stone. This is the body he has taught to me –
and saved: the pillar of his torso, arms and legs that sprung
the rhythm of his victories on the track, crushing hands that played
good cards and bad cards always the same. And his voice, it hoisted
any poem up off the page. He is more island now than ever in
his soldier days when he learned to praise the flesh that took a wound
and lived, when he built bridges out of the range of enemy fire
and dropped them through the long stride of a triangle onto the other shore.
There he understood, as he has always understood, the shortest distance
between mind and world is measured out in metal. But my father is laughing
on the phone because the English learned to laugh in the company of
the dying and the dead. And he will live, we know it, because
he has put his fighting laughter on. He has let them open the folded
purse where the tiny machines that made half my body lay whirling
in the dark, and he quotes the Scrooge who found his grave
at the foot of his bed in the film my father and I have watched
every Christmas Eve I remember – This, he is saying, is not the man I was.

<This is the opening poem for my book Worthy of His Fall (2005), the book I wrote while my dad was about midway through the illnesses that would eventually kill him. In true British soldier fashion, with British-soldiery humour, Dad and I started a list of all the things in his life that had tried to kill him, from this bout of prostate cancer back to the Imperial Japanese Army, to cigarettes, his own heart (twice), his own stomach (twice), to, well, you get the picture. This poem still rings true to me. I wrote it in 2002.RH>

© Richard Harrison


and now it is early in the morning and there is no one but me and the raccoons

you should love me because what I steal is what you can afford to lose

you should learn to love the thrill of ravishment because someone is always going to take it away from you so you better get used to it

you better get used to it because I am on the prowl in the silver moon light and I am accompanied by my legions of mice and rats and skunks and coyotes and wild dogs and raccoons and big black fucking bears—I’ve seen them—greasy grotesque figures squeezing their way out of sewer grates—at first I thought they were giant plastic rats—but they’re for real—you never know what you will find until you live through each hour of a single day—

I’m a thief, not a bank

I steal but only the city keeps it all

city has all it takes, all it needs

I’m just getting a little bit for me

city understands—maybe you don’t

quite rightly—I visited you this nightly


<and so ends book 5, South of the Iroquois Shoreline. Next book starts Monday, June 1 or as I call it — Canada Day.>

Director speaks: “pulse first—the room must be airy with as high a ceiling as possible—looking up into a high ceiling is like looking up the skirt of an impossibly beautiful model —it’s only natural”
establish beat—”are you press, or VIP?”—”the bar is open for one hour, then it’s cash”—”the show starts at 10:30″—”would you like an hors d’oeuvre—it’s made with a slice of gruyere cheese, horseradish mayo, rare roast beef, topped with coriander and drizzle of sesame seed oil”—”I mean it has been consuming her for the past two months, and look at her, it’s as if she just stepped off the cruise ship”
layer techno with reggae, layer with salsa, layer with R&B, layer with brujo, layer with pixie dust, layer with tartan kilts, layer with heavy drum beat, killer snare riff, machine drum cymbal sizzle, layer with silver and electric sparkles
make conversation impossible—people will only talk louder and enjoy themselves more
models and strippers are mirror images of each other—strippers mock women for wanting to be like them and dare men to want them—models mock men for wanting them—and dare women to want to be like them
light show—”great flowers of psychedelic colour and grainy films of hand-painted animation cut with 60’s big pulsing blobs of feeling and grooviness and vibe”
stitch, cut, patch, flock, vent, dart, seam, cuff, inlay, embroider, pleat, gather, silhouette, shape, flatter, form, mold, compress, emphasize, bold, slit, hem, hike, ruffle, v-neck, t-neck, scoop top, décolletage
the rush—”I’d wear that”—”the designer is daring us to re-think fashion”—”I’d look good in that”—”You wouldn’t get me into that in a thousand years”—”it’s an entirely new look for her!”—”I want one of those”—”the clothes are for sale—not the models, dear”—”it’s the season — wear what you dare”
the designer feted, applauded, ovationed, bouqueted, listened to rapturously, shouted and praised, the runway is empty, everyone turns to the exit, leaving behind strangers, beautiful vagabonds and the media, who will party all night long
and say it was a great show, the best, ever

Poet whistles to cat in the evening
warns of approaching dog;
cat rears, dog bristles, poet
calms, trilling and warbling
as birds talk to one another.
The combatants: dog backs down
as sensible dog has always done;
cat sits like statue posing for
Egyptian hieroglyph, inscrutable
face put on the meeting. Dog sniffs
telephone pole, cat sits still; poet
experiments with quarter tones,
achromatic scales, Bergian conceits,
trying to sound just like birds.
Dog returns from her crap
upon the Korean convenience store
owner’s immaculate lawn, tended
by his elderly parents, again
the bristles between two predators—
all so predictable, almost laughable.
The moment poet shouts HI HI HI!
cat bolts—dog sniffs itself—
all is calm as summer sun paints
the horizon gold, salmon, amethyst,
carbine, and stars scatter like scent.

5:00 p.m. run the water. set the pot to the side until the water runs clear. turn on the element. the water is cold so it is time to fill the pot, water splashing over the side, pot settles on the stove and water steams off the wet underside like mice nails chittering across the linoleum, it is a dreadful thought, there are mouse traps under the sink, Daniel must put them out tonight.

the pot begins to rock back and forth with the water expanding within, trapped and just waiting to boil, it is a miracle every pot doesn’t explode, just spews its contents out onto dinner plates, and everyone thinks it is perfect, better than ever before because why do we work so hard? and no one notices? I have to stop asking questions as if they are sentences.

chop onions, cut up vegetables, the kids like theirs raw, Daniel likes his cooked, start the frying pan, just enough time to run down and put in a laundry, the phone is ringing, damn, ignore it, that’s what answering machines are for, “Hello, No I’m sorry it’s a bad moment, no, no, I don’t think we need carpet cleaning, it’s a bad time, call back later—when the lady of the house is home.” I am insane—I have broken down completely—I am pretending I am not here, I am pretending not to be me.

race downstairs, grab the load out of the washing machine, that’s what pre-sortings for, throw it in the dryer, set the timer, be sure to listen because it is broken now and dings merrily away until you come down and open the door—it is really annoying—once I forgot and I woke up in the middle of a dream because there was this bell dinging and dinging and it’s time to run back up stairs to throw the onions into the frying pan and get that meatloaf going. 45 minutes to showtime.

civic spire electric vision on 83rd flr—plate glass windows broadcast blanc noir to the thrum of sympathetic radar fugue—do not forget the unseen around us, they watch as well—ease up, easy down—walk the streets with me and look up, now look down—new horizons up there, new worlds unfurling as we discover the secret web of our enhanced device—we challenge worlds within worlds, never heard the word Monad? never were once one celled? call me protoplasmic—we are far past that now—look down, do not look down too far we have slid far enough, we slide from towers to dungeons in a heartbeat—human history demonstrates this as the only fact worth knowing—walk with me as we pick our way thru the hall of living fallen heroes, do not mistake your revulsion for less than self-interest, they do not deserve this—we are no more nor less than them—they who are only they—this is the street that runs between the tower and the gorge—each day people on their way to work on buses in cars on the subway flying in private helicopters try their best to negotiate this street—the street that runs between you and me—the street that long ago was named without pity—this street is the river, we are paper boats, this is a paper boat. towers are empty white plastic bottles bobbing in the wake of large incomprehensible cruise ships passing by—the gorge is the endless capacity of water to swallow everything thrown into it—the street is black with what we have thrown into it—we stare at the asphalt wondering if it will finally reflect our true face back … operator, I’m not getting a tone … operator? are you there?—people will pay you on the street in the towers in the gorge if you can just answer that question—operator … are you there? they just want an answer, play it, play it for them, for me, for anyone—just a sure thing … are you there? just a promise … are you there? I’ll pay … tell me—I’ll pay

calypso message drifts by on imported Caribbean breeze
pound and a quarter of jacked Civic hip hop cruises
it’s like an accordion out there, squeeze, release
mariachi band chimes in from the distance
my neighbour’s daughter is playing her steel drum
and the pots in my kitchen ring sympathetically in time
hard core heat heavy metal grinder passes by
announces the start of rush hour, the Red Rocket rockin’
in time with the i-Pod rhythms of sistas and bruthahs
off in the distance, celebrating the Assumption
a Portuguese choir squares off against an Oompah-pah band
and it all comes down to an allegorical battle between
Singing and Shouting, who is the loudest
and who loves best—the sheer joy of song

City steams after spring rain washes
evening so pure the horizon appears
limitless, virgin mother blue porcelain Bavarian church
inverted eggcup of clouds and setting sun, the broken
yolk stain sopped by the crust of the city—upper and lower.

Lilacs strain the air with evening’s reward,
tulips parade to paint their moment, maple trees
afir with green puffs of exuberance, and all is
impossibly alive again, free from the frozen season,
fragrances arise, melodies of perfume; sing a song.

This is now, this is the frequency Kenneth, this is
the vibrancy, the stirring, the beginning, each one of us
knows it, feels it, talks about it, even in the rain rubber booted
umbrellaed hat dashed moment, the gardeners dig it, the birds
and the worms dig it, the weatherwoman digs it, sings it, that song.

Beat of clouds and rain, earth and seed, the evening sky stretches
scarlet teased to tangerine against three grades of blue fading
to a colour previously reserved for the personal use of the King
of France, the lost Dauphin took the formula and the colour
had been lost until now when I found it here in your eyes.

This is the burst moment, the thundershower of blossoms and fruit,
the promise of dance and high pressure zones with only clear skies, sunshine,
a starlit sky at night—so we can dream endless universes, heavens;
we can dream what will be again, this time, next year, next frozen
season, when the sky is etched black and love seems lost. Marry me,

or at least be my girlfriend.

when you look at the sky—that’s for everyone
no one can own it—people try to write on it
project movies on it—I’ve seen ’em, I know
what I am talking about—no one owns them,
the clouds—they’re castles, mountain ranges,
Hard Rock Candy Mountain—where you get
cigarettes from cigarette trees—you look
at them at sunset—when they build from pink
and fluffy—to dark and blacker than black
hearts, black times—blot out the stars, blot
out the sun—and then they’re your best friend
make it rain when you’re too hot—and then they
arrive with ice and a brawl of snow that smacks
you like a fist and then they’re no friend—and then
you know … no one owns them—mighty castles
greater than the richest man’s home—brilliant
paintings better than any Old Master—the root
of architecture, music, statues, poetry & theology—
and they are as much mine as yours—and I am happy
to share the view neighbour—it’s a beautiful evening,
the sun’s majesty glorious colours … yada yada—postcard?

I no longer trust necklaces,
strings of precious lies.
That grip us and keep us
by asking too much for what we want.

I give up pearls, diamonds, gold,
silver hippie beads and moroccan glass.
I cannot believe, another moment,
another string of lies.

One bound to the other, a chain reaction – all dreams!
The chase of the hot by the cold and the union
in snow and rain and thunderclash and drama –
all lies and childish dreams with no place to go,
no heroine, no hero, no redemption, no point.

I will lose my sun, my moon dogs, my rings;
I have lost all values and cannot tell you what that is worth.
I am drowning in a unseasonable micro-burst of exclusion
and no longer want to even know how to swim.
I cannot tell you what the future will bring,
what tomorrow is going to be like,
you’ll have to listen to the news for that.

I cast away the heat of the sun.
I forgo the tumescence of a handsome cumulonimbus.
I resent the equinoxes and re-setting of clockses—
the cant of the world can go to Kant
and suffer the consequences – I’m not going to.
I decant, recant, dirty old paint can can’t,
that’s my descant and rapid descent
into utter depression along the lines
of a running low front, accompanied by
fog and heavy blues. I have imagined you,
sought you so plaintively, heart yearning—
and I have only fallen in love, once again,
with a fantasy.

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