Archives for posts with tag: Ward Maxwell

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.

Last night it was in a hallway of some institution,
maybe a high school, there were lockers along the walls.
He arrives with two people who I believe are my parents,
but they aren’t; they don’t look like them, or talk like them
but that is what I think in my dream. I walk out of an office
into the hallway, and there are my parents with Donald Trump.
I’m happy to see them, more Trump than “them,” as they’re
not really my parents, but it doesn’t seem important at the time;
Trump’s happy to see me, comes up and grabs my hand
gives me a gift box of soap, moisturizer and a hand towel
“You see? Who says I don’t bring you something? It’s for you.”
I think, that’s kind of cheap for a billionaire, but I look at it,
and at Donald J. Trump, and say, “Thanks,” and I mean it.

Another night, Trump and I are walking outdoors, maybe
behind the White House on the way to a helicopter, maybe
it is just a park, there’s no indication of where we are;
I have this great feeling walking with him, I really like him,
really, really like him. I say, “You should be yourself
more often and let people see the real you. They’d love you
if they got to know you; it’s hard not to like you, when you get
to know you.” Donald J. Trump just grins and keeps on walking.

I wake up in the morning and ask myself, did I really dream
about Trump again? It seems like I dream of him every night.
I wake up and remember Trump appearing at the oddest times,
popping out from behind a door, running past in a jogging outfit.
I’m in a store and he is pushing a shopping cart full of food,
really, really full of boxes, cans, bags, anything packaged.
Other nights, he’s just a big head that floats through whatever
is happening, obscuring everything as his smile never wavers.
Perhaps, some night, some dream, that face will continue to rise
above the far away horizon, a giant striding towards me, a mountain
shaking the earth beneath his feet, bouncing me like a pea
on a plate, “Good to see you. I brought you something.”

Or, maybe, one night, I will be the mountain, and thousands of little
Trumps will run around my feet shouting, “Don’t walk! Don’t Move!
You might kill me!!” millions of little voices amplified like a massed
choir of thousands and thousands of Alvin and the Chipmunks,
or perhaps like a drone of cicadas, or peeper frogs at night.


The framing for the hockey rink would start as early as mid-October. The stakes to support the boards had to be in the ground before it froze over. The boards would be up by mid-November, usually after first snow.
Once the ground was frozen and a hard cold had set in the rink could be flooded. The janitors from our public school would run a thick black hose out from the school and run hot water to lay down the first flood for the rink. The first flood led to a 24 hour extravaganza of ice forming, more flooding, repeat and repeat while we watched in anticipation before going home for dinner.
Sometimes, we would return afterwards, the night cold and black, sometimes snowing, to watch the men flood the rinks one more time, never questioning who was more mesmerized. The nascent pleasure rink surrounded by heaps of snow, the hockey rink with its lights up, ready to be turned on.
School days, everyone skated at recess. Lessons would stop early so skates could be put on. Everyone looked forward to the pleasure rink. No one was supposed to play tag, so recess was a madhouse of tag, played by girls and boys. Girls played tag with girls, boys with boys, and boys and girls played tag with each other. All on the same rink at the same time. It was the essence of anarchy. The thrill of being chased by a mad group of 6, 7, 8 year old girls, providing a sudden sense that everything is so much better, so much wilder with girls.
Of course, after school, everything changed. Mothers or fathers would arrive and skate. Tag was out; parents had no problems shouting, “Little boys! Stop playing Tag!”
It wasn’t really tag. Wrestling on skates would be a better description. Around and around we would go, grab hats, throw them into the snow to start things off. Chase, grab, all while skating as fast as possible. The best was when you got hold of the sleeve of a coat that had not been done up. If you timed it just right, you could spin your opponent so his arm wrenched out of one sleeve of his coat. Now, you could use that extra length of coat to spin and whip him around until he fell over, or went flying into one of the snow banks surrounding the rink.
Sometimes my grandfather would come to skate. My mother and he had ice-danced together when she was younger. She told me they would appear in civic ice-skating shows up North when my grandfather was a forest ranger, and he would be stationed in towns like Pembroke and Kapuskasing.
I had never seen black figure skates before. I asked my grandfather what was wrong with his skates. He laughed and said “Not everyone plays hockey.” He would step onto the ice with my mother and skate in time, arms wrapped around each other’s waists, feet lifting in tandem. People would stop to admire them. The two of them did very little dancing, sometimes a quick twirl, or my grandfather would turn and skate backwards in time with my mother (as fast and as well as the hockey players I wished I could be). People would watch them — those who knew me would say to me “Your grandfather is a wonderful skater.”
They never mentioned my mother who was beautiful, a wonderful skater and had a movie star smile. But my grandfather would wear a black suit, dress shirt and tie, black Homburg, grey dress gloves, not a snow jacket and toque, when he skated with my Mom. He drew all eyes as he strode into each step with her, to emphasize the line, the speed (he was a tall and an elegant man), always matching my Mom, who smiled effortlessly.
Hockey was what it was all about. I remember racing through my dinner so I could go back to the rink to play. Running up the hill in snow boots, hockey stick over my shoulder with my skates slung on it. Impatiently putting my cold skates on, stamping my feet to get them warm, taking a few turns around the pleasure rink getting the leather supple, sitting back down and tightening the laces until the skates were so tight it felt like no blood could possibly get to my feet. Then stepping onto the hockey rink, smacking my stick on the ice, indicating I’m there to play.
There was a limit to how many people could be on the hockey rink. Ten a side was not unheard of, but everyone agreed it tended to slow the game down. Further, the rink was barely regulation — it was about three–quarter sized. Iit was perfect for a game of three on three, or four on four. We played shinny – no raising the puck, no checking (bumping and jostling are OK — that’s just part of the game). No one wore helmets — a few had hockey gloves. All you really needed was skates and a stick.
The start of the game was always the same. Everyone would skate to centre ice and throw their sticks in a pile and the two captains/ best skaters/ oldest boys would push the sticks into two piles and you would get your stick from one pile and that was your team. In most instances, the divisions were fair — each team would have a mix of starting, promising, good, and one or two fierce hockey players.
Players would line up against the player on the other team who was their match. You would think the best players would steal the puck from the weakest — but it was the opposite. The only moment the fastest guys were interested was when the other fastest players had the puck — then the game was on. Twisting, skating at impossible speeds, they would dart and swoop, dodging between little smallest (who, honest to God, would sometimes fall down, blasted by the wake of their flight), one aside, astride, behind the other, hacking, trying to lift the stick from the ice to steal the puck, all while racing in circles and figure eights past lesser beings. This would  end in either a goal or the puck being deliberately passed to one of the younger players — often the one lying on the rink — while the combatants would retire to the side to catch their breath.
The rules of the playground translated to the rink. There is no other way to describe the even division of pick up teams. Time outs — when all the little kids had to get off the ice so the teens could play unhindered. All on — when everyone was allowed on, and a young wizard of the puck could be seen squarely putting a missed pass onto the stick of a six year old chugging down the rink, racing to the impossibly far away goal, while another teenage defender skated backwards in front of that soon-to-be NHL forward ever so slowly, skates wide spread, swaying slightly from left to right, describing gentle arcs on the ice, before he would make a failed slap at the puck and a six year old slap shot rang out.
Again, often accompanied by a falling down.
Sometimes the puck went in — if the goalie wasn’t in net. But no one laughed. Instead — they cheered. “C’mon — skate, skate, shoot, shoot!”
Picture a wave of 6 and 7 year olds, on a break — 7 to 2 — the puck shuffles between them, always just in front, half of them skating on their ankles, looking more like a football team than a hockey team, and in front of them, lazily skating backwards, a big boy (a teenager) shouting to his friend in goal “Here they come! Are you ready?”
“I’m not sure we can handle them all!”
“We’re going to have to try!”
Letting the swarm within about six feet of the goal, then swiping the puck from them onto the “goaltender’s” stick, who would then shoot it the length of the ice (no icing). The two would wait for the tide to turn, head back to retrieve the puck, before assembling again, starting back up the ice en masse, determined to get it right this time.
This would last until the human wall fell down due to exhaustion. (This is how you build great hockey players.)
The gentle democracy of the well policed ice rink. By the kids, for the kids. There were no adults after school was closed. It didn’t matter. It was the neighbourhood rink and a certain … decorum … was expected.
A final picture — to evoke the beauty of that place, that time. It is night. A light snowfall fills the air with points of light as snowflakes drift out of the dark into the glare of the lights. As you approach the rink, before you can fully see who is there, you hear it — the slap of puck, the boom as it hits the boards, the keening of blades on ice, an indescribable sound as if the song implicit in the pre-game grinding of skate blades is allowed to sing. And the sight as you came closer — the game is four on four, and the game is on. No longer just teenage boys — these are the best, adults and teens. Age doesn’t matter — you get on the ice if you can play.
How they fly! They wear light jackets because they are sweating in the cold, steam rising above them. Most wear hockey gloves — some wear helmets. Their hair streams behind them. Often the only sound ragged breathing, quick shouts, grunts.
The game is shinny and the game is speed. That simple. They chase the puck. Pick it up along the boards. Come from behind the net in a formation of three, a delta of flight, man behind carrying the puck (you must always protect the puck). Qait to the last moment to pass to the next man, who in an instant passes ahead to the net to the lead skater who races, possessed to be there, at the net, at the exact moment when the puck must hit the blade of the stick and tip into the goal. Scores!
They round the net in a moment of victory, arms hoisted in the air, ballet with no ballerinas, as sweet as any win could be. All beneath a cold black winter’s night, surrounded by middle class neighbourhood of warm red brick houses, bright windows, smoke rising from their chimneys — the only sound — the slap of the puck, the boom of the boards, and the keening as skates caress ice.

we open these windows
to steal a little light into the world,
fearing shadows that have disappeared.
we must find new windows
and meditate upon the signing
of illumination,
the language of perception
discerned in the tattoo
beat between fire and stone.
the golden glow of our achievement
must match the withdrawal of the sun
and the richness of the gift
must induce its return.
old soil must lie fallow.

a time that abounds with fruit and seed
that measures what we remember
against what we record.
day and night, crystal and glass,
light fluted through festive wines
pressed in the family cellar.
drink and feel the grass sleep,
pastures dream between nude trees.
drink and caress your aching womb,
feel it fill with new light.
call forth a new god.
remake it as you remember it,
what it was before.
describe it, invent it, bind it,
let it supplant the endless waiting
that is a child’s time.
when you can wait no more,
the wait you have learnt to endure,
and cherish;

listen to the song sung
by a sparrow that has found
a kernel of corn in the snow.

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