Why does the gun
Come first for some?
I see a Taser and baton
And Pepper spray – where have they gone?
And does no one teach
Are the lines so blurred?
Where are the words?
No thought for de-escalation
Shouldn’t that be the foundation
To show you care
That you’re aware
Of more than just the power in your hand?
That you understand
There are better ways to make your mark
Than to crush the life from glowing sparksby
Is my country in the clear?
Do we speak against the fear?
Are we better than the rest?
Our vision truly best?
Or is our history
A darker mystery
Filled with not-so-secret shames
So many forgotten names
And things we’ve no wish to see?
Is it better to pretend
There’s no need to extend
Our thoughts and hearts and minds
Knowing that we’d find?
We aren’t nearly as kind
As we want to believe
And so we don’t conceive
That we can still improve
Because there are mountains yet to move
And more than mountains. I wrote that at almost the same time as “America Is Burning” but kept it a separate piece because it’s a separate, if related, thing.
I wrote it knowing about Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Chantal Moore and Chief Allan Adam and the Inuk man deliberately knocked down with an open truck door as the RCMP came to a stop. The last two people in that last survived their encounters. The first two did not. Chantal Moore’s death was fresh that day.
Since writing the poem above, I’ve seen the footage of Chief Adam’s arrest, and learned more about the other incidents. I’ve also learned about Rodney Levi and Lloys Chatel-Elie. Mr. Levi died Friday night in New Brunswick. Mr. Chatel-Elie was assaulted in his own home by Montreal police.
Canada is not innocent. We have the same problems as the US when it comes to systemic racism and over-policing of minority communities. It’s not as out of hand here as it is there, not yet. Maybe. But we’re following the same path.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.
And stay angry. Then find ways to channel that anger so the people in power have to hear it. It’s the only way things will change.
Update on 18 Jun 2020 to add the Youtube video of me reading the poem.by
I’m not seeing it as much on Mainstream Media as I was a week ago, but it’s still all over my social media and independent services. Protests, anger, people whose eyes are finally open to the racism all around us. Spread across the world.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds.
I live in Canada and we often pride ourselves on how much better we are than the States when it comes to pretty much every social issue you want to name. Better isn’t the same as good, though, and you can find plenty of news stories just in the past week to show that we have a lot of the same issues and the same problems and the same blindnesses as our neighbour to the south. We don’t talk about them as much because we don’t really want to see them, but they’re there.
And we’re not on fire at the moment. At least, not yet.
I’m writing all the time and poetry has always been a piece of things for me. The poem that follows is a small chunk of my emotional reaction to what’s going on in the US, but I’m worried about Canada, too. The poem is a week old now, and could have been written a week or more before that if I could have put the words together.
A couple of days ago, I managed to find the verbal expression to record myself reading it, and posted it on my under-used Youtube channel. If you’re interested, I’ve embedded the video below the poem.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.
And stay angry. Channeling that is the only way things will change.by
America is burning
And so many wonder why
America is burning
Its promises lost in lies
Of a nation built on ashes
Soaked in blood, and scarred by lashes
Its leader, whose constant tweeting
Serves the beating
Of his chest, his old and pasty minions
Offer the same stretched-thin opinions
Of entitlement and division
Bring a new collision
Every moment, sowing hate and fear
Grinding down any who should appear
With the myth that they are free
America is burning.
And it’s difficult for me
To find a way to see
Why it isn’t just and right
For the fires to roar through day and night
The silenced voices to be heard
The nation’s vision a bit less blurred
Except by tears
For lives lost over years
Awaiting more than heart-felt words
To soothe despair still churning
Underneath the golden sheen
Of an ever-tarnished, dying dream
America is burning
I go through major phases where I flirt with poetry. In the last few years, that’s mostly been expressed as haiku, a form I appear to be having a serious love affair with, but I’ve worked with all kinds of different forms and lengths.
A few years ago, I set out to compose an epic poem using the title of this post. It was going to be grand, sweeping, heroic, and tell a tale in iambic tetrameter. It began like so:
In late July, the summer breeze
Stirring gently through the trees,
Brings the scent of last bloomed rose
And grass crushed ‘tween unclad toes.
High above, in sky so blue,
Flash lights of some unearthly hue.
A silver disk, artist drawn,
Sets down softly on my lawn.
A greenish beam lights up my chair
Floats me gently through the air.
A window opens as a gate.
A voice requests I sit and wait.
Down below, a rumbled flush,
My insides feel they’ve turned to mush.
My lungs let loose a strangled cry,
Outside I see the moon pass by
Heart beats harder, breath unsteady,
Whatever comes, I am not ready.
I sit and wait, my mind ablaze
With thoughts I’ve reached the end of days.
When suddenly a door appears
So quick it costs my life ten years.
Into the room stepped three small guys
With bulbous heads and bulging eyes,
Holes for ears, pinpricks at best,
Heads no higher than my chest
Pale white skin, no scrap of hair
Long flowing robes with arms laid bare…
And there, for some reason, it left off. I set it down to do something – I don’t actually remember the specific day I started writing this, only that it was a day off – and when I came back to it, the inspiration was gone. All I remember for certain is that the objective was to eventually use the quatrain:
Damn you, you interstellar toad!
I will resist your anal probe!”
“Now cut that out, you are quite silly.
The worst you’ll get? A quick Wet Willy.”
But I never got there and I’ll probably never get it back.
Be well, everyone.by
by So there are times when I’m a haiku addict, and while I mean more writing than reading, there are several books in the house and I have a twitter stream saved that I can skim whenever I feel the need. That stream gives me a cross section from incredible to cringe, but it’s always worth the read. Often, it gives me haiku in different languages; while I can usually work out the French ones, everything else needs a little Google Translate assist when I’m in the mood.
All that said, I write a lot of haiku. It’s certainly the lion’s share of my poetry in recent years. Right now, it’s probably two or three per week, but I go through periods where I’m penning, typing, or dictating five per day, sometimes more. Probably, there have been something over a thousand in the past two years.
I’m not entirely a traditionalist. While I like the 5-7-5 format, I’ll play around with shorter versions of the same basic structure, accounting for the difference in information density of English instead of Japanese. Not all of my haiku are based on a natural image, which I suppose makes the ones that aren’t technically senryu, and a few even fit into the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.
I haven’t shared very much lately, but I used to release some into the ether regularly. Thinking it’s time I start that again, so here are a few, written sometime in the last year.
Drifting on cool wind
Trails of smoke above the grass
Swallowed by darkness
A patient old crow–
Air shimmers above the road
That will provide food
Ancient flutes imagined
On a thick breeze
Behind a closed door
Small balls of fur lie waiting
Practice combat skills
Leopard in a box
Curled up, seams not quite bursting
The catness shines through
by Another from the deep vault, the date on this silly piece, according to the original file, is 02 November 1999, and it concerns possibly the greatest food ever created, pizza. Once, years before this poem, while a university student, I ate pizza for twenty-three (that’s 23) consecutive meals. Oh, not all from the same pizzeria, and not all with the same toppings, and not all at the same temperature. It is, it is, a glorious thing to be the pizza king.
Food of the gods
But no other food
Puts more people at odds
Mushrooms and cheese
Onions, green peppers
Pineapple, chick peas
A list without end
How to decide
Between you and a friend
Tomatoes and ham
Ground beef, pepperoni
Baked in an oven
On a platter that’s stony
Or perhaps in a pan
Or a hot barbecue
One thing about pizza
There’s no limit for you
To cook or to slice
In sauce or in spice
The food of the gods
Is never the same twice
by From the vault. The note in the original file is that it’s on the occasion of my almost ten-month-old son’s third cold. He’ll be turning 19 shortly.
Few things shake your soul
Like a baby with a cold
Pick me up, put me down
Turn me over, turn me around
Go away, come here, go away
No, wait, I want you to stay
I’m tired, can’t sleep
I’m hungry, won’t eat
I’m thirsty, won’t drink
Just pour the milk down the sink
Short naps in the bed
Rub my tummy, rub my head
Daddy’s tired, needs a rest
Mama-mama (likes her best)
Cry and scream, scream and cry
Daddy needs a quiet place to lie
Mommy’s home, at last, at last
Pass the baby, quickly, fast
Daddy sits and sighs, he’s rather glad
Then comes the scream, I want my dad!by
by Tell me again how there’s no global warming.
Oh right, we’re supposed to say climate change.
I see, it was cold where you are today,
And god is taking care of everything.
Sorry? It’s warm and it’s supposed to be?
Well, of course, you must still be correct then.
What difference a few billion humans,
A few thousand years of shaping the world?
Isn’t it nice to live consequence-free
And know nothing you do really matters?
Your kids will inherit the same old world,
Still turning the same as it always has.
But if you’re wrong, maybe clean up a bit?
Or at least try not to shit where we eat?by