Indian Summer, bathing

“You do it to me.” –Proverbs

Indian Summer, bathing
this lower canine smile and
stubble-studded skin
holding a voyage of rain.

There is a proferred cigarette
and plastic teacup filled with beer,

stories of past penthouses,
burnt dollars,
and the forged signature
of a 91-year-old Hell’s Angel
for his store of assistance cheques.

There were three wives:
the first a hellcat
flagrantly cheating
with her purveyor of coke,

the second a Czech beauty
forever undone by loss:
too-distant parents,
too-suddenly turned
to memory.

No mention of the third.

If it could happen to Dave…

Small, so


“Flowers resembles beauty / less than our breathing.” –e.e. cummings.

Small, so
small. As a billowed breeze
against this morning
face, you are the missing,

And, so soon,
you are ready.
Red fists from the placenta now
beat at the made-warm air:
It is only life when you
take it under your ribs;
only genuine now that you
discover it.

Your eyes precisely
unfold the new light.
I spread myself against it and
wait to be found.
The line sweeping my palm
accepts your
five-fingered blessing:

There will never be nothing again.

[for Zachary Aimé Griffin Abraham, January 8, 1997]

Only Words

“For the ancient Hebrew, the way out of the Second Commandment was — to make images in words.”  –A.M. Klein

always rules.

A transcendent idea
inevitably followed by
a “Thou shalt not…”

No building, no matter
what your true intentions.

No speaking of any consequence;
all voices stilled by the ineffable.

Above all, no images;
inner eyes blinded by ever-shall-be’s.

Strength atrophied within the enforced humility.
Somehow, the mystery all around us
was meant to be ignored, not glorified.

The walls had reasons, of course —
community, structure, protection —
but always there was the feeling of
a portal we were meant to discover.

And we found it —
groping in the darkness
we found it
in a whisper borrowed from the rain;
in the near-silence of pen on paper;
in the etching of quiet words
that few, if any would read.

As it was in the beginning,
there remain the cynical choruses
of only words,
but we share the secret celebration.

That only when
thoughts use lips
to leave us lonely,
only then —
unexamined, unrepaired —
are thoughts made only.

[for Frank Manley]

Keep Listening

“Whomsoever shall I kiss, that same is he; hold him fast.” –Matthew 26:48

It wasn’t
the challenge,
the money,
the kiss
that brought it all down.

I was no rebel,
but the best of disciples.

So why does he hang there,
touching the world
with his wounds?

quick and dead,
          body and blood

while I hang
out forever in the garden.

without action,
               without rest?

Disciple, right?
Discipline, no?
— doing exactly as you’re told.

He told me what to do,
and yes,
He told me also.

But there were decisions
I couldn’t make,
All manner of promises
I simply couldn’t keep.

And, in the end,
people decide who they are.

The Almighty waves lightly
and reasons:

All right…
      Whatever you want…
so long as
       you keep listening.

[for Matt Bergbusch]

Hunting and Fishing



“il faut enivrer sans trêve”


Not far from the derelict

    elevators of bread, still rising

    blind and Babylonian, closer

still to our Lady of Safe Harbours so often

bathed in honey, braving the wet

resin of coming winter war, my friend,

    an impending pappoú, has friends

with greeting hands into which we disappear

for a time.

Helen is the fire of Crete, ensuring our mindful

use of public transport before

    the bubbly, the orange of Campania,

La Vielle Prune warming the beginnings

of imaginative huitres, home-smoked belly

of boar, and pockets of lobster.

The tip-tongue tripping of pappardelle

    and truffle slivers, l’air doux de

thon,de morue glacée, the solid verities of

venison, all now under the domain of Bizot,

    and a moist November evening evolving

into a Night of Saint-Georges.

And amidst the peaty pleasures…

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Suns and Mothers


“He feels he is not valued so he will risk destroying himself to deprive her altogether.”
–D.H. Lawrence

“I am your mother,”
she insisted tearfully.
Of course
I love you!”

“There is no
of course!”
I countered.
“Love is nothing
if not an effort!”

Later, I confess —
like an ass,
and to prove
my deathly point —
it was my pointless intention,
my purpose,
to stop —

drinking distant, acid toasts to my
suppurating ego,

treating time and life
as a waiting room
for my caterwauling pride —

only to learn she
was right all along.


“if we love each (shyly) / other, what clouds do or Silently / Flowers resembles beauty / less than our breathing.”
–e.e. cummings

A zygote,
150 cells or less,
compared with the many thousands
that make up the brain
of an ant, and yet
such consternation.

Three months we waited,
enduring weekly ultrasounds,
truculent doctors proclaiming
thirty-four weeks the
goal for continuing to live.

Bedrest and vitamins,
television, and the earned
possibility of sleep,
all to make that
zygote Zach, three pounds of
greater love,

and possibility of greater violence than
I once thought possible.

Contemplating hard-won nothingness,
only to discover there would never
be nothing again.

And another,
two months in hospital this time,
punctuated by daily doctors
and the maybe of tomorrow
and home.

But then there is Lucas and a tunnel of light,
and the question of how in the world
this world will ever understand what
it has wrought and received.


“Ye do it to me.”


Against this world overwrought:
right, left,
and up above,

we discover other mothers,
grandmothers, seraphim-dreaming
of our health and happiness;
the frequency of phone calls and flowers,
the back-fence considerations of

marital imperfections and maternal expertise,

the nuptial invitations
of Christopher and Sarah,
made to laugh so all that may hear
may laugh with them.

And there are Rory and Rowan and Molly
to balm the loss of our so-small ones
made big by time and trial;

there is
Ivi reading off the deck, listening to
Lucas sing and loving Dylan;

Sunanda offering Lucinda Williams,
premium parking and the art of accounting;
Susan recounting travels to Scotland
and Baltimore and beyond,

all to value other
little big ones.

In a world that clearly doesn’t care,
there is caring and concern and consideration;
in the struggle to feel valuable,
there is value freely, blindly offered.

There is an intelligible world,
at least within this perimeter;
there is the never nothing in this
desert of deserving.


“come on sweetheart / let’s adore one another / before there is no more / of you and me.”

Now, we are Mum.
We are now Dad.

And in them,
through them,
we have always
been each other.

We are now the
children of our own,
and each
other’s, children,

and we are now
the only parents
sharing histories
we can neither
recapture or escape.

And it is of our course
that we
love each other.

There is no more time to pretend.
There is no possibility of any other outcome.

It is love, of course,

and it will breathe clean,
returning, jagged-joyful
gasps until long after there
is no more of you and me.

[for Ivi, Sunanda, Susan, and Julie, of course]


Montreal, 2015.

Eyes So Open


“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”
–Song of Solomon

Awareness follows love
inside the smile
that betrays your eagerness —

the kind anticipating
no need for rest.

You were preceding tiny,
but even your mother
couldn’t detain you
from starting too early.

Your parents swallowed
hope like gentle wine,

felt it
holding life
like an offered chalice,

and passed it to you
in the kissing breath
that now makes your
eyes so open.

[for Patrick Young]

First the Shoot



“Of its own accord, the land produces first the shoot,
then the ear,
then the grain in the ear.” –Mark 4:28

Long after, in the rocks,
he found what he was looking for,
and waited.

but the secrets
stayed stone.

He felt
first the shoot,
like disappointment,
rooting in his bowels,

then the nausea,
like hunger poisoned,
twisting his belly.

Straining, he began to hear
the whispers of all
he could not say, and
feared he would
go mad before
he understood.

Even when they grew
louder, he worried they
would distract him,
leave him penniless and lonely.

Only when his vision failed
and his body lay withered
did the whispers
begin to shout —

listening now full-eared,
he smiled,
closed his eyes,
and felt his stomach
begin to fill.

[for Mark Chalmer]