Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year’s Day Report

Good morning officers
Here’s what’s on the slate
For all you lucky sirs
Living it up last night till late

Drunk tank is full of barflies
Keep your eye on Kringle in red
He trashed a number of guys
For being naughty, he said

We’ve got two missing people, maybe
A senile old man in top hat and cane
And naked except for a sash, a baby
Same report as last year, here we go again

Had a stockbroker murder-suicide his wife
Some toga-wearing Mexican guy
Found and brought them back to life
It’s in the report, don’t ask how or why

Chinatown was strangely quiet
A few fireworks, colors pretty nice
Little Tokyo was a real riot
Drunken punks on sake pounding rice

So off you go on first patrol
I’ll make one thing perfectly clear
Remember that as you roll
It only gets crazier from here

Thursday, December 30, 2010


There is no metaphor or simile
For poetry
It is not like
Pulling a gem out of a raging stream
Nor is it
Molding clay with your fingertips
It is it
Poetry is its own metaphor
Poetry is only like poetry
Poetry is more than words
Just as life is more than breathing

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ode to Dishwashing

Cleaning dishes
Morning till night
Making wishes
I set things right

Like Nguyn Sinh Cung
America-bound in the rolling galley

Breathing scalding steam
Among the girlish waiters
On the sterilizing machine
Every evening I stayed later

Comme Eric Arthur Blair
Aux coudes dans la vaisselle des Bourgeois

Making lukewarm suds hotter
Over mother’s dish grime
Swirled red grey water
Slick after bathtime

Like Malcolm Little
Wiping away stains of injustice on the train

Not wasting action
Crowded Japanese pad
Gas fired contraption
No space to be had

Like Bill Murray
Washing his soul in the Ganges

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ode to Almost Eight Years of Marriage

After surviving the fights
The misunderstandings, the itches
Supporting each other
Through losses and sickness
In the end it boils down to this
Try not to catch the other’s eye in the morning light
But try your best to catch it before sleep at night

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Body

My body is a sinking ship
Giving up groans and shrieks in the ocean twilight
Metal fatigue cacophonous symphony
Before it sinks beneath the waves
Tears in two and comes to rest buried below the silt

My body is a rusted boiler
Still giving off some heat in the wintry night
Jetting steam and leaking water
From pipes that do not fit tight anymore
And maintenance can only prolong, not save

My body is a black screened computer
Giving out red warnings in a dim room
Smelling of burnt plastic and wiring
Searching its limited space for answers
As it shuts down for the night

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The State of Christmas

The truth?
The North Pole is a totalitarian state
That puts North Korea and Soviet gulags to shame
Elves chained in subzero sweatshops
(Some say they’re aliens from Neptune
Taken from Roswell and put to work)
Making mind control games and gadgets
Plastic voodoo dolls to shape children’s hearts
And mind altering cartons of alien egged nog

The objective?
Reinforce gender stereotypes
A doll for Sally, a GI Joe for Sam
To make the next generation of sluts and soldiers
To fight his wars and fuel his factories
And keep peace and goodwill from man
It’s all about Big Brother Santa
Watching us and making his lists
Checking and rechecking them

Jesus Christ?
Nice guy but it has nothing to do with him
Christianity is just a gateway drug for Christmas
And just as Wenceslaus exiled Drahomira
Became the government and crushed the old religions
Santa has assumed control of the holiday season
Using panopticon shopping centers
And kagemusha men in red suits at every mall
To conduct seated interrogations on our young

The means?
Genetic manipulation to make caribou fly
Those aren’t normal reindeer anymore
Proboscis monkey nose and glowing jellyfish genes
To pull him through the stratospheric storms
Muzak piped straight from the Pole
Sapping our wills and tapping our Id
Ritual deforestation puts weapons in our hands
And increases our urban prison sprawl

The ideology?
Citizens, consume
Doesn’t matter if you were born Christian Muslim or Jew
Eat a 6 winged 6 legged freak with family
Bred in a box for the occasion
With the right amount of estrogen for men
Calcium and testosterone for women
Make a pile of stolen treasure under the sacrifical tree
And rip it to shreds on Christmas morning

The answer?
The US Army is in cahoots
Or else too scared to do anything
Every year NORAD tracks his movements
But is powerless to stop him
He can die about as much as Vlad Tepesh or Rasputin
Saint Nick and Old Nick are one and the same
If only we stop consuming and blindly believing
We can kill this Consumas season

Saturday, December 25, 2010

1980s Retro Disco Night

Woot woot!
Smoky bar that stays in your clothes and hair
Elvis-fringed costumed funkologist
(Weekdays he’s a proctologist)
Spinning MP3s of thirty year old tunes ripped from YouTube
That’s retro

Tunsa tunsa!
Divorcee girls shimmy in thirty year old hotpants
Scribble their numbers on paper scraps
(To any man who doesn’t look half crap)
Dancing married guys try not to meet any eyes
That’s retro

Bowdiddy bowdiddy!
Grey hairs, wrinkles disappear into the flashing strobelights
Rhinestone bowlers perch on balding heads
(Toes tap and eyes shine on the seated half dead)
Decayed synapses fire but old bodies cannot follow
That’s retro

Friday, December 24, 2010

It Ain’t All Bad in 2011

Hello 2011!
I thought there’d be weekly rockets to the moon by now
I planned to spend a summer backpacking on the Moon or Mars
Or maybe even teleport or warp somewhere random
But it ain’t all bad
The airport scanners can now see my every nook and granny
And junk food on 12 hour flights is made from recycled styrofoam peanuts

Nice to meet you 2011!
Honestly, I thought we’d all be equals by now
But women are still hitting their heads on transparent ceilings
And people are still blowing themselves and others up for gods
But it could be worse
Johanna Sigurdardottir and Barack Obama are in office
And Muslim countries have had more female presidents than Christian ones

Come on in 2011!
Truth to tell, I thought we’d all have translators by now
Supercomputers in our fountain pens and robot butlers
With cool cybernetic arms housing grappling hooks and lasers
But look on the bright side
Babies are made in test tubes for troubled couples
And smart phones allow us to know less than ever

So stay awhile and have a drink
The world will move on the way it must
And no matter what you or I think
The future always leaves our science fiction in dust


I will never forget
Your week of pain blood and fear
Five endless hours cramping in the ER waiting lounge
The false reassurance of a doctor
The tiny beating heart in the ultrasound

I will never forget
Two days before your birthday
Cramps tears and more blood in a crowded emergency room bed
A tired doctor ushered us out afterwards
A tiny unfulfilled promise held in your hand

I will never forget
Driving on a dirty white line into a blank blur of land and sky
There was no sound
As we neared the cliffs
The immense and heaving grey sea

I will never forget
A sparkling tiny cold red ruby in your upturned palm
How you threw overarmed and stiff
Standing in the whipping wind
Unfazed by cold of minus twenty

I will never forget
Your long coat billowing about you as you stood at the guardrail
A part of you arcing down past mammoth icicles
Into the white waves breaking on the rocks
Sluggish tears frozen on your cheek

I will never forget
And I will never trust again
The month of birthdays and carnivals

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Contemplating Grad School

Old professor emeritus
I know without doubt there is a circle of Hell
Reserved for hypocrites such as you
For every mark you stripped from us
May demons strip your flesh
For every threat you uttered
May cenobites pierce your tongue
For every young skirt your old eyes coveted
May venom drip into your open eyes
And succubi pour unscratchable itches in your ears

Old honourable professor
The Heaven in which neither of us believe
Has a throne reserved for you
For every reference letter you wrote
May saints be your character witness
For every mystery you resolved for us
May one be resolved for you
For every human gesture you made
May angels sing you to your rest
And dead poets be your friends

Reflections December 22nd

Wow. Twenty-three poems all told. Not bad, and some of them are not half bad. All of them are spontaneous, however. Exercising my poetry like this has resulted in the ability to let the words flow from an empty mind.

Although I try to stay away from the political, I can’t always hold my thoughts back. I thought I’d try and evaluate the concepts of saints and angels in terms of the modern world. Liu Xiabo and Nelson Mandela are, due to the highly politicized careers they have, modern saints. If you know your hagiography, a saint must understand evil before they can be good. Mandela was in the part of the ANC advocating violence (and was arrested for it), while his partner Oliver Tambo urged for a peaceful resolution, and was exiled to the UK as a result. Similarly, Xiabo has been quoted as saying things less than flattering towards women and others. Saints they have become, but certainly not angels. On the other hand, Mother Theresa gave everything to help the poor and downtrodden in Calcutta slums, and although she seems slated for beatification, her compassion for people regardless of political stripe marks her as above saintly status. If ever there were an angel, she was it, and the reports of her disparaging comments during her darkest hours only underscores how great a being she was.

Was this ever a chore to write… This was my first attempt at following a poetic ‘form’ (an imperfect sestina, in case you’re wondering), and the demands of length quickly burgeoned out of control. However, the tales of folk heroes trying tragically to return home resonate strongly with anyone who lives far from their homeland. I think that was their original purpose. Imperfect poem, but interesting.
Like I said, taking down Mastercard is all well and good (and comparatively easy), but if you aspire to activism, start taking aim at countries on Amnesty International lists.

Riding on anything but a tour bus reduces you in so many ways, and reduces that society into easily understood terms as well. Whether in St. John’s, Quebec, Hawaii, or Shanghai, you can learn a lot by riding a crowded bus.
Teaching the wife French, growing irritated at out inability to communicate. I fear losing that ability as we grow older, so I guess there is a lot of that in there. As well as love, one that does away with the need for words.

On rereading this, it sounds like a Newfie song. Just a song of myself, simple and unadorned. Naïve. Maybe not poetry, but I like it.

Traveling through the US the past few decades, you can see great differences as they close up their borders and we become more like them. Both changes are scary and yet inevitable.

Mornings in this neighborhood are ripped apart with metallic clangs and machine sputterings. Some days I start work late, and any attempt to catch a few extra winks is doomed from the start. I wanted to find some beauty in all that audio ugliness, and this was what came out.

Hungover after an English teacher meeting, this was exactly how I felt. I am enjoying linking the present with classical mythology. As for Baudelaire, he wasn’t far off calling being drunk a temporary victory over death. That euphoria carries over to hungover Sundays, in my opinion.

I am consistently amazed how well Newfies are received wherever they go, and how I myself am so lucky meeting people. Add this to the memory of an old photo of the Newfie regiment I saw while teaching school in Canada a few years back, and this poem wrote itself.

I appreciate not being bludgeoned to death with Christmas music and false cheer. Some boys singing carols in Japanese and nose humming on the bus ride home brought this poem to life.

Last but not least, saw both these critters while walking around Kyoto with new old friend Alex Yang. I am forever grateful animals deign to live beside us, and hope we work harder to keep as many kinds of them around as we can.

Cat and Carp

Beautiful black and white stalker
Ears perked, haunches coiled
Eyes alight with birds
You give up instantly
Tongue your muddy paws
Nap standing in the sun
Between stone bench, temple and stream
Thank you for being in my world

Cold gold and grey wanderer
Gills whispering, body undulant
Obsidian eyes inscrutable
You undulate slowly
Through muddy waters
Disappear in the shadow
In dark stream below stone bridge and bench
Thank you for being in my world

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


In this land of Buddha
The holidays sneak up on me
No carols or jingle bells in any store
No crowd jostling for product
No Santas ringing bells on any corner
Just silence, work, life, cold
Until one day on the bus home
Uniformed elementary boys, numbers on their backs
Baseball kits at their feet, hum jingle bells and laugh
The station bakery has a half price sale
Two Santas calling “Irrasshaimase” out front
As I work on Christmas eve and day
My students tell me of their Christmas plans
Chicken, cake, and love hotels
This peace of season and of man
Is seldom known in Christian lands

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Newfies Abroad

Look at the old picture of charcoal and grey ghosts
The Newfie regiment in Egypt, 1913
Grins cracked wide, not knowing they would never return
To the icy rock bosom that sired them
None of the stiffness or pretension from paintings of Napoleon’s troops
Even native guides and porters beaming around them
You know you’ve seen Newfies abroad

When you see them at the center of a party
English teachers in Asia, present day
Talking a blue streak, not knowing they might never return
To the icy rock bosom that sired them
Playing out conversation like a ball between one and all
Even dragging quiet ones from their shells
You know you’ve seen Newfies abroad

When you see one having crimson hibiscus tea inside a stall
Luxor market, present day
Whispering and chuckling, knowing he will never return
To the icy rock bosom that sired him
Not turning up his nose at the humble Egyptian hospitality as tourists do
Even sharing tea and talk with a jilbab clad merchant
You know you’ve seen a Newfie abroad

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Dregs of Lethargy

Last night I sipped
The waters of Lethe
In a bar dark as the underworld
Lit with ghastly Carnaval fires
Took a ride with my fellows
In Charon’s gondola
Dipped my fingers
In cold waters of forgetfulness

Sunday morning I sit
Hot tea warming my hands
In bed doing nothing
Bathed in the noonday sun
Wanting to do nothing
Enjoying Baudelaire’s victory
Thinking of the past and smiling
Trying not to think of tomorrow

Friday, December 17, 2010

Japanese Construction Site

Yellow silk-wrapped towers
Cocoon of safety for passers by
What transformations hidden
Are signaled by the grindings and poundings
That mars my noontime slumber
Purple pantaloon-clad workers flit about you
High school dropouts, butterflies in Elvis hair
Wielding power tools and overpriced cigarettes
They tear away your old memories
And bolt in a new future
The salon becomes a saloon
The barber shop becomes a game store
These transformations utterly unforeseeable
By Byzantine zoning laws
White workhorse trucks jam
Our one-lane horsepath road
Bamboo staves and iron piping jut out
Gaily wrapped in coloured kerchiefs
After the deadly heat of summer your change began
Through the chill snowless months they continue
In springtime you will emerge shiny, new
Wreaths of congratulations standing in front
To welcome curious and customers
Until fashions or passions change
And you wrap yourself in silk

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stateside, 1980s

Stateside, 1980s
First time across the border
Into the land of TV cops and GI Joe
I want to kiss her in the backseat
But her father drives, brother sits between us
“Hello sir. You all Canadian? Have a nice trip.”
Passportless, he waves us through

Real rifle on the wall at the corner store
Real Butterfinger, Mounds, Almond Joy
As I count she yells
“Don’t give me no damn Canadian change!”
Startled, I drop beavers, moose, maple leaves
And break the Washington dollar I had planned to save

Lunch in Elmo’s Game Barn, moose steaks and lobster
Cordon Bleu chef in Riviera summers
Hunter in Maine falls
“I thought It’d be different” I say to her father
“You expect leaves would turn into Washington dollar bills?”

Stateside, 1990s
First time adult across the border
Into the land of LA riots and Iraqi Freedom
I want to change the station
But I am licenseless, so he drives and decides
“Hello sirs, you Canadian? Why are you passing through?”
Our passports disappear into the booth, then return

Real pistols at their hips
Real dogs and SMGs on cords
As we sit he asks
“You ever consume any illicit substances?”
We exude a moment of Canadian arctic silence
Like after asking fish how they like water

Lunch in IHOP, Stuffed French Toast
Stuffed until we burst
Bottomless coffee, Coke in larger cans
“This place is so different
Do we leave a tip, is a Washington dollar enough?”

Stateside, 2000s
First time crossing the states
Across the lands of hoodoos and desert Greek cafes
She kisses my cheek as I drive
Two months ago I arrived
“Aloha, welcome. Open your bag, please.
Driving across? Have a good time, bro.”

Real mooks and tittas and howleys
Real OC students and celebrity agent pool parties
Real iron poisoning in Utah
Radio warns us of violent Salt Lake gangs
Who attack anyone they see
Smoking, spitting, or kissing in the street

Lunch in a Detroit trucker buffet
Our 69 Beetle dwarfed by 18 wheelers from New Jersey
Our bodies dwarfed by 7 foot truckers from Alabama
“I feel like I’m back in Canada already.” As I pay he says
“That old Washington dollar? You should have saved it.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Optimist

Too satisfied to be a success
Never number one
But always my best
Having a good run

Many are critical
Reactions all tough
My response is tempered
Not good is often good enough

Call me optimist, naïve, or fool
Eternally immature
Better than a negative, pessimistic tool
I rest true to my nature

To the death house I’ll go
With no regrets or rue
For one thing I know
You can’t take it with you


Je te vois
Étudiante si bien
Ta troisième langue
Qui est ma deuxième langue
T’as mis ta confiance en moi
Mais mes erreurs te frustrent
Comme mes fautes me frustrent

Tu me parles
Si en colère
En ta première langue
Qui est ma troisième langue
Tu jettes tes émotions à moi
Mais je m’en vague
Comme une brume étrangère

On se parle
S’entendant si bien
En ma première langue
Qui est ta deuxième langue
Quand on fait l’amour
La langue de notre lit
Est celle de mon enfance

Ce qui reste entre nous
Ne se met en mots
Meurait si mis en mots
Donc nos langues se serviraient mieux
De se caresser
Que de s’addresser

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ode to Metrobus

Oh perfect vehicle of Democracy
Where half-sane and insane rub elbows and knees
With balls in one’s face
And arse in another’s
I have ridden you in many lands

In cold Socialist lands
I rode you to university and back
Until the driver’s strike left students
Shivering, riding our thumbs
Extorted or ignored by morning commuters

In warm Capitalist archipelagos
I rode around the girth of islands for a buck
Envious of joyriding homeless
Taking a break from their park life
Sharing cigarettes and expired canned foods

In teeming Communist nations
We rode into the growing guts of economic Babylon
Fishtailed through horsetracks become highways
Rain dripping in my ear whenever we made a hard left
Sleeping locals drooling on our shoulders

In this sleepy industrial has-been
I slip into your crowded belly every morning
Pressed on all sides by sleep-sweaty bodies
Of salarymen who would jump out of my tub in a public bath
And half-dressed girls who would run from me in a night street

Oh perfect vehicle of Democracy
Where over-employed and under-employed rub elbows and knees
With cellphones ringing in one’s ear
And crying babe in another’s
I have ridden you in many lands

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Letter to Hacktivists

Subterranean pizza-eaters,
Mailing list terrorists,
Web-based warriors
Although in truth banks deserve our scorn and worse
Your claims of fighting for justice and freedom
Ring hollow
While Nobel men sit in prison
And at fascist and dictatorial government sites
It is business as usual

Painless You May Never Go Home

Kakdumi, submarine king
Seeking husband for peerless daughter Revati
Waited patiently for Brahma as Ghandarvas play
Twenty seven cycles passed, all suitors, family, and memory gone
Descended to this primitive age, no choice left
Accept the hand of Balarama, avatar of Vishnu

Cuckoo Namjil, bird singer
Soldier well loved, visiting your faraway queen
On winged horse hidden from familiar eyes
Clipped of its wings and life by jealous maid
In your grief take its bones
Leave your country the horse-headed fiddle

Oisin young deer, Fianna warrior poet
Followed golden hair Niamh to the Land of Promise
White horse hooves over the waves back to Erin
Three centuries passed, all heroes, gods gone
Broken girdle hurls you to the ground before saintly Patrick
Molder to bones on the beach of your country

Urashima Taro, youthful fisher
Chased cruel children from the shell-slashed turtle
Married scar-slashed princess of Dragon God Castle
Three centuries passed, all people, village, names gone
In your grief pry off the lid and release a cloud of age
Leave your bones on the beach of your country

Wang Chi, hardy woodcutter
Lost in the woods finding a handle for your great axe
Stumbled upon the Go playing immortals, watched stone against stone
Ate a date from wrinkled hands, felt no hunger or thirst
Centuries passed, handle, family, friends but dust
Return alone to your country

Rip Van Winkle, simple rambler
Poor children hungry and wailing wife
Wandered among ghosts of Hudson and his crew
Played nine pin, got drunk on ghostly brew
Twenty years later awake and return
Reunite with grown children in your new country

All these lives and many others
Tell you that for love or life you may well roam
But painless you may never go home