Monday, January 31, 2011

Back On The Path

December and January were a bust
First run of the new year happens
The day before February

Wool gloves over numb digits
Music and reflective lines strapped on
White windbreaker against the night wind

Coldest January in ten years
Feels like a sauna in my shirt
A hundred paces into my circuit

The phlegm and sputum
I leave along the way
Are dregs of New Year’s poisons

The ghosts of every helping
Weighs me down but helps
Push even more age out my pores

This is my rite of carnival
This is my celebration of life in winter

Discomfort Food

It was utterly joyless
It was ash in my mouth
The meal you chose for me

Ox tail soup
Barley rice with grated yams
Beef tongue with red pepper miso paste

Usually I love this food
I am no lily livered gaijin
Afraid of food not firm or burnt

Food is comfort
And I know you need that now
But is it worth taking joy from me?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

When In Rome

I do not want
To eat Pizza Hut in Beijing
Give me a hand-drawn Chinese menu
(Prices double in the English version, but still cheap)
Grease-stained and yellowed ideograms
Where they skin the snake you eat before your eyes
And thick jasmine tea breaks up the oil of your meal

I have no desire
To go for KFC in Cairo
Show me an Arabic menu board
(Prices double in the English version, but still cheap)
Only offering water, koshary, and rice pudding, all misspelled
Spicy pasta, falafel, or pickle bread
Washed down with cold water or hot hibiscus tea

I can do without
Fancy bistro pastas with European names
Hand me a Japanese lacquered menu
(Prices the same in the English version, but still not cheap)
Good sushi, or okonomiyai pancakes, or miso soup
Barley rice, radish pickles, or tofu and ginger
Then sit and warm my hands with steaming green tea

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Addictions

I am as addicted to
Writing poetry every day
Doing karate when I can
Push-ups and sit-ups and leg lfits on my kitchen floor
As I am
To loving my wife whatever her weather


Where have the forests gone?
Cut down to get paperwork done
To fill out form B, form A you must get
But can’t unless you completed form B yet
Stapled, stamped, photo attached, triplicated
Addressed, paid, sealed, witnessed and dated
Admission forms to enter school
Graduation forms to leave the rule
Give me an exam lasting 24 hours
Give me a month of icy cold showers
I’d rather share my house with a jerk
Than do one more line of paperwork

When you die, the only consolation
Is someone else signs for your cremation

On Human Nature

You can’t help, people. (Misanthrope-loner)
You can’t help people. (Pessimist-realist)
You! Can’t help people? (Outraged-activist)
You can’t! Help people! (Desperate-victim)
You can’t? Help people! (Optimistic-facilitator)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reflections, January 26, 2011

I just read a collection of ancient Greek poetry, and Diogenes was the only one that made me laugh and think. Totally free of pretension and BS – he’d be a standup comic today. The foreword noted that much ancient poetry is lost to us, but some (mostly Sappho) comes from scraps found stuffed in the mouths of Egyptian mummies. Pretty cool place to find poetry.

My neighborhood in winter

We had just moved to St. John’s when this happened. My first lesson (extra-familia) that life isn’t fair.

Pornography drives technology, so if our tech will destroy us as Terminator or The Matrix foretell, porn has to be behind it. It is also a great explanation of why the apocalypse happened.

Kind of riffing on the last poem here. If people make gods based on their surroundings, then these would be the new gods of the 21st century.

A lot of people work much harder than I for much less than I get. Here is to them.

Sometimes the love of life bursts forth from me like a green shoot from an old tree. This was one of those days.

There are some yellers and droners among the teachers I know. I figure as a language teacher, if I do all the talking, then something’s wrong.

My dad and I are all about missed opportunities. But there are still things I am grateful to him for.

Tomi was in surgery again. Minor, but that doesn’t still the dread, or the love.

Taking a day off just to vegetate sometimes feels so good. Just don’t let it become a habit.

Everyone who lives in this country fears for its future. I hope I can contribute even a little by leading is children in the right direction, of self-reliance, fighting spirit, and pride.

My grandmother is dying, but I will never forget her words. I haven’t seen the aurora in a while, but sometimes I see them again in my mind’s eye.

This was a Facebook post to a student. I hope it inspires her.

I am reading Things Fall Apart by Chingua Achebe. Beautiful rhythms of life and language. Miscarriage and loss are large parts of that book, as they are of life. Sometimes I feel that Tomi and I are trying to light fires on a darkening plain. But we keep trying.

Lighting A Fire

Lover of mine
You and I
Have been trying to start a fire
As the light of day fails and night advances

Like primitives
You held the cradle
I spun the bow
But all we got was 3 wisps of smoke

Your back aches
My palms are blistered
But still we try
We cannot give in, we cannot fail

Other people
Have started fires
That rage on the horizon around us
Casting their shadows like giants

Switch to flint and tinder
You cup dry grass, I strike flint and stone
Sparks rain down on your open palms
But they do not catch flame

If night falls
If we should fail
I am happy we tried
And I could see your face in the shower of sparks

In Life There Will Be Waves

In life there will be waves
Ride them!
Climb on your board, be brave
And ride the waves
To the far shore

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Northern Lights

Well remember do I
Vermillion or gold or red
Splashed across arctic sky
When the aurora danced

Wavering ghostly curtain
Against the backdrop of stars
Winter visitor certain
Amongst star dust scattered far

In that frozen hell to us
We watched, eyes in tears
Minus fifty Celsius
Wrapped in astronaut gear

Grandmother told my brothers and I
At auroras you whistle never
Else be snatched into the cold sky
To live with them forever

For these past twenty five years
I have lived in one city or another
Not forgetting the aurora of my fears
Or the warning or my grandmother

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Children of Japan Awake

Grand daughters and sons of Old Japan
Children of New Types of new Japan
Distrust the complacency of your full bellies
Ignore the siren song of your electronic shells
Don’t be fooled by somber recruit suits and fairs
Make no mistake
Your very lives are in danger

Heirs of the samurai
Your grandparents fished peace and prosperity
From a sea of fire
Now Middle Kingdom Princes and Princesses
Come riding their own bubble to Olympus
Each eyeing the president’s chair
While you price check massage loungers

The old suits that bought and sold Japan’s future
Those selfsame ancient lizards exhort you now
Rise to your feet youth of Japan
But you have spent your whole childhood
Dressed like a Prussian soldier or sailor
Hammered down nails
Can not suddenly stand on their own

Now is the time to awake
Stop sleeping manga dreams
Stop living virtual lives
Drop your school girl panties
Close your rhinestone cellphones
This foreign son is here to shake you
And with my outsider tongue wake you

I am grateful to the gods of this land
For giving me the chance to wake you saviors of Japan

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Weight

The weight of all
The things that need to be done
Sometimes halts me in my tracks
Makes me waste a day
Doing absolutely nothing
But staring at the sky

That is not entirely a bad thing

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sleeping Lover

What dreams do you see
In your etherized sleep
Do not sink into
The green blue ocean of yourself
But swim back to me
Hold my hand on the shore
Sink your toes in this island
As we watch the sun set
Over the crimson and jet waves

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fathers and Men

My father
Wasn’t able to give me much
But he gave me these
Lessons he learned in life
A man who can’t cook for himself
Can’t be called a man
Never be afraid
To change, apologize, or admit
You can be wrong
And whatever rough waves knock you
Off your charted course in life
It goes on no matter what
Had my father
Not learned these lessons
We would be further apart
Then we are now
And if I had not learned from him
I would be further from the good man
I try everyday to be

Monday, January 17, 2011

In the Classroom

A good teacher likes the sound of his own voice
A great teacher likes the sound of his students' voices

Winter Sun First Love

If you could only see me
Cat jumping on cold linoleum in joy
You’d think I were a crazy schoolboy
Not an aging schoolteacher
Singing my schedule in falsetto
Smiling at the flashing sun

Waking to the winter sun
Is like laying eyes on your first love

Does it remind me I am alive?
Don’t be foolish
We never can forget that
People drink to blot out mere existence
More importantly
It reminds me I am living

I wait for the bus
Just like first love
Coffee and cheese croissant
In hand

And just like first love
I grow tired already
And wish for winter to be over

Sleepers of the Just

Nurses on the night shift
Smile already hours dead
Fry cooks scraping grills
They’ll dirty again next day
Bakers arriving before dawn
To fire, measure, sift, roll and bake
Teachers grading faltering essays
Fingers and eyes equally red
Cops driving around the quiet city
Praying for action or inaction
Taxi drivers waiting for fares
Smoking cigarettes, reading sports

Just bone weary
Just dumbly honest
Just plain tired
Sleepers of the just

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Gods of War and Pornography

Twin gods of this futuristic age
You have made technology your slave
Compel it to reach undreamed heights
Like Icarus we fly burning into its light
Or Prometheus stealing bolts of lightning
Making clusterbombs or clusterfucks frightening
How then shall we name thee?

Electronic god of modern warfare
A line of old war deities’ newest heir
Your lineage from Ares and Bellona
Stretching back over five millennia
The ancient spear and club outdone
By your neutron bomb and killer drone
You stand between war and games
Therefore if we are to decide names
Ares Vanatio we dub thee

Digital goddess of pornography
Minted by this strange society
Far from Cupid, but Kin to Eros
Lying between Desire and Sorrows
Symbols neon light, curtains, tissues
Rooms from which a girl’s cry issues
Your are the lust of one, not many
What then shall we name thee?
Eros Apelpizo

Twin gods of this futuristic age
Lest technologies make us your slaves
And to your temples ourselves we chain
We must learn the name of Love again
And swear to it as our true master
Or consign this human race to disaster

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Armageddon 2012

Basically, our desires destroyed ourselves
It started on April first, 2012
Deep Thoughts, the Artifical Intelligence
Of an Austrian porn website, gained sentience
Then hijacked a Japanese ero-botics company
To mass produce in infinity
Muscled sperminators Californian
And Teutonic leather vixens
Who crushed the hearts and balls
Of opponents and proponents all
Then rounded others up in camps
Hooked them to dynamos with nipple clamps
Injected them with Valium and Spanish Fly
Let them fornicate till they died
And harnessed their orgasmic energy
To fuel the factories of our enemy
Those who escaped tried to hide
But the robots tracked them and spied
Through applications in their I phones and pads
The next generation they already had
Raising them in a virtual reality
Hooked into a neural net of urbanity
To feed off the energy of their pleasures
Which they intensify by measures
Of daily disappointment and bad circumstance
Those few of us left are the Resistance
We who were never owned
By an I-pad or I-phone
We who had never Tweeted
And from cybersex retreated
We never jack in or jack off
We read books and back off
From technological stoking of desire
And live in caves warmed by fire

Friday, January 14, 2011

The First Lesson I Learned

You three older boys
Who chased me down
In Wedgewood park a quarter century ago
You held my arms
Told me open my mouth
Then spat into it
And walked off laughing

You taught me to hate
Injustice and unfairness
To defend myself with tongue and fists
To walk away from fights
But never turn my back on foes
To do the most good I can for others
Without fear of hell or gods

Whatever prison you are in now
Know this
I forgot your faces
But remember your lesson

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Scenery

Asleep upright
Naked peasant brooms
Sweep the clear sky
Color of aged Scandinavian eyes

Alone or in pairs
Forgotten gloves
Loll like pariahs
In gutters or impaled on fenceposts

Muted white storms
Pass away leaving
Sparkling white scabs
In the flow of street and sidewalk

Ode to Diogenes

It is fitting that the thoughts
Of Plato’s mad Socrates
Slave freer than the master
Ancient coinage debaser
Exiled Sinopean tub denizen
Cynic seeking honest men
Have all gone to dust
And only come to us
In other’s writings read
Or mouths of Egyptian dead

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reflections – Mid December to January 11

I seem to gravitate between these imagined dialogues or twin commentaries that asymmetrically handle a subject from two sides. If you went to grad school with me, you might have an idea who these people are. And for every one who dashes your faith in human nature or institutions, thankfully there is one who reconfirms it. Thank you Bill.
l         February
I have never liked the month of my birth. From having to share it with my brother as kids, to always having bronchitis and strangling in oxygen tents, February has tried to kill me many times.
l         It Ain’t All Bad in 2011
2011 sounds so futuristic, but all our sci-fi suppositions and big dreams have proven lies, while our lives have changed in so many small but profound ways. It is something to laugh at.
l         1980s Retro Disco Night
Funny to go to a disco as a 40 something married man and see your youth replayed as vintage. Like seeing your granddad in a school uniform.
l         My Body
If you’re in your twenties or under, you won’t get this. If you’re creaking along past thirty, every year you’ll understand it more. I don’t see it as fearful, just natural and wistful.
Fighting again. The other side of love. If you didn’t love, you’d just walk away.
l         Ode to Dishwashing
My first job at 18, and what I mostly do in the house. Any type of washing is therapeutic, like sweeping a dojo floor. North Americans need more of this.
l         Poetry
Funny how the thing that uses similes and metaphors most is immune to them. I like this.
l         The State of Christmas
Seeing common, supposedly warm events through a paranoid lens. This is why babies are terrified of Santa.
l         New Year’s Day Report
Old Hill Street Blues style dialogue. It’s funny how we all have different cultural experiences on the same day. Someone’s got to clean it all up as well.

This is a straight ripoff of Tokyo Police Club’s Harrowing Adventures. Love that song, makes me think of Wooly and me in St. John’s 1991-1992. Still listen to the live acoustic version of that song 10 times a day.
l         Notice - Gone for 3 days
Atami was heaven. Soaked in hot water, sake, and beer. I feel my verse has improved after returning. Maybe I was fatigued.
l         For Fiona
Thank you so much, Merly. They are beautiful. I am still looking for some way to repay you.
l         Lake Biwa
Another dialogue. Biwa is on my jogging route, and I love her, but she is dirty. Shame how we treat Nature while professing our love for her.
l         The Sinking Island
Allegory for developed and developing countires, blah blah blah. I like it.
There’s something liberating yet sad about cutting people from Facebook, especially how it doesn’t inform you you’ve been cut. I doubt any of these people would regret or resent me cutting them. Farewell and long may your big job draw.
l         The Misery of Winter
Saying ‘You’re Canadian, you must love the cold’ is like saying ‘You’re a plumber, you must love shit.’ No, you live with it, unless you can’t any more.
l         String of Lights
When all the pressure is off you can see the beauty of things.

String of Lights

Christmas lights are prettier
When December is past
In the cold light of the new year
Or blinking on a sultry terrace
Where people sit in August
Losing themselves in glasses and bottles
Or curled lazily among themselves in October
Inside cardboard boxes pulled from cellars
Waiting for December again

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Misery of Winter

Labrador, 1903
Hubbard and Wallace swore
When my swarthy halfbreed ancestors
Refused to be guides or portermen
Two Americans could never comprehend
Those who know the misery of winter

Labrador, before the war
Great grandfather rescued Wallace’s life
Guided to fame Hubbard’s wife
A lifetime pulling sleds over chest high snow
All his life cracked skin and gnarled bones show
The misery of winter

Labrador, 1970s
Snow Goose Lodge among the boulders
Crawling with American soldiers
Whistling down on little sticks
Breaking arms and sometimes necks
Fools who never knew the misery of winter

Newfoundland, 1990s
Arctic Expedition vacation dates
Flask sipping university classmates
Crunching over frozen salt spray
Yet every time I stayed away
I only saw the misery of winter

Newfoundland, 2000s
Back to the island where ice storms their anger vent
Pitching snow by hand in exchange for rent
Japanese wife asleep in bed since September
I a wheezing, soaking, backbent member
Of those who know the misery of winter

Kyoto, now
Huddled in our heatless home of Japan
Siberian blast sweeping down over Hiezan
Only we pitch curtains and plastic sheets
Trying vainly to keep in heat
Two of us who have known the misery of winter

Young Canadians
Snowboarding and skiing and camping
Snow lifts your spirits never damping
I envy your energy and mirth
But I was marked from birth
As one who knows the misery of winter