High Contrast photograph of trees

JUDAS' TANGO

 

Spring. Everything’s gone soft, hungry.

Olive groves drift in light that hovers,

hazy and feathered, and all that swims and creeps,

roams and flies, swells and sings

becomes a mouth.

 

Judas slides through hives of people,

hears their charged, clotted buzz.

Everywhere an agony of expectation,

desire to be amazed:

Did he?     Is he?

 

When Lazarus, dazed, lifts off

his deathbed and lists

into the wince of day, mouths gape

like beached fish.

It hasn’t sunk in yet, the freefall holy terror:

How to be born, again.

Judas takes it all in. Broods

through the restless garden,

tender as breasts before labour,

before the crowning.

Mercy, he cries, and whether it’s command

or plea doesn’t really matter now,

his tongue a knotted rope,

desperate with this need to tell,

this vocation.

 

 

 

LATE FRAGMENTS

 

 

1. Nostalgia

 

Remember Old Lang Syne,

 

his spastic wooden leg, his catarrh?

 

How we’d get him going on train whistles and mothers

 

after the fourth or fifth pint?

 

Ah, Nostalgia. Just ain’t what it used to be.

 

 

2. Grudge

 

Wind rehearses its rut,

 

grists its ledger of damage, worries

 

cracks,  hinges.

 

 

 

Unfair! Unfair! It cries

 

from its dry heart, starving

 

in its stubborn quarrel.

 

 

 

 

3. Blame

 

The armed game of shame,

 

the fling and flung of do and done,

 

blind man’s bluff of squat and strut.

 

 

 

Oh, pidgin soul in the wallow

 

of whodunit,

 

Undone.

 

 

4. Feeding

 

I am burning the library to cook nettle soup.

 

I call it staying alive.  You call it feeding the wrong wolf.

 

 

 

Words on the verge of becoming extinct

 

hive my tongue: Pulchritude, Doxology.

 

 

 

Words that conjure pox

 

but mean Beauty, Praise.

 

 

 

5. Meanwhile, Time . . .

 

Vladimir Nabokov, tireless lepidopterist, wrote:

 

“I have dissected and drawn the genitalia of 360 specimens.”

 

 

6. Dare

 

Who was it who said

 

Happiness writes white?

 

 

 

Bring on the blizzards!

 

 

 

Harness the sled dogs!

 

 

 

first published on Truck poetry blog. ``Dare`` chosen for the Edmonton Transit Service`s Take the Poetry Route, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

RITA MACNEIL’S FEET

 

 

startle me, naked

 

as a blurted secret, shocking

 

as seeing your aunt’s breasts, loose

 

as a moon-faced confession.

 

Just there, in the National Library foyer,

 

her feet framed in a lineup of photographs:

 

Famous Canadians, artfully arranged.

 

 

 

They seem shy as come-upon deer, but

 

mounted somehow, fixed as Victorian taxidermy.

 

I want to coax them out

 

from behind the dark frame

 

and say, Rita, let’s waltz away

 

from here, let’s waltz

 

 

 

away to Babylon where we’ll splash

 

in the river with the holy unholy ones.

 

And you’ll honey the melody like a run

 

of good luck, like you do, Rita,

 

like you do, and we’ll sing

 

Magdalena, Magdalena,

 

soft as willows, plump as pillows—

 

 

 

Howcouldya refuse me, Rita, howcouldya?

 

 

from Falling Blues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NORTHERN PRAIRIE TANGO

 

 

 

Every day now, more light tricks you

 

into thinking it`s tame.

 

 

 

The old couple walk to the river

 

heaving itself into spring.

 

High clouds shape into the ribs

 

of a giant ghost carcass, stripped to the bone.

 

Raven croaks inside his hunger.

 

 

 

Turn around slowly: full circle horizon.

 

A jellyfish moon levitates in the east.

 

The golden sun, drunk on its own beauty, dissolves

 

in a pool of flaming incandescence.

 

Deer stare, tense as sprinters in the far field.

 

The old couple walk to the river,

 

a path they remember from childhoo,

 

different rivers.

 

 

 

Coyotes, wailing along an exposed nerve,

 

drag in night like a fresh kill.

 

Familiar hunger, feast.

 

 

 

from Blood Opera: The Raven Tango Poems