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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fast Day 182 November 28 2010 6:00AM at the Westin Prince in Toronto

A Death in Toronto

I'm floating to Madagascar
on a raft of vegetation,
like a man without a nation;
like a grounded man without his amps;
adrift with lonesome concubeens
love's wikipedya in their jeans!

I count the steps to Jarvis Street,
I count them once again;
I count the cracks of brother's grave
I count from one to ten:
My friends are all in prison,
my family's a mutation
restrained within the prison bonds
and psychiatric observation.

Toronto's atmosphere electric:
madness of the Congee Queen,
lingual delights of Indochine;
I am the green wire marked "to ground",
everything changes, nothing's the same,
a cityscape of palette flame!


My sister-in-law had cancer surgery and we wait for 3 weeks for all the results.
Toronto begins to weary me: in 25 or more years, I have been able to stay with friends and/or family exactly once. I am so sorry for their pain. We get through life the best we can. Some of us wear our wounds for many years - like the Fisher King. But the result is not a whole lot of family and friends getting together one heck of a lot.

concubeen = concubine
Congee is a form of chinese cuisine. My niece says they make a soup and rice balls and "dump" different flavors into it; this is after she dragged us to the Congee Queen a couple years ago, singing its praises, while we wondered why this was supposed to be so good.

I remember my first hitch-hike to TO; I was barely 20 years old. We were let out on the 401 and wandered down Yonge. We stayed somewhere... maybe Dale Avenue off Castle Franck, maybe not. I remember being on The Danforth, The Mortimer, and The Dawes.

Sunnybrook Hospital was randomly built in the 60's? The elevation seems to be high and it is windier and colder there than at Don Mills and York Mills - the Weston - or even the Donway, which I used to think got pretty cold. Everything in TO is a micro-climate determined by elevation and the winnowing and funneling of the buildings and their shape and height.
 The complex was built before central air, so there is a large crop of window a/c's stuck into the facades like skin tags. They charge the concerned relatives $8 per hour to park. I parked back by the day care, called the "Something Creche". There is a petite cube of walls and roof for some sort of psychiatric program next to it; they are both perilously close to the steep ravine, at the bottom of which may be the eponymous Sunnybrook: it was a smallish brook, indeed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fast Day 181 November 21 2010 (Armies of the Zanj Slavers)

Armies of the Zanj Slavers

In time sandstorms will blow between our ribs
as sharp and biting as the sighs of love
unrequited do tonight.

The day breaks and the sun uncurls her tail
through eastern wadis like a scorpion
that jumps to strike with heat!

Now my dreams fall away from me like veils
fall from the Tuareg's face, and we ascend
the Niger for Zanj wealth.

Ragtag group of camel mounted slavers!
Ifriqeeya's women shall weep tonight!
My sword named "Division"!


The Zanj were black slaves of the early caliphate. The Zanj rebellion - very  much like that of Spartacus in Rome - was a ferocious rebellion which lasted 10 years or more.

This is a poem of Arab slavers in Africa, and there is a progression from the sublime to the nasty business of everyday.

I add this poem this morning, because I was sure my poem 181 was too familiar in its conceptual outline. I could not shake the notion that "cascade of flowers"... and particularly the rhyme! ... was too familiar. Looking back, I found the original form, not about Eve, but love in general.
I hope my Muse has not become a jade, as Swift would have said. So I wrote this this morning. I was always fascinated by the Zanj rebellion, mainly because I never heard of it for most of my life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fast Day 181 November 20 2010 {The Creation of Eve}

The Creation of Eve

The tale of love told from eternity
was more ancient than any other thing:
all things created were for purpose wise,
or the beauty that they bring.

The earth brought forth a silken bathrobe green,
as dewy saunas enriched the bowers;
and everywhere was the Platonic thought
of you,  diadem cascade of flowers!

The idea is the creation of Eve and her emergence from the antiquity of creation.
She comes forth from a sauna (hot-house gas earth of early times) more like Botticelli's Venus than the usual stories about her.
The Platonic thought is an ideal plan or form; here the form of Eve and all of the create universe was moved by the perfect thought.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fast Day 180 November 14 2010 {Puzzle 1}

 Bruegel's Wedding Dance

Puzzle 1

Alive spent we our halcyon days
secure within our sylvan home,
free from th' assassin's blade;
never speaking, never dancing,
never buying, never selling;
and never spoken was a word:
cloistered like monkish priests;
meditation all sublime upon
the sun above and earth  below!

And when it came our time to die,
as all things mortal must,
we left our retired colonnade,
singing hymns, singing psalms,
with bells and drums and tabors;
a susurrous envelope widely
radiant; acreting stories
to sing at balls and wedding feasts!
We new factotums of your joy!


A puzzle; what is the poem about? It is about a certain class of things.

A hint: I based it on the motto of someone:
Viva fui in sylvis, sum dura occisa securi,
dum vixi, tacui, mortua dulce cano

th'assassin's blade   -  the assassin's blade
acreting - to gather to oneself
factotum - jack-of-all-trades

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Welcome and Thanks, Dmitri

I have two things to do, the first to welcome two new friends, then to thank the President of Russia for actually considering - and hopefully effecting - the demise of Daylight Savings Time.

First, I noticed  onny969      and   sa girl  .
I noticed  onny969  seems to be based in Malaysia, which is one of my favorite spots on earth, ever since I read Anthony Burgess' Malaysian Trilogy.  Then there's  sagirl, and I am glad you're both here. I actually invite criticisms of the poems. Tell me what you think, how you would change it, what you'd like to hear. Remember, I write them like one per week, so it's not as if I had years and years invested in them.
If you stand back about twenty feet and look at the poems, they look a lot like Jackson Pollock paintings, with words spattered instead of paint. 
I hope your lives are filled with joys.

Now, I wish to thank Mr. Medvedev for considering a ban on Daylight Savings. Statistics have shown that people undergo more stress at the time of the change. Lord knows, I certainly undergo a lot of stress. I'm going to tell my yearly story about Daylight Savings... (I hear undisguised groans throughout the audience).
Simply stated, I could not remember the direction of the change. Did I set the clock one hour ahead in the Fall, or one hour behind? And what did I do in the Spring, tra-la? So my wife had a little ditty: Spring forward, Fall back. This helped one remember that in the Spring, one set the clock forward one hour, and did the reverse in the Fall.
That would be the end of it for most people. They would go about their business, messing with their clocks, and all the clocks would run on time, except the clocks in their cars, of course. Those would be left unadjusted for another five months.

I, however, immediately faced the quandary whether the ditty was Spring forward, Fall back; or Spring back, Fall forward. I could equally envisage springing forward, like a lion, or springing back, like myself confronted by a spider. And I could easily see teams and armies fall back, but also I could imagine the same teams or armies standing at attention in the hot, hot sun until they fell forward on their faces from exhaustion. As a result, I immediately mixed up the little song that was supposed to help me with my clocks, and I was even worse off than before, because I had an extra worry - the stupid ditty itself.
 This whole process reached its climax when one fall I set the clock one hour forward instead of one hour back, resulting in the clocks being a full two hours forward. When I went out to jog in the morning at a sprightly 6:00 AM, I was surprised how little traffic the was on the streets and how few were the signs of life in the neighborhoods I ran through. It took me about three months to sort things out. I left the clocks in the automobiles on DST and their were my only source of chronometric solace until Spring.

So, in honor of Russia - another country I love and had long predicted would get over its troubles and re-emerge to leadership in the 21st century - I reprint the poem below:

To Russia
In Vladivostok once
in the eastern light
we bent our heads into a wint'ry day
and we all did strain mightily
to raise structures
sturdy and strong for Mother Russia.

If Time were as infinite
as it is in Mother Russia,
theotokos, iconic eye of God,
then all the lost would find their way:
the sick would dance
and the mourners rejoice!

To my oil cloth dacha
of the ashen windows
came a brown haired girl so calmly
beautiful; she warmed the day;
she took my eye;
we never returned to the wasteland.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fast Day 179 November 6 2010 {The Algiers Motel}

(Read the notes below first for background.)

Algiers Motel
August 1967

Black Orpheus sings Grand Boulevard songs;
born in Brewster
raised in Douglass.
heard Stevie's piano;
saw Diana do double-dutch;
started doing back-up and snap;
now he writes the hits.
This August day was witch-like - unspoken hex -
so he stopped
wondered what was up,
like his grandfather called Schoolboy
who working on the farm one day stopped
and caught the scent of ...freedom? Alertly
stopping in mid-hoe
with horizon-like awareness
that the lithe legs of freedom were
about to embrace him,
he drop the hoe
he ran north for all he’s worth, heels to head!

Black Orpheus grad Eastern High School
apples, peaches, pumpkin pie-
cheerleaders, parquet floors, and tuneful
hum of the poetry of basketball-
we all go to Eastern High!
His parents went to Jackson Colored
according to the shape-up history
of the race, the barber shop history,
the pomade and Readers’ Digest history
of the front parlor and the church hall.

Right now, he thought, we are high paid singers
and black birds in a coop of gilded wire.
and that wire was a garrot around his
throat that August day of 12th Street, Detroit.
He went to see his girl, Eurydice,
who waited to hear his sweet song approach.

Bull Death of all Hell, great god of disaster
broke into Detroit that August day
of 1967, wearing shades
and a ten gallon hat and riding boots.
Bull looked around and saw Eurydice
and remembered the sweet smell of rape.
He gathered her up
under his acrid armpit
and took her to
his loathely kingdom,
the underground Detroit,
flip-side of Virginia Park and Woodward;
an LP played backwards and
locked in forgotten tongues.

In Hell there is no conversation;
only immigration and cremation;
Bull made her queen by coronation.

Orpheus had to brave the rioting
streets and pass the gates of Hell
to save sweet ebony Eurydice.
Deputies and patrolmen of the Bull
stood in his way
with dark reflective eyes
like sunglasses in the night,
hollow eye orbitals of disgust;
but they gave way to Orpheus’ song.
Hell’s Top Forty radio repeated
“Standing in the Shadow of Love”
a 45 stuck in a groove:
“heartache to come… heartache to come”
And in this kingdom
of the dead, Orpheus
was at side B of the
Algiers Motel by now,
the side less played below
the pavement of Virginia Park:
the sound of gunshots,
the blood of bodies,
the red, winking eye
of Devil's Night and arson.

Bull Death let brave Orpheus take his sweet
Eurydice home.
The radio crooned,
“What you seen here tonight?”
They looked at the bodies in the rooms;
and there will be five mothers mourning.
Bull snorted and said, “You guys aint’ seen squat!”
Orpheus nodded.
The TV news said,
“You never saw nothin’. You weren’t even here!”
The deputies said “Don’t look back!”
“We will watch you go,
and if you stop or if you swivel
your heads back toward us,
we’ll shoot ya like dogs!”
And the radio added,
"Bitch walk behind ya!"

All the bodies officially not there,
bodies that would no longer care
to draw breath in open air.

They walked, Orpheus leading.
Far off shots – like New Years!
Screams – glimpses of army tanks.
Eurydice wept.
“Hold on, girl.” he told her. “Hold on.”
Slo-mo gunshots cut into asphalt;
silence… then the percussion of playground
chain nets when a bullet hits a backboard;
a crystalline night of shards
from barber shop windows;
smooth and slick predator bullets
that take their slow hand time in
the intercourse of metal and of skin;
somewhere someone's auntie cries out!
and Eurydice turns…. !

pix: Andrew in Windsor


The story of Orpheus: Orpheus was the greatest singer and poet in the world. His mate, Eurydice, was abducted by Hades, the lord of the underworld, and he took her with him back to his dismal kingdom. (A story similar to that of Proserpina and Pluto.) Orpheus followed her there, and after many trials, succeeded in getting Hades to agree that Eurydice return with him to the upper Earth. Hades insisted on one stipulation: if Eurydice were once to look back towards the underworld on her journey back home, she would remain with him forever.

The Algiers Motel was the scene of at least 5 killings during the Detroit riot of 1967. Three police officers were brought up on charges, but no one was ever found guilty of anything. John Hersey, who wrote Hiroshima and A Bell for Adano, wrote The Algiers Motel Incident. Read it.

Stevie    - Stevie Wonder
Diana   - Diana Ross

Brewster, Douglass   - Brewster is the high-rise part of the Brewster-Douglass Project. Frederick Douglass was the area for townhouses. It deteriorated into a nightmare of crime and crack, and has been shut down for a while now.

Bull Death - Hades, the lord of the underwortld is seen like some Southern sheriffs named Bull, like Bull Connors.

12 Street  -  where the riot started in an after hours bar, called a blind pig locally. The street was renamed Rosa Parks some time later.

Devil's Night  - the night before Halloween. Detroit used to have an arson problem that night.

flip side, side B   -  the idea here is that the realm of the underworld is under the earth, and we think of it like the other side of a record... the side on the "other side", the flip side of Life.