Saturday, May 29, 2010


“War – what is it good for? Absolutely nothing...” – Edwin Starr

Last fall, I took part in the World March for Peace and Non-violence
And I really thought it was one of the finer things I could do in this life

But leading up to, during, and after the march, I experienced despair
The like of which I don’t recall dealing with at any time before in my life

Perhaps it comes of getting old and coming to terms with the frailty
Of human nature, and human beings, and being nearer to the end of my life

And the knowledge that peace is as out of reach today as it was forty years ago
When I marched then, protested and got arrested and sat in, before in my life

Oh – I pulled out of those doldrums – it was that or spiral down to the darkness
But there is a jaded part of me that has given up on peace like never before in my life

Me, who was sure we would prevail, we would be turning swords to ploughshares
And spears into pruning hooks; I despair as I see those yellow ribbons, now in my life

They hang on every tree and light-standard on the route to the base to welcome home
The boys from the base, but they are wilting and so is my hope at this time in my life

Another one, just deployed, in Afghanistan only one day, came back in a flag-draped box
Where is the sense in that, I wonder, back to square one, marching no more in this life.


Friday, May 28, 2010

For some, it’s a fragrance, or the scent of burning leaves
I’ve heard it said the olfactory gland is the most powerful
When it comes to evoking memories of times past
And that the whiff of vanilla or sandalwood or gardenias—
Any trace aroma that bears significance for one
Can summons reminiscences unbidden to the fore

But for me, one who has for some reason, lost that edge
That keenly honed sense of smell – I find it’s voices
That send me reeling; sometimes it will be an overheard
Basso profundo somewhere on a bus, and I will swing
Around trying to spot the speaker, certain I know them
Just in time to see a gentleman departing the vehicle—
Plainly someone I don’t recognize but by then, I am
Awash in memories of whose voice I thought I heard

Film will be unspooling in my head of an old friend
Or foe – they’re not always happy memories, of course
And I’ll be right back in the moment—all from hearing
A voice; other times, I’ll think I hear a whisper in a darkened
Theatre, and strain to hear it again—sometimes, I do!
Then, I try to locate that speaker, but naturally, I never
Can and must settle for dealing with the memories
That accompany the whispered voice—who it reminded
Me of—it’s not quite the same as having voices in my head
At least I don’t think it is, but sometimes I wonder.


Thursday, May 27, 2010


There was a military funeral
The requisite gun salute
Leaving the smell of cordite
Hanging like clouds above
The heads of the mourners.

A flag folded until it no longer
Resembled itself placed
On his mother’s lap where
Her seemingly unending tears
Fell unchecked on the cloth

As she sobbed quietly during
The chaplain’s words
A little more audibly as the
Coffin containing her son
Was lowered into the ground
That evening, after all had left
She sat alone on her couch
Watching the news, an ill-advised
Activity, her children had
Cautioned her but she felt
The need to observe details

About a war that had taken
Her boy; on the screen there
Were women dressed in typical
Muslim garb and they were making
That fascinating noise; she turned
The volume up and paid closer
Attention – they were grieving
The announcer said, for their
Sons killed earlier that day

But their grief revealed itself
In a sound unlike anything mothers
On this side of the Atlantic produced
It was primal, it was loud, it went on
And on – it made her heart ache
To hear it but she envied them
Their ability to make such a noise

And found herself groping for a word
To describe it – it wasn’t wailing, no,
And not quite keening, although
That came closer than anything else
Then–from deep in her own grief-stricken
Brain-pan, surfacing as if like a word
Wavering up through the murky water
Of a deep well, she finally had it

Ululation—they were ululating—she
Was sure of it—she didn’t know how
She knew it, she thought as she
Got off the couch, scrambled to find
Her crossword dictionary—ah, yes
Not much of a definition, she sniffed
“To wail, to howl” Howling, yes—
She agreed that the women did sound
As if they might be howling; another
Dictionary, more confirmation and
Stronger, indicating that Middle
Eastern women made such a sound,
Ululated, to grieve, and to celebrate
Somehow she found that comforting.

Ways to Escape the Bin

Start talking in a calm collected manner
Stop mentioning how much you want to die
Pretend to eat most of your meals
(You can flush most of the stuff if you need to)
Start washing your hair, wearing makeup
Get dressed everyday; no more wearing
Hospital pyjamas all day, every day

When you meet with your doctor
Be amiable and agreeable and say you
Will definitely try the new medication regime
It sounds like just the ticket – don’t ever
Let on that you’ve been palming the pills
They’ve been giving you since you arrived
On the ward; what they don’t know might
Hurt you, but as of now, you don’t care

When they suggest you go to group therapy
Nod enthusiastically and agree – then go
Contribute, but not too much, just enough
To convince that doctor – the facilitator
That you are well enough to fly the coop
If you are offered a pass, act reluctant but
In the end, accept it, walk out with whomever
In your family has been kind enough to
Fetch you – go home with them, and, at
Your first opportunity, disappear again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

They asked me to swear on the Bible to tell the truth
And I did even though I wasn’t sure I believed in it
The book, I mean – not the truth – I surely do believe
In the truth; but it’s a funny thing truth – everyone’s
Is slightly skewed and slanted to their own perspective

Then the one lawyer started asking me questions about
The night in question – imagine – that’s what they called
That awful night when you were killed as if there was
Any question about it when everyone knew the date
Most especially me because I was there after all but I
Played along because our lawyer said it would be best

The day became dream-like after that because my testimony
Just was a recitation of the facts was how they put it
But really it was just me telling my story – again – yes
That’s right – again – in order to put that killer away
Forever, I had to get up in front of everybody and tell
That horrible story with all the details again, again, again
Testimony – it’s more like test the memory or test the victim
Why don’t they just call it that, I wonder – it’s that awful

Monday, May 24, 2010


You can live without it of course and sometimes
It’s probably preferable, given the state of the world
But mostly one seeks it out, tries to find where
It’s hiding – oh, and it does hide at times, it does

Just when you think you can’t stand another moment
You have stepped off the curb for the last time
There will be no coming back from the dark place
You have set off for this time and you are sure of that

You hear, as sailors hear, the siren song of sanity
It’s a sweet melody and it sounds like an angelic choir
At first you think you are imagining things, you do, after all
Have one foot over the edge of the abyss and are ready

 To jump free, leave every bit of reason and logic behind
When something calls you back, makes you hesitate
Has you questioning your actions and realizing that you
Are not after all, so far gone that you cannot be saved

It’s the hesitation that gets you – every time, that pause
That keeps you from going fully nuts and you know it’s really
A good thing but there’s a part of you that wishes you could
Just let go and be gone; not the sane part, but you know ...
"O" is for Oubliette

If my day is going wrong or long

And too many hassles seem a threat
I try hard first to get organized and strong
But if all else fails, I duck down my oubliette

Oubliette I hear you asking
What the heck is that you say
It’s a trapdoor that my den is masking
An escape hatch for my get-away

My oubliette is known to me alone
And it takes me places far away from here
Far from FaceBook, email and cell-phone
Keeps me there until I regain good cheer

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Growing up—and this will give my age away—
It was an expression my parents used for
Something special —as in —“well, that’s sure keen”
And then you knew you had a really great thing

Got a little older and I learned you could be keen
On somebody and that meant you liked them
Or conversely, not so keen on something and of
Course that indicated you didn’t like whatever

A sharp knife or pair of scissors still are said to be
Keen-edged by some – and that is correct terminology
As is piercing and razor sharp – who knew?
Folks with keen wit are usually quite acidic or acerbic

Cutting, in other words, but in a biting, incisive fashion
Usually quite clever though, often sarcastic
Keen-eyed means very observant with clear, fine perception
Keen winds are bitter and biting and keen prices, rock-bottom

But my favourite term is the saddest and used seldom
Except in poetry or descriptive passages of real tragedy
When one is said to be ‘keening’ instead of weeping or crying
Or sobbing or wailing, somehow – keening always sounds worse.