HEART

The man of the house had almost brilliantly solved his chronic insomnia by conveniently advancing the role of the family’s young, comfy-looking Newfoundland female pup to the position of “pillow.” This way the master’s ear would be in constant receivership to the never-changing beat of the heart of man’s best friend. From home, mind you. Mainlanders with sleep problems would kill to have such grandeur.

Hers would be one beat master could count on. And—conveniently enough—this was neatly solved by the fact that the large, fluffy, special man’s BFF, too, in its wonderful way, enjoyed lying down a lot, sometimes squirming its way past when she’d have to be let out. And, timing her clock with her master, only required a small orchestral demand. Having said this, being master’s pillow came ever so close to providing her main reason for being. First and mainly, you got your steady heartbeat, which the non-sleeper could appreciate and follow along with to some extent. In another life, the two of them could be a Vaudeville act of some importance. That is, of course, if sleeping made up the heart of their main act.

However, in time, there appeared a bump to someone’s female self esteem, during a moment of scratching. She could barely remember her own name. “HER,” she thought it was, and what kind of a friggin’ name was that? This, plus a bit of rumbling in her familiar Newfoundlandese.

She tried slipping her bulk away from Master’s influence. What did she get from this habit?  Nothing noticeable. An extra bowl? Bullshit! She could get that anyway by sheer pushiness. No, no, this was something else. It probably struck her—over time—that she was being pummeled into shape for sleeping, and only sleeping. Yes! By God Rin-tin-tin!! Just like a damn PILLOW!!  

Following a decent amount of  groaning—loud enough to off-set the world’s most reliable  heartbeat—she took to a lot more rumbling and tears enough to match that of a decent flood, drenching master to the point where Pillow found herself back in the children’s room, where as heartbeats go, theirs were the purest of all.

PATHOS

He had lived in PATHOS, all his life, but he packed his bag and moved to POSSIBLE,  a town known for Broadway try-outs, one of which inspired him to go to New York for the  promising new musical. Thrilled by the opening, he followed it on its road tour until the thing died in a town called NEVER. Finally returning to PATHOS, he planned to teach the dying town to like itself. But PATHOS had changed it's name to STUBBORN, where he was finally crushed to death at a “Once In A Lifetime Sale” of badly executed garden figures, the likes of Sleepy, Doc, and a hardly recognizable Happy.

WAKING

I’m waking up these days a Christian elder going to the lions, fleeing tangled sheets, pursuing giggling skittering sandals, down a hollowed hall past mirrors making merry at the rumpled face before he shows it to the half-baked sun; through shadowy beasts sharpening their tools and spitting crowds  and morning sounds; with  Nero at his gloating best on channel 48, a smartass in his boring glory never meant for him; the lions, now lambs, cooing their good mornings in the frying pan of CNN.

ARRIVAL

Where do you go to pay?
How long do you stay?
What if no one’s there?
Do you sit until they come?
What do we get for being stupid?
When is a wrong wrong enough?
Who do we face exactly?
Are there rocks to hide behind?
Who’s watching who’s more perfect?
Do we leave footprints on a cloud?
Or, are you up to your shorts in blasphemy?
Do you still wear shorts, or were they taken for evidence, like your guns in Deadwood?
Will he or she take a joke or two?
And if one joke fails, do you try another; or
do you get that certain feeling that the one about the crosseyed Angel didn’t work, or had they heard it?
And . . . what happened to my bodybag?

PRAYER

Is this it for me
cursed not to be
A writer of some magnitude
While sitting here and in the mood
All a-strain and all a-bloat
In tattered tam and ragged coat
And praying to whomever be
A goddess of such poetry
As I might claim a trifling share
Of fame and fashion if thoust care?
Do send me here
By cart, or sled, or nag or scow
(pray, bend an ear and hear me now)
One wee idea, word or rhyme
Or couplet, if you’ve got the time.
Stay not your power, quick, I pray,
Through either end would be okay!

Note: Sadly, his plea would not be heard. He’d been seated in a badly constructed time-worn two-seater at a cliff side, which tumbled with himself in the throes of what would have been a record-writing fecal tsunami for future schoolbooks, as witnessed all too clearly by two-thirds of the town’s female population, who came tumbling after, not dissimilar to Alberta’s own buffalo jump.

A LOTTA DEAD ACTORS

He won’t know what hit him or where the car came from. When shoppers come running, he won’t see too clearly who look on him kindly to soften the blow.

In the half-minute left he’ll drop down through his years to revisit his genesis, down a dark street to a gel-lighted premises, sit himself down in a mouth-open attitude.

Shushed by a shadow he’ll sit and be good and he’ll see a one-acter—not bad, more than fair—and his dream will kick back to his twenty-first year when sooner than some he rose to his crest; yes he didn’t do badly we clearly attest.

And with whatever time in his suitable prime that he had on his timepiece in rhythm and rhyme, he made himself proud in his many personas for praisers and panners with old fading manners while playing the crowd.

And now send him off to his green room aloft. Have him look for a place with a lotta dead actors mouthing their lines who will mean him no harm. He’ll be scared to bejesus he’ll have to audition while bearing contrition as long as his arm.

Have him look for a place with a lotta dead actors learnin’ their words from plays full of morals—some heroes, some meanies with make-believe swords—and they’ll hear his old stories as stale as the hills—they might just as well—how he’d had some success since the time they were there but it wasn’t the same as it was with your peers when a story had heart in a sensitive year, and compassion, and yes, even devil-may-care, before he, let us say, kinda called it a day from a broadside on Bloor not far from the Bay.

Give him room, give him air, he ain’t going nowhere till he flutters up there where a lotta dead actors are knowin’ no pain, and they’ll welcome him home where he won’t have to worry, he’ll never be sorry, he’ll walk in and play on that heavenly day—line perfect, let’s say.

INGROWN

FUNNY—and not a little unfortunate—no one really cares about an ingrown nail. If it could escape clipping, it might soon become clear that the only way out . . . is IN, like a neglected and futureless chorus girl wondering if there is life after ambition, and, in its travels within, after circumventing a trapped fart or two, it might stand a chance at romance with the highly rapacious Connie Colon, to name a few, and retiring finally mongst simply gardens of handsome curlies like itself! 

WAIT, NOW

I once sat silently by the bedside of a dying friend. I could come up with nothing to say just short of an eternity that might be suitable, and felt dishonest, as though I’d been tossing off those very important few last seconds of our altogether noteworthy friendship, wherein we had never parted without providing the other with equal appreciative byplay.

I asked him if it was tough to leave, and he said, in  a very pleasant tone: “It beats incontinence.” 

Why did he have to say that? 

A NEW IDEA

A new idea at its purest should be left alone to fully gather honest claim, not stretched to over-weaning, tapering limply to a flaccid end for weak and easy accolades. Just trust the ground for what it was—precise and heart-felt, nothing more. And then and only will your brand new thought have the power to over-power, as the curtain falls, leaving those with open mouths and half-thought come-backs, dribbling on their patent shoes, agreed with by their over-costumed dates.

PRIDE

If you're not who I think you are, you should be. Your stature for one thing. Worthy of a uniform. Soldierly to say the least. Just waiting for the call to arms. Snap that head to the awestruck image of yourself in the local Walmart window. A few more trips around the block— not to be missed by the new neighbours' daughter—in cleated boots they could hear tomorrow. Bang, Bang, Bang! Back to the house, up them steps, and report to yourself!

PERFECT

WHAT WAS THAT? A perfect moment? Where did it come from, and why doesn’t it stay? Was it saying, “Perfection is possible, but that’s all you get, until you know it better?” All of a sudden, like that. And if it had a voice, it would have said, “Nothing  serious. I’m just saying hello. Got to go now.”

Had those, have you? The briefest of moments ? Absolute serenity. How about a string of them? No. Doesn’t work like that. It is what it is. But it knew exactly what it was doing, to pass on a message that it wouldn’t repeat, if you hadn’t had the proper humanity to appreciate it, or speak it’s language. It had to be yours. Had to be. These are your insides. The party is yours. The candles, the guest- list,  you. However skimpy, short-lived, in it’s patience. As if you were invited by accident. It’s happened that way on every other occasion. But normally it’s a flash of beauty, settling quickly, aspiring, promising to stay if you are strong enough  to receive that exquisite moment before the door is shut to you again . . . or not!

Still there? Seamless, with no hint as to how or when it would slip away again. A moment that had shouldered aside anything even vaguely negative; lasering it’s way  through boring sameness, stronger than the most stubborn ennui; defeating, dissolving stupid fear, as if fear has never been considered. Teasing at times: “Stay. We might as well be friends,” it seems to be saying. “Use me. Walk about inside me, without fear of ever having to step outside ever again or surrender to anyone. Think me! Inflate me, till this tiny perfection becomes your norm, and you its Landlord. Indulge it . . . dispense it if you want . . . generously now—kindly now—while it remains, determinedly, yours. Never had that? Sorry. Oh, you have. You waited there. I know. It doesn’t hang about.  

TIMBER

True, he hadn’t been out of the woods since they changed the face on the two-dollar bills—of which now there were none—and  he’d had a rustic dust-coated memory of what  women still looked like, starting with lipstick.  No trouble there!

And there they were.  

“Women,” said he. “Talk about your  Farmer’s Market!”

One thing he didn’t count on was  the shouting. And—a lot of it—pretty much in his direction.  “Some popular!” Although the name-calling was different. Confused him only for a second, but didn’t  stop him. 

Swung in step with anyone  whose legs were  poking out from under their coat—promising her nothing but bad breath—took her by the wrist of the same hand that made him bleed, and left him even more speechless than was his habit. Not exactly what he’d remembered. What had he known? Chopping down trees for the paper mill . . . since the Korean war,  he’d missed the headlines completely. This was frightening! They were all mad as hell at someone. Couldn’t have been him.

Good Lord,  sure, what was the first thing he did when he was born? He laid down and let a woman  change him, wash him, wipe him, turn him over and slap his arse. Pretty much what he went looking for, on the Saturday night of the long day that the ladies of the town took to their equality march. “Well, there wasn’t much of anything fair about that,” said he, and  back he went to the bush to commiserate with his half-sawn tree, in time to hear “TIMBER” once, and his name, not at all.

What a life! 

TINNITUS

Never had it. I was too busy listening to sounds in the ear. Oh. That was it? The buzzes, the crackles, the squishing, the flooding? Starts like a soft-voiced female accompanying your own voice to start with, then—when you stall for a breath, at the first sign of insecurity it takes over like a pirate—overpowering yours, tying up the cook and keel-hauling your voice, which has begun to sound like Anne of Green Gables who’s arrived late at a school picnic after all the food’s gone, in comparison—though less demanding, and wicked, having rented your sound-box out to sixteen angry comics in a locked green room at showtime.

Meanwhile—intimidated as a nude nun—you say, “sorry” far too much, and sign your head over to this new voice that doesn’t hear you anymore, changes the rules of your house, starts throwing out your double-breasted jackets and favourite coloured scarves and that kind of thing, and you wait and watch till you don’t own anything anymore, and you’re fed up with cowering behind the grandmother clock; you excuse yourself and call a perfectly legal ear man, sharp as the rest of your family.

GENTLE SOULS

Gentle souls should not be required to lift weights beyond their own. Stay light, but not so light as to end you up in Cuernavaca when you'd planned on Saskatoon. Either that or grow a Zapata moustache and walk very quickly with both hands on your ass, because you'll never get a cab when you want it.

BLAME

Blame? For what?
Walking home behind your mother who was toting heavy bags?
Your hands were in your pockets and you’d just now put them there.
It meant you’d have to catch up and she hadn’t turned around - 
how would she know if it was you?
And look how often you had tried to look like someone else at home.
And from the side, or turned around you could’ve been a boarder
who had trouble with their names, a strange and distant boarder
whom they wouldn’t have to notice even just to pass the butter.
And your lips would sew together and your footprints wouldn’t read
and they’d all become forgetful when calling out your name.
You’d have no one there to give to and nothing more to get.
Excuse me? Nothing more to get?
And the bags weren’t all that heavy.

WINNING

The LOTTO winner - now attired by Saville Row, whose salesman for the month of May had gripped his hand like long-lost kin, treats himself to steak tartare, his former taste buds left with friends he could not remember having, and separated from them by a hurried dash of man’s cream.

In contrast - at a stuccoed home for Vets - a poorer scuffer counts his points from slippery Jacks and tens, and - smiling - guides the ample pyramid of matchsticks off the table’s edge and twirls his wheeler past his cheering, aging fan-base to his room.