"It's about words, and words are all I have…"



He is straight out of Kerouac  or Bukowski

this salesman of doors  Or even Donald Trump’s

White House   He is slick  in an: I’ve been to prison

kind of way   He is likeable  almost awesome   Silver

hair slicked back  Black co-ordinates  Rockport   Socks

a tartan check


Burly around the edges  Teeth glint in the sun   He says:

Ya we’ll take all the crap away!   Will you Donnie?  Will

your doors keep me locked in for the rest of my days?  Or

keep the knavish seekers of my fetid soul at bay?


And what about  the crap  you intend to take away?  Bring

petrie dishes for tissue samples  +a box measuring  5 foot 3

Recently lost an inch to crooked knee   Or  perhaps I will not

replace my rotting doors!   Blasphemy to Donnie


I have more important things to spend $4,261.45 (+HST) on

Venice awaits  A gondolier named Enzo comes with the Palazzo

He looks pretty slick too  +knows his way around canals   There is

also the one way fare to Mars to consider


I have applied for passage to the Mars space station   +they will

only take 10 seniors  so that children born in the first 10 years will

know what it looks like   to be crone   to be coot


In the brave new world there will be no word for aging  +wisdom will

become an oxymoron   In the brave new world  love will be a polysyllabic

word   #whatweusedtofeelwhenwewereintimatewiththereaper




You die. You’re born again  and all

Will be repeated as before:

The cold ripple of a canal.

Night. Street. Lamp. Drugstore.

(Stanley Kunitz 1985  Pulitzer Prize Poetry)


Summer  2017






I held his hand +looked at him like he couldn’t have

gone far   It was August 16, 1989 at 3:16   Elvis died

that day too  1977    This brings to mind the Great

Red Spot  one of the solar system’s perennial mysteries

It fades but never seems to go away


Technically the spot is an anti-cyclone + it was Giovanni

Cassini  who first saw it in 1665   Perhaps that’s where my

father went   Heaven seems entirely too pristine  +who would

want to be with the meek +un-debauched for eternity?  Not me


As the 28th anniversary of that day approaches  I am now 8 yrs.

younger than he  +things are beginning to break down   Today

for example  my left knee is swollen to 3x its original size  + is

making crunching sounds   No truncheon bearing mobster in sight


Perhaps I too am anti-cyclone  perpetually caught between forces

moving in opposite directions  Eros + Thanatos   Entropic daemon

possessed by an encroaching desire to go backwards  Counterclockwise

to the very day 30 yrs. ago when I stood at the door of a 727 on the tarmac

in San Francisco


Mentholated cigars in hand  ready to return to a pre-ordained box   On the

day I embarked on this vision quest some 6 mths. prior  Ella + The Count

mystically crooned April in Paris as I fled   Mother 64  Father 67  said good

bye  as  one more once  rang out    The part of the song you must wait for


It comes  almost imperceptibly  after most have given up   It comes like the

2nd coming   Like the 2nd chance  handed out to those who bear an uncanny

resemblance to my father


Strange now to think of you gone  while I walk the sunny streets of

Greenwich Village  reading the Kaddish aloud  listening to Ray Charles’

blues  shout blind on the phonograph

(Kaddish  Allen Ginsberg  1958)






Summer 2017



I coulda run a country  my bro said the other day  as I fell into self

loathing for choices made  and not made   But Stop!   Cormac McCarthy

now 82  tells us: The probability of the actual is absolute  And I have come

a tortured  + circuitous route  to agree    Wholeheartedly


Hands up if you believe in  crossroads    You know  the place where

old Robert Johnston sold his soul to the devil ( he could play guitar..)

The place where for a split second or 2  you believe that the road is yours

to choose  But find that the choice you have lassoed  has become a noose


That road is yours for the taking!   And once you do  the mirage of the crossroads

fades   Every grate  Every iron door  +every die  rolls into place   Once a thing

is set in motion  all inert desires are slaughtered   You will never find the saw your

brother placed inside the cake  The one he passed through the grate on your 60th



But for now why not celebrate the vestiges of the child  in the morphing 20

somethings all around you?   All tatted up  with more places to go than you

can shake your cane at   What do they know of the grate?  The steel door?  Vestiges

of immortality still cling   And when the last Monarch passes on it’s way to Mexico

they won’t even notice  +may swat it to death   Because today they feel groggy  from

all of the beer+groping on the couches at  The Dance Cave


While tomorrow is an endless mirage  I am  I can  I will    Yet there is a vast

difference between quitting + knowing when you’re beat   But you must be old

with grizzly-thinning skin  to have such gravitas   As well  to know that:  Some

of the most miserable people around are the ones who finally got what they

always wanted



Choice is lost in the maze of generations and each act in that maze is itself an

enslavement for it voids every alternative and binds one ever more tightly into

the constraints that make a life.


He’d have latched it but those doors only latched from without.


(Cormac McCarthy  Cities Of The Plain  1998)






Summer 2017




Some light-footed animal stands testing the open door

of your cage  Holding yourself close that you not escape?

Or cut through the net?   Things drop  clothes  shoes  bijoux

your rotting roof  onto your head  Didn’t you see this nail?

Didn’t you see this inky rot?   Bitter roofer exhales


An entire family of boat people on your Juliete balcony  How

did they arrive? There is no ladder  no stairs  Your husband sees

them +runs from the house  Heidegger tome flaps in the breeze

That night you have a bacchanalian dream  Those you know +those

you do not  line up  like costume ball refugees   Not a few madwomen

in this menagerie


There is a whore’s ghost auctioning souls   One by one those you know

are cut from the strand connecting you  like paper figures scissored by

a child   One by one they fall to the floor  When Bacchus himself breathes

new life into your father  he begins to gather you up   One child at a time

One horse  a billy goat +a rabbit   Where he’s been  sleeping dogs lie   +his

name has mysteriously been changed to:  A Man  




Summer 2017     Lee Atkins   A Man    May 21, 1921 – August 16, 1989



I saw a woman in her 90’s fall  more slide really  off of her chair

She looked like an overgrown child  or my Chatty Cathy Doll

Skirt hiked up   Ankle socks on splayed legs       She was left where

she lay  for 30+ minutes   People scurried around her  as the

elderly pointed to their fallen comrade


When she was hauled up by 5 nurses  one wearing a t-shirt that

read: WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS   festivities resumed  She

was unscathed    I wanted to bolt  but the clicking + swelling in my

left knee  kept me leadenly affixed to my chair   There fanning my

old mother  who was shouting:  It’s a hundred and ten degrees!  

Give us some fucking water!



Chatty Cathy Doll   Circa 1965



Summer 2017





There were things he could only say to a horse  in silence

He was oveja negra  through and through   What jewish

girl from the burbs has a father who is a real cowboy?  I do



Took me to my first rodeo  where the love of my 5 yr. old life

Mark from  The Rifleman  rode giant dung smeared bulls   Dad

why are the bulls covered in ..   He later bought me a ring with

my name inscribed   Still fits smallest digit


The carnival atmosphere of this life has not diminished one bit

Today a roofer named Rob  large+bitter  tried to lure me onto

the toppermost roof of the leaking stucco townhouse I co-own

I’m afraid of heights   Rob just glared


I don’t think I will give him the $17,500 he demanded  Rob said:

It’s not a question anymore of repair  It’s about REPLACE   How

about restore Rob?  Restore the discs in my neck  Restore the glory

days when parents aced mental status tests  If a snake is 6 ft. from

head to tail  how long is it from tail to head?   Fuck you!  father screamed


Replace: the painted carnival whores  the smarmy psychiatrists   One who

did push ups in her front hall  +over billed OHIP before they were allowed

to   He was likely 1/2 in love with her   Replace: the scaffolding   The edifice

is creaky  +we’re spending the treasure to restore a version of the story that

never existed to begin with


The one where the nuclear family survives!  So what was it that killed the nuclear

family in the first place?  The industrial revolution?  Television?  The Pill?  Does it

matter?  For when one is the last woman standing  after the numberless deaths of

her kin  it is beyond hard to get the hang of it  (Psychiatrists with notepads  Take note)



But a dog who’s been beaten

is slow to go back to happy barking 

– and that’s an animal, not a person.


(Adelia Prado   Divine Wrath  1987

Lifetime Achievement Award  

Griffin Poetry Prize  2014)


Summer 2017





There is a giant   Yellow t-shirted +rotund  on the

fire escape across the way   Every day  he gazes over

the parapet into the abyss   Long  hard  +deep   I see him

in the mornings when I have only just arisen from REM



He is the spitting image of the man in my dreams who

recurrently bellows: SECOND HALF OF LIFE!   Welcoming

me to my very own Divina Comédia   And reminding me of the

boy I therapied for 5 yrs.   Every single session began with lights

out   He would then shout: WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE!


Bedlam +debauchery would ensue   He +his bro had been sexually

abused by step-dad  + bro had began to molest him   They were 5+7

Several years later someone from stage left screamed: Which abyss can

you possibly be gazing into  Mrs. Therapist?


One where the future grows more uncertain everyday   Until there will not

be one  (You can take your 2nd half of life  and..)  At the same time  your religion

has become:  your family   beauty   not a little rock+roll   +boat loads of Don Julio

Yet it is also true that you remain certain of the fact:  that those are not clouds

They’re stairs









Summer 2017



This is quite possibly the most spectacular day of our brief Canadian

Spring   perhaps of our lives   Syria promises a chemical attack tomorrow

I promise ice+biting winds in 180 or so days   I suggest you squander the

Summer  It will be unbearably humid+mosquito ridden   And in close quarters

with the miserable TO herd  you will sweat profusely  +pray for a witness


2 robin redbreasts are pecking at each other’s eyes on the emerald grass of a

gorgeous enclosure  bequeathed by an oil baron  U of T   Now inching ever closer

to me  as I try not to kick at them with cloven Fluevog shod hooves   Though they

sorely deserve it    At present as well  I have 2 women in their 90’s in my life   93+98

to be precise   Both love an afternoon cocktail   One will drink the cheap stuff    The

other is Courvoisier VSOP all the way

($90/750 ml)


One is a prairie farm woman  Built the railroads fer chrissakes   The other an urban

beauty  whose brisket won a national award back in 62   A few years after she hung

up her model’s gowns (+hats+gloves)  All in my closet now  which btw has a pail in

its midst to catch the Spring rain   Everything is broken!  Or is it Robert Zimmerman?

I for one am still not giving up on finding the  Absolute    Some of you who believe

these poems to be creatures unto death  will find yourselves stunned!


I am in fact among the most hopeful on the planet   Despite a lack of  daffodils+

sunshine in my archive   To you I say: Stick it in a very dark place  For I am beyond

blown away  by the Geworfenheit   *(see Heidegger/thrownness)  of finding myself

cast as daughter  + daughter by proxy  to the heroines of our story  Yet now we head

back into darker territory   Not surprised are you?


How dare the Gods give me  this  body  + toss me here not as animal  but as lowly:

Bi-ped   Woman   Jew    Who?    Too bad that the mother’s  put one foot in front of

the other+keep on walking  wizendom  does not cut it with me   Searching for the

Absolute  makes a girl hungry   Perpetually    Now into our enclosure comes a man

dressed entirely in black  carrying a giant camera   Whereupon he begins to film my

denouement  +catches me kicking the robin





He was obsessed with the arbitrariness 

of having to have a body   No use for him

to tell himself he shouldn’t feel this  because

he felt this  (Frank Bidart  Metaphysical Dog Poems)    

Lifetime Achievement Award  Griffin Poetry Prize 2017



Summer 2017   Canada Day Eh?



My grandmother  the Polish one   From a town

that doesn’t exist anymore   Residents slaughtered

willy-nilly  1939-1945   This grandmother said  on a

freezing day circa 1985: Losing your mind is the worst

thing that can happen to a person   as we said good bye

pre  her annual Miami sojourn


She then gave me some intricate instructions re: prospective

deathbed visitors (these will go with me to my own grave)

The conversation weighed heavily  though I came to chalk it up

to her extreme eccentricity   Later that winter my father received

a call from  Sam   A man in her building we didn’t know  He said:

Your mother asked me to call   She doesn’t know where she is   

My father Lee brought her home a few days later


Tests showed an inoperable brain tumour  She was 86   It took several

months for her to lose her finemind   So  had it been a premonition or

an admission?  Perhaps already inklings of a fading database  +losing

a grip on memories   Farms  A speakeasy  An arranged marriage   Hard

patriarch father put a broom in her hand  and said:  Sweep!   Her mother

dead at 33    Mayo clinic couldn’t save her


4 younger children to raise   Now a slave   People took her lack of an easy

smile  personally   And when she died they found $4,000,000 in her

mattress   I have her exact feet  (don’t ask)  +a serious loathing for being

told what to do by any man  no matter his size or title  i.e., Dear Leader

I don’t walk around smiling either  but when I do  I have been told the Styx

begins to freeze over


In the end my grandmother was more animal  (not vegetable)  Crazed hand

signals  +mouthing words    And yet it moves   to paraphrase Galileo at his

heresy trial   One day in her room  I looked in the mirror at my 26 yr. old face

+for a split second didn’t know who I was   I wore red+black stripes  and was

about to begin my Master’s in Psychotherapy


There was also that time when I looked at husband #1’s young face  and for a

split second I didn’t know him   Premonitions or admissions?  Revelations or

devastations?  Voodoo bugaloo  Weird shit   Because it is simply true:  that one

day I would no longer know him  know him   And as for myself   the real me has

been under house arrest forever   continuing my scientific work  (again much like

Galileo  a genius with a flair for self promotion)  on freedom   on busting out   +leaving

you all  in my dust





*On Wednesday a TTC employee seeing that someone had jumped onto the tracks,

sat down and began talking to the man. He reminded him to breathe, and encouraged

him to say, I am strong, and got the crowd to recite it with him. He coaxed the man

back up onto the platform. It’s something we should all strive to do, everyday. 

(Globe+Mail editorial  TRANSIT HERO  June 2017)


Summer 2017      Go ahead.   Try it.



No one knows what it’s like to travel backwards to

before   To those moments when you were tabula rasa

Before they put their mark on you   Before horsemen+

baseball players +models   Before Polish+Russian Jews

Before the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

entered you  on a cellular level


Who were you?


Perhaps the question has never been: nature versus nurture?

But rather: Once nurture takes over does it obliterate nature?

Does nature even exist?  Other than for that brief pre birth canal

spasm  Before sacred substances  blood  feces  urine  +the placental

feast  smear your clouds of glory   making you ½ the creature  you

were meant to be


Come on!  Take a stab at it    Who?


Perhaps if you are bold enough to  you will be cast out of the space

time continuum + instantly take your seat next to Yaweh or Zeus!

You’re stalling   Who?    Is it in fact because nurture  has jettisoned

the essential you?   The one who had small wing tips at scapula?


Face it    You’ve mourned flying  all of your days


Often putting head into wind   Developing degenerative disc syndrome

by 30   Weighted down by their freight   Sinners  Panzermen  Mad-women

Your birdlike pure essence   Sturdy girl-boy   Ravine dweller   Forest nympho

Hawk mother   Father a rolling stone


Nature worshipper   Bareback rider  by 5


Captivity anathema    Ditto close quarters with humanity   A lone wolf

Die of tribal glue  seeping in through them +theirs    Play nice   Don’t

fly  or I’ll give you something to cry about!   STOP  soaring +walk upright

you frightful bird-child  


Or we can’t ensnare you


Now 60 years on  you collect downed butterflies +battered 6 yr. olds  pre-

dawn  only to free them  later on   Today you found a Swallowtail molting

on June asphalt   Telepathic connexion   It said: There is a snap at C-4  the

disc where all the pain began   In the years ahead these words will come to

mean less and less   + the snap will morph into a cancerous mole









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