songanddancegirl

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

VANISHING

I TURN ONLY TO SEE THEM VANISHING

AT THE DAMP EDGE OF THE ROAD

My first real job circa 1979   Probation+Parole  Regent Park

21 yrs. old   Befriended Premier Of Ontario’s daughter Nancy

Said she’d never met a Jew before me   I thought this novel   My

father was incensed: What kind of racist bullshit is this?

 

Nancy  on her 1st visit to a Jew’s home  regaled me with stories

of:  sailing regattas  her boyfriend Potter +his buds hanging at the

Granite Club  where Jews were banned   I wasn’t invited to the

wedding she’d called  a merger    Yet I still thought Nancy swell

+pretended not to focus on her moustache

 

Our boss Mary Gunn  a 70 something Scottish matron  commented

frequently on my suntanned legs  ( I belonged to a golf+tennis club

for Jews)  My father  intuitively with a growl: She’s a lesbian Aprill!

When Mary asked me to take her to Eaton’s for bras  +slid her hand

along said suntanned leg   I marvelled at my father’s facility for laying bare

one’s secret proclivities

 

He would have made a most excellent spy  +infact through tips from

turncoat brother/weasels  found me at 14  in an opium den  Bestfriend

Joni’s father  a one handed butcher  in constant phantom pain  fell victim

to the poppy  She quit school in grade 10  +married the trumpet player from

Lighthouse  My father banned her from our house  While older brother said

she stank  but followed her movements closely

 

The only other woman in the house was my gorgeous mother  who at 93 continues

to wax enigmatic: There is nothing like the excitement of dating mobsters!   My father

had married a moll +hid her away in a dull suburban backwater   It did not matter

Her best friend:  a Chanel wearing  tangerine Cutless driving  race track lady    She

had a gravely laugh  +lit her cigarette like a trucker    I tell you   those 2 dames

they walked  on water

__

 

I am growing old.

A bird cries in bare elder trees.

Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for

It is here.

(James Wright  Pulitzer Prize  1972)

 

 

 

 

Fall 2017

SIMPLICITY

IN THE MYSTERY OF LIVING MATTER

AND THE SIMPLICITY OF DEATH

Today someone sent 6 pizzas to my house at 4pm via Uber Eats

I was not home   When I asked the driver to call me  he texted:

I am deaf sorry  not calling   It is also New Year’s eve   5,778  at

the stroke of midnight    Mercury must be in retrograde?    So

many crazed happenings   World spinning off of axis for a change

 

Yesterday waylaid on traffic circle  driving it for 20+yrs.   Still circling

when pizza call came   2 quakes in Mexico    Yesterday’s on the anniversary

of the last 8.1   One brother hunkered down there in tequila territory  Jalisco

Quake by-passed brother  +thousands of agave plants saved   (woo hoo!)

 

3rd hurricane shredding Caribbean islands   Fake news shows us the eye of

hurricane God nightly  from special hurricane planes   Visited all of the islands

when young  +beyond the grasp of by-pass horrors  that would visit father  2 yrs.

hence   Stout boy with bad hair  a.k.a. Rocketman  launches nuclear missiles over

heavily populated areas of Japan   Yellow haired vulgarian threatens to decimate

heavily populated areas of Korea

 

I contemplate the complex million fold division of cells   The centre will not hold

Late summer envelops city  31 degrees  40 with humidity   The judges of this year’s

arts council grants think themselves too good for these generalizations  +are

unmoved   As my self esteem plummets  I continue to collapse  +re-form

 

My hope chip irrevocably altered by the near losses of 5777  (a.k.a. 2017)  +the fact

that 6 rotting pizzas await my homecoming    A cool breeze wafts  + the reflecting

pool at the Thompson Hotel reflects: a wizened face +electric red frizz   1st fall

leaves  floating on surface   Ice man cometh   As I make furious plans for escape

I hear the sound of God laughing

__

 

Man makes plans.  God laughs.

(Maternal Grandmother  Sarah Marlieb)

__

 

A veil of haze protects this

Long-ago afternoon forgotten by everybody

In this photograph, most of them now 

Sucked screaming through old age and death

(John Ashbery  Pulitzer Prize  1975)

 

 

Fall 2017   Ere of 5778

LOST

HIGHWAY OF LOST JEWISH COWBOYS

In his face there came to be a brooding peace that is seen

most often in the faces of the very sorrowful or the very wise.

(Carson McCullers  23   The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter)

 

Or both    I have seen this expression  though one may think that

brooding  +peace are opposites   For some peace is not possible  +

brooding a constant   Quietly suffering unfulfilled juxtapositions

Dreams embalmed

 

My father’s face when listening to music   Lost in bop   honk of Jaquet

or screech of Grappelli’s strings   I have this kind of face too   The kind that

brings complete strangers close  suggesting:  smiles  +other inanities:  You have

the face of a writer!  You are a dead ringer for Greta Scattchi!   which mostly

leads to blithering

 

One day at the A.G.O. not long ago  I took in a photo exhibit   Jews dying of hunger

on the streets   Dead bodies rigoured in wheelbarrows   Perhaps then  brooding

comes naturally to Jews   I’m sure  you’ve heard of Jewish angst   A version of the

blues   So my father’s brooding was perhaps one half diaspora guilt?    Not likely

 

Though he would have made an excellent Mossad agent:  handsome  wily  +fearless

Especially when called kike  backstreets London Ontario   More likely  a brooding man

in suburbia    Wife + 4 kids   Almost jumping on Tex   his horse  (yes  he had a horse)

and running for the hills     Some people are just not made for their times

 

There were no rodeos in the ghetto   Jazzcats a rarity too   Brooding man facing west

Setting sun in living room leaves him in a white undershirt  in the dark  quite frequently

Plunging Ace  lost in football reverie   Sorrowful    But wise on the ascendency

__

 

He had a special feeling for sick people and cripples. Listen, he said. The trouble with

you is that you don’t have any real kindness. Not but one woman I’ve ever known had

this real kindness I’m talking about.

(Carson McCullers  The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter  1940)

 

 

 

 

Jewish New Year  2017    a.k.a. 5778

 

HEAR

CAN YOU HEAR ME HEAR YOU?

I worked with 2 elective mutes  Both likely in their 30’s

by now  Both chose speechlessness for reasons unimaginable

Though if you bring your fine minds to the task  certain details

may emerge   Certain excruciations

 

They were both docile by the time I met them  though the boy

had used super-human strength to throw several grown men off

of him  I was told NEVER to touch him   I watched his beard fill in

+sideburns develop  There was another therapist who led him around

as though blind   His hand atop hers   She was a dead ringer for a Goddess

+he  her son lover

 

With me  he was often aroused  +emitted sonorous growls    In sessions

he drew snakes coming out of his oral cavity  +broken bulldozer parts were

laid in the sandtray   Impotent to uncover his wounds   Therapist impotent too

But he was eager + growling   And maybe one day he’d growl a word   a sentence

 

I don’t want to play with fucking toys   lady    

I’m 15     I want to date  +masturbate  in peace

 

The other  elective mute  was a young girl   She also had a submerged growl  more

grunt really   She belonged to my weekly therapy group   She being the only mute

One day as we worked on giant self-portraits  on white mural paper  she began to

furiously colour herself   brown    And yes   she was brown

 

In the end she ran away +hid in a garbage bin   Therapist impotent once again   If

only I had found a piece of brown mural paper  + handed it to her    Like I saw her

And didn’t need to be shown that she wasn’t white    Nor was she mute    Anymore

__

 

The psychotherapist learns little or nothing from his successes. But failures are

priceless experiences. They open the way to a better truth.  No longer is he the

superior wise man, judge, and counsellor; he is a fellow participant who finds

himself involved just as deeply as the so-called patient.

(C.G. Jung   The Practice Of Psychotherapy  1954)

 

FALL  2017

 

 

CONCAVE

SELF PORTRAIT IN A CONCAVE MIRROR

You’re probably covered with a tarpaulin now

Laying in state in the back of a flatbed truck

On your way to Rochester   You lived with your

physicist grandfather there   I quoted you in my

1st Collection  In the poem: Deny Deny Deny  on

page 75

 

I tried each thing  only some were immortal and free

 

I didn’t really understand your poetry at first

John Ashbery   But then it dawned on me  that if

I stopped trying to read for meaning  I would glean

your code    The human mind craves knowing

 

Knowing if there is a jaguar in the bushes  restless for

my sprackled skin + plump calves  (no they are not)

I will make a boney breakfast  +he will have to eat my

shrunken brother too

 

You died yesterday at 90  so now your poetry about the:

experience of the experience  has died too   They say there

are zillions of pretenders to your throne   But I footnoted

you   And though I may steal from Shakespeare outright

Never you   (except for today’s title which I bastardized)

 

My own self portrait is in the midst of a make-over John

Soul about to do back flips after scunnered by so much grief

New face almost unrecognizable   Especially when in the throes

of denial re: a recurring dream  of some 50+ years    One is

tempted not to go there   but much more tempted to

 

My husband has developed a fondness for our nanny    In the

emptiness of late afternoon   And has left me   She is now having

their 3rd baby   And when I awake +tell him this  there is an interest

He says: After I read your poems I am always a bit puzzled

 

Later when I drive by the café where he was to have been   I think of

John Ashbery  scrunched into the interstices between heaven+earth

His dark trousers + silver hair  full of dirt   And of how we will all have

to get along without each other now

__

TARPAULIN

Easing the thing

Into spurts of activity

Before the emptiness of late afternoon

Is a kind of will power

Blaring back its received vision

From a thousand tenement windows

Just before night

Its signal fading

 

No one has the last laugh.

 

(RIP  John Ashbery   Self Portait In A Convex Mirror  1975)

(PulitzerPrize   National Book Award   National Book Critics Award

Griffin Poetry Prize)

 

 

Fall  2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gator

GATOR’S GOT YOUR GRANNY

The 1 mg Lorazepam  (aka: a Larry)  didn’t work

as well  as the one last Thursday  which brought on

euphoria  tinged with hunger   A good thing  with the

recent loss of pounds   This summer’s stress chamber

flattening curves  left +right

 

Ate everything in sight  last week   Boxes of ice creams

artisanal sausage galore   even poured tequila on the Key

Lime Pie  +used a straw   Just juicy enough for the giant

Venus Fly in Trinity Bellwoods Park  to mistake me for a

pink Nadege macaroon      CHOMP     CHOMP

__

 

 

 

END  Summer  2017

 

SEA

WHERE IS THE SEA THAT ONCE

SOLVED THE WHOLE LONLINESS

On the roof across the way a pigeon is dying   If he

does so quickly   he will avoid the swoop of the peregrine

White + sprackled  he once threatened to carry me away

As I sat splayed in the hot tub  feet from him  +tried not to

breathe  Talons curled twice around the branch that will not break

 

He was approximately 2.5 ft. long    I’d seen him swoosh +grab a

giant raven  quite close to where Mr. Pigeon lay dying   In Faulkner’s

As I Lay Dying   Addie lay dying  beside a window where her son worked

an adze  sculpting her coffin   Her husband  a Southern loser  married a

farm woman  minutes after Addie’s cancer-fetid body  washed away in the

great Mississippi

 

I promise not to write about ice+biting winds until November 29th

Instead I will share pithy-isms of  Torontonians  I meet along the way   to

my salvation   Today  a young man sales clerk asked me if I’d seen the most

recent Game of Thrones episode   Remarking  that the curve of my lip  +red

frizz  reminded him of the witch  which many before him have quipped   Also

Glinda from Oz

 

I don’t watch it

Why not?

My husband didn’t take to it

But it’s the only show where men can watch

dragons copulate with naked women

He’s not into that

Lose him!

 

On the drive home I fantasized about dragons copulating with naked women

+ knew that my husband and I would finally have to go into therapy   Or it might

just be cheaper  to buy another tv

__

 

 

Summer 2017

 

 

FRAYED

OR HAVE YOU BEEN HOLDING THE END OF A

FRAYED ROPE FOR A THOUSAND YEARS

Some go to their neighbour  seeking themselves

Others to lose themselves   paraphrasing Nietzsche

 

muggy  first autumn leaf  on dying maple tree  outside

yellow stucco townhouse   how is gord downie?  our nation

turns  it’s lonely eyes to you   usually come upon the  final

leaf  brisk november day   then it’s gone  small tree freezes

under canopy of 14 stars   soon

 

stars! there are no stars anymore!  old mother spits  where

did you see them?  where?   clear city nights  september to march

pleiades blinks  overhead   are you going to spend your time

pretending you are not dead?   a voice in a dream said   40 winks

mid-poem  i think    epiphanic drool  a dead giveaway

 

i have never sought to find myself in society  nor lose myself there

Nietzscheans cannot slot me   the truly godless gaze slack jawed at the

ones who say:  man makes plans  god laughs   laugh back  long+hearty   

god’s wrath is just another name for anxiety  frozen millennials

 

unplug   tune in   look up   way up   those aren’t stars

they’re  flashlights

__

 

 

 

End Summer  2017

 

OCCUPATION

WE WERE NEVER MORE FREE THAN

UNDER THE GERMAN OCCUPATION

So said Jean Paul Sartre   What could he possibly mean?

That freedom is contingent upon one’s  degree of imprisonment?

That every small act  even the most minute  was an act of

defiance in face of the boot?  Or the waiting train for the long

ride to Polish towns with death camp names?

 

Yet freedom as a condition is not native to human existence

As Beckett mentioned  We are born astride a grave  But even

if one may  compartmentalize  deny  +anesthetize   it is also true

that you + I are dropped into a story written by who?  One which

unfolds with seeming choices at every step   except   for the beginning

+the end

 

Nailing one to a family  to a place +time  + to a demise  One which is

exactly the same in physiological specifics for every single one of us

Organic matter  to decay  to pushing up daisies  Organic fodder for yet

another storyteller  Sartre was likely pulling our existential chains   For

isn’t all of human existence contingent?

 

Upon where you show up   +through whose chute   Whether your storyteller

is benevolent  or brute?   And just about everyone is a storyteller these days!

Taking a shot at demi-god-ery  at immortality   So why not run with the middle

part of your story?  Head for Mexico!   Escape your family   They probably won’t

notice anyway

 

Shoot yourself if you must  +watch your storyteller turn to dust  He never expected

you to take the reigns   Mostly  scrape the surface  for it is in the underbelly where

you can hide for years  quietly pretending to be passive + unfree    I tell you now:

there is a saddled horse at stage left  waiting   +a wild eyed creature  crouching in

the grass  loving you  secretly

__

It was just a dream. You dreamt him. 

You can make him do whatever you like.

Where was he before I dreamt him?

You tell me.

Then I woke.  From his dream or yours?  

There is only one dream to wake from.

(Cormac McCarthy  Cities of The Plain  1998)

 

 

 

 

End of Summer  2017    ..good riddance

 

 

PATH

PATH OF TOTALITY   PATH OF LUNACY

1,035  stand in line   U of T astronomers with beady

eyes  caution us: DO NOT look into the sights of 

the sun  These glasses bestow immortality  but only

for those who know the difference between  the waste

+ the organic  bins  

 

On a loud speaker a professor blares: You bastards killed

the Boreal forests  + now you love the universe?  Eclipse 

glasses are x-ray vision  for those born between 1941+1957

Solar eclipse porn   From the sublime  to fried Mars bars  + a

muscled young man wearing pink Jockeys who begs to give me

a sports massage  ( I was born within the cut off dates)

 

I walk among the sweating soulless at the CNE   Many wear the

eclipse glasses  but do not look at the sun  Many more are bleating

+ eating huge quantities of cheese curds + gravy  I watch the celestial

wonder  +know that the next time it occurs  I will be out of here  which

makes me want to throw caution to the wind

 

I enter the food court +find a vat of gravy with a pump handle  I slather

it on  Dogs follow me along the path of totality   We are here for what

amounts to a few hours  a day at most  I am reluctant to let the eclipse go

The first among a list of lasts  But the gravy smells so good  +there will be

puddings +tequila  when I get home

__

We feel around making sense of the terrain, our own new limbs,

Bumping up against a herd of bodies  until one becomes home.

(Tracy K. Smith  Life On Mars  Pulitzer Prize)

 

End of Summer 2017  ..hit the road jack..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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