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



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













The official butterfly of Arizona has been sighted

all over Toronto   My friend a taxidermist + art director

found one dead   He photographed it for instagram  Laid

out nicely on his kitchen table cum butterfly morgue  Milk

+ cheerios  beyond forlorn


Dead butterflies  like dead angels  +dead bees  give off a kind

of sonar to their tribe  Now the glorious yellow+blue Swallowtails

are gathering in profusion  up here in the great white north  where

they will certainly die of cold   While the other C word  will descend

upon 1 in 2 Canadians  who will be diagnosed with it in the coming








Mt. Pinatubo awoke from a 500 year slumber in spectacular

+disastrous fashion on June 15 1991   For almost 20 yrs. now

the destruction has continued   Volcanic ash seeping into veins

even into relationships   As that creature on slow thighs crouches

outside your window  waiting


The center gave out a long time ago especially for those born

mid-20th century  only now coming into the 2nd half of life   Rife

with disappointments like: It was supposed to be much cooler than

this   Flying cars  Sound minds+bodies   It was supposed to be secure

(in Canada universal pensions will disappear in thirteen years)


In such a climate one must cultivate a rich interior life   much like

Dr. Edith Bones  imprisoned for 7 yrs. and 59 days   The communists

couldn’t break her  And she emerged wiser +full of hope!  Let us all

take shelter inside of ourselves  though rank with decay

*(pay close attention those 55 and older)


And let us not be fooled by handsome people at parties  +the person on the

barstool beside you rubbing your stiffening leg   They have been sent to distract

you from the real business of keeping perfectly still as Mrs. Death  in an ill fitting

blouse  begins to enter you  one puckered orifice at a time


Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

W.B. Yeats  The Second Coming  1919



Spring 2017



There is candy in the lobby   Huge piles of it   But

it is not free   Little $3 signs  sit beside curated bowls

At first you miss the signs  +thinking it’s free  a happiness

comes over you +your 59 yr. old brother  the likes of which

you have never seen


It’s like winning the lottery   Finally  free candy   after

years of pilfering from the corner store   Money doesn’t

grow on trees  they said   Well neither does candy  +a kid

can’t live on chocolate matzah alone


Here  the coloured wrappers on high end candy  bring back

ennui    Instantly   Later when the complimentary limo forgets

to pick you up  you stand in the dark  with gangs approaching

For hours   The manager says:  TAKE SOME CANDY !   And

you do   Handfuls stuffed in pockets   In a sock   One fits into your



The two of you sit with lizards  near palm trees  in the soulless hotel

for millennials  who must have candy close by at all times  (google

Google’s workplace)  And you gorge on Snickers +O Henrys   Finally

free of nagging feelings of underachieving  +untold fantasies of your

minds resurfacing





SPRING  2017





Came upon them as they sat baking in the June sun

No one seemed to be having fun  except the Social

Director  Lovely lady   Wonder about the Koolaid she’s

been drinking   Giddy with manic joie de vivre   Can it be



Feels more like the energizer bunny commercial   She

just keeps on going   They shoot horses don’t they?

She looks somewhat winded today   Bouncy ponytail

belies intense boredom   + the beginning of rage    It

comes out in prickly asides: High time you stopped taking

care of his sweaters  He’s freakin 95!   This to the woman

who  still has a husband   alive


Blood pressure climbs   Cheeks cheerleader pink  as ponytail

goes limp in 33 degree breeze   Smells like urine+cake   We all

weep over  My Yiddishe Mama  +watch in horror as the lady

who has fallen and can’t get up  is left on the ground for 25 minutes

Until 4 staff heave-ho her  into a chair   Waivers needed signing

Cake meted out  like casting pearls


Waitress snatches mine away  If you don’t eat yer meat you can’t

have any pudding  How can you have any pudding if you don’t

eat yer meat?   Faux strawberry shortcake  sans the cake  sans the

strawberries   More like gluey batter in a reddish puree  Could be

a lot of things   Gag in back of throat turns to song  as my beautiful

mother belts out Sinatra  + I sing along


Start spreading the news!  I’m leaving today!   She who at 93  sits

queen bee aloof   Eyes on the perimeter   dressed in impeccable Ralph

Lauren blues   She begins to lindyhop in the direction of the parking lot

+hails a cab   If I can make it there   I’ll make it anywhere!   Her parting

glare  speaks volumes


Don’t squander your courage  You’re gonna need it baby!   


As I begin to back away from the Social Director lady  who approaches me for

the Samba line   I begin to gnaw off my own hand   While my mother  ever glam

ever chic  silk scarf blowing in the breeze  doesn’t even glance back at me

She just keeps on lighting out for new territory   NYC be damed!   She’s set her

sights on the Promised Land





SPRING  2017



Today is the day in 1907  when Buddy Bolden was committed

to the East Louisiana State Hospital  for the insane  Entered at

31 yrs.   Carried out in 1931   Coffin sent to Holtz Cemetery

New Orleans    Travelled through Baton Rouge  +Slaughter  to

an unmarked grave


No Huck Finn glory  of lighting out for new territory

Mississippi his river Styx   Buddy rotted 24 yrs in Stygian

swamp   State hospital opened in 1848   by 1861  36 girls

mostly under 12   Causes of insanity listed largely as: unknown

2nd to that for many   loneliness  or failed solitude


During the Civil War impossible to get food+water there   Buddy

died 17 yrs. before the Medcraft Shock Machine purchased   He was

there for: guard rapes  lack of heat  +hard labour   Saints posing as

humans   Ditto those murdered on the London bridge Saturday  when

3 men with long knives stabbed people randomly  shouting:

This is for Allah!


New Orleans cemeteries are places of great beauty   Hundreds of milagros

+mementos  dot the landscape   At the tomb of: The Society for the Relief of

Destitute Orphan Boys  1894  dozens of toys  +chocolate bars   The high water

table strips flesh quickly   Generations stacked in perpetuity  until all the dead

are one dead   Witch’s brew   Stew of fetuses +granddaddies


There’s a somebody I’m longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone who’ll watch over me


Nowadays  we are all exhausted   No longer know the difference between loneliness

+solitude   Most of us made mad by addiction to connection   on screens  Longing for

the savanna  +a bit of wildtenacity    The stuff that gets us through the birth canal

Through the hard passage  where remnants of our glory days hang to dry  on fragile

bones  +disappearing memories     O won’t you take me back to New Orleans



SPRING  2017   110 years since Buddy’s admission  24 yrs. in captivity  RIP

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