Deathmask

Perhaps unsurprisingly given that this piece was sort of inspired by the movie ‘Mishima’, the line ‘this decaying angel’ is based on the title of one of Yukio Mishima’s books as its usually translated into English ‘The Decay of the Angel’.

 

When Egypt buried kings
,Pharaohs, they called them,
(dwellers in the great house
of the body
)
they crafted death masks
unearthly beauty
they could wear over the fabric
and decay
:to show the Gods how perfectly
to craft replacements
like Mishima
I will try to carve my body
from the death mask
this decaying angel
mould brass muscle
over disobedient flesh
burn and file
the excess of years
the failure on failure built
recast pose and sweat
in supple forge
i will polish the skin with whetstones
smooth as the mask
smooth as marble
bleak and lifeless
lead painted face

Saul Williams – Release

I first heard of Saul Williams in two different places in the same week. Both were songs, one was Release by Blackalicious (if you want to skip to Williams’ part, use this link); the other was a version of Nine Inch Nails’ Survivalism featuring Williams. Unfortunately I can’t find it online, but there are other songs by NIN featuring Williams. I picked up his book, Dead Emcee Scrolls, and since then he’s been one of my favourite poets and my favourite spoken word poet.

‘Through meditation I program my heart to beat breakbeats and hum basslines on exhalation’

This is his ‘verse’ from Release.

 

Release

Inner breathlessness, outer restlessness
By the time I caught up to freedom I was out of breath
Grandma asked me what I’m running for
I guess I’m out for the same thing the sun is sunning for
What mothers birth their youngens for
And some say Jesus coming for
For all I know the earth is spinning slow
Suns at half mast cause masses ain’t aglow
On bended knee, prostrate before an altered tree
I’ve made the forest suit me
Tables and chairs
Papers and prayers
Matter versus spirit
A metal ladder
A wooden cross
A plastic bottle of water
A mandala encased in glass
A spirit encased in flesh
Sound from shaped hollows
The thickest of mucus released from heightened passion
A man that cries in his sleep
A truth that has gone out of fashion
A mode of expression
A paint splattered wall
A carton of cigarettes
A bouquet of corpses
A dying forest
A nurtured garden
A privatized prison
A candle with a broken wick
A puddle that reflects the sun
A piece of paper with my name on it
I’m surrounded
I surrender
All
All that I am I have been
All I have been has been a long time coming
I am becoming all that I am
The spittle that surrounds the mouth-piece of the flute
Unheard, yet felt
A gathered wetness
A quiet moisture
Sound trapped in a bubble
Released into wind
Wind fellows and land merchants
We are history’s detergent
Water soluble, light particles, articles of cleansing breath
Articles amending death
These words are not tools of communication
They are shards of metal
Dropped from eight story windows
They are waterfalls and gas leaks
Aged thoughts rolled in tobacco leaf
The tools of a trade
Barter’s bard, barb of barters
Catch phrases and misunderstandings
But they are not what I feel when I am alone
Surrounded by everything and nothing
And there isn’t a word or phrase to be caught
A verse to be recited
A mantra to fill my being in those moments
I am blankness, the contained center of an “O”
The pyramidic containment of an “A”
I stand in the middle of all that I have learned
All that I have memorized
All that I’ve known by heart
Unable to reach any of it
There is no sadness
There is no bliss
It is a forgotten memory
A memorable escape route that only is found by not looking
There, in the spine of the dictionary the words are worthless
They are a mere weight pressing against my thoughtlessness
But then, who else can speak of thoughtlessness with such confidence
Who else has learned to sling these ancient ideas
Like dead rats held by their tails
So as not to infect this newly oiled skin
I can think of nothing heavier than an airplane
I can think of no greater conglomerate of steel and metal
I can think of nothing less likely to fly
There are no wings more weighted
I too have felt a heaviness
The stare of man guessing at my being
Yes I am homeless
A homeless man making offerings to the after-future
Sculpting rubber tree forests out of worn tires and shoe soles
A nation unified in exhale
A cloud of smoke
A native pipe ceremony
All the gathered cigarette butts piled in heaps
Snow covered mountains
Lipsticks smeared and shriveled
Offerings to an afterworld
Tattoo guns and plastic wrappers
Broken zippers and dead eyed dolls
It’s all overwhelming me, oak and elming me
I have seeded a forest of myself
Little books from tall trees
It matters not what this paper be made of
Give me notebooks made of human flesh
Dried on steel hooks and nooses
Make uses of use, uses of us
It’s all overwhelming me, oak and elming me
I have seeded a forest of myself
Little books from tall trees
On bended knee
Prostrate before an altered tree
I’ve made the forest suit me
Tables and chairs
Papers and prayers
Matter vs. spirit. Through meditation
I program my heart to beat breakbeats and hum basslines on exhalation

Olivia

Something old, refined.

When one lives in a city brimming with one’s past, there is always the risk of bumping into it on the street, or on the bus. This was such an incident. Mellow gold is the title of a Beck song, and the new life mentioned is in fact a textbook on Dante’s Vita Nuova.

 

You burst through the past
A thrown flint, sharp, colliding
It smells like burning rubber when
You screech to a halt
From eighty-eight miles per hour
The flower blooms in the windscreen
I wonder why the
Crowd that edges the frame
Of the photograph [you are foreground and I background]
Why do they not see me in shining shards
In such fragment of the time
Between stop light and pedal

The reflections glitter on falling petals of glass, rebound photons
At random
Project old times
We skipped school on that last day
Kicked a ball over the sunless May beach
Each stop or miss punctuated with a quip
The pages of our movie script
Pinned down by textbooks
Trapped beneath A New Life, beneath Morphology
That first scene followed a bird
As it became litter
Became a lovers’ quarrel
Became your phone
Ringing searching echo
For you up the narrow stairs
Once you returned the favour
We sat on guard for thirteen seconds of silence
The closest I came to that mellow gold
All summer
Seemed to drag on in hard dirt and furious glare forever
Once I thought it was you at the door
I tripped down plastic-covered steps
A Coen tumbleweed
Not fast enough
Outside the bitter pollen rained and choked
Dry summer storms
The footprint on that old rent cheque
Turned out to be my own

I realize I held my breath through the brief sting of memory
The music fades in
But I cannot turn around
Put up my hood and walk away
What is lost
Must stay lost

 

Libretto

I wrote this after seeing Leonard Cohen in concert, which was sometime in 2011 I think. His voice seemed so frail, it made me rather sad. The reference to the golden voice is from his song ‘Tower of Song’

 

Sit with me and my sweet libretto
I will tell you
Under columns of light
In my golden voice
One by one
These are all the girls I have lost
Their names on scraps of paper
I snared them with music
And broke them with words
Like barbs
Like arrows
And how I hated them
For being beautiful
I never shouted
(Except in Greek)
For fear that I might ruin
That golden voice
Is
Now all stone
The girls are all gone
Only the words are left
Like barbs
Like arrows
Pointing nowhere

Vancouver shipping forecast

I have a particular dislike for local poetry that basically consists of name-dropping and then automatically gets published as a result. When I was asked to write something about where I live for a class, this is what I wrote.

North Vancouver, West Vancouver: leashes, silver, glibly aspiring
West End: flirting, muscled, decaf latte, stiff breezes later
South Granville 16 to 44: boutique, fixtures, haute cuisine, gently rising
Main Street: Ironic, laptops, canvas, Mao on t-shirts
Commercial Drive: Assorted, candles, Kerouac, discreet baking, Joy Divided
Kitsilano: Sodium, picket fence graveyard
Point Grey: gouging, drapery, blissfully rectal
East Hastings: ignored, hasty, skirted, darkly pulsing.

Despair Prevails

Strike the day
From the list by the bed
Despair prevails
Insistent as a switchblade
Writing thin red scrawl
Musings, simply musings
Nothing so coherent
As a stream of consciousness
The pages all torn out
Wrapped in wire and ribbons, dark under my skin

It seems you have opted
For vanity fairgrounds
And golden cups
I am behind the blackout curtain
I think it may be daylight outside
All that grows on this side
Are the uncurling tealeaves
And discarded films
Spiraling mazes left unsolved

There is little time left now
We pull apart the muscles
And grind down the bones
Try to find that divine spark
Like making fire
By rubbing skin on skin
Turn aside for envy
Press out the light against the wall
Every just-glimpsed tress
The only desire left
For a rhyming couplet
Despair prevails