The Face of Allah

I could not find the face of Allah
In the debris of mountain slides,
In blue fragments of mosaics,
In the desolation of stars fallen behind
The ground-down blade of the moon.

I heard rumours he spoke in many voices
From clouds gathered at shifting
Boundaries of mountains and desert,
Blown in from the repetitious sea
Raging against the non-committal coast,

But I walked through valleys draped
In shadow, their broken sides layered
In the many-coloured strata of epochs,
And heard nothing but sand hissing
Over stones at the vagrant wind.

I could not find the face of Allah whose
Presence is premised by five ululations
Breaking up morning, noon, and night,
Calling me to turn my face to the earth.
I cannot find the face of Allah.

The sea says nothing. There is nowhere
Left to look in valleys or mountains, in
Clouds or stars, or the moon deep in dust.
I search fire and smoke now, the debris
I make; wet fragments and charred bone.

* * *

Dan Bern – Jerusalem

John Prine – Pretty Good

Posted in Art is lies, Art is theft, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Atheism, Cosmology, Death, Desperation, Fanaticism, Islam, John MacKenzie, New poems, Poem tweets, Poetry, Religion, Social Commentary, The Earth, The Moon, The Sea, The Sky, The Wind | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinquain in Late March

rattle, icy
in the marsh; snow muffles
the fields—and no geese call yet, wild,

Posted in Cattails, Cinquain, John MacKenzie, John MacKenzie Poetry, Marsh, New poems, Poem tweets, Poetry, Spring, Wild Geese, Wild Geese in Spring | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Moon Turns Over and Over—As a Song

Michael Leon occasionally puts to music my attempts at writing songlike things, as he’s done with this piece I wrote last fall (lyrics here). The simple (but perhaps overly busy) video portion must be blamed solely on me as I gathered (stole) images and sequenced them, then put them into Windows Movie Maker with the audio file.

The Moon Turns Over and Over – Music and Vocals by Michael Leon

Mike and I have long shared a love of Hank Williams and old country music. He is a professor of history, an Egyptologist (yeah, he can read hieroglyphs), and a composer, as well as a sound designer for theatre—in which capacity he works with director Emma Tibaldo. Mike and Emma are lucky enough to be married to one another.

Posted in Art is theft, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Collaboration, Cosmology, Country music, Country song, Emma Tibaldo, Gravity, Hank Williams, John MacKenzie, Memory, Michael Leon, Music, Poetry, Process, Science, Space, The Moon, The Sky, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Connaught Square revisited

Last September I posted a poem about the dying elms in Connaught Square (Many of the elms in Charlottetown are dead or dying).  In January, the city announced that all the dead and dying elms would be cut down. Today, as I walked in the storm, I passed Connaught Square where the process of culling has already begun.

Connaught Square on March 15, 2015

Connaught Square on March 15, 2015, with the diseased elms being cut down.

Connaught Square on March 15, 2015, with the diseased elms being cut down.


Connaught Square

Who mourns these elms, diseased, inconsolate,
their long, undulant limbs dropping leaves
earlier each year, small disasters splitting
the rough bark of lesser branches, peeling it
away from the tips down, little by little,
while the wood begins to silver in the sun?

Don’t mourn the elms. They’ve stood long enough
here remembering the hangman. Every sedate
sway of their canopies in the wind recalls
pendulum creaks of weighted ropes swinging
slow and slower from the gallows. Don’t mourn
the elms that spring and autumn rains drape
in grey rags of bark. They and their memories
fall and lie together, white and tangled bones.




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Serendipitous Collaboration

The image embedded lower in this post came to me courtesy of Matt Trussell, who lives beside a bog somewhere in Maine. I don’t know much more about him other than that he is quite pleasant in communication, likes baseball, and is damn good at the game of fantasy baseball. It’s through fantasy baseball that I know the little of him that I do. We played in a league together for a number of years. Somehow—and I have no idea just how—Matt became aware of this blog, and at one point expressed his liking for my poem The Mating Trill of the Red-Winged. What follows is the story of how the piece that the image mentioned above portrays came to be, and how the image came to be on this blog.

In the course of correspondence earlier this year, about whether or not I would be playing in a particular league this (which unfortunately I was unable to do), Matt sent me a note, from which, along other notes in the same email thread, I’ve gotten his permission to quote.

Matt: Hope all is well. I have to snap a picture of a project I worked on this past fall. I hope you don’t mind. I took one of your poems, The Mating Trill of the Red-Winged and printed it out and framed it with a wing of a Red-Winged Blackbird that I preserved. Some time ago we found a dead blackbird in our backyard. It was odd, there was nothing about it that seemed distressed or anything, it was just there, near the bird feeders, dead. I did some research and ended up removing a wing and preserving it, planning on doing something with it at some time. When I found your poem it clicked. So I’ve got that, the wing and three preserved cat nine tail plants. I think it came out pretty nice. Only after I got the frame all sealed up (had to hot glue the backing on) I realized I didn’t attach your name to the poem. I had just copy/pasted the poem itself. Dumb of me. I gotta get that fixed sometime and add that, or if we ever cross paths, get you to sign it. Anyway, thought you’d like to know about that, hope you don’t think that’s totally crazy or anything.

John: Your project sounds quite fine and like something I’d enjoy seeing (perhaps you could send me an image of it?). I’m quite happy you told me about it. And I’m happy to have you use the poem in it on the condition that you do credit me as the author of the poem in some clearly visible manner within the piece itself (even if that does mean the painstaking job of undoing and re-applying that hot glue).

Matt: Thanks for getting back to me. I will definitely shoot you an image of it once I get it fixed. I should be snowed in this weekend, so maybe I’ll crack into [it] then.”

Matt (a bit later): I finally broke into the frame and fixed it up, here’s the finished product, hope you approve.

Blackbird Wing and Cattails.

Matt Trussell’s multi-media piece using a black wing, cattails, and my poem The Mating Trill of the Red-Winged. —Photo by Matt Trussell.

John: I do approve. Great idea, and great execution, Matt! Thank you.

I may (read very likely will) use this on my blog in the near future with your name. Do you have any particular info about you, or on the process of making it, or link you’d like to see attached?’

Matt: Awesome, glad you liked it. I’d love for you to share it. As far as the process, just mention that I found the bird so no one thinks I run around killing birds to cut off their wings or anything. I live right on a bog so the bog/swamp birds are around our backyard a lot and we feed them year round. I used snips to cut the wing off as close to the base as I could and then hit the internet on how to preserve it. I found this site:

I used the cornmeal method since I normally keep cornmeal in the pantry. That method worked great. You can include it or not, your call. I mentioned I live right near a bog, so the cattails are readily available. Just make sure you spray something on them to preserve them, otherwise you end up with an awful mess when they go to seed. Found that one out the hard way. Fine, white feathery seeds all over the place.

Not sure much about me would be too entertaining, just a guy from Maine who enjoys the outdoors and baseball. I’m far from a poet, but do enjoy reading it. My favorite is e e cummings.

John: This is great, Matt. Pretty much exactly what I was looking for. What I’d like to do is use the entire text of your process email plus some excerpts from some previous ones, if you’ll allow that. I think I will title the post Serendipitous Collaboration.

Matt: Sounds great!


Note: I’m really, really pleased that this piece by Matt exists. I love the idea that it is somewhere out in the world, and that I will almost certainly never see it in person.

Posted in Art is lies, Art is theft, Baseball, Collaboration, Fantasy Baseball, John MacKenzie, Matt Trussell, Poetry, Process, Red-winged blackbird, Serendipity, Spring | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Containing the whole Science of Government”

I’m reading Dickens’ Little Dorrit and it’s true that Chapter 10, headed “Containing the whole Science of Government” does contain the whole science of government. Go read it. Go read the whole immense novel. Here’s an excerpt from the aforementioned chapter.

It is true that How Not To Do It was the great study and object of
all public departments and professional politicians all round the
Circumlocution Office. It is true that every new premier and every
new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing
as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied
their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it. It is true
that from the moment when a general election was over, every
returned man who had been raving on hustings because it hadn’t been
done, and who had been asking the friends of the honourable
gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell
him why it hadn’t been done, and who had been asserting that it
must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be
done, began to devise, How it was not to be done. It is true that
the debates of both Houses of Parliament the whole session through,
uniformly tended to the protracted deliberation, How not to do it.
It is true that the royal speech at the opening of such session
virtually said, My lords and gentlemen, you have a considerable
stroke of work to do, and you will please to retire to your
respective chambers, and discuss, How not to do it. It is true
that the royal speech, at the close of such session, virtually
said, My lords and gentlemen, you have through several laborious
months been considering with great loyalty and patriotism, How not
to do it, and you have found out; and with the blessing of
Providence upon the harvest (natural, not political), I now dismiss
you. All this is true, but the Circumlocution Office went beyond it.

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The Full Moon Tonight

Last night on Facebook, an old friend posted a photo of the moon seen through cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms demand haiku.

The Full Moon Tonight
for Sue Hughson

The full moon tonight—
just one more brief, white blossom
in the cherry tree

Posted in Art is theft, Cherry blossoms, Haiku, John MacKenzie, Memory, New poems, Poem tweets, Poetry, Process, Spring, The Moon, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment