How to Make a Love Song, 2020

Start with the shapes of all you have known
Scrawled upon yellowing paper;
These are studies for the ideals
Of slavery and genocide
You see preserved in bronze on squares
And on street corners waving flags
And swords and pistols and fingers
As they sit precariously
On the backs of their high horses
Rearing to trample human rights
Of all LGBTQ+ and non-whites:
Tear down those statues and set alight,
Rewrite, statutes holding you in despite:
Stand and sing. Your future grows bright.

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Trump Can’t Wither George Floyd’s Memory

June. This wind of hell
Blown across the continent
Out of the Southwest,
Out of a buffoon’s slack mouth,
Can’t wither forget-me-nots.

This wind cannot touch
These flowers, their blue petals,
Among leaves of grass—
Instead they shear it into
Cold and welcome winds of change.

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End Racism. Speak Up.

Silence is complicity. Racism exists, not only in America, but in Canada as well. And not just in some abstract far away version of Canada—Racism exists here, on Prince Edward Island, and always has.

Racism is endemic in our Island culture. I grew up here steeped so deeply in it that for half of my life I couldn’t even see that it existed. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to people who broadened my mind and taught me to embrace a wider world and thereby enriched my life before I was hardened irrevocably and unable to change. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be only beginning at this age to try to struggle out of the cultural preconceptions and attitudes—the racism I was born into. I can only hope that there are people out there engaged in that very struggle. I’m almost certain there are. And to them, I say, “Please don’t give up. The world needs all of us to be kind, caring, and generous to all humanity.”

Racism touches all our lives daily, and each moment we deny or refuse to acknowledge its existence a small part of our own humanity withers within us. Racism is the denial of humanity, the demonization of difference. It is the great enabler of selfish actions. For once we demonize others and deny their humanity we can smugly and righteously take everything they have and claim it as our own to do with as we will; including their very lives.

Don’t be silent on this Island.

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(I Heard You Saying) You Were Waiting for Jesus

This one has been sent off to Mike in hopes he can turn it into a real song

I was out at the casino last night
In a smoky and crowded backroom
I heard you saying you were waiting for Jesus
And I thought that was your baby’s name.

You said he was the one who gave you to nuns
To save you till you turned thirteen.
He came back for you then reeking of incense and zen
In a twelve-seater white limousine.

Said all his apostles were home writing gospels
About how you’d become a god’s bride;
Showed you the fast lane and how to tie off a fat vein
Then spoke in tongues the rest of the ride.

It was years ago, you said as you spun
In diminishing arcs round the pole
He left you tied to, and now you see him on TV
And you know he knows nothing of hell.

I’m at the casino again tonight
In that crowded and smoky backroom.
I hear you saying you are waiting for Jesus
And I’m betting he’ll wish he never came.

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You Might Know

Spring, you might know, is blossom-heavy.
But May always begins the same way;
The rain comes tapping at my window,
Knowing I lie alone in the dark.

So I go walking in daylight hours
Among the apple trees and splaying
Magnolias, the sinuous lilacs,
Petals falling, drying as I pass.

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April Forehead tanka

Even in April
My forehead’s a bare hillside
Sloping to the sky
Grey clouds are thin around it
Rain gathers in shallow pools

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The Quiet Leave-Takings of These Times

My mother finds it hard, she says.
An old friend died, and there can’t be
Long lines of people at a wake
Talking earnestly or smiling
As they tell a family stories
About the life as they perceived it.

No old routines and rituals,
No slow shuffle of mourners
Onto benches to sit in silence
Until the service ends and turns
The procession back on itself
To follow the coffin to the hearse.

Harder for the family, she says,
The quiet leave-takings of these times.
The gatherings afterwards are gone
Where food and reminiscence once began
To fill holes left by missing time
And laughter slowly grew again.

A lot of phone calls today, she says.
They talked it out, she and her friends,
As best they could each in their homes,
I suppose—I had never thought,
Before this moment, of the cell phone
As an instrument of consolation.

But she and her friends who saw the war,
As children, that split the atom,
And bore children as the moon was claimed,
Who’ve seen all that makes us human
In our herds and our isolations,
Continue adapting to circumstance.

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Spidersong, Satisfied

I lay in the dark
Almost     not quite
At the end of the world

And from the tips
Of my spinnerets
The sticky silk swirled

My webs floated
Over the garden
Light on the air

And I tied them off
To branches and stone
Fences everywhere

Now every arachnid sings
Of how I captured thick flies
Bees     wasps with slim stings
Legs     thoraxes     wings
Dripping residues of Spring

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The Whale in B minor, reading

I video-recorded The Whale in B minor, a poem I wrote a while back (poem text here), but wasn’t happy with the video aspect.

So I did the logical thing. I extracted the audio and inserted it into a video of me listening to the recording.

Here is The Whale in B minor:

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Spring, 2020

April. Already
Magnolias contemplate white
Silences to come.
How many will we see wither
And die while May petals fall?

Posted in Andrew Griffin, Capitalism, Corporate Capitalism, Delusional thinking, John MacKenzie Poetry, Magnolias, New poems, Poem tweets, Poetry, Political Commentary, Protest poems, Spring, Tanka | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An uneven reading of the Masque of the Red Death

I recorded this afternoon for a friend. And now you all can have it.

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A Train Whistle Far Away

It is winter and you are gone west
Where foothills crumble into desert
Resting your head against the black,
I imagine, the cool bus window.

The sun has fallen behind mountains
And left the night stained blue as the sea.
You hear a train whistle far away,
You tell me, doppler into memory.

The trains must flow like water, you say,
Seen from above, through the deep rock cuts.
Those are the channels where the unknown
Moves, the dark currents of continents.

Should I envy you the desert or
The distance, here in the rain-shadowed east?

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Boy in Wolf’s Clothing, an album by velvel


Vevel (the fine singer/songwriter and sound designer Michael Leon) has finally released his album Boy in Wolf’s Clothing of angry, sad, and beautiful songs. I wrote the lyrics to one of them,
I’m proud to say, and it’s not even my favourite song on the album. I can’t pick a favourite song yet. Kalashnikov is Weeping is my favourite song title ever, though.

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What was Blood What was Oil What was Water

After the war the cities were dust, and where
The desert met the sea there was no way to
Tell what was blood what was oil what was water.

Don’t listen to the wind on the sands at night—
It speaks with the rasping tongue of cracked leather,
It speaks with the voice of the cold, empty sky

And it murmurs of millions of drying bones
It will splinter for the fatty, latticed marrow—
Just run for the mountains and the outer sea.

Run now for the outer sea where the wind has
Gathered all the hope of the world at the shore
In shifting dunes held by nets of thin marram roots.

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Mary Poppins’ Promises

She blew in on the East Wind
Clinging to an umbrella
Of black silk and memory
Snipped from a thundercloud’s heart
And stretched over hollow bones.

She walks streets in silence now
And sings her songs through others.
The raven is her favourite:
Its croak is resonant with
Deep-toned bells and April rain

And cries of children to be fed
With cakes and meat and carrots
And shown that love is not just
A kiss and whimsys catered
But knowledge that others dream.

Mary Poppins promises
Two things: she will hear your screams
From the deep and treacherous
Commerce blue of china bowls
Where old men leer in shadows;

And she will help you smash them
When she blows in resonant
With ravens’ throats and thunder.

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Where to Begin, And When to Harvest

In Memoriam: Robert Smith

I see you in an old photo
Young and gangling in overalls
Standing in a field, hands on hips,
Considering where to begin
The planting and when to harvest.

I see you in an oil lamp’s glow
Considering all the angles
On a crokinole board where you
Held the same distinctions between
Black and white as you did elsewhere.

I remember you on the shore
Forking trailerloads of seaweed
To bank the house against the winds
Winter sent to nullify wood
You cut to stovelengths stacked in cords.

I see you after the farm truck
Ahead of you on the highway
Flung broken steel through your windshield
And through your eye. I see you smile
On the porch gazing at the strait.

You grew old on the land you worked.
Much of it lay fallow later,
But the truck didn’t take away
Your foresight. So tall windmills turn
On your land, harvest laden winds.

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A North Wind Ravels

Midnight and now the full moon falls
Down the other side of the sky.
A north wind ravels skeins of snow
Along the river frozen black.

A dead spruce stands among the fir
In snow here up to their green skirts.
An owl calls on a branch somewhere
Above me—will I see him fly?

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November Rain

I can’t quite remember the rhythms
Our pulses beat together at night.

All I hear now is November rain,
Thready and erratic in the eaves.

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Frost in Autumn Grass

When we stop telling lies to ourselves
What is left to us but silence?

The past is frost in autumn grass
Out there turning buttercups blue.

I remember the sound of wings
In the mist on a morning river.

There is no mist on the river
This morning, only ice at the banks.

We wither the future with memory.
Hope and habit—these are all we know.

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Night and Day

In dreams the impossible becomes routine.
You skate exuberant rings around Saturn
With me in one moment and, in the next, pause
To consider Jupiter’s situation
With gravity before waxing nostalgic
About dark Mars bars on late October nights.

You help me turn Earth green with envy when we
Lean together in cheesy photos
Towards the quarter moon as if to eat it up.

And sometimes Venus awaits us, rising up
Out of warm summer nights murmuring on sand
And changing our breath in our throats to speak with
The urgent voices of crows and gulls and in
The mercurial screams of a fox’s heat.

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