You need to know that I want
Unabashedly sentimental songs.
Think Van Morrison
In his earlier, less angry days and
Dylan, in his later, gentler ones.
An instrumental of Annie Laurie is a must,
As too Mark Knopfler,
Who so magically supplied the soundtrack
For my days here.
You’ll need really good food for after.
Excellent, piping hot coffee and brewed Orange Pekoe in china pots,
Kentucky Fried Chicken,
Pizzas made to order,
And a Build Your Own ice cream sundae station
To add the requisite whimsy.
Display a very few pictures of me,
Not huge Bristol boards packed full of them,
So popular these days.
Black and white predominating, if you will,
My unwavering preference.
Yes, my nod to tradition,
Scads of calla lilies, but white only,
The yellow look fake somehow,
Oh, a few off white roses, would you,
Champagne they call them now.
And in the middle of everything
Position one commanding vase of
Fat white peonies,
Because their fragrance, their sheer deliciousness
Outdistances all the others combined.
Everyone there ought to tell
One story about me that stands out for them,
And not just of sweetness and light.
The dark, too.
You all know
I was more than one shade.
A piper would be wonderful at the close,
Just one, as there was for my father,
A whole band of them he felt excessive
And I must agree.
Then let me go.
Knowing that most days
I cherished this life of mine
And that while briefly here,
Laughed probably more than most,
Loved a few of you beyond measure,
And with providence in my corner
Was able to write a few poems
I would not change one word of
I’ve been thinking about social media a great deal. It is an unequaled tool for writers, manna from heaven actually as a way to connect with readers, old and new. But at what cost, I wonder? In its formidable wake, what is it that we are relinquishing?
Are we forsaking the art of conversation? The glorious handwritten letter that flutters through the mailbox? The relaxed, cozy, stop and chat????
Here is a poem that resulted from my musings:
Bowed in Prayer.
At the Olive Garden on a Friday night, on my own,
I have just ordered the Tour of Italy and
notice the family huddled into a booth across the way,
six of them, three each side,
their heads collectively bowed over a cornucopia of glowing electronic boxes,
their fingers tapping away at microscopic keys,
the light reaching up to their faces at speeds
impossible to imagine.
So enchanted is the group with the cavalcade of data
pouring forth beneath them that I count a full two minutes
before any of them notices the waitress,
standing waiting at the head of their table.
Shall I come back, she asks graciously,
exhibiting a patience far above her pay scale.
Yeh, the one nearest to her finally pipes up,
the closest he’ll come to a conversation all weekend,
and he didn’t even lift his head to say it.
So It Begins.
If I’m looking for the seeds of
my intolerance of injustice
I need look no further
than a Grade Nine girls’ only Health class.
Sister St. Cletus calling us up to the front,
two or three at a time, those still seated
charged with critiquing, in turn,
on a scale of one to ten,
each of the girls’ personal grooming.
The plump unkempt Rosario
newly arrived from Sicily suffered most.
The bookish pale Margaret also paid dearly.
It wasn’t just that the exercise was callous, arbitrary.
It was its pitting girl against girl for reasons entirely inconsequential,
the time and sheer energy it exacted,
the pitiful tears shed privately after,
when those same girls
could have been banding together and begin to
change the world.
I asked my friend Chuck what the boys did.
Turns out their Health class was held outdoors.
They ran the city streets in all weather,
he said proudly,
in matching shorts and tees,
a pack, cohesive,
and growing stronger.
The Trouble with Science.
If it’s true,
as grim neurologists now claim,
that our memory is far from intact,
that the very process by which we retrieve the past
is flawed, random, that it plays fast and loose with
fact, detail, even colour.
Then how exactly do I conjure
what was us.
If it’s all up for grabs,
if all bets are off,
what exactly was true?
The way you looked at me that evening on the boardwalk,
was it as tender as I picture it now?
And your kiss. As deeply felt?
Did you profess your love in three languages
or was it just two?
Before you round the corner do you actually
turn to look at me
one last time?
Are you in the blue shirt
or the red?
Are those actual tears?
But science falls short. It overlooks
the power of the human heart
which has a memory all its own,
where the moments of our lives never alter,
or grow old.
Where a look remains as tender
as when first it was delivered,
a heart quickens just as it once did.
Yearning ever as fervent,
passion as acute.
And in that special place
the moments worth remembering lie in wait for us,
undefiled by synapse
and the waywardness of time.
I was thinking about the sheer power of a poem this morning over my third coffee, watching the ebb and flow of the sea from my perch here in the main room. Ruminating on all that a fine poem can do, exactly what it can deliver to us. And this resulted.
I Am a Poem
I remember when you’ve long forgotten.
I return to you the details that still matter,
The ones that got lost along the way.
I tell your story.
My lines are your lines.
My words, entirely yours.
Exactly what it feels like to not be chosen.
That time you felt like giving up
And almost did.
Under a leaden sky one long ago winter morning
When he bid a cavalier goodbye.
Your saddest songs, your deepest regrets,
I hand them back to you, intact.
I resurrect them all.
I hold fast to the anguished moments you find
too painful to remember.
I speak the words you are afraid to say.
I lay them bare.
I am holding fast to them all.
I am ready when you are.
I am a poem.
Especially on days like this one when I think
this can’t be as good as it gets,
when I am 24th in line at the DMV
(I count to torture myself)
or when the robot’s soulless voice tells me my wait on hold
will be approximately 33 minutes.
But on the way to where exactly?
If it’s to wander mindlessly from cloud to cloud,
footless to boot, it would appear,
in shapeless generic shifts that by the way
do nothing for anyone unless they provided a belt
and even then,
I’m not exactly delighted with the quid pro quo.
let alone feet.
And wings that probably hurt, stuck on our back like that,
not to mention how do you clean them.
think about it.
I lost my lovely wee Maggie last week. She took her leave as sweetly and bravely as the day she came to us as a rescue years ago. She was 10 – and it was heaven having her every day of those years.
Rest easy, sweet lassie.
Crabs can rest a little easier now on Bahamian beaches,
with the little white four legged pest gone.
They were never truly at risk.
you were fast, but never as fast as them.
The hunt was your delight in and of itself.
You’d look up from your dig,
your wee nose sand-covered, twitching,
before diving down time and again,
up and down the shore, irrepressible,
until all light had left the sky.
and I called you home.
The tidal pools down the beach
will remain relatively undisturbed now.
Future visitors there would be wise to follow the moon
to discover them at their warmest,
their most inviting.
There was a woman who did so once,
frequenting them with her two little white dogs.
She dressed all in white too,
making them a matched set.
I watched them once from afar, wading languorously
among those becalmed shallows just offshore,
their very own roman baths.
They stepped gingerly among the rock and coral
that contained them,
distracted in their reverie by only a rogue wave
or a dark cloud scurrying overhead.
I think the woman was a poet.
They were terriers, I believe,
Scottish like her.
I heard once that she loved her dogs well.
Because I am reading Frank O’Hara
while sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade
I am aware it is 10:30 in New York
on a Tuesday morning
the way O’Hara was always aware
of what day and hour and season were in front of him
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
he wrote almost sixty years ago on a July moment
that must have been like the one I am having now
the summer hour blossoming
at the promenades by the rivers and in the parks
and in the quiet aisles of the city
when everyone who should be at work
is at work and the trees are meditating
on how muggy it will be today
and the fleets of strollers are out in the sunshine
expanse of the morning
the strollers that are like galleons
carrying their beautiful gold cargo
being pushed by women whose names once graced
the actual galleons Rosario
Margarita Magdalena along with other names
Essie Maja from places that history has patronized
like O’Hara going into the bank
for money or the bookstore to buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what
the poets / in Ghana are doing these days
or the liquor store for liquor
or the tobacconist for tobacco
and sitting at the Brooklyn Promenade I haven’t looked
at the news to see who now has died
though my fingers keep touching the phone’s face
to find out that when it is 10:30 in the morning
in New York it is 11:30 in the night
in Manila and it is 4:30 in the afternoon in Lagos
and in Warsaw and it is 9:30
in the morning in Guatemala City
where it is also Tuesday and where it is also summer.
– Rick Barot