Five One Two Zero Sixteen



“For now he knew
what Shalimar knew:
If you surrendered to the air,
you could ride it.”

–Toni Morrison, The Song of Solomon

you can go through the motions,
you can be feeling half of nowhere.
you can sit still, listening, watching, learning,
you can see–or not–
a way from here to there.

you can put your sore back into it (or don’t),
you can fade into a shell, undone,
you can reckon with yourself, in silence,
you can work to earn back grace and tone;
space and home; place and known.

you can still wish to add to the world,
you can still sit home designing happy returns,
you can regret and redeem; plus from a negative verb,
you can research, sink in, live
what you’ve learned from what you’ve learned.

And then you smash your motherfucking silences.
And then you take on the things you’ve done.
And then you stand, finally, speak for something and someone(s).
And then you pay up in full every due you owe.
And then you’ve offered heart and mind at the same time,
and then you trust the things you know.
And then it’s
Go Now.”
Then it’s finally.
[broken rhyme]
Then it’s
Monday. Go.

The twenty years had been to him as one night.”

–Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle.

My Stolen Melodies

He came to me and he put his head down.
He said “I have been through every yard around,
and there is something about the smell,
the window tower and the floor,
that brought me here, up to the door,
through your window, all across your floor.”

She [Content removed; respect and empathy]:
she had, but chose… to [re-turn] back to me
the dancing life across the lawn,
the music loud on the drive home,
the smile to burn the deepest, darkest
depths of all the seas.
The smile from time to time
that we all need.

(And I can’t say that I blame her or believe.)

So I sat on a rock out by the ocean,
I tried my hand at despair and devotion,
I said some things I didn’t mean, I said some
more that turned me green, never
realized I must work twice as hard.
Realized I too went through the yards.
Realized I had to keep my guard.
Realized I had become too hard.

If I had a penny for everyone I’d touched
I wouldn’t count , but check
for shine, discolour, rust,
I cannot count up to the sky, I
cannot furnish all the reasons why,
but I can understand, learning
how to trust.
And I can understand the reasons that I must.

So maybe, some night, someone
sings to me,
and maybe I grow tired or I grow free,
and maybe I can prove I’ve gone alone
and paid my dues,
or maybe I am left to carry on,
for a day when everyone will not be gone.
And maybe I don’t ever have a home,
or I will have one to myself all alone,
but I know now when to show and
to be gone,
and I will always, always have a song.

For now, I will sit here, and I will work.
For now, I will remember what I took,
because what’s been given to me,
will wake me up, will make me free,
and I will turn around the cycle
that could be:
I will make something out of what’s been made of me.

So maybe in a dance or in a song,
so maybe in a here or in a gone
so maybe in a dream, in a nightmare,
a scream, maybe in a soft hum we all carry on,
long after all the echoes fade on,
we will say what’s on our minds,
we will rebuild, we will revise,
we will regrow the wondering eyes
of a child,
we will live the things that take time
from our minds,
we will look across a table
and catch eyes,
we will choose to see so we can
not be blind.


Gotta get this rattle out of my lungs
gotta get this shit off my hands
gotta get the goddamn car fixed again
gotta get down to business
gotta get moving
gotta get ready for winter
’cause winter’s ready for me
gotta get warmer
gotta get colder

gotta give, gotta give back
gotta go backwards, hit the turn, go forward
gotta go, gotta go, gotta go
gotta grab blindly, gotta go forth,
gotta give, gotta give back.

gotta rest
gotta eat, gotta sleep, gotta pay bills,
gotta be
gotta be? Gotta be.

Gotta answer
gotta answer the bell
gotta be a number
gotta be ready when yours is called
gotta gamble
gotta go for it
gotta gotta go for it
gotta, for it.

Gotta rest.
Want to rest.
Gotta get,
gotta go.

On “Odes to Cod”

Lately I am mostly  content to slave away at other life-trials and completely neglect this blog (see test pattern, below) while I go at whatever it is I go at with other things and eventually return with a bunch of wordy thisses and thats.

Today I read something particularly egregious about my home province and I really felt the need to comment lampoon a particularly bad travel article concerning Newfoundl[and Labrador]. So I’ll do that here, because I fucking can.

While under normal circumstances I’d advise against reading this steaming pile of shit compliments of at all, it’s somewhat necessary in order for the following to make sense. So if you’re from here, read it critically, please, if you may, (Or post it on Facebook without reading it because you’re a “Proud Newfie”, I don’t give a fuck.) and if you’re not just fucking ignore it altogether. After you read it once.

Canada high: Newfoundland may be remote but its beauty is boundless (and there is even a shoe hospital where you can turn in your brogues after a night’s jiving)

Wow, that title. That says too much, already. Let’s dive in, shall we?

“Life in Newfoundland is one big ode to cod”

Jumping Jesus, not this fucking shit again.

“We acclimatise in Newfoundland’s capital–the port town of St. John’s [It’s a city, for the geographically precise], whose rows of houses are painted bright colours so that a fisherman could spot his own home as he wandered back drunk in the fog.”

So, okay, we’ve got (multiple) stereotypes as well as straight-up factual inaccuracy. We’re off to a good start! The whole “brightly coloured rowhouse” motif that Tourism NL, artists, and mail- and garbage-box painters have milked the fuck out of over these last decades really only started in the 70s, due in large part to the good work of the people at the Newfoundland Historic Trust. It’s a great story if you like drunk fishermen but it’s fucking bullshit. They were pretty much all brown, the houses. So we must have had a hell of a lot of confused drunk fishermen.  Hey b’y!

“Over breakfast the next morning, the waitress catches us watching a small fishing trawler bouncing it’s way out of the bay. [We’re supposedly still in St. John’s here; no bay. “The bay?” I dunno.  I’m also just gonna let that comma stay back there, even though it doesn’t belong. I didn’t write or {shittily} edit it]

‘My husband, his father brother father, his cousin and a close friend are that boat’, she says as she deposits [?] our eggs.”

Is this for fucking real? There is no way. If this is true, and there’s a waitress somewhere in town who watches everyone she knows go out in a boat from one of the restaurants that looks over the harbour every morning, I need to meet this person. For now I will assume they somehow broke the space-time continuum and had breakfast in 1907. What’s a “brother father brother”? Only in Newfoundland.

” We sit swaddled against the chill, numb fingers clutching roast beef sarnies and jam jars of fresh lemonade…”

The fuck is a sarnie?

“… who recounts one Christmas when the seas froze over and a polar bear strolled into town.

She was so busy baking partridgeberry muffins, she didn’t notice it walk past her window.”

Women in Newfoundland, amiright? No? Good. Seriously, though, “So busy baking patridgeberry muffins”? Ten bucks she was on the can. Or down at the Club playing the waps.

“The local beer is Iceberg Beer.”

This is news to me, and I have drank a veritable goddamn fucking waterfall of local beer.

“…the Artisan Inn [Trinity] whose Dutch owner, Tineke Gow, came, saw, fell in love, and is gradually buying up a clapboard empire.”

Clapboard empire? I don’t–oh, maybe I get it–nope, no I don’t. So she’s a businessperson? What is it with you British and Empire anyway?

“Newfoundland feels lost in time; nostalgia hangs in the air, and there’s no sign of the efficiency and technology which flood our own lives (I haven’t seen an iPad all week).”




[Earnest-Voiced Voiceover: “Imagine a place frozen in time, where the sky is so huge that everyone knows everyone and buttery nostalgia hangs thickly in the air, ready for this morning’s fresh partridgeberry muffins…”  *Throws TV out window* *Denounces Newfoundlander status*][Seriously though, partridgeberries are deadly.]

“But it’s the open-armed, ‘everybody knows everybody’ mentality which sucks me in.”

Remove the words “me” and “in” from the end of that sentence, and remember the fact that we’re well-used to smiling for  and feeding myth to annoying fucking tourists and you’re getting closer.

‘The sea is a peacemaker,’ as Captain Dave says. ‘If you get into trouble out there, somebody’s gotta save you.’ 

Yeah, like the UK. Er, Canada. Never mind. Our captains go by the first names though! We don’t have last names here!

*Goes back to writing Odes to Cod*

One Year Gone

I guess I was probably in my late teens and it was around the time I had begun drinking coffee; she always had tea after supper and she’d always ask anyone and everyone else if they’d have one even if she knew damn well she was having tea alone. “Tea, Michael?”, she’d ask, and I’d scrunch up my face like seventeen-year-old idiots do NowayGrammaIdon’t drinkTEA!?! and that would be it but if Uncle Ed was in town or Aunt Min was there then there’d be someone to have tea with and otherwise she’d drink it herself and that would be best kind.

It turned out I started to like tea somewhere along the way, it was in my midtwenties somewhere though I don’t quite remember exactly when though I don’t quite remember a fucking lot of my midtwenties so who knows? (I’d also been scared off tea by a poor schizophrenic man who used to come to the coffee shop I worked at to get out of the house and he’d always have tea and that was his order, the only word he said: “Tea.” People who worked there called him Crazy Tea Man and sometimes he would talk to himself in the reflective mirror in the smoking section and weird people out; actually he weirded a lot of people out, but he was ill and he was just trying to escape his walls and his mind for a bit, with varying degrees of success. He eventually got kicked out of the building permanently for fears for others safety after a particular incident and his parents whom he lived with actually met with building staff about it and maybe he was a threat and maybe [and this is what I think, but also what I always think] people are just afraid of things they don’t understand but it is what it is, or it was what it was. I haven’t seen him around in a while. I know his name, and that he was a hell of a ballplayer once upon a time.)

I started to like tea so then one day i was having dinner with grandma and after it was over she asked me if I wanted tea and I said yes and she was goddamn delighted and we had tea and most of the time after that I’d have tea and she loved it. She just liked to have tea with somebody. She always had tea with my grandfather. She missed him. He’d been gone a long, long time. I liked having tea with my grandmother. Plus, my mom doesn’t like tea. My grandmother liked having tea with me.

My grandmother’s been gone a year today. I had tea by myself after supper and thought about her. I feel guilty that she never really got to see me amount to much. That she didn’t get to see me walk across the stage, that I’ve done unforgivable things that she had to live with, that my best years, now (hopefully) ahead of me, have to be lived without her. Today I drove out to their grave, the one she finally met him at twenty-four and a half years later, and straightened the plastic flowers I brought last winter and brought some freshly cut ones, from her old garden and from mine.

Then I leaned against the headstone and bawled my eyes out for a while. Then I leaned against it some more and looked at the sky and the sun came out.

The grandson will make his way out, too.

Return love when it’s given to you.


April 28, 1932

It was a Biltmore hat, union-made in Guelph, Ontario, a tweed fedora. It was a fine hat. It was his regular hat, his everyday hat. He had other hats; he had the same one in both black and indigo fur felt; he had a bowler from Bates in London, and a Borsalino straw hat he donned in the always-fleeting summer heat; he had many of them, for other occasions, for particular suits, but most days he wore the tweed Biltmore. It, perched atop the horned rims of his glasses, was his calling card as he walked his quick walk around the dirt paths. He had a car, a Packard he said, but he rarely drove it. It was said he preferred walking, and his car was stored in Port-Aux-Basques anyhow, and driven only when distance required it. (There was no need for an automobile on this island, anyhow, as there was nothing but small paths around the houses, designed for horses and cows rather than automobiles, and there were no real roads to speak of. There was one particular family, however, who did not realize this and made great fun of running their Ford into tree stumps and getting it stuck out in the Muddy Hole.) His hat, then his glasses announced him. It was a very smart hat and it suited him perfectly. He greeted his neighbours warmly and genuinely, shaking the men’s hands firmly and bowing slightly towards the women, always producing a candy or a penny for a child, but he did not linger long in conversation and he rarely strung more than a few words together at one time. The weather, the fish, the comings and goings, the news of the day. He made honest eye contact, his eyes a soft grey-green, and people left his brief presences content with the interaction whether they knew it or not. He was a handsome man, in a nondescript way that neared but was not quite softness; he had full lips and a broad nose, a short, gentle forehead. He was not tall by any means, and slight, but he seemed bigger than he was, as though he carried an usual amount of energy for someone of his stature. He had prominent cheekbones beneath his glasses and hat that made his face look as though it could make to a smile quicker than most men.
They knew his name and a general idea of his business, but he knew none of them well. They felt he preferred it that way and they were right. His mother was of a well-known family in St. John’s, apparently, though nobody was quite sure which one. Some said it was the Powers (But which Powers?, they asked, the ones from Logy Bay, or the ones from the West End? Wasn’t there Powerses in the Gut too?), others the Cahills, others the Angels. When they gossiped across the labyrinth of clotheslines that criss-crossed the grass between the houses which had seemingly been planted on Sunday whims with no rhyme or reason, just plopped there casually as if tobacco spit, they all nodded knowingly at the mention of these names, though they’d none of them ever been so close as a day’s travel from the city.
He worked for Murdoch and Co., who owned, of course, the entire place at that time. The whole little barren island. They were the grocers and the fishermen and the purveyors of everything else on the island. The owned all the boats, save the few rickety trawlers and sad, drooping skiffs and out-of-date punts still clung to by aging seamen that were pickled along the edges of the murky-watered docks. They handled liquor by the barrel-full, livestock, building material, security, money, people. They paid competitive wages to the half the island’s men who were under their employ, and were fair to the fisherman who made up the other half, those who trucked their catches, offering more credit than many merchants on many other out-of-the way isles and in inlets around the coast of the big island. The Murdoch family themselves were fabulously wealthy, and those who worked closely with them appeared quite well-to-do themselves. The man in the tweed hat was different than the other men who worked for Murdoch though; he was the youngest, and the only one with no family. It was agreed he had a brother and likely more family in Boston, where he traveled often. He often went to St. John’s, as well; in fact he had just returned by train, then by boat from Port-Aux-Basques the previous week. Mrs. Payne met him off the boat with fresh rolls, as she often did. He had the look of somebody who was wealthy but didn’t care for it. His suits were fine, but not too fine. While he was never seen without a suit on, he seemed to have a personal preference for workman’s fabrics rather than silks and chains. It was known he carried a sizable billfold, however.
Nobody knew exactly what he did for Murdoch and Co., but he had been with them a number of years now, though he was ‘away on business’ as much if not more as he was actually at ‘home’. His title was simply “Clerk”. He seemed especially close to Murdoch’s manager, Captain Hubert Payne, a gigantic potbellied, white-bearded seaman whose temper was legendary on the island. Their frequent conversations were rarely overheard; when anything was actually heard it was little of importance. There were rumours the man in the tweed hat was engaged in some way to Payne’s oldest daughter, but she was barely eighteen and now working in the grocery. He was, they figured at least thirty, and it was said he had fought with the puttees in the war which would mean he must have at least that many years, though nobody would have been surprised were he traipsing the battlefields of Belgium at fifteen—he seemed that sort of man, with those sorts of stories, were he ever to speak–and it was quite easy to remove his hat and glasses from him, put on a helmet and see a soldier. His upright but languid manner suggested as much. Besides, they scoffed, they deemed it unlikely he would mix business and pleasure so, as Payne had the reputation for being particularly mean when drinking rum, which he, along with the rest of the island’s men, enjoyed more than anything, including catching fish or the company of their families. The man with the tweed hat was usually nowhere to be found during Payne’s drunken rages, and was rarely seen drinking himself. When he was, it would be a single cold bottle of beer, which he would drink quickly, in long gulps, between drags off the Lucky Strikes he smoked compulsively. All the same, they figured it would be a fool’s errand to have an additional means beyond his employ to find himself in Captain Hubert’s fiery path, and the man seemed too smart to them to run any fool’s errand, let alone one involving his direct superior. When the Captain’s daughter’s name was mentioned, eyes were rolled and ‘shush’s were made. The man in the tweed hat was a mystery, if deemed a benevolent one by all appearances. He was an outsider, after all. He was respectful. Little what thought of him until he and his hat appeared around corners or beneath clotheslines with that quick, stealthy gait. Little was again, once he and his hat had gone. Today, however, was different. Bridie Fiander watched his hat appear from around the Hiscock home, beneath the fog, and rather than simply bow and offer hope it all burned off, he stopped in front of Bridie Fiander’s and asked if her husband George was in. The man in the tweed hat said he must talk to George and it was urgent. Bridie let the man in the tweed hat in and called for George.
She watched out the window as George and the man in the tweed hat walked out beneath the clotheslines, which were full, despite the fog, which they usually were, despite the fog. George mostly listened. The man stood sharply erect, and did most of the talking, her husband nodding and grunting affirmatives. He seemed to assert a quiet dominance over George, and she could tell by the bobbing of his hat that he was speaking quickly and more freely than usual. He looked people straight in the face as he addressed them. The two men looked into the fog towards where the docks were, no more than 50 yards but invisible. Though George was a much larger man, the man in the tweed hat seemed to take up every bit as much space in the yard, beneath the clothesline. George had been spending far more time at home than was to his own liking. That man in the tweed hat, she thought, there is something unspoken in his past, something he does not talk about—I can almost see him carrying it. He shook George’s hand firmly then, after giving George an additional soft tap on the shoulder, the man in the tweed hat went on his way.