from "harvest: a book of signifiers" (fall 2001, Talonbooks)

 

letter(s) to derek

 

- for beaulieu & Courtney Thompson

 

 

WHY WOKE SO EARLY, WAS SENSE, IN DREAM, 

                                what so long distracted from, torn

                    envelopes, endless thru the mountain foot & wild,

                                                                                            yr city

                        from the centre onward, seemingly forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I MUST NOW FATHOM

                            the picture in the same story, all the weathermen

                    have short haircuts, & weatherwomen

                                                                            shorter skirts; what is it

 

were supposed to be looking at. in two weeks you are

                    married, & where will

                                            i be, here where i have always, waiting

                                                                    for my favorite bar stool

 

to empty. dean arrives

or kristen, peering

        over the pews & drunken sots

to bring my own about: marry

                                words to this empty page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THEN, HAVING DRUNK SOME ON PLANE,

                                        it never falters, hangover

                    in the air & drunk on the ground, quick flight

 

                                        out of the last spring calgary

to vancouver, & nearly died then, sat down

                                                on the floor waiting for luggage

                            when the madman arrived; my

                                                                        travelling companion

 

                collected them. was a thing

                                like love (lust, really) she didnt even

                                                recognize (wore

                        clark kent glasses). in every city

 

having to save her from men who fell in love, but for

        the coastal stops - halifax,

 

vancouver - saving her from men

        & women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WASN'T SURE JUST HOW MUCH WOULD BE NEEDED,

                    a way of making sounds, & not just

 

        hearing them. suspending & offending disbelief,

                                no one can publish cartoons

                        & call it poetry, somehow did. (what

does broken pencil know, or

 

                                                                            canadian literature.) how

blaser said, that truth

                                is laughter, all those toronto boys

 

                    finding the mechanizm to move but not the

                            humour there

                                                            the way you did, or adeena

                                        in new york alphabet city

                                                                                who finds derrida

 

hilarious. funny, she says. (now is that

        funny haha, or funny

                                peculiar?

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MESCALIN CLEARED OUT A LOT OF GUNK,

                                        but left just as much other stuff,

                    where the rollercoaster rides you up,

                                                    then drops. email

 

                                from uncle dave in toronto

who swears by it, tells

                                me stories, tho

                                        been silent for a while. who

                                                                        knows

                                                                just why. i could talk

        of marriage but what do i know,

 

once a baby & a wife,

                not married but held

                                in all the ways it

 

                        matterd, in all the ways it

                                                    needed, but what

                                            changed, life

                                                                            a matter

 

                                        always getting in the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGINATION OF ONES OWN LIFE,

                                    or telling confabulated lies, its where

                            the poem takes you. the escalation

                                                    of what you make up. or

                    those details still unalterable. the poets

 

                                            fiction. police cars roll down

                                                                                bank street looking

                            for trouble, but anyone looking, they say,

                                    will (eventually) find it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THROUGH THE WALL, HEAR IN A CURIOUS INTIMACY

                        of thin hotels, & the bodies going on

                                            around them. ive been across the country

                    but still get lost

 

                                                        in parts of my own.

                                        what would i say, if i were

                                                                                    going to, of

 

one + one in a whole, dont think

                                        i would, id probably

                                keep it to myself. id probably

                                                                keep it quiet

 

        & be afraid for you more than anything. (say tho,

                                                                    make sure

                                                                                            anniveraries

                                    keep, my exwifes

 

                                                                            birthday tomorrow,

                                                                                                            & i still

 

                not even got a card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAGGING SENSE OF NOT HAVING GOT TO IT YET,

                                whatever it might be, what purpose

                                                for writing, if indeed a purpose

 

                    is needed here at all. a note

                                    or letter saying vague hellos,

                                                                                & marital kudos.

                                                                                                    i liked

 

that day we drank wine in yr living room

        the day after you moved to new house, tho you were

                                                            too distracted

                                in searching to react, courtney

                                                        rolling her eyes, dis

 

                                                                    combobulated even.

                                        & yr calgary streets, probably

                                                                            work in a system

                                                that makes sense, but dont mean

 

                                                        its one ive figured,

        or feel the need to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOMETHING THAT STICKS IN MIND, ACTUALLY, A FAMILIAR QUESTION,

                                of doing in the first place,

        mapmaking

                                        vs chaos. the artist i met

 

in fredericton who takes apart city maps

                            w/ an exacto-knife, weaving threads

                of street & stream

                                            thru page vs page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THE DAY HAS SEEMED ECHO

                                                & going hey & that,

                    a conversation, from one live tension

                                    & soft, back. neck strains

 

        from listening. where yr initial point,

                                                & carefully giving in.

dean says its all about respect,

                                                            & stepping

                                where the magazine

 

                        & out there, distributed freely

                                to more than the albertan

                                                                    sense of locale,

                                                sitting in your, whats that,

 

                                                                                            cowboy city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IVE BEEN TRYING TO KNOW WHAT IT IS TO BE,

                            tho the definition is always changing.

                    rhonda, telling me this morning

                                                        she had to write a paper

 

        on what it means to be human. what

                                        does it mean, i askt?

                                                                    it means

                                                wanting to know

 

what it means, to be human. captain kirk

                        was right,

                                                i said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND WHEREAS NOW THESE DILEMMAS OF HOW TO BE OF USE,

                                or what, john newlove

                        visiting daily space, quoting funny lines

                                            from history, one

 

                                        of the caesars, or how infantrymen

                                                                                                were there

to provide colour

        to an otherwise ugly brawl. too wit

                                                to its sharpest point

 

                                        & pounded. he hadnt been by

                                                                    for the longest time

        & we were worried abt his health, short bout

                                                w/ sardines & food poisoning.

                                                                                                already

 

                        addressing the box

                                to who another tin should go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVEN TO BEGIN TO SAY THIS TAKES EXTRAORDINARY CARE,

                                    tho there are some that make it sound

                    so easy, the ones

                                            starting just at the beginning. wind blows

 

paper from the writing table. no money (no fuck). or the

        voices snow background, cant afford

                                                                    even postage but for stamps

                        the exwife lifted

 

                                            from her last job. what id

                                do w/out her i dont know, tomorrow taking

                                                                    her & girl child to lunch

 

        for one more birthday, six months

                behind me. & right now

                                                wanting to see twenty-nine

 

                        w/ a brand new do. as she tells, good hair

                                                                            can make

                                    all the important difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT DOESN'T SATISFY IS WHAT HAD, AT THE OFFSET,

                                        seemed to make perfect sense. stringing

        words off one against another into

                                                sequiturs & related babble. am i

 

making any sense to you, in that west

                from this east? the last time

                                                            you were here, in my

                    patch of earth, self

                                            injury sustaind, & still

 

        a lump on my left foot. my mother

                says its permanent now, certainly, a

                                                            year & a half later.

                                                                            she says

 

lots of things, tho.

                        many dont make sense, or worse,

                                                                    relate. (where i

                                must get it. one day, like

                                        her, like my grandmother

                                                                     singular burst

 

 

                        fires pure gold

                                        amid hundreds. becoming fewer

                                & fewer. old les nessman,

 

                        a band-aid on a different bit

                                                            every episode of wkrp/

                                                rounded

                                                                        at the free end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRIVEN TO IT, NOT BY NEED OF SOME EXTERNAL KIND,

                                            waiting to see where the rest of it goes, exploding

                    in yr face. saint barbara, former

                                                                patron saint

 

                            of sudden death, till she was passt off

                                                                                by popes

                                            as fable. forced to go

                                                                w/ pontiff-du-jour,

 

tearing churches & altars down. thats gotta

                    smart. writing for the what

                                    of when to say, whatever.

                            seeing langauge for what it is,

 

                                                                                a movement,

        & a music, gone by soundlessly,

                                even spoke. who differs

                                                                to beg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUT THE GIRL SAID, PRACTICAL OF HIM -

                                    gene simmons of kiss, who foregoes

                those institutions such as marriage but has

                                                            a lady, kids. who once

 

                        collected nude poloroids

                                                                        of groupies that hed

                                                slept w/, after concerts. he claimd, encore

 

        after encore. the t-shirt sales

                                                must have gone thru the roof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FORMALIST, HE FOUND HIMSELF STRAIGHTENING THE RUG,

                                    but some things cant be helped,

                                                            broke

 

                        the chaos to write another note,

                                                                                                the girl who works

                                in his publishers office. (the mom

                                                & pop shoppe.) as quiet

                                                        as a mouse but just

 

        as mighty (who knew), as aesops lion

                                        caught in council net.

 

what can & lit equals, our freedom

                to read week, in canada,

                                                                or freedom

                    not to read. get serious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAD THOUGHT OF SENDING, MESSAGES OF SORT

                                s, to other places, but get always

        dis

                                        jointed, got those

                limbs in a knot. ruby red in toronto

                                                            a letter

 

always mean to send but never happens, the slow death

                                of collaborative forms, & the other side

                                                        of the exercise

                                        or the rain

 

                                                that falls from above. my mum

                                                                    a bag of envelopes today

        & not a single personal note, large package

                                                        from george, a sentence writ

 

 

                & everyone else asking for something. (send this

                        in the mail twice when i do, one

                                                                            back, to

                            myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUNS INTENSITY AT THE WINDOW MUCH LIKE THE DAY

                            i just escaped from, stepping thru

                            the dark pub dank, black pen

                                                    & paper stack. loose

 

        leaf. the end of summer & yr impending

                            marriage. (i almost said

                    doom, but that would be

 

                                    a burn, & unnecessary,

                                                                    the next logical step

                from impending, what else

                        unravelling at that edge. the walk

 

                                down the carpet aisle, family filld

                                                & confetti (instead of rice,

                                                                        what symbol

                                                                                & then hope

 

                        for fertility. when love

                                                        meant children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOING TO SLEEP. WAKING UP. MOVING.

                                keep doing that to

                                                        prove something, that we

        even (begin to) live. i could tell you stories

 

                                                        boy. the paper

                & the printed word. rolling from bed

                            & making notes in the

 

                                    night stand book,

        if i were so inclined, which i

                    (my future papers)

                                                            just might.

                            (or waiting to be included.)

 

                                    - write when you can, a postcard

                                                                            even

                                                from the honeymoon. ill be waiting

                                                        by the mailbox, breathing,

 

                                            not breathing.

 

 

aug 18.00

ottawa, ontario

 

rob mclennan

 

the lines in bold are sampled from Robert Creeley's collection A Day Book

(1972, Charles Scribner's Sons).