Poem

Archipelago

Every once in a while I like to to write some new poetry. This is one I've been working on for a while and I'm finally comfortable enough with it to release it. I present Archipelago:

Archipelago

A lonely string
of words,
dagger sharp and
ruthless in your head

Brave adventurers
you are,
Braving this untamed wild

with it’s jagged shores
still unexplored

But fail to chart,
the best
path forward

and struggle
To pull
the common thread

When I was young
things were better,
surely you see that
-- Don’t you?

The Silver Dragon

Victor Fee Quon  1927 - 2016

Victor Fee Quon
1927 - 2016

Yesterday we buried my grandfather, Victor Quon, a man who served as the connection to my Chinese heritage. He touched the life of everyone around him - serving as pillar of the Chinese community in Lethbridge, Alberta.

My grandfather provided more than I can ever hope to understand; I inherited my middle and last names from him; because of him I was born in Canada; he gave the opportunity for my father to attend University where he eventually met my mother. He arrived in this country in 1955 hoping to create a better future for generations to come. When I looked at the family who had gathered for his funeral, I have no doubt that his dream came true. You will be missed. I wrote this poem for his passing. 


The Silver Dragon

You lay now,
Interred and eternal

With weathered skin
Greying hair,
Arms outstretched and thin

A coloured dawn,
Bright and new
Brought you to these shores

Your Herculean effort,   
Boundless in size
Gave me everything I have

But now
You lay,
Interred and eternal
At peace once more



 

Confession: Charles Bukowski and a simple joy in the world's saddest poem

Charles Bukowski (credit to Youtube/Hans Ostrom)

Charles Bukowski (credit to Youtube/Hans Ostrom)

If there is one I thing I miss as an adult it is the simplistic joy of reading a poem.

I've always appreciated the way prose can inspire a simple feeling or a cascade of complex emotions.

When I was younger I considered myself a poet. I read poems and thought I understood them. There a was a static meaning, an easy to decipher message within all of them and I tried to emulate that when I wrote my own poems. Soon, like all teenage poets, I realized that I wasn't very good. 

My words were too straight forward and my rhyme schemes too simplistic. There was no substance to my prose. So when I wrote my first poem I expected it to sound deep and well thought out. But it wasn't and in the end none of them were. 

My academic background before journalism was in English literature. My education has taught me that poetry's beauty comes through the careful unpacking of the imagery and language used by the author. Multiple meanings or interpretations can be devised from one text and there was nothing more enjoyable than analyzing a poem to find the kernel of knowledge hidden within.  

But I still miss the direct way I used to interpret poetry and as the saying goes, sometimes life's simple pleasures are the best. 

In the writings of Charles Bukowski I've found that simple joy again. Please listen to him reading his poem Confession to understand what I mean. 

Ignoring the music that accompanies the video I still consider this poem to be one of the saddest I've ever read. 

The message of the poem makes that clear. The fear of death and hurting the ones we care about are feelings that all of us have felt. The implicit recognition that the narrator has been unable to grapple with his feelings until the moment of his death also makes this poem sad.

But it is the word choice that makes this poem so effective. In fact it is the word choice of Bukowski that makes his poems so enjoyable for me. 

His words are direct and often violent and sexual. It's what made him unpopular among some critics but beloved in the underground publications that made him famous. He pushed boundaries and most importantly his poems were easy to understand. 

They dealt with pain and suffering that only an alcoholic and violent man could have imagined. 

The simplicity of the poem is what makes it complex and for me, one of my favourite poems. 

Please find below the full text of Charles Bukowski's Confession:

waiting for death
like a cat
that will jump on the
bed

I am so very sorry for
my wife

she will see this
stiff
white
body
shake it once, then
maybe
again

"Hank!"

Hank won't
answer.

it's not my death that
worries me, it's my wife
left with this
pile of
nothing.

I want to
let her know
though
that all the nights
sleeping
beside her

even the useless
arguments
were things
ever splendid

and the hard
words
I ever feared to
say
can now be
said:

I love
you.

 

Pushing through when it matters most

View of the arm in Halifax, NS. Taken with Nikon D3200

View of the arm in Halifax, NS. Taken with Nikon D3200

I’m back.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll be posting regularly or even sporadically. But for now I’m back and for now this is what I’ll write.

It is important, I think more than ever, to recognize the contribution my grandmother played in my life. It is more than just genetic. I have my black hair and my skin tone to thank her for but more than that we have a shared history I am only beginning to discover. I know I will never understand every piece of my family history but I’m thankful for what I was taught while she was here.   

The old phrase goes that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Simplistic as that may sound I know that if my grandmother hadn’t decided to come to Canada I wouldn’t be here. 

However, it is much more than that. She left family and friends behind to face adversity, hardship and suffering. All of this was done in order to give the best the life that she could to my father and her other children. While I will likely never understand that pain or the commitment necessary for it, I will appreciate it. 

I’ll take her lessons and everything she taught me and live with it. I’ll learn from it and become better for it. But more importantly I’ll push forward and make something for my own future. It’s what she would have wanted. 

I'll leave you with an excerpt of  Mary Elizabeth Frye's poem "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep". 
 

When you awaken in the morning's hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there; I did not die