poetaster’s leaning tower of babel …

Below, poems, some of which may have appeared in
Secrets from the Orange Couch, grain, Fiddlehead, Nexus Magazine,
blue buffalo, Dandelion, and others ….

Poems after Pascal Comelade

  The accordian sways
like a drunken toy boat
  out of happiness

 In the coffee shops
steam rises and condenses
  like toy piano notes

  Cliche of sadness -
the rain punctuated with
  a wood block’s clap laugh

  The kazoo blues - hey
hows the weather New Orleans
  - slate grey, cobble blue

  Chiming melody
the breaking glass and leaves
  on coldening air

  Broken toy piano -
gypsy, sanctify the blues
  play your violin

  The xylophone rain
glass and curb insomnia
  - Japanese rag-time

  As the heart folds in
the notes fall still, air contracts
  - snow in early spring.

Travel Agent

The agent specialized.
3 locations only- one
for the spring, one
for the fall, and one
for the winter. Even so
it was futile.

In Spring he sent them to countries
as monochrome as lilacs.
They did not return, but slept
held in the still tightly clenched air.

In the fall he thought only of tropical birds
Minha and Toucan. All the tourists returned
in their garish shirts, pining for concrete and work.

The winter made him blind as white
and he sent them to live behind curtains.
Like Moses he could not go himself
and he muttered “this varicose heart is confused.”

He said to me, “I’m sorry, sir, we specialize
in economy.” “That’s alright,” I replied
“We’re off to a land of dogs.

“Ah, I know,” he said, “you reek of sleep,
and the white veil is ending your life.”

I am waving, I am waving
take a picture.

Dearth, broadcast

Some form of garbage assisting the
fine woof of the warped loom
in the strangled last half of the
present first century after the
death of god.

This is the Tokyo night, never
dark this, light that tin
and neon abstraction of pleasure
that shouts out loud
the promise of dearth.

Here, we are prayer, supplicant
wet dreams pulsing the fore
ground, pulsing the back
plane of our auditory canals
wishing our pants off.

Spring is the promise of birth,
world this new, this Tokyo
flash springing wholly formed
from the split head of the
ass end of the world.

This is Las Vegas of the mind,
prayerful as chance itself.
Some, the form of naked arms
assume the ships wood prow shape
sail in gaudy waves a sea

hot pants, this last parade
on our way to prosperity
where we will, no doubt,
be better dressed. The colourful
way we hear no evil.

Dish full garbage, hors
d’oeuvre, spat up from
the lecterns of centenarian
fish mongers, hair stylists to
the flimsy shade of hate.

The daily papers are wrapped
in the dearth of our collective senses,
this fruit, this lush, this
darkest breath, god�s death
our pleasure fresh

as birth.

The trouble with paradise.

The old he-goat sits
bent to his table
almost double
protecting his head
from the falling sky
but glowering around
curious, full of animousity.

You’d think he was eating tin.

in the way he eats
his tin, bent there between
the fingers of the world
in his carapace of black
leather jacket & bandana
shirt open well below the neck.
Hair and sweat.

Old he-goat, long bangle from his ear.


1. It is always like this.
Beginings that we see.
Our anticipation! Like antena
tuned to “the everlasting spring
of amnesia” we turn.
We don’t anticipate the end.
It is difficult even
to imagine end.
Where to begin.


2. Tried to live by the sea
live in the heart throb
die and be reborn, phoenix like.
But today itself is exile.
The sea is made to grass
cold and thrashing insomnia.
A minor painter stops
the hand of time.


3. Our bodies are the index
of our courage.
If we put them in boxes
like ornaments for trees

  • what is the sound of growing?
    Have become wary of sunset
    unless it is a blood-let
    into water.
    We have spurned oceans
    and errected huts on sticks
    in the shade of the lee-side
    of our quickly old culture.
    Imagine. One day, television no longer works.
    Everyone becomes restless and moves outside
    spilling over the lawns like a ferment
    of poor fashion sense and rude jostling.

4. The tide held so long from moving out.
The atrophied arm of the moon, invaded
and now photographed like surgery,
wakes to the common need of muscles
(muscle) and the malls are overwhelmed,
parking lots and pavement undulate
as the moon pulls and pushes out.


5. In the morning, we did not imagine the future.
It happened. Do you speak the thought to its conclusion.
Flotsam, jetsam, beyond the next nowable moment.
The eventuality of rest
hope for a happy ending.



      I overhear
    tides of myself all night in it.
      Robert Duncan

stand and sway, head crookd
  eyes crookd into the sea
with a rhythm that betrays

the leap and the fall of the heart
  in so close a time
to the time of the breath of water

relentless at the back of the throat
  winding gently ‘round the tongue
with a sweet whisper of deep

blue, in the eye, blue is the color
of blood in the heart, dark
  dark blue, the light at the bottom

of the sea of childhood
  into the sea again, with every sense, into the sea.

Doing Dishes

in favour of doing the dishes are:
  the high cost of living
  raising your breath
  birds slowly follow
the sound of flowing water
  a memory of sea or river
  the simplest form of prayer
things everywhere are breaking
  at the very least chipped
  at the lip, on the rim
other levels of order are disuaded
  because your clear-sightedness
  will only lead to a bad rash
or the first murmur of the revolution
  the dishes are dirty
  and it’s dark outside
the certain knowledge that
you must wake and pass
through the kitchen

the hope that you will wake and again pass
between the off aqua walls of the kitchen on
an early morning to the sound of dripping
in sinks all over Canada


the rich are getting richer
  you aren’t rich, the poor
  must do their dishes
  themselves; better to do
  dishes than to do the poor
the beautiful woman
  your desire, her hunger
  and the resulting dirty dishes
your mother told you
  and your mother deserves
  a little effort on your part
and reasons enough for living

Sticky Fingers

     July 22, 1992

     After Rimbaud

dark hands the summer tanned
    like city beef, hung up-side down,
have dipped into the moon
    their long and sticky fingers,
traded in diamonds,
    put in our sockets like eyes;
they tossed golden flowers
    into a pot to melt,
hands descanting poisons.

what dream has held them,
    as they hold the precious stones
of heavy eyeless babies;
by a sun drunk on tar,
    they bend and bend us
hands that do no harm

more fatal than machines.

The Glass Eye

Peel the eye like an egg
put the shell into your pocket.
And slip.

What’s common to the living
(and what goes on living)
is the labor that conditions
the quality of knowing.

To know the substance of a thing
scrub the dirt off from the skin,
burrow, tunnel further in
until the water seeps upÑ swim.

In the water, as the wind skins
the flesh and the sheath on the eyes
you see with the eyes of another
on the bank or drowning.

As your eyes flow out before you
history has no high pointsÑ swim.

I saw his mouth spread openÑ and I saw
with his eyes spread open what I saw
& the water caving in around as all.

Beneath the shell of the eye is an empty germ.
Around the germ is the muck, a rain
of stray photons, admire, our last
breath belabored escaping the shell

what precedes what we see?
what precedes seeing, see?

Criminal Negligence: instructions for 20th century mystics

what revelation
of the sacred
in the primitve speech of desire

what sacred desire
in the primitve revelations
of speech

a revelation
of sacred speech
in primitive desire

and so many desires
for a revelation of the sacred
in primitive speeches

Criminal Negligence: instructions for garderners

propagate diversions
to their full, lush territ’ry.
plant therein the seeds of the real,
but give them for water veiled whispers.
the soil is the common confusion
of our language; together
we will tend the rows
and keep from confusion, confusion.
a variegated old growth,
dank and fertile,


The river is crowded with men wading in the mud, sitting on the rocks.
The fish are long down river. They are holding a political meeting.
All the anglers at repose all the fish on a boycott of the struggle -
erosion? Water creatures and creatures on land. Water and other matter

Once relations were easy.
Men with baseball caps and rubber waders.
A simple difference of opinion.

Not much noise but the quiet movement of the river into river.
And a single transparent line between a man and a fish - water.
The intentions, different wills, like a psyche in its contradictions,
one direction composed of many others, eddies and cross currents
reduced in gills and raised to the height of the human body on the bank,
in the body in the end, to come again to weather.

Young men in bandanas, listening to walkmen, at the bank in converse All Stars
are driving the fish into deeper waters.
I am no enthusiast for fishing. My interest’s in the water.

The meeting’s in full swing; the vote is taken. The fish
are throwing in their lot with all the women in the shallows,
fully extended, bathing. The world was once all covered in water.
No one even mentioned the air. What about the creatures of the air.


dumb bodies
plain speaking

the wooden instrument
is invested with the faith
of the maker in its language

brass speaks of the obvious
strength and durance
of a metal tongue

the bow and the reed
are the endless pull
of our most persistant memory

cellos moan hollowed out
and the pipes stream a sadness

low hum of our mother’s blood,
slung breath as she delivered us our cry, punctuating

dumb bodies
plain speaking


a sky as red as that and trees
without the benefit of seasons

the sky a red red sea
and Junes pass by like blue
over an orchard, the trees

accompanied by men, bent to daily labour.
millstone round the neck, turning
turning, their seed is the remedy

against the passing and descending
of the grey in the future
of the red in the rotten apple

rouged or blushing the air breathing heavy
and the trees without the benefit of seasons
without the benefit of rest, in the company of men

Cruelty / Consequence

for Robert Creely

Always a scheme
at the heart of the thing
(the heart, effusive thing)

never heart enough
for the necessary cruelties
reason nor rhyme

neither sufficient cause
for success, or light of day
or the stretched out canvas

of a yearning heart
reasoning ceaselessly
beyond its means

beyond its meager
reservoir of cruelty
scheming a stretched out

hand, caressing
the unfolding horizon
of the future

that yearning rolls into


The man across the room,
eyes already empty of beseeching
is drinking himself to death.

“I lost my wife.”

He is now a shallow bowl
he pours himself into
and out of which he spills.

He is sentenced to emptiness.

The Inuit have lost their sense on direction
since we moved them off the very face
of the compass.

I think he’s the same man who,
two years ago, told me he walked all night in his socks
on streets then covered in ice.

He had on a bright yellow jacket
that immersed him in happiness.
He was drowning.

He longs for his stolen boots.

copyright 2004, Mark Washeim, All rights reserved.