Category: free reading

No such thing as “class system”

Moment of Truth

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s just common sense that the right to vote should be reserved for those who own property.

They say it’s not a class thing, but it isn’t society’s responsibility to look after the poor.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s that higher education was never intended for everyone, just a select few.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s because handicapped parking discriminates against the able-bodied.

They say it’s not a class thing, but shouldn’t those who make more get to keep more?

They say it’s not a class thing, but does their daughter have to sit next to her?

They say it’s not a class thing, but too much is made out of raising the minimum wage.

They say it’s not a class thing, but wouldn’t our neighbourhoods be a lot safer if we had more cops and prisons?

They say it’s not a class thing, but what’s all this nonsense about minority rights?

They say it’s not a class thing, but aren’t the best cleaners and maids from Central America—El Salvador and Honduras especially—because those people have the most to be thankful for.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s just that offhand they don’t know the price of a quart of milk or carton of eggs.

They say it’s not a class thing, they really do need that great, big house all to themselves.

They say it’s not a class thing, they don’t mind shelling out seven bucks for a quality cup of coffee.

They say it’s not a class thing, but as a rule they never give to panhandlers.

They say it’s not a class thing, some people are natural leaders, while others are meant to serve.

They insist it’s not a class thing, then grin sheepishly and admit yeah, it probably is.

 

 

Blog Post #497–New poetry

Lost Art

After Otto Dix we know
why they send them home
in closed caskets

The war dead lack elegance
refusing to conform to
classic depictions of beauty

Their wounds gape
wet and labial, inviting
unwelcome comparisons

Death and Eros
indecently clutching, an
untitled lost gouache on cardboard

2018; All Rights Reserved

Otto Dix, pencil on cardboard; 1930

“Algebra of Inequality”: Listen to the audio versions

Below you’ll find a 4-5 minute audio clip I created around some poems from my latest Black Dog Press release, The Algebra of Inequality.

I added some background music tracks for dramatic effect and I think this performance is an excellent teaser for the book.

If you want to hear audio renditions of more poems from the collection, recorded back in 2016 at the ancient amphitheater of Epidaurus, go to my “Other Media” page and scroll down a bit; you’ll find it.

This blog is approaching its 500th post and, of course, I have something special planned to mark the occasion.

Watch this space.

Five hundred posts, eleven years of maintaining Beautiful Desolation…that’s a lot of time (and words and music and rants).

Couldn’t do it without you, folks, your support, your public responses and private messages.

Enjoy this snippet—there’s much, much more to come:

 

“Is there anybody…out there?”

A looooong interval between posts.

Well, what do you expect? I’m a working author, with a mind that doesn’t allow for much leisure or fun.

Mainly, I’ve been editing The Algebra of Inequality, my latest collection of poems. It has been an agonizing process, choosing the best poems from the past five years, winnowing out the rest. And sometimes a poem gets the chop not because it lacks tunefulness or thematic unity, but for other, more nebulous reasons. Somehow it just doesn’t quite fit with the rest. It’s a judgement call and often I had second, third and fourth thoughts, so the whole thing became ridiculously drawn out and fraught, dragging on for weeks.

But now it’s done. The interior layout is just about ready and my regular cover guy, Chris Kent, is hard at work on another doozie. I’ll be leaking a sneak peek of said cover in the coming days; it’s based on one of my paintings and, knowing Chris, it’s bound to be eye-grabbing.

Yes, what’s up with the painting, why has it become so important to me? Because when I haven’t been editing, I’ve been regularly making that trip down to my little basement dungeon and attacking canvases with acrylics, a screwdriver, awl, various other implements. Getting physical. The results are odd, distinctive, and the works tend to elicit interesting reactions from the people who see them. But it’s a thrill leaving text behind for awhile and working purely symbolically, utilizing a totally different area of my brain.

Recently, I’ve also completed a large, complex collage piece that may end up as the cover for my short story collection later this year.

One of the poems I lopped from The Algebra of Inequality was one I concocted a number of years ago, titled A Personal Cosmology. It has a strong, visual component. I used some square styrofoam and black paint to create a series of stark, geometric images. Then I employed “automatic writing” and started scribbling, one short prose bit for each of the six images. I think I posted one of these images and accompanying text a few years ago but, for the first time, this is the complete version of Cosmology.

I love this piece, it comes right from the soul, but it just wasn’t right for the collection.

It was one of the final cuts, a hard one to leave out.

Click on this link, scroll through it…enjoy:

A Personal Cosmology

 

Somber Days

I won’t lie to you: it’s been a grim month here at Casa Burns.

We lost a couple of people very near and dear to our hearts and that’s never easy.

Awhile back, I posted a poem titled “The Grief Path” that did a good job of alluding to the sense of emptiness and pure anguish one experiences with the death of a loved one. It exposes the rawest emotions, the agony reaching right down into your soul, the seat of your faith. Only the passage of time offers a slim promise of solace. There is simply nothing you can do for it except keep putting one foot ahead of the other and wandering up that long, lonely track. Keening your song of sorrow and woe.

And then just when it seemed like the atmosphere was lightening, some of the spiritual and emotional pall lifting…

…the decision in the Colten Boushie case was handed down.

I had the privilege of meeting Debbie Baptiste, Colten’s mother, last summer, within weeks of her son’s senseless death at the hands of Gerald Stanley. I was immediately impressed by her poise and dignity, despite the weight of the incredible burden that poor woman was bearing. I couldn’t help wondering how she felt when she heard that terrible verdict read, realizing that in the eyes of a court of law, a fundamental Canadian institution we have been taught to honor and respect, her boy’s life was deemed worthless.

What can we say to her?

Is it sufficient to remark that sometimes Justice really is blind…and deaf and dumb too? Somehow, I doubt that will cut it. She has been let down at every point of this ordeal and at the end of the day, whatever happens next, she won’t be getting Colten back.

She and her many supporters have every right to demand answers regarding how the RCMP handled the initial investigation and their behavior toward Debbie and her grieving family in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

I’m pleased to hear talk of altering the rules of jury selection, but don’t foresee any speedy or significant changes to a system that has failed, disproportionately, our First Nations people since before Confederation, compounding the misery that everyday, casual racism inflicts on them, the stereotypes they must endure.

The only thing that gives me hope are the on-going efforts we’re making—through education and increasing knowledge of aboriginal history, cultural exposure—to reach out to each other, share our stories, growing together as a nation of nations. I know people intimately involved in this process, men and women who recognize the power we can tap into whenever we collaborate, combining our energy and spirit on meaningful endeavors that celebrate our diversity, the collective strength of the many.

That’s why I grieve, but I do not despair.

I know in my heart the good guys are on our side and the better angels within us will prevail.

It will take time, tremendous effort but we cannot fail, cannot allow the small-minded, the vulture-hearted, to steal the future from us and color it blood red.

We’ll do it for Colten and all the others who die without fulfilling their promise.

We’ll do it for Debbie and the mothers who weep for the children taken from them.

And we’ll do it for ourselves, to prove we are worthy of our roles as stewards of Creation and the children of a wise and loving god.