May 24th, 2013
I have tried to articulate the ideas of this poem in a more serious way any number of times, but this is what comes of my attempt to do so with a little more humour. I have no other justification for it.
I was calling her thighs soft at first,
but the word is obvious, and besides,
we’re not just talking about sweaters here,
or kittens, or plush toiletpaper rolls.
These are a sleeping woman’s thighs,
so soft doesn’t begin to cover it.
It’s the same with the word smooth. I mean, sure,
a woman’s thighs are nothing if not smooth,
but then so is everything else these days.
Bottled beer is smooth, and so is a car’s
new totally redesigned suspension,
and so are flavoured yoghurt cups.
The word smooth has lost all useful meaning.
Now, I once heard a poet tell his love
that her thighs looked yielding on the soft sheets,
and the word yielding has the benefit,
at least, of being slightly less cliche,
but only at the too substantial cost
of sounding like a paperback romance,
and there’s the grave consideration too
that female bodies are now widely thought
to be capable of a great deal more
than just yielding or not yielding themselves,
what with all the widespread patriarchal
stereotypes of ardent, active males
and modest, passive females having been
thoroughly displaced by now. So there’s that.
The problem is that I can’t think of words
that are in any way more suitable.
Firm is too, well, too firm, I would suggest.
Curved? — accurate but a bit technical.
Warm? — obviously. Plump? — oh God save me.
Just imagine if I called her thighs plump,
even in the best way, because I do think
that thighs should have some plumpness to them;
there’ s just no way I’d get away with it.
But if no true words remain to be said,
then we’re stuck with common experience,
and I have to hope that all hands have laid,
as mine is now laid, on a woman’s thigh,
or a man’s of course, if you so desire,
depending on your gender and preference
and so forth, but a thigh in any case,
because if your hand too has lain like that
you might also understand, without words,
what it is that I’m trying to describe.
Except the thigh where you have laid your hand
would always be another thigh than hers,
your hand always another hand than mine,
and it could never, ever be the same,
not even remotely, not ever.
So I’ll just keep on lying here, and know,
without words, what it is to hold this thigh,
and leave the rest of you all on your own.
May 17th, 2013
I have just finished reading William Golding’s Free Fall, and among many other things that I should but will not write about here and that I will certainly talk about with anyone who wants to have coffee when I get back from PEI, there is a short sentence in a paragraph about how a child perceives the world. It reads, “A doorstep is the size of an altar,” and it reminded me of Heidegger’s discussion of the pain of the threshold, an idea that I have written about several times and have explored at length in several ways, including a longish poem.
What I like about Golding’s contribution to this idea is the attention to the physical similarity between the the doorstep and the altar step, where we are, in both instances, brought to the step before the threshold, to the uncrossable and yet constantly crossed threshold, but where we are most often prevented, unless we have some sort of special status, from crossing the altar step, are made to kneel on it instead, and it strikes me, not that this kneeling is too much reverence, that it should be done away with, but that our easy crossing of the doorstep should perhaps be more reverent, that we should be made to kneel, if not physically at least by word or gesture, as we pass the doorstep, because there is something sacred in it, a resemblance to the altar step that we no longer sufficiently recognize.
April 30th, 2013
This is for my wife, currently awaiting medical clearance to come and join the kids and me on our trip to Prince Edward Island.
Her Kisses Are All Sorts of Licorice
Her kisses are all sorts of licorice,
Laid up in double-salt sweetness,
Pressed hard on the back of the tongue:
Smoke and salt-peat and sea water,
Distilled in all their deep-held breaths:
Sugar cooked far past caramel:
Coffee beans smoking in their oil:
Cocoa cut with cayene pepper:
All sorts, laid up, pressed hard: kisses.
April 22nd, 2013
This is for a friend of mine who does in fact make meticulous sandwiches.
She makes her meticulous sandwiches
with sides of leftovers (a spoonful each,
like icecream scoops, of pasta casserole
and baked brown beans and egg salad filling);
with woodpiles of vegetables (carrots, beans,
and celeries); with pickles and canned beets
and hardboiled eggs and tomatoes sliced thin;
with careful rolls of deli meats; with cheese
(arranged by colour, like decorative bricks):
and she is silent as she eats, always.
April 21st, 2013
“It is a lie that beautiful words have disappeared. I have myself a trunkful in the attic, and thousands more buried underground,” says Leon Rooke in his latest book of poetry, The April Poems, and I believe him. Though he may not have intended those words for himself, they are true of him, as this little book of poems more than amply proves. It tells the shared life of April and Sam in verses that move without warning or hesitation, as relationships do, between desire — “I licked blue plates in cheap diners, thinking of her” — humour — “Love needs new shoes\ but is out of work” — and sorrow — “My own voice\ Is an ache in the heart,\ The soft mew of the cat\ Before she falls dead.” In these and other ways, Rooke takes the everyday happenings of a domestic relationship and makes them wonderful, not by elevating or magnifying them, but by insisting on them just as they are — squalid and splendid, banal and profound, playful and earnest.
What impresses me most about The April Poems, however, is that they go a long way toward resolving a tension that I have always found in Rooke’s work. I first discovered Rooke when I was thirteen or fourteen years old, attending my first Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, where he immediately won my imagination by arriving in a canoe and then delivering a wildly engaging and humorous performance. I spent every dime I had to buy his book, The Good Baby, and I began reading it right there by the Eramosa River as I waited for my parents to pick me up, only to discover that although Rooke’s writing is often very good, it can never quite manage to meet the expectations set by his performances. Everything he writes, especially his dialogue, seems to be waiting for him to come and speak it aloud and give it a true voice.
All of this is to say that the greatest compliment I can offer The April Poems is that it feels almost as if Rooke himself is reading it, as if he has given the poems something of his own vitality and audacity. As he says himself, “There’s a way of getting a poem to the page\ without utilizing words,” and The April Poems has this kind of wordless poetry, a poetry of relationship and voice and character, a poetry that makes The April Poems more than just a trunkful of words, however beautiful.
April 16th, 2013
My brother Andrew Hill’s new solo album Geres has been officially released. It is a concept album that he describes as “The epic story of Charles Freck’s suicide told through progressive music, the merging of artistic mediums, and pure metal.” It is available at geresmusic.com.
April 10th, 2013
I have no introduction for this poem. Feel free to make up your own.
The nimbus of a nearer star
is truer still for being blurred,
like trace-light on a photograph
or waves aquaver in the sun,
where every haze and hovering
leaves streaks of glory on the eye
and scatters us like haloed dust,
each with our nimbus, blurred but true.
April 5th, 2013
The essential saying of the artist is always, “Let there be.” No other saying is proper to the act of creation. The essential saying of the spectator is always, “Amen,” which is to say, “Let it be so.” No other saying is proper to the act of reception. In these two sayings the artist and the spectator together call art into being.
April 2nd, 2013
One of the most telling critiques of our democracies and our capitalisms and our sciences and our technologies and our progresses, even our arts, is that they are so often humourless. They are not able to laugh either at themselves or one another. There is too little joy and pleasure in them, too little friendship and community, too little revelry and celebration. They are all too deadly serious.
March 26th, 2013
They all have matching wool overcoats, in slightly different shades and cuts, but matching all the more because of the small variations between them, and their dress shirts match as well — muted but fashionable colours, without ties, open at the collar — a uniform that grants them access to conversations where stock tips and skiing locales and smartphone apps are exchanged like currency.