Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Everything is dark. As if life depended upon a lump of coal in the sky instead of the sun. As if my seeing were a black fog. I am huge and cold.

And I can’t breathe. My mouth is scarce. My nose is rigid, a carrot, a turnip, a stone. My arms, never athletic are twigs. And my feet have disappeared.

I am a snowman.


I am a snowman. Perhaps the only snowman. In the sharp air, I imagine butterflies shouting one to another over the blue shadows. And I know that in a blind world, in the land of seeing eye dogs, there is infinite regression, each blind dog relying on another blind dog to lead it forward through the velvet gardens.

I can switch my eyes, the left and the right. I can replace my eyes with the stones of my mouth. I can replace the vast ball of my legs with my torso ball. My sad head can roll down the hill and become enormous and quick as it descends. Such a large head can imagine great things. Melting, for instance. The weeping of small children as they squash living things. The possibility that my family, in their small boat, shall cross the sea, that Timmy shall fight the lion with his toy car and thus save Miranda from her smooth cake, and the squat fingerprints of her future.

And Bobby, oh my lovely Bobby, you shall steal the crutches of your imaginary friend and limp towards your mother. Mother, you say, looking into the briny water of the pickle jar, two ice ages don’t a heat wave make. The delicate wings of a stamp collection hovering alphabetically over the iridescent lake of tweed mean something to all of us. You and father, if you are so inclined, shall pour down the aisle and be married once again. The antelope is neither licked nor sealed.

* * *

Note: I was supposed to be revising a story about snowpeople for chickaDEE magazine and strayed over to Imperfect Offering and began discussing the editing/revising process and also how context and readership affect/reflect the core of a story. See here. And so instead of revising my little snowpeople story, I broke free of that context and those constraints, and wrote this. Also -- and more about this later -- I finally read some of the work of Russell Edson.(see a brief bio and some of his amazing prose.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why Does George Orwell Write?

George Orwell in his essay 'Why I Write' outlines a number of reasons why he (or one) writes.

I don't think he lists all the reasons to write. For instance, the spiritual impulse. (I guess he might that consider that subsumed under some of the other categories.) And the exploratory -- writing to discover. (He might also consider this as belonging to the other categories.)

What other reasons are there to write?

I mean beside supporting your agents' knitted moustache fetish and the inevitable expenses it entails.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


In the forest, we were not able to see the trees.
My teacher put them in his suitcase
and walked into the night.

When he got to the edge of the world
he turned and pulled up the road.
Cracking it once, like a sheet or whip
he held it under his chin and folded it right.

I pointed. This is the way out of here
but there were no roads.
I pointed. This is our forest
but there was nothing.

The crickets said something that I will not repeat

Six jeweled piglets lapped at the droplets of my brow.
Seven pure swallows brushed their wings against my shadow.
T-shirts are silent, cotton, easy to launder.

Friday, August 18, 2006

the luminous pork forest, the sawdust of the bacon angel

the field beside my heart is

filled with ugly deer and one beautiful dog

a poem doesn’t have to have 14 perfect lines

or else you’re spitting on graves

maybe you’ll slip up and tell a truth

stick your flaking elbow into something rich

under the moon your tongue hangs out

you’d like to howl but there’s this language thing

a pile of shame grows and grows

please save my family from complication or sudden death

listen: a small movement in the linden leaves

the poem collaspes small and leaping

be brave be brave be brave

the field beside my heart is

filled with ugly deer and one beautiful dog

and here’s another beautiful dog

a thousand ugly deer on the breath of the wind

sighing sighing sighing

* * *


In the days before Marco Polo discovered the Miniature Doberman here on Planet of the Tired Clown, the Unconventional Creeps Race began at noon instead of one. I was drunk log before that playing the jigsaw snapping race with my lost woodman brother. What kind of death satin sailor sails the piping north pole with nothing but a random rabbi generator beneath his cap? I’m an impossible planet circled by the weepy noses of my dream detonators. Mice wish themselves twenty legs then begin a new life of scurrying. O foreheads of loss! At the ceremony of evocation, we’re astonished by the luminous pork forest, the sawdust of the bacon angel, he who conceals the apocalypse’s incorrigible bedhead from the braided Kayak. There is a cowlick at the centre of the radiant clown. There is the instep of tomorrow. We have the telephone.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


go to sleep

then get up again

be crucified

then rise again

eat a bomb

but meet your sweetie for dinner

I let the dragon into the house

and it burns the piano and the shoes

our home is an ashen cloud with an incomprensible address

barefoot, we walk to the store for ice cream

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


the partial snout of cloud late in the light
the furrows browsing a trough of owls
the moon's sowee, twigs twitching before
the dicephalus dawn

I made a T-shirt that said that
but my editor got to work
"I have always been partial to snout"
it now reads


for/after Nadia Halim


I build a giant mountain in the centre of my living room. My wife and children climb it. ‘Because it was there,’ they call from the summit near the fluorescent lights. I fall asleep on the couch, a white lily spilling from beneath my ratty MY OTHER BELLY IS A SIX PACK t-shirt. The TV hums. It is our grandfathers asking the dawn to give us another chance. Our grandmothers, somewhere in back of the TV, stir the electronics and laugh their toothless laugh. It doesn’t depend on us, they say to the grandfathers.

I am dreaming. I am a vast potato floating near the buttery shores of the cosmic sea. I dream the world and it goes on forever. Through the windows of the living room, my children see far across the city and the air-conditioned breeze chaps their faces red. My wife is safe from cancer; birds nibble at her ears; build nests from her skin and feed their flightless babies. Teach them flying. In one nest, an egg neglects to hatch. It is huge. I dream it is the sun, hot and quiet above us. In every day there is a liquid bird sloshing its wings inside the sun. I dream the world, my back, the bruised couch. Day breaks but my children fix it with spit and snot and snowflakes. We get another chance.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Bromberg-Barwins Go to Warshington

1. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King gave his "I had a Dream" speech. For us, one of the most moving places in DC.
2. In the Museum of American History, a braille Playboy in the Ray Charles exhibit. He used to read Playboy, for the articles. Really. I would have thought a braille Playboy would have been either the setup or the punchline to a joke. Of course, I read Beowulf for the pictures, so who am I to talk.
3. In the extraordinary Museum of the American Indian. A very beautiful building by Douglas Cardinal, built of sand-coloured stone, its wavy, landscape inspired shapes in opposition to the symmetrical neo-classical buildings that dominant the institutional buildings in DC. This picture is a visual poem comprising the names of the Native American peoples that have existed in the Hemisphere. Three projections of names on a huge black wall. Very moving. Another very striking use of plain text was the Vietnam Memorial. All those names of the dead. When my sons and I walked by (the irony wasn't lost on me, walking with my sons along a list of lost sons) people were touching specific name and weeping.
4. My daughter in front of the Capitol
5. The Bromberg Barwin's in front of the White House. We looked better in the surveillance cameras.
6. We couldn't take pictures, but my eldest son and I went to the Holocaust Museum. We hardly spoke. There was nothing to say, in a way. There is an extraordinary moment in the museum when you have just seen all this distressing information about the Holocaust and then passed through a hallway the walls of which are covered in photographs of people from a destroyed village. Many many photographs of all types of Jews and Jewish life. Your head is filled with these images and then you come to a bright white room in between exhibits with four canvases by Ellsworth Kelly. Three rectangular canvasses and one without right angles. Blank white. It is a very moving moment. Both because you realize how your mind is filled with the lives of the people you've just seen. Stories and lives clamouring in your head. Thousands of voices and lives. The shadows of the Holocaust. The richness, the fullness of village life. Of all life. And somehow it all projects onto these white canvasses and the quiet. What can be said in the face of all of this loss? One needs to be silent for a minute. My son and I stood looking at the whiteness.But also, the plain canvasses are a moment of sanctitity. A moment for reflection. A sanctuary. A sense of meaning. Or of simple things. Even these plain colours, these plain shapes have meaning, are beautiful, worthwhile. (And then, later: what is "whiteness"? What is race?)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I replace my words with the legs
I walk