author biography ; extended biography ; author page

Thursday, March 05, 2009

an old poem embedded in thoughts on what is news

breaking news

i am not particularly interested
in matters of the weather

or the game, the possible exception:
the short skirts

of anna kournikova. every few hours,
the bough breaks

& the body, pushing cars
& shattered windows out

of peaceful conversation. we know
not why, even once

its explained. the bafflement
endears us, slightly, calms

the notions from the fields. think
a horror, & then armloads

of recycling. it goes
no further.

In 2001, my neighbour jwcurry wrote and published a poem called "robbing mclennan," on my insistence on writing what was happening around in our neighbourhood. I think it was a direct result of a poem or two on various fires that kept happening around us, throughout our little Chinatown neighbourhood. The first poem I composed on such fell into my collection The Richard Brautigan Ahhhhhhhhhhh (Talonbooks, 1999), writing the building across from what is now mine when it exploded into deliberate flame (back when curry lived directly upstairs from me), just as he was locking his front door. Because of the mayhem that ensued, I couldn’t get any closer to where he was than a block, standing at the corner with John and Susan Newlove, watching the spectacle of such. curry's poem opens with:

birds can't fly
in the neighbourhood
of disaster all the time

If curry is above, George Bowering wrote me once in a letter, you must be rice. I've asked it before, how does one write disaster or even anything without placing, displacing, becoming false? Every year, we know that fall is coming because of the annual Chinatown fire. There was the night we witnessed two fires, old buildings and careless landlords, as the building beside where curry lives now, four buildings down, caught fire in the walls and roof; everyone got out fine, but the outside wall beside curry's window scorched. He and Jennifer Books tore through the police lines to pull out materials, considering the three million dollars worth of publications he has squirreled away inside. Everything managed to be fine. It was an hour or so later that we saw the fire trucks again, heading back up the hill, where a family of seven lost most of their lives, leaving grandfather, uncle and infant. The fear on the faces of police and fireman searing, indelible. There was no calm here, flames pushing out the second floor window. This was a fire that made no poem; there was nothing left we could say.

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