All Right Already
These poems have been previously published online and in the journals and magazines listed here:
Adirondack Review Astropoetica BODY Caught In The Net Clockwise Cat Denver Syntax
Em Dash 14 The Inflectionist FutureCycle Poetry Hawai’I Pacific Review The Journal Life As Mel Brake Poetry Miller’s Pond Obsessions Literary
Published By Fowlpox Press ©2015 Bruce McRae ISBN: 978-1-927593-45-5
Magazine Pacifica Literary Review Poetry Magazine.com Point Blank Rattle Theodate Third Wednesday Thrush Verdad Verdad Visions International The Write Room
All Right Already Bruce McRae
All Right Already
This Too Passes One Morning The Volume Of Man The Bee’s Knees The Spider Says Death of A Mouse Death Cannot Be Proved What Went Down With The Ship Faraway Suns Pluto, Or Bust Stirring Ashes Methinks I Am Too Savage Hello America Bad News for Bunny Grass in My Hair The Aroma Day’s End A House The Moon Isn’t Through Dale and Glen
This Too Passes
A time between time, late summer evening, soil in decay, the worm-fattened birds burning in the trees, and all their songs about flying . . . A portion of time so realized it assumes breadth and magnitude, the two of us caught up in it, the momentous back currents, the eddies of the self’s oblivion and soul’s sweetened annihilation. The actual second you said something so profound it was impossible to comprehend. Or I couldn’t understand because I hadn’t heard. Or I’d heard, but I did not listen.
The morning night ended. The morning I lay in the bed’s snow making tight little angels, clinging to the last starbeam, considering seriously the nature of light, of light’s long and thankless journey through the sovereign dark. Morningtide, in bed with the blues and a black cup of coffee, gnawing a nail to the quick, chewing on the straw of contemplation. Thinking about daylight’s simile. Inventing, in the cold clean light of day, a metaphor for invention.
The Volume of Man
My body is filled with dovecotes and spoons. I contain geraniums and warheads. Sloshing about inside me are clouds and ditches. There’s peculiar scenery and savage imagery. Instead of a heart, a Roman catapult. Instead of lungs, galloping palominos. There’s a highway inside me that’s going nowhere. It’s just below the surface, a sub-molecular reality, and very earthy it is too, very meaty. And often I walk this road alone, cutting a forlorn figure, I imagine. In a single sentence we approach ourselves. We meet, exchange pleasantries, and are soon parted; gladly relieved of our beautiful burden.
The Bee’s Knees
It’s only suddenly dawned on me, how I’m nothing more than sand in a shoe. That I’m a puppet in a seaside skit. A minor character in a beach novel. How I resemble most a reflection in a carnival’s trick mirror. And here I thought I was the pig’s wings, the caterpillar’s kimono, the gnat’s elbows. Instead of this tongue-tied parrot I’ve become, the one spouting self-righteous epithets in order that he might confirm his paltry existence. And not this monkey on a string. Not this breeze over the city dump I am. This creaking wheel. This lousy haircut.
The Spider Says
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m familiar with apprehension, aware of doubt, sympathetic to terror. Consider me a patient knot in a thread, a little stone calling to the dark of the world, the multi-eyed beast in her sullen quarter; she who is tethered to a latch or a hair. The spider says Sweet fly, sweetmeat, think me the wraith to your gummy end, my door invitingly ajar, the table always set. And these are my babies, my thousands, so curious, so ravenous, nimble copies of copies, sentient pebbles fleeing hungerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge. It is they, era-perfect, who scurry. I set them loose upon the edible earth.
Death of A Mouse
Which is no great thing, coming in from the frost-bitten fields, meeting its mousey maker, eternityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s go-between the simple housecat, a fat and playful agent of death. The late mouse, its life poured out on a mat by a door, the watch of its heart stopped, the wheel in its head no longer turning. As must we all lie down, a little dirt-nap for the fallen just, an old wind aching in the yellowing glade, fields of gold calling us home, the grains of harvest piled high.
Death Cannot Be Proved
It’s the hour of the wolf in a janitor’s closet. February is waiting at the end of the hall. Ghost-mice are performing a danse macabre. Here, at the institution, everything closes. We never mention the rooms inside this room, the dust-defying gravity, the phases of the moon. We don’t talk about the inevitable silences or darkness pooling under a door. We say little or nothing . . . Established in the year Zed, the institution is as dull as a morgue or an office meeting. The air scarcely shifts, the files unmoved. Our business is zero. Now it’s 4 a.m., and the roaches hold rule: tiny tyrants throwing terrible tantrums. Whom the ancients regarded as very old souls. Whom the gods embraced in their ruin.
What Went Down With The Ship
Illustration of the Madonna breastfeeding. A cute little bladder infection. Ectoplasm. Burnished magnesium. Elongated fatwas. A book of screams in a little red barn. Trigonometry for mummies. Hoe-downs. A knife balanced on a knife-blade. Walls of ghost-breaths. Mystic sensibilities. Pillow-books and phatic salutations Swordplay behind the School of Dance. The desert of the real. Lightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s threshold. The first and last of polyester newspapers. An entire set of ant-dreams in polished amber. The sudden realization of a universal truth.
A kiss on fire. The meaning of cancer. Shadow-shadows, once cloistered in attics. A series of teeth crying out for a head. Miserable buttons. The beasts of Atlantis. A rebel yell with toothache. Indelible bunnies. The diaphanous domain of melancholia. Spare savant-whistles. Pennies that sweat. Throttled soldiers’ breaths. Bone booties. Birthmarks, and a comic’s monologue. Trophies for bowling. Torn spectrographs. Thirteen bullets and world’s smallest dreary. The skull-music of handgun logic. Thermodynamic miracles. Stygian gloom. Aural karma. A stormy impertinence.
Chaotic streetwear. Vials of oxen-blood. Trade winds captured in a blue bottle. A single syllable, in Santa Claus mode. A recipe for tears. Electromagnetic slippers. Shot glasses in love with toxic empathy. Dinosaurian scarf and mittens. Wing-nuts. Brutish thunderclouds. Seasick serpents. Essence of Runnymede. Broken cattle. User-friendly totalitarian regimes. Pixels. The dim recall of every passing breath. Some dead skin sloughed from this very hand. The dark-eyed junco and varied thrush. A burning shortlist, as if a guttering candle.
“And at night I love to listen to the stars. It is like five hundred million little bells.” Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince More stars than toads or moths or damselflies. More stars than knots or wedding rings or roses. From under my pillow I can hear the stars reflect upon the hideous triumphs of function and form. They influence my moods and fads in furniture. The tears of the stars are what water our vegetable gardens. Black stars. Furnaces of indigo. Of indefinite colour. Stars that creak in the wind. That create weather. Fallen stars I collect like acorns or raspberries. Aloof stars, haughty and remaining at a distance. Copper stars on silver wires, suspended from the impossible. Flowers of wordless fragrances gathered at the river’s bend. Little explosions taking forever to divulge their secrets to the sleepy child, the fox, the worm, the hare. A star-quelled night in a curious village. I’m awake and listening to stories of epic proportions. Tales of gods and animals, of eternal love and despair. Saints wailing on a lush sward in Capricorn. Souls in Aquarius singing an epoch-long mal aria.
Faraway suns, their arms burdened with purple planets. Bright wells serving the will of the people, the strangest people, who are very like us, and very much different, who wish upon stars, studying their bones, and who wonder â&#x20AC;&#x201C; outlandish questions for which no answers exist. Countless sums beyond number.
Pluto, Or Bust
The edge of the edge of the edge . . . After Pluto, then what? More nothing. Ruin engaged with the absolutes of nothingness. Dark bodies of the void. Tumbling ice. Imaginary fragments. A ballet of rubble. The first astronaut to Pluto said what what what. He saw the star was a sun and said what. He scanned Charon, muttering what. He surveyed the starscape, longing for home in the primordial whatness. Pluto, which was, but now isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, a planet. Like the tenth planet. Like Planet X. Like a rogue planet discovered by accident. By the Hardy Boys. By wistful intuition. Pluto, last stop on the Interstellar Express. A buggy blot on a lens or mirror.
A snowball thrown by a once-playful god, a god grown vindictive and angry among the excesses of pure abandon.
Death fills up on bread before a late supper. Death mentions himself in the third person. Death pools his already impressive resources. His eyes, like moonlight, follow you into bed. He climbs in through every window. This is the corner he lays a stone for a vast foundation. And this is the moment he sizes up a mourning suit, the part of the night where he likes to keep his hand in, murder a ghost or two, throttle a puppy. He checks on his rat-traps, humming an icy tune. He attends to his flies and massive weapons collection. Death swims in a cistern and has no time for God. He toils in a bone orchard, another crop of withered fruit, answering the occasional invitation to a game of chance, courting widows, crashing weddings, visiting the children’s ward. That’s him measuring a cough, weighing a booboo, examining a battlefield, culturing a few choice wounds. He’s as insistent as cold. Like the damp, he gets into everything. Like vermin, he goes anywhere our furtive breaths invite him. That’s death in the cooking pot, among virginal hairs,
in the mouth of a surgeon, beneath the nails of a novice nun. It slithers under the rug. It stains wallpaper. Switches medicine. Festers stitches. Knocks loudly on every door in every house in every town. Death plays the odds, hand in glove with Beelzebub. Deaths plays doctor and has a wicked sense of humour. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Have you heard the one about the digitalis and the judge?â&#x20AC;? he enquires through a rictus of laughter, and knowing full well the answer.
Methinks I Am Too Savage
Reading Macbeth is the same as not reading Macbeth. It’s as if I have two apples and you’ve given me five, or I’ve been locked overnight in a department store. Reading Macbeth reminds me of a train station in the drizzle. It’s the equivalent of a lifelong nervous disorder. It reminds me of a job I had in ’79 and disliked intensely, or when our dog ran away and was consequently hit by a car. I’m reminded of a regrettable past and the ones I’ve loved. I’m quite tempted to pencil in a plan for tackling the future. Reading Macbeth has over-stimulated my imagination – great thoughts but in tiny and unremarkable circumstances. You’re forced to ask yourself some awfully big questions. There are long walks by the seaside and letters to be written. You realize your own tragic history is nothing exceptional and come to appreciate our planet’s natural beauty. Once, you laughed so hard you wet yourself, then began to cry. Once your father raised his hand to you, like Adam to Cain. It’s suddenly becoming apparent you’ve misused your time. That lives are for wasting.
I see your smoky grey flanks. I see you blowing on your fingernails. I see you selling dishwashers. I’m not joshing you, from here I can count many more than fifty stars. I can hear your shot glasses tinkling. I even envy your body-armour. Ah come on you big lug, show us more zany dance steps, more of your downhome recipes, your cattle-prods and urban glitter. And there’s a phone always ringing. Why don’t you answer it? Why not a splash of oil on platinum? How about a silicon driveway? I can smell buffalo cooking. I appreciate your woody bacon. I can feel your money in the dark. America, lend me a sawbuck.
America, we fit like old sneakers. I’m the soup to your sandwich, the gun to your drawer. You’re my all-night pawnbroker. My 24/7 candy store. I like your jazzy slacks and the way you launch rockets. I dig your lingo gringo. You have smooth haunches, tractors, skyscrapers. That’s some battleship you have there. It’s sexy. It’s prim and it’s proper. And I love what you’ve done to the night. From here I can see your lights winking, a right little box of treasures. Your jets are staining the sky. It’s like a million toilets flushing, a million lasers coming on, a million ads for cereal. Why hell, you invented Hollywood. You say things like golly-gosh then send in the Marines. Hey mac, hey bub, hey buster. Let’s be bestest buddies. Let’s just drive somewhere. Let’s take a spin for the hang of it.
Let’s re-invest in hitch-hiking. Or I can watch cartoons and listen to the blues. I can drink your coffee, with plenty of sugar. I enter into your honky-tonks. I’m choking down your beer. I go into a roadside inn where I’m served double portions. I’ve been hit by a baseball, or was it a crashing satellite? Oh, and America, just by the way; I see you’re electing presidents. I hear your television, it’s on all the time. I hear the rabbi, priest and minister – you’ve got God on your side, and on your wampum. You’ve been to the moon. You have billionaires and soup kitchens. You’re investing wildly, buying low and selling high. America, you’re reaping the whirlwind.
Bad News for Bunny
The bad news is you're not one of God's little ponies or an old hit on the radio. You'll never be a clever trick that they drag out at parties. The sun will never come from you. I'm sorry that I have to be the one to tell you, but it's a short ride and it's a fast one. For those of you with aspirations â&#x20AC;&#x201D; aspire. But you,
you the one in the back looking decidedly sick at heart: that feeling that you're feeling is right on the money. You'll never be one of Heaven's shiny pennies now.
Grass in My Hair
I was arguing with the scarecrow. His voice was like a wall of sand coming closer and closer. He had corn on his breath but no mouth to speak of. His mind was a straw stalk in the wind, all the colours of a golden rainbow, there, but not there, even his pinstripes soil-scented. And I was saying to the scarecrow, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We end, we begin.â&#x20AC;? I was telling him the true names
of all the dead. I was asking a stupid question: “Where’s the crow inside my head?” Which he thought quite funny, a perpetual grin on his dried lips, his eyes seeing into the far distance, a tear forming in the new silence that summer, and he impeccably dressed.
Comrades, you ask for Truth as if ordering dessert or enquiring about the temperature. Truth! you cry in unison, shifting your collective weight from one extreme to the other. A few have even torn away their hair-shirts and sackcloth suits to showcase their scarring, the masses consuming their mass in lies, in untruths and non-truths; grown round and comfortable. Rabble, why do you persist with your pursuit of disappointment? The truth about Truth, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve come a long way to tell you this, is not for the light-hearted, and I would insist you return to your homes and your pies.
The oven doors are opening . . . Sweet cherry pie!
Sundown, which is a book closing, which is the last page turned in a story unwillingly relinquished, starlings crowding cloudbanks to the east, the west glowering, so proud of itself and the great works the Earth has accomplished. When one moment catches sight of another, short-winded from breathless passages, the mind idly strolling about, wandering toward the swirling mists we term ‘pre-history’, seeing there the old made new, long before the slang of our time and its ream of ambiguities, written in blood and on stone, their messages sealed always.
A house shaped like a tree. A house in the form of a stone. A ship that’s a house. The river-house. House on the moon, the dark side, its porch light on always, attracting moths and meteors: something to hope for when seen from a long distance. * My house sings beside a ditch. My house struggles with its conscience. My house falls up a hill. It’s where I live; I go home because I’m not there. Because I am. Because I have to be somewhere Because I have to be. * The house in my head has eyes and legs and lips and a heart.
The mind-house is one room inside numberless rooms; a wooden dreamscape, a child’s nightmare of bricks flying and doors that won’t open. There’s something unsayable under the floorboards. * The portable house – you can take in anywhere and everywhere. You can never leave or arrive. It follows you to school, to work. It’s hands-free. It’s no bigger than your mouth. Just deflate and fold and you’re on your way. * In one house I lived in the cat was king and dog a citizen. In one house the ghosts took turns frightening themselves. In another house the furnace stayed on no matter
what we did or didn’t do. And the mice were very intelligent – saints to the roaches’ sinners. * The house is on fire, then underwater, then invisible, then in outer space. The house is black, then red, then purple. The house is edgy, divine, sanguine, undone. It has hair and teeth and principles. A circle, it thinks it’s a square. It’s lost its bearings. Someone suggests: Let’s go there! But we can’t go there. * The house of sod. The house Bosch built – doors only on the inside, the floors up a wall, its furnishings in people-form. Set in its ways, it’s the planet which is shifting. *
Come in, you’re out. This is the room God sent you. Here is where we store the clouds. That’s the closet that death was born in. This is the hall we can’t get to. The light enters here then gets lost along the way. The air decides for itself – because we’re all free-thinkers here. We all live somewhere else. * The house is abandoned now. It seems to be (but it isn’t) always late autumn – inside and out. The penultimate leaf waves farewell. A torn curtain shudders in a last-gasp effort. The dust is barely disturbed by the ghost-whisperers – that handful of lonely spectres who refuse any notice of eviction. Like little flames, one by one by one, they flicker out. They can’t come to the door right now. Try again, in the next world. Knock louder.
The Moon Isn’t
I’m not sure what the moon is, but I know what it isn’t. The moon isn’t an empty Cineplex or shopping-cart thrown in a canal. It isn’t a letter on a sweater. The moon’s not a recipe for road kill, though it’s seen a lot of death in its time, a great surplus of killing and war. The moon isn’t a kind-hearted stranger or paramour carving your initials into tree bark. It’s not a barber or a cucumber. Oh, it may be one celestial body orbiting another every 28 days, but it isn’t a slice of blueberry pie or a sick note from your doctor. It’s not an excuse for doing badly, antique pincushion, inner workings of zed. The moon is not an infant born with a hole in her aorta. It’s not a blob of glue left over from your nephew’s science project. The moon’s nobody’s fool or prison-bitch.
It may be a number of things to a number of people; but the moon’s no patsy. It’s not prepared to sign that slip of paper. It’s not going to come along quietly. No, it isn’t ready, ready or not. I’m not quite sure about what the moon is, but it isn’t funny.
Through Dale And Glen
The journey starts in a cupboard, in a plug behind the TV set, from a shoebox of family photos. You can tell you’re traveling by the wind feeling at your neck, by the dust on Christ’s sandals, by the dying birches scratching the moon. The moon’s eye follows you across night’s room. You’re the Eternal Hitch-hiker, the road a river of bitumen, a parallelogram, a notch on a rifle. The road is your imagination, a howl stirred by cocktails and yage. It’s not a road, it’s a line drawn in the sand or path of personal misgivings. What matters is how the journey begins. Marching to Thermopylae. Swimming the Euphrates. Kicked like a can. Because getting there is half your problem – wormhole, dune buggy, dirigible . . . In a contemplative mood
you’re rehearsing endless departure, envisioning the journey’s end, its pretzels and beer and unexceptional Saturdays. You’re older now, and more tired than thought justifiable. Evening is your constant companion. Patting the dog’s head, your eyelids flutter then wow. When you sleep it’s a terrible slumber.
It's nights like this I ask myself, what is a flag? A fluttering symbol of a nation's amplified psychosis. A blood-drenched rag dipped at the passing catafalque. A handkerchief to wave at the soldiers marching off to war, marching against human failure. Run it up the pole and see who salutes it. Use it for swaddling, a bandage after an accident, to mop the feverish brow of one unwell. A thing to dry your hands on after throwing in the towel.
Pushcart-nominee Bruce McRae is a Canadian musician with over 900 publications, including Poetry.com and The North American Review. His first book, ‘The So-Called Sonnets’ is available from the Silenced Press website or via Amazon books. To hear his music and view more poems visit ‘BruceMcRaePoetry’ on Youtube.