Two Squid and Six Whales

Though the island’s small 
Room enough for a whale’s grave 
One of six Right Whales 
Deaths big enough to warrant 
News coverage and necropsies 
 
Almost escaping notice 
Two squid long lean tentacled 
Lying obscenely 
Motionless in the white sand 
Of no importance 

This seems too public an end 
For such a private creature 
Cellphone cameras 
Killing curiosity 
With unsparing light
 
The death of a squid 
Cannot be known–let alone 
Its under wave ways 
Its liquid life lived in dark 
Waters sparkling in the sun

AGG20170711 

Depth Charge: This poem echoes one of my earliest poems. A Sunday Drive to the Sea

Charlottetown Harbour 4 AM

How quick the clouds are
To cover the full Moon’s light
In its final hour
Dark woods full of sleeping crows
Dark waters full of unknown

All week long people
Made strangers by passing time
Have been surfacing
Thrown up by the tides of chance
In memory’s tattered nets

Scraps of history
Causal conversation
Luminescent facts
Bright irresistible lures
Dangled before razor teeth

A strip of street lights
And a well-worn wooden path
Suffice for purpose
Desire grows with the unseen
Pluto shadowing the Moon

While Venus rising
Promises summer pleasures
Wild rose fresh bay leaf
Sun and wind on exposed skin
And salt drying on the lips

AGG20170709
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Last Day of Lobster Season

On the horizon 
Last day of lobster season 
Having pulled its traps 
A white boat returns to port 
Trailing ravenous white kites 
 
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For Now (New Year’s Day 2017)

Back home on the back balcony
The sun breaking through the blue
The cold wind of New Year’s Day
Excites yesterday’s snow into life
Sharpens memories
Of you sitting wrapped
x    And warm beside the fire
Of our parting embrace
x    My arms around your tiny frame
x    Your face beautiful and old
x    Pressed against my chest
x    My lifetime contained within yours
For now
x    The heart you gave me beats next to yours
For now
x    The breath you breathed into me we share
For now

AGG20170101
for FMG

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The city strange as the sea

The city strange as the sea
Never knows a true moment
Of complete silence
The predawn sky pale and calm
Still thrums noisily

Relentless as waves
Advancing and receding
Eat this small island
Alive but not from hunger
Solely from force of habit

AGG20160831

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Blooming Point: A Short Conversation with a Nude Eighty-Year-Old Man

Grandfather sold cod to the Portuguese.
Later in life he lost his sight, they said
He had been struck by lightning while at sea,
Which seemed strange to me. After he was dead
I learned glaucoma was the real reason.
I guess lightning made sense enough back then,
When poetry stood in for medicine.
Nineteen fifty-four was my first time here,
It already had its reputation
And there was a sense of danger and fear.
If someone you knew saw you they knew why
You were here and, for a while, a Mountie
In full uniform would patrol, swooning
From the heat as we made out in the dunes.

AGG20160805

Depth Charge: Blooming Point is a spectacular beach on the north shore of Prince Edward Island and, for as long as I can remember, a section of it has been an unofficial nude beach. This summer after a conversation with an man in his 80s on the beach, I learned its history as a nudist beach was much longer than I had thought.

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Fuckin’ Right We Stole the Rainbow

Fuckin’ right we stole the rainbow
Because long before Orlando
We taught hatred how to laugh
And we showed pain how to dance
Fuckin’ right we stole the rainbow

But we’re not greedy and we’ll share
Naked clothed or in underwear
Polyamorous gender fluid
Let’s get down! Let’s fuckin’ do it!

Fuckin’ right we claimed full marriage
Because the way you’d disparage
Our relationships as lesser
We’ve rewritten the book of love
Fuckin’ right we claimed full marriage

But we’re not greedy and we’ll share
Naked clothed or in underwear
Polyamorous gender fluid
Let’s get down! Let’s fuckin’ do it!

Fuckin’ right we redefined gay
We didn’t like the way you’d say
Pansy faggot lezzie fruit
You turned queer into a sneer
Fuckin’ right we redefined gay

But we’re not greedy and we’ll share
Naked clothed or in underwear
Polyamorous gender fluid
Let’s get down! Let’s fuckin’ do it!

Fuckin’ right we’ve taken back pride
Because we no longer want to  hide
We refuse to play those sordid
Religious games of blame and shame
Fuckin’ right we’ve taken back pride

But we’re not greedy and we’ll share
Naked clothed or in underwear
Polyamorous gender fluid
Let’s get down! Let’s fuckin’ do it!

Fuckin’ right we stole the rainbow
Because long before Orlando
We taught hatred how to laugh
And we showed pain how to dance
Fuckin’ right we stole the rainbow

AGG20160725

Depth Charge: My visit home to Prince Edward Island this year coincided with PEI Pride 2016.  One of the events was a Poetry Slam organized by AIDS PEI and held at BEANZ Café. I threw together this rant the day before the event and presented it.

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A Carload of Poets: A Response to “Bowl of Green Jade” by Li Qingzhao

A small island  
In a  sea of secrets, some 
As big as a blue whale, others 
As tiny as a sand flea, 
Dangerous conversations fuelled 
By Ten Pennies and Crown Royal, 
Bio-luminescent sparks, 
Dark—winter-night dark, 
Bright—impossible-star bright, 
Accented words echoing stark  
Rhythms, as endless as the water and sky  
When they merge into that singular colour 
The one that means reflected need. 
 
Remind me one more time,
Why did we all hurry to leave?
 
 
A couple have since returned  
Like the eagles, the cormorants and the crows, 
To find such purpose as may be found, perched 
Beside eroding red cliffs, 
The rest of us   
Touchdown, 
Take off,  
Singly, or in small groups,  
But rarely in the autumn, 
After the yellowing leaves have all fallen, 
When we might eavesdrop 
On the sky as it comes right down
In cold, streaking tears 
To trouble the waters  
With whispers of woe and wonder. 
 
AGG20151005 

Tune: Bowl of Green Jade
A Fortuitous Meeting
by Li Qingzhao

Haste not back so soon!
No glimpse yet of Handan Road 1
For all our peregrinations.
Autumn wind so dreary,
How are we to while our days away?
A drink under a clear window,
An idle chat beside a dim lamp,
Would be the ideal way to relax.

Each laments her declining years as we meet,
Chanting many a new verse with thrilling rhymes—
Poetic talent a family tradition people much prize.2
Now frail and decrepit,
Nothing remains to me but profuse tears
Falling like rain in the season of yellowing plums.

1 Legend has it that a scholar named Lu, while travelling on Handan Road, met a Taoist priest who gave him a magic pillow. When he went to sleep, he dreamed that he passed several decades living in wealth and prosperity. But on waking he found that the pot of millet he had left boiling on the stove was not yet done.

2 One day Xie An the Imperial Tutor (c. third century) was at home with his nephew Xie Lang and niece Xie Taoyun when it suddenly began to snow. He asked each of them good-humoredly what the snowflakes looked like. Xie Lang thought they might be likened to grains of salt dropped from the air. But Taoyun said the simile wasn’t so good as ‘willow catkins whirling in the wind’. Thenceforth ‘salt and willow catkin’ came to be regarded as a family tradition of literary talent.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

青玉案 李清照
征鞍不见邯郸路。莫便匆匆归去。秋正萧条何以度。明窗小酌,暗灯清话,最好流连处。相逢各自伤迟暮。独把新诗诵奇句。盐絮家风[1]人所许。如今憔悴,但馀双泪,一似黄梅雨。

Qīng yù àn Lǐ Qīngzhào
Zhēng ān bùjiàn hándān lù. Mò biàn cōngcōng guī qù. Qiū zhèng xiāotiáo héyǐ dù. Míng chuāng xiǎo zhuó, àn dēng qīng huà, zuì hǎo liúlián chù. Xiāngféng gèzì shāng chímù. Dú bǎ xīnshī sòng qí jù. Yán xù jiā fēng [1] rén suǒ xǔ. Rújīn qiáocuì, dàn yú shuāng lèi, yī sì huáng méiyǔ.

Green/jade/vessel Li Qinzhao
Jounery/saddle/not/see/Han-dan/road, Do not/easily/hurry-hurry/return/go. Autumn/just/bleak/desolate/which/manner/pass. Brigh/window/small-talk, dim/lamp/light/clear/talk, most/good/linger-on/place. Chance-meeting/each-one/wounded/past-prime. Alone/seize/new/poetry/recite aloud/wonderful/phrases. Salt/willow catkin/household/fashion/people/therein/praise. As of/now/thin/pallid, yet/remains/a pair/tears, one/resemble/yellow/plum/rain.

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Listen to the waves

Listen to the waves
Whispering about what lies
Beneath—broken shells
Emptied of all life—except
Hermit crabs occasional

AGG20150704

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Old Man, Winter: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Pure Serene Music”

This year there’s seventeen feet of white snow
Before we even reach the cold, hard ground,
How are we going to bury you, old man?
At this rate, the purple lilacs will not
Dare to bloom until well into August,
Flowers for your late funeral, old man.
We’ll be talking about twenty-fifteen,
At least until something worse comes along,
Forgetfulness will bury you, old man,
But right now ploughs are losing the battle
To keep the Island’s arteries unclogged,
And people are beginning to panic,
To wonder if we don’t need a new plan,
If we hope to get you buried, old man.

AGG20150326

Depth Charge: At the time of writing this, Charlottetown, PEI, has an accumulated winter 2014-15 snowfall of 515 cm, about 17 feet, most of which has fallen since late-January.

Tune : “Pure Serene Music”
By Li Qingzhao

Year after year in the snow I used to get drunk
While picking plum blossoms to put in my hair.
Now twisting all the fallen petals to no good purpose,
I only drench my clothes with pure tears.

This year at the end of the earth,
My hair at the temples is streaked with grey.
Now that the evening wind is growing in force,
I shall be hard put to it to enjoy plum blossoms.

You might as well as the bright red flowers
Why they bloom and for whom they perfume the air?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

清平乐李清照 
年年雪里,常插梅花醉。挼尽梅花无好意,赢得满衣清泪。 
今年海角天涯,萧萧两鬓生华。看取晚来风势,故应难看梅花 
 
Qīngpíng Yuè Lǐ Qīngzhào  
 
Nián nián xuě lǐ,  
Cháng chā méihuā zuì.  
Ruó jǐn méihuā wú hǎoyì ,  
Yíngdé mǎn yī qīng lèi.  
 
Jīnnián hǎi jiǎo tiānyá ,  
Xiāoxiāo liǎng bìn shēng huá . 
Kàn qǔ wǎn lái fēngshì,  
Gù yīng nánkàn méihuā .

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

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