Thursday, 30 June 2016

One Morning Early

I got up early the other day.

It stayed that way for a while.

When I became poet laureate, people said what can you do about the weather. I said Besides look?

It's easy to remember seasons more regular. Darkness was good no matter what the weather, refinery lights as bright. Three forty-eight, thin cloud, patches clear.

The more I watched, the more I heard birds. A gull on dawn patrol seemed annoyed.

By saying this much I've agreed talk is all we can do when it comes to weather. Thousands remember the storm of '74 when if you drove a Cortina I guarantee the water came over your hood. Make up a story of a piano floating or a wedding gown lost, somebody's already told it.

Details emerge, colours of cars on the highway. Trail on the far side of the lake, still an hour from first jog. Weather's just one of those names of how our planet behaves.

When one's mind drifts from weather to some other idea, truly there is nothing one can do.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Solstice is the Best Medicine

That's the title I came up with, anyway. It's the length of day that sets us down around 7:00 pm as if after breakfast, that much light ahead. 
Tonight by accident I came upon the old University sign (new one here). 

Half storage half junk, this patch scraped into a southeast corner of the campus. 
I'd pulled in to have a look. Now that I've seen the area, I plan to bring my writing class over in September. Lay the usual admit inner and outer lives on them. I'll probably use the phrase bring language to attention and speak of translation. Needless to say, though I will anyway, it is the particulars--the fabled details--of the sign and beyond that will make the writing work best. 
As I will point out to my students, this discussion could drive the entire semester if everyone buys in. 
It occurred to me just now that what is most satisfying when everyone does buy in is the fact that each person sees the benefits for him/herself. 
I'm afraid few benefits will accrue to the sign, which I'm guessing is destined for the hammer.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

One Afternoon in Herbert, My Home Town

The first thing is getting there. Take the Trans-Canada west into the Missouri Coteau.

My bird-loving friends will approve of a stop at Chaplin.

In Herbert, I tried to check into the motel or campground.

Nothing was open.

I went over to the Co-op to ask. Me: I was born here. Co-op guy: I'm busy! It looked like hard times at the Lone Eagle.

Just east, the grounds where we used to go on Sports Days.

I never had much luck here.

When the highway diverted to the south edge of town, the original Trans-Canada became South Railway avenue.

I used to get a bean shave here.

Dad got a new red Chev every two years here.

I'd heard that local media were excited about the hometown boy returning as poet laureate this summer. 

The quieter the town, the louder the train.

The giant poplars are all that's left of the school where I'd been a good boy for Mrs. Campbell, Miss Shopa, Miss Higginson, and Mrs. Benallack . . .

. . . though some the bricks were used for the Memorial Wall.

I walked by 432 Brownlee. I felt the pain from a fall off my bike long ago.

That was it for my camera battery. The rest was notes toward a Herbert piece I'm working up for this summer. See you at the Herbert Rodeo weekend, July 29-31.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Red Car

I came up with Chevery for a word that modifies two years in explaining what kind of new car dad got and how often. I wonder if he enjoyed pulling into some far-flung school, cloud of dust no doubt. I know he enjoyed talking to people and was used to being a leader. As for how effective he was at setting and sustaining policy or functioning in the hierarchy of the provincial education system, that's less certain. 
I wonder if the army had been good training for both love of cause and irritation with standard procedure. As I muse in that way, I engage in self-amusement. This wondering, I suppose, has as much to do with what my experience of those times would be as with his.
He was the one in the red car, though, pulling in from Rush Lake. Got time to walk up and down a few aisles, ruffling the hair and poking the ears. Meet with the principals and teachers a moment. Head home.
In case you're not familiar with the roads around Herbert in the 1950s, think (after dust) of stones, hell on a new Chev. But the Trans-Canada itself was mighty fine. I could sit in dad's lap and pretend to work the steering wheel as we rounded that last curve east toward town. 
I've noticed that dad was the kind of buy people remember, as if inspired somehow. Everyone else hated his guts, no just kidding. Not everyone. 
The fact that my own car is red has nothing to do with wanting a red car like dad's. I will admit that if I found out about a '56 Chev, red or not, I'd want it.

(Over a giant culvert west of Herbert on the old highway.)

Saturday, 28 May 2016


I biked by this beauty an hour ago.

Anticipating my poet laureate gig in my hometown this summer I've been checking out boyhood material, most of it stored at memory's place. It's an easy list--what's still with me from my first ten years. 
I lived the next ten about a block from the hydrant. Taking the photo, my back's to the west entrance of Gardiner park, between Gardiner and Anderson. Our family house was 5 Anderson, second from the east end on the right. Original hydrants, now age 60, live themselves a lifetime. As I circled back on my bike to snap this one, I repeated a route I'd taken decades before. It could be these ten years I go into. (See Hillsdale Book.)
I notice that every poet laureate gig comes down to, it seems, what conditions of light have we lived through today. 
Even saying such a thing--that's the hometown talking.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

This Time Around Lake Wascana

When I saw that the legislature resembled a sphinx, I took a photo.

The body waits for its head. The head, in copper so bright, will shame the body.

For a while yet even the dome sits below the apex of a tower crane taking everything down. Not far away, a fountain.

Further south, outside the Mackenzie, we can feel Fafard's calf.

I remembered those photos of Stalinist architecture and thought about Leboldus, though they're not the same.

That brought me to the former City limits, since the fifties part of Hillsdale.

This black and white manhole on page 86 of Hillsdale Book seems to be have been replaced.

Signs said go make the tahini paste.

Go stew the rhubarb.

I sped home

and put my feet up.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Day in the Day

People ask me, the poet laureate, what I do all day. Sometimes I'm hard-pressed to answer. "By 'day' do you mean the time before right now?" I said once.
But Giselle had dropped her monkey yesterday into the courtyard closed to all. Nothing spurs the poet laureate more than a grand-daughter in need.
I showed up early, morning traffic duking it out with lilacs. No sign of the monkey.
Yesterday, hearing the story from Giselle's mother, my daughter Emmaline, I hadn't absorbed the courtyard scene. I knew it generally as a grey, concrete pit where nothing grows or breathes or colours. 
I threw my poet laureate's weight around, activating first one circulation desk worker then a second. They initiated a two-pronged plan. I supervised. 
One, call maintenance. Two, security. Somehow, the five of us zeroed in on the monkey, in the hand of the maintenance guy, which re-appeared from a City of Regina garbage can on 12th Avenue. 
He wiped it off and handed it to me, with a "really sorry, really sorry."
Just another morning for the poet laureate. I tuned up three or four pages of a manuscript, planned events for Thursday night and Saturday afternoon.
And beyond: an idea to film the poet laureate's return to his home town in late July or least toss candy to kids during the parade (to be enjoyed from a vintage convertible, say a '65 Chev).
But job one was to hand over the monkey.