Thursday, August 16

Lion's Head Magazine - No.6, Winter/Spring 2008
Editor: Bernell MacDonald

Featured Poet: ROBERT HAWKES

Lore MacDonald
Alan Pearson
Robert M. Smith
Wayne Curtis
Bernell MacDonald
Raymond Fraser
Ernest Dowson
Cover artist: Vincent Van Gogh


Robert Hawkes, father, editor, professor emeritus, and poet, was born in Coal Creek, New Brunswick on March 30, 1930. He has studied, taught, written, edited and raised children, variously in Fredericton, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Eskasoni (NS) and Durham (NC). The Fiddlehead, The Cormorant, and The Canadian Modern Language Journal/La Revue Canadienne des Langues Vivantes are richer for his literary eye and heart. As well as being widely anthologized, Hawkes’ publications include prose pieces on educational topics, a history of 19th century Queens County teachers, Paradigms (Fiddlehead/Goose Lane), This Grievous Injury (Broken Jaw), Crammer and Pole-Archbishops (Broken Jaw, 2000) and Poems for the Christmas Season (Broken Jaw, 2004).



(Inspired by Goya’s The Balloon

We can no longer see their tilted faces,
for the wind that blows where we are
has carried us out of their sight.

Until today they have seen only birds lift
into the sky and I can still hear their mutter:
“If God meant us to fly, He’d have given us wings.

“Nothing good will come of this trying
to be what we aren’t. But there’ll come a day
when we regret challenging God.”

There’s Dresden below. Doesn’t it look
as if someone had set snuff boxes down
on a quilt of green velvet patches?


(Inspired by The Watchers*
of Peter von Tiesenhausen

Though scorched by the fires
that have blackened the earth,
The Watchers continue to scan
the Atlantic glinting before them.

At their core the remain
able to hear however faintly
the voice of their guide
since they came into being:

“Be patient, for new life will come
out of the waters lying before you.
Welcome it when it appears
and allow it to flourish.”

*charred wooden sculptures brought
by von Tiesenhausen from Alberta to
stand on a Newfoundland shore for
several weeks


For Enrique Granados (1867-1916)


If I were able to
travel slightly faster
than sound waves,
then somewhere
in outer space
I might hear you
at The White House
performing works
you had composed
(something no doubt
the early Goya inspired).

If I could hear you
playing the piano

for the Wilsons
(an honor that delayed
your going home to Spain),
I would also be able
to hear the torpedo
blowing up the Sussex
just outside Liverpool
as well as your cries
as you went back
into the brine cold water
once you realized
your wife was not
with you in the lifeboats
but was disappearing
in the English Channel.


As water tastes
of the earth
it passes through,

so your music tasted
of the Iberia
that nourished you.


Senor Goya Y Lucentes,
something within me
would not let me follow
when you stepped
into the world
where oppressors shout
Ready, Aim, Fire;
where beggars lose
the strength to breathe;
where pesos purchase
a quick release;
a sting of fantasy.

Rather I placed
between my bars
your subjects
as they sip anisette

at sunlit tables;
dance flamenco,
their heels tapping
out the rhythms
of ancient valleys;
and oles, oles, oles
as bulls tear down
the avenidas.

Three Houses of Childhood: a Trilogy

I / Of the Harvest

Two centuries ago
our ancestors came
to the head of the Grand Lake,
cleared the land,
built their homes
and this church,
where we have come
to give thanks
for the harvest.

As they have done
since the first planting,
the women have made
an October garden
on the table
in front of the altar.

Out of the earth
they have dug up potatoes,
pulled carrots.

Off withered vines
they have plucked
pumpkins and squash.

And they all rest together
after the hazards of planting:

mature, inviting, prophetic.

Light from a quartet of candles
turn into rubies a handful
of cranberries brought
brought from the lakeshore;

and a dozen red apples
with prism-like skin
refract the midmorning light
from a sestet of windows
framed with bright leaves
from the maple and oak trees
spared when the churchyard was

ii / Of the Book

As we wait for the priest
to arrive from Newcastle Bridge,
I pick up a Prayer Book
and remember caressing
its onionskin paper
and testing its strength
when no one was looking
by holding the Book
high over my head
by one of its pages.

I also remember
asking myself
if the printers thought
we were Lilliput people
when they chose
the size of type,
for even I
with the eyes of a child,
had trouble
reading the words.

But whatever the size
of the print
or the state of my seeing,
the Prayer Book remains
a link with my past
and a triumph of language.

While the priest puts on
his ecclesial robes,
a cluster of metaphors
long in the making
comes to the surface:

the one at the centre
is that of a church
where doors never close,
where there is always
music and laughter
and bread on the table,
where no one laughs
at a child who is clumsy,
where tears are not thought
to be children of weakness,
and where those
the world spurns
are the most cherished

iii / Of Father and Mother

After the “Now let us depart,”
my brothers and I walked to the house
where we had come into the world.

Moisture had swollen the doorframe,
but my brothers persisted
and we stepped into the kitchen

few meals had been cooked in
since the death of our father
over a decade ago.

It was, yet was not, the room
where we had found shelter and love
after the school day had ended.

We had chosen Thanksgiving Sunday

to meet in the once coal-mining village
to go through the house as a trio

and pick up the items mother has said
in her will she wished us to own
and ten pass on to our children:

among them a tall mirror for David,
a blue vase gilt-edged for John,
for me a handpainted cakeplate.

As we moved from one room to another,
we retold moments to retrieve
from our memories archive:

like the times father had yelled
because we could not steer the plow
in the lines he had in his head;

or the Christmas Eve hour
mother wept at the thought
of so much still to be done;

like father’s singing Dixieland songs
while the moon danced among
the wind-raptured leaves;

or mother’s reading to us
about Ann of the Island
while apple pies baked in the oven.



The New Dead

looking at ease with his newfound condition
while we move from shock to grief
as one might enter another room

but ten months on
the newness will have lost ground
to the point of dreams
and the knowing he lay
exactly like January

(November 2006)


the other woman

i accompanied my husband
to the viewing of my mother-in-law
for whom there was no love lost

strange indeed it was
to be standing there (with clearly the upper hand now)
completely void of emotion
like viewing a stranger

on a whim i ventured down the hall
to the viewing of a stranger
in a very crowded overly flowered room

i peered into the casket upon a lovely looking lady
with a kind motherly face...
cancer maybe? cardiac?
Not very old... looking peaceful and intact...
a well-respected professional perhaps
a good person, of that there could be no doubt

i was embolded enough to consider mingling
perhaps as a co-worker, a caring neighbour
but self-consciousness got the better of me
fear of being unveiled as a fraud
thus i took my leave
retreating down the hall
to rejoin family, to feeling what i ought not



Walking Stick

Roughly made from apple tree root
a walking stick leans against the wall.
I think of the sap
that has pushed its way
along yards of fibrous labyrinth
from the day of my birth
up to the highest bough
where birds give chorus at daybreak.

A walking stick made
from an apple tree root.
The root that carried the fire
that lit the spring’s first blossoms
pink and white.

The root that all summer long
senses the cardinals, crows and jays,
rustling come, and rustling go,
or feels the soft thud of Red Delicious.

The root that grew inch by inch
as decades came and went
a root that started many miles away
has finally met me
– at my seventieth year.

(From Liaisons II: The R.D. Lawrence
Commemorative Anthology



I don’t mind winter on days like this
even the 20 below can be a joy when sun
skims lightly over roadside snow
and in the red car Rod Stewart sings
This Old Heart of Mine with such a swing
it puts a summer shine on everything.

Grouped garbage bags at driveway ends,
lopsided and forest green,

delight to reflect a sparkly light;
and, sharply yellow against banked snow,
the school bus halted and flashed red,
growls at the tardy kids with satchels.
Even the birch, silver against blue,
like an image in a poem by Frost,
says: Watch me sign the sky with twigs.

As Stewart’s song rejoices in my humming car
I halt where saplings zebra-stripe
the snaky length of Golf Course Road.
A good day for scanning pristine fields
where an isolate, wind-swayed barn
lets breezes course through broken planks
—frayed music for a drowsy owl or two;
and further off, to complement the scene,
the lake is flashing light my way.

A winsome day for greeting crows
for persiflage with snowmen;
in fact, a day for youth to frolic,
all content, inside this heart of mine.


Poems are a pencil game

A pencil newly found and sharpened
is lying on the table
I pick it up and see
if I am able to release
from aromatic pine a set of
similes and stanzas, line on line.

The subject may be simple
as A or B or C
about a pencil on a table
slim and pregnant
that will enable metaphors and such
to make their debut on the page:
how happiness can come
with a new love;
a chord or two of Jan Sibelius
or, the quality at sawn

of treetop birds
mixing with the music
of a waterway
—all thanks to soft black lead and pine
and the patience of a poet.



Prehistorical Poetry

darling, sitting in the grass together
atop a promontory on St. Helen's Island,
we are about to enter History,
for we still live in the dark ages:
a savage beauty

like Einstein expanding the known universe
beyond the Michaelson-Morley experiment,
like Freud plowing the land beyond hypnosis,
we'll bear children
who are not afraid of the boogieman,
sitting in the grass,
as I read verse to you
and you lie on your back, resting your head:

across the gray rush of river,
beyond the budding bushes and trees,
I see skyscrapers: the greed
has left thirty thousand homeless
while I wonder about my latest job interview,
because you are expecting
because there is no room for schizophrenics
and we live in a primitive age
while we invest in outer space,
while you and I sit on the grass
and I read verse to you:

there is a funny millennium around the corner,
with holes in the ozone
with billions of dollars itching for a war
with a billion automobiles coughing
with factories barfing smoke into the air:
I clench my fist
and I gnash my teeth
against our telephones
against our computers and refrigerators,
for we are all accomplices,
while families picnic in the park:

darling, the poem I just read to you
out of the anthology
was Allen Ginsberg's Howl,
but nothing has changed:
you expect a happy ending,
you are expecting a child,
I am expecting an Apocalypse on instalment

but I just noticed a ladybug
awkwardly climbing up a blade of grass
carrying its funny orange shell
with black spots on its back
and shhh... Bonnie is sleeping in the grass.

May 10, 1992)



On University Ave., Mtl

Little Chinese boy
points flashlight at night sky
illuminates the stars


Old Man

Gangly old man
with wide toothless smile
walking bent-kneed
boots flapping
small steps
up the avenue

As the bus goes by
he brings up his hands
to his lips,
throws a lip-smacking kiss
with both arms extended

Blowing kisses
with a face-splitting grin



Coals In The Ash

I’m closing up the books
on summer now
building an archive.
In the mirror
a gray-bearded
has replaced me.
My tan is fading
voices in the wind
I’m hard of hearing
hard of sight
hard of logic
and I have no new mythologies.
So I cling to
memories of you
a coal lingering
in the ash.

(from Green Lightning)


Cains River

Grassy shores
amber currents
leaves adrift
beneath my cast

I challenge your swiftness
to rising salmon
below the rift

Dry alder
on storied

We stalk
the restless grouse
into golden sunsets

and scold
to keep it free

(from Green Lightning)




There's all of you
and then there's me

There's all of us
and then there's you

If we're fool enough
to think that's true

we're the kind of fools
we deserve to be.


Plane of Fate

The plane of Fate
above my bed
suspended from strings
points at my head

I strung it there
when just a boy
and it hangs in the air
a forgotten toy

it hasn't come down
to fly me high
to a darkened night
or a sunlit sky

it hangs in the air
and points at my head
and one of these days
will shoot me dead



The scarlet-robed woman
is no longer there
she appeared in her window
late in the night
with her bright scarlet robe
in the pale yellow light
like a spark
she's vanished in air



The Light

lost in a dark
for years
a man prayed
to many gods
for deliverance
until one day
he saw The Light
at the edge of the forest
and there a great plain—

—an endless plain devoid of trees

(from the MS poems in F minor)



she takes me everywhere on a leash

for a walk
to a restaurant
to her family’s
to bed

i don’t mind
her dragging me around on a leash

sometimes i keep it long
sometimes i keep it short

(from the MS poems in F minor)



They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.



La Traductora said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the poetry you selected, especially "the other woman", and the references to Goya and his painting, "The 3rd (?) of May", one of his most provokative. I will make sure to visit your blog in the future. Gracias.
March 3, 2008 4:08 PM



A couple of Lion's Head Press authors have had books published recently.

By Raymond Fraser
Remembering Leonard Cohen, Alden Nowlan, the Flat Earth Society, the King James monarchy hoax, the Montreal Story Tellers and other curious matters

Published by Black Moss Press, Windsor, ON. 2007. 162 pp. $17. Winner of the first Lion's Head Best Book of the Year Award (2007), and the prestigious Bernell MacDonald Prize. On sale at the usual outlets. Signed copies available at Fraser Books


By Robert Smith
A new collection of 25 memoirs/stories/essays by the author of RUMPLEFORESKIN MEETS THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. Redolent of the turbulent and rebellious "Sixties", STREET BUSINESS INC received 2007's coveted Raymond Fraser Award for meritorious books too ornery to win a conventional award.

For Your Interest


Raymond Fraser

Miguel de Cervantes

Bernell MacDonald

Fydor Dostoyevsky

Lore MacDonald

Walt Whitman

Alan Pearson

Robert Burns

Wayne Curtis

Mark Twain

Robert Smith

Francisco Goya