Friday, March 14

Lion's Head Magazine

No. 9, Fall 2011


Marty Gervais

Alan Pearson

Robert Markland Smith

David W. McFadden

Raymond Fraser

Thomas F. Pawlick

Robert Hawkes

Shari Andrews

Stewart Donovan

Raymond Gordy

Michael Pacey

Max Layton

Bernell MacDonald

Notes on Contributors




The bookshop owner believed
I was blind

I stood in the shop

struggling to make out

the words of De Gaulle’s memoirs

reading them in French

I was maybe 14

I had just come from

the optometrist

and the drops in my eyes

continued to plague my sight

I was reading about

the Resistance

and De Gaulle’s old mentor Marshal Petain

reading about betrayal

the decision to save

the old war hero

who was condemned to death

the decision to exile him

to a windswept island

in the Bay of Biscay

The man in the bookshop

asked if there was a problem

because I held the book

so close to my eyes

I liked the idea

that he believed I was blind

though I never said

anything to suggest this

I went on reading

shaking my head

in modest denials

making him feel sorry for me

I remember this now

as I sit in this café

in the Latin Quarter in Paris

and read that someone

has discovered

one street in France

still named after Petain

in Tremblois

near the Belgian border

last town bearing
the old war hero’s appellation

soon to be renamed
Rue de la Belle‑Croix
A year ago another town

removed a painting of Petain

from the town hall

I think about the man

called “conquerer of Verdun”

his last days

on the Atlantic coast

a spare two‑room bunker

his wife daily walking

from a nearby hotel

to sit and share a meal

and the roll and groan

of the Atlantic just beyond

I remember reading about

his coffin being dug up

and driven across the

country to Paris

where it was later

found in a garage

and now the modest sign

for Rue Petain marking a street

a mere 600 feet in length

is being taken down

sixty years after his death

I wonder about the man

whose final request was

a bottle of water

from Lourdes

(11‑06‑27 6:45 A.M.)



The Go-between

The season of blitzes had begun
it was also a season of blackouts
and we had just begun to get used to the sirens.
On one of the more frightful nights
the rain came down in torrents.

Mother gave me money for the tram|
the big yellow tram

that squealed on steel wheels
as it ran back and forth across Sheffield.

It carried munition workers
to and from the factories
– the night shift.
And there was little room for me.

In the damp tram, where I was protected
in my tightly belted mac,
I held a precious letter.

On this rainy night I was a pony express.
Destination: the central post office.
I must not miss the post, nor lose the letter
my mother had scribbled to her lover.
So badly was the envelope stuck
I could see the words inside;
I had never read words with so much fear.
I was not too young at 10
to understand a double-cross.

At the downtown post office I fled the tram.
Breathless, I arrived at my destination;
my errand of betrayal brought me up
to the howling mouth of the letter box.
I pushed the letter unsplashed by rain
on its way.

Dear Bill, Ignore the last letter, Albert
made me do it. Will explain later.
Meet me at Reece's on Saturday at 2 pm
Love, Carrie...

There was time now to think about
my father in his RAF uniform,

still sitting in the crowded railway carriage.

He'd left this morning to return to camp.

And there was time, too, to think
About that other letter,
the one he'd made her write to Bill.

I stood at the stop waiting for a tram
to take me home.
And all the long wait the rain didn’t stop,
it kept falling in torrents.
And of course there was a war going on.


The Mystery

Each day she walked past the house
with a cane and a rolling gait
every step a torment as she climbed
up the hill.
A year ago a truck had crushed
her legs, torn flesh
and shattered bone.

She couldn't help it the way that she walked
she rolled from the left to the right;

her poor old spine cracking all the time

like the mast of a yacht gone awry.

The pain ran along those taut tendons

like streak lightning, that you could tell.

The Citizens Aid or some such
found her a house at the top of the hill
And she brought a man to share it
A jovial old cove, just like herself
with a limp and a cane and – as well –
a beard and a cowboy hat: his special style.

No romance here, just pals
who'd known each other some decades ago.
He with a soft laugh, warm baritone;
she with a snap like a fox.
For some funny reason they walked Indian file
up the hill as they shouted to each other
back and forth.
In summer they gardened as well as they could
And daily they stumped downhill to the mall.
Who knows what went on in the still of the night.

Together they traversed that hill by my house.
She with a walker and then the two canes.
He with a baritone laugh you could love
she with a snap like a fox.
She was the braver of the two
Her afflictions quite bad, you could see.

For a year her face was a map of pain.
And for a year the Citizens Aid
kept an eye on them both.
They sent her a nurse with the cheeriest of ways
to come in a Honda and see all was well.

Then later, much later, the garden lay limp.
What happened, said the neighbours,
where was the cowboy
the one with the baritone laugh
and the gal who could snap like a fox.

And where had she gone,
the nurse with the Honda and cheeriest of ways?
And what of the garden they'd tended so well?
All gone on that summer's day
when I happened to pass
that house on the hill.



The Train to Nowhere

I saw a subway going nowhere, full of friends and relatives who had passed away, Francos and Stalins arguing vehemently, although I couldn’t make out what they were saying, as the train went further and further down the tracks into oblivion, at least from here. As Albert Einstein says, our perception of time and space is relative to our point of view, and I could no longer see these dead people but I certainly went on hearing them in my head, in my heart and in little objects like symbols of them lying about the house, covered in yellow autumn leaves, dusty photographs for instance and home videos about the dead, about those who preceded us and made the same mistakes as us many times before. Partial stop. Pause. This subway was going deeper and deeper into the darkness of the subway tunnels, and we mentioned these dead people less and less often. Most of them died without making any noise, in a hospital ward, with a mask over their face, with tubes attached to their arms, nurses milling about unawares that one of these patients had made his getaway, committing the sin of jailbreak, leaving the rest of us prisoners of time and space very much connected to the seasons of our blindness and ignorance. Oh look, there goes a passenger of the subway, flying over the moon. The clouds of time swallowed him up quickly, didn’t they? Meanwhile, newborns and teenagers launched off bravely into the fray, unconscious to a degree of the heartaches and broken limbs that awaited them as they boarded the subway into death. And by the time you have buried half your friends and most your family, you are all busted up and relieved to be leaving this place. Amen.

(October 15, 2011)



Abnormal Brain Sonnet

My head is on the other side of the room
while I sit here with a book in my hand
(What Remains by Christa Wolf -- it's good!).
All of a sudden I can't read a word of it.
Where my head used to be there's a cloud.
What the heck, I think to myself. What gives?
I look around and all of a sudden I see it
sitting on a mat on the floor by the door.

Thank God I found it. I couldn't live without it.
That'd be even worse than losing my wallet.
It returned to me as soon as I found it.
I didn't even have to go and get it.
But it took its time floating back and re-
positioning itself perfectly on my neck.

(June 6/09)



Practical People I've Known

I was wondering if I know any practical people...
Well, I do...

There's Fred

who timed his marriage, moved it ahead

(from when his fiancee wished it)

to beat the deadline for his income tax

claiming his wife for the year past

as a dependant

yes, there's Fred

who proudly said

he rejoiced when his first child was born

a year later to the day

beating the deadline again

for another tax break!

And Merle
there's Merle
after telling me his little girl
had been run over on the street and killed
said it happened New Year's Day
as luck would have it
one day into the new year
enabling him to claim her
for the full year that year as a dependant
(when she'd only been there for half a day!)

(October 2011)


The Bridge

Wrestling with her on the bridge
keeping the muzzle pointed skywards
never expecting this...
I'd kissed her like old times
before she drew the gun
screaming hitting at me
as I took it from her
and suddenly going over the rail
gripping me tight
taking me with her

It's funny it wasn't like falling
but like flying backwards into the wind
hanging onto her by her sweater

the fabric stretching
trying to draw her to me
against the current of the wind
her screams horrible screeches from her
she knew we were falling and how far
nothing but concrete down there
my mind on the gun she'd taken from her purse
a little revolver meaning to shoot me

Hers was a rough savage kiss

(October 2011)




Why does a man in space,
suited white against the sucking cold,
grip his air cord hard?
Pasted like paper against the India black,
blotting a billion tiny points of heat,
why does Flash Gordon float
in the dangling dark that never answers,
never speaks,
whose surface membranes
never tear?
Why not

cut the cord?



Sometime past it was.
Poor Mrs. Justice,
the wet club mosses stood
like rubber thumbs.
Running up the corky trunks
pursued by buzzing meganeurons,
without a bailiff, the whole circus

ran and grumbled, jumpy as hell.
Big-bodied bugs bumped and
slipped among the gymnosperms,
sigillariae, lepidodendrons,
the lot. Huge ferns fondling
the dank air, rustling their
three-foot fingers. The atmosphere
rolled off in beads – big tropic
drops – splat! all over the slithering
florifaunae. The damp, delicate
lady in her robes, seed pods popping
at her feet, weighed the baby lizards
as they hatched, scuffing their leathery
shells. Rude? Mister, they slid off
the scales and bit her legs.
She had no statute to cover it.
Oh, those creepy, crawly things!
It was too much, too many
scratchy feet. Lush,
it was, all green and coupling.
She screamed, and it ran on
without her. That's where it started,
by the Book, that's what it was.
It just ran on--and here we are
with one end of it still growing
like a rampant train. With all
those slithery feet, now,
could it be any different?


Ultra Brite

What name should you give it?
What rhyme
for the list of crimes?
A claw age,
an age of gouged eyes,
of smoke
and deep pits,
dying in dark corners,
peering, suspicious,
sifting the ashes
of hacked limbs
and hiding in holes.

through a thousand tubes
it screams:
"This is the age
of Ultra Brite,
the toothpaste
that keeps your smile
whiter than white!"



Unknown Cousin

Grand Lake freezes over
and the sun abruptly falls
into the forest
and I hear you
skating homeward
from the Service
as you often did
the few Sundays
of your youth.

Soon you glide
into our cove,
your breath
a cone of silver
in the moonlight.

Your head is dancing
With the brown eyes
Of your girlfriend,
The sermon based
On Matthew 13:10,
And the bravos
Of the village
As you outskated
All contenders
in the impromptu race.

There is no other way
I can explain
how you who grew

to manhood

on the lake

forgot about

the spring

that never freezes




(Inspired by "The Watchers"
Of Peter von Tiesenhausen

Though scorched by the flames
that blackened most of the Earth,
the Watchers are able to sense
the Atlantic glinting before them.

At their core they remain
able to hear however faintly
the voice of their guide
over eons of 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.



Unbutton My Skin
(After "Woman in Black (1882)" by Mary Cassatt)

Beads of sweat form on the artist’s brow
as she unbuttons my skin:
my brokenness, crumpled and damp,
a lace handkerchief in my hands
grief, a bun twisted tightly on top of my head,
let down only at night,
a tangle of sobs against my pillow.

I am a bird realizing the window is made of glass.
I cannot pass through that dazzling pane.

Brush strokes,
great sweeps of paint.
The vertical seams, the fitted waist,
the high collar of my dress binds and plates my body
the way my child asleep in the next room
is the brilliance
at the edges of the blind before I rise.



An Old Professor Dies at Home

He looked like Ricky Nelson in his youth,
such high-born features of privilege; Indian of course,
not aboriginal. But told the seminar how the London
school bus driver called him snowball. I show my Maliseet
wife his yearbook photo: “He looks like uncle Bucky.”
All that high literacy, Cambridge, the mighty stick of
class, just so many broken cricket bats. In the wake of
sixties radicals and revolt, he promoted Shakespeare, Sidney
and Spenser—Spenser! He should have championed
Fanon, Walcott and C.L.R. James, great radical and cricket
lover rolled in one. Did he read Ondaatje or see himself
in the pages of Naipaul? All that lousy politics amid such fine
prose. He became a Catholic and like my mother died
by inches of diabetes: bloated amputee suffering in silent
isolation, the image of Brando, not as Kurtz but Brando,
in the lower limits of age and the upper reaches of the Mekong.



The Passion of "Les Gens" in the Parish of St John Baptist

You see them every day in dirt
Even on Sunday in dirt
And you ask as you walk the street
That afternoon, drunk
What will become of you.

You ask – but the spectacle
Exhausts any answer you might find.

The women, stunning when young
Soon undo themselves, clinging
One to another, their children like parcels.

And the street is full of garbage.



Burnt Church

Redcoats swarmed into town. Finding
houses, gardens abandoned--
torched them, one by one. Finally
yellow flames blackened the white church.
Colonel Murray scoffed, as the soul
of the place ascended as smoke--
“Their Holy Ghost smells sweet”.

Rebuilt, baptized with a badge
of sacrilege-- the name spreads like
a stain across the bay-- now there’s
Burnt Church, and Burnt Church Point,
Burnt Church Road, Burnt Church River.

Drifting like smoke
across burnt church Earth.


Piebald, thin as ladders, perpetually
light-headed (the many years
of inhaling solvents); men of surfaces,
of bristled allegiances:
varsol versus turpentine,
heat-gun or scraper.
Each has his way of making paint
adhere to wood. Prone to squabbles--
best left to work alone, or in uneasy pairs.

A wife who left long ago.

The fickleness of paint.

Their nemesis: troops of students
who roll into town each summer
brandishing spray-guns,
slapping on paint with 20-foot rollers;
discussing the weekend
during long breaks beneath the trees.

A painter never takes vacations;
wherever he’d go, he’d see
drips, flakes, jaded pigment:
a world in need of one more coat.

His holidays are rain.



For the Future to Begin

When the rapture comes
That Acadian teenage girl
Will be so disappointed

See how she walks across
Mabou beach here in Cape Breton

Ass undulating
Thigh muscles smooth and taut
Tummy flat with just a hint
In her lower abdomen
Of the womb she's carrying
And the two Fallopian tubes
Waiting on either side
With outstretched arms

For one of those boys running
Suddenly around like a bunch
Of French Revolutionaries
With their heads cut off

Waiting for the future to begin

On the Skyline Trail

When the rapture comes you discover
You've been on the Skyline Trail

Boring mostly
The path straight and narrow
Grey gravel
Wedged between hackmatacks
Broken occasionally
By a spectacular view

Or a sudden panic

The crack of a branch
In the underbrush
Could be a startled moose
About to charge
Or a pack of coyotes
About to attack
As happened to that girl
A few years back

The cautionary tales of those
Who have gone before

It is forbidden to step off the path

Nevertheless you turn to admire
A mushroom or a feathered fern

Or drink from a mountain brook

Or you take a chance and walk a ways
In what is obviously an animal's tracks

Mostly you just plod along

Wondering how long the path is
Before you reach the end
Where you've been promised a vision
So stunning

It will take your breath away



license to kill

the hunter who just
argued with me that
he has the right to tramp
my land
came this close
to blowing my head off

it was in his contorted face
his trigger-finger
his profanities

and i know
that if his permit had
Human on it
instead of Small Game

id be a dead duck

goodbye stranger

flesh or thought?

what tells us what
we have or not?

imaginary girlfriend –
song unsung
(real as the imagination
from which you sprung) –

goodbye stranger

whats real and unreal
sometimes fuse

and its what we dont have
thats the hardest to lose


Oh Yeah?

my wife always said
id drink myself to death

but here i am
drunk at her grave
drinking to her health



SHARI ANDREWS' most recent book of poetry is Walking the Sky, Oberon Press. "Unbutton Her Skin" is from a book-length manuscript that explores female identity.

STEWART DONOVAN'S latest collection of poems, From Ingonish Out: New and Selected Poems, will be released by Breton Books for Christmas.

RAYMOND FRASER is a native of Chatham, NB, currently living in Fredericton. His latest books are Repentance Vale (novel, 2011) and The Madness of Youth (novel, 2011).

MARTY GERVAIS is a man of many parts – poet, playwright, publisher, photographer, journalist and boxer, to mention a few. His most recent book is Afternoons With The Devil (2010).

RAYMOND GORDY (alias Roman Gordy) lives in Montreal, where he was once an editor of the magazine Montreal Free Poet: Booster & Blaster. Author of the poetry book Doing Time.

Retired for 22 years, ROBERT HAWKES lives in Fredericton with his wife Peggy Hawkes. He recently retired from a 15 year stint as a volunteer in the UNB Harriet Irving Library Archives and as a co-editor of poetry for The Fiddlehead for the same length of time.

Born in Montreal in 1946, MAX LAYTON is the author of a novel and a collection of short stories, and is currently recording a second CD of original songs. A book of his poems, In The Garden Of I Am, will be published by Guernica Editions in the spring of 2013.

BERNELL MACDONALD was born in O'Leary, PEI, 1948, & educated in the back woods of the Opeongo Mountains and the campus of UNB. One of the Windsor House Poets who went on to publish 11 books and presently working on 11 more, simultaneously.

MICHAEL PACEY was born in 1952 in Fredericton. His first full-length collection of poems, The First Step, was published in Spring 2011 by Signature Editions of Winnipeg.

ROBERT MARKLAND SMITH is probably the only French Canadian called ''Markland.'' He is not a Québécois, although he lives in Montreal, where he moved to in 1964, and where he is currently attempting to raise two wonderful and impossible teenage daughters. He has been published in China and Australia, etc.

DAVID W. MCFADDEN is a poet, fiction writer and travel writer. His latest books are Why Are You So Sad?: Selected Poems (2007), Be Calm, Honey: 129 Sonnets (2009), and Why Are You So Long and Sweet?: Collected Long Poems (2010).

THOMAS F. PAWLICK has been writing poetry since he was 18. He’s now 70, and lives on a dirt road near Marlbank, Ontario. He was involuntarily retired from teaching journalism in 2006, following publication of a book with which his employers disagreed.

ALAN PEARSON (b. 1930) was part of the Montreal poetry scene in the 1960s. Before retiring to Huntsville, Ontario, he worked as a professional writer in Toronto. His fourth and latest book, Exploring Amazement (poetry, 2010), defines his attitude to his art.



Lion's Head Magazine - No. 8, Summer 2009
Editor: Bernell MacDonald

In This Issue
Alan Pearson
Frankie McKibbon
Judy Bowman
Robert M. Smith
Shari Andrews
Thomas F. Pawlick
Tricia Coburn-Mills
Marshall E.O.
Heather Browne
Hilary Prince
Bernell MacDonald

Notes on contributors



Conrad Black

He stands four-square to adversity
there in the court of law;
a silver senatorial head held high.

Great powers are stacked against him
as he awaits his fate, giving nothing away.
His hand grips the edge of the desk;
thick fingers adept at milking the greed
of the fools who seek an easy fortune.

The proud senatorial head will not
be bowed – so large his pride.
Somewhere, yet unsaid, the sentence,
neatly folded inside a sheet,
awaits to be pronounced:
the few words that will close his life
like the door of a rifled vault.

Like a dazed bull he stands in the
blood-soaked sand of the arena.
Pics hang from the glistening hide.

The soft eyes that have
looked long on an inner landscape
are faintly, fleetingly aware
of the erstwhile mansions, the limousines,
and the far-off pleasure spots
that were so easily his for the taking
-- Bora Bora, Paris, Rome.
A final resplendent memory
of himself looms forth
in ermine and scarlet,
powerful among peers.

Before sinking on knees
unused to bending,
he hears the sentence passed.
As his living death begins
the small hand of his only companion
slips from his.
Then, as the cell door closes,
he finds himself alone.

Goodbye Denia

A few words about Denia
will have to suffice
since I shall not see those
well-loved lineaments again.
My home for a year
in a Mill by the sea.

Never again see the old castillo
nor picnic inside those ruined walls—
swallow-sliced, lizard-haunted—
which, at the cocktail hour,
softly float blue shadows below
to sidewalk tables: where Germans
air their virile gutturals
Spaniards rattle Cervantes syllables,
and upper-class Brits
sound-off their la-di-das.

So, in lieu of fading memory,
I go to a page or two of diary
or faded album shots
where nostalgia—ever ready
to wake—resides.

Here in the courtyard
of my ancient Mill,
sounding down corridors of memory,
comes the faint clink of ice in glass.
An afternoon with Doddy and Jenny
or Sally and Guy
in the courtyard by the sea:
here where so many jokes and anecdotes
are underscored by the sound
of sea-shuffled pebbles and shells.

Doddy and Jenny are gone forever, we hear;
and, as for Sally and Guy, we never hear.
They're gone from me like Denia, Spain
and that ancient Mill by the sea.

How To Look At A Painting

First you step boldly into the frame
disregarding the glass, and getting close
to the aquamarine, the rose and the blue,
enjoying the rough kiss of the canvas.

A high-angle view of the bay at Nice,
encompassing arms of a sunny esplanade,
horse-drawn broughams at rest under palms,
and terra cotta roofs, bright orange.

By now you will be savoring a beneficence
of ancient sunlight on your smiling face,
or a splash or two of Triton's brine
veined with a scent of jasmine, shadow-hid.

All this comes gratis with the picture.
Elements of Matisse's day of joy,
laid on the canvas stroke by stroke.
Each daub of pigment took him outwards.

He left the balcony of rustling doves
into volumes of light above the July bay;
canvas and brushes left behind
as he disappeared into intoxication.

Now you're with the painter, happy
beside the richly glowing canvas.
Once the last gull is drawn in place
you will mysteriously soar beside it.

You'll fly high over the esplanade at Nice,
over a twinkling bay of leaning yachts,
all the way back to where you started from
blown fresh by sea winds, revived by mimosa.



Far From Good

They say no one is ugly after 2 am.
If we could see through her make up, perhaps we could tell.
She sits alone with bleach blond hair and dull gray eyes,
Desperate to find a mate,
Luring men with her longing glances.
But she's not the promised pot of honey.
He'll realize this tomorrow morning when he wakes with a sour taste in his mouth.
She'll reek of stale beer and cigarettes,
And he'll rise quietly, dress quickly and step out into the sun's accusing gaze.
And she'll be alone again.

Tavern Sundays, Chateau Lafayette

Tavern Sundays are the loneliest days.
I sit on my stool and wait for fresh blood.

Anyone to raise
The veil of quiet.

Without them the only sounds are
The creaking chairs and shuffling feet
Of the regulars.

They are alone.

You wouldn't think so because their tables are full,
But they never speak.
Their only bond is this place.
Most of them would rather talk to the chairs on which they sit
Than to the person drinking across from them.

Some of them do.

Others just sit in the cigarette smoke,
Little St. Glebs* waiting for their death.
But if death doesn't come they'll have another beer,
And if I won't serve them a beer, they'll retire to their one room upstairs
And sleep,
And wait.
Wait for Tomorrow
And beer
And death
Their Holy Troika.
* Sts. Boris and Gleb were the younger sons of Grand Prince Vladimir (Kievan Rus, circa 988). They peacefully accepted death at the hands of their brother Svyatopolk's assasins

Written While Working At The Layfayette House

And tonight there'll be excess.
Beer will flow fast and free,
‘Til the barkeep cuts them off that is.
They'll feast on tavern fare and pale draught.

Our bar is aptly named, for it is their Chateau,
The banquet hall for these Dukes and Lords of the Market.

Christmas and Easter mean nothing to them.
Why would they?
Christmas comes once a year,
Welfare cheques come monthly.

By Monday they'll be more cautious.
In three days they'll be more careful.
In three days they'll have spent
Half their cheques, with a whole lot of month left to live
But tonight that means nothing,
Tonight there'll be excess.



Interpreting The Dialogue Of Trees

This man has been taught to wait,
to survive. His skill at sleeping upright has been honed
into a keen ability to keep his head upright,
unwavering, on the wrinkled stem of his neck.
He inhabits a time and place where lush trees
lean over fields shelled into fresh,
excavated graves where bones cross bones.

Braced on the strong limbs, shielded
by the stubby palms of maples, he perches
high enough for the landscape to reveal
in the leafy dialogue between pine and birch
the pathways through which his prey will approach.

Once he tagged a ten point buck,
dressed it, took the head, replaced the dull brown sclera
with shiny brown glass, and displayed it in his house.
Here he waits for the shrubbery to speak, waits for the glint
of ordnance, for the opponent to emerge from green,
like deer.
He scenting the breeze, tasting the silence
for a single clean shot.

He spends hours checking his wallet, fingers coins
like a rosary. In soft mumbles
he affirms and reaffirms the mechanics of his rifle,
the clarity of his scope, adding and subtracting
the bullets at his waist.

A sparrow pierces the summer air with an aria
one, that could make men long to lay down rifles
and weep for home, but it fades in the warning of trees.

Hours after the echo of his rifle fades, the sniper descends
into deeper shadows. At dusk, the face of his kill
is blurred, looks less like man than beast. He knifes
off insignia, conscripts gun and wallet, will log
this proof of strike in later examination. Now he must hide
and seek new interpretations in the dialogue of trees.

("Interpreting the Dialogue of Trees" appeared in Room of One's Own 29.4)

For Leo

This morning I walk in a gray silk dawn
at French Fort Cove. The gravel path twists
down through horsetail ferns arching
from layered shale. Infant brooks birthed
in the spring run-off, comb through winter-bleached
tangles of maidenhair. An ant
navigates a sail of leaf, tacking
through waves of folded rock.

Beside the boardwalk a log is beached
in the shallows. Countless species thrive
under shelters of bark. Fleets of insects skim the forests
of eel grass sprouting from the wood's friable marrow,
while chubs, frogs, turtles shelter
in the breakwater of branches.

This evening Leo's bones moan
like an old tree in a gale, he topples,
sinks, submerged in his rippled sheets. Dreams eddy
around his placid face. His faces twitches in a half-smile.
His legs are testimonies, logs of all his voyages.
His feet, once burnt black in a ship's explosion,
are curled, brittle as cinders.

His calves are peppered with black, pocked
Karposi colonies, multiplying daily along his veins,
shooting upward. See his ears:
furry, silver gray cocoons, soft
in appearance but crisp to touch,
rigid as silver dollars.
Imagine a later time: the cracking
of chrysalis, winged creatures emerging,
journeying to other worlds.

When Leo falls, he will continue.
Like the tree in the cove, his body
is already an expanding universe.

Bear Skin

Her paws, articulated metatarsals, much like mine,
claw the mulch and muck of forest and streams
for food while I pick tins off shelves.
On concrete my feet are bound in three inch soles,
my arches shored up with rubber to cushion
the blows from the ground.
The road unfurls away from the light of town
and in the growing darkness, I know she's there
off to the right, stalking a parallel course. I graduate
from walk to run down a tunnel of trees.
Luna moths dispense the moon's light over us.
She lumbers through clinging tendrils of spruce,
breaks the brittle forks of deadwood, relishing the pull
of these tines through her matted hair. Our six feet
gallop, body musks join like hands in air. She knows
the hunter gave me a gift. The pelt was never bear,
at the radical limits of stretching, never more than cub.
I filled it's skin with fluff, sewed head to chest, and put it
in my bed with faux bears with shiny button eyes, toothless
behind a felt leaf tongue. But his bear I cuddled, skin to hair
each night, carried its scent with me everywhere.
My body heaves through door. Door cracks the turbid
silence. Keep her at bay with barricades of butter knives and chairs.
In bed under heavy cover, my stomach spoons the curved bear back.
I stroke skull, imagine a gleam of comfort in the black bead eyes. My
hand rests over my own cub, right now little more than a fish
a bear would savour at a stream, yet large enough to splash in my own brine.
Snuffles and groans rise to my open window. Is that the rasp of hide on shingle?
The fog of breath on glass?
My little fish lunges from shore to shore, attempts to leap
the ladder of my ribs. My teeth bare gums. My fingers curve like claws.

At Four In The Morning

This is what appears on the back stage of her retina at four in the morning: an old soldier, his face a rigid tragedy; his hands, talons tearing the mesh of air; her hands and arms, sliding, skidding on his rippled gray skin, as slick and drenched as rain-swept tarmac. Once she heard a rabbit dying in a snare; a memory revived by the reverberation of his groans and weeping, his prayers flung against the walls of his room. She lies to him about his son coming—yes, soon, I promise—then passes him like money to ambulance attendants. In the digital blinking of time she asks Job's question, wanting something more for this man, and more for herself someday. But she gets a horrifying non-answer. And at four in the morning, she can still smell his sweat on her soap-scrubbed skin.

"At Four in the Morning" appeared in Rattle, Winter 2007




I've never been very good at being civilized
I don't want to be a brick on a wall
I don't want to go to heaven

I want to write my poems in the sky
I celebrate little girls skipping rope
I want to be in the wind blowing across the Siberian tundra
I want to be a mountain lion in the Sierras
I want to live in the hoot of the owl

Give me a breeze, rather than a hurricane
Give me a breast rather than a tank
Give me a nurse or a secretary over a chief executive officer
There are no generals in my universe

Oh boy, here is civilization – a red light, a green light
A Kentucky fried chicken store on the corner
Drunken old winos lying on the sidewalk
A policeman kicking the shit out of rioters
A board of directors discussing armaments

Freedom! Freedom!
I want to leave this civilization,
But there is nowhere to go
They have paved the forests
And invented a medication
For every form of demon possession

Let me die, with a tube up my nose and a nurse by my side

(October 18, 2008)

New World Order

you go through the turnstile
you get processed into the metro
angels ascend and descend on Jacob's ladder
you see something human at the foot
of the escalator, dirty and panhandling
you see ads on the station walls
girls in bikinis having just the time of their lives
on a vacation in Cuba
while Cubans just outside the hotels
starve and survive the American boycott

what does this have to do
with the war in Bosnia
with the war in the Persian Gulf
with the battle of Armaggedon

can gangsters make enough profit
selling Kentucky Fried Chicken
in former Iron Curtain countries?

the subway cars rush into the station
a huge metal caterpillar
zooming in like the twenty-first century

George Orwell's cameras are there for good measure
in case some sixteen year old
scribbles graffiti on subway walls

bombed out cities
Salman Rushdie's on the run
so am I
I am running away from Ronald Reagan
and John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher
hollow eyes muzak eyes
starving children
fierce jazz burning eyes out
America out of control
America country of anarchy

in 1969, I threw a brick through the window
of the American Consulate on Pine Avenue in Montreal.
I only wish I had thrown a Molotov cocktail

(May 4, 1995)


Five is for 5:00 o'clock in the morning – that's when my baby leaves for work for work on the South Shore, where she works she works on a golf course; it's the time when the metro starts, and you see immigrant workers off to factories with their lunch box their tool box, and the security guards in uniform are half-asleep, dreaming of their girlfriends –

Five is for the fifth step out of the twelve steps, when you confess when you read your inventory to the sponsor to the priest to the shrink; five is for honesty, and it's a relief to dump your inventory.

Five is for the fifth dimension and Ouspensky, it's the dimension of cosmic consciousness, of God-awareness, of seeing the earth as a pinpoint in a galaxy of one hundred thousand stars among a hundred million galaxies in space where there is no up or down or sideways, only a constant expansion towards the outer limits of darkness of night, hungry for more expansion.

Five is for the Pentagon, an evil geometric figure where generals and secretaries and officials and bureaucrats plan the next war – you ain't seen nothin' yet – and they give out defense contracts to companies who design manufacture sell weapons to kill to maim and it is not like on television no sir.

Five is for five-pointed stars that witches wear Celtic witches who were burned at the stake by the Church by the thousands by the five thousands by the millions because they practiced illegal medicine and had to be rubbed out –

Five is for the five fingers of each hand which allows me to write to draw to punch to play piano to play trumpet to write graffiti on walls which is the only recourse left for some young artists –

Five is the number of points of the sheriff's badge in the Western movies the cowboy extravaganzas shoot-m-ups where the cops think they live –

Five is the number of real friends you might have in a lifetime friends who'll visit you in a hospital where I'm dying, dying of a heart attack of cancer.

Five –

(June 30, 2005)



No Feathered Shuffling

Icy fangs hang along the eaves
as the cat pads across the table
taking the time to stretch each leg,
each paw luxuriously
just inches from the woman's nose
the way her youngest son
marks dates on the calendar, draws up a budget
now that he is preparing to leave.

The washing machine performs
its lonely belly dance in the next room
and her thoughts
are layers of snow on the spruce,
the roof of the bird feeder
so that the yard barely breathes
when she takes in her hands this empty nest,
turns it over and over

to see what emptiness is made of:
brittle leaves, bits of twine, sharp twigs,
an upside-down hat
where there is no feathered shuffling,
no two-step that her mind can do,
no settling of her arms and legs
inside such prickly walls
surrounding the hollow left behind.

(Originally published in "Letting Go, An Anthology of Loss and Survival" edited by Hugh MacDonald, Black Moss Press, 2005)

Lost To Her

The seemingly erratic way a bee flies,
bumbles really from blossom to blossom
without apparent territory,
but rather engrossed perhaps in the drone,
the song of its wings,
a blur in the breeze.

She wonders if bees know this as happiness,
the way he is lost to her at this moment,
knows she would have to bellow
to pull him from his reverie
of molding to his use
every flake of snow that falls in the yard.

She hears the engine rev
as he puts it in reverse, then forward.
The blade of the plough he jerry-rigged
to the front of the pick-up
scoops and pushes the banks
into even rows on either side of the driveway.

She gazes at him through the window,
a figurine in a china cabinet,
until the light as it falls
fills her with liquid honey,
until it doesn't matter anymore
that it was this kingdom

and not her face he anticipated
as he pushed the blankets off and dressed.

(Originally published in "Letting Go, An Anthology of Loss and Survival", edited by Hugh MacDonald, Black Moss Press, 2005)


She draws the blind down against the darkness,
encloses instead, guitars and flutes.
Their music is long fingers of light
tapping her skull, her breastbone like drums.

There can be no grieving beneath this bulb
that reflects the yellow pine table
back to her like sun
on the still pond of summer.

In her hands she wrings the red, the gold
gilt from the edges of leaves,
the scent of apples from branches
and the sky is snapped, a sail so taut it tears.

She knows this boat,
her own curved ribs
steering away from her.

(Originally published in No. 235, Spring 2008 issue of The Fiddlehead.)




April runs wet,
shining slick
black trees —
A word,
The leaves
speak sentences
in green.

Nine To Five

Days dawn,
bright with paperclips,
cubicle doors
Careful clerks
flash IBM smiles,
retracing their steps
on linoleum tiles.
Circuits snap,
adding the time,
subtracting each card
from five through nine,
from sunrise,
heavy with insignificance.

Ribbons uncurl.
The ink
in a thousand stamp-pads

Sensing Subversion

I want to make you uneasy,
sensing subversion
somewhere, somehow
out of step
out of line
deviating from the straight line
hunt it down

to see you
curl your lip. Sneer.
Born Again, holier-than-thou
knowing it all,
tall in the saddle
rock-ribbed, reciting

then slap you,
feel the back of my hand
on safety
and slogans
knock you
right on over

I want to wake you




I hear a knock on the door
I arise to answer it
But no one is there
I am alone
I pick up the phone
There is no one to talk to
I am alone
The silence pierces my soul
My heart beats rhythmically
I am entranced in its music
I am alone
My thoughts collide inside my head
There's no one who will listen
Droning on through the day
I go to sleep unsatisfied
Tomorrow I will still be alone

Future's Past

Misinterpreting lies by which we are bound
For each notion, thought movement already known
Never alone, eyes upon us though unseen
The accountable steal primal survival instincts
Diversions on a larger scale while all unaware
A worldly crisis is not what it appears
Untrained leaders targeted as children
Centuries they have known though trust non-existent
Non conformity battles elimination for our future
The human race dwells deeply below an unbeatable source
Images obtained by allowable knowledge
Ruled by vanity as each races to beat the best
Our future decreases as we are made to follow what we create
All control eventually is lost as false intelligence presents itself
Our fate remains known to those who don't speak
Our last, innocent words spoken freely from inside the womb

Second Look

The soft warm breeze caresses my face
The rustling of the trees entrances me
Nature's music soothes my soul
I achieve inner peace when I am alone
The world stands still, it no longer exists
The heat from the sun engulfs my glistening body
I feel it getting warm
White clouds resembling cotton slowly float by
I feel the urgent need to fly
To hear the wind whispering so soft
I breathe in the fresh untouched air
I can breathe freely
Wishing it would never end
I go back to the world that is someone else's fantasy

The Mask

Behind the mask is where I hide
Never feeling free
Take all the emotions that burn inside
No one will ever see
Who exactly am I?
A question I know all too well
Without an answer 'til the day I die
My life has become my hell
No one to confide in
To take my mask off so slow
knowing that I'll never win
Not knowing where to go
Acceptance of this fate is clear
Not knowing when I'm free
Without a guide to hold me dear
Still longing to be me



The Artist, Canadian, Maritimer Are All Babies

The Master Artisan wearing nothing,
An orange street light dimming,
Finds repose
Only in his flask and pack of cigarettes.
He frolics in self pity
To be dazed by ambition
Forgotten in Quebec
Unenlightened to the Quebecois accent.

The Canadian, living vicariously,
A boy bound by sainthood,
Has benefit
Only from wheat and cod.
He dances freely in tolerance or prairies
Winding up absent
Dependent on cocaine in Kelowna
Not understanding the work of vineyards.

The Maritimer, losing lent money,
A defeatist winning,
Sees solely
Albertans and Newfies.
Races left unexplained by their province
Lustful of equalization or abundance
And gone to the East or West
As far-flung as they can potentially get.

The baby, left to bleakly cry,
Alone in darkness,
Finds solace
In his fathers voice and arms.
He cries for little but comfort
Is damned to humanity
Left alone on the wrong side of the highway
Unable to see color.

In Calgary, In Bed Alone

my bed wasn't made so i could be alone.
the hands that put
its spongy fibers together
didn't intend for it to be a place of selfishness.
They had no plans for it at all
only for it to be created
for two almost corpses
that could hold each other
while they creep to somewhere salacious.
It was made for delving into.
For unthinking and unmaking,
rethinking and remaking




Robin sings by the river. "Cheer-up"
Its early singing my own mother's glee.
While a chickadee
hones its beak against
a wet limb, small leafings also
lilac's dove-tail the sky.
Between the old house and the barn
my breath's snagged.


It is for this robin's rhetoric
I put down my pen.
For the chickadee's desultory flitting
from trunk to limb. For the abandoned
pups in the barn struggling blindly
For the sake of these and a robin's song
I have been caught out of myself
like a lilac bud breaking its wax
Assuming blue sky
I've sung with the robin this day.
In the end, what is more than this?

A Fastness In Song

When the robin is located just so,
between a coursing river
and the barn's bulk
her robin-note deepens.
She falls in love
with a phrase tugging
like a current. The bank of her breast
appoints the river as her bass player, its white rips
her Piccolos. In this orchestration
she thus steadies her heart.


O talisman
you've alighted
in the parking lot
to turn me around
I've no need now to worry now about
a rotted carrying beam,
the age of my flue,
or your returning.
I've only to laugh
at your sweet antics,
Small One.
You say Tree. You say Branch.
For those who have ears.


In this frozen land
execute my will, Chickadee.
Divide these holdings--
a branch's faint
trembling; the translucence
of one icicle. Hold,
dear bird, the song
in your throat long
after I have fled.

A Ballad After The Miller Inquiry

A chair with wooden arms.
A twenty-year-old television.
Diplomas forgotten in the barn—
Testamentary to life's decisions.
Wood patterns like fire on a door
And paper wadded on my floor.
A creamy Wyeth print:
Plate and cup without the glory
Of a fork. But when studied through
His window another story—

A log, cinch, chain and bore.
Add twenty-three years to the store
Of stuff: 6 Press back chairs, one
Broken rung, a table scored many scratches.
A few clothes, a pen, one red rug,
Two green candles, one penny matches.
One black sofa, a Log Cabin quilt.
Book of poems. The often-replayed songs:
Maria Callas' arias, my beloved Chieftain's
"Mo Ghile Mher". And blessed light
To contain what's again been arranged—
Twice in less than a year. Meanwhile, add Spite,
Also, its cousin, Fear, to the meddling score
For a paper Legion parades my floor.
This, the listing of Loss and Things.
Now add another's: "The Auction"
Above my desk: their stalwart faces sting.
A farmer, his wife, a three-pronged fork
Held like a pike.Their house foreclosed.
Add this to the memoir. But there is more—
Manuscript, letters, pleasures, books.
These, when told, the brush to lift my hair.
Outside: a barn, field, an unruly brook,
A bird playing the common air.
Each day a number for the Word- store.
Papers at attention rank this floor.
There are receipts, the final proof of paying.
They rest on desks. My grandfather's plaster walls
Hold the lot: note, quote, and saying.
There is time, twenty years I'm bidding on to call
Upon what I know: poetry and warring,
A paper rifle, an enormous bore.



The Gift

When panic tenants the space
Don't fear emptiness.
In a clear open landscape
The soul prepares.

When all is ready
Exquisite pictures fill the space,
Colour and light return.

Part of the plan, the void
Cleanses, makes us ready to share
The precious gifts.

Mysteriously the gift
Is ours if we do not
Fear the emptiness.

When all is ready
Celebrate the fullness.
When daily pleasures pale
Bounty pours in.



Old Photograph

my mother
is not yet seventeen

is most beautifully smiling
in the afternoon sun; i tell you
that moment
will never cease being

her feet are stained
with red Island clay

her long wild hair
moves with the summer breeze

and in the trees, trees
too incredibly high
for any photograph

birds are singing



SHARI ANDREWS' fifth collection of poetry, "Walking the Sky", was published in 2005 by Oberon Press. She is currently fine-tuning a book-length manuscript for which she won a NB Arts Board Creations Grant.

JUDY BOWMAN's work has appeared in numerous publications including Vagrant Review of New Fiction, Rattle, Room of One's Own, Qwerty, as well as several newspapers and magazines. For several years, she wrote features and a weekly column for her local paper. She has recieved two emerging artist grants from NBART as well as awards for fiction. The achievement she is most proud of is the Miramichi Leader's Readers' Choice Award 2009 for Favourite Journalist.

HEATHER BROWNE hails from Sussex, New Brunswick and is a two-time graduate of the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton. Her MS of poems, Griefwork, is presently looking for a publisher.

30-something TRICIA COBURN-MILLS is a mother of two residing in Brantford, Ontario. She has been writing poetry since she was a little girl — a passion that has been inherited by her two young sons.

BERNELL MACDONALD is the author of 11 books, the latest, Zoopoesies, consisting of illustrated educational poems directed at young readers.

MARSHALL E.O. is the creator and editor of Nonymous, a literary quarterly from Fredericton, NB. Marshall studies at St. Thomas University and is bound to remain in Fredericton, the city of his birth, until his exile.

A native of Millerton, New Brunswick, FRANKIE MCKIBBON makes his living as a travelling teacher. He has taught from New Brunswick to China and, at time of publication, is preparing to teach in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. He is does not call himself a writer, but hopes you enjoy his words as much as he enjoyed scribbling them.

THOMAS F. PAWLICK, who uses the F. to differentiate himself from a mad scientist of similar name (all physicists are mad), is a journalist and part time farmer who lives near Bernell MacDonald. He is working on a book of news-oriented poems and photos called Press Conference, and like most poets still looking for a publisher.

British born ALAN PEARSON (b. 1930) was part of the Montreal poetry scene in the 1960s, and before retiring to Huntsville, Ontario, worked as a professional writer in Toronto. His third book was Flashing on all Facets. The next one Exploring Amazement, due out soon, defines his attitude to his art.

HILARY PRINCE is a writer living in Montague, P.E.I. She is also an energy worker and is facilitator of P.E.T. - Positive Energy Transfer - and Reiki group for the last ten years.

ROBERT SMITH was once a bum. Now he is a family man raising two teenage monsters. Occasionally, he dreams and writes poetry.

Cover art: Bernell MacDonald



Lion's Head Magazine - No.7, Spring 2008
Guest Editor: Cedric Maugham

Special Spring Issue:
The Fraser-MacDonald "Ernest Buckler" Correspondence


Ernest Buckler


The Raymond Fraser / Bernell MacDonald Letters
Relating Principally to Ernest Buckler
With Incidental References to Alden Nowlan, Fred Cogswell and
the US Invasion of Iraq


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser
Date: 04 Nov 2002
Subject: Let it sleet, let it sleet, let it sleet

Ray! Just writing this to bother you. Bet you can't stop reading right now and delete it. See? So predictable and caught! I just got back from the bush where I got rained on and then sleeted on---not those nice little gentle ice pellets that you can open your mouth for and have fun with (the kind that Ernest Buckler might write about) but those big cold wet ones that drench you and make you curse all weather phenomena in general including sunshine and inevitable ascension into Heaven. And the tree got caught up and my chainsaw stuck and when I finally got the log home it rolled over and I couldn't get the chain unhooked so it's still there, wrapped around the end of the log behind the barn where I hope it rusts to death. So I'm having a glass of extra-spicy Clamato right now with the hope that it will make me as happy as a clam. I'm watching the mud puddle outside my window waiting for the tide to come in for maximum effect.
Sent MONSTER ["The Monster of Moneymore", a novel MS] off to Ekstasis this morning. This afternoon I got to get my animal book ["The Great Trivia Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom, Vol I"] ready to send off somewhere too. By the time it gets published all 1.75 million extant species will probably be extinct.
No good answering this particular e-mail unless you have really lousy rotten news to give me---or at least good news that can be delivered in a really lousy rotten way.

"It's no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be."
-- Frank McKinney Hubbard (alias: The Bastard Rat)



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 07 Mar 2003
Subject: Letters

Ray: Got 3 letters from you: the first, the second (stating I wouldn't get the first), and just now, the first again. 3 letters, right?
I've been doing heavy-duty work with a light-duty mind (great opportunity here for you). Got half of what I lost on my encyclopedia back [Book in progress: "The Great Trivia Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom, Vol II"; the loss resulted from a computer surge-protection failure.] Also sent my kids' book ["The Talking Animals", an illustrated book for children] off to a new publisher here in Ontario called MAPLE TREE PRESS. All they publish are childrens' books.
Just mailed MONSTER off to Marty Gervais. Had a dream about him and Fred [poet Fred Cogswell -- photo on right] and you last night---Fred and Marty were fighting (physically) about something on TV (Mr. Green Jeans) then tumbled out of the set onto my living room floor. I opened the window and yelled for you to come see (you were fighting with some kindergarten kids---seriously). Fred and Marty realized they were in "real life" now so straightened up and pressed their suits with their hands. Fred introduce me to Marty and I said I had a MS to send him. He said go ahead, and so I did, about 1/2 hour ago.
As Ernie Buckler used to say (in every single letter) MY MIND IS SUET. Haven't been sleeping well and never took that day off that I said I would.
Don't know if you'll get this since your FAN [Fredericton Area Network free internet connection] isn't working. What am I telling you for? My computer isn't working the best. PROPERTIES show lots of space but I can't download songs because I haven't any, according to my EAC program.
Called up Ontario Arts to verify the next deadline. It's April 1 so will get that off into the mail tomorrow. $12,000 they're going to give me. I'll be able to keep my chipmunk and buy back his stripes.

(that's what old Emmy, the English woman who died a couple of years ago always called me).

PS: Used lots of names in my address to Marty: Fred's, Alden's and lastly (but not leastly) yours.
I did plenty of Catholic Lent duty as a kid. Then one Ash Wednesday decided to give up believing in God and it became a life-long habit. And I'm still here, ain't I?


From: Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
Subject: Rajiid

Berja: What the heck is Rajiid and Dasyat etc? Something from that favourite fantasy novel of yours (forget the name)? Speaking of name-dropping, did you really used to correspond with Ernest Buckler (whose mind was suet every letter)? If you really did used-to those missiles would raise the value of your collected letters considerably. Five or six of his would probably be worth one of mine, or damned close to it.
As you can see I'm being thorough, going through your ees (that's short for e-mails, and can go in your dictionary ["A Dictionary of Neoverbology", a Bernell MacDonald book in progress] and remarking on whatever is remarkable, the reason being I plan to get back to work tomorrow on QUANN ["Joe Quann", a Raymond Fraser novel in progress], but not today.
Sorry to hear you're in the grippe of the colde. I had three of them last year.
"Big wheel keep on toinin',
Proud Mary keep on boinin'..."
That's what he says. You hoid him, Boinie.
Last girl I was supposed to go to a movie with stood me up also. We met for a coffee and got along quite nicely and everything was set and then she didn't call when she was supposed to in order to confirm our movie date and wouldn't answer her phone when I phoned her. I reached her a few days later and she said she had called me but had got my answering machine and the voice didn't sound like mine so she didn't leave a message. Then she disappeared. Quit her job and left town and was never seen or heard from again. Pretty mysterious, wouldn't you say? One might think a jealous rival for either her or my affections got wind of our assignation and whispered in her ear that I was an axe murderer. Or it might have been the Great Being watching out for me, protecting me from those who would take half my $123 CPP pension and my house if I had one. Or half my collection of priceless Boinie MacDee letters.
Great poetry in that Sinatra song WHEN I WAS SEVENTEEN IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR, eh? So much conjured up in so few words.
Over and out.


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 11 Mar 2003
Subject: Trouble with Quann

Sultan Rahman: All I was saying with the RAJA thing, in my usual overpaced subliterary way, was that if you were the fish known as the RAY you'd be called RAJA in Latin. Or if you prefer, RAJIID since that is the English of the true ray family RAJIIDAE. But if you were an electric ray (having the electric personality you do at times) you'd be placed in the electric ray family TORPEDINIDAE, the members of which in English are simply called torpedos. So your name would be TORPEDO. But, when in a venomous mood, we'd have to place you in the stingray family DASYATIDAE, the members being known in English as stingrays or DASYATIDS or DASYATS (my own). I failed to mention that if you thought you were above these lowly rays, you could be placed in the eagle ray family MYLIOBATIDAE, making you a MYLIOBATID. And if you said to hell with the whole thing, why, that would put you in the devil ray family MOBULIDAE making you a MOBULID, normally nicknamed MANTA. Pretty boring meaningless stuff, eh? Coincidentally enough, I start working on fish this afternoon and it all starts with sharks and rays.
Old Ernie and I exchanged letters for a couple of years. Started in 1970 when I was in 3rd year UNB and continued at least until after my son was born (1974) because he signed a book for him (being named David Canaan). I don't know when the letters stopped. It was Fred who told me on the phone that he had died and that was after I moved here---1979. What year did he die? Anyway, never saved his letters. Nor did I save Alden's letters or the hundreds I received from Fred (only started doing that a few years ago.). Ernest's letters weren't much. He was always sick, like I told you---drank too much and took librium with his beer. Mostly he just commented on my poems---always said he liked my poems. He wrote his letters on the old-fashioned writing-pad paper; you know, the small format: 4 x 8 inches or so. Did I ever tell you I stayed with him for a few days (maybe a week)? We were drunk the whole time and played crib and talked poetry. Good thing I had a girl with me to keep us alive. That was in 1971 right after I left UNB. THE GOOD OLD DAYS
The good old days of poem and song
are only "good old days" because they're gone

Ya, I like the lyrics to that song "A Very Good Year". The Turtles have a splendid version of it too. Think it's the same one---written by E. Drake (according to their CD).
Opened both your attachments and saved SULLY'S END [Another Fraser novel in the works] no problem: on C drive, D and floppy. But QUANN won't save anywhere: not in the old C file or in a new one, and not in a D file or on a floppy. In every case I get a note: NOT ENOUGH DISK SPACE. I know my computer isn't quite right, but why can I save one MS and not the other?
Take it your FAN-mail [FAN — Fredericton Area Network, "freenet" internet connection] is working okay now.

A recuperated Bernie

PS: What is the difference between "DISCIPLINE" and "PROGRAM" on an Arts application form? Would, in my case, Discipline be FICTION and program NOVEL?


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, March 13, 11:11 AST
Subject: Again & More

Here's another attempt with QUANN. It's .wpd and should open okay. Other one is ANGELA. Below is something about Alicante and region should you be planning to go there. Will write more in due course. Working on QUANN now. Don't know a field from a discipline. Maybe a field is for outdoorsy disciplinarian sadomasochisticators. Place you can go kick yourself for destroying Al's and Ernie's letters.

Page I ran across on the Net...

Lonely Planet WORLD GUIDE | Destination Alicante | Further Reading | home | search | help| shop |

For a light read, "Spanish Lessons" by Derek Lambert tells of the adventures of a British family who move to the tiny village of La Jara, near Alicante, to try life under the Spanish sun. An at times unintentional study of the problems of being both British and Spanish.

On the dark side, "COSTA BLANCA" [Fiction collection published by Black Moss Press, 2001] by RAYMOND FRASER is a black comedy about an alcoholic writer's search for fantasy among the beaches of Eastern Spain. Provocative, entertaining, disturbing.

"My Kitchen In Spain: 225 Authentic Regional Recipes" by Janet Mendel is a compendium of stories about Spain along with traditional Spanish recipes.

Interestingly enough I met Lambert while in Spain with Sharon, and mentioned him in Costa Blanca.

Ray the Giant Manta


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 13 Mar 2003
Subject: Quann

RAvioli: Got your attachments. QUANN saved on both drives no problem. Didn't know COSTA BLANCA was a comedy though I liked the adjectives "provocative", "entertaining" & "disturbing". ANGIE ["In A Cloud Of Dust And Smoke", a novel by Fraser in MS at this date, subsequently published by Black Moss Press (fall 2003); heroine's name is Angela.] opened with a bizillion little square boxes with some unitelegraphical words by one Raymond Fraser escrambulated in between. Two out of three's not too bad.
Did four things today and got five of them done: sent my Tax forms off, drug forms (Wow, Man! Far Out!), my kids book MS off to another publisher and sent my Arts Council package away. I need the grant really bad, man, just to pay for the postage to apply. The seventh thing I did is documented somewhere within the New Testament (look it up in Proverbs) and the eleventh thing I did is contained within the Old: you'll find it listed, Sir, hidden among the 10 Commandments.
Wow! This sleep-deprivation-trip is really quite amazing! You should try it. Really. It can take you all the way back to the start of the beginning.



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 19 Mar 2003
Subject: ANGIE...?

Ray: Was I supposed to do something other than store this file away for you? It only opened as 151 pages.
Terrible shape. Sick all last night with stomach flu. Finally fell asleep at 2:00 just to be awakened by a great commotion at 3:00. Jumped out of bed thinking someone had broken in. Grabbed a cane I have near the bed to beat the intruder off, hook him by the neck, severely punish him, then make a citizens's arrest---like you're supposed to. Turned out to be my cat who had cornered a squirrel in my bathroom. Somehow this giant squirrel of, let's say, 50 pounds, got into my house. My cat by the way is fairly useless (not to mention 46 pounds lighter than the squirrel) so I closed the door to the bathroom (downstairs small one) and started swinging the cane. The jeezer jumped at me and I couldn't get him off (avoided grabbing him since they have a wicked bite and sometimes don't want to let go). Finally, after he stopped running around me like I was a tree trunk, he jumped on the floor and I clubbed the whore to death. But the mess, Ray. Broke everything in my bathroom but the window. Pill bottles smashed, picture frames, my venetian blind all torn to shit and worst of all my brand new electric razor all smashed to hell. Then I had to pick up glass and wash the blood off the floor.
Wrote Fred today. Also got a letter from Jess Bond who's been bedridden for the past week with pneumonia. Started out as a simple cold, then the flu...
Your selection of classics is as you asked: I just typed in great classic piano pieces and downloaded what the most users had listed---only 8 or 9 pieces since they're long compositions. Think you'll be happy with them although i really do hate that kind of music. Wouldn't be bad stuff if I never had to listen to it.



Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Thu, 20 Mar 2003
Subject: My flu is worse than yours

Bernie: Just store the ANGIE... It's 151 pages because its book page format.
You live in violent woild, Boinie. Poor little 50-lb squirrel. Frightened and jumping into your arms for help. What you could have done, you could have run a string of peanuts from the bathroom to the front door. Or dashed out the door yourself with the little creature clinging by its teeth to your ear-lobe and then gently disengaged him and set him down in his natural habitat. Or you could have -- if you'd ever pay attention to my suggestions -- I was going to say, you could have written me a letter asking what to do before destroying your bathroom and your electric razor and little Sammy the Smiling Squirrel (grinning sadly as rigour mortis set in!).
My floo is getting serious now. The first week it merely skirmished with me. In the middle of the night, in the quiet hush of the squirrelling hour, it rose up and unleashed its full might....
Kleenex? Toilet paper? You have mighty rich tastes, me son. Thick no-name industrial-strength paper towels are the answer, and when they're soggy hang them out on the line to dry.
Another valuable suggestion which you'll no doubt disregard.
Sorry to hear Jesse B. is degenerating.
You would like classical music if you hadn't been forced as a kid to wear short pants and take piano lessons with the girls while all the boys made fun of you. Warped your mind for life is what it did.
From a sick unto death young man,


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 20 Mar 2003
Subject: What I should have done...

was beat the cat to death and kept the squirrel for a pet. My cat got on my nerves so bad threw him outside at 4:00 this morning. All he thinks about is bouncing around the house playing. Nothing I hate worse than playing. Especially when it's fun. I really miss my pet frog Hank. Everything else gets on my nerves. And don't tell me to get a goldfish. I tried that too. Little jeezer got on my nerves more than anything I ever owned---coming up for air like that and gasping and making loud bubbles. Couldn't even enjoy Led Zepplin. I changed his water every 3 months. How greedy can you get? And swimming around and around in that glass like he owned the world. Well he got it---ALL TOILETS LEAD TO THE SEA.

Up Iraq!!


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 21 Mar 2003

Ray: I've been working on my book since 5 this morning, weak and sick that I am. Am doing the second part (the invertebrates) from what I placed in A DICTIONARY OF NEOVERBOLOGY. Just worked my way down to the word "CIRCUMBUTTULATION" (arsing or fooling around). Forgot we had it in there. I think it might have been your word stemming from a close one of mine which I haven't come across yet. Regardless, good word for this military action so far. What?


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Sat, 22 Mar 2003
Subject: entrevue

Brn: I have a strange flu, it's not one but a hundred flues wrapped in one. Each day it seems to be on the wane, and each night I'm attacked by a new strain.
I'm going to interview you to help pass the time. Don't want to start watching War-TV [Iraq invasion] too soon in the day. Question one (I want real answers, in case I can sell them to the Institute for Buckler Studies):
R: Why did you go visit Ernest Buckler?
Getting a few milder days, rubber boot weather.


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 22 Mar 2003
Subject: Ernie

Ray: Just got back from Tweed where I bought some junk food for the war-watch. They had butter tarts on for $2.49 per box of 10. Not bad. At that price I can eat them all tonight and not feel guilty. If I'm going to be sick (obviously from the same flu strain as you have) I might as well have a full gut. My REAL logic is this: back in the old days when we got a bug we used to go to the booze store so we could "drink it out". Can't do that any more so I'm going to try to "junk-food it out". I'll tell you later if it works. Does this bug make you feel really weak? That's how I feel today---need two fingers to press down one key. If it continues I'll have to rely on hydraulics. And like you say, one day you feel it's gone and then it comes back with a vengeance (why is there an "a" stuck in the middle of that word?---English can be so wasteful.).
Got a letter from Hilary [Hilary Prince] this morning. You probably heard from her too since she left the hospital. Said she never knew she had a heart problem. Never knew she had rheumatic fever as a kid, until after all this happened. Feels fine now though, which is good news. Calls herself "The Bionic Woman".
As for old Ernie (as I called him because, being a poet, I capitalized on something that rhymed with Bernie---besides, that's what he called himself): One of the books on my reading list in year-three Canadian English at UNB was THE MOUNTAIN AND THE VALLEY. I thought it the greatest novel ever written. I told Al Nowlan about it and Al said why don't you write and tell him. I assumed he was dead, for some reason. Al told me just to send a letter to Bridgetown, NS and to send him a copy of my book while I was at it. So I sent him EAGLES ["I Can Really Draw Eagles", Fiddlehead Books] and also my copy of his MOUNTAIN to be autographed, along with $5 for return postage. He wrote me back, returned my $5 and my copy of MOUNTAIN with the inscription: "For Bernie---with recognition that it is the poets who can see for us all." Said I wrote "Great little poems with culminative endings." My poems started getting a little better though after EAGLES so I kept sending him a few here and there with letters and he responded to each letter. After I quit UNB just before the start of my 2nd term 4th year (got a CC grant) I wrote him that I was going to hike around the Maritimes before heading to Ontario, where my parents were---my father having been posted from Chatham, NB to Clinton, ONT. Told him I knew he was a private person but would like to stop in briefly for a hello. He wrote back and said by all means. So I did and we hit it off right away. Like me, he was a drunk and he liked, like me, MOOSEHEAD. Like me, had bad nerves and, like me, took librium to keep sane. Wouldn't let me buy a bottle. Bought all the booze (used a taxi because he was afraid to drive---had a phobia about making left-handed turns). Kept all him money in a shoebox in the closet in the kitchen. Really. Bought the grub, including steaks, so the girl I was with (think her name was Loraine Greening) could keep us alive while we drank and played crib (our favourite game--- another thing in common). Really forget how long we were there. Maybe 3 days. Maybe a week. Ernie wanted me to stay longer but the chick, who was from SASK wanted to see Cape Breton and PEI before heading back. I told her there was nothing to see but couldn't fool her---had flyers, of all things. Basically, what I did, Ray---and I'm ashamed to admit this- --was to give up a prolonged visit with the one and only Ernest Buckler for a piece of arse. The Sixties made me do it!. There's more, but I want to know what my cut is if you sell this.

Thrifty Bernie


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Sat, 22 Mar 2003
Subject: Ernie II

Bernie: Good start. Rather than have your agent talk to mine, I say we just agree to a fifty-fifty split of the swag.

Next questions: What was the place like where Ernie lived? Was it a farm? Was he a practicing farmer? Could you describe his house? And what did he himself look like?

Whew! Exhausting, asking all these Qs.



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 22 Mar 2003
Subject: Re: Ernie

Ray: Your cruise missile flew in as my scuds were leaving. Will get back to question #2 in a while. Things on the go here. 50-50 sounds fair to me---not overly fair, yet not underly fair. Fair-fair. It seems to me that a 50-50 deal is as fair a 50-50 proposition as one (or two) can have.



Bernell MacDonald to Ray Fraser, 22 Mar 2003
Subject: Re: Earn II

Wray: Now where was I, before I was so rudely interrupted by work and hunger? Whoever invented Campbell's condensed soup should be given a Nobel Award of some kind. OK--- here's to it---this is hard trying to tell the truth, you know---not to mention remembering the past (as compared to remembering the future):
As I remember, old Ernie lived on the right hand side of the highway leading out of Bridgetown, if you were hiking westwards. But I forget in which direction I was hiking when I met this girl. Bought her breakfast in Wolfville. Beer. Ended up in Yarmouth. Peggy's Cove. But don't know in what order. Jamaican Grass. Baddeck. Taught her how to pick mussels off rocks and had seafood filled with sand that night on the beach.
Yes, I think we were heading southwards on the north coast of NS when we met, stopped into Ernest's then carried on Yarmouthbound. There's a desolate place for you. If any place on this planet can be called the end of the world it's Yarmouth and territory. Ever been there? Make it home? Anyway, old Ernie did live in a old farmhouse, very similar to mine here. White and wood I think---in contrast to aluminum siding. There was a wooden garage at the end of the short driveway (where he kept the car that he rarely drove). The house was to the right and the MAIN door was the side door facing the driveway & garage. From the stories I heard from Alden (old Ernie hiding from visitors) I didn't really expect him to answer the door. But he did, with that scared look on his face like most people have when they suspect Jehovah Witnesses. Told him who I was and he invited us in with a hearty handshake. Big farmer hands. Is your copy of MOUNTAIN the old green one with an ugly watercolour of Ernest on it with thick black glasses, a whiskey nose and a brush cut? That's not true to Ernie. Ernie was far uglier. Probably the ugliest man I've ever met. Lanky and with a brushcut so close to the scalp you could see the pores. And me with hair down to my asshole (and probably a beard to boot) and beads and bellbottoms. This was 1971. Ernie wasn't actively farming at that time, I don't think. For some reason, I believe he still had neighbours working the land for him. I don't know what makes me say that---just logic I guess. No farmer wants to see good workland "go back".
The inside of his house was immaculate, for a single guy. I think a woman came in every now and then to houseclean. It was a typical farmhouse---big kitchen with a big table (where we played our cards)---one of those kitchen-livingroom combinations (with a couch) that was so typical in the old days when families were big and the kitchen was THE room. His real livingroom was dark but cozy with comfortable armchairs that sank in a mile when you sat in them, and hard to get out of. That's where he re-wrote my second book of poems for me. I wasn't too happy with that and destroyed all his notes after I left. The upstairs bedrooms were spotless with great big quilts on the beds---like you needed in the old days for there was no fuel backup when the wood went out. His kitchen was equipped with only modern appliances, I think. No woodstove---that I can remember.
Much the gentleman. On the first night when we had to go to bed he was quite awkward in trying to ask the simple question: Do you two share the bed? Forget my answer but let me put it to you this way: how many people do you know had a piece of ass with a hippie flowergirl in Ernest Buckler's house? Never thought about it before. (You sure 50-50 is a fair deal?).

Time to talk to my charted accountant.
Bud the Stud, from Prince Edward Island

PS Take it you're thinking about a bio on Ernie. The car story is quite funny. Every now and then, when the Bridgetown Taxi was out of commission, I guess, he had to go in for his own case of quarts. Now, not being able to turn left at any particular road or intersection, he had to take an extremely elongated way to get to the beer store, which happened to be situated in a left-handed world of its own, one that involved many many right-handed turns to accomplish what a couple of left-handed turns would---and still make it home with the booty. I think we (all three of us) only made the trip once (in the cab), and that was because of groceries. The rest of the time the precious liquid was door-delivered. I don't know how a map of Bridgetown would bear this story out. Perhaps I'm hyperbolizing. Suffice it to say he was afraid of most of the world but never went thirsty.


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, Date: 22 Mar 2003
Subject: Too much knowledge...

Ray: Was researching a family of spiders called Dysderidae---trying to find their common name. Turns out to be: GIANT-FANGED SIX-EYED SPIDERS. I was wondering was that what I saw under my bed last night---most spiders having 8 eyes, and wolverines just two; so dismissed it to bad nerves. Not going to sleep well tonight. Gonna watch my "Lord of the Rings" tape---no good war movies on TV these days. Sure miss that old series COMBAT starring Vic Morrow. Remember that? Now that's what you call potato chip & popcorn action!



Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Sat, 22 Mar 2003
Subject: The Ernies

Got Ernie, Bernie. Got Part I and II too. Haven't read II but will do. Will get back to you when I'm through. Adieu.

(until tomorrow, I think... fluey coldey head contents need a rest...)



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, Wed, 22 Mar 2003
Subject: Thanks

Glad you got Uno & Dos. That was close!


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Sun, 23 Mar 2003
Subject: Ernie III

Bernie I: As the American boys head off to war, their mothers and wives sob and wave goodbyes and tell them to be sure and write and don't get sand in their eyes and "if you get killed make sure you're one of the first so we get on TV."
Why couldn't Ernie turn left in his car?
And are you sure you're not thinking of Alden with this car thing?
I continue to be battered by the Phlu. This is none of your old-time coldes with a few cavalry and a gang of underfed peasants carrying pikestaffs. This has the latest in precision bombs and missiles and flying machines and tanks and artillery and night vision capability and each night seeks me out as I lay huddled in my little Iraki-type mud hut.
The French to be different spell it IRAK. And they say ATTAQUE.
Time for the next questions: How old was Ernie then? Do you remember any conversations? Can you "do" a spot of converse with him? Can you recall any of his opinions about books and other writers, Canadian and otherwise? What did he think of your girlfriend? Did he try to put the grabs on her? Did he tell you anything about his own experiences with the fair ones?
That should hold you for now. Have to go check on the Irak Attak. Good timing for them to put this war on when we have the flu and have to stay in and need something to watch on TV.
I saw pretty well all the COMBAT shows, they re-ran them about ten times each on the History channel every day for an hour after supper. I remembered Vic Morrow from Black Board Jungle where his name was West.
He (Mr Vic) looks like a drinking man. Saw him in later life on a Rockford Files episode. Then he looked like a somewhat older and seedier alkie. Don't wish to traduce him, however, or pay him that compliment, however you look at it. Might have been a trick of the light.

Mr Ray


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Sun, 23 Mar 2003
Subject: Iraqui war

How come nobody on TV uses that old joke, "How's your bag, dad?"



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 23 Mar 2003
Subject: Pretty Funny

Ray: Just drank a few beers with an old friend---my empty stomach can't take much hops these days (let alone skips & jumps).
I don't know if Ernie was a homo or not. My girlfriend (Kathy Archibald of Acadia U renown---the "Kathy" of several of my poems) asked the same thing---heard the rumour that Ernie & I were lovers. Might as well have been, for all her sexual worth. Address this later, Mr. Couth. ---I can see through you like an open window, Fraser. Got to go down & throw another stick on the fire.



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, Sunday 23 Mar 2003
Subject: Re: Ernie III

Ray: Busy! Busy! Busy! That's why I make the big money and postal employees only make $32.00 an hour for stamping stamps.
Ernie couldn't turn left because he suffered from a horrifying psychotic disease called autosinistrophobia. Terrified that a "ghost" car would come out of nowhere and slam into him. Seriously. Never knew Alden had a car problem because Claudine did everything for him because she worked out. I forgot that Alden even had a car, until you mentioned it. I never got my drivers license until I was 23 and living in Ottawa. ---I don't remember Al's car. Cars weren't in my life. Few students even had one back then. Now highschool parking lots are filled with them. You sure Al had a car in '68/69/70? There were lots of evening grosbeaks.
I HATE THE FRENCH and want to go to war. Trouble is, we're on the same side now! COSHONS!
How old was Ernie when I met him? Hang on....Just looked up ERNEST BUCKLER on the web. Born 1908. I met him in 1971 so Ernie would have been 79. I didn't know he died in '84. Thought it was earlier.
Ernie was the most nonliterary literary man you could imagine. Much the rustic farmer in speech. Articulate---but only in the short. Not a single person would ever suspect he knew how to read even a pub menu. Perhaps that would be partially due to his ungainly looks. An Abe Lincoln of the literary world.
No. He was much the gentleman, as I said. Never grabbed for Loraine's ass or mine. Too bad---if he had of grabbed for mine---well, there's a story that might be worth a few thousand more than the measly you're paying for this intra-view. A very immediate & accommodating host, as I remember, and the girl was able to take the immediate shower she needed and I got my beer right away.
AS for your question of his questions of other writers I knew---he was interested in only one: Alden Nowlan.

Petite Bernite


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Mon, 24 Mar 2003
Subject: Re: Ernie III

Bernie III: In truth I didn't know a thing about Buck (getting to know him quite well now, thanks to my penetrating interview questions) before this, and I've never read any of his writings. He must have started drinking late in life to be going that strong at age 63, when you met him, and to have survived to 76.
This is a promising interview, but not long enough, and I can't think of any more questions. Here's one: what did he say about Alden? Who were his favourite writers, besides Shakespeare (I remember him saying he didn't write anymore because Shakespeare had said it all)?
He didn't have to be a homosexual---these old country boys were so frightened of girls half them never got up the nerve to say hello to one, let alone get married. Or they'd get so drunk to find the courage they'd scare them all off forever.
Still battling the Criminal Flu.



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 24 Mar 2003
Subject: Sorry for the bad math

Ray: Just got home from a skip around the back roads---needed to give my eyes a break from the monitor and also needed a break from this cabin-fever mode I'm in. There's this little fenced-in graveyard with a big "NO TRESPASSING" sign hanging from the fence. I felt like stopping and turning it inwards. I find stuff like that funny.
Will address your letter after a couple hours work. I notice I made a math error in his age. That's because I've gotten into the bad habit of using my little calculator for the simplest things. I must have deducted his standard date of birth from his metric age when I met him.



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 24 Mar 2003
Subject: Prepare for war!!!!

Rayward: The Indians are attacking. I think. This missile-shaped object just landed on my front lawn. Has "Tomahawk" written on its side---so who else could it be?



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 24 Mar 2003
Subject: Weak, tired

Ray: Sorry I haven't got back to you on Ernie's last stage. Incredibly tired and weak. I don't know what kind of flu virus this is but if Saddam got his hands on it he could rule the world. Going to lie down and watch TV. Got a lot done on my book though---basically mindless stuff but it still had to be done. Will finish the interview tomorrow. Should have some great new truths made up by then.

Be...Be... (see what I mean? Too weak to spell my full name).


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, Tuesday 25 Mar 2003
Subject: Ernie: Chapter ?

Razor Ramon: "Criminal Flu": Good name for it. I was going to make a doctor's appointment but the guy who runs the store in Roslin has the same thing, and the doctor told him there was nothing he could do about it but grin and bear it. So looks like I have to bear it but will damned if I grin in doing. Got overtired last night and took a bad anxiety attack---took 3 librium to knock me out.
Speaking of which: Ernie had a terrible nervous system too---suffered from bad nerves and depression, and I would guess, anxiety attacks, which is probably why, in general, he avoided talking to as many people as possible. He was terrified of going to bed at night because he thought he'd never wake up. Like myself, he took librium for his nerves, but often took them with his booze. I was bold enough to point out the dangers of this and always wondered if that would be his demise---do you know what he died from? I don't know much more about his broad bio than you do.
I was quite surprised at how he greeted me---seemed genuinely glad to meet me. I didn't consider myself a "real" writer in those days---just faking it because I knew some real writers. I asked him a bunch of questions about THE MOUNTAIN but he was more interested in talking about my poetry. Too bad I never saved the manuscript that he scribbled all over. I got the impression that he wished he were an established poet instead of a novelist-- -remember telling him that THE MOUNTAIN was probably the most poetically intense piece of fiction ever written, next to PROVERBS. Also told him how I set Nowlan straight when he (Nowlan) referred to THE MOUNTAIN as one of Canada's greatest novels. Told him (Nowlan) how strange it was we always minimize things---regionalize them; since neither of us had read everything written by Canadians why not say that THE MOUNTAIN was one of the best novels written in the English language---and why not the world? Al agreed with my logic. Used it later as his own quote and appears (in part) on the back of the later reprints of THE MOUNTAIN.
Too bad I can't remember much about Ernie's questions of Alden. He was impressed with his poetry and idiosyncratic lifestyle. But who wasn't?
He was quite interested in Nowlan's personal side, since he knew that we were such close friends for 3 years or so. But I forget how those conversations went. He was also interested in Cogswell (they knew each other anyway, didn't they?). I can't remember our comparing our favourite writers, though I'm sure we did.
I wish I could remember how long we were there. Perhaps it was only a couple of nights, though I remember the girl polishing off a couple of his novels while we were there, so it could have been up to a week. Ernie wanted me to stay longer, I remember that, but the girl wanted to see the rest of the Maritimes and get back West since she was hiking the whole way. Think she was from Sask. but attended the U. of Lethbridge. Too bad we never kept in touch or I could hit her up for some details.
One funny story, which I told you years ago but will repeat for this interview. Ernie & I played a lot of crib. He thought he was good at it but hardly won a game. Game after game I trounced him. I did this by getting the most incredible combination of hands. Quite uncanny, really. He was getting quite annoyed with it all. Late into one night, after several unbelieving pegging defeats, he threw up his hands in mock defeat---wanted one last game though. I haven't played the game in 30 years so kind of forget how to play now---but it seems to me that I needed a 7 to go with the cards I was holding for a great count. I told him to cut me a 7. He said if this is a 7 then there's something "fishy here". Well he cut me a 7 and that was it. The look on his face could kill a platoon of Spartans. He came close to calling me a cheat but think he used the word "magician". This is where the girl jumped in to defend me-- -said I'd never cheat. I was laughing which made old Buckster all the madder. Had to calm him down by pointing out that there was such a thing as a string of great luck, and that if he was so good at the game, as he previously claimed to be, he must have had strings of it himself to be so accomplished a player. Guess I made a point, since he didn't hold it against me. Personally, I think he was just a sore loser. Pretty funny all over again, now that I think of it.
Going to go up to the drug store to see if Rose, the owner, has anything in there that can help salvage some of energy I've lost. If not, I'm going to the IGA and by 2 pounds of macaroons---all that sugar and chocolate has got to pick me up somehow.
A message from Jess Bond just rolled in. Worried about Fred since she hasn't heard from him in a couple of months---and after sending him her book. Wanted to know if any of my NB friends heard anything of him. Have you? You probably would have told me if you had. Have you got Bob Gibbs e-mail address? Been meaning to write him a letter anyway.
Don't think this letter is composed of the greatest of English. But then again, I'm not a "real" writer, so what can you expect.. There's a lot of things I don't know. For example, if Wile E. Coyote had all that money to spend on "Acme" products to try to catch Beep-Beep, why didn't he just go out and buy some grub?

The Bernz

PS Trivia: In real life, which is faster---the coyote or the roadrunner?


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Wed, 26 Mar 2003
Subject: Admirable Intentions

Bern: Alden always had a car; he had one in Hartland, drove Leroy Johnson and me down to Fredericton from there when we paid him a visit in 1961 (or '62). He hated to drive, was a very cautious, nervous driver. He said, "Think of the loss to Canadian literature if we're all killed in an accident!" Leroy and I were flattered to hear that from him, considering our rookie status.
Alden also had a car in Saint John, and one in Fredericton---including the night we went to the Chieftains' concert and he got caught for impaired and blamed me for having deserted him leaving him to drive home drunk. Why it was my fault I don't know. In those days everyone drove home drunk. I was as drunk as he was anyway, and if I deserted him it was for the honourable purpose of running around chasing after women. We had quite the spat that night, with Jim Stewart and David Richards (they'd come over from Black River with me) looking on and not knowing what to say (they didn't say anything, kept out of it). It was a year or so before Alden and I patched that one up.
The classical CD you made came. On the subject of blame, I can't blame you if you based your dislike of classical music on this record. Whoever selected the pieces had a tin or at best an aluminum ear. Classical like all classes of music, literature, art etc has the good the bad and the indifferent. The only good cuts on this were two movements from Brahms 2nd piano concerto (one of which by the way you slyly attributed to Strauss to see if you'd catch me, if I really knew my classical tunes). But good though they be, having the greatest of all compositions chopped up into pieces---well, it won't do, sir. We simply can't have it.
However, your EFFORT your THOUGHT your ADMIRABLE INTENTIONS are nonetheless greatly appreciated. It's tough stealing music to everyone's satisfaction at such a distance and with no consultation.
Now for something to test your equanimity. Went up to UNB Library this morning and had a look at some of Buckler's books. THE CRUELLEST MONTH (anyone who is a fan of Elliot is off to a bad start with me) begins with the sentence: "At first glance, Paul's place was no more than a small, white friend-faced house standing beside a lake still as theorems." Now, that's pretty bad, Bernie, and it doesn't get any better. Page after page of outlandish far-fetched idiotic metaphors and similes. It's probably from this book that Margaret Atwood learned her style.
Away back in your youth, BMcD, in the olden days, it must have seemed excitingly experimental and Dylan Thomasesque and I admit I myself for a brief time as a young undergrad at STU fiddled with such verbal experiments. But time passes and life goes on and luckily it didn't become a habit. There's also a book containing some of Ern's Ogden Nash- style (Nashic, Nashian, Nashesque, Nasheral) doggerel. It's a GOOD THING you rejected his revisions of your poetry!
Pissed off, now? You wonder why I have so many enemies?
Lots of material there in your Ernie III. A few words I wouldn't use ("lifestyle" is not in my vocabulary, nor would "Buckster" be), me being me.
I'll try and think up some more questions.
Still have the flu and in the same way---ruthless attacks through the night hours.
That Tomahawk you received would have been thrown by an Apache helicopter. I'm watching my TV too.
Also looked up our friend Vic Morrow (1929-1982). You'll see some confirmation of my intuitive speculation. The following are a couple of paras I copied:

"By the late 70s, Vic was lonely and despondent. A failed second marriage (1975), the death of his beloved mother (1978), A REPUTATION AS A HARD DRINKER, the failure of a pet project ("A Man Called Sledge) and anonymity as a actor, left him distraught. He also found it distressing to watch his own performances and reputation being quickly eclipsed by those of his daughter, Jennifer. While she had changed her name to Jennifer Jason Leigh in an effort to escape the "Vic Morrow's kid" label, Vic saw this as the ultimate act of disloyalty. Driven by the need to keep busy, Vic found solace in a string of roles in low-budget films, building a new house and playing the commodities market. When, in 1982, the chance came to appear in Steven Spielberg's latest project, a film adaptation of the classic t.v. series THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Vic eagerly accepted. He saw it as a way to revive his career in mainstream films.
"Vic Morrow died tragically in the early morning hours of July 23, 1982 while filming a scene for "Twilight Zone: The Movie". As he waded across the Santa Clara River carrying two Vietnamese children, a helicopter crashed beside them. All three actors were killed--- Morrow and one of the children were decapitated. In his will, written in purple felt-pen on yellow paper, just seven months before his death, he left the bulk of his million-dollar estate (house, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, personal effects and "Macho" the dog) to Carrie. Jennifer, who had remained estranged from her father, received the token sum of $100 while his SAG insurance and some cash went to a female friend."

I took a break just now to go downtown and renew my driver's license. They took a new photo of me because of I'd grown a beard since the last one. They said you don't REALLY need a photo ID, unless you're planning to travel outside the country (who knows? I might win a trip to Greece). But I figured I'd better get one, and did. AND YOU THOUGHT E. BUCKLER WAS UGLY! My beard and mustache are half-grey and half- dark and the camera didn't pick up the grey parts so it appears I have clumps of hair sprouting in random places from my face. And I'm supposed to show this in foreign countries?
I'd say the coyote, because everyone would think it was the roadrunner. Roadrunners are like myself, they're quick---very quick---but don't have great breakaway speed.
What's the medical term for not being able to win at crib?
Ernie contributed a piece on Alden to a Special Alden Nowlan Issue of the Fiddlehead in 1969.
And Ernie who was not prolific put several books out after your visit which indicates you must have inspired him.
Alden did appropriate quite a few lines from others. I remember seeing something I said to him appear on the TV screen in quotes with his name after it, about alcoholics and drunks. I didn't mind though because it was an ill-conceived observation and better his name on it than mine. Don't know if this was conscious on his part or the sources lost in the mists of drink.
When I ran into Eddie Clinton in Montreal in the eighties he was whining about the late Alden having stolen a poem of his. Eddie was doing a lot of complaining then, the world having wronged him in every imaginable way. His new hero was Milton Acorn.

The Provocateur


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 27 Mar 2003
Subject: PS

Ray: A constant loser at Crib would be called a CRIBBODEPRIVATE. Do you know what poet invented the game? If not, $20 will inform you. Trying to catch up on some stuff here. Forgot what else I wanted to tell you. Oh yes! You were right about the coyote being faster. World's fastest wild dog, clocked at 43 mph. The roadrunner's record speed is 26 mph. Not bad for a little bird that can't fly. Film footage shows the roadrunner taking 12 steps per second at 15 mph. Stupid coyote. Could have had roadrunner stew long ago if only he had known he was faster. Dogs are stupid anyway. Ever tell you how much I hate dogs?



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 27 Mar 2003
Subject: This is pretty funny...

Fred's taking incompatible pills---one for gout and another for his heart. But one of the side-effects of his heart pills is gout. Says:" So I am chronically afflicted with gout caused by gout." I guess I'm laughing because its not me. I too have gout but it's caused by the lack of beer......



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 27 Mar 2003

Says here some flies have flat feet. Can you imagine?



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 27 Mar 2003
Subject: No such thing

Up Gondwanaland! Up Atlantis!



Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 27 Mar 2003
Subject: My side's winning

Ray: See my side's winning. Bush is sending in 120,000 more troops. The loser.



Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, 29 Mar 2003
Subject: Flat feet

Bernie: Would they by any chance be cop flies?
Can't think of anything else to ask about Ernie B.
Shouldn't Fred's GOUT pills cause HEART attacks? If the HEART pills aggravate gout, the gout pills should fight back.
I do not like dogs either. Besides their infernal barking, one of them bit me this winter (did I tell you?) as I was walking along the sidewalk, trapped between two high snowbanks. A vicious bulldog of some kind, probably a pit bull. Bit me on the finger. Fortunately I had a kind of armoured skiing glove on or I might be known now as Three-finger Ray.

As ever,
Four-finger (and a thumb) Ray


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, Sat 29 Mar 2003
Subject: Ernie schematism

Ray: Just got home. My friend, Herbie, talked me into leaving the sanctuary of my mountain and going to Napanee (a town close to Kingston---or somewhere) to do a little shopping (A & P had T-bones on for $5.99 lb). Wished I had of stayed home. It's an expatiated little city (haven't been there in 9 years) and the kind of place that's hard on my nerves. Something to do with my peripheral vision, I think. The store was worse---way too big for a store and with bright lights and I had to play all the mind games in the world not to take a bad anxiety attack. Grabbed the first T-bone I could find and got the fuck out of there. I couldn't even remember how to use the debit machine properly. Left my tranquilizers at home. Luckily, there was a beer store near the same mall so bought a 24 and drank two real quick---then two at Herbie's (15 miles away)---then two on the way to my house (another 6 miles). Then two when I got home. Fuck the tranquilizers---feel just fine right now. Stupid psychiatrists!!!!
Owe you much more letter but am downloading a Kazza CD and also want to do a little work to make up for the past 5 hours I lost.
That's quite the bulldog story. Usually they go for the throat---but I suppose you has a chain-mail scarf on too. But you survived and your finger survived and survival in this world is what counts. That was a funny story about you and Leroy and Alden. Can picture the three of you now. Reminds me of a Jack Kerouac ON THE ROAD cover I once saw.



Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Sat, 29 Mar 2003
Subject: Mohammed

Bernie: Just saw a mullah or high priest of some kind haranguing a crowd of the Arab faithful and addressing verbal shafts to the Americans: "Who are you, the sons of apes and pigs, to threaten Mohammed!"
Sounds like civilization gave you quite a scare. Best to steer clear of it.


Bernell MacDonald to Raymond Fraser, 30 Mar 2003
Subject: Comedy of Horrors

Ray: My side's winning. Don't know which side that is today because I haven't had the TV on yet. Will really write a decent letter soon but had to tell you, during this break, what a horrid night I had: Had an orange juice (should have stuck to the beer) and half a bag of chocolate chip cookies before I went to bed last night---might have played some small part in it. Imagined that Iraq was sending SCUD missiles into my MIND. These missiles were of three types: A-Drive, C-Drive & D-Drive. If my mind intercepted them quickly enough and filed them properly, then my brain wouldn't blow up. But because my mind was out of space I didn't quite know where to store them. Now this is the scary part (AND THIS IS THE TRUTH)---I was awake during the first 2 hours of this nightmare. I couldn't get this out of my mind---that half-half world you're in when overtired. Tranquilizers couldn't knock me out. I tried watching TV but that got on my nerves even worse. This began around 10:00 but I finally fell asleep. Now this is the scary part: when I finally fell asleep I dreamed the same thing. The SCUDS kept coming in. I actually jumped up at one point and slapped my face (even thought of having something to eat---like cookies). Got into a great debate with myself whether "Iraq" was spelled with or without a "u". Wasn't until 3:30 that the 3rd tranquilizer took grab and I finally went to real sleep. I'm wondering if this has to do with the Cold War I grew up with--- sirens going off during "false alerts"---jets flying over with sonic booms busting out classroom windows. I feel like suing the world and all its cookie companies. I'm getting worse than old Buckie---terrified of going to bed tonight. I'd be better off if a whole herd of pink elephants trampled me to death.

Trying to finish off this list. Glad I had all 38 pages of NEOVERBS saved---helped me out greatly.


PS The world is not a safe place, Ray. Especially from yourself.


Raymond Fraser to Bernell MacDonald, Sun, 30 Mar 2003
Subject: Re: Comedy of Horrors

Bernie: To be candid, you sound like me back when I was in the depths of drunkardness. Horrible neighbourhood. Raf

PS: On a French channel there's a correspondent named Bertrand Coq (could that be Bertie Rooster on undercover leave from the pages of P.G. Woodhouse?). Had the French joined in the invasion, the mullah could cry out to them, "Who are you, the sons of chickens and roosters, to threaten Mohammed!"


© 2008 Raymond Fraser & Bernell MacDonald

shopify traffic stats