Lion's Head Magazine
No. 10, Spring 2013
Alan Pearson (1930-2012)
Born in Yorkshire, England, Alan Pearson moved to Canada as a young man, where he worked as a scriptwriter for The National Film Board in Montreal. Later, living in Toronto, he was a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail and The Financial Post. His five books are: "14 Poems" (1970), "Freewheeling Through Gossamer Dragstrips" (1975, 2010), "Encounters in a Bright Land" (1983), "Flashing on all Facets" (2003), and "Exploring Amazement – New and Selected Poems" (2010). In 2010 Lion's Head Press published a new edition of "Freewheeling Through Gossamer Dragstrips", with some revisions by Alan.
Elizabeth Brewster (1922-2012)
Elizabeth Brewster was born in Chipman, NB, and educated at rural New Brunswick schools and at UNB, Radcliffe, Toronto and Indiana. She worked in libraries until 1972 when she accepted a position in the English Department at the University of Saskatchewan, where she remained until her retirement in 1990. Her career as a writer began at the age of twelve, when she had a poem published in the Saint John Telegraph. While at UNB she was one of the founders of The Fiddlehead. She authored 16 books of poetry, two novels, three books of short stories, and two volumes of memoirs.
IN THIS ISSUE
Robert Markland Smith
Jane Spavold Tims
Thomas F. Pawlick
Notes on Contributors
I never wanted to marry you,
not at 18, the time of sweetest options.
What a duvet of inviting bliss
lay all around; so wide you could
roll in any direction
and be a fingertip from limbs
sweet as Turkish Delight,
pink as any conceived by Ingres
in some perfumed atelier
deep in the heart of Gay Paree.
At 18 there would always be
some foxy huntress available
in wrinkle-free jodhpurs
– thighs gripping a sportive bay;
or a severe headmistress
with punishing lips and a blouse,
high-necked and black, that masked
(but not from me) a sensual heart;
or, to be carelessly confiding,
a schoolgirl, her gym slip riding high,
sprawled and slyly smiling
from a sofa corner.
Buoyed by such effervescent dreams
of adolescence who would yearn
to tie the knot?
Not me, tainted with a father
with flying fists and a bent
for pints of danger – so pronounced
his wife would rather
paper a room all night
than go to the nuptial bed.
So how can one explain, after fifty years
we’re side by side,
pushing through clouds to Spain
to Greece and Arizona – evenings
watching the box, reading novels;
and in the car kissing
and bickering, too.
But now feeling a common dread;
married and, like two plough horses,
fearful which will be the first
to halt awhile, then, in sharp alarm,
fall in some field
where one will be finally alone.
In the Coffee Shop
Big windows overlook a wet highway,
and beyond, the icy lake.
Trucks and cars forge on
to northern points, and south.
So much going on, so much to see.
It never stops – for some.
An old man in a baseball cap
sits, shrunken by the years.
Palms around a coffee for warmth.
A man in his fifties sits with him,
heavy-set, short hair.
He could be in construction,
an off-duty cop? He has a good face.
He talks to the man in the baseball cap.
The old man stares at the highway.
The heavy-set man: married? Does he have
a family – is the old man his family?
He's thinking of things to say: he quips,
asks questions. All in a respectful way.
He wants him to talk back, to confide.
He looks intently into the old man's face.
This shrunken apathy is hard to bear.
At intervals the old man laughs, softly,
says a sentence or two,
even glances at the man in his fifties
– the man who could be in construction.
Beyond the big windows
the traffic forges north and south;
tires swish on wet highway,
it's the sound of life. Day and night
it never stops – though for some it does.
Across from the coffee shop,
beside the icy lake,
the Retirement Home stands
blurred by a light snowfall.
The heavy-set man looks at his watch.
He puts a hand on the old man's shoulder.
Next week they'll do it all again.
On a telephone line a chickadee
greets the day,
opens a sharp bill and scratches cadences
on the periwinkle blue of the sky.
Over there in the forest, trotting
in sunshine, is the yellow-eyed fox,
his mind a jumble of all things lethal.
What a bright day for a light breeze
to ruffle the feather and fur
of all things wild.
A great day for an ancient poet.
Avanti! He must leave the house.
He selects a pencil, yellow as a fox’s eye,
sharp as a chickadee’s beak.
Such a great day to pen
a Spring time lyric,
if the talent is still there after all
the stiff months of winter.
Faith is all it takes
and how can that fail
on a day like this when
on a telephone line a chickadee
opens a sharp bill...
I don't mind winter on days like this
even the 20 below can be a joy when sun
skims lightly over roadside snow
and in the car Rod Stewart sings
This Old Heart of Mine with such a swing
it puts a summer shine on everything.
Grouped garbage bags at driveway ends,
lopsided and forest green,
delight to reflect a sparkly light;
and, sharply yellow against banked snow,
the school bus halted and flashing red,
growls at tardy kids with satchels.
Even the birch, silver against blue,
like an image in a poem by Frost,
says: Watch me sign the sky with twigs.
As Stewart's song rejoices in my humming car
I halt where saplings zebra-stripe
the snaky length of Golf Course Road.
A good day for scanning pristine fields
where an isolate, wind-swayed barn
lets breezes course through broken planks
– frayed music for a drowsy owl or two;
and farther off, to complement the scene,
the lake is flashing light my way.
A winsome day for greeting crows
for persiflage with snowmen;
in fact, a day for youth to frolic,
all content, inside this heart of mine.
I Will Be There
(for my son Steven)
One day my telephone will echo
in an empty room…
Do not frown because I’m late
I’m on my way to something
that will not be denied.
It will not please me thus
to leave; I fear that where I go
will not comply with any wish
But if I have some choice
upon the other side
I’ll keep with you
all kinds of rendezvous.
On forest walks, when strands of wind
sigh easy through the fragrant balsam,
and you are left alone a moment,
a twig may snap or bird provoke to flurry –
then, know that I am by your side.
So, if you still retain a taste
for sunlit jetties
my eyes will be in the shine
of an early morning lake,
as the softly spluttering engine
of your boat
takes you, with rod, across
the placid waters.
Again, in a restaurant that
overlooks a highway
when knife and fork have stopped
as there comes a lull
in the table’s chatter.
There will always be something
familiar in the walk of a stranger
seen from afar…
And you will say, he had such a walk.
Then perhaps some night
when sleep evades your wishes;
and the room is quiet
but for blood-dash rush in your ears,
I will be caught inside the tumult
turned, over and over,
like some half submerged thing
in a sea
that rolls on a far-off shore.
Know then that when you lift
the ringing phone
it will not be my voice you hear –
to try you with my anger
bore you with an explanation,
or hold you, all impatient, with my love.
What you say about one experience
Equalling another is perhaps true.
x + y does tend to balance a - b.
Spending one's childhood in a debtor's prison
Equals, perhaps, being the dilettante son
Of a Prime Minister, and able to afford
Friendships with poets or a Gothic castle.
Proust in his cork lined room, Thoreau at Walden
Each knew a different kind of solitude.
Crossing the Atlantic in an immigrant vessel
Might not be as adventurous
As taking a walking tour through Wales
Or travelling by coach from Steventon to Bath.
A spinster in New England or Yorkshire
Writing of an imaginary lover
Might be as close to reality
As the young man from Ayrshire
Singing of his Mary, Jean, Clarinda, and etcetera,
Since love may be known in some ways from its absence
As well as from its presence,
And St. Teresa's darts, flames, and sighs
Are as hot and piercirg
As any other lover's.
(Originally published in Intercourse Magazine, issue #2, 1966)
The child, playing all day in the summer fields,
Was an Indian lying in a tepee with roof of timothy
And floor of vetch and clover; the smell of grass
Was sweet and hot and tickly in her nose.
Or, dressed in a straw hat and a blue sash,
She was the young Victoria in a portrait
Painted in childhood, princess blonde and good.
The Lake was the Sweet Thames, or it might be
Deerslayer's Lake, where Hutter had his home.
The growth of bush where blueberries darkly grew,
Spicy with ferns, was a woodchopper's forest
Where Hop-my-Thumb might wander;
And a deserted house in lonely fields
With windows broken and its walls unpainted
Was the bewitched tower where the lady slumbered
Through mouldering years, awaiting a brown-eyed prince.
In dewy pastures steeds – not horses – whinnied;
Cows were bucolic in their patient ease;
And in the dim barn, smelling of hay and manure,
The barnyard cat with wizard yellow eyes,
Peering for mice, was lithe and gluttonous,
Cunning as any cat in ancient story.
(Originally published in Intercourse Magazine, issue #11, 1969)
The Pillbox Hat
Last fall last winter death
had our beloved cuffed
from face to neck, from arm to ankle
friends family wouldn't let go
in hospital mask and gown they set
to a tug of war for dear life
for Marilyn nailed to her bed, hope
snuffed with the doctor's last visit
I remember the empty room
when the bed is stripped, the walls
stripped of cards, photographs
the blinds open, the light
intense and indifferent
to anyone standing there or walking
away, or wheeled away
Then the reception out of town by a lake
a January midday like grey March
friends family greeting and clasping
in a strange room and Marilyn's
the canapés table, a grey urn
polished and small
amid the cards, the good wishes
Outside across the road
fishermen are on the lake
tiny figures are bending to the ice
I want to turn to her now, you see
touch her hand, say
something about the weather
and the men maybe falling in
By this time Marilyn's ghost is out the door
she is wearing the leopard skin hat
she wore the summer of her divorce
the hat I admired over lunch
twenty years ago, a hat
that said "F. O." to her ex,
her two-timer ex
Now she is crossing Lambert Closse
and de Maisonneuve, her divorce
behind her, a red-
headed woman and a pillbox hat
and a wave
and a wave
of the hand, the hat set
just so to the left
ROBERT MARKLAND SMITH
Beware The Meek
Beware the meek
For they are plotting
To inherit the earth:
Contrary to public opinion,
Of the world,
The last survivors
Of the Neanderthal race
In a civilized world
We are not
Public enemy number one,
We merely get our news
From other sources
Than the media,
Our mental environment
Is in another dimension,
We are rebels against Reality,
Prophets of a better age,
The firstfruit of all creation,
We play pretty good ping-pong
And weave damn nice rugs,
(March 27, 1981)
I had a friend who was a Catholic nun
and she explained to me
that God’s secret name is mercy;
I had born-again Christian friends
who danced in the Spirit
because God loved them;
I listened to pop music,
watched Hollywood movies
and read poetry
which celebrated romance:
then I realized
what love is not,
put my shoulder to the wheel,
and began changing diapers.
The Schizo Manifesto
at first, I thought I was psychotic
but the doctors were so kind to me,
feeding my brain chemicals
to give me a sense of reality.
how could I doubt the existence of matter?
I think, therefore my brain exists,
preserved in a vacuum jar
in a laboratory
many centuries from now.
and I was afraid
when I first realized
I had no body,
but the doctors reassured me,
programming my brain
that induced the common hallucination
of living in the world.
you know, Berekeley, you were right:
‘‘when you said there was no matter,
t’was no matter what you said.’’
so I sit in my vacuum jar,
waiting for the redemption of my body.
will someone please tell me
I am not dreaming alone?
(August 6, 1982)
This World Is Not Enough
this world is not enough,
with women’s warm embraces
and subtle social graces,
is not enough.
the soul is not satisfied
and sunny days,
books, good looks,
and the consolations of consuming:
this world is not enough.
there is a thirst
which digs into my soul
in a red desert soil,
sighs that blossom
as big as the universe,
and this world is not enough,
the echoes and resonance
of God’s love.
(February 1, 1981)
The rain god
The sun god
Fertility rites said the English Prof;
Rain god, sun god, fertility rites,
Chanted the amazed class
As they clutched hands and danced
Around the oak tree singing symbolicly
Pocket full of posies, pocket full of posies –
Led by the Prof in a religious baritone
Beating furiously on an old skull bone.
Human sacrifices to the gods' appeasement
Were not unknown, he glared;
The human sacrifices danced around the oak
The human sacrifices took copious notes
And ioyfully slit their throats.
The Prof standing in the gore
Wiggled his toes gleefully,
Blood is traditionally symbolic, of course,
And calls for a poem, blood up to his knees,
Blood is proportionally composed of distinct
Definable chemical parts, however,
That is not to say there is no beauty –
Oh, yes blood is beauty
Oh, yes blood is beauty;
So they danced in the gore of beauty.
Old Tom follows a white cane
With plodding feet and cap off centre
He offers pencils and razor blades
To sounds of faceless feet.
Children halt their play and stare
At a tilted grinning face
Only to bolt colt like
Before the tap... tap tap of his cane.
His whole life one unending slight
year after year the anthologists pass him up
while the new names get younger and younger
first the age of his sons
and now his grandsons’ age
an editor and critic in the field of letters
he grows older and greyer
while others are hailed as gifted bards
upstarts filling the ranks
it’s the custom
these many years
to pass him up
confining him to footnote recognition
as one who edited and credited
but no glory
It’s his life!
his one life —
how long can he wait?
as time runs out
and his hair falls out?
Can he help but hate
silently cursing what's young?
putting aside praise of promise
and retreating to historical antecedents
of men born after death in their works?
It seems all accidental
how it could be this way
as time wears on
in this his one and only
Death at Twenty-Nine
Could I die? at my age?
I’m not yet thirty!
But I think of it
when my throat is sore
or I’m short of breath
or there's a pain in my chest –
of impending death!
I'm afraid I wouldn’t like it
taken suddenly like that
like a farmer who has yet to sow his field
or an explorer who has yet to board his ship.
Passage of Time
I hate the slow evenings
when nothings happens or is heard or said
when I wait for the hours to creep away
so I can go to bed
I hate the quiet vigil
for another night to end
when the minutes drag by slowly
like a watch beside the dead
I hate the way that night comes
slowly and eventless
dragging along its broken wings
the tedium relentless.
Up the Road
We stand at the crossroads
near where we were born
and look eastward
where once there were
houses and a grocery store
as well as a train station
Now there are columns
of trees and foundations
of concrete that are broken
and partially hidden
by roses and raspberry canes
that continue to grow
long after fast-burning fires
turned buildings to ash
The rail bed is all
tall grass and bush
and the small station
where people once left for jobs
in the Boston States
is but an outline of stones
on which its floor rested
still seen in picture albums
growing fainter and fainter
as the years pass
When I am at Granddad’s farm
and go to fetch the cows for milking
I find them huddled near the gate
anxious to be escorted to the barn
When I asked why they were waiting
for someone to come for them
Granddad said to think of the milk
in their udders as their clock
He remembered his father
telling of how back in Scotland
when he left the farm for the city
and worked in a plant making bells
how a large clock instead of the sun
measured the length of the day
in seconds that moved at the speed
Near the corner of Duluth and St. Denis
Just a little way up
Is the Restaurant L’Escale
Where I’m going to eat.
Seated, the woman
At the other table annoys me.
Her mouth moves badly
I tell myself.
I won’t have it.
I walk over, introduce myself
And smash her waterglass.
Astounded, she gets up
Embraces me, and demands
We go to bed — I agree,
But only after eating.
Still feeling awful
I again get up
Go to the kitchen
And piss into the chef’s sink.
Excited, he tells me
He’s in love.
Returning to the table
I finish the meal,
My hunger gone now.
In the dark alley the killer hid.
Sweaty, trembling and exhausted
He had been running for ten blocks
Into doorways and from behind cars
With the sirens everywhere
And his brain thinking insanely of escape.
He had pulled the trigger with care.
Everything had overcome him
Seized with the ecstasy, the unspeakable visitation
He had fired the gun,
And killed the man.
JANE SPAVOLD TIMS
1941 International K-4
cut my last trail, coughed my last spark-plug
drug my last load of logs from the woods
wheels in muck to the window wipers
streaking brown mud down
the windshield, cracked in three places
once where joe let the log fly and twice
where a tree fell sideways of intended
logs on every which-a-way, chain-saw upended
oozes from the oil pan, rocker panel creased
from those axle-bending rocks on horseback mountains
left at the roadside to rust full gawk
of community, awkward if they cared
dashboard shrouded in dust
driver’s seat nested by mice
axles jacked on oil drums, bare of rubber
no trace of my formerly stylish coat
of International Harvester Red No. 50
only surface still intact the side-view mirror
where betsy fixed her lipstick straight
that one day they let
her squeeze in for a ride
Berries in Cellophane
In the raspberry patch,
wary of prickles, we pick
our baskets of berries
Try not to step on the turtle
first claimant of the thicket
Deep, we find evidence of bears,
berries inhaled by the clawful
and canes pressed into mattresses
studded with thorns
In summers when rain is rare
and berries cling hard and dry,
we eat raspberries shipped
from California, wrapped in cellophane,
plastic boxes to aggravate ears and slash at fingers
Turtles snooze unmolested
and bears lie on their prickly beds
stare at clouds and ponder
grocery lists, compare prices
abandoned resort hotel, Devil’s Head
well this is a fine
‘explosion’ to return to
after years of thinking I’d enjoy
one more rock in the wicker chair
roof and walls collapsed, wainscoting
splintered, horsehair plaster stood on end
as though the last blast killed the horse
and threw the rider
crest of the establishment, misplaced, unpainted space,
pink chimney in tatters, hearthstone cracked
loose bricks ejected every which-away
full mug would slide the length of mantle
Mrs. Johnstone’s Blue Willow patterned dishes a crazy
mosaic on floorboards, rotted furniture looted
and the wharf, once berthed my sloop,
a snag in the river
metal bedstead twisted
fancy fretwork chipped and rust-haired
Lily long-launched from those sagged
bedsprings tilted straight
and worse of all, the calendar
wrong year, wrong date
Dogs of Pompeii
among my photographs
are excavation finds...
pottery, tools, human remains deprived of oxygen
entombed in cemented lava
there were great men in Pompeii
(and the depraved)
wild dogs now skulk about
lying and cooling themselves on flagstone
and wise was King Solomon
who wrote “a live dog
is better off than a dead lion”
THOMAS F. PAWLICK
Squirrels in the whiteoaks,
tails jerking--quick, quick--
rustle of leaves.
Duck sounds drifting down
a blue, curved sky:
Breathe the frost.
Feel the cool sun touch
rustle of dry leaves,
stretched out prone,
tongue tip curled
like a withered leaf,
old white dawg,
lazy and loose,
yawns a jawful
of big, white teeth.
like butterflies on the wind,
If it brings you to flowers,
linger, don’t cling
If it brings you to thorns
bank away, glide away.
If it brings you to the fire,
let it burn. Become smoke.
i threw a bone to a dog
the next day he was back for rind and fat
the next for gravy and meat
today i saw two small children
playing in the snow
at first they were rolling around
pulling at each other and laughing
then they were pushing each other
then came the shoving and the harsh words
finally came the fists and the crying
high school memory
they claw at each other’s face
pull out each other’s hair
scream – cry as they kick and bite
– in the school yard
two females of the species
engage in rare
everyone gathers round
rooting for this one
or that one
but no one dares
break it up
no one dares!
not the older boys
Not even the nuns
for these two slight Catholic girls
writhing like vicious little ermine
fight with such furor
they don’t even care
that their panties show
I fish from the beach in the rain
but there’s no fish
only colourful girls in bright
clothes, whole families
collecting shellfish, and kids
gathering around me on the rocks
wading in to free
my hook stuck on the bottom
talk to their friends in dune buggies
tearing up the sand
driving up and down the beach
joggers, four by fours, children
hanging out the windows like puppets
the ladies dresses float in the wind
like bright kites
two invitations to go out in the boats
“My dad’s a fisherman,” they say
“They fish far out to sea.”
But I don’t like boats
I just like the sea.
On Getting a Haircut
After Bin Laden’s death
sentiments run high
on the TV
circle around the Black Stone
all the barbers Pakistani
but I have to get a haircut
worry about the straight razor
blood on the chair
smile, say cut a little
but never close my eyes
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
ALAN PEARSON (see above)
ELIZABETH BREWSTER (see above)
MARC PLOURDE lives in Montreal and has several collections of poetry and short stories to his credit. He has also translated numerous books of Quebecois literature.
ROBERT MARKLAND SMITH says he's not the singer from the Cure, but an aging family man who struggles financially to raise two teenage daughters. The author of numerous books of poetry and short fiction, he's been published in China and Australia, etc, and earns his living doing English-French translation.
LEROY JOHNSON is the former co-founder and co-editor of Intercourse Magazine, and the author several books of poetry. The poems in this issue are taken from his book For A million Or More Morticians.
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).
ROBERT HAWKES is a UNB professor emeritus and former co-poetry editor of The Fiddlehead Magazine. He is the author of 11 books of poetry, including his most recent, Sentinels (Poppy Press, 2012).
RAYMOND GORDY (alias Roman Gordy) is author of the poetry book Doing Time. Served as editor of the magazine Montreal Free Poet: Booster & Blaster In the early seventies.
JANE SPAVOLD TIMS lives in rural New Brunswick and has published poetry in The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead, Carousel, PRISM international and elsewhere. She has just completed a manuscript of poems with the support of an artsnb Creations Grant, and is currently working on a novel about an abandoned church. You can read more of her work at www.nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com.
LORE MACDONALD, sister of the renowned poet, author and zoologist Bernell MacDonald, has been writing poetry for over 40 years. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she is involved in website design and publishing, and teaching piano. She was editor of the poetry magazine Serendipity and her first book of poetry is Oasis.
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.
BERNELL MACDONALD was born in O'Leary, PEI, 1948, & educated in the back woods of the Opeongo Mountains and the campus of UNB. He is one of the Windsor House Poets who went on to publish 11 books and is presently working on 11 more, simultaneously.
VERNON MOOERS is a poet, novelist, journalist, photographer, editor, and teacher. He is currently teaching in South Korea. His books include Briefly a Candle, Gwangan Days, and Nests on the Cliffs.
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