Tuesday, August 12
Lion's Head Magazine
No. 11, Summer 2014
Editors: Bernell MacDonald, Raymond Fraser
Featured poet: Bryan McCarthy
Bryan McCarthy was a notable figure on the Montreal poetry scene in the 1960s and early '70s, when Montreal was widely considered the poetry capital of Canada. In the late 70s he moved to England and in 1989 cut a 45 RPM record called Funky Willy (William Morris) under the name King Mad (see photo). He was born in 1930, and according to a friend, "is still alive but somewhat out of it; he's living in sheltered housing in Morden, England."
In reviewing his book of poems, Smoking the City (McClelland & Stewart, 1965), Al Purdy wrote: "Bryan McCarthy distills nightmares from his own nightmares, and nearly-genuine lakes of blood from a puddle of vomit on St. Lawrence-Main. His contacts with the city and other people seen to me surrealistic, and perhaps the more real because this is so. No other poet in Canada looks at urban life this way, sees so much one-sided horror, is so alienated by his environment."
The poems by Bryan published here have never been collected and are taken from a magazine he co-founded in Montreal in 1972 called Booster and Blaster: the Montreal Free Poet.
IN THIS ISSUE
Robert Markland Smith
Thomas F. Pawlick
Norma West Linder
Notes on Contributors
Nero, how you'd snigger...
Roger comes in, enormous
boots clump clump
to my fridge, pillaging
beer; clumps back
a huge gentle-voiced
psychopath capable of
chucking a man through a double
window. 0 Roger
Roger, anarchic Roger –
Roger with gigantic
beard over tweeds; Roger
with shambling decrepit
slum-mansion strewn with a rusted
Buggatti under construction
– mad necrophilic mansion
shit over by hounds – with
that mantlepiece always catching
fire over that
blazing open fire over which
he once roasted a whole
strewn over the floor, the
pottery furnace rumbling
ominously in the basement) –
Roger with a huge hand for any passing
crotch, Roger beating up
girls, Roger brandishing a
pistol, mercifully unloaded,
Roger, Mon Dieu, who threw
Aunt Terese into a lake
then dived in, in bottle-
green tweeds to salvage her
Roger who flies the jolly
Roger of the desperately
Roger whom one shuns like a
out of a
going clump clump clump
to my fridge leaving a trail of
bottles and cartridges, clumping
over my papers my wife my
the voice incredibly
gentle and quirky with God
help us Old World
Roger: je te salue.
You lumber through the crashing
wreckage of this city,
manifest its madness and
thin tattered lining of
western culture you
reject all you
bust yourself laughing
over ghastly anecdotes
than a snigger, the bonkered
of a civilisation gone more than
mechanical like a stammering
once you scared me
with a stare of your dead
calm eyes, which,
Not to be Nothing he'll become
euphoric about the beauty of concrete;
decipher cryptic salvation
out of a spiel for cancerless cigarettes;
inhale hope from gasoline exhausts.
Not to be Nothing he'll tell you:
"I am Progress, consubstantial with that That
beside you gnashing invincible bulldozer teeth.
See! I barge through rock!
Down cathedrals with one karate chop!"
He is armies, napalm: ultimate
fear. He's No-one, everywhere.
This Bloody Civilization
Landscape At Yatesbury
This is a masculine land;
Not like the Cotswolds with white-stone cottages
Nuzzling between the green breast-hills –
This land is hard
Carved from chalk in shallow concaves.
The hill, like a humped and twisted shoulder-blade
Rises under the hide of thin green turf;
Hard and humped, with a ring of trees at the summit
Curled like a cat in the sun.
The sun drips
amber; clear amber;
Slowly we drag,
Slowly along the road,
with tar sticking to boots
Then fasten the farm-gate with the rusty cable.
Then up we swelter, up, sweating, up the
Wheel-rutted white chalk track;
Rabbits bobble away and freeze behind stones;
Soft-eyed cows look at us, still munching, velvet-muzzled,
Or slouch their moving angles across the path.
And up we struggle, up;
A cloud-shadow skims across miles of plain,
And up we struggle, up.
Now, at the summit
The eye sweeps patches of green and rusty brown
To the dark woods on the hazed horizon
Thrashed in the plain below:
Men have lived and fought and died
On the huge, slow-changing bones of this landscape.
There below, that little eddy of life,
The ramshackle airforce camp
will flake away like scurf, while the hills endure:
Men dying, being born,
Like renewing grass, clinging to the hill.
(R.A.F., England, 1952)
Lines Written on Being Refused A Commission in the RAF
We leap up like dogs for scraps of success
And flee whimpering from the cracking whips of failure.
But our synthetic lust's insatiable:
We toil up dull, respectable slopes
To case the body in costlier fibres;
Minds that should have grown like spreading trees
Are stripped to the specialized trunk:
Youth and sex and eyesight
Quickly traded for a scrap of parchment.
We learn the tricks:
Leap through the blazing hoop of war,
Commit barbaric cruelties,
And I, as I read this letter, flinch
Though thousands are in agony over the world.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I'll laugh,
For only one morsel really tempts me now,
And this the damn
Silliest of all:
To live again on posterity's lips.
Do not pause to admire his brain's
those contorted boughs, those ferns
--but hack! Burn!
Smoke out this raving beast!
We'll improve his mind with scalpels,
Teach him to sit with his tail curled up
And tend a machine that presses out tin cups.
they can make you happy
but you wouldn't think so
hanging on the steady bar
rummaging through handbags
chewing gum or blankly
staring out the window
they can make you happy
and you can make them happy
when your hand is on their breast
when you stroke their lips
then they don't chew gum
or stare out the window
but the bus moves on
it never stops
it has its destination
nothing can prevent it
the bus is filled with hair
and creaking limbs
and a nibbling subterranean terror
has total control
then they don't make anyone happy
and you can't make them happy
and suddenly it's time to get off the bus.
Sooner Than You Think
And suddenly the shiny red metal caves in and the sporty
car is half way into the black Cadillac of death. Mink
clitoris is mashed on cream vinyl. What a tableau of
catastrophe – two of them in the downtown section. Blood
oozes out the door cracks, fingers twitch out the window
in spasmodic goodbye. And everyone bursts out laughing.
The man on the ledge fifty feet up doesn't care. What a
smart fellow he is, in boutique suit and colored shirt.
He doesn't care what time it is as he steps out in space.
His watch stopped several years ago. Now look at that
awkward heap of boutique suit on the sidewalk, full of
tomato pulp. Nobody could help laughing at such a droll spectacle.
Streets are full of sirens communicating their universal
language of panic and terror. Apartment windows are full
of eyes glinting red from the patrol car's flashing beacon.
It is all so terribly amusing.
Silver rain has begun to fall luminously between clapping
hands and very soon we shall fall asleep with silly giggles
City stop lights will blink red/amber/green, on and on until
the ungoverned generators, untended, speed up and burst
in a shriek of unlubricated bearings. Flakes of silver rain
will turn and glint in a vapid breeze on sidewalks stained
with bubblegum and bottle tops.
Supermarkets all over town will be swept over by electronic
eye of closed-circuit tv and between signs for Sales and
Reductions no eyes will see the rotting sides of beef,
bursting cans of cat food, moulding breakfast foods. Nor
will the marauding rat that stalks through festering melons
go accosted as he opens shop for antique ant.
What will happen to gay buntings of plastic waving over
gasoline stations, highways stitching together the landscape
of the world, pop records, films, love letters, mini-dresses
popcorn and coca-cola ads.
What will happen to thinking, insight and poetry. And what
will happen to lovely cloudscapes. Will they momentarily
form the shape of a beatific smile of God and will the wind
whisper in words that ring through the corridors of earth:
God damn you man. God damn you FUCKING man.
The Old Streetcar Terminus, Parc Jean Cabot
I remember looking at condos
near Parc Jean Cabot in the late eighties,
a park I'd known since early childhood
when mother took sister and me
to the Shriners circus
opposite the streetcar terminus, at the Forum.
How strange our present
and past coexist
and never merge: the five-year-old
holding his circus toy,
a little fur monkey on a stick
later chewed to bits by the family dog,
the grave man with briefcase
appearing in some condo doorway
or walking into a classroom
one block from Parc Cabot, fifty years away
to address students mostly sleeping.
Did the boy age
or was he put away someplace
to lose substance as dreams do
when we join our awake life?
I can't say.
I just know he could be any small child
holding to his mother's coat sleeve at the circus.
On The Winter Steps
On the winter steps of Alexis Nihon
the dead are greeted like poor relations.
A nameless man in a grey coat lies on his side;
one hand crooked under his cheek,
he stares down the Plaza's
concrete steps, blue eyes intense, vacant
as shoppers sidestep
the apparition at the door
and move on inside. Corpse and climbers
ignore each other.
He stares bereft and unwelcome;
they stay on course, keeping the poor relation
out of their sight and their balance
in check. You, I say, and move on——
and wonder who would try to console the dead
with money, art or love;
they won't accept, they won't accept it.
ROBERT MARKLAND SMITH
I Used To Watch Place Ville Marie
Melting In The Rain
I've been living in Montreal so long
that my mind runs East and West
and the dividing line is the Main
the numbers running from zero to infinity
one way and zero to minus infinity the other
what side of my brain are you on?
as I approach Montreal by plane,
the night lights are blue and orange rectangles,
a vast breathing, pulsating, scintillating grid
the pilot bounces into Dorval,
and next, I'm taxiing along concrete snakes
until the immensity of downtown invades
the windshield of the car:
it's a twenty dollar ride from Dorval to downtown
I hope there's a Sherbrooke Street in heaven,
not paved in gold, but exhilarating
on a sunswept spring day:
ornamental wrought iron grills
dating back to the British Empire
and the tiny rosebuds
along the front entrance of McGill,
with construction, always construction
coated with memories
like brain cells coated with dopamine
from past life hallucinations;
ghosts whisper, calling me back,
saying, remember me?
there was the age of coffee shops
and demonstrations and F.L.Q. bombs,
I was only a kid then,
and life was vast and promising,
(nothing to be taken seriously,
as I could afford to postpone spirituality)
and there were friends,
and today there are friends,
and there will always be friends,
someone to greet me at heaven's door
today it's the age of yuppies
and homeless vagrants ostracized
from the Holiday Inn
and the hanging garden of Babylon
underground shopping centers:
the boarding houses are reborn
and converted into condos,
the longhair freaks are now administrators,
and I'm still the local weirdo
who's somehow intelligent and also crazy
(at least so I've been told, right?)
the other Montreal lives under the shadow
of the Beast, and the streets are earthquaked,
with a black cloud over every cop shop,
and I hear the screams of the elderly
widows near the geriatric wards of the Douglas:
one drunk is still outsleazing another drunk
in the gray on gray drunk tank in station no. 1,
the men in uniform have stolen someone's wallet,
and a wiseacre screams out, "Call the cops,"
I'm torn and shredded and scattered
from adventure to delirium tremens to torture
while the immigrant ladies with shawls
wrapped around their heads shop for tomatoes
at the Jean Talon market, oblivious
to the language rift and 7:00 o'clock news
about Claude Ryan and René Lévesque's
brave new Montreal, the only bilingual city
on the continent, where over 80 languages are spoken
once upon a time, there was the Bistro
on Mountain Street, and one should remember
the Club des Moustachus, where all the waiters
wore black bow ties and handlebar mustaches
when I first moved to Montreal,
I took Jean Beaudet to the Black Bottom
to hear a phenomenon called Nelson Symonds,
who played until 5:00 A.M.
in serpentine smoke and beer flowing
and girls stomping their feet
and beatniks tapping their fingers,
and the joint kept rocking
till sunrise and somehow it swings today
in Jean Beaudet's music and my soul
does anyone remember the Esquire Show Bar?
or the Penelope? or the Swiss Hut?
today, all the drunks who drank at the Diana
are attending twelve-step programs,
and are serene ghosts of their rowdy selves,
wrinkled and gray as they shake hands
with newcomers at Monday and Friday Central
there's still the excitement of a new decade,
and then a new millennium dawns on Montreal,
will Christ come back and find precious little faith
in a city dominated by a cross on its only mountain?
twenty years ago, I thought the Revolution
was imminent, I thought we would have
one hell of a French Revolution
(last week, an old friend of mine
said in all pseudo-seriousness
I resembled Robespierre,
and I hung up)
tonight, I'm comfortable on the fifteenth floor,
out of the rain, and La Bohème
doesn't mean a great deal to me anymore,
today I'm older, still crazy, still young at heart,
but the cops don't arrest me for wearing long hair
tonight I'm tired and glad to have roots
tonight I am stoned drunk on nostalgia
tonight, they could drop the bomb
on Montreal for all I care
(April 20, 1990)
To the Puppet Masters
You would have me
Dance the dance of despair
Live in a monk cell
Renounce the wind, the air;
l should fold my hands
So neatly there upon my lap
And recite the words that please,
In your presence removing my cap.
You tempt me like a dog
Oh do the bidding, do it
Smart and neat, make the rows complete;
You will receive the dry and yellow
Bone of dead latined words.
It breaks and splinters
And I am spitting blood
Oh take your bone away,
l seek a raw fleshed bone
With blood that drips upon a stone.
And One Was Surely Enough
l have learned of late
That my wicked young brother
Has taken to poetry
So that he may sing of life
And of its various delights
Twice struck, my poor father,
Across the face by insidious fate
For now the cruel lingering eye
Of the loitering townsmen
Will focus on the hapless Sire;
Oh all tongues will whisper say
Chance he pass that way,
"Good God what winds would blow
What day could be so foul
That a righteous God twice would
Damn a good man so",
Ah, forgotten then it will be
That we were runners and jumpers
Players of games and winners of prizes
Pious young students with a holy eye,
Or that I an engineer became
Only the accusing Finger to remain.
the great tragedy
of your death is
that we could not
find resolution between us
that I might
rest in peace
She ripples through the silent water, gold
In sunlight, silver underneath the moon;
And even as they look she disappears
Although the land-locked pond in which she swims
Has not a cranny where a carp can hide.
Evasive of their searching fingers, quite
Impervious to their stones, and spurning all
The baited hooks, she moves through watery time
Mysterious and aloof, and waits a prince
Who has not come to cast his lure at last.
For though one snap of jaw would change her mouth
To lips, her fishy parts to flesh, her scales
To golden hair – to break that binding spell
A man must bait his hook with his live heart
And no man yet has had the faith to dare.
THOMAS F. PAWLICK
Those of us who are condemned
know it beforehand,
know what lies in ambush
on the path ahead.
Walking point for you,
safe in your careful houses,
in each of your most carefully counted,
calculated inhalings and exhalings,
your most meticulous
swallowings of saliva,
we feel the prickling alert along
the sweat in the palms of our hands,
moving toward loneliness,
toward sudden fright,
toward seeing, toward finding,
pistol in right hand,
flashlight in the left,
silent, on expectant
into darkened rooms,
into black holes,
and the empty emergency wards
of charity hostels, we step quickly,
Christmas trees and toys,
and warm meals,
like old skins, sloughed off,
toward the spot
where one foot will step
on the trigger in the grass
and everything we are,
or ever have been
Some New Thing
you’ve set off,
like some sapper
like some seed
blasting through the soil
into the sun.
How did you do it?
Who helped you?
What spies, what maps
There is some other thing
in harness with you,
showing a way,
through barbed wire and trenches,
some thing whose name
I surely do not know,
equal to you,
greater than we,
some new thing,
bright and blinding.
After, between the silences
He spoke the wanted words;
Some of them swam like fishes
In cold water; still
We could not understand;
Someone said: This is Art,
Another: "I cannot judge"
All of us sitting like stone figures
In the early evening light.
He traced the way
Laying down the plan frankly
Speaking of the dying and the few
We turned these words
He having gone before;
And then when alone, held our faces:
Empty bowls, and hungry.
The Ulcerated Man
The blood has run twice
It's sure to run again
Flowing from my holes, gaining freedom.
By practice, I have learned to carry
My insides like a monk in prayer.
I stumble, I doubt my life, I won't admit
That words confuse the voice of love.
I don't understand argument
Nor talk, nor people.
And events judge my conscience.
Accept the face
Embrace the body.
Do not live lies.
NORMA WEST LINDER
The child in his playpen
seems to choose
which toy to reach for
or whose hand to grasp
And as he grows
his options multiply
which course to follow?
doctrine to pursue?
Atop a used-up mound
he comes to wonder
were his choices sound?
He comes to wonder
whether he was bound
to choose as he had done
right from Square One
on a park bench
over the stagnant
a little boy
on a tricycle
“Diddle diddle dum
diddle diddle dee—
whatcha doin’ mister?”
“NOTHIN’ LITTLE BOY”
“whatcha lookin’ at mister?”
“NOTHIN’ LITTLE BOY”
“Whatcha havin’ for lunch mister”
“NOTHIN’ LITTLE BOY”
“I’m havin’ hot dogs—
and away he rides
on his tricycle
until out of sight
sitting on a park bench
staring out over the water
“DIDDLE DIDDLE DUM
DIDDLE DIDDLE DEE”
I knocked on God’s door
but nobody was home
I tried peeking through the windows
but the shades were drawn
I tried opening the door
but it was locked
—bolted shut from the inside
To Do and Not to Do in May
Don't die in May
it's a month of weddings
the sun will shine upon your casket
as it's carried from the church
shine brightly on your hearse
as you lead a slow parade
to the cemetery to be lowered down
hearing the priest's last solemn words
the murmurs of your relatives
impatient to get home
the dust barely settled on your grave
when a string of ribboned wedding cars
flies by with trumpeting horns
young men and women laughing
in the merrie month of May
Oh a May bride is fair of face
sweet tempered and contented
And a May corpse (who too is fair of face)
might suddenly turn rueful and tormented.
On weekdays after my nap
if I have one
I take a walk
when you walk
in Montreal you see things
Grass is for living
and loving –
NOT Dog Shit, Please!
And on the underpass wall
at Pine and Park:
On a cement post
outside the liquor store
on Avenue John Kennedy
this stencilled message:
Join El Fateh
three of the letters faintly legible
where someone had
painstakingly erased them
so it read:
And on MacTavish Street
a sign on a tree
Would the person who found a tape recorder in my car
on November 21 please return the cassette
the material is very important
with a phone number
for the thief to call.
BRYAN MCCARTHY. Born in 1930, author of Smoking the City and The Bad Book .
ALAN PEARSON (1930-2012). 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 the poet.
FRED COGSWELL (1917- 2004). A prolific New Brunswick poet and the driving force behind Fiddlehead Books in Fredericton, NB. He authored 33 poetry collections and nine books of poetry translation of his own, and through Fiddlehead Books published 307 titles by others.
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. Lives with his girlfriend Bonnie in Montreal. They have raised two daughters who are now grown up and educated. He has retired and does the odd translation for a living. He has been published around 120 times in magazines all over the world and is in recovery from various problems.
LEROY JOHNSON. Co-founder and co-editor of Intercourse Magazine, and the author of several poetry collections. The poems in this issue are taken from his book For A million Or More Morticians.
RAYMOND FRASER. Native of Chatham, NB, currently living in Fredericton. His latest book is BLISS and other stories (Brokenjaw Press, 2013).
RAYMOND GORDY (alias Roman Gordy). Author of the poetry book Doing Time. One of the founders of Booster and Blaster: the Montreal Free Poet.
NORMA WEST LINDER. Born in Toronto in 1928, spent her childhood on Manitoulin Island and her teenage years in Muskoka. Author of five novels, thirteen collections of poetry, a memoir of Manitoulin Island, a children's book, and a biography of Pauline McGibbon.
LORE MACDONALD. Sister of the renowned poet and zoologist Bernell MacDonald, she's been writing poetry for over 40 years. Currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she's 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 71, 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, and 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 12 books and is presently working on 11 more, simultaneously. His latest book is poems in f minor.
TO SEE BACK ISSUES OF LION'S HEAD MAGAZINE AND MORE BOOKS FROM LHP