Category Archives: Are no Stranger

poems, oddly enough, about death and dying

Witnessed Own Autopsy

Autopsy etc. table, wood (Kerala)
Autopsy etc. table, wood (Kerala)

On a hardwood slab I witnessed
My very own autopsy
Carved by Portuguese explorers
In the 16th century

Chipped out my draft obituary
On a petroglyph red canyon wall
Will be covered up soon enough
By flooding rivers and reservoirs

Guilt, grief, cold and sorrow
Ride in the seats beside me
Loss settles in, ticket punched
Ready for the full night ride
In which sunrise last forever
Evidence of absence of time

Roll past all the caskets
Rotting for eternity
There is “really nothing inside“
But exhume just to see

Vasco’s bones are dug up
And carried to his home
I’ll leave yours in the ground
And sit beside alone

I’ll read you endless poems
By Whitman, Baudelaire and Keats
Bring flowers black like coffee
Open like the Chinese fishing nets

Time Traveler (for Rod)

Cobbled busy streets
Never felt so lonely and brave
So far away from any lover
Even further from your grave

Remember you on blue highways
See you in crowded bars
Feel you at desert campfires
Where we sing you name to stars

Steady on Time Traveler
We’ll see you in a decade past
Same way we saw you in a silent film
Organ playing far too fast

See you in Paris in the twenties
Drinks with Zelda and Fitz
Or in the Cavern in sixty-two
Lounging with Pete Best

Hot water sizzles in kettles
With black and white electricity
We’ll keep an eye on your kin
As though pleasant and obligatory

We’ll bore them with the stories
Of us – young, invincible and fine
Occasionally beautiful and convinced
We’d live to at least hundred and nine

Driving with your laughs
Talking with your hands
Swerving up forgotten backroads
To a reunion with unknown friends

Everyone’s champion

Tactility of Loss

Tactility of loss
A Pantheon of pals
Ash goes to ground
Ride on endless highways
From Timpanogos
To Olympus

Underway in the Aegean
Thoughts of Odysseus
And his compatriots
Most fond and trusted

Feeling so so alone
Along on a ship of celebrant retirees
And a smattering of newlyweds
Their future i’ll never know

A teleporter does me no good
Body buried and tears all shed
While In Aqaba pretending
To be Lawrence or Wilfred

I sit with futile cigars
And a bitter drink
And wonder
Why not me?
I can count six distinct times
In a four year stretch
Where i’ve fallen with no idea
Where i’d ever be buried
Buried and rotted without a sound

Oh Rod Howard, how grateful!
I was a man without a tribe
When i found you at the center
Of everything curious
Making bonfire look like a
Mere lighter flame

Everybody’s favorite
Never an unkind word
From or about you
Making magic
Never on time
But always worth the wait

Odysseus sailed here
According to Homer
Whose existence is debated
Escaping villains in caves
Out to scheme his way to
Kindly strangers
With flagons, actual skins,
Of undiluted wine

Your children, your joy
You had no need to run away like me
All your quests took you home
To parents who understood
Your heart, head and desire
To live
Full on

The chatter around me deafening
Who do i commiserate with when
No one knows your lofty heights
Your speed, your softness
You heard me hurt and came without hesitation
Late, but just on time

Rocky coastlines await me
In the coming hours
No helipad exit could
Provide ointment

I will arrive to sit
Perhaps a picnic
At your stone
Perhaps i’ll learn the origins
Of your middle name
Maybe you’ll join me
We’ll play X cassettes on a box covered in stickers
Tom Waits warbles and we’ll make a Jim Jarmusch film
To chronicle your days
From Sunset rock in Los Angeles
To sunset trips in desert canyons
Which still echo with your laugh

I wear a Greek fisherman’s cap
And blue woven shirt
Made as coarse as burlap
For shepherds and taxi drivers

Tear it off and scream
Why you? Why now? Why this?
But no answer impending
And frankly i’d be booted from the cafe

Not a hedonist glutton madman you
Taking corners fast because
You knew the limits of your tyres
Fine tuned for performance and attributes
No one else can define
Except those of us you wrested and cajoled
Invited next to you

These rocky headlands
Come into view
As the ship horn bellows a lament
Now as low as my sinking Mediterranean heart
The blue sea unworthy of my unholy
Reflections of me a mortal
Always running towards something you found
Right at home

I snap a photo of a saddest angler
Who never held a Rod
As sleek and strong as you
Held together glue, sounds
Cracking against the bluest sunset

##

Rod Ash 1969-2017
Big brother to us all

Crust of Pumpernickel

Crust of pumpernickel
Reminds me of Mom
Though the reason for this
Escapes my deserted mind

Was it the flood from teenage trips
Across the soon-sprawling suburbs
To a German delicatessen
With rare meats and names too long
For my young tongue?

However, noting
Tongue is available
By t
he pound or
Even an entire kilogram

 

Simon, Stolen, Shame

Simon was all of us #Surrey

“Simon” he exclaimed
in the Mac’s Convenience Store
I stopped after paper route
to buy a 7-up.
No i said.

He meant the stolen boy
from Senator Reid
The posters were unneeded
We all knew the fear.

Blonde mop, skinny boy
rosy freckled cheeks
They’ve gone away
Faded, scarred to haunt us.

He shared my family name
and was charming to most all involved
It’s not my shame, but the scars are
i walked the same road yet it wasn’t me.

Negotiating, capitalizing, scheming
Selling secrets, wrench the wound
the discovery reveals more pain
Until sometime a page 3 day this year.

He left. Cancer like my Dad i think.
72 as well, i think. I didn’t read close.
I didn’t need the fear again
he brought to 92nd and Scott.

Cedar Hills, Whalley Exchange,
Guildford Mews and King George Boulevard
These were ours, closest to a neighbourhood
Now faded into condo shopping schemes
Only we notice the changes
since we were all 12 years old.

The paper told us he was dead
the neighbours never knew
His wife flabbergasted
And i never cried so hard
as i did for Simon in 82.

Death, You are No Stranger

Dr Lorne Harold Olson, my Dad Dec. 1 1941- Feb 11 2014, captured with a fisheye during Festivus, a few years back.

Sometime, as a child
A great uncle, a small suit
Staring into a larger hole
Remembering the smells forever

Sometimes the adults
Something about a black-and-white film star
Or a relative from Norway,
an Auntie from Ireland

Decades wrings life from hard years
Rambling into scenarios of loss
Some who wander are lost
Or get lost, indifferent to finding
Living with absence of fear

Once the guns report
Bullets smash into metal
Skimming past your flesh
You are not in charge

Delicate as we are
Sympathies are few
One by one
They leave

Vague words confuse and deceive
Deceased, passed on, gone
Kindly refrain from mentioning
A celestial birthday

We have no knowledge
Nor choice
Speculation is exercise
For the nervous and ill-informed

Resist the temptation to grieve and bereave
To celebrate & console
Death knows only the past and the future
There is no present tense
Just pain, from time to time.

Hard enough just to eat, brief, sleep, live
They are gone
Perhaps they loved you
Perhaps you loved them
Do not wait to know
There is no answer
Only absence

What legacy do we dream?
Laborious hours of tasks for others
Spawning our own creations
Brought to life for joy and for pain

Or to be warm in the coldest winter
In a land of endless foggy summer
Where the sea reaches out beyond comprehension
and airplanes magically appear from over a dusty hill

Or you, painted jolly with tankard
Hung above the fireplace
Books that open
on a mantlepiece

Or interred in plywood and white
Or abandoned as ashes
Or fertilizing knowledge
Through scalpels and agreements

##

I hold his tiny yellow bald head
Listening to the wheezes
Stopped 3:23 AM
“You must wait one hour to declare”
I clean his chin, lay him down
and close his eyes and mouth

Life in this instant is instinct
And survival
and gently sparing others
From grief and uncertainty

The four stand in a line
On cue, rain falls
We stand til the end — holding on
and watch them shovel and sweep

Then, you might collapse,
you might imbibe, you might justify,
you might pray out
to an imaginary friend

##

One by one, They leave
I remember each
Not for nostalgia or grief
But admiration unspoken

The rough one in leather and muscle cars
and bad decisions, I eagerly complied
Tiny pills at curling rinks
Fights and VW escapes at gas stations

Shaggy haired blonde guitarist
Talked to me like I mattered
13 rosy-cheeked and eager
In green mac jacket like his

The artist, far from home
Often confused and disappeared
Often singing about lusty ladies
and mad experiments in super eight

Long haired city sailor
Young retired from coding
To activism and discretion
Dominos with friends, aneurysm, the end

Ole Gramps and his 67 countries
Nicotine turns to morphine
Me and Uncle Walt
Read him to sleep

Meanwhile in Alabama
The sudden sadness comes, followed by
Deceit, struggle, reprehensible actions
and a litany of notary stamps

Both of the hasheater’s parents
The kind one went to cancer
The blue one, the hard way
I only remember kindness of both

No stranger to hospitals
The doctors’ eyes show bewilderment — and fear
They confer, they draw, they poke
They cannot admit confusion

##

The tsunami warning rings Tuesdays at 10
Would you run? Trampled by the eager and prepared
Or stare the waves down
Twitching legs and bleeding heart

Floods and fires, cold wind and water
Prepare yourself they say with portions and schemes
Or will you choose the present
Leaving sympathies for the past and the future

Do you think you have a choice?
Are you so noble to sacrifice
Running to save the small or the old
With adrenaline and action in your arms
You cannot know
Until the moment of despair

Or will you wait and avoid?
Never consider
Then perhaps
You will be truly
Surprised.

Troop us Away Then

Ready for marching orders.

Troop us away then!
We’ll follow in the full moonlight

“Your dossiers are in order”
says the leather glove
for the shaking ones,
a speech to strengthen

Gird up! We exchange
breathing for heartache
until we’ve all had enough or rather
someone calls a stop for the day

Fight for a freedom
which never arrives
Never is expected
and always promised
So no one’s disappointed.

Alchemists Confer with Hypnotists

Varying days
of bliss and malaise
I’m busy these days
chasing dubbies away

When the ache nears
the break and
light becomes a haze
your soul is so faded,
no hiding, so worn

The alchemists confer
and deny the hypnotists’
clinical opinions.
Retorting, “He simply needs
more magnesium
injected into his bones”

The past life regressions
of painters, loafers and pirates
offer no evidence –
only barroom stories
when envisioning a distant yourself

Consider generating kinetic watts
from my broken soul,
frantic heart and coiled brain.
Anxiety — i’ve plenty to power
all of Iowa — roller rinks and all.

Between night and light

the space between
night and light
when bats dive like
fiery planes

battles over borders
foggy lines on faded maps
drawn by someone else
away for reasons
forgotten, arbitrary
false

rusting wreckage
overgrown by by jungle vines
reclaiming tools of sadness
seeking a final vestige of dignity
from deathly, slow grip

woodpeckers clamouring
waking bats firebombing
until sunrise


Lk Crescent 2004