Poetry and Prose Section
In this Issue:
Prose: Susan Dubrofsky

The Poetry of Endre Farkas

[Endre Farkas was born in Hajdunánás, Hungary in 1948. Along with his parents, he escaped from Hungary during the 1956 revolution and has lived in Quebec ever since. He is a poet, playwright and performer who has published 9 books and had his poems translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Slovenian and Hungarian. His most recent book is In The Worshipful Company of Skinners from which this poem is taken. Farkas is one of the Vehicule Poets whose work will be performed at the Cinquieme Salle of Place des Arts Thursday, April 8 2004 at 7:30]

The Company Rules is a found poem. This poem was the last one I wrote for my book In The Worshipful Company of Skinners. And it turned out to be the ideal 1st poem in the book. The Instructions are real. They are from The Hudson Bay Company’s instructions to their traders. It is an instructional manual on trade, rules of etiquette and now, as a poem, a window on early relations, between Europeans: French and English, and natives. I just gave it line breaks and made some adjustments to the phrasings. It is the 21st century reader, especially the Canadian, with his/her distance and awareness of Canadian history who gives it the irony that it evokes.

The Company Rules

Procure a trusty Savage,
See you safe to his country that
We have not as yet had any traffic with.

Be sure to converse with the guide
As much as possible so you may
Attain his language and his hides.

Tell them you love the Savages.
Make them presents. By your presence
Exhort them to come to you.

Persuade them not to war against another
But to be at peace so that they may hunt
And bring their skins to trade for goods.

Use them civilly. Give each some trinket
And lead them down the ensuing year
With many such glittering promises.

By no means use force. Use guile
Yet do not be afraid of a firm hand,
And above all be upon your guard.

It is not likely but The Runners of the Woods,
In hearing of you being amongst the Savages,
May way lay you.

Take care to make the Savages your friend.
By this friendship you may be able to head
Them against the said Runners of the Woods.

But otherwise do not offer or let them molest
The Runners of the Woods,
Unless they are the first transgressors.

Upon the contrary side,
The French knowing of your coming,
May come to see you as a friend.

If so, use them kindly, but upon no account
Go with them and keep at a fair distance
For you cannot be too careful.

Be wary of their fondling, artful
And knowing disposition toward deception
And keep your own counsel.

Having a compass, pen and hand lined paper,
Be very exacting in keeping a journal
Of your travels and daily observations.

Mention the day, the month and year.
Observe the soil as you proceed: trees, herbs,
Also take particular notice of minerals.

Remark the place and situation where you find such.
When by water, observe the course:
Try the depths; know how many miles you go.

Mark down everything that occurs to your view
Mention when you come to any river or lake
Or prairie or mountain and the season.

Take all observations and remarks to you
Whether it be fair or foul and
Be it ever so trifling as you may imagine.

Enter, by name, every creature tame and wild,
Every White Canadian, Bois Brule and Savage
So that we may all take advantage of them.

And lastly, for your own preservation
Take particular notice of all these instructions
That you may not fail in the performance thereof.

And you may depend upon it. For any loyal service
You may do by such a journey across this country
The Company will sufficiently reward you.



The Poetry of Maria Worton

[Maria Worton is a poet and writer and member of the Editorial Board of Serai.]

The Mother

Standing on the sands
a paperboy touches the sea
mother of pearl eyes
glazed, drowsing
belly rousing
the man
an unhappy man
the husband who beats her
who went for help and found a pill
for sleeping.

The child is drawn
to sister moon, brother wind
who lead the sea to wander
but with nowhere else to go
in the morning light
for reading newspapers
she lies there, still,
or suddenly pounding
white-knuckles, sunken shoulders
reeling from dopeheaded swings
she awakens
to tell-tale bruisings
she cannot wipe clean

The child
tells himself stories
stories of how the sea
covers her loss
wearing beads
of lapis lazuli beautifully
(all will agree)
stories of how
she rallies heroically
and how in the morning light
for reading newspapers
he combs the beaches of her brow
collecting empty bottles,
stillbirth spawn
shards of hydrocarbon dream.

When in the all-gone-home twilight
the child is the listener
to the mother's aphasia
in those jumbled accounts
her crazy laughter
he fears she's leaving.
Then in the morning light
for reading newspapers
the paperboy
continues his round.

I wrote this poem to explain to myself my discomfort and fascination watching a recent documentary concerning a tribal group in Papua New Guinea.

Where's the cameraman?

You can't see me but I see you
in your home, earth-toned, leaf-greened
I see you crouch in ease
purse your lips in fancy bird call
yawn cavernously
scratch the small of your back
far away with your fairies
far from this camera you call "thing"

You can't see me watching you
cuss the weeds that menace the potatoes
harsh in your hunger then weaving
new sounds through your art nature.

But I zoom to you through this aperture
squeeze into your signature
free of surveyors, sirens and monitors
to be you who die younger
yet know the future to mean later

I view you where you are
survivors in a here and now
hidden from this fridgerated hum
from where I figure
to hold a light to your quandary
wondering what I may say to help.
…about the distance?
that appears less between you and you
than that between me and I.

Or do I focus on how with a naked eye
you find a universe in a shell?
villagers in a village that's the world
steeped in all your leaf-time
round elliptical and lovely
but then you have mirrors
and your mirrors mirror yourselves.

So do I betray my envy, as one philosopher said we do,
to explain why others are, as sure as the Pope is catholic,
coming after you?
Do I dare ask who is going to stop them?



The Poetry of Stephen Bernard Hawkins

Some poems from LÆTEN: Poems for Those Still Hanging On, an unpublished collection by Stephen Bernard Hawkins


Come, we'll camp down Shoal Bay;
We'll wait up
Until the spirits of dead pirates
Materialize in the harbour,
Abandon their ship
And madly paddle little dories into the shallow cove.

Come close; I hear their boots clicking.
They're dragging a bounty into Newfoundland
Where we now know our masters.
(Who leaves gold with dead slaves
Chains all men at the ankle.)
Here, they'll bury it,
Plant a demon seed in the ever-fertile rock,
Where it will remain hidden
Until new Eastoners make off with it.
(Who digs under watch of dead slaves
Frees everyone but himself.)

Shh – do you hear their bloody fingernails
Tracing maps upon our canvas tent?
If we can hold our breath a moment
They might slip back into the sea,
And we might find what all the world is seeking.

Put out the Coleman lantern.
Lie with me here on the dew-glazed rock
And ages from now
When a great skeleton washes up on their shores,
Your children will load their lives upon their shoulders
And camp down Shoal Bay
Looking not for foolish gold
But for a phantom of you
In the spectre of my arms.


Bernouilli would smile if he heard me say
I spiralled Sunday morning down the Southern Shore Highway,
Blowing past Witless Bay
Where whale and puffin tours circle the cove,
Exchanging our fragile cargo culture
Before it has melted away.

Iceberg still in Witless Bay
But you wave in my mind
Like Frog Marsh grass in the soft summer wind.

I need the breeze too:
After hours rocking on endless blue,
Winding through the Irish green is making me
Long for the hay in Aiden's stable.

Do you remember how in spring rain
We used to leave a mud path
As we were unraveled down Walty's Hill?
On the gravel below where you skinned your knee,
You said, “You'll change,”
And looked so lovely to me.
There I was,
All tangled, wrapped up in you, my ancient scroll.

It is not that we become what we were meant to be
Though we remember it that way.
Wiping mud from my jeans I think of how
You would wave in my mind
Like Frog Marsh grass in the soft summer wind.

Why does it hurt me so to hear you say,
“You've changed”?
Only in turning and returning
In changing and exchanging
Are we stable.
Still, the yank of strings by the b'y who sails her
Secures the hook in my gut.
Perhaps we haven't changed enough.

Now in the meadow,
Feeling for holes in twine I think
Holly will hardly speak when I tell her
I am spiraling back toward her.
But she waves in my mind
Like Frog Marsh grass in the soft summer wind.

The Forearms of Francis Power

In 1974,
Francis Power's forearms,
Formed over years of carting cords of wood
And hauling gill nets,
Were judged Nationally Geographic.

The pride and shame of Newfoundland
Are passing through ropes of arteries
That lead back to the heart from
Muscles hardly hidden
Under taut-pulled and sunburnt skin.
The photograph guts a filleting-blade wit
And so they'll say
Stupid Newfs used to be balls of kinetic energy.

Well, now that the great sea of potency
Has had enough of tossing us about,
We've got to catch our value with our mesh of grey mush.
What muscles, then, have we,
First generation of hangashores?
What is there in Francis Power's tight grip on the world
That we might copy, and how?
What have we got our hands wrapped around?



Prose: 11 Steps by Susan Dubrofsky

Susan Dubrofsky is one of the Editors of Serai and an installation and graphic artist and performer.

11 Steps to Survival is the title of a slim red volume printed by the Emergency Planning department of the Canadian government in 1981. The first line reads We live in a nuclear age. Having survived the ice age, the age of enlightenment and the age of barium enemas, could we survive the nuclear age. I continue reading. This is a survival guide for you and your family. Read it with care as it could greatly increase your chances of survival. I remember sitting in the dental chair, looking out over the city, having root canal. As my dentist tinkered with his drill, my mouth was stretched wide open, a forced grimace under the plastic web. I anxiously asked him, Wha if a nucrear bom dwopped now? Whae I am in thessh chair? He wisely but unreassuringly said, would it matter?

The first of 11 steps is Know the effects of nuclear explosion. I stare at my boyfriend across my cup of coffee, reheated by microwaves, through the smoke of my cigarette and ask him, Do you think we’ll survive if a one-megaton hydrogen bomb is dropped in downtown Montreal? As he responds, giving details of the size of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, that they were much smaller and that the size of a bomb dropped depends on how much weight the jet can carry and on the pilot skills, I see a simple diagram in the red book showing the distance the heat and blast travels. From the epicenter of the bomb out to10 kilometers is total annihilation. Montreal measures roughly 32 by 15 kilometers, and, even if I hear the warning signal, the book tells me I have thirty seconds between the bomb dropping and the blast wave hitting me. Since I live on the third floor, I speculate as to whether I can run down two flights of stairs for shelter in the basement I don’t have in those thirty seconds. My boyfriend can make it on his own, but what about my cat? I get the metal cat cage from the shed and leave it near the front door in readiness.

The second step is Know the facts about radioactive fallout. Radioactive material from a one-megaton blast would seriously affect an area of 6,000 square kilometers. Montreal is roughly 480 square kilometers. According to the book, if I reach the phantom basement, and have a shield of three feet of water, three inches of lead, five inches of steel, twelve inches of concrete blocks filled with sand, twelve inches of solid brick and two feet of earth all around me, I can stay there safe from radiation for two weeks. And then come out.

Know the warning signal and have a battery-powered radio and spare batteries, is the third step. If there is a warning I should take protective cover, stay away from windows, lie down, shield my eyes and listen to the radio, although I know I have trouble getting CKUT even on sunny days. And not to use the telephone to call friends or family but at that moment I would presume they would have some idea about the problem.

Know how to take shelter. The best shelter is the basement I don’t have. Other viable options are under the table or in a ditch.

Step number 5. Have 14 days emergency supplies. This includes a car, a road map, folding beds, sleeping bags, folding tables, stools, portable toilet, garbage cans, kerosene stove, electric lamps, an axe, shovel, broom, pocket knife, games, food, clothing, medical supplies, water and all the stuff one would take on a weekend trip to the shack on de lac. I investigate my kitchen cupboards to find some double scoop raison bran and, opening the fridge, I find a few ends of cheese, some old pasta, wrinkled carrots and a half-filled jar of jam, horseradish, mustard and relish. I realize I’m dreadfully underequipped. However, I put my swiss army knife and a bag of cat litter in the cat cage ready by the front door.

The sixth step is Know how to prevent and fight fires. An emergency water supply should be readied in all available pails, bathtubs, washtubs and containers. Fortunately, I have a prime collection of plastic pails. I fill up the bath, the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the pails with water. There is little room to move around in my house now, but I feel secure and well humidifed. Moist, even.

Know First Aid and Home Nursing is step number 7. I scan the lengthy list of necessary medical supplies. I have one item that matches the list - a large, nearly empty jar of petroleum jelly. I sigh with relief and read step number 8.

Know emergency cleanliness. This is about garbage and waste products. Secure in the basement I don’t have, surrounded by eight feet of dirt, steel, rock, sand, concrete and wood, if there is no sewage services, I must dig a three-foot pit in the ground through the cement floor. My portable battery-operated jackhammer is ideal for this purpose and I add it to the cat litter and pocketknife in the cat cage.

Step 9. Know how to get rid of radioactive dust or sand. I ask my brother-in-law, an expert on radioactive fallout, about what to do. He says, after the blast, if you’re outside, you get up off the ground, shake yourself, strip, go back into your home and stay there for two weeks. The book says even if I get stricken with radiation sickness, I am not contagious to others.

Step 10. Know your municipal emergency plan. I call the city to ask them what to do if a one-megaton bomb is dropped on us and after thirty minutes of recorded blatherings about how my concerns are very important to them, I am connected. A computer voice gives me ten options. I choose the general information number ten because my question doesn’t seem to fit their categories. Then I have another six options. I choose number six. The menu after that has five options. I choose number three. I wait, listening to a piped in radio station and Allstate begins to advertise low rates and special features on life insurance. Another computer voice interrupts to say that all the staff is busy or cannot be reached and that I should try at another time and thank you very much. It then hangs up on me.

The last step is Have a plan for your family and yourself. It is clear my chances of survival are greatest if I practice a workable survival plan based on their recommendations. I haul out my stopwatch, set it to 30 seconds and I prepare myself. I am planning to scream at my boyfriend to get going, then grab all the containers of water, all the canned food, clothing for four seasons, my scrabble game and crossward puzzles, my portable radio with batteries, the kerosene stove with fuel tanks, the medical supplies and what’s left of the petroleum jelly, the folding beds, tables, stools, my cat in the cat cage with the catlitter, the jackhammer and pocket knife, then run down two flights of stairs for cover to the basement I don’t have. I click the stopwatch on and begin. I screech like a banshee at my boyfriend, who’s watching the Bold and the Beautiful. He continues watching as I grab everything listed, put my cat under my arm and race down the hall where I bang my shin on the cat cage, tumble down the inside steps to crash through the front door and down the outside steps to land headfirst on the cement sidewalk. I check my watch and note triumphantly that I have managed to get halfway down to the basement I don’t have in 20 seconds. After my head’s been examined, I am convinced, with several dry runs, I will succeed in saving my life before the 30 seconds have expired.



~ ~