Budapest Suites, I (from Grand Gnostic Central: DC Books, 1998)
“Apply what you know to what you feel that’s more than enough”
On Váci utca, mongrel pigeons, flapping,
Mount American-style shopfront windows.
Grey cops in pairs or trios patrol;
Country people bag handiwork, whistling.
At the end of Vörösmárty tér, a blind man begs fillérs at tables in Gerbaud—
A blond father yells No! at a Gypsy girl and daughter.
Behind me a woman asks for directions:
Bocsanat. Nem magyar. “Nem Magyar?!”
Á Quebec (from Grand Gnostic Central: DC Books, 1998)
A lady asks me
I speak in season
“Avez-vous l’air?” (Wanting the time.)
Twin tractors mow a civic meadow,
level a grove of Queen-Anne’s-Lace.
Chez Le Maizerets, I’m served lasagne
wretched as any in North America.
The churchyard maple reddens and yellows
in the fumes of passing traffic.
A family emptied from their Merc
set their infant beside me.
August clouds blown higher over all this.
Bochum (from Ladonian Magnitudes: DC Books, 2006)
Bochum, for the third and final summer now, I sit in your May sun, beside Engelbertbrunnen, three o’clock.
How many times have I walked the cobbles of Kortumstrasse from and to the Hauptbahnhof?
How many times passed your bookstores, looked in their windows, sidewalk bins, searching for anything English, despairing over the German riches I can’t read?
How many times gazed into the shade of the Konkret cafe, wishing I sat at that table, discussing some artistic matter with that heavy-lidded, copper-haired woman, cigarette in hand held up by elbow on table, other hand’s fingers hooked in white coffee-cup’s handle?
How many times heard the bellowed laughter of red-faced men out of the kneipes?
Eyed excited tables of youths under the red beer-garden parasols?
Passed the same bum by the bank’s door, legs stretched on clean sidewalk, ten-pfennig coins, brassy as sunny beer, dirty as his trousers and hands, in his cap?
Bought perfect ripe tomatoes, soft white mozzarella in tiny bags like water-balloons, unblemished yellow bananas, sliced turkey breast, hazel-nut or poppy-seed yoghurts, Leibniz cookies, Russian vodka, all at the HL?
Looked always disappointedly at your cinemas’ billboards for anything not American and dubbed in German?
Wondered how knackig that bratwurst was, or how spicy that currywurst, what the pizza there tasted like, how thin and crunchy its crust, how many kinds of beers I could taste, what the fish sandwiches at the Nordsee were, which Döner Kebap was best?
Eaten your gold hot crispy fritjes dolloped with mayonnaise?
Flirted with your Westphalian long-legged, long curve-torsoed, white-skinned beauties, hair black or yellow, eyes hazel or sky?
Felt small beside your men, head and shoulders taller?
Considered sitting at a table on Shakespeare-Platz, lightly-frosted beer in hand, smiling at the irony?
Come to you to my lover’s arms and kisses and warm, fragrant bed?
Come through you to friends and poetry in Heidelberg and Munich?
Wandered under your trees’ green everywhere, delighted in doves and jackdaws?
Wondered how all could be so fertile and orderly, after the rubble and ashes and ruin of the War,
How my grandfathers bombed your weekend avenues now crowded with youth’s hot desire,
Took aim at you, marched through your streets?
And today, I sit, pocket heavy with your coinage, your dust in my nostrils, air in my lungs,
Solar plexus and throat tight, eyes with tears, trying to hide this inspiration close on me from every side,
Saying the chopping block of History is washed with tears of mothers, lovers, comrades, sons and daughters, the groaning mourning weeping of the clouds, the cold heart of winter and its ashy snow,
So today I can sit in this poet’s garret, at my lover’s desk, free of such disaster, ignorant of it but as imagined, and hymn you, city of the Ruhrgebiet, giving nothing weightier than words in thanks.
from “Home to Argo”
Stopped by Argo to see if Chris had
a Dover Thrift Paradise Lost and Robinson Crusoe
to complete my Puritan library
Chris slow, down with a summer cold
While we talked only one other customer
A quiet small brown man, blue Gatorade
On my way out I stop outside the display window to look at what Ferlinghetti poem Chris has in the typewriter there
We’d talked about Ferlinghetti how one girl’d bought him because she’d heard he’d been the only one willing to publish Howl
How another couple read the Bible to each other morning and night, autodidacts
and the little man, bald head maybe up to my chin
green sunglasses, brown scarred teeth
You are curry?
I’m sorry I don’t understand
You are cary?
You are khouri?
What is your mother tongue French?
I’m from Saskatchewan
What is your mother tongue?
I don’t speak English well
How come you know so much about history and
I read a lot
as a boy, I’m a teacher, a writer, a poet, I have a book in here
One of my favourite singers is Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan
His eyebrows go up and he holds out his hand to shake mine
I am from his home town everybody there on every wall posters of him
I saw him perform here in Montreal at Place des Arts
He comes out
Big man he comes out and sits on this huge pillow
and his musicians, drums, organs, clapping chorus
and sings ancient sacred Sufi songs
You know Sufi?
I study Sufi thirty years
You know Q’ra? Sufi have Q’ran in his heart
The Sufi they have great (he touches his tongue as if lifting something off it)
You know Benazir Benazir Bhutto Bhutto?
Sufi puts his hand on her shoulder like this “You are in”
You know what he sings it is very
You have yo–can read
No I can’t read Urdu or Farsi
I have translations, you can’t translate
His phone buzzes and he shows me its face
A picture of him in Lahore
I have to go to work
I work at this Indian restaurant
You must point it out to me
We walk down the street to the corner
At the Thali Thali he waves
You come there for a free lunch I’m the cook
What is your name?
My name is Bryan
Bryan I love you
and he hugs me
I hug him back
Nice to meet you