Last Days

Train poetry journal as posted my four part poem “Last Days” on its blog.

The poem once had an epigraph quoting the American poet Robert Duncan, who wrote in the 1960s, “Again and again we enter the last days of our civilization.” Fittingly, I think, “Last Days” ends with a beginning.

Last Days

1.

No one paid much mind at first.
A low murmur amid the hubbub.

When finally heard
alarms were late.

How do you stop a chain reaction
or keep calm with a fever?

2.

Many have seen the end of the world
as they knew it.

Last days before that end
must be special days.

Those living them must be special too.
We’ve always known.

3.

We do our best to be prepared
half-believe what our senses tell us.

Know one in the hand
for what it’s worth.

What’s left undone is yet to do
yet we did and did undo some things.


4.

We returned home in the waning light
chastened yet braced for new beginnings

sure we knew the way ahead
and wouldn’t make the same mistakes again.

This was not the moment for doubt.
We were of one mind, never so dangerous.

Colin Morton

Train poetry journal will include three other poems of mine in their next print journal, on sale across Canada.

Four poems on aging

The Canadian magazine The Typescript is honouring Robert Kroetsch with a selection of poems on getting old and older. Here is my contribution, poems called Lost, Senior Swim, CPR Practice, and Visitation. Do visit the other Canadian poets’ contributions to The Typescript’s feature.

Lost

It’s under something it’s
behind something it’s in
the right place for something else.

No it’s on something it’s
in front of something it’s where
you don’t see it because you know it’s not there.

It’s your only one it’s
always there when you need it it
will come to you in a minute.

It’s on the tip of your tongue it’s
what you used to do with whozit you know
what you were talking about just now.

It isn’t coming back it’s
as if it never was as if it’s
not what you thought it is at all.

Colin Morton

New poems by Colin Morton

Two excellent Canadian literary magazines found room for my work on their pages this winter.

I recommend you check them out, and to get an idea of the kind of work they print, you could start by reading my poems here.

Prism international, based in Vancouver, includes my “Tinnitus” in its new issue:

Tinnitus

I read John Cage and, in a silent room,
listened to the low thrum of blood in my veins,
the hiss of nerves in my head.
Proprioception I called it, after Olson.

For years I believed what I heard
was the microbiome of my inner ear –
cells living out their lives in there –
and I wondered about this thing called me.

How much of me is a population
of microbes doing I don’t know what
to or for me, living and dying
as I say these words?

Now I accent the first syllable,
call it tinnitus, as if that’s an explanation.
I told the doctor, I guess there’s little I can do.
You can complain, he said.

Waterloo, Ontario magazine The New Quarterly includes two of my poems, and I have written a blog post about one of them for the TNQ blog. Here are the poems.

Dark Flower

What fresh hellebore is this that flowers
deep purple, deeper than its shallow
sunny fellows?
How deep
to flower in winter, face frost
and snow, to know when to bow,
how not to break.
Burgundy bloom,
have you a tincture for me and my fellows?
A word to the wayward perhaps?
Or a charm to scare the devil
out of any who cross us?
Would you at least come live with me
and be my dark midwinter comfort?

Please forgive my forwardness.
You are, and that’s enough for me.

Nocturne

Wind in the branches
Whispering waves

How much of our poetry is
staging

the abalone bed for
a single small pearl

found on a petal
or a rainy street

on the crest of a breaker
in the beak of a raptor

in the depths of the sea
or the eye socket of a skull

If you could see its gleam
without the setting

you’d be left without
a poem to learn

It would turn in your mind
like a moon

Online reading September 17

The Single Onion reading series and Shelf Life Books in Calgary are hosting a reading by Colin Morton, Mary Lee Bragg, Nisha Patel, and Annie Sorbie on Thursday, September 17, at 7pm Calgary time (MDT). Hope you can listen in. If my reading interests you, or my wife Mary Lee Bragg’s, you can order our books directly from me at colinmorton@sympatico.ca.

Here’s a link to the Facebook event. Click interested


Topic: Single Onion #168

Time: Sep 17, 2020 07:00 PM Edmonton

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85437373225?pwd=Ry9HTktWY1pFRWVqQ3I0WWFFb2N1QT09

Meeting ID: 854 3737 3225

Passcode: 173698

Updating the Address Book

A new poem of mine is online this month at Bywords.ca

It captures a bit of the loneliness and isolation that many of us are feeling in lockdown.

Updating the Address Book

So many listings scratched out

and replaced with newer ones.

Here’s another out of date,

we haven’t been in touch for years.

When we met he lived in old town,

two rooms of a red brick house

leaning toward the St. Lawrence.

He made me tea, and I wondered

if it was safe amid hanging wires

for speakers and an over-worked fan.

One table housed kettle, toaster,

laptop and printer. A bungee

cord held the fridge door shut,

and a girlfriend slept in the other room.

Each place I’ve seen him since

has been a replay of that scene.

Disorder so thorough it must

begin inside, grow soulward with age,

unless saved by some great love.

Or maybe I’m wrong, after all,

you see what you expect to see.

Maybe that first time in Montreal

gave me a label to hang on him,

and maybe the label has faded now.

I may have read it wrong from the start,

it has happened before.

I wish I could see him now.

Ascent special issue, November, 2019

W. Scott Olsen is turning over the editorship of Ascent magazine after 25 years, and goes out with a special issue, including some compelling work from mainly American writers. I was a colleague of Scott at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, when he took over Ascent, already established for forty years or more, and moved it from Chicago.

Here are my three poems from the issue, all rather starry eyed, with links to the rest of the issue.

Stardust

I met a woman who said she stole
her father’s ashes from her mother’s home
spread them under her father’s microscope and saw
phosphorus constellations
shining.

 

 

Event Horizon

Does anything momentous happen
in the moment everything changes,
when a falling body crosses the line
between light and dark?

In the moment everything changes
is it an event at all
between light and dark?
Like the instant in debate

(is it an event at all?)
when you realize what you’ve said
– this instant in debate –
is fatal to your cause.

When you realize what you’ve said
and all your good reasons are past recall,
it’s fatal to your cause.
Or like one of those days

when all your good reasons are past recall
and nothing seems to happen.
Or like one of those days
you later see as the decisive moment

when nothing seems to happen
as a falling body crosses the line.
Later you see it’s the decisive moment,
the moment everything happens.

 

 

Broken Windows

(poem ending with a line by Louise Glück)

Shattered glass. And within each shard
a whole world of street and sky.

My mother laughs.
My father smokes.

Outside the house, with the slam of a door,
life begins.

On winter nights Orion chases across the sky.
Rigel, Betelgeuse. What’s the other?

The walk back from the bar alone is proof
the universe is expanding.

Leaves fall, then snow.
You want to know if there’s Christmas on other planets.

And if love is the answer.
Who said anything sillier, or better?

Find solace in that. Or in the poet’s words,
“the great plates invisibly shifting and changing.”

Three Poems ~ Colin Morton

Poetry online and in the family

We’ve been away from the computer a lot this summer, but have been keeping up appearances online, with poems at these wonderful web zines:

In the U.S., Ascent published my “Crepuscule” many years after editor Scott Olsen asked to talk about aging.

Valparaiso Poetry Review reached back millions of years with my poem “Footprints.”

In Canada, the new Juniper Review allowed me to give a birthday gift to my wife Mary Lee Bragg with the poem “Amnesia.”

Not incidentally, Mary Lee Bragg has just published her first full poetry collection, The Landscape that Isn’t Therefrom Aeolus House Press. It is the mature work of a lifetime, as you know if you heard her read at the Aeolus House launches in Toronto and Ottawa recently. She will be giving readings from the book in Ottawa at Tree in October and in Victoria at Planet Earth in January.

 

So we’re quiet here, and spend much of every day in silence, but all along, things are humming.

Fall roundup: new publications

  • December 8, 2018 – New poem “Riposte” is an above/ground press broadside, published to mark my taking part in the Arc Walk in Ottawa’s Byward Market. It was in the market building that Ottawa’s Tree reading series sponsored the first WordFest poetry festival back in the summer of 1982. I edited a chapbook of work by the featured writers for that festival and afterward went home and wrote a “Poem without Shame,” which I soon published as a broadside, the first of my Ouroboros editions. By chance, I found a few copies of the original broadside in my basement and handed them out to the poetry lovers who came out on a cold day to tour poetry sites in Ottawa.

above/ground publisher rob mclennan also handed out a new broadside with this poem, which commemorates some memorable murders on the streets of usually peaceful Ottawa:

http://abovegroundpress.blogspot.com/2018/12/poem-broadside-346-riposte-by-colin.html

 

  • November 30, 2018 – “Crepuscule,” a villanelle that takes a good-humoured look at an old couple’s physical decay, is a new poetry selection at Ascent magazine.

https://readthebestwriting.com/crepuscule-colin-morton/

 

  • November 8, 2018 – “Tree Planting” makes an appearance in the League of Canadian Poets’ anthology Heartland.

Editors Lesley Strutt and Claudia Coutu Radmore staged an Ottawa launch where several of the poets read their work and viewed the award-winning film Call of the Forest.

 

  • October 23, 2018 – Ottawa’s Poets’ Pathway has completed its objective of placing bronze poetry plaques on stones along the city’s walking trail from Britannia Beach to Beechwood Cemetery. To cap the project, the organizers invited the region’s poets to respond to a 19th century poem by Archibald Lampman. The “winning” poems, selected by Sarnia poet James Deahl, came together in a chapbook launched at the old firehall in Old Ottawa South. My poem in the chapbook recalls Ontario’s and Quebec’s great ice storm of January 1998:

Ice Storm

That was the winter of our disconnect,

when towering trees, weighed down,

fell through our powers lines, and ice

paved the roads, if clear, with peril.

 

Neighbours sawed up fallen trees

and kept fires going for some who fled

to shelters when the lights went out.

The rest kept busy to keep warm

 

Nothing in the freezer spoiled

though it became instead and ice-box

as we ate our way through summer’s

surplus tomatoes and stews.

 

Blankets, Afghans, quilts our grandmas

sewed for us when we were born

all found love again as we

huddled under them by the fire.

 

At night the streets were dark,

silent as in Lampman’s time.

Over gleaming fields of snow

the stars looked near, and cold.

 

All this and some anthology publications yet to be launched. It looks like I’ve been busy. But I’m merely slow to collect the news. More later.