Monthly Archives: April 2010

where is the “you”

there’s so much “me” in this head
so much “i know” and “you don’t” –
this gestalt, this entity they call “i”
is full up, like a closet whose owner refuses
to take those old rags to the sally ann.

where is the “you”?
where is “would you like?” not “but you should”
where is the soft “you”, the other, the “thou”,
the curious, loving, patient, warm gaze
that longs to rest on the richness
of more-than-i …

right here. no need to wait.
i’ll just open my heart.

juicy paper

white and open,
this sheet for me.
forty-four years now of fascination
and no end in sight.
every time i see an open field like this,
it fills me with anticipation.
dream landscapes, i’m sure, completely sure,
are ready under this thick snow blanket,
ready to form and roll and move at any time.
all that is needed is a pen,
to draw a line, another one, then five, then twelve,
twelve thousand,
across its white expanse.
thick pads of juicy paper:
each sheet a miracle.

(this is another NaPoWriMo experiment: i just went through a good two dozen of my old poems to see which one i’d feel inclined to improve a bit. this one, written in 2005, is an example)

mental health camp news

a few updates on MentalHealthCamp, the second vancouver conference on the intersection between social media and mental health, to be held on july 10.

we have a motto! it is

breaking our silence. setting us free.

also, there will be a mental health camp in toronto – isn’t that cool?  it’s on may 28.  raul and i are really stoked that this is moving beyond vancouver.

then there is a video of how the whole MentalHealthCamp idea started.

also on the MentalHealthCamp blog is a reply to an interesting article on the topic of “normal“, which had started with a post on the same topic at PsychCentral.

voices – napowrimo day 24

when your voice doesn’t come out
and you hear someone else sing
and more voices run around in your mind
when you see lights left right center
when the rattling comes at you and the heat and the radiation
when you keep beating up your head
how can it work
how are you supposed to engineer a thought
or let one rise up from creation?

prayer to be simple

when i was in germany, i picked up a slim little book of poetry, die gebete der demut (prayers of humility) by french poet francis jammes.  he lived from 1868 to 1938.  the poetry foundation says about him that he was

… best known for his poetry of the natural world, in which he praised the simplicity of country life. his literary standing has always been difficult to categorize; blandine m. rickert wrote in the encyclopedia of world literature: “jammes, who has been referred to as a symbolist, neosymbolist, or naturiste, never belonged to any systematic school of poetry. he always was only himself, in the process creating jammisme, which embraces but one guiding principle, ‘the truth that is the praise of god.’ it is innocence, simplicity, and humility; it extols the beauty of the native soil and the virtues of family life; it is adoration of god and love of all he created.” jammes’s poetry counters french literary tradition, so often associated with highly rarefied, intellectual poetics.

for today’s national poetry writing month exercise, i thought i’d do a translation.  yes, i know, it’s a translation from the german translation into english so i’m sure i don’t do francis jammes justice – but it’s enjoyable nevertheless.  i get a lot out of translation – it really brings me deep into the poem.  so here we are:

prayer to be simple

the butterflies, they wave about,
surrendering to every breeze
like petals strewn by gentle children on a path.
my god, it’s early morning and already
my prayer wants to lift itself to you
with all the blooming butterflies,
the crying roosters in the barn,
and with the crushing beat of the old stonecutter.
under the sycamores with their green palm fronds
you can hear – and cannot see – the crickets:
they sing of your might without end.
the blackbird, restless in black watery leaves
sings a few phrases. she dare not twitter any longer.
she does not know what stirs her fear. gives up
and darts up, quick, in one full swoop
straight through across the ground, away to where
no-one abides.

my god, so gently start again our lives, another morning
like yesterday, like many times before.
just like these butterflies, these stonecutters,
the crickets who live by the sun,
and like the blackbirds who are hiding in the cool dark
with the leaves;
let me keep living, god, my life,
as simple and as modest as i can.

earth day: proud to be a rag doll

in the late 80s and early 90s i wrote an environmental column for a little independent vancouver newspaper, the revue, run by rod raglin. a propos of earth day, i thought i’d reprint one of the articles, written in 1990. since i just bought some great stuff at grand central today (including a pair of super cool onesole exchangable sandals), i’d say not too much has changed 🙂

proud to be a rag doll

you probably know “rag doll”, the 50s (or is it 60s?) song where boy falls in love with girl who lives on the wrong side of town and wears hand-me-downs. the fact that she does not wear new clothes definitely disqualifies her as a suitable addition to the boy’s family. fortunately, boy does not care! which of course leads me to the question whether the author of this schmaltzy song had a premonition about things to come 30, 40 years thence – being now, the greedy 80s and the new age 90s. how do we think about a person wearing used clothes nowadays? to be more direct – what do you think about me? 90% of my clothes are either purchased in such laudable (or would you say despicable?) establishments as value village, swapped or hand-me-downs.

enough bragging. when it comes to my kids – a 7-year-old tomboy and a 17-year old young man – the story is a little different. they wear only about 60% used clothes and would not mind if it were 6%. why? well, used stuff just isn’t cool, man. that attitude developed especially during those awful two months this summer when both kids got into a fit of tv-watching. luckily, this is over and the glimmering media monster with all those enticing, colourful moving pictures has left our house again. but it certainly convinced the children of the necessity of new sneakers and new t-shirts and new jeans (not to mention all the junk food that they started to consume in inordinate amounts all of a sudden). tv indoctrinated them to three of the most important doctrines of consumerism: everything that can be seen on the tube, whether in commercials or in shows, should be bought right away, and new; if this is not done, one must surely be deprived; and whatever one does own but which has no counterpart in television must be wrong.

on the other hand, my story, the story of the stubborn, medieval non-tv-watcher goes like this: clothes are made either of animal products, plants, or chemicals. for my foot to tread securely on, let’s say, the trails of grouse mountain, an animal had to die. for my legs to be warm against the cool air of those altitudes, crops had to be raised. and for my back to be protected against the chilly winds in those lofty regions, chemicals had to be combined in a way alien to nature in order to produce a polyester wind jacket.

how steep is the price? how many of my fellows on earth, be it pigs, cows or whatever, have to die to provide me with shoes? how much earth has to be drained from its natural nutrients and artificially whipped on to produce a hundred times more than it was designed to, to raise cotton crops? is the man or the woman who sprayed those cotton crops with carcinogenous pesticides still alive? the fumes produced in the process of manufacturing the wind jacket – have they returned to haunt me in the form of acid rain on the lettuce i will eat tonight?

yes, everything does have its price. but when i am faced with the choice of paying a high price so that i may conform with the laws laid down by the church of eternal consumption or of paying a much lesser price by using up what others refuse in turn for the danger of being called a rag doll – to me it’s not even a choice. i’m proud to be a rag doll.

on a lighter note, it’s also fun. i mean, the selection at value village is just so much bigger than the one at eaton’s. plus it changes all the time. and just think of that delicious feeling of surprise and accomplishment when after 2 hours of going through a 40-year history class of fashion you actually do come up with that dazzling european designer kashmir dress for $10 which originally probably cost $350. never mind the moth holes. i have thread and needle.