I Remember…

My earliest memories are of pain, violence, drunkenness, sexual abuse, instability, helplessness and fear.

  • I remember attending more than 25 schools between elementary and high school
  • I remember living in almost 30 houses/apartments
  • I remember unending instability
  • I remember when I was about 5 my former stepfather Pete taking a huge steel meat tenderizer and smashing it into my stepfather Rick’s head while my mother screamed
  • I remember when the police came and described in detail to my mother how Pete had nearly killed Rick
  • I remember when I was four coming back home after a few days away when mum had a fight with my stepfather and hearing him explain that he had to get rid of the puppies we got for Christmas because he didn’t know if mum was ever bringing us back
  • I remember staying in a women’s shelter with mum and my sister
  • I remember finding my step-father’s hidden pornography when I was six
  • I remember seeing my mum beaten by various men…many times
  • I remember her blackeyes, her swollen face, her torn lip
  • I remember the words men would call my mum – slut, whore, cunt, bitch…every word was a punch to her gut and ours
  • I remember being invisible
  • I remember no father
  • I remember seeing my aunt throw a heavy glass ash tray into her boyfriend’s head.
  • I remember seeing the blood pour down his face as he fell to the ground (I was 12)
  • I remember having to call the police (many times)
  • I remember crying and screaming until I couldn’t speak anymore
  • I remember being afraid all of the time
  • I remember being in kindergarten and having a boy in grade 6 kick me square between the legs so hard it lifted me off the ground.
  • I remember going home that day and peeing a pure stream of blood that felt like fire
  • I remember being rushed to the hospital for double- hernia surgery
  • I remember hiding under my bed
  • I remember being poor and words like welfare, mother’s allowance and provincial housing
  • I remember all of the adults being drunk and fighting all of the time
  • I remember as a child watching them throw-up; I remember seeing them passed out on the floor
  • I remember the police coming to our door regularly
  • I remember watching my step-father being arrested and shoved into a police car
  • I remember my sister telling me our stepfather’s mum had gone to Residential School
  • I remember her saying that he carried that trauma with him into our lives
  • I remember my mother crying almost daily
  • I remember her several threats and attempts at suicide while we were alone with her
  • I remember having to call an ambulance after she took pills
  • I remember hearing words like “stomach pumped” and not knowing what it meant
  • I remember when a neighbour stole mum’s tax return money and I remember her rage
  • I remember walking in on someone close to me being sexually abused
  • I remember having to describe it to my mum and then the police
  • I remember being sexually abused by a male babysitter when I was four
  • I remember being taken away from mum and sent to a foster home alone
  • I remember being sent to another foster home with my sister Angel but separated from Susan
  • I remember telling my guidance councillor in Grade 7 about wanting to be an Astronomer and being told to “aim lower”
  • I remember mum screaming – all. the. time.
  • I remember wanting to kill myself everyday for a long time; then a few times a week; then a few times a month…now only a few times a year
  • I remember being repeatedly sexually abused, multiple times a week for more than two years straight by a man I was supposed to trust
  • I remember being sexually abused by my priest when I told him I was thinking about the priesthood
  • I remember when my sister’s best friend was hit by a car walking to school when she was five suffering severe brain damage
  • I remember being bullied every single day at school from grade five to grade nine
  • I remember witnessing a man jump from a high rise apartment and land across the street in front of me. I remember running over thinking there might still be a chance. I remember turning him over to attempt CPR and my hand going through the meat and tendons of his destroyed leg. I remember his eyes – they were blue with a grey film over them. I remember jumping every time I heard a loud noise for months after.
  • I remember the damage this has done to most of my relationships
  • I remember by therapist telling me I should see about being evaluated for ADHD
  • I remember no knowing what to do with that as a 54 year old man
  • I remember more…

This is my trauma. I will be 55-years-old next year and this is still my trauma. I hate being reminded about it. I hate talking about it because every time I do I feel re-victimized and re-traumatized. But it is real. It happened. It is still happening inside of me and it still affects the people around me.

This is why I keep people at a distance. This is why I struggle to trust. This is why I prefer the anonymity of the crowd over the intimacy of the individual.

everything feels like an end

the bright and sun-filled mornings;

every dawn that breaks the horizon in angry fire;

my warm evening meal with loved ones;

a cat’s mystified stare as it ponders you;

all my gazes into every green eye –

everything feels like an end these days,

as if I walked through a door unknowingly

and moved to a different universe.

there is a riptide here that threatens

to pull me into future’s deep, ice ocean.

do I swim hard against it,

or ride it far and away from safe shores?

and will I drown either way…

all i know

i have been told

that beneath us
and in-between us
and
between the lines
that define the you
from the me
there may be
other realms
and different realities;
an ongoing of sorts

these are the ghost stories of science
told to offer comfort
to a people cursed
with self-awareness;
a people who are told only one truth –

“you have an end”

with this in mind
live, laugh and love
as well as you can
and above all – hope.

this poem

this poem
does not offer you compassion,
nor will you find empathy
or understanding.

this poem
will not provide you with solace,
nor safe haven in the storm;
and it refuses an offering of grace
to bestow upon your weary head.

no,
this poem
cannot give you anything you desire;
will not supply anything you need.

this poem
presents to you one thing –

a blade of grass
stretched in lithe and dancer-like composure
toward the ever-giving sun
that warms and feeds it as it passes
through the turquoise skies
from the gates of dawn to dusk.

this poem
suggest you consider
the beauty of otherness outside of yourself
in this scimitar that would uproot
and glide to the heavens above,
if only the loving earth
would let it go.

this is all
this poem
can offer,
nothing more.

{code}

there is <code> in me
from a program called

Grandfather, William

it wrote fine lines of poetry
in observance of the world
and tradition.
in observance of pain and joy
as such <code> does
and was meant to do

<code> meets <code>
and new program called

Mother, Monica

is spun into the world
meeting yet more <code>
in program called

Father, Harry

and they write Peter
who finds old lines
buried in his operating system –

EXECUTE <code> Grandfather, William
in combination with new data
program Grandson, Peter

OUTPUT – poetry.

and the <code> moves forward
and the <code> looks back
old program becomes new
sometimes latent,
sometimes activated,
always there.

a day

cold breeze kisses the cheeks

while radiant sun warms the skin

in blissful combined contradiction;

it’s enough to wake you from the dead

to pull you from that rotting slumber

as a reminder that life is best lived

despite the lurking dark.

let us stand in the bright warm places

and sing against impending ends,

thankful for a moment or two,

thankful for me being thankful for you.

1988

big drunk strides
like falling forever
but somehow with

u n i n t e n t i o n a l g r a c e

every step lands
with the confidence
of a person who doesn’t know
and doesn’t care
(or an idiot, we’re not sure which)

jump from the window
two stories up
and flow to the earth
with a smile stitched
from ear to ear
like Icarus without wings
failing to see
that gravity of it all

everyone is far away
in this too small room
filled with smoke and
butter knives with blackened ends
and you are like a ghost
because you are there
but not really…just mist

what’s this?
straight up the nose it goes
and then a taxi with someone
(who is that?)
to nowhere
(where are we going?)
as the cab takes off
the head stays where it was
and then snaps back to you
about 10 or 20 seconds later

how is it possible
you remember any of this
and have forgotten
so much that was important?
you misplaced your trench coat
that night;
so sad to have lost it –
like losing your skin
and walking around naked;
a capeless Batman – vulnerable

then on new year’s eve
brandishing bottles of Chateau Nevada
while she, this unknown, hung on too close
laughed too loud and bullied you to dance
until midnight came and we yelled as we toasted
as she looked at you and said “Well?”
and you were too stupid to know for moment
but then caught on – “Naw, i think i’m headin’ out”
and stumbled away…just like that

still, there was sun the next morning
as she sat with you and a dozen others
glaring death and ice and a thousand hateful thoughts
while we ate a greasy breakfast for kings
and gathered late to quietly consume
preparing for the coming of night
when the siren voices of Jon Anderson and Jim Morrison
would beckon us to the alter again
to light this strange Moroccan incense
and continue the cycle forever

or

at least to the end of the year

Here is Lisbon

And here is Lisbon

Rearing up out of the Tagus

And covered in tourists

Like a dog with fleas

But what a dog!

And we

We two are are here

Me and she

Part of the infestation

In this place

We

We are happy

We rode the train

Back from Cas Cais

And there is the boy

A local

Showing his friends

His new football jersey

And they drink cheap beer together

To celebrate

And nobody cares

No one is getting hurt

Because we are each our own world

Here

Here you can be.

I smell fish and salt by the water

As I carry Pessoa in my hand,

He is heavy with the weight of life

But a burden I can bear

His was his heavier

I can feel the world press in

In the best way possible

While I think of the oranges

That are almost ripe on the trees

Lisbon says aranja differently

They say the J here

It is given a life of its own

Just like me…everyone

Lisbon says me differently

It gives me a life of my own.

shame is the shadow I walk in

I wanna make it

easy for you to understand

I do…

it was hands in the dark

under sheets

u n w an t e d

year after year

it was the closing darkness

when you all were supposed to be light

when you all were supposed to be heroes

giving me the power of a new name

but all you left me was corrosive shame

like a lead blanket bearing me down

beneath a view of a cold and empty heaven

and I’m heavier than I should’ve been

and I’m less than I could’ve been

more scarred than I would’ve been

you took your stolen worth

and poured it on my head

like oil over a sacrifice to your lost innocence

but instead of recapturing it

you burned mine away

and there are days when I would kill you

but death came first;

this is the hate you carved into me

with your slicing finger knives

leaving me bleeding

on all the beauty I ever did see

and I don’t want any pathetic pity

I just want to make it easy,

easy for you to agree

that there were other monsters

that made the monster you may see

when you look deep into me