Lucky Man

Lucky Man ISBN: 0-9735567-3-0 • Paperback · 8″ x 5″ • 88 pages • September 2005


A lucky break. Paul Wilson had just become part-owner of Hagios Press, whom I knew from my time at the SWG. He had heard I was putting a manuscript together including poems since 1985, and asked to see it. Twenty years between books, for family, for work, for exploratory writing like Involuntary Tongue, which I read to a startled group of my friends and colleagues in a Regina warehouse space I had rented, preparing them with my favourite cocktail, the Rob Roy. Question then as now was, so who is going to publish this stuff? This stuff was Involuntary Tongue.

Correct in this Culture (written between 1980 – 1984) ended with poems about a new relationship, referencing meeting my second wife Sheila at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1981, our marriage (Carl Ridd, officiating at the University of Winnipeg chapel), and one hell of a dinner and dance party at Dubrovnik’s, on a muggy August day in 1982. We moved to Regent Park, a northwest Regina suburb, with the help of my mother before our first son Alden was born (conceived on the night Alden Nowlan died). Gorgeous back yard, with a fragrant linden tree.

Lucky Man opens with another prelude, this one a “Poem of Pears” riffing on Robert Kroetsch’s  “Sketches of a Lemon,” (which was riffing on Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird), which I self-published as  a chapbook as I was coming out of a deep depression. The chapbook was edited by Ted Dyck, with whom I had re-established contact, (go email go!)

Lucky Man picked up where Correct in this Culture left off, but set back in Winnipeg (we moved in1991) featuring Portage & Main (I have worked within a block or two since 1991) and my Wolseley neighbourhood.  I was fortunate to have Patricia Young as editor, though I suffered the loss of most final stanzas, heavy with closure. This we did by phone, while I was the fortunate resident of the Patricia Blondal Memorial retreat near Arnes, Manitoba. I can still smell the alfalfa being cut in the field next to the house. Lynn and I were just beginning to connect, and we flew kites after the baling.

The collection was nominated for the 2005 McNally Robinson Manitoba Best Book of the Year Award (there was not yet a separate poetry award), losing to David Bergen’s Giller winning The Time In between. I rolled home from the Fort Garry, singing.


Lucky Man depicts the particular heroism of modern life, its multiple impossible ‘theories of love,’ its ‘unfinished romances,’ its broken friendships, its repeated attempts to find moments of solace and connection and gift-giving. Here is the quiet desperation of isolated selves, the pleasure of sunlight, oranges, naked sons playing in the bath. Lucky Man balances bravely on the knife-edge of pleasure, where it meets the thousand faces of pain, making its song there.” —Di Br

THE NIGHT OPENS

The kids are asleep.
we step out

under the drizzle
of falling linden flower.

We slip out of our flip-flops
stand side by side, feet cool

and rooted in our midnight
blue mini-pool.

We pull our night
shirts over our heads

see the sky, naked
full and promising

hold on to what we
have, and are happy.

Like children we
hide from the neighbours

lay hands on your belly
full baby moving.

We slough off the heat
the argument of day

kiss and caress
In the cool night air.

Anointing each other
we enter the moon.

BATHING

My sons wake
to the sounds of rushing water
as I fill my bath, the night
still in their eyes, they wait
for me to climb into my morning
tub, their eyes to open
in the harsh bathroom light.

They jockey for position
perch on the closed toilet seat,
tell me how to wash
my head first, dink later
a ritual I follow at night
when I watch them bathe,
as I read the evening news.

They squirt each other with water
pistols fast in their hands, know
how to lie down, play dead,
how to rinse the shampoo
from their fine hair. Shaking
off the dirty water,
they rub their eyes.

They stand,
hold out their arms
for me to lift them
back into the world.
They hide in
The thick white terry towels
Where I find life, in them.

DRYING MY DAUGHTER’S HAIR

She sits on my side of the bed
six years old, bright
enough to clear the falling dark –
I’m an optimist she says after
I define “pessimist;”
a word she has read.

Mirrored, we
see each other
reversed. I reach for
the blow dryer,
her favourite brush
in my other hand.

Minutes later she shakes free –
her fine blond hair,
above her
blue-eyed wonder,
sparks fly; electrostatic
in the dark air.

A DARK NIGHT IN JANUARY

When you called it
Quits. You couldn’t

Go another step. I suggested
New shoes, therapy.

You shook your head
And inhaled. Said goodbye.

My lawyer faster
Than yours. Love

Nor money
To change hands

WHAT YOU LEAVE BEHIND

You steal back into the house,
where we once lived together,

To retrieve the parts of your life
you know as your own –

Some photos, a hairbrush
boxes of a previous life.

Before me, the detritus
of our marriage

scattered
around the dining room.

I refuse
to pick up after you.

Our kids
open the door

To let you in,
to let you out.

LUCKY MAN

for G.

I look for a colour slide
both of us in short pants
my arm slung over your shoulder.

We stood in a garden
of red poppies, tall flowers
in front of the white house,
when yards were big enough.

I can’t recover this image,
brotherhood lost years
ago. In a drunken rage

I threw gin in your eyes
a momentary blindness, then
at each other’s throats
our hands all a strangle.

Women pulled us apart
before the damage
became permanent.

I ran out
the door, the glass shattered,
you behind me

vanishing into the new year,
ahead a cold empty sky
over Winnipeg.

Finally, today,
alone as a suicide
I get your forgiving note –

look for the garden.
for a moment
we stand free
to begin again.


Published by: Hagios Press
Purchase: McNally Robinson 

 

 

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