Snow

Seemed an appropriate theme for one of the coldest, snowiest Decembers we’ve had in a long time. Five original images by M, from the archives, in slideshow form. You can right-click to open a full-rez version in a new tab, where you can see all the insane detail that goes into one of these.

Here’s to the New Year picking itself up, dusting itself off, and putting on those well-worn, many-times-mended gloves for another round. We can do this, folks. It will get better!

 

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ii. Art

Visualizing: the painter in her many layers: cotton, wool and fleece, an outer layer to break the wind, thick socks in practical boots, hybrid gloves – the kind where the finger tips detach and bend back to grip Velcro fasteners, leaving thin fingers free to freeze solid.

She stabs her stubby, short bristled brush into the orange, yellow, red, white, green, squinting in the dying light, painting more by feel and memory than sight. The application of paint is reassuring in its methodical swiftness, confident and direct, devoid of hesitation. The basic physics of the equation are those of a crafts-person, building a picture as one might a chair – the first rough cut, before the joining and sanding and polishing.

There are some of those on the wall too, quick sparse sketches, laid out in wide utilitarian strokes, slapped down in a hurry while the light lasted. They lack the glow of the two finished paintings; the canvas lies flat against the uneven bricks, no real sense of depth, despite the hasty blue shadows thrown across the snow, the flash of winter sunlight on the south-facing wall of the farm house – a depiction not so much of a specific building, but rather a symbolic representation of the idealized form of the southern Ontario concept of House: a sturdy rectangle with a triangular roof, three windows and a door, smudges that might be pine trees cozying up to it on either side. The sky is two shades of blue, the brush strokes reaching from ground to sky, as if following the memory of the last time the aurora borealis enveloped the house in dancing green fingers.

Passing Effect

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Everything in a Box by Mark A. Harrison

Passing effect: The effect of passing through things
– Leaves, hair, branches, hearts –
Equal and opposite reactions;
We pretend that contact is only temporary,
that everything always
only passes by, and through
– and yet –
We all affect each other, even Jupiter’s tiny moons
affect the giant’s gravitational field.

Gravity: A force so weak, you can defeat it
with a fridge magnet, or a piece of tape;
by a hop, skip, jump, the push of single finger;
– and yet –
Even the weakest forces can surprise you
how they keep coming back
the persistence of the everyday;
You can jump up, but you’ll always land.

All these fleeting melodramas,
our brief starring moments on the bright-dark stage,
all the private riots, the secret rebellions,
a universe of stories unfolding, moment by moment,
inside the sacred prison, the infinite travelling picture show
invisible to everyone else;
one might call it
a kind of madness.

Flashing lights and sirens, a circling fruit fly, living speck of dust;
Do we weather the small annoyances in the name of compassion,
or wage instant meaningless destruction in the name of indifference?

Every time inspiration hits, the world is transformed
– and yet –
the persistence of the mundane is like gravity, like inertia,
the approaching fall, the curling of dead yellow leaves,
the sinking in of desiccated fruit, a hint in the air
of the coming cold, and the long, long sleep.

Orbits inevitably decay,
all returns to the earth, through fire, or drowning,
the final burnt traces sinking into the ocean, ashes falling like snow
winking gold & silver in the light of the setting sun.

Not all the mass times constant squared
in all the known universe
can give you more Time
…and yet…
Sometimes, in the suspension of the moment, we imagine
that this now is eternal,
the world moving past us, as we stand
on the brink of what is possible;
That little voice in the back of your mind,
whispering a subtle dare,
to take that one small step
out into the air;

And always, that one desperate, aching pit
in the darkest centre of your soul
that screams an affirmation
always straining against the barrier,
waiting for the day, when everything becomes clear
and we know at last
that flight is, finally,
possible.

– T.H.
(Selected excerpts, edited, from a freefall poem written in 2014)

Burn After Reading II: Re-entry

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thing 1 by Mark A. Harrison

I.  All the poems I wrote before I met you

My pen is two bent wires
teasing free the catch
of a lock I’ve never seen
(no one knows what door it opens
but they say the pen’s the key)

my pen is nimble fingers
brushing raw wires together
to make a spark
a credit card sliding
between door jam and deadbolt
a thief in the night
who leaves more than she steals

my pen is a bootleg album
recorded on the road
at some backwoods festival
where it rained all weekend
where we swam
naked at night
and woke at dawn
to the sound
of birds singing
and wind in the trees

my words are
misshapen footprints
left in the mud
the patterns traced in
campfire circles
ashes still smouldering
embers that might
(if the wind is right)
set the whole damned forest
ablaze.

II. A practical guide for the end of the world

burn after reading:
stamped in red
on a plain brown envelope
scrawled in lipstick
on a paper napkin
written in henna
on the vulnerable skin
of an exposed wrist

take this knowledge
like your final breath
carve it deep
in your fragile bones
let it burrow down
into your heart’s core

then cast away
these ephemeral scraps
these temporary tattoos
these fragile imaginings

ignore the sirens
the whisper in your ear
the scratching at the door
the howling in the wind

stand firm, no flinching
as you watch it burn
the edges curling,
falling to ash

only remember
this one small thing:
everything ends; everything begins

(Both poems significantly edited / expanded 10.05.17, incl. new titles – T.H.)

Why I love poetry, in 150 words or less

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Fusing – by Mark A. Harrison

This one is best read out loud. Like most poetry, really. Somewhere no one can hear you, if you’re shy.

hit and run ambient wordfall
pulled from sweetest nightmares
Pan’s premonition
of a darker age
seagreen waveforms
pulse in time to
silver scuba space jazz
as we fly through
quantum tunnels
chewed into the walls of
grandma death’s beechwood attic
Robinson Crusoe’s
roller coaster orbit
ain’t got nothin’ on this
pressed close together,
we tango along
impermanent lines
heaven’s gridwork
etched into our eyes
while a waxwork fawn
kicks up its heels at spilled sugar stars
sending sparks up from
silicon hooves
stained deep indigo blue
worlds spin in its wake
as words spin in mine
my fingers tiny gods
whole galaxies made and unmade
in the space of a few
staggered heartbeats
in the spaces between
a few
quiet
breaths

– T.H.
(2007)

bigger on the inside

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Metallic State by Mark A. Harrison

Been thinking about words a lot lately, how they can change from a tool to a weapon, a dirge to a song, a box label to found poetry, depending on how you wield them. This was written a couple of years back, late at night with a cat under one arm, picking words at random from the spines of DVD cases on the bookshelf next to me.

BiggerOnTheInside_byTanahHaney

 

Blue hills rise from the fog

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Line Expression by Mark A. Harrison

The Return

Blue hills rise from the fog
in the pre-dawn light
Our skin pricked cold
breath hanging
like words best forgotten
This is the true homecoming
We know the bedrock here
like our own bones
felt but not seen
except in times of disaster
We left regret behind
in the last village
clinging to the cliff’s edge
like a gnarled, salt-stung tree
Remember how you said
you didn’t like to travel
but if getting there is hard
it makes arrival that much sweeter
Here the sheep and cows and chickens
are anything but domestic
wild, shaggy, ruffled
with eyes like coal embers
storm-blasted, hawk-harried,
they’re no easy kill
We leave the car
by the side of the road
and walk into the lifting fog
leaving footprints in wet grass
We climb
until we can barely stand
Looking down we imagine
the curve of the earth
We can feel moss growing
between our toes
feel the pulse of waves
through the soles of our feet
Now you understand
what home feels like
and wonder where you’ve been
all this time.

– TH

Unexpected Trees

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Record of Spring by Mark A. Harrison

unexpected trees

when holding on becomes too hard
we must learn the art of release

I awoke this morning
to unexpected trees
they had sprouted outside
my window overnight
their branches festooned
with cherry blossoms
far too early in the year
for that kind of thing
I walked to the window
and found the burgeoning stream
had flooded the world
the sloping hills, the fallow fields
had turned to rolling waves
and cool still ponds
and everywhere, rising
from the impossible water
were trees tall as mountains
a preposterous abundance
of pink blossoms
every petal containing
the essence of buoyancy.

A sprig of thyme for luck
tucked in my breast pocket
I set out in a in a boat made
of paper, straw and chewing gum
to rescue the metaphor
of a flood that drowns the world
and a road that only runs one way.

When lost in the maze, one need only
climb the walls to see the way out;
leaving the boat behind,
I reach for the first branch,
and begin to climb.

-T.H.

All these little armageddons

planet_again-byMarkAHarrison

Planet, again – By Mark A. Harrison

This one seemed apt, given the way the world stage is set these days

All these little armageddons
that happen every day
just a taste of the apocalypse
in your own special way
When the world comes crashing down
and your friends have all left town
and the oracles have nothing left to say

Do you trip the light fantastic
before the final end?
Do you go out with a bang
or with a whimper?
Do you take them all down with you
or make the demons your best friends?

Oh, you’ll find out just how far that you can fall
and you might think that it’s not far at all
but it’s always so much farther than you think

So why not take a little drink
a little sip of strife and chaos
why not blow the status quo to smithereens?

Because deep down you still remember
a certain Sunday in September
and the way a certain hand once felt in yours

You’ll see her face on every stranger’s face
and even when you find a place
you think that you can finally be alone
you know you’re never truly on your own

Until the day there’s nothing left but skin and bone
and the shadow of a heart, like an echo, or a mark
left smoking in the wake
of a nuclear storm.

– T.H. (’08)