- Biographical information
- April Iceberg off Bragg's Island
- Best Minds (For Allen Ginsburg)
- I'm Alive, I Believe in Everything
- My Father, Shaking Pepper
- Saskatoon Bus Depot: 8 a.m. Sunday
Name: Lesley Choyce
Place and date of birth: Riverside Township, New Jersey (United States); March 21, 1951
- April Iceberg off Bragg's Island (From a Print by David Blackwood)
The hand of God has hacked this ship
from eaves of ice that roof the world
and now it floats in silent strength
reminding me of the cold, blind force
that shapes our lives and feeds our fears.
We row at night in boats to feel
the new blue light of moon and ice
beneath this cold and ancient dream
that wants to test our own beliefs.
It almost seems like holiness
to stand this small beneath these cliffs,
these vaulted walls of winter white.
You feel the weight deep down inside
like thunder or extinction's calm.
Had I the heart
I'd climb the sides
to meet the moon
and leave a harsh and ragged land
to float off south to other seas
till nothing's left but warmth
My Father, Shaking Pepper
It was his only vice, I think
for wars were waged at dinnertime.
My mother, silent, all of salt,
would watch his waving wrists with frowns,
his grip around the greywhite glass,
his mind intent on holding ground.
He seemed not sure of when's enough
but peppered plates till seasons flew.
At length, he'd sneeze a stormy gust,
my mother's face spoke: justice done.
She'd cluck her tongue and shake her head,
he'd smile and wipe his glasses clean,
then truces grew around the meal
and love was served its honest share.
So warmed by spices hot as this,
I simply couldn't help but stare.
When I was three years old
and my father was building our house
nothing there yet but a skeleton of studs
and empty air,
I climbed the ladder to the not yet attic
and crawled along a joist
just wide enough for infant knees
until I was discovered
in the centre of a would be home
with mortality singing along my skin
and a cold concrete basement below.
All I had going for me (as usual)
was blind optimism and a sense of balance
like a bright idea not quite yet lost.
Then, somehow, before the darkness found me out,
my father was aloft,
too scared to shout my name
or make me move.
I think he almost tripped in fear,
a man whose feet could dance through work,
while I just smiled, expecting praise
and found, instead, a painful price
of angry hands that spanked me back
into a world of safe and love
before the time of further years
of higher climbs to narrow beams
with legs less sure at every step
and darker depths below us all.
I´m Alive, I Believe in Everything
Self. Brotherhood. God. Zeus. Communism.
Capitalism. Buddha. Vinyl records.
Baseball. Ink. Trees. Cures for disease.
Saltwater. Literature. Walking. Waking.
Arguments. Decisions. Ambiguity. Absolutes.
Presence. Absence. Positive and Negative.
Empathy. Apathy. Sympathy and entropy.
Verbs are necessary. So are nouns.
Empty skies. Dark vacuums of night.
Visions. Revisions. Innocence.
I've seen All the empty spaces yet to be filled.
I've heard All of the sounds that will collect
at the end of the world.
And the silence that follows.
I'm alive, I believe in everything
I'm alive, I believe in it all.
Waves lapping on the shore.
Skies on fire at sunset.
Old men dancing on the streets.
Paradox and possibility.
Sense and sensibility.
Cold logic and half truth.
Final steps and first impressions.
Fools and fine intelligence.
Chaos and clean horizons.
Vague notions and concrete certainty.
Optimism in the face of adversity.
I'm alive, I believe in everything
I'm alive, I believe in it all.
Saskatoon Bus Depot: 8 a.m. Sunday
The Parktown Hotel's grown sterile in the night;
instead I slip to empty streets and something terminal
the nervous confusion of women in a hall
brooding over hourlong coffee
waiting for home
for Warham and Longham,
for Biggar and Lanks,
Humboldt and Smeaton,
Carrot River, Nebo, Choiceland,
Cutknife or Livelong.
I'm at home here with the dispossessed
the bugeyed lady with her head wrapped
in a white towel,
the hundred year old man smiling at his toast,
the grizzled farmer rolling cigarettes with one hand
and the young, chubby sweetheart shortorder cook
with eyes cut out from magazines.
I feel community in the sad restaurant
with all the sippers and smokers,
the barefisted bacon grabbers
and sportspage sleaze.
Outside the glass, a car stops
and a man who looks like Farley Mowat
refills a bin with Plain Truth
while Red Sovine on the radio mewls heartbreak and loss.
All day that country station
will catalogue wasted love and wayward lives
while inside the Saskatoon Bus Depot Restaurant
the Prairies collect in tabled rows,
tea cups steam in October sun
and dreams are swept up with moody brooms.
The settlers here know comfort's short on change,
that waiting's only ever half the size of life
and cities lie to country eyes
more fixed on drying fields of wheat and rye
and winter's meaner passion waiting at home.
(For Allen Ginsburg).
I've seen the best minds of my generation zoned out on Windows
gone Microsoft in the head and lost like cattle
in the perimeters of happiness without a clue
as to the way back home;
who loiter in the shopping malls at lunch hour
pressing thumb and forefinger against
Tommy Hilfiger casual wear,
who can't find spare change from their fashionable pockets
for street musicians or sympathy for bag ladies
collecting Pepsi cans form the garbage.
I've seen the best minds of my generation zoned out
in front of Seinfeld reruns
secretly admiring George Costanza
and tolerating unimaginable TV commercials selling garbage
for the mind and body,
who finally, frustrated and angry, can only rage
at the remote control
for not being able to make the entire world go mute.
I've seen the best minds browbeat by bureaucratic barbarism
chained to desks and ergonomic chairs
and losing valuable days of their lives
staring at fax machines and
waiting, waiting for a missive from Montreal or New York
so they can take one step forward or backward
or maybe nowhere at all,
who settle for new Japanese cars with staggering options
instead of freedom from career paths
etched in the ethereal circuitry of the internet
where gigabytes of information wait to pounce
like sleepless lions on the unaware clueless victims
and then drill codework into the left hemisphere of the brain,
who forgot the lessons of Vietnam and Nixon and Mulroney and Mars
but instead steal away to ClubMed to fake euphoria
while frying their pale skin beneath the cancerous sun
while sipping white zombies
and listening to watered down reggae music;
who came home to the city to chow down
at fashionable ethnic restaurants selling artificial foods
instead of home grown organic fare with lots of fresh herbs
from the garden,
who deal out moments of their lives
like cards in a stacked game of chance,
who arm wrestle the stock quotations in the Daily News,
who stare glassyeyed at the video lottery machines
in smoky bars at 8 pm,
who squelch even harmless daydreams
with easy listening music
or drown themselves in espresso and cappuccino,
who retire from challenges of intellect
for the safety of stadium spectator sports,
who ignore the kids starving in Africa and Asia but wonder
if there's profit in selling soap
and powdered milk to emerging markets,
who sift through junkmail looking for cryptic clues
to the meaning of life as if
the Publishers' Clearinghouse Sweepstakes
has some answer in the fine print,
some respite from the hollowness felt in the bones of loners.
I have seen the best minds of my time
stop trying to react to impossible, intrusive goals
and settle down to dream the dream
of Calvin Klein underwear men and women,
who wake up late at night trying to remember
what crusade it was that sent them shouting in the streets,
who once knew instinctively the Gulf War was never won
but a lot of innocent children were killed by your side,
who almost had the courage to say the deficit
was not as important as the destitute,
who almost stood up to the racists and the rich
and the right wing zealots,
who grew up and trusted the integrity of their banks and senators
and bosses at the corporation
and opted for new taste as in microbreweries as a sign
that they were freethinking and hip.
They still walk among us and rule and remind their children
that they almost went to Woodstock
and they really did change the world
and they believe in the life force of the planet
and admit that somebody's killing it but
it isn't them.
The best minds still have beating hearts but the blood
fails to find its way to the sleeping brain cells
that store revolution like withered flowers
in the secret place
at the very top of the spinal column.
Yes, I've seen the best of them turn shiny and successful
and boastful of boats and Bay Street, blind with allegiance
to anything but themselves,
lost in a haze of Bacardi ads in magazines
and the possibility of retiring early
with the goal of doing nothing
at all but maybe play golf and take naps and wait
for lodging in retirement communities.
Better for them to rage against the glitzy dying of the light,
the tedium of vicarious tabloid living.
Better to froth at the mouth and shout out love
like Milton Acorn in a Toronto Park.
Better to recite four letter words
and get arrested like Ginsburg in San Francisco
or better to sit in the woods alone
and contemplate the sutra of deer tracks,
and wintergreen root,
the succulent star moss and sifting mist of spruce trees.
Far too many of us have not gone crazy but remained sane and stable
and safe within the womb of the twentieth century.
But the howl of young idealism will not go away
it's there inside your heart;
it's there sneaking up at you at the subway stop
at Bathhurst and Yonge;
it's there looking at you from the bubbles in the watercooler
near the photocopier;
it's there in the upper right hand corner of the picture
of a car wreck on the front page of the paper;
it's there living in your closet with your favourite blue shirt;
it's there, a lost soul in the carburetor of your Lawnboy mower;
it's there in your voicemail like a ghost;
it's there on the other line while you sort out problems
with the Purolater man;
it's sneaking up on you when you least expect it,
watching a rental video of Jurassic Park 2;
reminding you that there's still time,
still time for the best minds of our generation
to give back instead of just taking.
Ginsburg was right:
"Holy the supernatural extra brilliant
intelligent kindness of the soul".