Thursday, February 3, 2022

Michael Boughn : Two poems



The Virus Will Tell Us

“The virus will tell us,”

          —Dr. William Schaffner, preventive medicine specialist,

          Vanderbilt University Medical  School

What and when the virus will count

us in on looms beyond normal
telling. Sure, it will tell us

when it has had its fill
when it’s sated for a while

ready to snooze. Can it tell us
tho, why we forget the stars’
numbers, their names, forget

to listen to the trees? Will it tell us
why that matters when it comes to

tell us? Will it tell us
the name of the sound of air
when the Bay warms rushing

through the birch? Perhaps the Virus
will tell us what we want now

that closed shops gape at empty
streets, shuttered schools
harbour only echoes, arenas

mourn in the dark. The virus
will tell us when it has had

its fill but will it tell us
does it relish us, smack
its viral chops as we do

over the meat we eat
with such relish? Will it tell us

why it has come to stalk us
haunting dog park, playground,
concert hall, bar?

Tiresias, trickster, verge
being, emerging between life

and the other thing
that’s not death but not living
either? Will it tell us what

it sees in the grey lands, counting
out lives, beads on a string




White Pine, or, Hitchhiking on the Road to Xanadu – a short sonnet sequence
—after A.J. Casson

The warrant of the pilgrimage lies in

the heart of chaos’s incongruous jumble
a thick farrago, a veritable din

out of which miraculously tumble

clarities of outline against the sky’s
abrupt modulation, varied tones
and erratic constellations of eye’s

making, empires erected in some zone

beyond reckoning where at a distance
a dead dog may smell like elder flowers
and strange unfolding circumstance

of its composition sways & towers

in mind etched form’s immaculate torsion
yields the force of an unearthly portion


Desultory brilliance in a falcon’s
eye sparks unEarthly portion’s portentous

sediment among unpromising scraps
beneath the crust of facts & contentious

vestiges of obliterated light
from uncanny substances — curious
fragments of the horned moon’s midnight

shadow entangles voluminous

bulk, such heave in fountainous over
flowing spatial occupation insists
luminous verbal residue is all

you can hope for, that unexpected Kiss

a passing moment of dermal contact
leaves all there is to know of Time intact

Ocular spectra in a luminous brain

do the Can-Can — for which occasionally
people were arrested — which doesn’t explain

molded & radiant form in the night

or failed rhyme’s delicious delight
in missed cues, but may introduce errant
throng from nether depths teeming huddle

and unloose it in pantalettes open

crotch high kick revelations, the chill
awful red of morning’s hoisted frills
which botches earnest attempts to inscribe

arboreal haecceity, still & calm

in darkness fades as line of spreading peach
incises the day’s sedulous breach


The wild dance of death fire, corpo santo
to those in the know, does not involve kicks

some crazy licks, or run of the mill rhymes,
just skips about relics of sensation

makes the point glow sufficient to light up
tree’s proximate company, intimate
alembic of bewildered vigilance

and fecundated parallels’ eerie

congeries’ forgotten simulacra
render rhyme ambivalent but lurking
still in reveries of polar fragments’

fracture & leery estimates

of predictable ends terminating
in some dreary abdication of next


Ridiculous litter of labouring
mountains halts & jars incipient juice

scatters abstruse thinking all over place
in loose configurations arbrous

and branchy on a collage of Archaen
plates, crustal fragments, & suture zones left
bare by mile high ice & coalescent

accumulations erupted from pre

Cambrian vents where barbarous vignettes
are visible yet in bared roots’ rock clutch
and penetrant phantasms’ rampant

heat lightning plays along untraveled margin

where rhyme struggles to find footing adequate|
to companionate neighbour in the dark


Assimilating energies transect
perpetual adventure’s unknown fringe,

precipitous transit, that dubious
borderland of unfamiliar sway

but can find no rhyme anywhere able
to ease translation of uncinctured time’s
outer verge & hither edge, a ruckus

of destabilized zone’s adamantine

encounters with wild luster seeps into
gnarled kiss, tree’s hieroglyphic passage to
and from kindred knowable beyond, Alter

in the surge & song of some Bay

ice gouged out of stone in retreat from sun’s
return, a hole, a cold, blue remainder


A ruckus of crows cries encouragement
raucous joy, & hunting tips, flit along

stoney verge of artless felicities,
magic precision while rhyme darts among

pine gist shadows, fleeting moon etched ocular
heave & needlewind thrum, seeks connection
in time, a sign of further coherence

amid the wreckage of this clime’s monstrous

hunger & hollow minds heap up charred ruins
of ancient forests, poisoned springs, & piles
of dead kids in wake of never enough,

a state crows observe with a sense of dread

as a star passes over the moon’s horns
pale & wan as a bled-out unicorn



—for Cass

The eye in the line doesn’t lie, it can’t
miss, one way or the other, the measure

of its own tones, here grey & white pleasure
scattered along rock beach, even if light,

aslant, glances off that exquisite tact
with text required when ending differs
from its end as radiant names jostle,

contend, sound filaments, glittering and

lucid, longing to connect with specious
present’s occult beauties, wave lap, roar,
polyphone vibrations, recollections’

long xylophone evenings, throats slaked with song

roused to resist with pine’s precise twist,
architectonic embrace with the wind



Twilight realm of thought, intermundium,
pools in the branches & clings to needles,

shadow within shadow, teases, wheedles
silly rhymes from the tree’s ingenium

where fragmentary hints of spectres flash
through disclosures of goes without saying’s
latitudes lost to endless obeying,

nebulous fastnesses & haunted deeps,

beyond rhyme’s brash expectation of end’s
ending, seep from astral seas crash
on the stones into ocular spectra

kick high & raise jocular skirts to terminal

fixation which is unable to smell
tree’s exhalation, fragrance founds its measure


The exchange of luminous influence
drives the poem’s magic to distilled

play of shadow & light across dawn’s awful
revelation, opening confluence

of interruptions, shards of unassimilated
facts, & the old doctrine of magnetic
emanation compel alphabetic

arrangements of secret deeps iterated

in Pine’s memory & rhyme’s repeated
insistence on chiming in with surprised
connections demand trust in habit’s place,

uncertain incised & meted out in

unearthly portions with no beyond —
wave washed stones chatter, the sun responds





Michael Boughn moved to Canada in October, 1966 because of opposition to the US war against Viet Nam. After studying with Robin Blaser for several years at SFU, he worked in the Teamsters on the Toronto lakeshore for nearly 10 years before returning to university in 1982 to study with poets John Clarke and Robert Creeley. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Iterations of the Diagonal, Dislocations in Crystal, 22 Skidoo / SubTractions, Great Canadian Poems for the Aged Vol. 1 Illus. Ed., and City—A Poem from the End of the World.  Cosmographia – a post-Lucretian faux micro-epic was short listed for the Canadian Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 2011, prompting a reviewer in the Globe and Mail to describe him as “an obscure veteran poet with a history of being overlooked.” With Victor Coleman he edited Robert Duncan’s The H.D. Book for the University of California Press. He has also published books for young adults, including the Maple Award nominated Into the World of the Dead, a mystery novel, Business As Usual, a descriptive bibliography of the American poet, H.D., and numerous essays on film, writing, architecture and music. His most recent book is Hermetic Divagationsafter H.D. From 2014 to 2018 he edited the online poetry disturbance known as Dispatches from the Poetry Wars with co-conspirator, Kent Johnson. A collection of his essays, Measure’s Measures, is forthcoming from Station Hill Press in 2022, as is a chapbook from above/ground press. He can most often be found with Case, his border collie pal, hanging out in dog parks or herding sheep.

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