Thursday, April 03, 2014


There’s a redheaded kid, not yet a teenager, drumming with professional sticks, the expensive kind, using a rusted pedal, banging on filthy plastic buckets. Mostly even rhythms keep scattered heads bobbing.

My boy sits on the next bench eating Filipino pork on a hotdog bun with mustard. My fingers finger a coin in my pocket. My boy is too shy to run my money to the drummer’s floppy upside-down hat. I stay close while he chews. We’re near the water.

This kid on the drums, he’s not official, not one of the licensed buskers. Must be a local boy, probably dreams of banging buckets in Barcelona; if his guts thrust him here anonymous before automatic crowds he’ll produce beats anywhere on anything.

Here at the festival is also the homemade drum-kit guru, the original Peter Rabbit, up here from Brooklyn New York. His bucket drum kit is deluxe now, a dozen former soap containers, glistening plastic. He could probably afford real drums now but he’s a bucket-made man. He gives 20-minute preambles to hype his crowds before his sweat flies from dark musculature. He bangs those things, sticks flying, sweat landing on crowd, flipping sticks, never breaking rhythm.

But Peter Rabbit’s show was too loud for my Filipino-sausage eater. The redheaded kid is more his style: no preamble, no hype, no certificate of participation. A humble guerilla.

When Peter Rabbit wanders along he pauses, whistles, says, "Go kid go yeah! Don’t know if I could play on that thing."

A crowd gathers to watch the grassroots guru watching the guerilla kid. The master attracted them
but his eyes look 10 years beyond. The kid takes his cue, plays louder, steadier under our shifting gaze.

My boy eats his sausage from the middle out.

The young redheaded drummer finishes his thing and Peter Rabbit hugs him. The kid hands the guru his sticks.

My boy hands me his empty bun.

The kid says to the guru, "Want to try my kit?"

The guru dazzles, not bothering with the preamble this time. He banks a stick off a Plexiglas window behind his back, catches it on the rebound and plays on. He holds out the kid’s hat and says "I notice y’all can do much better than that for my boy here. Give him his due."

I hand the coin to my boy but he’s too shy, sitting on his bench. So I put it in the bucket as if I’d only been waiting to be asked.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Lonesome Priest Sits On His Ass

Half of us depressed
            and the rest overstressed,
I’m turning the crank on my obsessions:
Lefty Loosey; Loosey Goosey;
stay limber if you fall.

The priest is alone at confession.

Half of us hooked
            and the rest disconnected,
My computer says while burning my eye:
The shortest distance; the straightest line;
always under construction.

If he listened he would cry.

Half of us empty
            and the rest overstuffed,
I’m forced to dispose of the trash:
Food is medicine; medicine food;
disease is the speed of motion.

He sits there all day on his ass.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Best Books I Read in 2013

I read mostly nonfiction this year, partly because I was researching a book. So my best-of list is a little shorter than usual, but as you'll see some of the nonfiction was really really good:

Cornwallis: The Violent Birth of Halifax by Jon Tattrie - 
 Jon's a friend of mine and I was a captive audience in a sense, but I was surprised by the details of this apparent baffoon who founded my city, and the bizarre, sadistic tactics he used to subdue the French and Mi'kmaq.
Click here for more.

 Conversations With a Dead Man by Mark Abley - 
This is sort of a biography of Duncan Campbell Scott, who led the Indian Residential School system thru its period of greatest expansion. 
But it's also a series of imagined conversations between the author and the subject's ghost. 
Abley's a great writer and writes a lot about language and culture, so the book had a lot of great insights and solid storytelling throughout. I was fascinated.
Click here for more.

Everything is So Political edited by Sandra McIntyre - 
This is a collection of short fiction with political themes, which happens to have one of my stories. 
But I was genuinely impressed with these stories and how well they preached without preaching. I also loved the international flavour - stories of strife and struggle from around the world.
Click here for more.

Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan - 
I picked this up at Value Village for a buck. I knew it'd been a big hit and had an entire chapter in PowerPoint, so I figured why not give it a shot? One of my top 2 reads of the year. It's all about musicians. Each chapter is really a short story but the people are all connected. It jumps around in time and relationships and you eventually get several life stories. Really well written, fun and tragic.
Click here for more.

The Hermit of Africville by Jon Tattrie - 
I liked this one even better than the Cornwallis one. It's the true, and crazy story of Eddie Carvery, who has maintained an onsite, tent-in protest against the destruction of Africville for more than forty years. They call him "Crazy Eddie" for a reason, but as crazy as he may be, the things that happened to him were crazier.(Did I just say "crazy" several times?)
Click here for more.

 Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler - 
I read this to my 4-yr-old aloud, in one sitting, and he was riveted, and also cracking up constantly. I tried to read Richler when I was in high school and couldn't get into him - might have been over my head then. Should have read this one I guess, more at my level.
Click here for more.

My other top-2 favourite read of the year, Song for Night by Chris Abani is an amazing short novel. I bought it for $2 from a library discard bin in Toronto and it's one of the most beautiful haunting books I've read. It's the first-person narrative of a voiceless child soldier doing evil deeds masterfully told, with a twist. I still think about it five months after reading it. Can't recommend it enough.
Click here for more.

What Lies Across the Water by Stephen Kimber - 
The story of the Cuban Five, Cuban spies in Florida operating on practically nil budget until they got busted and put away forever, almost. The response is laughable (or would be if it weren't causing so much harm) given how little they were capable of and what they actually did, which was prevent a few bombs being set off in Havana by Cuban-American radicals. Oh and there was that incident where a plane got shot down - many sides to that.  Fascinating story, top-notch research by Kimber.
Click here for more.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013


My holiday short fiction piece in this week's issue of The Coast:


Monday, November 11, 2013

Concepcion's Song

I remember
that night like fire
His hands on my body divine

Like we were young
Tequila fueled
Rebel look all over his eyes

The kids asleep
Dreadful bliss
Gave me yet another child

Clinic seeking
No one could help
American money run dry

I cursed the Pope
Cursed my husband
Ronald Reagan no friend of mine

Now they’ve left me
to live on streets
Killing time before they die

I’m alone here
Useless and old
Nothing left but wasted time

They took our farm
Built a fact-tree
Building guns so my sons can die

What a fixed game
against the poor
Took their hate and made it divine

They build their walls
We throw our rocks
Their bullets fly back at our side

We make the news
It’s all violence
We are the ones who did the crime

Full of dynamite
All stuck inside
Ronald Reagan no friend of mine

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Save the...

Wipe, fold, wipe again
Saving the rainforest

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Zen Anxiety

Brown-robed monk paces
haunted by pornography
babysitters' breasts

Guard watches on screen
can taste monk's anxiety
zen security

Elevator stops
monk gathers robes, sprints away
Guard smiles, loves his job

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