to Mark Dunn, in recognition of being selected
the 2010 recipient of The Ted Plantos Memorial Award.
"These poems are original, thought-provoking,
and at times profound.
They wrestle with the big ideas, the large themes, and yet they root
those ideas in image and story without indulging in the limiting 'plod'
of statement. They leave the reader to puzzle at the mystery, revealed
in language of the true poet rather than told in the didactic tone of
teacher. This is good work promising that there will be more to come."
John B. Lee, Poet Laureate
Some of Mark's
The following poems have recently been published
in Mark's first book Ghost Music (BuschekBooks).
To imagine its size
corral a proton in a thimble.
You are that shy particle
at the boundless centre.
To imagine its depth
trawl memory for the first
eyes you saw, opening
your own to the light.
To imagine its taste, magnify
all that has rained on summer gardens
and the storms that strip
lilacs of their scent.
raging at long hair,
at bad grades, at the lawn
mowed by a loafer.
by movies, quivering
grief for a yellow dog.
which part of the child
It was called
In a black
robe, in a mackintosh and bowler,
in a suit tailored by Italians, Cortez stands on Superior.
Ice is new
to him - his heels slip.
The stuck bull (his boots) pigeon toe
through snow. He will not tumble -
God does not fall.
bluff worked before.
His beard and good timing
brought him to shore, a serpent.
is waiting for something.
They might as well wait for me.
wait for Spring. And although he
is sunned brown, flecks of red in his hair,
Cortez is nothing like Spring.
galleons rigged with cattails
took to the lake at Wisconsin.
The fat bow flattened the marsh,
spilt the harvest, but mostly
kept going. North. Dark waves on the great lake.
inland sighs, knowing what comes next.
Drought Farmer Questions
...................His Guidance Counselor's
have given too much
had the crow at dawn not reminded
that saving a little for the next day
is how it's always been done.
Held back when seeds withered
to let the real stuff out.
The sun clamped the sprout heads,
drawing matter into a bright vacuum.
back when letters came from the bank,
wanting to slug the mailman for saying,
"Can't be good news everyday, you know."
As if he made the news.
mined valleys between his calluses.
He left blood webs on the mortgager's pen.
was given for one more roll at good luck.
Horse-hair charms like Christmas ornaments
strung along fencing, swept curses from the air.
And he held
back when the rains did not.
Too much necessity pooling
in serious knots along the furrows.
when rain forgot what it was about
and settled in mist over jungle hills to the south,
letting earth become powder, he held back.
stayed mum about secret destinations.
Cloud bellies, just far enough from earth to be alien,
were the untouched goal, a target for ambition.
Thoughts on Unity
the peak of a mountainous high,
the flat earth is more than a theory:
it explains itself, a read page
that lies from night to day,
cold pole to cold pole,
below and around.
At its edge,
the film of breath and life,
buildings in cities and trees in the forest,
all sentient and historical movement
waver like the bug screen
against an autumn window.
It is time
to visit the lost mirage,
the water-bent air rises
in lines of cartoon stink above our heads.
We are left scratching wondrous lice.
Our blood shared across imagined borders.
It is time
to divest in time, to let
the dice scatter and disregard the numbers.
It is time to bury the pedants, smoke the clichés
and move on to an unbound measure
that is neither deep nor wide.
was time that worried my teacher
when she dropped a B in R-A-B-B-I-T
and threw her speller at the class
because we laughed at the cursive
that would replace our stick scrawl.
door opened next
it was the principal who entered,
and remained with us while teacher recovered.
No one touched the prone speller,
and its pages bled on the checkered floor
in the margin between our desks.
She understands the weather
by the face on the pond
and has been waiting for rain
all summer, bringing the lawn furniture
inside, closing the windows to save
the sills from water stains,
only to drag the wicker chairs
back into the sun and slide the panes
open when the clouds fall
away from the parroted sky.
Arguing with her lover, she prefers
his anger deflected on the toaster, his eyes
bugging, the tight brow stretched,
wobbling in a funhouse mirror.
It makes him rage all the more that she
won't look at him. His cheeks get red
like element wires, and she smiles
in a way that brings the door to a slam
The taillights of the Buick streak
in the puddles as he drives away.
His headlights click across the gapped birches
and night folds around the absence.
She stands on her porch listening
to the creaks and splashes of a forest
without sun, or a moon echoing its light.
I have forgotten
the shape of your hand,
although I feel it in my own
on the taxi ride through dark lanes.
You, the small
one, riding the hump
between me and your girlfriend.
I have too
much time, it seems,
and find myself a wedge between lovers,
a bland distraction.
It is my third week of drifting,
asleep in knots on the floor.
In the morning,
you make oatmeal at the stove,
the night shirt hanging low from your back,
the world above your thighs uncovered.
Now and then
a spray of down.
My thumb traces
the scar along your index finger
where the farm dog nipped you back on PEI.
I smooth the cuticles you've bitten raw:
you could lose everything with this ride.
tell me how she defines your love,
like a jealous man, she guards it,
and the thought of betrayal holds you back.
I have barely
moved toward you
and you get closer each day.
We drift from
I get a job, a place in the mountains.
You leave your girl for another.
The last time
I saw you - standing for the bus after trial,
a block away - you cupped your lips with those hands,
shouted, "I love you" with all the judges watching.
me to believe only the rich make poems,
and scream with her at the ivory men who never gave
the chance to have the things she hates.
I haul out
sleepy examples, the dusty giants
from fishing towns and loyalist towns,
prairie towns and gutter alleys
the ones with earthy half moons under their nails,
the knots on their spines fused and aching.
that each gave up privilege
to hit the road and rails, or to live
on scraps in shacks near the crazy edge
because brief inheritance was too much to satisfy.
conviction seeded in wealth
only a fool would play with words
and expect to be paid.
Put down your
pen, she said,
You are pretending.
I tried to
believe and would have
but a sound that will not be named
called, kept calling,
in a language unknown to me.