Tuesday, December 30, 2008

When I met Santa

When I was 3 years old, living in a small Saskatchewan town called Theodore, I met Santa. The man himself . It was Christmas eve, I was in my pyjamas, and my Mom said "Santa will be here soon, look out the window for him." Of course I did. All I could see out the window was the "bush" next to our house, lit in light blue by the moon. I stood there on my tiptoes for what seemed like forever, imagining Santa flying through the cold winter sky. But, I knew that we were in the north of Canada and I knew he'd be here soon.

Footfalls. Sounds on the roof. I hear them. Someone was on the roof! I reported to my mother, like a good boy, and she said "That's probably him!" I didn't know what to do with myself. So I stayed there at the window, and listened very carefully while imagining the reindeer setting down and Santa getting his bag and stepping out of the sleigh into the deep snow on the roof. I heard sleigh bells. But how would he get down? We didn't have a fireplace!

Knock on the back door. A firm, knowledgeable knock. One two three. Pause. In that pause, I believed in everything. I went to the kitchen door, careful in case I had to run and hide, but with the best view of who would come through that back door. My father answered. In came ---- Santa Claus. (cont'd ------>)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

in the mist

Gorillas are endangered. They may soon disappear. One of our closest relatives among animals, gorillas are highly intelligent, social and gentle. They eat leaves, roots, berries, bark and fruit. The mountain gorilla lives in the thick foliage and mountain mists of upland Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Koko the gorilla, a lowland gorilla born in captivity, learned sign language and communicated readily and fluently with her human companions. She had a pet kitten she named "All Ball" and was heartbroken by All Ball's premature death. Koko shared human's propensity for prejudice among other things. She was fascinated with photographs of other apes, but if shown a picture of a monkey, was as likely or not to sign "dirty stink monkey!". Koko has an IQ measured as being just slightly less than that of the average human. She has a vocabulary of over 1000 words. She is the first non-human animal to be known to specifically request medical care, when she had a bad toothache.

There is a wealth of information about Koko including a particularly interesting documentary film called Koko: a Talking Gorilla. There is much fiction and fact written on gorillas of all kinds. If you're interested, you might want to start here.

The photograph above is an imaginary scene. It comes, unfortunately, not from real life but from hope and respect. The photo of the gorilla in the picture is taken from one I made of a gorilla in the Toronto zoo. The rest of the image is a construct from other of my photographs.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One Afternoon at the Fish Market

"The fish is talking!" screamed Nivelo,
Not knowing now what to do with the knife.
Rosen says today "Ah, enough already about the fish",
But then, right then, he dropped the phone and ran to see
And saw the carp, already lifted out of the ice-box
And seconds away from the rubber-hammered end of all time,
Speaking clearly, in Hebrew:
"Tzaruch shemirah. Hasof bah."
Get it together, kids, this is it.
Pray. Repair and pray, the end is here.

Zalmen didn't agree that it had happened at all,
But Nivelo had slid down the wall onto the slimy floor
From the horrible might of a carp speaking so plainly
And, admittedly, Nivelo did not speak Hebrew at all
By all reports, but Rosen did, and anyway a talking fish is a talking fish,
And the spirit of God is not something small.

Cory Kilgannon of the New York Times reported in March 2003 that
"The fish flopped off the counter and back into the carp box
And was butchered by Nivelo and sold."

So. That's some kind of news.
Now we know at least that Nivelo and Rosen and Zalmen
And God
Aren't sure.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Pleasure of Your Company

She sat by the window
She still wore the gown
Composed and prepared
She gazed outward and down

Her guests only spiders
She never shed tears
As she sat by the window
For forty-five years

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


two with the hands
three with the gesture out to God
four moonsquabble

deep cool night

Sunday, November 9, 2008

When Worlds Collide

When worlds collide
Out in the universe,
Atoms smash
And the music made
Goes on forever.

When worlds collide
Down here, the atoms come
Together in a dream
And hope the music can
Go on
And on.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


You learn early

That when your eye
Accustoms to
The dark,
A sudden light
Piercing bright.

Why is it that
When the light inside
Is shining there
We here
Safe and dark
Can't see?

Monday, October 27, 2008


Halloween is a big deal in Canada. Houses and yards get decorated with scary stuff, kids decide what they're going to "go as" and plan the routes that will get them the most and the best goodies on Halloween eve, October 31. Little ones are taken door-to-door by their parent(s) who stand at the sidewalk while the little ghost/Batman/devil/princess comes up to the door, yells "trick or treat" and opens up the loot bag to receive the coveted candy. Older, savvier kids get to ditch the parents and roam on their own.

When I was a little kid in Ashern, Manitoba (150 miles north of Winnipeg), the traditions were different from what they are now. We didn't yell "trick or treat" - we yelled "Halloween Apples!" And we used to get lots of apples - more than candies - and sometimes a homemade popcorn ball. Nowadays only wrapped candies are given out, for fear that there will be something dangerous in an apple or a homemade treat. Then, in Ashern, after someone came to their door, you had to do a "trick" before you got your "treat". We used to have to tell a joke or sing a song or recite a poem - one guy I knew was really good at crossing his eyes, together or one at a time, and that was his act for the evening. If someone didn't give out treats, the older kids would play another kind of "trick" on them - the most daring and admired of which was carefully moving the outhouse back 5 feet so when some poor old guy came out to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night, he'd fall in the hole. Much frowned upon by the grownups; devilishly encouraged by the kids. Ah, for the good ole days!

It occurs to me that Halloween may be a big deal here in Canada and the U.S., but where else? What, if anything, is Halloween where you live?

Friday, October 10, 2008


Computers and the internet can be overwhelming and obsessively time-consuming and often maddeningly frustrating. But the web has enabled things to happen that just a few years ago would have been impossible.

When I first heard Canadian writer/poet/musician Robert Priest perform his "Poem for the Ancient Trees", I was moved by it. So I was delighted when it took on a new and further life. Thanks to Marie Wilson of the 15x100 international group of photographers, a collection of photographs has been married with Mr. Priest's poem and music in a wonderful collaboration.

I offer here a poem of mine about a tree. And then a link to the Poem for the Ancient Trees collaboration.

Since I Moved In

In my front yard
There is a tree
A handsome healthy
Tree that's been around
A while though
I've only known it
A year or so
Since I moved in.

It was December
When we met
The tree and me
Its branches bared
To the icy wind
It's quietly endured
Since I moved in.

In Spring
It put out leaves
To take the sun
And patiently
Invited birds
And squirrels to take it too
Since I moved in.

All summer
It dropped seeds
Begging for a family
Or one other tree
To grow beside it
Not to be
Since I moved in.

The Fall has come
The birds have gone their way
The frantic squirrels
Are guessing what will come
And the tree might be
More used to me
Since I moved in.

I do not want to have
A relationship
With this tree.
I do not want it
To depend on me
Or change a thing for me
Since I moved in.

I do not expect it
To do anything
But what it can
Or be a thing
That is not that tree
Since I moved in.

But since I moved in
I have had one
A relationship
With the tree
And it with me
It's plain to see
Since I moved in.


Poem for the Ancient Trees

(make sure your sound is on)

Robert Priest is a poet, playwright, song-writer and novelist.

More about him here and here

Music by Lafferty/Priest. Track produced and arranged by Peter Lafferty.

Photographs by members of 15x100