George Bowering (Canada): Three Poems


I’m not too fond these days
of the magic hand of chance.
I feel my brain slip sideways,
slip forward, as if it seeks
to elude the magic grip of chance.

When still taller than my pile of books,
I ogled chance, I kissed the air
and sent it wafting to the face
of fate, who knew me not, whose stars
were shining not when I came home.

My shoulder waits with irksome fear
the magic finger of chance.
And I don’t want to know about it.
I’ll talk half, I say, half
the odds, the magic dodge of chance.


How can poems about England
make me homesick, make me
hold the book against my face
and give half way to tears?

Or something like that. I’ve been
in England a few times, felt strange
at home there, stood six feet
over my DNA in Berkshire.

English paintings don’t do it, movies
are familiar and foreign, need subtitles.
English novels are historical, about classes,
and generally dull as dishwater.

But poems about England and walking
in England make me homesick,
make me feel at home and
sad as hell. My other half

is from hills in the US south.
When I see people from there
in their faded dusty suspenders
I feel lonely as an English poem.


Those poets, heads coming out of collars,
advised us, showed us how to hold paper and look good,
did we sometime grow tired of them, those
who lived for us,
died for us,
rotted under ground for us,
are still
so we may move.

Not friends, really, not teachers,
poets, whose names glittered when we were alone,
whose books dropped like gleaming newborn calves into our unsteady hands,
did we read them as if pulling shavings off our souls,
never stepped out of the Pacific combers with shine on morning face,
never twisted body out of grip of giant ogre
save with our inspiration of our poets,
and who knows what our

What are we now besides older;
a young man newly graduated from university,
black gown still on him said I envy you and your friends,
you got to make the last ones,
there isn’t anything to make now, or no one knows what there is.
I said it seems that way but there is always something,
and I showed him my teeth through yellow beer.

Do we old farts say thank you every genuflecting morning
to those poets with agate names who showed us their synapses?
Nowadays the young want us to love the earth,
And I never say out loud to them that my dear old people
discard cigarettes and write that’s left of poems.
They were low lights between mountains visible
to the evening gaze, they were evaporate mornings,
They are not mulch but stones in the earth, they are not
specimens but the authors of words should be whispered inside a dark bowl
from Siena.

I have no remaining skill for form,
just feel words jostle each other in doorways on the way out, sit here this
evening remembering a former life, I’m with friends
all lovely all restrained by hope, all agreed without saying so
those poets gave us a way to waste our lives
saying useless things, smiling indulgently at each other’s personal diaspora,
carrying mismatched goodies on the way to the grave,
trip, fall into hole, write on dirt walls
a first and last sonnet,
solving all, coming to rest, combing hair, adjusting socks,
kissing no one but the image of Jesus, disbursing mind as if it were mercury,
listening for the voices to arrive with the worms.