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CKMS Community Connections for 12 August 2019: The Poetry Edition with The Arlington Six

Elizabeth McCallister and Mark Kempf at the microphone
Elizabeth McCallister and Mark Kempf
Today we’re joined by four members of The Arlington Six poetry society: Elizabeth McCallister, Mark Kempf, Lin Geary, and Jim Tomkins.

Lin Geary and Jim Tomkins at the microphone
Lin Geary and Jim Tomkins

Show Notes

Here are some of the poems read on the show, along with a few others that we didn’t get to.

“Paintings are like poems, they are thoughts abandoned” Stan J. White

Music Hall

by Stan J. White

Sex is something
God has thrown in to ensure
We do not confuse ourselves
     With deities, with angels –
a kind of tether
that never lets us stray too far
from freshly turned earth after rain
and in the pathos of it all
a constant reminder
     of vaudeville, of burlesque.

An Ode to Beer

by Jim Tomkins, 7 November 2011

Oh, amber elixir crowned with golden head
whence came your magic mystical mixture
of barley mash, crystalline water and fruity hops?
Brewed hodgepodge in containers from Sumeria to China
through cellared wooden kegs to Pilzen caves
and glistening copper kettles row on row.
Drunk in litres, pints and Aussie schooners,
halves, viertels and even once,
in six ounce ten cent drafts.
Oh, wine where is thy claim?
Full muted by this tasty honest brew
from ancient cloudy ale to new craft sips
past charcoal stout, beach blond lager
hoppy pale, sweet chocolate mild.
All sips tease lips, tempt discerning tongues
foaming moustaches form in the tingling wake
of fermented flavours gliding down.
Quaffed, not guzzled,
savoured, not chugged
each nuanced batch unique.
Taste, robust or delicate,
stirs heightened eloquence,
smooth patter, bravado’s hope.
Enter the intoxicating dreamland
of ambrosial brew
Biere, cervesa, live on!
Oh, amber elixir crowned with gold.

My Wreck Beach Haiku

by Lin Geary

my new raincoat
for Wreck Beach–
clear plastic

Buried Deep

by Becky D. Alexander

details from a memoir by Sergeant Jim Alexander (MM)
Lincoln and Welland Regiment, Holland, 1945

In the kitchen, from the doorway to the hearth,
lying on the floor like some colossal cigarette –
a log , one end in the fire, burning slowly
as flames surround a bubbling pot.

It mystified the Canadian soldiers, those kept
after the war – troops retained
to rebuild a battered country, one
that refused to be swallowed back into the sea.

The explanation provided to the curious,
Because the Nazis took all of our metal:
axes, pitchforks, scythes and hoes, even kitchen knives

a last ditch effort to build more weapons.

Allied saviours shared meals of boiled tulip bulbs:
‘the most gawd-awful things you ever ate’
along with Red Cross chocolate and rationed tins
of bully beef: bitter meals of freedom.

Under our barn, wrapped in oiled burlap,
We have our tractor and plow – buried bits cloistered away
following the final swoop of the flag of black on red.
They never found them. Soon, we will plant.

This poem appeared in the anthology Tamaracks: Canadian Poetry for the 21 st Century, edited by James Deahl, Lummox Press, California. This anthology is available through Amazon.ca.

The Muffin Man

by Elizabeth McCallister

At two and a half,
He’s got it all figured out.
How to find his T.V. shows
and how to reach those muffins.
He takes one glance over his shoulder
as he stretches out his fingers.

He’s a bad boy though.
It’s his third,
but Mommy’s talking on the phone
so she can’t stop him.
He fixes sad brown eyes
on her to say
“I need this chocolate chip muffin.”
To peel back the golden skin of enriched white flour
and get to the centre.
Pick out each chocolate chip.
Set it aside on the coffee table
filled with his sticky fingerprints
and the goo of cooked muffin and chips
mixed with his saliva.
Place them there for later.
Make a happy face with
eight chips curved in a smile,
three for the eyes and nose.

He’s got his time alone with Mommy.
His big brother and Daddy are
off at Scout Camp together.
At night, he sleeps on top of her
so she can’t get away and leave him.
Until he goes off to playschool,
and sees his girlfriend Chelsea.
He’s decided his name is Sean.
It sounds better.

One day, he’ll fix
those big brown eyes on another woman.
She’ll melt like those chocolate chips
in his hot little fingers.
That’s the way it works.
Not the least Oedipal.
Just practising on the first woman
who loves him, picks up after him, feeds him.

Poem for Reading in a Bar

by Dave Margoshes

Hey, you, you in the back,
come a little closer. The poem
is warm, but its voice is soft.

And you, you over there,
don’t be afraid, the poem
bites, but only the ones it loves.

And you, yeah, I mean you,
looking so smug, do you really
think you’re immune to poetry?

This poem will get under
your skin, you’ll find yourself
thinking about it tonight

as you’re trying to fall asleep,
your lips moving in the dark,
alone in your bed with a poem

you hardly know. When you wake
the bed will be empty, the sheets
soiled, only the poem’s scent

on your pillow to let you know
it was there, only its footprints
in the snow outside your heart

From his collection Purity of Absence , (2001) Porcepic Books. Still available for purchase.

Six for the Solstice

(haiku from my garden)
by Lin Geary

first time for raised beds–
tender lettuce, red chard
chipmunk and sparrow

cirque du soleil–
these endless wire tents
for the seedling peas

I water my shoes

the neighbour’s tom
brings his best invisible act–
doubtful blue jay

what will I serve with
this 64 dollar
vine-ripened tomato?

sister skunks
stroll under my hammock
lesson in prayer

Worship in the Boreal Forest

by Elizabeth McCallister

Our vespers were whispers to the moon,
and our matins sang the sun awake.
We drank in the summer’s long afternoons.
Began knitting blankets with the first snowflake.

We fell in love to the dance of butterflies.
Their white wings wove a spell of enchantment.
Breezes’ touch on our needles were our lullabies
serenading our young to sleep’s contentment.

We were the high priests within our temple
celebrating rites to our gods’ abundance.
Air, earth, water, light – our needs were simple.
The two-footed fiends stole away our innocence.

There are no songs when each breath is an effort.
All the brown-needled branches are our scars.
Dying, we entwine our roots for comfort,
and sighing send our sorrows to the stars.

These two poems were in the collection Notes from Suburbia, 2013, published by Craigleigh Press, Cambridge, ON. It isn’t in print but you may be able to obtain some of the last copies at the Green Heron bookstore in Paris, ON.


by Jim Tomkins

On his shoulder tilts a rod
pointing the path so often trod.
In this town of Ford and Chevy
he strides determined to the levee.
Dew-dappled Levis, faded cuff
along dusty curbsides scuff.
Runners crunch the pearly gravel
keen to angle migrants’ travel.
Slimy pylons split the stream
hindrance to the caster’s dream.
Breezes push the sightless odor
sulphuric-past the tugboat’s motor.
Through Ambassador’s massive arc
stand unlit towers of the park.
Oriole, Indian, Yankee teams
thwart the Tigers’ pennant schemes.
Today fishing is his only care
minnows splash, striped bodies glare.
The run is over school is out
time to sell the pseudo-trout.
Scale-stained pockets, shiny dimes
magic simple childhood times.
Two-scooper from the inverted cone
Young Santiago trundles home.


by Jim Tomkins, May 9th 2012 Mothers’ day

Her grey ashes sit
in a pressed board box
on an attic shelf
next to light lace doilies
with lavender scent.
Below a trunk’s contents:
sepia family photos known to her
stamps from a bygone era
sleeved in cracking plastic,
crocheted samplers, musty address book
her favourite sherry glass.

I’m happy that is the scene.
No need for flashy urn
to adorn the mantel.
She is far from discarded
her memory’s embedded
a bond from womb to life’s end
Mother to son.

The haiku that won the 2012 International Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival: Haiku Invitational, and rode the Vancouver buses for a couple of months:

by Lin Geary

morning tai chi–
all the prams
slowly turning pink

at the cenotaph

by Lin Geary, 2018

on a skinny cold day
bespoke in black
the long lamb coat, the boot-lined comfort…
there, alongside my fellow Canadians
it’s time to jut out my chin
in once-a-year pride
   to stand curbside guard
   to miscount the endless placing of wreaths
   to breathe out the thoughtless mind-frost
                into thin, thin air….

and the mic kicks in, then out
as a faultless child sings the Queen’s old anthem
and we all raise out descant and filler voices
                not missing a beat…

till Henry calls the Colour Guard to attention…
       Present Flags!
it is only then the tears begin
cloud my eyes and bite my cheeks
because Henry has led the parade
because Henry is my long-widowed neighbour
because Henry is 92, bent and strong

and I think Happy Birthday, Canada
because it is the 11th of November…
100 years of armistice after a war
                that birthed our nation
and here we stand, still firm, still cold
in perpetual grief

still hoping for peace

Maeve 3

Jim Tomkins, 2017

Rhythmic patter of sidewalk
slowly droops her eyes
gentle bump of each slab
confirms her comfort
a tiny hand protrudes
retreats returns to rest
wee nose below cap’s brim
contains genes of the stroller
as do tiny ears
peeking under pink flap
instinctual feeling confirms
the link
a generation apart
together strolling in the Annex
a primal confluence
pulses in the air.

11 Days

by Jim Tomkins, 2013

ebony locks beside miniscule digits
snorfly flared nose, flint coal eyes
endlessly curious in bright moments
of sight

one tiny nicked ear, peach-tinted cheeks
insatiable mouth, slight doubling chin
eagerly chomping in maternal moments
of milk

fuzzy cute sleeper housing jiggling legs
scrunched like a turtle thrusting out
kicking, declaring the embracing
Of life

The Poet

by Jim Tomkins

He sits
Glasses perched
Contemplative frown
Over hunched shoulders
Ancient desk and messy pen
His hair
Stands alert in silver halo
Around his warty pate
The lidded eyes closed in reverie
His thoughts
Provoke tugs of mustache
On bristled upper lip
Above careless shaving scar
He ponders
Lists of grasped images
Written on scraps
And stuffed in random pockets
He recalls
An endless selection
Of captured memories
That rooted themselves over time like saplings
His scribbling
Whisk him back in time
And force his aging brain
To organize. To prioritize. To choose
His words
Spill forth and write themselves
In haste and fear of loss
Like escaping prisoners
His poems
Speak not to another
Not to his audience
But to him alone
As he sits, glasses perched
At ancient desk and quill.

Death of the voice

by Jim Tomkins

For generations they came
first with mouth pieces
mounted on walls with hand held
receiver cones in touch by party line
then with dials and cradles
for decades used to keep in touch
clunky cordless devolved to flip
to ironic smart
communication ended
dumbed down by texting
muffled by instagram
silenced by Facebook
voices no longer heard
or listened to
the chat castrated
the telephone a eunuch
in the harem of the algorithm

A correction — Mark Kempf writes: “I am so embarrassed to say but happy to report Wendell Berry is not dead as I so confidently mentioned yesterday — I wanted to let you know as soon as I could.
My confusion is completely indefensible, and not sure why I thought it now.”

Music List


Download: ckms-community-connections-2019-08-12.mp3 (165 MiBytes, 2h00m15s, episode 20)

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Show notes and podcast interview content is Copyright © 2019 by the participants, and released under a CC BYCreative Commons Attribution Only license. Attribution to Radio Waterloo. Music and Poetry selections are copyright by the respective rights holders.