Distant Siren

Siren Song

alone is a far way to go

just to sit

by the sea

to hear a guitar’s

random chords on waves

salt numbing fingers

seagull swooping

from distant rock-face

echoing the broken string

out-of-tune with damp

humming content

up & down the reaches

of beach disappearing 

into the enclosing fog

with reason saying go

romance saying stay

till all you can see

are your feet on the trail

to the ocean’s edge

then back to the rock

claimed as temporary home


seeming like hours

the fog drifts away,

you can only throw

a guitar so far

and the sound that it makes

as it hits water

as the bridge breaks on the rocks

seems more fitting

than the fingers found

with still no purpose

but some finality;

too dark now

even to watch the pieces

playing in the waves

the wind picking the trees

more moonlit howling,

it might be time now,

now that you’ve drowned

in the only gift

you felt you had to give

Nov 17/75

Another mythological reference with the title – sailors lured by the irresistible songs like the narrator here is lured by not only the music but the seduction of the romance of being alone by the waves. This is almost a movie moment of our sad hero pining away wrapped up in thoughts & emotions he is afraid to articulate. Perhaps the melodrama of the echo is all he really wants anyway.

There is some real in this piece – I have sat by the ocean, have watching my footprints in the sand washed by the waves, have felt contemplative as I was lulled by the in and out of the water. I have even wandered away from a group of friends just to sit & enjoy the image.

I had the image of sitting the rock, playing guitar & the first lines came to me. This echo of music echoes though many of the pieces in the collection as well. Thus the title Distant Music – things not quite heard, not quite seen in the fog. I still like the transition in the first line ‘alone is a far way to go’ – that takes the abstraction of ‘alone’ & turns it into a destination as opposed to an emotion.

The piece touches on the essential loneness of creativity. Often a choice has to be made between social life & creative life, a choice that isn’t always that comfortable or easy to maintain. One has to be a part of the life around them but at the same time solitude is where imagination finds outlet. I’ve written in groups, but it’s only a step to working things out alone. Unlike musicians there are no writing quartets 🙂 but musicians usually practice in solitude.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it.





the oar dipped into the water

black icy deep

the lake had no cold bottom

Dad once said, ‘If you fall in

you’ll end up in China.’

I believed him

I still do


the oar dipped into the water

the moonlight reflected


off the freshly wet oar

the new oar

the first time I had used it

the first time it had come to this lake

the first it felt the

lure of China


the canoe was my Dad’s

it was his Dad’s

or so he told me

I never meet his Dad

his dad had died before I was was born

his dad had died before he was born

a mistake he swore not to repeat

and he didn’t


there was a scratch inside the bow

he claimed to have made

trying to steel himself against the pull of a fish

a fish that was never seen

which pulled the canoe

‘Made it move like it had a motor’

there are no fish in the lake now

the only ripples come from my oar

as it dips into the moonlit water


I didn’t know about the lake till I was twelve

I knew Dad disappeared

for two or three weeks every summer

Mom said it was to go to his secret spot

to search for china

I expected him to bring home new cups and saucers

but he only had a few stinky fish


then came the summer he asked

‘Do you wanna look for china with me’

I said

‘Sure maybe I can find some for you’

later I realized China was a place

that the lake was a watery funnel

that could suck a little boy like me down

down down down

deep into the deepest black of it


the oar dipped into the water

I was rowing across to the island

I glanced up quickly

to see the quarter moon

high above me

to see the island still in the straight line

I was trying to move in

the straight that I rarely walked

this was the only line between my dad and me

the last connection

our lake

his island

the canoe of my grandfather


this was all that joined us together now

the one summer I tied and then untied

the straight line

the summer my dad saw

I wasn’t the son of his dreams

not the brave little forester

he never was himself

but hoped that I would instantly turn into


I was afraid of the water

I didn’t like the lantern light

it made the playing cards look yellow

turned them into spooky kings and queen

the rules changed as quickly as I learned them


‘You enjoying this’ he asked

his breath a mist in the sunrise

‘Yes’ I answered quickly

‘Liar’ he gave me a small shove

‘you hate this

I can tell you’d rather be

back in your little room at home’

‘So would you’ I blurted back


I darted from him and into the woods

not that there was much more than

scrub around the tiny cabin

but I needed to be away from him

from his fatherliness

that turned my love into fear

that made me lie for a moment


I didn’t know how to please him

I didn’t hate it here

but it didn’t fill me

the way it seemed to fill him

I knew if I told him

he’d not be happy

if I lied he wasn’t going be happy either


when I came out of the brush

he was in the canoe

half way out in the lake

the oar dipped into the water

black icy deep

I waved

he didn’t turn

I called out

he didn’t turn

the oar dipped into the water

black icy deep


now these years later

I have my own oar

I paddle the canoe and stop

half way between the shore

and the island

I peer into the water

looking for China

looking for my Dad


here was were his canoe tipped

that day

as he turned to silence my screams

for him to come back

the canoe tipped and he fell

here the lake was a watery funnel

that sucked a little boy like him down

down down down

deep into the deepest black of it


I know the lie that drowned him

wasn’t mine but his






China was an early ‘hit’ for me. It has a strong narrative line, a strong keel of emotional truth as well, but the events are fiction. Every son (I can’t speak for daughters) dreams of killing their fathers. The need for approval was always the subtext of my growing up – but my need wasn’t always reflected in behaviour designed to get that approval.

Much like the me in this piece I did things with my Dad – fishing, camping that I never fully enjoyed & never felt accomplished in when I did do them. I could feel his sense of disappointment in not fulfilling his dreams of that a son should be, of what a boy should be.


I was also pushing myself to work with iconic Canadian images – canoes, moonlight on lakes, island retreats from reality. I can’t count the number of Canadian novels I’ve read in which the main character goes into the wilderness to make deep self-realizations about themselves. All I’ve realized in the wildernesses is that bugs are annoying. And shitting in the woods is uncomfortable.

That lack of empathy for wilderness comes through here I think – a sense if I don’t find that deep self-realization thanks to nature I’m somehow lacking in authenticity. My hero does have some realizations but in hindsight.

My relationship with my Dad wasn’t as fraught with the same expectations. The moments of my realizing I wouldn’t/could’t/didn’t intend live up to his dreams weren’t as dramatic. But like my hero here, I know what separated us wasn’t entirely my fault. I don’t think there was lie between us but a set of cultural expectations I balked at.snowlamp03

I haven’t performed this piece in some time mainly because the emotional quality is so charged, so authentic that people believe that it actually happened. They ask what lake this was, they offer sympathy for the death of my Dad. As much as I’m gratified this piece works so well I’m dismayed at their dismay it isn’t true.soon

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


November 18, Wednesday: judging at Hot Damn! it’s a Queer Slam – Supermarket Restaurant and Bar 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5T2L9





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