Friday, September 26, 2014

                     HAND SPLINT 
                 FOR LIMP WRIST
                        day one - Tuesday October 2nd  
the boy on the flute is a fright
his face is a horrible sight
when he walks his knees knock
it creates such a shock
his braces light up in the night
            Michael’s doctor’s appointment was scheduled for one fifteen and his poetry workshop started at two. The bus ride from Vancouver had taken an extra hour due to bad weather on the Coquihalla. But he still had time for a bagel and some herbal tea before his appointment at the campus clinic. There were six remaining manuscripts to go over, and an exercise on limericks and villanelles to prepare. He could have graded the last half dozen manuscripts on the bus, but listened to a mixed CD of all girl singers instead. Falling asleep halfway between Hope and Merritt, he woke up just in time to see the sign advertising the country music capital of B.C. On his ipod Allison Krauss was just finishing up My New Favorite and Norah Jones followed her with Come Away With Me. It was 2006 and, much to his surprise, he had made it into the new millennium with his love for female vocalists fully intact.
As he opened his eyes he found himself sweaty and drooling on his own shoulder, softly muttering the lines to a limerick he had never forgotten, one he had written in high school English class when he was seventeen. The exercise had involved giving students the first line, and then they were expected to complete the poem according to the form they had just been taught, and they were not allowed any notes. They had to listen.
The point of no note taking was to insure that the structure of the limerick would be imprinted on their brains long enough to write one of their own. It was an old-fashioned teaching strategy, before laptops littered the classroom and memory sticks were a dime a dozen.
His high school limerick had something to do with an unattractive yet musical young man whose face was not a pretty sight. So he had to rhyme the word fright with another word, and then make up three more lines comprised of one original couplet and one more rhyming word in the final line that corresponded to the last word of the opening line.
He didn’t have a very scientific, structured brain, and found himself struggling with strict poetic forms due to the rigid, manufactured quality of everything from the villanelle to the anapest. But the limerick, that was his favorite, very simple, very effective, and a perfect form for the comic edge that invariably seeped into his poetic voice.
Having been a precocious wordsmith from a very early age, his talent for writing short poems, that the teacher often thought he had stolen, was quite sophisticated by the time he entered high school. He once wrote a poem about the rainbow effect of sunlight on snow for another student and the teacher refused to accept it, claiming it must have been plagiarized from a poetry book.
Pink is blue is green is white
The colors sifting through the light
They crave the shafts of absent night
Pink is blue is green is white
This wasn’t the poem he had written, just a sudden re-creation form the dregs of his imagination. But he knew there had been something about the refraction of colour and a list rainbow tones. At the time, in high school, he didn’t think it was such a great poem, and had tried to dumb it down for the student he was writing for, but as it turned out, the student was a pudgy strange looking little creature with no mental capacity whatsoever when it came to poetry, among so many other things, so it was a wasted effort and created no small amount of conflict in the schoolyard immediately after English class.
“You fuckin’ homo! I told ya to write somethin’ easy for me to understand. Like about a snowman or hockey for fuck sake.”
And then the ugly bucktoothed bully kicked him in the knee. It hurt but could not really be considered much of a physical injury.
Later in life he often wished he had kept a copy of the original snow poem he had written for that hideous, taunting halfwit, but alas, it had been lost to the great vacuum of unsung literature, sucked up into the not so literary stratosphere like so much vacuum cleaner detritus.
He especially liked vacuum cleaner metaphors for a very specific reason. They were so efficient, and when they worked properly they could solve the most mundane of daily problems, ridding one’s self of the excess that surrounded them. Had he owned a giant vacuum cleaner as a high school student he could have taken it into the schoolyard and vacuumed up all his shrieking enemies.
As the bus rolled into Kamloops, about an hour after waking, he was putting the finishing touches on a poem of historic and culturally astute proportions about a certain vacuum cleaner that revealed his penchant for finding the erotic within humourous semi-autobiographical modes, a style he had cultivated during his late teens and early twenties, and something he had become known for as a middle aged poet whose presence at readings was sure to arouse no small amount of laughter from an amused audience. Michael called his new poem McLuhan’s Bride, acknowledging, in the title, that some of his poetic voice, but certainly not all, came from an extended leap into a joint major in Cultural Studies and English literature, a leap that had taken up over twenty years of his life before landing him in the  groves of a struck him as a comfortable but unstable academic cul-de-sac. But he had some wonderful memories of his time as a professional student, and the new poem spoke frankly of one of those memories.
McLuhan’s Bride
Once, at a graduate student soiree
the Professor’s wife told him
that Mcluhan’s wife
was afraid of her first vacuum cleaner
clearly shaken, he hesitated to add
that he, on the contrary, felt little techno based fear
when it came to small appliances
and all of the strained emotional ties
they liberate their lovers from
and had, in fact, experienced a prolonged affair
late sixties, with his mother’s first vacuum cleaner
an avocado green Westinghouse
amply accommodating his great pubescent shaft
in a most delightful way
stored in the basement
this mechanical bride
this compact galaxy of carnal pleasure
pre-dating certain groundbreaking
post-structuralist thought
stood proud
alongside boxes of old clothes, hunting rifles
bewildered WWII army uniforms
broken rear view mirrors
pocket westerns and his father’s empty Mickey’s stored in heating ducts
among the detritus of lives infused
with sex and booze
standing squat and satisfied
his thoroughly modern fully equipped paramour
astute and wild-eyed in ‘her’ stolid ambient purring
giving him uncomplicated joy
strengthening his love for his mother 
her taut brisk arms pulsing, strong around her fervent breasts of steel
pressing that small appliance into layers of 1950’s synthetic pile
the charged erotic ways of her domestic engineering
giving him pure uncomplicated joy
and reminding him of the ways in which she kept her house in order
providing sons and lovers with the necessary tools
to survive in a world where
as Mcluhan once said;
“each of us lives hundreds of years in a single decade”         
“when you are on the telephone you have no body”
inspiring one to think
when you are screwing a vacuum cleaner
you have no conscience, no need of one
save the sudden onset of a short circuit
as you engage in one final perfect act
of consummate industrial self indulgence
and the grand sweep of history
that will one day go the way of
items stored in a musty basement
works of art, mechanical reproductions
boxes of old clothing, hunting rifles
bewildered WWII army uniforms
thoroughly modern fully equipped paramours
canisters, astute and wild, eyeless
in their stolid ambient purring
having borne silent witness
to the grand, eternally pubescent
shaft of time
Michael didn’t think it would be a good idea to share his new home appliance poem with his students. Generally speaking, bringing one’s own work into a creative writing class that one was teaching was frowned upon. He did it the odd time, but due to the sexual nature of this one, he felt it might be best to show a little restraint this week. Little did he know, on the five hour bus ride form Vancouver to Kamloops, as he scribbled the final words of his poem into a notebook, that quirky written sexuality would be the least of his worries by the time he arrived in the classroom at two fifteen.
He apologized for being late and began to wittily improvise limerick exercises from his rough notes. To hell with Villanelles. They could wait until next week. Under the circumstances, the limerick was all he could withstand for now.
In the classroom, despite being visibly shaken by the news he had received at the clinic, Michael still managed a bit of pseudo-prudish humour by telling students that he would prefer that they did not use the word Nantucket in their limericks because it had become such a clichéd occurrence within this particular form.
Faintly vulgar innuendoes often managed to work their way into his teaching style. It was something he couldn’t seem to resist, and on this particular afternoon it lightened the load of his astounding diagnosis.
How was this diagnosis even possible?
It must be a mistake.
But he knew it wasn’t.
Although he had told the doctor not to call him regarding test results over the weekend, she still managed to leave a message asking him to come to see her at the Royal Inland Hospital during her weekend maternity ward shift. He had said to her, clearly and emphatically, that he would be away so there would be no point in having any information until he returned on Monday.  But wouldn’t it have been lovely to have been able to walk over to the hospital, through the sound of wailing newborns and joyous parents, only to receive grave tidings from an over eager health care worker with the timing of a rattlesnake at a baby shower.
The first thing she said to him after revealing the results was, “a lot of people are prone to suicidal thoughts when they first get the news. Perhaps you might consider counseling?”
            He had one gay nerve left, and she was all over it.
She had ruined Michael’s weekend. So he retorted, as gently as possible, without resorting to an excess manifestation of his signature sarcasm - yet managing to fill each word with a subtle, underlying rage over her forgetfulness about his wishes regarding the results.
I appreciate your concern, but no, I won’t be experiencing any suicidal feelings. I am well acquainted with the immediate emotional effects of this sort of thing and on several occasions have helped others deal with their initial response. Thank you for your time. I have to run or I’ll be late for my limerick workshop. I’m really looking forward to it, especially after you’ve managed to inject such a strained poetic rhythm into my weekend. I’ll contact you later in the week if I have any more questions or concerns.
            As he walked toward the classroom he thought of how he often liked to alter the final rhyme of a limerick in order to punctuate the brief narrative with a slightly jarring tone, bringing faint chaos, and a kind of contradictory open-ended closure to an otherwise ordered poetic microcosm.
the man with the lisp is afraid
he hides his rage in a cage
as calm as can be, he makes merrily
concealing his status
regarding HIV

                stay tuned for day  two… of
                hand splint for limp wrist

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