Tag Archives: poetry

My inability to count blessings

The shallow breaths betray my guarded uneasiness

The heaviness in my chest

The lightness in my head

 

I fight this meaninglessness with

hand to temple, eyes firmly closed

A pool of bile churning in my stomach

 

Until every mountain has been ground down

Until every river has run dry

I need to count my blessings.

 

Instead, I count black crows

I smell damp dirt

and I wonder why I don’t get it

 

What part of life must I come to understand

beyond a child’s laugh or my boys squealing ‘Dada’

 

‘Dada’ — nada

 

really, nothing

 

and, yet,

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004

I need purpose and passion and…

muck mire

no burning desire

simply damp and cold

feeling old

and sick

 

For what end?

What’s the product?

What result?

 

I need purpose

to provide focus

and I need passion

to produce results

 

I want to shed my skin

to redefine and refine

to illuminate the darkened corners

of my world

 

with energy, hope, inspiration, and…

 

to be refreshed and

clear my mind so that

I charge into the day

Spry, positive, hopeful

 

– Chris George 

2005  

I try

I try to answer the question of purpose, of meaning, of what significance my life is

I’m grasping for answers

 

Life isn’t found in a summation, but in the right question.

A person’s own self-exploration is the answer to life.

 

O’ Oracle of Delphi, you’ve given us the answer in a riddle:

Know thyself

 

It is not where you are –

it’s the direction you’re heading in

 

It is not the destination –

it’s the journey

 

It is not the conclusions –

it’s the honest attempt of explanation

 

Seek and ye will find

The search is your salvation

 

– Chris George 

2005 

Contemplating a Glass of Life

Do you stare at the rim of the glass, and strain to see if there are any smudged fingerprints or lip marks?  Or does your gaze settle on the rich redness of the grape and your mind wonders, as you count your blessings?

I was told that middle age brings a new level of self-awareness. Yet, my middle age has delivered more questions and an uneasy feeling on what my responsibilities are to those around me and to those I’ll never meet.

Are there absolute morals — absolute rights and wrongs?  In our world of constant conflict, can we distinguish immorality anymore or are we living in an amoral world? Do any actions have consequences?

Reflecting on these matters leaves me feeling psychologically violated. I’m left disoriented, unsettled, disheveled, and wary. Like a snake shedding its skin, I rip away layers of pretense to expose ugly realities and my own unfulfilled promise. I arrive at more questions about myself and the world I live in.

At 42, I’ve learned that life is too short to have regrets and second thoughts. Much of the time I choose to live ‘the here and now.’ When troubled, I’ll refocus on the good and on my blessings. Yet, I am uneasy knowing I am but a voyeur to the larger world and its absurdities.  I believe more than ever in thinking globally and acting locally. It’s time that I act on my thoughts.

So, I ponder if the glass is half full or half empty..

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004

 

 

The smell of a newborn

The smell of a newborn causes you to pause

There are no insurmountable issues,

no unspeakable worries,

when one catches the hint of

the odour of innocence

a damp, wet, powdery smell…

 

With it comes a joy and wonderment and

thankfulness for dreams and prayers answered

There is a lightened sense of the present, like knowing

the world can stop spinning and our souls will rest

with a sheer contentment for this all too brief moment

when we’re privileged to hold a sleeping newborn to our chest

 

– Chris George

2004

The fiddler’s smile

fiddle_01 - Copy

I can’t seem to shake loose this stupid grin
As I watch my son lean into the mic to project the opening notes
he cocks his head to the side and lets his fiddle sing
a series of double strings, then his fingers run up and down the fiddle’s neck
and then a clear high siren, before he brings the reel home with a cascade of sounds

A young girl is up and dances in front of him
shuffling back and forth and keeping rhythm by
running her hands through her locks
Others stand, smiling, tapping their toes, clapping
And the bow dips and dives, the music seems to
carry all of us off to another, livelier place

There’s a faint smile and glint in the fiddler’s eye
Though he’s never travelled the road to Errogie
he’s brought the Scotland highlands to this hall, this night
We are there, transported with him, delighted with each draw of his bow

The right foot stamps as he gazes off somewhere between his notes
and then his eyes catch mine and he raises his eyebrows,
nods his head towards me, then flashes that fiddler’s smile,
small gestures that lift and carry me away with him and his tune

 

– Chris George

 

(ed. – This is a newly released poem found in a compilation of verse just released under the title of MIDSTEP – A dozen poems towards where I want to be. To get your copy of Midstep, contact chrisg.george@gmail.com.) 

walking-349991_640

MIDSTEP – A dozen poems towards where I want to be

standing, gazing, thinking  

Over the Victoria Mills waterfall, the spray awakens my senses

Standing here over this precipice with a river of emotion exposed beneath me

WTF, I’m lost, gazing, and just content to stand and think

I don’t want to “get into it” yet the falls splash up and I hear

Those questions of aging…

Are those the cold hands of reality tightening their steely grip around my neck?

I believe real courage is to stay focused and finish each day’s tasks with a kick

Without reserve and without resignation – to do the best you can do at all times.

My shoulders slouch forward and I stare into the current, defying any time to pass

Isn’t it fitting that the world spins counterclockwise?

Man keeps pace by counting minutes, marking days.

One man, one life, reflected against the earth’s revolution.

 

So, gazing at the water I must ask whether I am drifting away with the current

or have I long ago sunk and haven’t noticed that I have been sucked below the surface

and now lay slowly decomposing on the riverbed of limestone and muck

 

And I feel that cold hand closing around my neck.

Is any of this real? Am I all here? Or do I just occupy this space?

Every now and then I see that there’s traces of life.

Water splashes up and the drizzle again awakens me, and I refocus

On echos of my thoughts, spoken straight to me,

something about not giving up on your dreams

for something inside is about to die too…

 

So, this will be the day; this is the year.

Starting now; going forward.

Like past oaths that ring hollow before they even escape my mouth

But it is whatever gets you through to the other side…

And every day I have been left to think of the possibilities of the promises broken

It’s a sinking feel that is found in the deepest pit of my stomach

That reaches up and takes hold to swallow my senses and leave me numb

 

I simply want to live again; to feel my life, feel my breaths

feel the aches and pains, the draws of my breath

every fiber of my being

I want to feel the space I occupy and all the space that surrounds me

in this overbearing world filled with anxious uncertainties

This large, unfathomable, hungry world in which I am but one being,

at this moment, searching the emptiness in the middle of nowhere,

not certain which direction I’m heading or how to choose

But scrapping, crawling from day to day to make something of my existence

and, perhaps, to stand again and step forward

with a purposeful stride and with somewhere to go.

 

– Chris George 

2015  

The starry nights over Lanark

It’s the big, clear Lanark skies that provide the canopy of a million stars each night

a comforting blanket offering up the knowledge that there’s infinitely more

in this universe then our daily preoccupations

 

All is quieted under the twinkling lights – absorbed in the space between here and there

and that steely silence carries me beyond where I stand now to who I want to be.

 

It seems too perfect. I can’t remain still and transfixed in this serenity

 

So I pull back from the numbing expanse and stumble forward into my darkness,

with thoughts of my next day and the challenge of becoming that new man

and filling my world with the warmth and the light of just one unfathomable star.

 

(ed. – This poem was written in Spring 2013, since our family’s move to Almonte. It is one poem in a compilation of verse just released under the title of Midstep – A dozen poems towards where I want to be. To get your copy of Midstep, contact chrisg.george@gmail.com.) 

walking-349991_640

MIDSTEP – A dozen poems towards where I want to be

Draining emotions

You cannot step into the same river twice.
Yet we’ll harbour a hope with each reunion
That there’ll be familiar feelings to wash over us

Our greetings always elicit a warm embrace
Smiles that drain away all time and distance
And then we plunge headfirst into our stories

Yet we wonder in our heart, wander in our mind
Just how much water has flown pass us? and
how far have our affections been pulled under?

How is it that our talk is so hesitant and dry?
We remain safely splashing about in the shallows,
ever reluctant to dive and lose ourselves to the current

We stay planted, careful not to slip or stumble and fall
in the flood of memories that are gushing against our senses
and threatening to sweep us away, downriver somewhere…

And I note that it is none too soon that we step to shore
and climb out from that river bed that once was – and now
I stand, dripping and chilled, so glad to watch you leave.

 

– Chris George
   June 2014

 

 

Happy New Year

Like a reluctant host, I open the door for the New Year

Uneasy and unwilling to suffer more of the same

 

This year, again, there is so much to close our eyes to:

there is too much ugliness in our post 9/11 world

There are too many questions that need to go unanswered, to be ignored

It seems too much insipid reality that hurls cruelty, hatred, sickness and despair

 

What horror

The eyes of truth have been gouged from its sockets

–and hopelessly lost with the crumbling of two towers

Erect in our memories,

yet no longer enduring monuments of humanity

 

Tonight, with the door pushed opened,

I am left to pray for a new order:

May love blanket our loved ones, our friends and community

and cover us with hope, faith and love,

and the strength to do right, to recognize good and act for

a better, just, and, at the core, compassionate world

 

And I must begin living with these ghosts and refrain from

pulling myself tight into the fetal position

for comfort and some relief

 

I must stand and repress heaving sighs of despair

Look to those things I hold dear and ensure

They are cared for and do not go neglected

In the long shadows cast by those remarkable towers

 

– Chris George 

January 2002 

It occurs to me…

It occurs to me that if I had an original thought in the middle of nowhere
there’d be nobody to hear me out; nobody to confirm
that the idea is remarkable – that my thought is genius

which is why I’m here staring blankly at my keyboard
and not enjoying myself, perhaps paddling my canoe across a lake
I need to capture that original idea; wrestle it down; get it on paper
and then hold it up above my head and parade it around for all to see

I turn the light out and sit in the pre-dawn darkness listening to my breath
close my eyes and watch white, ghostly figures dance across the underside of my eyelids;
wash all thoughts away from my mind and concentrate on the creeping silence
and I imagine I’m out on the water, taking long J strokes to keep the canoe straight
there’s mist and dark evergreens and a distance shoreline, reed beds and a crane

so, sitting alone, in the dark, fingers cramped, poised, airborne overtop of my keyboard
I glare at the motionless bird, and all its promise, hoping in some way to connect
to what lays before me and the shoreline and the breeze and sunlight above the pines;
to those primal feelings that cause us to wince, itch and mumble aloud to ourselves
and, in this way, I might be able to gain some perspective, and strike a new thought

 

Chris George

Chris George has released “Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was”, a compilation of 10 poems compiled through last year’s summer months. The verses capture the expectations raised in moving into a new community and making a new start. They also include personal reflections of a writer’s challenges to begin again, afresh. If you are interested in receiving “Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was” – write chrisg.george@gmail.com – and provide your e-mail.

Forward Thinking?!

inching forward? not certain
(never mistake action for progress)
moving, however; still alive
like an amoeba housed in a Petri dish
aimlessly floating across a sea of time
really signifying nothing but the fact
that      I      move      inches
onward

 

Chris George

untitled

it can all be summed up by something entitled: untitled
that’s it – so far

there’s been too many blank pages, empty words and wasted days
discouraging but for that inside voice that commands me to:
start where you are. use what you have. do what you can.

 

Chris George

Chris George has released “Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was”, a compilation of 10 poems written through last year’s summer months. The verses capture the expectations raised in moving into a new community and making a new start. They also include personal reflections of a writer’s challenges to begin again, afresh. If you are interested in receiving “Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was” – write chrisg.george@gmail.com – and provide your e-mail.

A Knave

 

Another deal and I’ve lost count of how many times that Jack of Spades has been flipped;

to think that playing solitaire to beyond midnight might bring answers is sheer lunacy.

Better a set of Tarot cards or a Ouija board, or casting down bones out across the table,

for I am dazed watching the cards fall – that is until I see (again) that one-eyed knave –

regal, yet sinister, knowingly glaring into the future and all that can and will be.

 

There is a great quote by Vonnegut, “If you can do a half-ass job of anything,

you’re a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind,” and, so it goes, according to K.V.

Here, overturned realities stare back at me, framed in yellow light and long shadows;

but one truth’s been ushered in with the ticking of the mantle clock:  we cannot foresee

the promises of dawn; we’re simply to shuffle, deal a hand, and play the cards or fold.

 

— Chris George

(Through the summer months I wrote 10 poems that are compiled under the title: Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was.  If you are interested in receiving this compilation, connect with me – chrisg.george@gmail.com – and provide your e-mail.)

Looking to not drop the ball

It’s like deja vu all over again – as my life is turning out to be one big cliché.

I am continually trying to prove that you’re only as old as you feel.

And I don’t feel my age, yet the mirror on the wall tells a story or two…

I stare into bloodshot eyes, searching for the next challenge, because

It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings

(and, heck, there aren’t any fat ladies in my life at the moment.)

Rolling sevens, with an ace in the hole, and guess where the horseshoe is?

I’m covering the bases, playing hard ball and looking to hit it out of the park.

I need to keep my eye on the ball and with the lemons given to me – make lemonade.

Yet, I’m neither clever nor profound; there’s no diamond in the rough.

I’ve come to believe we’re all human – that and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee…

My hope is this cloud has a silver lining and today is but the calm before the storm.

I’m ready to answer the bell and not pull any punches; I’ll dance, shuffle,

I’ll whistle pass graveyards if need be; for what goes around will come around and

I’ve come to know all’s well that ends well; all live happily ever after – and I will too.

So, there’s hope. Fact is all that glitters is not gold and this game is too close to call.

In reading between the lines I see that the writing is on the wall;

it’s in this mirror, staring right back at me; if only

I could keep one straight thought and not slide sideways with yet another cliché.

 

Chris George

 

(Through the summer months I wrote 10 poems that are compiled under the title: Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was.  If you are interested in receiving this compilation, connect with me – chrisg.george@gmail.com – and provide your e-mail.)

Onward

Age 50 is a milestone; another of life’s markers along the way.

At this time, I find myself at the side of a road, taking the time to pause and reflect

and I glance neither back at the asphalt traveled, nor ahead where this trail leads.

But I’m wholly distracted by ants, darting every which way over the stones –

sheer determination, seemingly inexhaustible energy; some unfathomable purpose.

One ant labours hauling a carcass of some larger bug; it’s his Sisyphean rock!

Along side, and then up over successive stones, the ant pushes onward.

Passing milestones will mark time and distance,

not achievement and progress; not energy and purpose;

and peering forward and back like some stupefied Janus

provides no true measurement of self; only details without essence.

I stare and blink, then forcibly hold my eyes shut

turning thoughts over in my mind – here and now – roadside with ants

I’m struggling to focus beyond the kaleidoscope of past memories

of my youth and the paths chosen:

vivid, colourful images, yet distorted, all moving sideways, front to back

Bewildering time shifts; far more fiction than reality

For there’s no comfort in re-treading forgotten pathways

Nothing but empty feelings; not regrets, but a gnawing, pit-of-the-stomach ache

and a realization: half-baked, stale memories are indigestible.

Self-consciously, I look down at my leg, and at the dirt beneath it,

and at the shadow the leg casts in the dirt.

I trace along the ground, where the darkness meets light;

my knee, shin, ankle – noting my shadow is much larger…

I’m not sitting here alone. There’s more than my bones and skin.

I hold the thought that I’m here with all those who have met me

My friends and family; lasting unions, even fleeting connections;

all who I’ve known are ever-present in that elongated shadow –

providing me not with a specific location, but a measure of something more:

a wondrous shade to be comforted within – here and now – roadside with ants

I fixate on the horizon – needing to discern some landmark that can place me

and, perhaps, place this road and the direction I’m heading.

Wisps of distant clouds and a light breeze against my face bring sweeping realizations:

I gaze far ahead, appreciating now, that details are for the young.

Perspective is only found in big sky and where that thin line marks our earth.

On every road there are bumps, turns and many long bends;

yet, be confident about your direction, determined in your stride,

and trust in the horizon line before you.

Passing milestones will mark time and distance,

not achievement and progress; not energy and purpose;

take to the road, aware of the shadow your presence casts,

and trusting you’ll arrive one day at your spot on the horizon.

The ants continue their tasks, unconcerned that I’ve stood

casting a long shadow, out onto the asphalt.

Time to pick up my feet and push onward,

lock-stepped with my loved ones.

Time to dance with my accompanying shadow

pass those milestones that lie ahead.

 

Chris George

June 2012

Almonte’s Riverview

IMG_7698 (2)

 

The river rapids are swollen, gushing with Spring’s anticipation;

my gaze sweeps upwards beyond the falls and spray.

I’m elevated, suspended somewhere above the rocks,

the deafening noise and the surge and the fury.

I’m hung there, numbed senseless by my creative drought,

whilst the clapping echo of the pregnant Mississippi

dances through my soul’s cavity, pulling at my empty thoughts.

I moisten my lips with the spray, then turn the corner of Mill Street

to retrieve my daily bundle of flyers and bills from the post office.

 

– Chris George

 

(ed. – This poem was written in Spring 2013, since our family’s move to Almonte. It is one poem in a compilation of verse just released under the title of Midstep – A dozen poems towards where I want to be. To get your copy of Midstep, contact chrisg.george@gmail.com.) 

walking-349991_640

MIDSTEP – A dozen poems towards where I want to be

The Arena: a Lens onto Life

I lost and found my son this weekend on the ice

He was there, and then…. he skated into a corner away from sight

I imagined him in the middle of a scrum of bodies and sticks – eyes locked on the puck

Somehow he looks bigger as he wheels around the net, glances past the crease and backhands a pass to his waiting teammate

It is his ease of movement that makes me search for the answers I don’t really want to reflect on – just, how did he grow up so fast? And what’s next?

I blink. He’s gone… then I focus to see that he has gathered in the puck from his opponent’s blade and has nudged it forward;

He spins off his back leg and begins a deliberate, looping stride towards the side boards, flicks the puck against the boards and accelerates over the blue line

It seems he carries the puck in slow motion,

Yet I realize that this game is really in fast-forward

He’s skating too fast, as there’s no stopping his advance

So, I need to ask these questions:

In five years – will he get the shot off – and find his mark?

In ten years, which arena might I find this young man?

I study his moves. I need to burn it all into my memory.

With a burst of energy he cuts around a player, and with shoulder down, stickhandles neatly beyond two defenders and swings in towards the goal – mere seconds of ice time capturing years of development

A whistle, some yelling from the bench and pounding music from the arena’s PA system

He circles around to line up for the faceoff – what’s next?

University courses; wedding receptions; a first day at a new job?

He sets for the drop of the puck – and I’m processing a whirl of freeze-frames:

tugging his sweater on overtop of his shoulder and elbow pads

tightening his laces and clicking the snaps of his helmet

my parting locker room words of endearment: “Skate hard every shift. Have fun.”

then after, his tired, satisfied smile; that smell of sweat from soaked mats of hair

and the car rides to and from the arena; and those questions that start with

      “Dad….”

Peering through the glass, I’m witness to this game, yet unable to be part of it

I watch his boyhood in flashes now – with our family turning on his every blade stroke

He’s reaching forward, stick extended, body twisted – anticipating a pass

And I’m anxious with hopes and aspirations for his future happiness…

In another instant, he’s stride for stride, leaning in against another body, locked in a match of force and determination

Yet, I remember vividly those precious moments when I held him in my hands, and ran around the house carrying him piggyback

There’s another whistle, he twirls on one skate, right in front of me, and skates away towards the bench – it’s him, yes, I see it is, but only after focusing on our name on the back of the jersey.

There are times I see my own breath rise in the cold of the arena, and our reality is caught up in a few seconds of blurred colours, sticks, a puck – and my son

He’s turning and digs in to push off, the puck dances on his stick in front of him, and he darts ahead to open ice, sure of himself and where he must skate

On the ice, he’s always enjoying the moment, yet I see that he’s stretching, honing skills

He circles, glides with one leg lifted in front of him, lifts his head towards me and grins

I stare upward; the game clock is going too fast for us at this rink. I don’t want to avert my eyes – there is only so much time to etch these glimpses of our lives.

 

— Chris George 

The Move

– So it’s a calculated move?

– Sorrta: the vineyards were fine for the wineries

but a working soul can wither in the Niagara sun

We chose to leave the magnificent web we had spun,

leave behind the comfort, contentment of the Briarfield lair

to jump into “the next phase of our lives”

into the deep end, with both feet

and now as we consider the many unknowns

that leap has us free falling into the future.

 

There is so much anticipated for Almonte

We know it as a colourful, caring small town

A Rockwellian Main Street that time passed by

filled with genuine folk who smile, nod and

go about their honest day’s business.

A wonderful home town to nurture a growing family.

 

We’re excited about exiting the road we’re on – for Main Street

Yet I am certain we are accelerating towards new realities:

Truths are exposed when no longer wrapped in familiarity

The status quo is challenged when there are no recognizable boundaries

Decisions are deliberately taken, one-step-at-a-time, when the path is unknown

 

– So, a calculated move: yes

We are convinced that it is a necessary journey

spanning both geographical and spiritual divides

to discover new streets, new people and new truths

to re-discover old feelings, buried muses and forgotten memories

to exhume those lifeless parts of ourselves,

prop them up in front of a mirror and

dare ourselves to realize the potential and promise

of our Family’s prospects, our dreams and hopes for Life’s adventures.

 

– Chris George

 

(ed. – This March 2013 poem is reposted on the occasion of the one year mark of our “moving day” and arrival in Almonte. It is hard to believe it has been a year!) 

Like a magpie’s refrain

amwritingSorry, there’s no inspiration here.

There’s deliberation and cursory reviews,

some light criticism and cynical observations,

and heaping servings of borrowed thoughts

(even some regurgitated pulp from

dated, unconnected ideas written years ago).  

But no insightful pronouncements,

no brilliance, no profundity.

Sorry, there’s been no epiphany today.

There’s only scribbles and lifted quotes

dropped onto a page, tied together with phrases

arranged by a harried, unknowing magpie.   

Here we have the results of a curious bird

flitting out every morning in search of

those prized musings to put the absurdity of

our human lot into some kind of appreciable order.

Supposedly, if you comb through this feathered nest

long enough, you will find a trinket or coloured stone

that will cause you to pause, delight your senses, or better:

provide you with a glimpse of the possible and the good.

 

– Chris George, January 2014