Thursday, October 15, 2015

by Christopher Brayshaw

In memoriam
Peter Culley, 1958-2015

not even in Sirkean
consolation of objects

my life held precariously
in the seeing hands of others
(Frank O'Hara)

Active browser
window: Pete seated
at a local hippie poet's
mother's kitchen table.
'Conversation' between
the 3 of them, simulated
for the camera, ostensible
critique of a poem Mom
wrote, actually a
monologue by her sharp-
faced son, who fills each
second of screen time
restlessly with talk.

Pete seldom speaks
but mumbles, slump-
shouldered, head
down, face hidden
by his ball cap's
wide white brim.
& when the older,
better-known poet
leans across & swats
the cap away, the startled
face exposed there's
younger than the one
I thought I knew.

Soft, round chin.
Curly dark hair --
theatrically patting it
back into place. Thick
lips whose corners
telegraph his feelings.
Skutz of scouring-pad
beard.  Big 1980s glasses
constant over decades,
an extraneous, protective
gesture, like cling
wrap stretched across
last night's casserole
in its plastic dish
in the fridge.

& his familiar voice --
deliberate; soft-spoken;
its Soundcloud histogram
open in window #2 --
a low-watt late night FM
DJ's.  Gerry Todd's
younger boho brother.

Audience of dozens
this Thursday, 5 a.m.:
insomniac grandma
awake on living room
couch by rubber tree
& wooden stereo --
cabbie deadheading
down 19 from Lantzville --
hangarounds trimming
bud in buzzing Area A
shed -- all absorbing
Funkentelechny, Judee
Sill, Theo Parrish &
Barry Gibb's "In the
Morning," only sung by
Jennifer Warnes! Next up,
Boots Riley's Coup, &
he ambles down the hall,
lights up just past
the parking lot fire door.
White pre-dawn sky. Birds
lively in the trees.

Back in the booth
line 2 blinking -- AM DJ's
late.  32 minutes to fill.
Takes down the double
album's purple sleeve --
Miles' catlike eyes wide
behind huge hexagonal
shades -- cues the first cut's
quavering organ tones.

Cymbal taps & Cosey's
steel guitar: light rain
along the fence at Morden
colliery.  The former "pride
of industry" defunct,
admired now by Prius
mom 'n dad, up island
for a weekend. Scarce
profit.  At least one
strike each year, put down
by barged-in constables.
They moved the town by rail,
dud cordwood cheques
stacked in the paymaster's crib
& these Goretex assholes
want to preserve it, like
braid garlic nailed
to the wall?

Things naturally fall apart.

After spring storms, Players
butts, maple helicopters,
pulpy chunk gyproc &
a blackbird's chewed-off wing
gather at the base
of Scotchtown Road hill.
Primitive accumulation.
Putting things together,
not aesthetic choice,
but index.

-That sounds like a lot of work!

Smart poets pursue a
"poetics of leisure" (Paul
Nelson).  Or "pleasure"
(Rolf Maurer). Or arrive
in town already wounded,
their knees worn out
on the civic mat. Even that
Adanac apartment's.
"In BC you could get
away from the state
by walking uphill
barefoot for 10 min."
or an hour and a half
on the Queen of Coquitlam,
grey city shrinking
like Deltaport lights,
a floating psychic equilibrium
reestablished by distance.

Perpetually on the edge
of the polis' frame
proud skink or pufferfish
who falls in & out
with everyone, returns
reports of the island's
mirror-world to those
still caught in the city's
flapping jaws, slow cadence
of clashing teeth
the tap  tap  tap
of Foster's drum, or
sneakered E&N crosstie

Walking from Beck Lake
to Harewood. Circling
Buttertubs Marsh.
Accompanied by Shasta,
brindle catahoula, "Best
Of" Used Nanaimo
by a country mile.

& what's seen there,
on those walks: not Flickr's
sheet of slides, but
direct-to-disc download,
an inscribing needle
on a spinning silver platter.
Sharpie titled & stacked
on a spindle, like
the homebrew CD-Rs
distributed at the wake.
Chick Corea, Lil' Wayne,
Andy Pratt, Dionne
Warwick, Sandy Denny:
pieces of the past,
circular salmon dispersing
upstream through the
pools under the rail
bridge & yodelling
Bungy Zone.

OS 2.0, a world
reinstalled from pictures.
Nanaimo c. 2006,
where condos haven't yet
sprung up like teeth
scattered on the ground,
an occupying orc army
frowning down on
the Newcastle ferry,
or an advancing wave
of fecal-colored froth,
yeast proofing in a jar,
the sour pulpy stench
of capital's pandesal.

A place where
a human in distress
could receive as
much attention
as an off-leash dog, or
a tiny, sad, furious
African man playing
a muted silver trumpet
low & slow in mourning
beside the statue of Frank
Ney, developer mayor,
in pirate drag.

In Hammertown's end,
the city's upscaling &
abandonment of its poor.

Like you wouldn't treat a dog.

Alternatives really
only ever visible
afterwards, as loss.

Columbia Studio B,
19 June 1974, where no
orchestra played & yet
is heard, clearly,
in the recording, in
the echoing space
above Miles' trumpet
& Harmon mute,
as if his love for Duke
could call him back,
or some semblance of him
back, like Spicer's
spook radio voices.

I listened for you, Peter,
heard only static:

an old vinyl record
in an empty DJ booth,
needle turning uselessly
in the innermost groove;

your faulty heart,
the slowing ebb of blood
at night, at home
Daph  Shasta  porchfish
everyone settling in there;

in a last still photograph
I didn't take but made
up now among these
other desktop things:

Late May north of Cassidy,
a scrappy garry oak
meadow already platted,
levelled & cleared, today,
by ridiculous cartoon toys.
A Finning yellow excavator
labors mightily in a field, cab
swinging round. Through
cracked plexiglass the
operator beholds the
flapping stakes outlining
the new limited-access road.
Trucks idling, the work crew's
silver pickups glinting in the
sun, cab radios playing
the last few notes
of a long, slow, ambient song
segueing now into
clattering electric funk.
Just outside the frame
a watcher halts to notice,
winds up, lets the dog's
ball chucker fly,
walks on. Late spring,
bright warm white sky,
everything moving along.

April - October 2015
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Peter Watts, "The Island"

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