Just got a copy of “Tough Times – When The Money Doesn’t Love Us” (Black Moss Press), edited by Canadian editor / author / poet John B. Lee. Contributors to the anthology include Margaret Atwood (“To Be Creative Is, In Fact, Canadian”), Dan Gutteridge (“Labor”), Marilyn Gear Pilling (“Minutes of the Meeting (Canada),” and Roger Bell (“This is your goodbye kiss…”). And, yours truly, with “After The ByPass,” about my father who, in the poem, concludes by saying, “But remember: you’re still gonna need money when you die.”
AFTER THE BYPASS
1. In The Hospital
“Don’t trust the world, son. It’s filled
with holes. The best thing is to love…”
Love what, dad?
“Emptiness. I’ve been meaning to tell you:
There’s a giant scroll suspended below the world
and it says this world
is made from letters and numbers
and every number is infinite.
Anyway, I’m invisible, son.”
Dad, I can see you.
“You have two fathers,
one you can see,
one who looks like me;
and one you can’t,
the father you’ll never see.
The invisible is invisible,
but I need to make a living.
I’m a doctor, nu? What good is a doctor
if you can’t see him?
Don’t look at me like that. I’m still a Jew,
but some days all I see is Roses and Crosses.
Did you know the male body has nine holes in it?
Seven of those holes are in the head. So there you have it.
The world is a leaky boat, son.”
2. Checking Out
Rosy cheeked father in a wheel chair.
He pulls out a toothpick. Makes little sucking noises
with his teeth. “Hospital food. Not as bad as they say.”
Lights a cigarette.
“She’s against it.”
“Who do you think? She’s against
Throws away the toothpick.
“I’ve fallen into a place where everything is music.*
You know, if people could take a pill
and become invisible
there would be nobody in sight. It’s true. The world
is made of love,
of our love for emptiness.
Ach, what the hell! Visible, invisible,
It’s all the same.
Still, the world you go round thinking you can see
is filled with holes, and for every hole
in this world
there’s a hole in the other. If you look,
you can see through the cracks.
I have a treasure now, it’s true,
but no body.
And you, you meshugge, you have a body,
but no treasure.
You should take the year off. Spend some time
at the Invisible College.”
3. Course of Study
“Stars ejaculate. That’s how the world
came into being.
From sperm. The Sperm of the Stars.”
“There is no place empty of God.*
“Darkness is a candle, too.
“So open the window in your chest.
Let the invisible fly in and out.”
“The invisible is more existent than all the visible things.
Still, when you leave your body there’s not much to stand on.
And there’s a crack in the cosmic egg.
Truth is, this world is just one side of the nothing
that’s on the other side.”
“Now I’ll tell you about death.
Life has an eye to see, says Talmud,
but what do you think Death has?
Death is made of eyes,
made of eyes, dressed in eyes.
And when she comes, she comes with a knife
in her hands.
And you go through the wall and it’s a flaming word.
Death is what happens when all you have left
is the life that was there all along.
But remember: you’re still gonna need money
when you die.”
*Note: I found in the lines 'There is a man and woman and a third thing too in us..." an approximation of what I felt Dad to be saying or trying to say. These lines are not mine. They are a borrowing from the poet Jelaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. I am a student of Rumi and have been deeply influenced by him--and the Talmud, Jewish mysticism, W.B. Yeats ("that Irish Rosicrucian," as my Dad put it), and others, including my friend Robert Bly.
[AFTER THE BYPASS reprinted from God is in the Cracks, A Narrative for Voices, Black Moss Press (Canada), 2006]
John B. Lee is the author of thirty-seven published books and ten published chapbooks and he is the editor of nearly ten published anthologies. A popular performer of children's poems and songs, he has been a writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor, Kitchener Public Library, and Hillfield Strathallen private school. Lee has also been a visiting professor at University of Western Ontario, University of Windsor, Canador College, and a guest speaker at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and many universities throughout Canada and the United States.
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