Three poems by Patrick Friesen

New Work

a greasy sax solo

skidding like a greasy sax solo sliding between heavenly and dirt rootless in the misery of world almost a slug that ecstasy squirming on a grain of salt impaled on a want and wanting the want

and what comes after what comes after the solo what comes when the exhilaration pales into itself? you lower your glass to the table lit with your extraordinary dreams you’re coming down coming down

and there’s a grace to it though you resist you want to stay crazy anything to keep your feet on fire nerves exhausted you find a bench and looking around you bring out your comb waiting for someone

what do you do with the child tugging at your sleeve what do you do with that old man on the swing? you want to comb god’s hair but no one arrives and you’re left restless pulling old strands from the comb

your hands turn silver in the moonlight hair drifting down the sidewalk and music dying in the distance there’s nothing much but the empty playground and a figure emerging from the club with a saxophone in its case

mongolian radio ray price fiddles hank locklin and spruce tree sighs

the one who washed another man’s feet who sat at table with a whore
can’t think him in a country of greed and leering with its fear of all the other
the great enterprise of rendering man and woman into the holy machine
who eats the christ feeding off misery and the angry tongue?

such a death this one of the hammer this ghost of god hammering at our ears
where it comes from is anywhere but from inside the grave of the mother’s womb
love death when it’s yours but turn from the one the christers nail to the sky
we all ravage our own killing the wild child stifling that sudden inhalation

listen to the sound of everything honest every note and word every call
a dove on the wire the mule braying against the sun a tenderness in the telephone
the wind across a yellow field a meister eckhart wind the river’s still wind
listening to mongolian radio ray price fiddles hank locklin and spruce tree sighs

never heard such a sound a praise never heard such a  jackfish wind
rippling across the water’s skin raising every hook and line ever thrown
well listen there is a song gone to ground a fibre among root and node
woven through the great desire of the urgent world

a man dipping his foot in the creek a woman washing her long black hair
there’s not much else but the poems and sermons some of us can’t hold back
always those strangers standing awkward in a black and white photograph
and always the graveyards with their stones carved safe in the arms


take the pleasure of water or muscatel of the coal smoldering beneath your garden take that pleasure find it scattered and forgotten the only pleasure gone like the hummingbird or the buried seed

you may need a city to gather your thoughts a place to unsettle enough to find what’s been lost you may need a book to be your city a brothel you’ve dreamed or the sailor’s song of land’s end

death can be sentimental when it’s not abstract do you imagine your own or do you imagine all the others? what is it you want in the graveyard where you wander reading the names of your recent dead?

your heart racing with radio news with blight and worry with the contagion of greed and fear take the pleasure of the dead they’re true now what you remember is what you need and maybe more

you want drunkenness or the night something that takes you into the presence of your solitude take the pleasure of your mouth the measure of song and talk the gossip of your sudden life

you’re the boy who killed himself once before who let his blood flow into the pleasure of the earth you hesitated on the bank of that river before you sheered from the spook of milk and honey

when wind plays with light among the aspen leaves and you’re befuddled once again by your eyes there is solace in the guitar and the clapping of hands in the ways we come again to our darkness


Patrick Friesen

Patrick Friesen's latest books are A Dark Boat (Anvil) and jumping in the asylum (Quattro), which won the 2012 ReLit award for poetry. Patrick's celebrated play, The Shunning, ran at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in 2011.