Tag Archives: memoir

Inured

We are inured to sirens now

Throbbing processions of emergency vehicles interrupting traffic flow

No longer spark the curiosity they once did

 

It wasn’t always so

We used to chase fire engines to watch flames lick and curl

There was always an audience

Crowds of onlookers was a living cliché back then

For all the local disasters

Even car crashes had fans

It was all so immediate and familiar

We all knew whose blood was seeping onto the sidewalk

Or who wouldn’t be coming back to school tomorrow

Or forever

Loud noises brought us out of our houses

It was normal to be inquisitive

 

Not like now

When people are frightened by noises

And are too accustomed to perfect disasters

Brought to our living rooms and laptops within seconds

Crowding out any desire to stand outside on a streetcorner

To watch some store burn down

We can’t be bothered with small tragedies

When big ones become as familiar as movie stars

 

So unless the ambulance screaming by us on the highway

Is being chased by paparazzi

We barely register any emotion

 

Our disasters have ceased to become news

Unless they rate a camera crew

Or somebody’s amateur video clip goes viral

There is always a delay

A divide

An intermediary

Between us and events

Our tragedies are screened

Away

 

 

David Trudel        ©  2013

 

 

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Memory

Do you remember

When it was transformational

When music pied pipered us

Into a sociological world view

 

At odds with conformity

 

At odds with authority

 

Just so

 

It was hot time, summer in the city

It was big birds flying in the sky

It was patchouli oil and Acapulco gold

 

As we wandered through

Labyrinths

Listening and observing

Ultimately deciding to side with the offside

 

Holding to the beat

Of the untamed

The wild

The beat

Listening to wild beats

Among the beasts

 

We were wild and untamed

Watching

Worlds constrict

Even as the beats began resounding

Sounding

The beat

 

We waited

 

 

David Trudel  ©  2013

 

 

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Unsprung

An unseasonal preview of summer has accelerated growth

Into greenfloods of underbrush

Tendrils leaping across trails with exponential growth

Which I clip as I walk along judiciously editing trail margins

Woodpeckers rattletap deadwood

Hoovering up invertebrates

With the enthusiasm of teenagers eating potato chips an hour before dinner

 

Bracken ferns appear full grown overnight

When I see them I remember how we’d pull them up

Strip the fronds to create spears

Then engage in pseudo wars of childhood play

Or lurk along the edge of the road to ambush passing cars

Until the time that truck stopped

Backed up

After being hit with our meager broadside

I had rarely seen someone so angry before

That anger directed at me and my friend Chris

It hit us like the punch that vein popped, redfaced truck driver would have thrown

If we hadn’t sprinted into the forest surging ahead adrenalin charged

To vanish safely in the greenswarm of spring memories

 

Yesterday’s spring green luster has faded on the parched hilltop here

Purple and yellow wildflowers have gone from prime to seed too soon

Summer drabs replacing verdant easter bonnets

Khaki shorts instead of jeans

In the distance Mount Baker has started to show his ribs

Melting away winter’s extra layer

I read the smudged horizon to plot mainland cities spilling skycrap

Like wild beasts marking their territory

So I turn into the prevailing offshore breeze

To breathe the scent of tomorrow

 

 

David Trudel  © 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friends

There was one evening when my dad came home late

Which was hardly unusual

In those days when doctors still did house calls

This evening he was carrying a box

With some excitement and childlike passion

Look, Big Little Books,  he said

We had no idea what the big deal was

Since they no longer existed and we had never heard of them

But they were the comics of his youth

Chunky little books

One page of action packed text

The other an illustration in black and white

The right hand corner of each page had postage stamp insets

Animating a sequence magically into a mini movie

There were dozens in the box

Tales of GMen and cowboys

Movie star personas with more backstories than you could ever imagine

Titles that had survived in the papers or morphed into comics

Like the Green Hornet or the Lone Ranger

Which is the one I have here in my hands

The Lone Ranger and the Great Western Span

A little tattered and faded but still intact

Still a connection, even if he only carried in the box from the car

I’m not sure if he ever had the time to read them all again

But I did

Around the age he must have been when they first came out

So we were able to be friends in imagination

Across time and role

We hung out in Our Gang clubhouses reading Big Little books

Floorsprawled in depression dust

Sharing these homilies and parables

That made sense of the time

Time that I hadn’t seen but now could

Through these simple pages

Where remembering turns into discovery

 

 

David Trudel  ©  2013

 

 

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First Position

First position

Feet placed just so

Shoulder roll into place

Second position

Third position

The one I like

Slam heel into instep

Into vogued strut

Somewhere in a manila envelope

In one of the dozens of boxes I have yet to sort

Is an eight by ten glossy of me at age four or five

Dance class

Me, black pants (long!)

White shirt with clipped on bow-tie

Surrounded by my leotard harem

Galaxied, I learn some steps

Mostly I’m just watching, transfixed

First position

Feet placed just so

I am apex and omega out-timed

Then second position

At intervals the teacher has us hold

She demonstrates the impossible

Then we do exercises

Easy at first but with each repetition a little harder

But easier than doing nothing

Discovering movement organized into patterns

First position second position

Hold

Hold that thought

Hold that memory

That acceptance of dance as a language

Understanding that fluency is subjective

So when I’m all alone at midnight

I start with the first position

Take it from there

David Trudel   © 2013

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Gerald

He wore shoulder length hair like a proclamation

A rare moment of shorthand

Since he danced the dialectic daily

Using ten words when one would do

Each word multi-syllabic and layered in textured meaning

His leathers were unlettered and non-aligned

Unlike his politics which were both

He rode his bike like it was an Olympic event

Until it became a project

Disassembled on the basement floor

He didn’t believe in ordinary pleasures

So instead of cigarettes he smoked a pipe

Or rather pipes, amassing a collection of Meerschaum wonders

Which he’d fill with coarse cut leaf

Clouding rooms with lofty thoughts burned into the night

Where futures were told and untold

Pasts revealed and concealed

Words flying like flocks of starlings at dusk

Collective swirls of feathered mystery

Avoiding walls with alacrity

Careening through each successive enthusiasm

Full on

And fully there

 

 

David Trudel   ©  2013

 

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Journey – A Triptych


1.   
North

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Traumatized and demoralized

I fled into the north

Heading to Dawson City to visit Tony’s sister

We had a few hundred dollars and a bag of weed

Journeying in my orange VW Thing

As we drove further north

The car became a curiosity, a rare thing indeed

Pulling conversations from the taciturn

As we watched gasoline prices exceed our imaginations

 

One night, while there still was night

On the Stewart Cassiar highway

We came around a bend and were stopped by a wall of gravel

That seemed impossibly high and wide

So we began to prepare for a long wait

Got out the Stoned Wheat Thins

Some cheese and a summer sausage

Figuring it was time for sustenance

When the wall was Moses’d

It parted

Bright lights shone cosmically

 

A D12 dozer was our rod and our staff

Parting the chaos of gravel mounds

With the smooth dexterity of a pastry chef

We followed

Looking more than a little ridiculous to grimy goliaths

Who you just knew only drove trucks

American ones

And probably didn’t eat Stoned anything

 

We were ejected into the blackness of beyond

Heading straight up the map

Through mountains of gravel

Northward we travelled in unhindered light

To a log cabin on the banks of the Klondike

The driveway was twenty miles long

Shared with wolverines and moose

And if it took time to get there

It was a place to feel at home

Secure in the knowledge that door to door salesmen

Would never bother to knock

 

We walked the wooden sidewalks of Dawson City

Avoiding the tourist trappings of Diamond Tooth Gerties

We drank sudsy drafts at backstreet bars

With wild eyed seekers

Big city retreaters

One day we impossibly piled a dozen new friends into the car

Drove to the Midnight Dome

Where we shared the last few joints and a pint of rye

Surveying the small outpost in relentless wild

Sensing possibilities beyond the horizon

 

So we made some possibles happen

Drove the Dempster to Eagle Pass

Where a full moon rose over our rough campsite

Then made way for the northern lights

Dancing starbright with the grace of a Bolshoi ballerina

We whistled them closer until we were covered in magic

Looking out across the arctic circle to the top of the world

 

We danced across the tundra

Past the dwindling line of pecker poles

Hopping from hippy head to hippy head

Forded icy rivers that ran with the speed of the chased

Rubbed shoulders with grizzlies and the grizzled

Whose independence was declared through the intensity of the gaze

 

As the summer wore on forest fires raged

Until the plumes crept over the next ridge

And choppers buzzed our lonely cabin

So we walked a few hundred yards up the twenty-mile driveway

Discovered a command centre

Staging ground for firefighters who could always use help

So we signed up and up we went

Commuting to the smoke where we strapped piss pumps to our backs

Grabbed shovels and watched as timbers candled

Hoping for the wind to shift in time for lunch

Since we had never eaten as well as in that rough camp

Or gotten quite so dirty

Blacker than a Welsh coalminer

Soot that found its way through clothes to every inch of untanned skin

To be scrubbed the next week at the metered shower in town

Since the woodstove and hauled Klondike water only barely sluiced

The top layer leaving us a dismal gray

But we made a few bucks and beat the fire back

Flew like warriors in Bell Rangered wonder

Over undulating mysteries

To see the sea of trees saved for another season

 

A season we wouldn’t experience

But left to the iconoclasts and the lonely

Those who could drift no further

Yet could wield an axe and feed a stove

So when the leaves turned and frost arrived

We turned tail and went south

But a piece of my soul remains buried in the Klondike

Part of the motherlode of the riches of my life

 

 

2.    Alberta

 

The first challenge was to fence a quarter section

160 acres

There was a tight budget so that meant recoiling downed wire

Of the fence we were replacing

Pulling staples and hammering flat the salvageable ones

Assessing posts for rot

Turned out that the convertible Thing was a handy platform

Sledgehammer blow by sweaty blow

For driving treasured new tamarack posts securely into the ground

Which we grew intimate with

Since our lodgings turned out to be a teepee

Nestled in the rolling flat lands of northern Alberta

We worked with the last family of a hippy commune

To keep their dream flickering

As we restored the back forty fence

Learnt the rhythms of this sullen prairie

Sacrificed a glade of trees for timbers for a barn

When you peel the bark off trees with drawknives

You can smell their death

Almost an offering in the crisp autumn light

At least we’d like to think so

Then came harvest and stuking the oats

An itinerant thresher arrived like a Rube Goldberg fancy in action

Hay wagons and itches filled dawn to dusk days

Next weekend the old Ukranian farmer from up the road

Oversaw the raising of the barn

He was barely literate

But knew what needed to be done

So did the dozens of others who we’d seen at the gas station

And the diner

Or not at all

But impossibly the walls rose

Chinked into place

And if it wasn’t quite finished by Sunday evening

It was damn near quite enough as we all said

Breaking bread on long trestle tables in the yard

A few days later the vegetarian era ended abruptly

When Ralph, gentle Ralph the pig

A Charlotte’s Web kind of pig

Radiant pig

Met his doom graphically

Tony missed out on some really great meals

So he volunteered to crank the separator during dinner

Until the memory faded

One day a strange car drove up

Full of aboriginal youth

They wanted to check out the teepee

Having never been in one before

We said sure

Brought out whatever offerings we had

Booze and tokes

Which were warmly received

Reciprocated

As we shared the fire and laughter

Drank into a gentle inebriation

We learnt swear words with great delight

When one of our new friends tried to leave

Couldn’t find the door

We laughed

Then we all went outside to piss under the bright stars

Marveling at the moment

A few weeks later I was given a length of two by four

Dropped off at an intersection at some ungodly early hour

Told pay attention, they’ll be here in an hour

Make sure you turn them that way

Use the persuader

Turned out the orange Thing

Or maybe my crazed look

Was enough to turn that herd

I didn’t need to smack some bovine upside the head

Thank Christ, as I remarked

To some farmer who passed me a flask a few minutes later

We learnt the art of waking up cold

Having to build a fire with one arm quickly thrust from down filled warmth

To last night’s drunken pile of kindling which is almost not enough

But desperation is a good teacher

Living in a teepee in northern Alberta

As fall met winter

We met our match

And the prairie winds blew

 

 

3.    McMurray

 

We knew we were in trouble

When we couldn’t even get a room at the Heartbreak Hotel

Which wasn’t on lonely street

But we felt lonely enough in the construction dusty hive

By the second day we had jobs

Laying pipe in the tarry clay

A one-armed foreman aimed a ruby-eyed laser down the run

Impressing us with advanced technology

We laboured rough and hard

Drank the nights dry at the Peter Pond hotel

Driving back to camp drunk

I gambled on which of the three bridges swirling in view

Was the real one, and won that bet

When the crew was laid off a couple of weeks later

Nobody panicked

Just got new jobs

In our case working for a masonry outfit

Building a warehouse in the cold

The site was tarp swaddled

Propane heaters roared

Inside it was shirtsleeve warm

Outside the snow came down and ground froze up

We discovered frostbite

Slopped pails of cement up and down scaffolding

Going from furnace to frozen like a menopausal matron

One day as wet snow blanketed everything

I had to hold long lengths of metal trusses for the roof

Perched on a flimsy skyhold

While welders arced the other ends into place

Electrical charges raced across and up my arms

Each jolt a nail driven deep

On weekends we’d drive back to the farm

Remembering the dream of that vestigial commune

In the cold light of a short day

Where tires freeze flat and if you can start the car

The wheels go clunk, clunk, clunk for the first mile or so

In order to start cars on an unwired farm

We learnt the art of placing coffee tins with kerosene soaked rags

Under oilpans and setting them alight

Which left time for a second cup of instant coffee

Which I’d drink while looking out the window

Hoping to not see more orange than I wanted to

As winter deepened the summery convertible became even more of a joke

I’ve known warmer refrigerators in my time

There were snowdrifts on the floor that didn’t melt

Until we hit the Coast

After high-tailing it back home for Christmas

With a few hundred bucks in our jeans

And unaudited revenues of memories made

Whose interest is still compounding

Even today

 

 

David Trudel   ©  2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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