Tag Archives: memoir


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




David Trudel        ©  2013



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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


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


Worlds constrict

Even as the beats began resounding


The beat


We waited



David Trudel  ©  2013




Filed under Poetry


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











Filed under Poetry


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




Filed under Poetry

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 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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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



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


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










Filed under Poetry

Miss Carruthers

Dust motes danced in a spiral pattern, a bebop model of the DNA of want, as the afternoon sun shone through the torn and yellowed curtains that hung over the room’s only window.  The boy sat on a braided rug on the floor.  The rug had once been patterned with a vaguely country and western motif and could almost have been called a piece of folk art, with bright orange and red highlights running through the two-toned brown stripes.  Now, however, it was merely brown, worn with use, uncared for and filthy with dirt and scraps and god knows what.  The boy was playing with the one toy in the room, which happened to be a toy pistol in a stamped leather holster.


He knew that he wasn’t allowed to leave the rug, because she had told him not to and what might happen if he did.  He sighed, because he was hungry and he had been there for a long time.  He didn’t know how long, nor did he care.  Time was a fluid concept to him.  If he needed to, he could get his mind to switch off, like with the radio or the lights, and he wouldn’t notice the dirty old rug anymore.


It was late summer and the window was propped open with a wooden spoon, letting the traffic noises and shouts and cries from the neighborhood in.  If there had been music appropriate to the location it would have been an edgy piece of Coltrane’s or maybe one of those numbers Bird came up with that evokes something almost as terrible as this place.  But there wasn’t any music here, just the sounds of the cars and trucks rumbling by, punctuated by angry cries and curses.


The room was part of the small apartment the boy lived in.  The apartment itself was a third floor walk-up, in a gritty tenement in the City’s most notorious part of town; the Skids.  The apartment consisted of two rooms and a small water-closet that was far too small and primitive to be given the name bathroom.  Certainly there was no chance that anyone had ever considered the idea of having a bath there.


A bedroom held an iron bed-frame with a tumble of frayed blankets on top of a saggy mattress, a nondescript chest of drawers, and a chair that did double duty as a laundry hamper.  Behind dirt-encrusted Venetian blinds on the wall opposite the door was a cracked window that looked out on the brick wall of another equally squalid building.


The other room, where the boy was sitting, held a small countertop along one wall, upon which rested a two-burner hot plate and a toaster.  A small rubber tub, like the kind used by busboys in cafes to gather up dirty dishes, was used as a sink.  This array rested on a cabinet that had been lacking doors for some time now.  A small sofa sagged against the other wall, in front of which was the rug where the boy was sitting.  A scratched and dented card table with two chairs completed the furnishings.  There was a fridge down the hall shared by all the apartments and rooms on the floor.


Most days the boy never left the apartment.  He was permanently dirty, although often his face and hands were scrubbed to give an illusion of cleanliness, which sufficed as long as the casual observer was to keep their distance and pass by quickly.


Often the boy went hungry for long periods of time, until he passed out  and went into a dark place where nobody could follow.  Today at least he had been fed a bowl of porridge at breakfast and a lunch of a piece of white bread with a thin layer of butter topped with a minute sprinkling of sugar.  This, along with a small carton of milk had left him feeling quite satisfied, at least in the only terms he knew.  But it had been hours and hours since lunch, when she had left him on the rug, with a stern warning not to leave it.


He kept his sense of playfulness and curiosity carefully wrapped up in a warm place in the back of his mind.  On the few occasions he had let them out, there had been trouble.  He understood the language of pain, just as she understood it as an art form.  When she took the trouble, she could make sure that the pain was bright  and intense and sharp, so much so that even he would remember.


He was three years old.


He heard steps coming down the hall and tensed into immobility.  The door opened and she thrust herself forward into the room, flinging her coat onto the sofa.  “So, my little man”, she addressed her son, “have you been good?  Did you stay where I told you?”  His eyes betrayed his fear as he nodded curtly at her.  “Yes, stayed on the rug”, trickled out in barely audible tones.  “Good, good.  By god, you might be getting some sense finally,” she exclaimed.  He tried to sense her mood, but for a moment she stood over him, staring out the window without moving and without betraying the direction her emotional compass might be pointing.  He waited, passively.


She might have been a beautiful woman if not for the nose that had been broken more than once and the mouthful of cracked and broken and missing teeth.  She might have been a beautiful woman if not for the years of brutality and  abuse and torture she had suffered, first in her uncle’s house in Krakow, then under the German troopers, then under the army of liberators lustily celebrating victory.  Nowadays she worked sporadically as a seamstress, but the streets were her real workshop and the back alleys of the Skids were the office where her true pay was drawn.  She might have been a beautiful woman, if not for that, but she was not beautiful or pretty or cute.  Her face was god’s reflection as the world hurtled into the second half of the twentieth century, blown there by holocaust and conflagration through pain and sorrow and bullets.


With the swiftness of a ghetto survivor seizing a loaf of bread she grabbed the boy by his ankles and began twirling around in circles.  “Momma takes you for a ride! Momma takes you for a ride!” she began chanting as the boy went spinning around the tiny living room, his head coming dangerously close to the few pieces of furniture that might have impeded his dizzying revolutions.  Over and over she spun, her head thrown back, chanting her cry.  Finally the boy began to send his consciousness to rest in the darkness and his hands relaxed their hold on the toy pistol.


The toy holster and gun left his hands just as she increased the speed of her dervish-like whirling.  It was flung in an arc across the room and, crashing through the grimy single paned window, continued on its inevitable course to the sidewalk below.  The pistol did not, however, hit the sidewalk directly.  Instead, the tweed-covered shoulder of Miss Alice Carruthers intercepted the missile, which only then dropped to the ground with a thud.


Miss Carruthers turned around, seething in immediate anger.  She assumed that one of them had hit her, but as the gun bounced to rest she realized that someone had thrown something, some object, at her.  She grabbed the holster, still holding the pistol, barely registering what exactly the thing was.  She scanned the sidewalk behind her but the nearest people were a block away.  She became aware of a rhythmic chanting coming from overhead and looked up.  One of the upper windows of the tenement she was standing beside was cracked and broken and a wisp of yellowed and tattered fabric flickered in and out, as if describing some kind of semaphore message.  She measured the distance from the window to the spot on the sidewalk she was standing on and rendered her verdict faster than a Roman emperor deciding the fate of a fallen gladiator at the Coliseum.


She strode toward the entrance to the building and bounded up the stairs, if one can use the word bounded to describe the deliberate movement of a severe looking spinster, wearing a tweed suit, tortoiseshell glasses and with her hair done up in a bun under a practical rather than stylish hat.  Just as she reached the door, it opened and an unshaven man wearing a torn sweater and dirty blue jeans scuttled out.  Miss Carruthers seized the door handle, pushed through the doorway and rushed up the stairs.  On the top floor landing she immediately turned left, as she had an excellent sense of direction and had already mapped out where the offending window must be.


Not bothering to knock, she opened the apartment door and looked in, ready to confront her attacker.  Inside, she was confronted by a scene that she was later to describe as almost Hieronymous Bosch-like in its horror.  A woman was in the center of the room holding a small boy by the ankles and twirling about in circles while over and over she chanted “Momma takes you for a ride”.  The boy appeared to be dead, or at least unconscious.  The place stank, was not just uncleaned but truly filthy, and was obviously no place to raise  a child.  “What is going on here!” Miss Carruther demanded.  The dervish noticed the intruder, ceased her spinning and dropped the boy onto the sofa.


“Who are you?”


“What do you mean, “who are you””, came the retort. “I am Alice Carruthers, of the Children’s Aid Society.  I was walking down the sidewalk when I was almost killed, by this!” she said, exhibiting the holster and gun.  “It obviously came from there,” she said, pointing imperiously at the window.  Then she turned at pointed at the boy, “And from him.”


The boy’s mother strode to the door and demanded “Get out, you nosy bitch.  You got no business here!”  Miss Carruthers squared her already formidable shoulders, drew herself up, and said with steely determination, “Oh no, dearie.  That’s where you’re wrong.  It just so happens that I’m a social worker and it’s my job to protect children like this from people like you.  Of course you probably don’t know anything about that do you?  No, you wouldn’t have people like me where you come from.”


The boy started to come to, amazed to see someone actually arguing with his mother.  He waited expectantly for his mother to lash out at the strange lady, but amazingly the defiant light in her eyes flickered and went out.  She walked over to the window, drew back the tattered remnant of curtain and stared out.


Across the rooftops rose the looming bulk of Hamilton’s Department Store.  The waning sunlight caught the landmark’s golden H that towered on a spire over the store and the sun’s ray was, in turn, reflected back to the dusty tenement.  The boy’s mother turned back to the room, laughed bitterly and said to Miss Carruthers, “Well if you want him so bad, take him.  He’s more trouble than he’s worth.  What the hell.”







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In my feral youth

I prowled unleashed

Climbed trees the size of skyscrapers

If a branch snapped I’d grab another on the way down

Not caring about the gravity of the situation

Rules only applied until we were out of sight

Property was a vague concept trumped by finder’s keepers

We weren’t afraid to use our fists in my feral youth

Trading body blows and hammerlocks fearlessly

We wore black eyes and fat lips instead of bling

In the summer I’d walk barefoot

Tom Sawyering along the riverbank

Sliding into swimming holes like bright eyed otters

Letting water run off my back in the sun

While the clean breeze of those innocent days

Was all the towel required

In my feral youth play was never supervised

Since that wouldn’t be play

Instead we’d stretch envelopes and deconstruct boxes

Aim our bows at clouds instead of targets

Playing chicken when the arrows plunged back from dot to danger

Prohibitions became challenges

Spot quizzes

So we’d incinerate aerosol cans for explosive delight

Steal cigarettes to smoke in treehouses

Pepper our conversations with salty wit

We bent, folded and mutilated

Rooted for underdogs

Cheered the counterculture

Waited expectantly for the revolution

Playing three chord rock songs on tinny transistor radios

Knowing that our moment was here

Oysterworld ripe



David Trudel   ©  2013



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Filed under Poetry

Holy Cow

I knew things were special

If only because of the names

Father Angel, pronounced angle

Was the first priest I had

He was succeeded by Father Masse

Who only abused the bottle, not us boys

Our undertaker was Mr. Whitebone

Whose funeral parlor sign turned the heads of unfamiliar visitors driving by

What strange novel am I living in?

I questioned my young self

Who passed out the scripts and why didn’t I get one?

I’d think

This is so weird

Somebody must have made this up

But at least they have a sense of humor

I’d conclude with a chuckle

David Trudel  © 2012


Filed under Poetry