Albert Street Poems

Not too long ago, I decided to do my laundry across town in an old neighbourhood where I had lived for several years. The laundromat is next to a variety store that I also frequented on past occasions, so I walked in to say hello to the proprietor, and to chat about the days gone by. Much to my surprize, he told me that my old landlord on Albert Street, whom he knew personally, had recently passed away. I didn't know what to say, and I excused myself to step outside. In the street I tried to stop the tears from coming, but they were persistent, and I found myself sobbing against the encroaching night.

I hadn't thought about Albert Street for a long time, even though it's very close to where I live now. I had lived on Albert Street for over five years, and on many a long summer afternoon discussed the sad state of worldly affairs with my white-haired Greek landlord, Andrew Silaidis. We enjoyed each other's company immensely, and often sat out on the front porch to further air our lofty points of view, and to smoke each other's cigarettes of course. He had his prejudices, and I had mine, but we most often set them aside out of mutual respect and comradery.

Those were great days on Albert Street. It would take a trip to South Korea to make me realize just how lucky I had been living there. Good places to live, and good landlords, are hard to come by as you may well know. I shall miss Andrew dearly, even though we did have a falling out of sorts a few years back when I was no longer his tenant. He was a passionate man, and so am I, and passionate men often find themselves at odds with one another philosophically speaking. It's in our natures to be so intense, and we often utter things that we later would recant if we could, but alas, pride and the relentless passing of time itself often get in the way.

So, in honour of Andrew's philosophical heart, and in honour of all our glorious past conversations beside the Doric pillars that silently stood on guard for us, I present these poems for your reading pleasure. They are some of the poems I wrote while residing on Albert Street. Life is indeed short, and, as some are inclined to say, art is long. I only wish I had held out the olive branch to Andrew when I had the chance. I know we would have instantly become close friends again, for neither one of us had really planted a poison tree. I was angry with my friend ...

May the gods bless you, Andrew. May you be born again if you so choose, and may you remember all your past lives when you do, for we have all been here before. Thank you for the brave new words you spoke. Thank you for your sheer and often brutal honesty. Yes, everybody has a hungry heart! We hunger to know the truth about ourselves and the world our souls have been cast into. I remember you showing me your art. I remember you trying to communicate to me, how once upon a time you dreamed the greatest dreams.

Time to sleep, to close your eyes ...

February 20, 2001
Richmond Street Prose

trails of glory

when did i become a man of flowers
all the watering all the hours
all the people stopping to stare
at the irises bloom beside the stair

when did i start living life again
i want to ride the turtles in the rain
and speak with crows beyond the fence
and smell the mock orange's lovely scent

when did i catch a glimpse of paradise
and know it to be the kingdom of the wise
was it the sun shining on the rock roses
or the new blue pansies' solemn poses

when did i give myself another chance
to love the many-splendoured plants
to have and hold a wondrous garden
when did i earn nature's pardon

albert street poems
london, ontario


i stand over the grave
of a few dark things
my heart had saved

say goodbye to all that pain
turn my collar against the rain
wonder how they burned so long
and kept me from moving on

i toss wild flowers into the hole
kick some dirt and turn to go
she waits for me along the way
sipping wine in a small cafe

i know she'll notice the change
for i am my bright self again
and i'll propose and raise my glass
and drink to the dead and buried past

albert street poems
london, ontario

night flowers

night flowers for you
they like sunshine and rain
and those late days of summer
that may never come again

night flowers for you
little black grenades
that explode into colours
don't plant them in the shade

night flowers for you
for when you come this way
silken blooms and scented rooms
and evenings at the play

night flowers for you
i miss your pretty face
come and see my garden
before it's laid to waste

albert street poems
london, ontario


just apples
hang from the bough
you could not have
convinced me then
but i see that now

i don't know whether
to laugh or to cry
the same tears may
blur them in the eye

for i've come here
in this waning light
to set it fresh
to give back life

the appleness of apples
is the apple's delight
not some diabolical tale
about wrong and right

so i'll reach out
to choose one not so
red nor so round
and offer it my hunger
before it falls
to the ground

apples are just apples
as men are just men
and the earth nutures all
no matter the end

albert street poems
london, ontario

return to the way

no rain falls
though clouds be dense
no drops from Heaven
to bless the plants

the winds blow tears
across the sky
tears of loss
when beauty dies

no rain falls
though clouds be dense
the bluebells ring
beside the fence

albert street poems
london, ontario


the wind
in the evergreens
the red-tailed hawk
the rising flowers
the dead burdock

harbingers of spring
aren't they all
are you still listening
to your heart's call

the smell
of grass burning
the pull of the rake
thoughts about summer
the trail and the lake

to whom do you pray
did you give your soul
back there in winter
in the incense glow

the planting of onions
in the fresh-churned soil
the airing of rooms
the enchanted toil

we sit here together
drinking cold beers
on a porch needing paint
and laughter and tears

the days
that bind us
the starry nights too
may the future find us
as honest and true

albert street poems
london, ontario


death fell
in soft white flakes
upon my town
beside the lake

it covered all
the streets the yards
the little houses
made of cards

and all the children
came out to play
with flying scarves
and big bright sleighs

for death was not
a thought to them
the snow was snow
it was winter again

they did not wonder
about it all
they built their castles
to watch them fall

albert street poems
london, ontario

clean canvas

one night winter came
and painted the town white
and all the little accidents
and all the little green plants
holding on just in case

i watched it fall
heard the icy branches tap
and dreamed of shovelling
all the way to China
and woke up warm beside her

her hair was a rain forest
i listened to her soft breathing
and reached for my jeans
and smoked my first cigarette
and thought of quitting tomorrow
and tomorrow and tomorrow

i leaned over and kissed her
for i was one of the lucky ones
but there was a job to be done
so i searched for the old green coat
and the red red gloves
and paused before the threshold
to bow my head

may there be enough
to work it all out
may the people
bending in the street
see all the summers
they can handle

may this snow last

then i opened the door
and beheld the shovel shining
like a staff of diamonds
pinned against the whitewashed wall

albert street poems
london, ontario


i met a tramp
in the wood
shared my supper
spoke some good
slept by the fire
until dawn
then parted ways
our roads were

i travelled east
he travelled west
the years went by
no time to rest

then one day
on a crowded train
i heard a ghost
call out my name
i turned to see my
tramp standing there
in a long grey coat
and long white hair

he was a poet
of world renown
headed for
my very town

i shook his hand
fought a tear
hugged him close
bought him a beer

he thanked me for
the words i spoke
when he was down
turned out and broke

what were the things
i must have said
to help this sage
hold high his head

but then he poured
them back to me
every drop
in poetry
he turned the pages
of my soul
fed my hunger
made me whole

we vowed to meet
in that old place
share some supper
speak some grace

words are ambassadors
of the heart
choose them wisely
make them your art

albert street poems
london, ontario

indian summer

the deer stood still
watched us climb the hill
then dropped its head
into the grass

we gathered acorns
for the squirrels
filled our pockets
with their lives
then built a fire
while the sun hung
like a medallion
in the trees

the food was good
the beer was cold
the red bird sang
its evening song

i watched my friends
fade into ghosts
then dropped my head
into my arms
and dreamed of never
going back

stars winked overhead

albert street poems
london, ontario

this old house

i do not own
this old house
but we have a bond
i live within its dark walls
it lives within my red
heart beating

it's too cold
to stay outside
but here i stand
admiring every stone
the tall white pillars
the little dead garden
that grew so many smiles

i smoke a cigarette
sign my name with a rose
and return to my room
of many colours
where i have heard
a lone mouse singing
behind the tapestry

i light a candle
turn off the lights
gaze into dark corners
and bless the plaster
falling back to dust

time will have us all
so do let us linger
long into the night
watching shadows
journey home

albert street poems
london, ontario

London Poems