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Friday, 23 September 2011

my best poem: Five Minutes Ago They Dropped the Bomb/notes

Five Minutes Ago They Dropped the Bomb

After the bomb dropped
the homophobic cop
and the steambath patron he was handcuffing
melted into each other's arms
into infinity

After the bomb fell
concrete angels in all the graveyards
took wing
Every bell in the world
gave one last high-pitched ring into oblivion

Five minutes ago
a tear or two slipped in the halls of karma
at the insignificant passing of
3rd. dimensional existence –
3rd. stone from the sun – reality factor
time factor irrelevant –
total dissolution of creatures
   IQ 100     EQ 35
evolutionary phase median ape to bodhisattva

The bodhisattvas wept
Buddha watched mountains raise their final crest –
burst into pulverized space/time

Basho's spirit watched every moment in nature
cruelly bloom into the final haiku moment of infinity

Five minutes ago
the Marxists got their final synthesis
the neo-nazis their final solution
the capitalists their last boom from the economy

Five minutes ago we kissed
said "Shit! They've done it …"
Armageddon - Apocalypse

Five minutes ago Time Must Have a Stop
five minutes ago we passed into borrowed time
five minutes multiplied 12 times by the hour
24 times by the day
365 times by the year
and 38 times since Hiroshima shimmered into oblivion

Five minutes ago we passed into borrowed time again
reality factor minus:
3 million
994 thousand
and sixty

five minutes ago

- Chris Faiers  (1984)

Author's note: this poem was multi-published in 1984 -
in the chapbook of the same title,
in "The Unfinished Anthology" (Unfinished Monument Press),
in "Anti-War Poems: an anthology" edited by Stehen Gill (Vesta Publications),
& I believe in "The Americas Review".
It was republished in "Crossing Lines" (Seraphim Editions, 2008).

War-era poets share experiences
Toronto Star review of "Crossing Lines" by Joe Fiorito

Flipping thru my 'ego-shelf' of anthologies and books which have included my poems, today I discovered several more credits for this poem.

Foot Through the Ceiling, 1986, Aya Press (now Mercury Press)  collection for which I received the inaugural Milton Acorn People's Poetry Medal in 1987

The Last blewointment Anthology, edited by bill bissett, 1985, Nightwood Editions

Keeper of the Conscience, edited by Ronadl Kurt and Mark McCawley, 1990, Greensleeve Publishing

Other Channels, edited by Shaunt Basmajian and jones, 1984

I'm in the middle of reading Chris Gudgeon's excellent biography of Milton Acorn, Out of This World. Reading another writer's interpretations of the how, why, where and when you wrote a particular poem, especially one seminal to your development as a poet, is making me realize the value of telling my own story, in my own words, while I have the chance.

This poem evolved into a plea for world peace, but its impetus was my very personal concern over the Cold War and the likelihood, in the early 1980s, that a catastrophic end to civilization was imminent. I kept imagining explosions of planet-destroying magnitude, and I have to reluctantly confess, it wasn't initially concern for my fellow beings as much as the selfish concern that I would never be able to complete the purchase and habitation of the termite infested little house I was in the process of purchasing in Toronto's east end.

The Cold War came to an end with the decade, and much of our collective paranoia. And I even got to share the little house with Milton for a short time after I moved there in April of 1985. Watching the greats of CanPo like Milt and Gwendolyn, Marian Engel, and even the Purdys in their jerry-built A-frame, had given me the desire to establish a base. By my mid-30s I realized full well that the profession of poet was neither going to feed nor clothe nor house me, and that I'd better act quickly.  

strange brew: Buddhism and Marxist activism:

I was able to include references in the poem to some deeply held spiritual insights, including the Buddhist concept of bodhisattva (wise beings who return to earth to aid in the enlightenment of all). I was somehow able to add Basho and haiku into the mix, and for the first time there was a comfortable merging of my Buddhist beliefs and neo-Marxist politikal activism in a poem. A hard thing to accomplish!     :  )

Another aspect of the poem was that I had learned to be more subtle and suggestive.  Haiku at this time was still considered ephemeral at best, dilettantism at worst, by the CanPo establishment. And my overtly politikal poems had often degenerated into cant and honest, but simplistic, outrage (a la early Acorn).

did poem invent "IQ/EQ" corollary?

Another key aspect of this poem was psychological. I come from a quirky, even negative for me, nuclear family. Likely both my father and brother have 'genius' IQs, and in my early years I felt intimidated by anyone who was overtly 'smart'. But as the years went by, I realized my father hadn't been very supportive of me, and I've since come to suspect he exhibited a high degree of narcissism (now labelled narcissistic personality disorder).

So I invented a corollary to IQ in this poem, "EQ", emotional quotient. as another benchmark for understanding human behaviour. A decade after I multi-published Five Minutes Ago They Dropped the Bomb I was browsing a bookstore in Belleville, Ontario. I came across a best seller titled something like EQ: EMOTIONAL QUOTIENT. Had some academic read my widely circulated poem and then appropriated my intellectual property? Unless some author comes forward and admits to this, I'll never know. But the chronology is suspicious.

peace & poetry power!
Chris Faiers
Marmora, Ontario
Sept. 23, 2011

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