Selected Works, Volume One On Sale
Jerry Prager, author of Legends of the Morgeti vol 1 &2 has published selections of poetry and prose from three of his previously published books, his blog The Well Versed Heart and unpublished works. On Sale at Macondo Books, the Bookshelf, in Guelph and the Eden Mills Writers Fest.
D'Etre Raisins

No sour grapes these,

rather the withered sweetness
of seasons lengthened
to aged fruition
chewed introspectively.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In the town where I came of age

1.

In the town where I came of age within the landscape I still know as home,
granite, lakes and pines, I look out on a corner that knows me, though
some of its storefronts are several times removed from those I passed
in snowstorm, sunshine and heat, in the cavalcades of colour
as defined by the autumnal brochures of my youth.

The church hall of my theatrical past, and of the dances of my loneliness,
is there on the hill out the cafe window.

The bridge, over which I sometimes pondered plunging into, in my not
so wonderful life, begat contemplations of how long I would last
in the cold waters of the river's open ice, just down the street, just out of sight.

I am decades away from that almost man, the no longer boy; the broken child
making his inchoate way into a future of heartache he would not have survived
if the crystal snow had foretold his future: his fortune, glimpsed in the narrow waters
of the otherwise frozen river, would have ensured his death then and there.

Blessed are they who cannot see what is to come.
What is bearable in part, could never be borne as a whole.

Like fairy tale breadcrumbs left on a forest floor eaten by birds and rodents;
carried off by insects, and turned sodden with rain to disintegrate before the return,
the way home, has an innocence, a naivetè that makes hope possible,

so that, here in this cafe window, more than forty years on, the miracle of breadcrumbs
keeps marking the trail of my passage with the remaining innocence of my hope,
gladly carrying me beyond the forest, beyond the desert, beyond the salt plain and
the mountains, beyond the swamp, the rivers, the lakes, the pines:
a pilgrim's progress to a faith stripped of pride, prejudice, and jaundiced I;
a faith that consists of the distillations of love out of thin air and thick, the ever willing
ability to trust my heart more than my mind, with just enough vision
of what might be coming, to believe in every new starting again and every continuance,
every grace and insight, every collapsing centre of every expanding care
around every bend in this unforeseen road beyond this corner where I sit,
because outside the door, the last period that will one day punctuate
the conclusion of my long sentence has been known
since well before I arrived here
trailing breadcrumbs.

2.

It is no secret to me, that the boy inside never grew up,
no secret the teenager within, has an unrealistic idea of romance,
and dreams of ever more rarefied manifestations of devotion and service.

The young man I was never stood a chance of maturing in due season,
like this horde of teens and pre-teens in the diner, lining up to pay their bills:
the long haired girls in their riding boots and their perfect complexions,
the red-cheeked boys and their collective posing, too cool as a sum
to allow their insecurities to individualize: they are young and full
of their own fragile immortalities, but if seen as themselves, each alone,
they come apart at the seams into awkward anxieties, desperate to conform,
to fit in, and yet stand out.

They are the peers of my youth two generations later, like the ones
who thought me so much braver, so much more willing to go out on a limb,
as if I was not a damaged child making up constructive rebellions, not making it
up as I went. Despite what they thought, it wasn't confidence that made me other,
it was the secrets inside me, and no doubt, among these adolescents lining up
to pay for their lunches, there are a few a least partially like me, though the rest
are happily aging into the roles assigned them, with the provisos in their own minds,
that they will do it better, and so they should, but mostly won't, for all generations
are born to replace those that gave rise to them, unless now, in the coming age
of a rapidly changing climate, they alter the future in ways beyond all generations
that preceded them.

Some of these paying up and leaving this eatery, will die along the way,
have their names and dates etched into yearbooks; into the hearts and minds of their peers,
some lost, accidentally forgotten by best friends some drunken night, a night
of random choice remembered by the survivors forever, a choice that alters everything.
Others will perish in all the other sundry ways in which youth fails to become age,
because good fortune fails, because sickness or random occurrence or suicide
removes them from the stage.

It is humanity's lot to come and go, individually, and as a species.

There is only care and consideration, or their absence, to mark our passage,
the broken and the unbroken alike, we all end in the grave, or the ash urn or spread
on the winds, or lost at sea, or vanished into who knows where, though we each measure
our lives in love, or in its absence.

So let the young be naive, and the old be wise, let those whose innocence is taken
and those who retain some of the same all of their lives, remember:
we are creators and destroyers, we manufacture hope and despair, we grow families and friends
or fail to. So if you find yourselves, or your sons and your daughters, or those of others,
on the routine cusp of eternity, patiently - or impatiently - lined up to pay for their time here,
consider them with kindness, for we all carry a secret we don't always admit, to ourselves or others.

3.

In a place I lived only through high school and slightly beyond,
but where my family still lives, a place to which I have returned to
over the decades for holidays and visits, I study faces for evidence
of those I once knew, most of the names are gone, and familiarity
does not place many faces, however much some seem like ones
I once knew.

Humanity only has so many variations of features with which to work,
and so at best I recognize possible and probable former friends and acquaintances,
without knowing almost anyone, just those vaguely reminding me
of people I may have known, mistaken identities and assumptions,
the partial memories of a jumbled puzzle.

There are too many decades, there is too much absence, too little prequel to my original arrival
followed by comings and goings, too many elsewheres, too many possibilities that faces
could be known from some other place altogether, and that they too are visitors, tourists
in a tourist town with long or short associations to the place.

My family would know, my mother, my brother, my sister: they are my continuity,
the custodians of my old who's who.

I am, of course, sometimes remembered, since my face and hair and body shape
are all unchanged, and thus, to those who are from here; who once knew me,
I am a face in context. They know my name, though more often than not, I don't know theirs,
unless I once knew them well. Most names for me, are echoes of memories, resonance
without substance: re-introduction, at best, provides only memories for the next time we meet,
some have stories with anecdotal triggers, deep reverberations
that cause an eruption of recollection, either from personal connections, or from shared circumstances:
of the we were in it together variety, either events from my student council presidency,
or from the two neighbourhoods in which I lived, or the swimming hole,
or hockey and soccer teams, because there was a life here, some of which even I
remember better than others.

The landscape, the streetscape, the landmarks of my first arrival here
alter more slowly than the people, except when they don't. Buildings are demolished,
new ones built, even the granite shield is now subject to dynamiting developers,
so that, where once there were forests on rock outcroppings, ubiquitous malls
rubber stamped by town planners across the province like bacteria spreading their wastes
on agar agar plates, now decimate the character of localized places I knew,
eradicating idiosyncrasies of less formulaic ages.

The landscape, the streetscape, the landmarks also age like people, they grow old and die,
albeit more slowly, they deteriorate, collapse and disappear altogether, while nature stakes
it's own inexorable claims on every demense.
Humanity is mist on a lake turning to clouds, and one way or another
we are a species on the verge of oblivion or evolution, we are a process, not a stasis,
so that, here, in this place where I came of age among people
I rarely recognize anymore, the temporal shifts
reveal transformations as unfoldings, not into flatlines,
but into still other folds within the folds;
what is hidden for a time, can be seen in a heartbeat between breaths;
revealed and concealed as wavelengths of life's momentum.



Jan 8-10 2016 Huntsville/Elora






Saturday, December 12, 2015

My Plastic Christmas Knight 1 & 2


1.
When I was nine, sick on Santa’s eve,
My mother & father & sister & brother
Came to my room to cheer me & sing carols.
They gave me a plastic molded knight
Mounted on a white horse & armed
With a lance & sword & shield. Two inches high.
I carried him with me out of childhood.
He lost his sword in a fall this morning,
Weaponless he nonetheless stands guard again.

2.
His helmet gone, his lance lost, his sheathed knife
long disappeared and his scabbard empty for years now, he
sits on his white horse - two of his legs gnawed off by
my dog, teeth marks sunk deep into his armour. His Grail
Quest still unfinished, he is propped up in the forest of
a house plant, encircled by a branch like a serpent grasping
its tail in its mouth. He stands, hobbled before a leaf bridge
within that mythic ring, like Lancelot drained of life by
his desire for Guinevere. Light, shafts through the curtains
in the study window & falls like a road on the far end of his bridge.
When next I notice him, one of my cats
has dug him out of the plant & he lies on his side, his horse
on top of him, his head turned to the garden out the window.
Like Merlin I assure my plastic Christmas knight that he can’t
just lie there and wait for the cats to pee on him, To prove
to him that he's not doomed to that fate, I move him to a sill
where a line of shells & stones & other shoreline debris
lie beneath a goblet of towering blue glass.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

We came to this land as refugees...

We came to this land as refugees, in the days when territory was bought
from the Mississauga of Burlington Bay and the Grand - a river they called the Ouse:
a nation reduced by war, famine, and disease, a people
nearly lost to Yankee traders with booze.

We came as refugees of the Revolutionary War, came to a colony that was nothing more
than a British military encampment, filled with descendant Europeans, we came with
free Africans as well as fugitives and the enslaved;
we came with remnant First Nations,
allies-in-exile, loyal to covenants with the Crown, friendship chains
binding Turtle Island bloodlines to our common causes:
bloodlines from homelands seized by patriots,
dislocated from still-living loved-ones who stayed behind
on just established reserves, second-class citizens
in the newly created state of New York.

The Captain of the Confederate tribes, Joseph Brant, lost his home in the Mohawk Valley;
and when he found refuge, it was on land given to him on the north side of the mouth
of Burlington Bay, positioned there, by the military commander that governed from Niagara,
so that he and his local native, white and black allies, would defend the Dundas Road to
Fort York; the Governors Road to Brantford at the Grand.

We came to a Protectorate ruled by the marshal laws
of Lieutenants and Governors General, men who operated in the shadows of Magna Carta &
the Protestant Bill of Rights.

Descendant Europeans in the Canadas were, as well, survivors of religious wars,
men and women who indentured themselves to sail to a continent where some
were enslaved upon arrival.

We came as refugees to the just-establishing colony of Upper Canada
carved out of Quebec, which, before that, had been a single province held
since the defeat of the French on the Plains of Abraham: Canadien peasants
decimated during successive Franco-Indian-British wars.
Stranded together, we arrived as friends of those who had been tarred and feathered,
burnt down, and driven off for their allegiances to ancient oaths.
Black, white and red, as would have been said at the time,
found refuge here, grew old together in shell-shocked generations.

Having repulsed the invasion of 1812, Britain took refuge
from the madness of King George, his subjects suffering while the royal house
staggered into the regency of his degenerate heir: leaving colonial dreams tarnishing under
the greed and impolitic uses of power by those raised on localized privilege,
causing the grandchildren of former refugees to rebel in order to attain equalities
granted to their equals in Britain five years before.

The emerging Canadian nation
was subsequently enlarged by escapees of the Irish Famine; 
enlarged by continuous waves of peoples displaced by conflict and disease.

Diaspora's children,

we weave genetic strands into ancient pools of lost causes and survived flights,
valuing good neighbours and kind hosts.

We are bred to the bone of solution;
grow sinews of acceptance, and most of us, stand as one people,
willing to find something funny about whatever comes next.

Our community of remnants, armed with abundant goodwill, is prepared,
whenever refugee waves break on our shores,
whenever push comes to shove;
to comfort
those now grieving those left behind, those
now yearning for those still escaping.

We came to this sheltering land as refugees; and then,

we become the hope of those arriving after us.


Jerry Prager,

Elora November 29 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Working on the River

Sun warmed May

The day clear, blue but for trace clouds drifting; the river, beside me, shimmering,
soft breezes quiet. The still surface slips downstream to the spillway;
wet poplar fluff sweeps over. On the far bank
the old mortars of Little Folk's walls
draw me back to the mix in my boat.

The window seat of the Pub shows flowering stands of plants on the bank below: 
purples and greens, gold and straw, serene with the reflection of the iron bridge,
poplar fluff continues to the spillway, to where the water falls in arcs of translucence, sprays of dusk, veils before the shadowed spruce and cedar of the far, darkening bank.

Back to restoring the river wall of the old Magic Mountain,
the water sounds the spill, sluice and fall way, sounds the curvature of the cliffs
before the tooth of time; modulates frequencies of water
ranging from effervescent to boom.

Languid soundscape... disturbed by bridge workers,
by diamond-blade, and generated air.

There are agreements to be kept, promises to be maintained.
Natural rights to defend. Natural flaws to upend.
Work to be finished on the wall of the former Magic Mountain.

July evening

The wind moves the water like a mirage off the rental punt
docked on the village boardwalk, the bow, a fulcrum to fanning surface
rippling reflections of trees, stone walls and concrete embankments.
The Factory ruins are mirrored and moving before their makeover 
by the new lairds of the mill, their takeover unfolding in due season, 
like the slow pool before the sudden rush into arcing waters and explosive spray,
 mists and light and wet before the remaining trees of the future condo world 
get manicured out of existence.

Another Evening in July

The Grand is out the window, I, inside Ashanti writing languorous summer evening,
no trace of the wild river of two springs before, when rains and warm-spell melt
filled the wetlands of the upper tributaries with a gathering gravitas that drained down from the plateau of Osprey headwaters, overflowed the Luther Marsh to Lake Belwood, were delayed by the Shand Dam, raced the flats and ford before Fergus then over its falls downstream to the Bissell spillway and into the slipstream of Elora before hurtling down around the gorge beyond the Tooth of Time.

Run-off creeks had flooded meadows that spring; rains had filled the river outside the window where I still feel the surging spring of two years before, back when a tree trunk busted the concrete of the old spillway, after having first broken the large,
orange buoy chain, strung in front of between the old stone pillars that had once held
the span of the first true bridge in Elora, the span that had become the pedestrian bridge, after which it ceased to be a bridge, though the stone pillars still stand in the river; abutted with a concrete prow to face the upriver onslaught of hurtling trunks and branches, awaiting a new bridge, a re-purposing by villagers or by new money.

Sitting here in the cafe, I can't see where the water dropped beyond the Tooth of Time/Islet Rock into the lower mill pool and pothole below, into the cauldron
of the deepest bowl erupting water through the gorge, whirling torrent around
the karst faults and caverns, replenished out of unseen limestone fissures and tunnels,
a roiling nuanced momentum forced down the bed of the gorge, the tumbled, folded
and exploded run into, out of and around outcrops and stone erosion waves...

the Grand again that spring and the future
of what the new Lairds of Elora have in mind for us... nagging ...


*** *** ***

The building needs more work. The brick is soft above the foundation stone.
The history of the row of stores and shops can be read on its riverside wall,
a portion of which I have just repointed: the oddities of the organic growth of the row;
the gradual coming together as a whole, each distinct building from the front,
has a time line read in the actual sequence of stone work around back.

Idiosyncratic evidence, proof of which walls came first,
are found in the rising cornerstone lines of the buildings with worked corners,
revealing the rest as infill between the nearest corner
and the down river corner of the last building
by the public stairs from the boardwalk to the street.
Down there, the river pools pollution onto the small beach
below the village side of the old pedestrian bridge,
the bridge now gone, the original span across the Grand
for carts and horses, removed years ago.
Bob Robb says the sand of the river bank has a name: Ghetto Beach,
named for the abandoned, termite-eaten apartments in front of the cinema
still known by some as The Ghetto.

Elora's ghetto, Elora's gorge, the divide between those who have and those don't.

On Ghetto Beach, agricultural bloom decays with summer, a view that will be lost under the replaced bridge, no matter who builds it, or its character: the beach legends
will fade, and seasonal blooms vanish below the under-surface of the future span.

October

Money acts upon the landscape of the ancient karst,
begins with hammering limestone as if it were solid rock and not
ancient eroded coral beds bleeding water from the higher lands.

Money scraped away the trees: the death of a minor forest,
a bit player of woods dispatched in the second scene, not to be remembered,
not to be noticed, though voices of protest gather within ionic clouds
around The Tooth of Time, in memories of waters rising, forces growing
against the foundations of private spans and vistas.

Causes mature; autumn seasons a village receding water,
revealing designs of the new Lairds of Islet Rock;
laying them bare before the first snow falls
and the cold cash of consequence freezes the future
like a postcard of Wedding World bling and chi ching;
a wish-you-were-here-in-Fauxlora-with-us kind of thing,
placed in a shoebox and tied with a string.

The Grand River's people, those who populate its banks, those who publish its agendas, those who come and go and yet remain its people, all those who care and can.
will make a stand on The Tooth of Time, like its upriver prow, facing the brunt.

Even still, the river is rain on an ancient reef,
humanity is poplar fluff drifting into the spray of a spillway.

Life always overcomes, death is always reused.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Erosion of Belonging

We can already feel the detachment from place,
the displacement of home, the need to leave because of
a bond that cannot hold, a village that cannot survive the forces
being arrayed against it: the development schemes, the banality
that will soon encroach the natural beauty of the gorges and
their pastoral approaches, the creative community about to be overwhelmed
by the onslaught of exurban commuters and the monied superficialities of tourist traps.

It is never wise to make a last stand on a landscape of sinkholes.

Friendships will survive, though some are already dying on the vine,
others, still to come, are growing: there are regrets and warm memories,
but the going is already in motion, like a iceberg calving,
not yet fallen into the sea, a stately inevitability,
far enough off that we can downsize before packing,
the acceptance and sorrows within the erosion of belonging.

June 2 2015

Elora

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Last 7 Months of My 5th Decade

I have no sense of age, though I have memories of events now history,
I have no lack of youth, no lack of spontaneous passion, desire, attachment, folly.
I am kinder, wiser, gentler, but sometimes just as cruel and unthinking as ever I was.
I can see the different levels of maturity within myself and others, and yet
they do not correspond to calendar years, but to upbringing, hardship,
apology and forgiveness: I still blunder about the world, as weak as ever I was,
I still rage about the world, as torn by tyranny and suffering
as when I fought for student rights in the shadows of the 60s,
when the apathy of the 70s could still be stirred
with reminders of what had nearly been accomplished, what was still possible.
I am no less sensual or sexual or political or emotional, but no more rational, though
I am more spiritual. I still believe there is a well of hope so deep in me
that if I ever found a way to unleash its waters the thirsting world
would know hope forever. My despair I only once discovered was an aquifer
running beneath humanity and into which I would vanish like a drop
if I ever fell in. I want revolution, revelation and the evolution of the species.
Long ago, I chose love instead of wisdom, chose my heart at the expense
of my mind, and left a wake of ruin as I staggered from care to care, passion to passion,
lust to lust, shared suffering to shared suffering, a holy fool of yearning,
in the wilderness of redemption songs, on the outskirts of a justly shattered religion,
dancing before the covenant arc of my life, drunk or sober, stoned or straight,
burning my life in the refining fire of human limitation, an argent dream
consuming the river of human suffering beneath our corrupt societies,
always seeking the distillation of myself into something useful,
a javelin to be flung into the heart of the beast
that ravages humanity,
when all the love and life and yearning is said and done.




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Shifting Sky

The light plays the first tones of dusk on the rooves of the village:
redbrick tints Victorian snow lines between shingle planes of differing stories,
the wordsong prose of sunfall graces the winter hues through spruce boughs,
the pale blue above and beyond is awash with pastel pink haze from streaming heat loss;
and then colour drains from the shingle palette
as the stray clouds collect the last of the ray-wash on the edge of evening;
the boles of maple limbs between houses darkening in the cold.
The life of earlier in the day settles inside, tracing
 longings and wonderments, sketching outlines of memory

into the vagaries of another Epiphany.