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selections of poetry and prose from three of his previously published books, his blog The Well Versed Heart and unpublished works.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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Howling Algiers

The children of forgotten Lou'sian,
in a warehouse called Haven

black, white and brown, high yellow and Asian,
Choctaw, Creek and Houmas,
salvaged from a derelict time,
refuse of the atomic age, escapees
from the implosion of nuclear families,
abused, berated, shattered and bereft
led out of New Awlins over the snaking Mississippi
by their own daemon genius for flight,
cities draining youth from their catchments.
Some never made it back, some did;
some went down to the water's edge and
what became of them
after that brief shining time when they lived as one,
that long Summer of Love ago,
back when they made their way through broken windows
past unwound clocks and calendars of other days:
dragging tables chairs beds and blankets through the night,
creating a kitchen in candlelight
that no street ever saw; shadows within shadows
within darkness defying despair?
What became of them
hunting dumpsters for food and reusables,
making meals in big pots, always enough for all,
trying not to steal so the law wouldn't care:
theft the only unforgivable crime in America?
Boys almost men sold themselves to uptown Cadillacs
for cum-blown rides in quiet corners, buggered in rooms,
torn out of childhood, shames still buried, shames buried with them:
girls, escaped from ponytails and barbie dolls,
selling themselves, taken in every hole by hard, or lonely men,
returning with food and medicines and sundries: scars
and secrets no one ever learned; a city
that had no idea they were beating time together
in a place they called Haven, Havre, Bìfēnggǎng, Rifugio and Attuko.

That life became Jimmy Little Rat, for whom no crack was too small
the stealth of shadows, the diffidence of cats,
vanished into a sewer and never came back.
Became Linda the Red, and Billy the Knife, who took one another
as husband and wife then rode the junk train in their veins
til they had to be carried away, left
where others would find them, untraceable,
no one but those who carried them caring,
until newsmen dug up their families in Slaughter
set the flames of addiction burning
for treatments that came too late
for Billy Roberts and his Creek wife, Linda Tuskineah.

That life became Pistolero Pete,
the fifteen year old Chicano card shark,
who fancied himself a Riverboat blackleg but upped the wrong ante one hand too many, staggering down Patterson, with a stiletto-opened back,
found cold on the Levee dead eyes open on the River of his dreams,
left by the kids for the cops, the only time he was ever caught,
his discovered corpse becoming their joke in his honour ever after.

The oldest was twenty, the youngest, twelve, Kitty,
tubercular, runaway from Slidell, carried on a board
by the child whores though hurricane debris, coughing black blood,
past roofless, wailing, plaster-eyed nuns
who received her like a sacrament;
until seven years later, a newly frocked priest
gave up his collar for her good graces;
still working the hallucinatory streets,
missionary saints to runaways.

Children of forgotten Lou'sian, scavenge themselves
out of an abandoned wilderness, blow Teliko
on brass fittings and pipes, drum buckets and cans.
strung-wire screwed onto resonators strummed
for joy and ache wailing burnt-out basements,
becoming music the working world never hears,
concrete floors painted with their rage and redemptions,
resounding walls scrawled with their couplets and epitaphs,
their spoken minds chalked on giant beams from ancient forests,
carve themselves into soft brick walls,
Roman reliefs becalming unlit catacombs.

They slept and sleep together in arrays,
twos, threes, fours and many at once
loving, pleasing, despairing, desperate for kindness
from anyone, indifferent to background, to all the codes
they bring like baggage, busted open, remade into one rule:
protect haven and those who live and lived there, always.

Like Ginny Lupo, who everyone claimed was related to a mafia don
and who could talk her way out of anything but a run-in
with a wop-hating cracker from Gretna who beat her so badly
she spent months recovering, while the cracker went on with his business,
until she could speak again, after which, her assailant was found
with a bullet in his brain, hanging on a lamppost on Tolliss
near the Crescent City Bridge, after which
she went home came back with food and blankets and wine
time after time; never forgot her friends and never will.

Like Saint Odile, the daughter of a preacher from Thibodaux,
whose bed was open anytime loneliness broke one of them,
til she got pregnant and carried the child to full term,
gave birth in a heating duct,
and left her son with the Ladies Auxiliary,
the rumour's always told, how she's been a cook,
working an oil platform, shipping out of Beaumont, Texas,
and another rumour always told,
that she keeps leaving children for her daddy,
but no one knows why, though several went asking
and no one has found her, but they'll never stop looking.

Children and teens burned through life; come through years never enough;
the other Summer of Love was for those with flowers in their hair,
they themselves knew only full life bore on Sanctuary Drive
where wharves rot on pilings in the river sheen
of oil tanker rust while brackish wash among dying reeds
recites the coral snake rhyme becoming handy sometimes
Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack.”
And for those still alive now, the memories never died,
and for those who died then, they're inside those who survived,
and for those whose minds broke or silenced,
they too, are remembered across years,
the living still hoping
to lead them back
in the name of the one
who was hung on a tree,
the one at the heart,
lynched out of hate,
never forgotten,
whose only crime
was doing the best he could
for those who needed him,
lynched for being black,
for loving someone lighter,
someone who
remembers each day since,
including the days
when the walking streets almost took her
til others who loved her
got her home before
she too found a branch
on the same tree
to bear what she could not.

The children of forgotten Lou'sian,
black, white and brown, high yellow and Asian,
Choctaw, Creek and Houmas,
salvaged from a derelict time,
refuse of the atomic age, escapees
from the implosion of nuclear families,
abused, berated, shattered and bereft
led out of New Awlins and across the Mississippi
the way all cities drain youth from their catchments
the way some never make it back, the way some always escape
the way some always end up on the water's edge sinking
because no one knows when it began, or if it can ever end.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In the town where I came of age


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.


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.


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