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selections of poetry and prose from three of his previously published books, his blog The Well Versed Heart and unpublished works.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

You were one of the children of forgotten Lou'sian:
stories never told until told to me:
black, white and brown, high yellow, Asian,
Chocktaw, Creek and Houmas,
sanctuary dwellers in warehouse Algiers,
when abandonment was a neighbourhood,
and you and your friends were
refugees of the atomic age, escapees
from decaying nuclear bonds,
abused, berated, shattered and bereft;
led across the Mississippi River
by a daemon genius for flight.
Some of you never returned, some did.
Only you and another know when it began, and yet,
for a time, one extended Summer of Love ago, you all lived as one
in the Naiad mysts of melancholic wharves.

You made your ways through boarded windows
past unpunched time-clocks; unturned calendars of working days:
you dragged tables, chairs, beds and blankets through the nights,
created a kitchen in candlelight no one passing ever saw;
learned to separate shadows from darkness, defying despair,
hunting dumpsters for reusables,
edibles for large pots, just enough for all;
everyone grateful, much of the time,
however little there was,
the lot of you sworn off stealing because theft
is unforgivable in America, as declared by the founders,
you and Leland, as a danger to Haven.

Otherwise, boys almost men sold themselves to uptown cadillacs
for cum-blown rides and buggery in rooms;
women... girls, escaped from ponytails and dolls,
were taken in every hole by hard men, or by lonely ones,
you who knew love and could face hate outside,
returned with food, medicines and sundries:
with scars and secrets sometimes shared,
long odds you all beat, beating time together
in a place you still call Havre, Bìfēnggǎng, Cheh Ah Pah, and Attuko,
Haven of Lou'sian's children.

Like Jimmy Little Rat, for whom no crack was too small,
stealth of shadows; diffidence of cats,
vanished into a sewer and never came back.

Like Linda the Red and Billy the Knife, took one another
as husband and wife then rode the junk train in their veins
til they had to be left where someone else could find them,
untraceable to the warehouse; while only those
who carried and spy boy'd for them cared that Linda and Billy were dead,
though a newsman who knew of Haven had word
slipped his way, of families in Slaughter, front pages there
of William Roberts III and his Creek wife, Linda Tuskineah
of lives before heroin.

And then there was Pedro,
claiming ancestry from an Amazon Riverboat gambler :
a kid you all thought lived in a time and place that never was: a headspace
that got him knifed for sleighting one five-card hand too many,
the reason you all thought he staggered down Patterson alone with a stiletto-opened back,
not yet seventeen; a headspace that left him dead on the Levee,
eyes open on the River of his dreams,
left by you kids for the cops, the only time he was ever caught.

The oldest of you was twenty, the youngest, twelve, Kitty,
tubercular, runaway from Slidell, carried by the child whores
on a board though hurricane debris, coughing black blood
to a roofless church, where wailing, unseeing, plaster-eyed nuns
received her like a sacrament; thereafter kept Haven in their prayer,
and Kitty. Seven years later, a newly frocked priest
gave up his collar for her good graces;
the two still work the hallucinatory streets,
lay missionaries to the offspring of Babylon Inc.

Children of forgotten Lou'sian, you scavenged yourselves
out of the abandoned wilderness, blew teliko winds
on brass fittings and pipes, drummed buckets and cans;
strummed strung-wire screwed onto resonators,
wailed joy and ache in a warehouse cellar,
while the working world ignored you, never heard you.

Down there was a miraculous dry hole,
cobble floors painted with your rage and redemptions,
resounding halls scrawled with your couplets and epitaphs;
jacknife-cut into ancient beams and timber posts,
carved into the clay brick walls, inner-mind reliefs of one another;
together in arrays, twos and threes; fours and others at once
loving, pleasing, despairing, in need of kindness;
cooking, cleaning, shedding family codes for personal reasons,
baggage busted open, remade under one rule:
Protect Haven and those who seek it!
chiseled onto the lintel over the cellar door.

Protect it, like Ginny, The Lupo did, daughter of a mafia don.
Ginny 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 in the care of those who knew her best
while the cracker went on with his business outside,
went on until Ginny could speak again, after which, he was found
with a bullet in his brain, hanging on a lamppost on Tolliss
near the Crescent City Bridge. Ginny was gone,
but came back to say goodbye, bringing food and blankets and wine
time after time. The Lupo never forgets her friends, and never will.

Friends like Saint Odile, the daughter of a Spiritual Church preacher from Thibodaux,
who had sex with anyone in the group if loneliness was breaking them,
til she got pregnant and carried the child full term,
gave birth to a son she named Jonah, born in a round heating duct
Jimmy Little Rat called The Whale,
although Saint Odile re-named it Birthplace
so that's what it was for other mothers.
Odile herself went home with Jonah,
left him for her father with the Ladies Auxiliary.
The rumour's always told, how she's a cook on oil platforms,
shipping out of Beaumont, Texas; there's another told,
that she keeps leaving kids for the Reverend,
'though no one knows why, 'several went asking;
only no one found her, until we did, and you met Jonah again,
realized his father was Leland, who co-founded Haven with you.

The other Summer of Love was for those who sought
Peace with flowers in their hair, while your summer of love
was lived full bore down Haven Lane
while wharves rotted, pilings reflected oil tanker streams of down river sheen;
and ocean going ships in brackish water and reeds,
where the coral snake rhyme came handy:
Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack.”
Your Summer of Love came before Jonah's father,
Leland, was lynched.
Leland whose only crime was doing his best
for those who needed him:
lynched for being black, for loving you, someone lighter,
you, Aurore, who never forgets, and who afterward walked the streets
because heroin almost took you the night Billy and Linda died,
when others who loved you got you home,
so time could reconcile you with your parents,
so you could find love again, eventually meet me,
which is when time and spirit
found a realm in which you could know Leland again,
if only in passing, a place and night
in which he saw you and you saw him, as did Jonah;
so now we all understand that death has no dominion
and Haven never ends.

For those of you still alive, the memories never die,
for those of you among the dead, you're still inside the living,
and for those of you whose minds broke, or silenced;
you too, are never forgotten,
remembered across decades,
the living yet hoping
to one day lead you all back
in the name of the one
who was hung on a tree,
in the name of Leland, the heart of Haven
still howling Algiers while the urban stars and our unborn generations
are given free passage and a berth
to the new heaven and earth.


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