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Published November 12, 2017

First Place: Calgary Poetry Contest #1
& Top Calgary Poet: Calgary Poetry Contest #1

Observations of an Emerging Dementia

by Bob R. J. Canuel
(Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

Observations of an Emerging Dementia

by Bob R. J. Canuel

in the belly
of the beast,
no quarter
is ever asked
or given;
monsters,
interesting strangers
    and sinners,
    who worship stand-your-ground,
vie with news readers who report
their latest obsessions
in tight shirts,
elaborate graphics
and musical drama,
all on the halves.

the multitudes approve
and watch
the modern prayers
offered to the glimmering night
by handsome clergy
dressed in a careful black.

I am old and,
    by the minute,
getting older;
I am alive
in tribute to Darwin.

I watch the dirty water
flow past gaps
in the fossil record
and ponder
the explanations
designed to bind.
reckless words
find their way here
among assorted memories
    of players
    on stages
    who once teased
    with enigmatic smiles
    and eyes
    like big, bright moons
or the serrated edges
of regrets.

I come
without complaint
and roam the painted miles
alone.

my scribblings
find an audience
of ones or twos
while mobs of poets
hide their intent
with perfect rhymes
as sour as bile.

I learned that murmured prayers
are never answered;

like wishes
bound to coins
are never granted
and cumbrous pleas
for forgiveness
are never heard.

instead, hymns are sung
by garrulous priests
and launched on EM waves
into space
declaring something old
is somehow new
while making borrowed lies
acceptable with old rhythms
set among the bright lines
of blue-shine tv.

while the skin trade appears
in come-hither pants
and heels
on broken sidewalks
to offer salvation,
good-bookers say this is wrong.

just around the corner,
behind the bodega,
the holy happily get done
for less than a prayer.

by the lake,
    revelation’s fiery lake,
sincerity is mocked
by glib billionaires
who proudly assert,
in song and dance,
that greed is virtue.

their disguise
is the same easy politics
of avarice
we’ve known for all the years
of war and wealth.

hands are raised
and on the wind,
high in the sky,
there was a howl
like the terrible woe
of guitar strings
bent to near breaking.

listening,
recalled how I was raised
by an angry man and woman
who felt that life itself
was bleak
and suffering
was redemptive.

their dark moods
infected me
like hemorrhagic fever
and emerge today
in veins enslaved
to a furious denial
now mine alone to bear.

so hale and well met, I say,
to the many-coloured beast
dwelling behind the veil of night.

you’re a friend
who prepares savoury meals
to tickle
an ageing palate.

your toothy smile, however,
is all splinters and spikes

and seizes the heart
in the same moment
dismay turns away
from the faces
of unburied dead.

its become as clear
as a cloudless sky,
how years
surrender to dementia;

like stealthy prisoners
yield to guards;
their furtive waiting
in the dark
to exact a revenge
that only seems slow
and elaborate.

it’s a loss of balance, really,
where everything becomes a fierce
and terrible NOW
and disturbs the sleep
of sun and sea
with reports of poets and gays
hanged in Iran
where it’s not safe
to let either live.

so, here I’m come
to record a slow decline
that no one else can see.

I feel myself unraveling
in the search for a word
or a cross look
    or a keen regret
             or a diminishing libido.

it’s strange how wistful
I’ve become;
how my hands
resemble Pilate’s or Lady M’s;
    somehow, they’re never clean enough.

in the meanwhile, my poetry
resembles a hot descent
on a frozen track.

casual readers
bear witness
to endings,
both desired
and resented
in equal measure.

I am here,
I cry out;

I was once otherwise
and I, too, demanded to be heard.

I was angry and vengeful.

now I’m only old and worn;
an echo
meandering among
old music
on the edge of hope
and often overcome
with yearning.

the page lies fallow
and the lure of blame
composes lines
that seem to fail
a needful world.

dementia, I begin to see,
is another long good-bye
but far sadder.

    (while preparing this,
    I heard a note held so long
    it distracted me;

     for true, it even made me smile
    and almost laugh
    in the hearing;

    thank you, Jonsi, for Festival
    and giving me such pause;
    many days more
    to you and all your kin.)

it is the maw
of now
that devours
the distance
between love,
wife
and the ephemera
of an after-life.

only Loki, bless him,
accompanies me,

and I thank him too.

so in the end,
I begin to see
my close of days
will be like the moment
the sun dips
below a black horizon;

a blink in time
that can draw a gasp
from watchers

before moving on
to another dawn
without me.


Biography
My name is Bob R. J. Canuel and, with my wife of over 30 years, I re-
located to Calgary, Alberta, Canada last year. Now retired, I can attest
that I am a writer, first, and have been composing poetry since I was a
teenager, a long time indeed. Over that time, I have accumulated a large
collection of poems inspired by life, the universe and everything, to borrow
a phrase from A Hitchhiker’s Guide. My poems often examine the
experience of ageing and the process of writing itself. An avid participant in
Open Mic’s across the city, I am also a member of AWCS, enjoy writing
workshops and, especially, the company of other writers of all ages and
persuasions.
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Observations of an Emerging Dementia
by Bob R. J. Canuel
(Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
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