Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just some notes...

I'm going to be blogging in two places in the month of May. I'll be here as much as I can, but I'll also be posting at where I'll be Writer in Residence for the month of May. So stop by there too, if you can.

I've some good news – better than good. Spouse Martin's book, Blue Mountain Trouble, has been getting great reviews. See one here

It's a crossover YA novel, about twins (a boy and a girl) who live high in the mountains of Jamaica and who encounter a magical goat. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, simultaneously in the USA ($16.99) and Canada (C$21.99). ISBN9780-0-545-04156-0.

See an interview with Martin at

I haven't let go of the matter of my last post. I'm coming back to it soon, but it's time to give an account of my visit to Calgary, late though it may be. So that's what's coming up next. Traveling tomorrow, so see you on Friday – in both places. Till then enjoy the frolics of spring...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Should Andrew Buchanan send an angel with an avenging sword?

Today’s post includes a poem of mine called “The True Blue of Islands.” It is the title poem of my last collection of poetry. According to the blurb on the back cover, “The True Blue of Islands is a collection of poems exploring violence, beginning with the brutal treatment of slaves, journeying through child abuse and self-mutilation and ending with the callous murder of the poet’s brother.” Though the poem was written to remember my brother Richard, who was murdered in Jamaica on 30 May 2004, I post it today as a requiem for Andrew Buchanan. For the circumstances surrounding his death, please see “A Lesson in Social Justice” by Yvonne McCalla Sobers at

If the use of violence by the Israeli army against innocent Palestinians (see post of April 20) is despicable, so is the arbitrary use of force against the ordinary citizen by the forces, ostensibly of law and order, in Canada, the USA, Russia, China, Jamaica, or anywhere else. It seems increasingly that those who should protect us have become those whom we need to fear most.

But there is a larger question, a question about whether it is we who are conscripting young human beings and making killers of them.

MaryMapes considers, inter alia, the unfairness of political and military administrations who devise policy, impose it on ‘underlings’ and end up blameless, free as birds, while those who followed the orders (to which we now say they should have objected) are punished for their obedience. She mentions as an example Chip Frederick who, at 42 years old, having lost his wife, his military pension and his medals – and his pride – is out of prison and trying to restart his life.

“I do not think Chip Frederick – or any of the other inexperienced, poorly trained reservists at Abu Ghraib – went to Iraq full of original ideas about how to torment the locals that just happened to match the methods designed by the Pentagon…I believe he and others at the prison were fed a steady diet of these toxic tactics…And they paid dearly for their lack of protest.”

But those who do object, as Greg Mitchell reports,
do so at great personal cost, for no one likes people who rock the boat. American soldier Alyssa Peterson refused to take part in torture, and shortly thereafter took her own life. Reporter Kevin Elston of the Flagstaff radio station, KNAU, unwilling to accept the official report of Peterson’s death as having been ‘from a "non-hostile weapons discharge”,’ was stonewalled by officialdom and finally had to file a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request that led to startling revelations about her death. According to Mitchell, the station reported:

"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."

Mitchell goes on: “The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been ‘reprimanded’ for showing ‘empathy’ for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: ‘She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.’”

So we are now in the business of manufacturing killers – you, me, all of us. We have seen the monster enemy; indeed, we have created him. We should think on it. Selah.

The True Blue of Islands
for Richard murdered 30 May 2004 RIP, and today, for Andrew Buchanan, RIP

So here’s my friend
writing of how poets
have named the blues
of these small islands.

I see him hold his brush
testing the tones
another poet
set to name them too.

Truth is those are
fake colours.
Watch and I’ll paint
the islands’ blues for you.

Just over from
the next door bar
my brother’s
napping in his car
too tired to drag
himself to a safe place.

(Besides, this
is his island —
every place
is safe.)

Blue is the hue
of his face
starting awake.

It is the black
and bruise
of the dark hand
he wipes
across his brow
to try the truth
before his eye.

Must be a lie.

It seems he’s
looking at a gun.

Beyond his arm
the sea of night
is indigo. The wind
is warm. The stars
gleam cold as steel.

Smelt blue the shade
of this night’s
lesser lights
smelt blue this
snarling nozzle
set to bite.

His mind is fuzzy.

Didn’t he just
park his old
gas-guzzling car?
Say to his friend,

“You go on up.
I’m going to have
a smoke or two”?

He puffs.
Lavender clouds
halo his head.

He thinks of bed
yawning a grin.
That gun? He knows
it’s too much gin.

Pushes the door,
heaves out his gut
follows it with
a sandaled foot
stands up turns back
slams the door shut.

“Give me your gun.”

The voice treads air.

“Don’t have no gun.
And further to that, why
you need another one?”

My brother — fair
and reasonable
till the end.

“Too bad. No gun
mean man must dead.”

Three swift reports.

He stumbles.
Grabs his side.
Calls out
“Help me!
I’m shot…”
bleeds royally
then dies.

Electric planets
a firmament
of navy skies
spill laser
points of flame-
blue light
drill purple
worm holes
in the forehead
of the night.

While lilac drafts
of incense rise
my brother slips
his dark blue skin.

The dog-grey sea
licks at his toes
noses his corpse
looking for clues.

Like that old poet
wrestling the wind
I study shades
of island blues.