Beach combing

Two could walk this beach becoming
Barefoot now and then as the rocks
Obtrude, piling down from the short
Worn cliffs, past water’s edge. Slinging
Shoes over shoulders and climbing
The rocks. Fording deltas. Getting
Stronger as they go. Clothes falling
To rags.

Two could walk this beach
And one turning to the other
Will say: Nothing goes on forever,
But the world is much larger than
I had imagined. And the other,
Turning in turn, reply: It all
Seems small to me; everything,
I think, is like an ebbing tide.
Building a fire. Watching stars fall
Into the sea.

Two could walk this beach
For continents. Catching fish in
Their tangled nets of hair. Dreaming
Islands in the moon’s deep white seas.
Hiding their bones in the wind.


© Mark Milner


you wore a dress like moonlight
your eyes shone black, you did not speak

i wrapped myself in your hair
i sang like the wind in the leaves

together we made the sea dance
the clouds hid our names

you touched me like a rumour
of spring,

I shook the seismologists
from their quiet dreams


© Mark Milner



Now that you are home
Safely another night
And the window’s closed and locked
The door bolted and chained, and the world
Outside — with its sirens,
Floods, wars, murders, poverty
And all the rest of the usual
Catalogue — is no more
Than the unreal space between
Commercials for beer and deodorant;

And I’ve stopped chain-smoking,
And the newspaper lies
In the recycling box,
Already fading;

And the old man
Upstairs has stopped screaming
At the cars in the alley
To shut it off
Or get the hell outta here;

Now that the coffee’s been drunk,
The dishes done, bath water poured,
And the day’s work unwound;

Now I will lie down in bed
And listen to quiet
Water splashing on breasts, and wait
For the lights to be shut out, for you
To join me, for sleep
And something like healing.


To the occupants, apt. 107,

Your energy
If not your duration made
Me jealous last night.

Your short-lived grunts
And wails (sounding
Like you were just outside
On my balcony) had me
Blushing in my bed.
I couldn’t help myself,
I put down my book and
Listened while you lasted.

Then turned out the light and
Tried to sleep. Too tired to attempt
An echo.

Apt. 209


© Mark Milner


it would be nice
never to doubt
think about things
self included

to unwavering
as a razorblade
nevermind What if? or regret

things before
they possibly never

to just happen
like trees or earthquakes
not counting
nickels every second

i’d like never wondering how the

and these socks all got holes
and these jeans in the knees from
When is my 50 cent raise?

it must
be i mean just to know yes
i’ll have another
beer keep the change
i think


© Mark Milner

Ratio: signal to noise

Rattling in the vaulted dome,
Words, characters
Strange voices
In the temple
Clamouring for audience.
This is what happens.

Waking to sound of glass
Alarm maybe gunshot
Must be shooting
A movie. Absurd.
This time of night.
And next morning boarded up
Shop, yellow police tape stretching, do not cross.

This is what happens.
In the beginning, a fire in the head.

And the Chabad House of Kitsilano,
10 min. by bus from the university,
Burned out, awning in tatters, graffiti
On the window melted, scorched
Poster: Let’s Welcome Messhiach

And this seen from the bus,
No questions asked and
Nothing in the papers.
Unnoticed by others or
At least no one says
Anything, just keeps talking

David’s house on the weekend it was so cool
you should’ve been there we smoked a couple of joints and
went down to the beach and started a fire and
Johnny took off all his clothes and screamed
LAST ONE IN and some of the others followed
even Jen and they all screamed the water was so cold and no
not me I stayed at the fire with Sean and we laughed and
then the cops came and poured out all our beer

So on
Till Yew Street, getting off
Two stops early just to be alone
With a headache
Again and still
Moving all that helpless smoke
Of words
(Ashes, ashes . . .)

© Mark Milner

So long, Facebook (redux)

A few months ago, I went into a Facebook hiatus. After a month away, I decided to go back, because it was easier to keep in touch with people that way. Now I’m off again. Only, this time it was Facebook’s decision.

For many years, on many platforms, I’ve used the nom de plume Markus O’Reallyus. My friends know me by this online. My reason for doing this is to maintain a degree of privacy. Advertisers, trolls and other online snoopers, don’t need to know too much about me. Everyone who I feel has the right to know more will know more. On Facebook, pretty well all my friends are – were – people I know and associate with in real life.

But today I received a note from Facebook that ‘someone complained’ about my name. (Just the day before, someone had flagged my repost of a CNN Facebook post as ‘fake news’. I replied that it clearly wasn’t, they agreed and restored my post.) As a result, Facebook now requires I send them identification to prove my name is my name before I can access my account again. That isn’t going to happen.

I’m not sure who would have complained about my Facebook name. Certainly not someone on my friends list. Probably someone who didn’t like a comment I said somewhere. All my posts are set to ‘friends only’, so it would have to have been a comment on someone else’s post. Interesting that it occurs in the context of a provincial election here.

At any rate, I’m off Facebook again. I’ll be dammed if I’m changing my name or providing them with ID. Transnational companies don’t get to know any more about me than I choose to tell them. I’m the one who calls the shots on my public personae.

Back to school

Tonight I’m starting bass guitar lessons again, with a new teacher. The last one, a  good musician but only a fair instructor, was frequently late, occasionally a no-show, and almost always smelled bad. Here’s hoping tonight’s is better.

My goals, having fumbled around with my chosen instrument for a few years now, are somewhat different than they were then. My main objectives are:

  • Improve my right-hand technique
  • Learn some useful exercises
  • Begin to understand theory in a less theoretical fashion – mainly by learning about the construction of the songs I want to play

As for songs, the ones I’d like to learn – my ineptitude notwithstanding – are almost uniformly old (like me!) but covering a range of styles. Some bluesy rock (Cream, Led Zeppelin), some post-punky pop (Joe Jackson, The Police, The Talking Heads), some old-school hard rock (Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath).

Maybe, someday, I’ll feel confident enough to add prog rock (Yes, Rush), early metal (Iron Maiden) or jazz (Marcus Miller). Maybe, but I’m not counting on it.

Of course, my new instructor may have other plans, and if they seem reasonable I’ll follow them instead.


“I sing myself.”
— Walt Whitman

“I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.”
— Seamus Heaney

It’s so easy to lose yourself in all that’s going
On, the endless muddle of work and strife,
The chambers of social media echoing
Stale opinions, reality programs – this life
That serious experts on the TV news try
To reduce to – what? – something to be plotted
On a graph, an intersection of x and y.
Only that which can be counted allotted.
I resist it, push back against the stark
Black grid lines of their ledger that try to limit
What I can imagine for myself in the dark.
Their reason, devoid of rhyme, can only inhibit.
I open my eyes, my ears, my throat – I sing!
My rhyming self, irreducible, reverberating.

© Mark Milner, North Vancouver

The Simplicity Seekers

It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Then water
Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands.

— W.H. Auden

One day they found the place. Caught the bus
Downtown and rode it for over an hour
Through scarred and mansioned mountains
To the ferry dock, and rode the waves,
To an island just twenty minutes off shore.

Recognized it immediately,
As if they’d been there before (or maybe only
Dreamed it) – as if the place had always existed,
A region marked by the absence
Of ads for beer and deodorant,
Of the endless, repetitive bustle of work
And beggars on crowded sidewalks.

All of it familiar, the eagles hanging over the bay,
The slug-scrawled path, gold shining in the leaves.

They pointed things out to each other,
Drawing their plans in the air: there
Would be the naturally weedless garden where
Vegetables and herbs would seem to grow themselves;
And over there, the room where she would write
About the rigorous pleasures of rural life,
Where he would build a telescope,
Learn to play jazz; and the wrap-around porch
Where she would find a way to paint
The wind’s voice, and he just sit
And watch the sky turn.

Knew the place and knew
It was what they’d always been looking for.
Knew also the bottom line:

That there were no jobs
For them here, no stores to buy bread,
No place for them to stay.
That laundry would still have to be done,
Bills paid. That renting a dream
Costs even more than buying one.

A darkness settled into the leaves, and a chill
Crept over the wind from eastward.
The road sloped down the hill, back to the ferry,
And they slumped after,
Each step homeward a hesitation,

The way dreams linger
In the body falling back into wakefulness,

The way the waves pull back
Before resigning themselves to the shore.


© Mark Milner


you’re not perfect

plato was right
it’s our flaws
that distinguish us

which is why you hate
the idea of clones
the individual erased
through repetition
transformed into ideal

to be distinct
is necessarily to be

because beauty
has only one season
death the form
of perfection we fear

the buddha
realized perfection
could not exist
and made that his goal
prescribed selflessness
as the antidote
for life

you could
(like plato and buddha)
mourn your individuality

if only you didn’t enjoy
how fucked up you really are

if only you didn’t love living


© Mark Milner