back toJacket2

This piece is about 4 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Phil Hall and Jacket magazine 2009. See our [»»] Copyright notice.
The Internet address of this page is

Phil Hall

Four poems

An Apprenticeship Ends
Stephen Foster
Sawmill Tuning

An Apprenticeship Ends

  Neruda’s or my green glass demon-trinkets
balanced on clear planks in porthole windows

  (their flaw-seeds curated vanishing-acts)

our Bristol blue depression-ware kraken-toys
  nodding off on watch in ivy windows facing the sea


I hug his giant promotional shoe
  it’s a corset coffin — a larynx wheelchair

his Parral tanner’s dummy-horse

  is the buffalo my mother rode as it swam
that I made up — sue me — we are afraid


  Of the sea — for one — it is inimitably unclear
& doesn’t give a — though we lust after

  its Shakespearean rent-asunder disguises anyway

& anything — including us — can be the sea
  wearing our little captain’s suits


  Waving — drinking / thinking / sinking — as one
this is work — real — vital — of mass — of struggle

  nope — malarkey — enough — here goes

an open blind private dive
  into lilting shanty-jaws — murk



  S becoming P
enacts a closure at its head
  gives up its river-spine
for the straight-edge

  doubt’s old & crooked
but has intricate uses
  skepticism inefficient as a rose
we looked up / the dove flew

  Saul dead
in the road — wakes as Paul — glowing
  taking the pledge
under his mare

  indifferent she bends
away her turnpike neck


  I see myself across a dark room

sitting on a blanket in an open doorway
  the games were House Lost Sugarfoot Gag

the hero always the smart horse — another mouth
  stands in shadow — walls leaves raked into
lines — the dad gone or furious — the real ones lean

  into glare smoking & laughing at
something I’ve done — the horse trying to warn by neighs
  & snorts — that mom she just adored them
kids — his breath & hers churning in cyclones — adored

  them only if they pretended to
sleep — a slap of light has separated me from
  the pretence of being a body

way over here for this one omen only I
  love my young real ones & their baby

how we all fought for a turn to be the horse who

  wasn’t playing



Let the hydro stay down
  grope for edges in the weakening murk

the frog that births tads out its mouth
  thrives — & you are innocent

of what your dreams half-lost

Stephen Foster

is a corral — I have heard that said

  & Miserable is a mighty river
we each have a secret name for
  but never use until we are in it

alone again (twang)
  one rubber boot sucked off in the mud
& lost forever — though forever wears pretty
  thin . . .

so you’re fording the mighty Mis
  & an overhead on the overpass — a live wire
(snapped by a gravel truck with its empty bucket up)
  comes whipping too fast to see
down along the shore

  without thinking
you go under where Fort Knox thunder
  is a wide illegal pipe dumping crap
right into that pastoral song got made up

  one time — lickity-split
on a dare & a swig — as we all sup sorrow
  with the poor

gonna take how am I out & shoot it
  you come too

Sawmill Tuning

  In the pines there are birds

my darkness isolation-cell
  endless river black thread

fat pipe on sea bottom in grey crud
  concourse of ink in pens all pens a canal
system of locks between talks one swung

  bridge at the cheap spout of each beak
at the Tamil protest the cop said
  your ear is bleeding / in my back pocket
a Black Panthers business card

  “the critical chain across the critical path”
(asleep a knock a leap Porlock)
  the chorus of water / the water-chorus

the personal only looks personal
  my darkness a banal scrawk

the golden bird the passenger

Phil Hall

Phil Hall

Phil Hall was raised on farms in the Kawarthas region of Ontario, Canada. First book, Eighteen Poems, Mexico City: 1973. Since then he has published 13 other books of poems, 4 chapbooks, & a cassette of labour songs. Has taught writing and literature at the Kootenay School of Writing, York University, Ryerson Polytechnical University, & many colleges. Has been poet-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, the Sage Hill Writing Experience (Sask.), The Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon, & elsewhere. Fall, 2007, BookThug published Hall’s long poem, White Porcupine, and a revised second edition of his essay/poem The Bad Sequence. Over the years, Hall has collected two full decks of random playing cards from the streets, and numerous albums of found photographs. He calls all of this ephemera his “Pedestrian Archives.” He is learning to play clawhammer banjo.

Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that all material in Jacket magazine is copyright © Jacket magazine and the individual authors and copyright owners 1997–2010; it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.