Tuesday, November 25, 2008



St. John’s, 1946

Sure it was all gyroscopes, guns and salt.

Never expected to get out intact and dry.

Even a Royal Navy seaman likes to be dry.

Burnt my legs the second wreck.

Oil, flames and water.

Talk about something else.

Married? Yes, little tiny thing from North Shields,

Up past Newcastle. Thought I lost her twice.

First time was a blitz.

Visiting her and her mother,

Two of them just after giving me two boiled eggs,

Me frigging half starved and dying for something

That tasted like home and not a tin bowl.

Found out later, ration cards and that, they

Missed two meals each so I could have eggs and toast.

And didn’t I ask for more?
Can’t forgive that one.

The shelter was under a lemonade factory,

Machines, glass, fizzy gas.

All that fell on top of us.

Daylight before they dug me out,

Shattered glass, dust and sugar in my eyes and throat.

Navy took me, arm broken, deaf in one ear,

Funny in the head for a while.

Months before she found me on a list.

Then she got news my ship went down.

Another two years before I saw her.

Engaged to another fellow. Can’t blame her.

Twice now I was after dying on her.

She all big-eyed and slack-jawed when she saw me,

Even thinner, God, there was nothing to her.

And I said, “You sill love me?”

She dropped the hand of buddy she was with.

I said, “Because by the Jesus, I still love you.”

She’s crossing now with the other brides,

Halifax first, Cunard White Star SS Scythia.

Got the postcard.

But here’s what galls me.

Navy promised us all full time work

When we got home. Even the Newfoundlanders.

Full time work.

And I promised her a house.

Cutting wood, clearing rocks.

When I came back through the Narrows,

All St. John’s was dun black in coalsmoke,

And I could have cried. Me, dry as a rock in the sun

The whole frigging war. Could have cried,

Bringing her to this Newfoundland,

Nothing to shelter her but my tattooed arms.

Originally published in CV2 vol 29 issue no. 4.
(C) Copyright 2007 Michelle Butler Hallett

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sky Waves released

After a few delays, Sky Waves is out there. Not everyone's got it shelved yet, as some places have it on backorder, but that demented "aural" culture novel is out there. Tune in and read like you mean it. On the air in three, two, one ...

Polyglot in bed

--Hey, you listening?
-- William Gaddis, JR.

Every leaf -- even the way a sodden bare tree seems to scrape at the wind -- contains a message. I just don't have the language yet. Or I don't have the ears.

A friend, struggling with sudden health issues, asked me yesterday: --How do people with chronic illness just, you know, get on?

I sighed a bit, as if I'm some weary expert, and muttered. --We learn patience. We have no choice. It's hard.

Various religions teach, or at least suggest, some purpose in pain, that physical suffering is an inescapable facet of being human. Ideas continue here, reaching like branches for a hidden sun: suffering strengthens one's compassion and capacity for empathy, draws one closer to what matters -- God, if you will, or better love --

I hear this. But do I understand it?


So, last night and this morning: gut pain hard enough to make me cry out, make me cry; futile nausea; low fever and chills --

Do I understand it?

Not yet.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Puncture wounds

Hospitalized briefly about a year ago -- gut pain, what a surprise.

Getting an IV hurts a bit -- that first poke through the skin. I don't have skin so much as hide: thick as leather, I'm told. Audible "pop" when the needle penetrates.

Dreamt last night of IVs. Lots of them. While I was trying to catch up on a neglected university course load. IVs not just syringe and tubing but eyeless snakes, biting biting biting, each pierce enough to make me cry out, each shot of venom firey ...

Healing venom. Blind snakes burrowing into my limbs.

Puzzled dread before sunrise. Trust the snakes? Trust pain?

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett
in progress