Some of my Panku #3

These Panku were published in the third special issue of Devour: Art & Lit Canada. You can find the full issue at:


Three Panku for the fish pic:

1 –

An abundance of love
will feed the entire family,
the community,
the world.

2 –

The fish cost only a few pesos.
The fishing line was faith.
The hook was trust
The rod was confidence.

3 –

we will put our feet under the table
of Love at the house of Michelle and Jorge
and ate abundantly.



You said don’t be so late?
I thought you said isolate so I stayed at home



I wear my mask at dinner time now
just to stop myself from eating.



I think I just saw a rat
with a mask on.



I hate home isolation,
my wife’s honey-do list
is getting longer and longer



My friends and I chat
across the internet.
I would rather chat
across the table.



For now
I have to blow you a kiss
or tap your toes.



My wife
knocked at our own front door
just so I would put on my pants.



Some have turned
their ubiquitous electronic devices
into their only friends during these lockdown days




Some of my Panku #2

These Panku were published in the second issue of Devour: Art & Lit Canada. You can find the full second issue at:



from this ghost?
just how far north
does one have to go
to find totally safe refuge



raining gently outside
squirles don’t seem to care
no cloud in my Isolation office



Lipstick sales down
Eyeliner and eye-wrinkle cream sales



hidden behind masks
eyes must now do the smiling



stay safe.
this, too, shall pass
hugs soon



my grandson blows bubbles
all are filled
with fearless understanding.



This day, that day, yesterday,
All we have is today,
today this moment



Restaurants and bars closed,
poetry readings cancelled.
For now words shelved in books.



no zooming cars
no thundering trucks
no shrieking ambulance
only a screeching silence



The rage of silence
the cityscape view


Some of my Panku #1

My Panku poems from the first special issue of Devour: Art & Lit Canada. Find the special issue with my intro at:


Five of us
congregated in the elevator
keeping our six foot distance


from my car window
I blew a kiss to a friend
six feet away


is the only real


in Canada
do we have to keep
6 feet or
2 meters apart


I need a hug
a deep caring hug
not another e-hug



the jar of bitter marmalade
I made for you
sits waiting, undelivered



a sunny day
walking off my cabin fever
with my darling wife



so silly
the trails are closed
but the sidewalks are open


essential services
does our mayor,
our Prime Minister,
other rich guys
still have a maid service



We need a bad snow storm
so we feel better
about staying in



missing our pool and hot tub,
now I have to shower
in our apartment bathroom




I feel like I was Shanghaied five times on this trip to China, dragged to the sell, sell, sell locations. One day it was pearls, another day it was jade, another it was silk or green tea and then finally herbal medicine.  Each time it was almost a waste of two and a half hours.


Pearls, pearls and more pearls. Even though we were Shanghaied the pearls were interesting to look at. I wanted to hold a fist full just to feel their cool caress.  I didn’t know that one oyster could have 25 – 30 pearls – amazing. I didn’t know that pearls came in so many different colours – pretty cool – I have to say. And then there were some pearls that were as big as a marble but I think that I would rather put a down payment on a house than dangle one from my wife’s neck.


Jade, Jade and more Jade – green, white and even red carved into what we might think of as Chinese clichés but for the Chinese they are layered with mythological and cultural significance. The lion’s paw on the ball or kit signifies male or female, the power or gentleness. Don’t you dare touch the eyes or the teeth of a dragon in fear of one calamity or another.


Silk, silk and more silk was displayed in a department store atmosphere with soothing Chinese music as a subliminal hint to buy, buy, buy after a short not very educational presentation about silk and silk worms. Inflated prices chopped in half then half again if you were astute enough to dicker but don’t be upset if you found convincing knock-off scarves at 100th of the price on the streets.


I could not afford pearls, silk or jade. I buy my green tea in Toronto and I don’t need any green tea pills to cure my fatty liver. Finally herbal medicine, no thanks. Am I supposed to trust someone that says he is a doctor that gives me a 20 second stick-your-tongue-out examination followed by a diagnosis and then sell, sell, sell some pills to cure all of my ailments.  LOL – I think not.


I soon realized

we were not tourists

but products sold

to the sell, sell, seller.

The tourist company paid

to bring me there

to buy, buy, buy.



The term “Shanghaied” comes from the term “Shanghaiing” which comes from the practice of kidnapping people to serve as sailors by coercive techniques. The verb “shanghai” joined the lexicon in the 1850s, possibly because Shanghai was a common destination of the ships with abducted crews. The term Shanghaied has since expanded to mean “kidnapped”.

Praise for my book “Trapped In Paradise”

Praise for my book “Trapped In Paradise”

I thoroughly enjoyed every single page of your book Trapped in Paradise.  The inclusion of your email exchanges with Manuel and your other traveling companion were very instructive, and I heard the voice of Manuel, and your voice too, coming through clear and true.  And then, the body of the book, with your adventures in Cuba, your evaluation of the state of affairs set against a backdrop of your understanding of the history of Cuba since the revolution, and your hope for the future … these along with brothel nights, and spelunking with Jorge, and your revisiting of the occasion when you were foolish enough to venture deep into the cave without benefit of light except for the odd flash of your camera. These were all very enlightening and entertaining. The fact that I know many of the players notwithstanding, I found myself drawn to the spirit of the book, which is your spirit, Manuel’s spirit, and the spirit of Cuba.

John B. Lee

Stuck in the Mud

Stuck in the Mud


It was a beautiful spring day. Overnight the grey heavy clouds of doom turned to hope allowing the sun through, for the first time in 10 days, laying a patch of warmth over the ground.  A dozen pigeons swooped and darted in splendid unison and then out of sight through the dangling louvers of the upper loft, on the south side of the barn. Sun glinted off winter’s dirty snow ploughed in under the row of cedars that formed a wind break for the ramp into the hayloft.


“René. You old bone head. What the hell have you done? You’ve got old Betsie buried to ‘er excel in mud. How the hell are you gunna get her out’a that mess?”


René turned slowly sucking one boot at a time out of the deep mud to find his buddy Marv standing there with his hands on his hips, belly sticking out through his red suspenders.


Marv stroked his grey goatee and laughed. “It ain’t easy to get one of them 1355 Cockshutts stuck but then again you got well over five thousand pounds of steal and a lot a mud under them wheels.  What year is it, a 70 or 71?


The two men stood there without a word looking at the muddy mess.


“Let me go home and bring my tractor and pull you out of there. You sit in the sun a spell. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I gotta unhitch my bailer so it’ll take me a few minutes. I’ll bring my chains.”


Marv turned on his heels headed off whistling. René settled into a dry grassy patch of sun and pulled some papers from his pocket and started to read.


Contrary to our sisters feelings, my job, with every breath I take, is to love you brother. That is it, just love. It is a hard job, that to some degree, I have resisted. In loving you brother, because you have no one else in your life, I feel it is my role to teach you something even if I have to hit you over the head with a two-by-four. Even if it is going sting like iodine applied to an open wound.


René reached into his pocket for his pen, crossed out a few words, made a couple of scribbles and started to read again.


First let me address the topic of you visiting mother. You have every right to visit. I argued that point with our sisters. As a compromise they would like you to give me notice of when you are planning on going to visit again. It is either that or they will claw your eyes out if they bump into you without any notice. It is only right that you send me a txt saying your day and approximate time of arrival and departure. I will let them know. It will save a lot of strife for everyone – maybe even mother. Mother still doesn’t even know you were in jail let alone what you did. Everyone is afraid that it would kill her if she found out.


René jotted down a couple more notes and put his pen in his pocket, tilted his head into the sun and closed his eyes. Brotherly grief started to melt from his face. His shoulders slumped. Breathing slowed. Before he knew it he was sawing logs on his dead grandfathers farm at the age of sixteen.


“René, you old bone head. You must’a been sound asleep. You didn’t even hear me pulling up.”


René snapped to his feet. “You back already. I must have fallen asleep. I had the weirdest dream that I was chopping wood somewhere and skinning a deer with my brother. The dogs were whining and yelping and licking up the blood as it dripped to the ground. It was so weird. I’ve never skinned a deer in my life, I haven’t see my brother in years.”


Marv, kicked at the muddy ground. “OK, now that you’ve had a bit of a sissy snooze in the warm sun let’s see if we can get this puppy pulled out of your mud pit. This is why I told you to buy a tractor with sixty horsepower and four-wheel drive. You can tell me about your dream some other time.”


With a bit of grunting and groaning, and squishing through clods of mud the two men silently stretched out the long clinking chain and hooked it to both tractors. René mounted his old Betsie ready to steer. Marv climbed up to his John Deer thrown, slipped it into gear and gently let out the clutch. The long chain jumped up from the ground, stiffened and started to vibrate like a bridge cable holding up tons of steel. Marv ever so gently revved his engine. Like a fork being dragged through butter old Betsie started to plough her way through the mud until she was on firm ground. Engines still puffing exhaust, both men climbed down from their purring machines.


“Well that’ll teach you, you old bone head. No more snoozing for you. Time to get back to work.”


René and Marv smiled and shook hands. “Thanks Marv, I owe you big time.”


“Furgit-about-it man. What are neighbours for? Were you working on one of your stories when I drove up. You had a pen and a piece of paper layin’ on your chest. I figured you were doin’ more of your artsy-fartsy writing stuff.”


René patted his pocket with the paper. “No, no it’s not a story exactly. It’s a letter to my senseless brother. I am trying to write a long letter to him but it’s kind of hard.”


Marv calked his head. “I thought that you weren’t speaking to your brother, or hadn’t seen him for years.”


“Well it’s true but because my mom is in the hospital it kind of stirred up some communication. There are a lot of unresolved matters between us all so I decided this was a good time to set things straight before the wheels of communication get stuck in the mud again.


“It’s so hard because, on some levels, he is such a smart guy but in other ways he is so shit stupid. I feel like I have to shake him by his ears to get him thinkin’ in a less selfish way. Well anyway that is not for you to have to listen to. Thanks Marv for comin’ over and dragging Betsie to dry ground.”


“No problem. I gotta get back to milkin’ so see you ‘round.”


René kicked clods of mud off of his boots and fell back into the sun to mull over the letter again.


Brother, it is obvious by your previous email that you still have a lot of learning to do. Your txt with the disgusting selfie of you bawling your eyes out and the one that said: “I just talked with Mom. I told her that I love her, as I always do. She was happy but tired. And now I’m bawling my eyes out. I ruined my life and one more of my reasons to live is dying.” are both proof you are stuck in a deep hole of self-pity. I showed the bawling selfie to a therapist friend that I hang out with. He said yes my interpretation is correct. The underlying, in fact the only reason that you sent the bawling selfie is that you wanted me and anyone that saw it to know that you are in pain. This was a very selfish act. You did not say poor mother. Oh dear is mother in pain? Is mother eating? Should I come to be at her side? How imminent is her passing? Is she doing ok? You made it about you and your pain. We all feel anguish but never do we make it about self. We are all sad, as sad as you but our sadness, our gloom, is about mother and her condition. Sorry for slamming you so hard but yours seems to be about you. Poor me I was sick and felt like I was dying. Poor me I didn’t die. Poor me my only reason for living is going to die.


So that is the tough love. Now for the tough advice. You need to counter balance all of the selfish things that you have done in your life with totally unselfish acts of giving, loving, sharing. You need to do virtually nothing for yourself. You have a lot to pay back to both of your daughters and the family.


You said that you almost died with a stroke and you wish you had? Well get this brother, dying for you is the easy way out. You have already manifested a stroke. You have no right to die before you pay back for your sins that put you in jail. If you die before your daughters have come to forgive you, you should be shot. You need to do so much good with the rest of your life that your daughters will weep at your grave wishing they could be as good a person as you. If you die now you will condemn them to a life of hating you all the way to their graves. Don’t you dare do that to them. That will be the ultimate selfish act.


René slumped back against the fence post and let the sun wash over him. His gold pen spinning in his fingers. He flattened his paper on his lap and continued.


We both came from the same parents brother and as you know I’m not perfect but I hope you take my advice. Go down to city hall and feed the homeless that are camped out on the benches. You might just turn their life around. If there are any crumbs left from feeding the poor go down to the lake and feed the ducks. The old lady down the street from you has a bad set of front steps. Go and fix them for her for free. I know you don’t have a lot of money but someone else will chip in for the wood if you ask. Who knows you might just save her life by making the stairs safe. Give that old computer that you are holding onto to a student so they can get better grades. They could become mayor and spin into doing more good just because of your generosity. Good and bad acts have a habit of spinning into more good or bad acts. You have a lot to undue brother. It is time for you to turn things around instead of just dying just to get from under all the bad you have done. Just think of all the good you can do with the rest of your life.


Your brother René




Dust and gravel spit up from René’s pickup as he came to a stop in front of Marv’s barn. “Marvelous Marvie.” René yelled with a smile. “I’m going in to town to mail that letter I was writing the other day. Do you need anything or do you wanta come with me? It did me a lot of good to write the letter but now I gotta take it to the Post Office before I change my mind.”


“Thanks for the invite but I better stay right here. It looks like it is going to rain again. I gotta load up these fence posts and drop them down to the south corner. If I do it tomorrow after the rain I am afraid I might get stuck in the swale at the end of the lane.” He looked up at the doom filled clouds heading his way.


“I’m not in that much of a hurry. Let’s get these guys loaded before I head off.” René pulled his work gloves from his back pocket and stooped down for a fence post.


The men worked in silence until the job was done.


“You goin’ near the Co/Op. You could pick up ten pounds of wire staples for me.”



April 05, 2019

Owed to T. S. ELIOT and the first stanza of his poem “The Waste Land”


April is the cruelest month

with temperatures rising

finally into life, even at night.

Lilac buds are kissing

the warm air with swelling buds

stunted by the still

frost threatened landscape

that mixes memory with desire

only to be slammed

by her sister, winter’s

punishing  joke.

The last of shadowed snow

the gloomy reminders

of hunkering down

are all but gone.

Black budding branches bulge

with the promise of life

now full of winged music

singing to pale

face-poised sun worshipers.

Catching Up to Her

Catching Up to Her


It seems that mother is not ready to go,

which is joyfully fine with me, even though

the longest journey that she currently takes

is walking to the end of her bed and back.


The black dog of death has been licking

gently at her heels for some time. No pain,

no fear, just a gentle slobbering

as if your black lab was licking

the honey of life from her reluctance to leave.

She does not even know that she should,

could or would want to leave us to feed

that black dog of mortality.


Now, she, the oldest on our family tree

for generations past, I am

slowly catching up to her

as “I now ache in places that I used to play”,

as my idol, now passed, Leonard Cohen,

said in one of his poems.


Even though I will miss my dear mother

when the gentle black dog

inhales her final breath

I am ok with her passing now.

I often say that she, I, we all,

are “only” going to pass on.

After all we are now,

as dead as we are ever going to be.

It is not the worst thing

compared to some of the traumas

of this mortal trapping called life.


Lionel, great grandson, in some

abstract time-veiled way, still

remembers riding on Great Grandma’s scooter

beeping the horn of life, filling her

with joy and there he is smiling at eternity

catching up to me. I hope one day

I have a great grandson that I can remind

man is neither young nor old

but lives in eternity.


From Don Gutteridge – A beautiful poem, Tai and obviously close to your heart. A fine tribute to what captures both the sadness of dying but also the joy and pride in those following her. Thanks for sending it.


From Dr. Miguel Ángel Olivé Iglesias – Sweet profound poem, tai.


From Jorge Alberto Perez Hernandez – I love the poem very much, I enjoyed it and I read to Michelle in Spanish, great, you are a faaaabulouuusssss poet.

A great review / essay about my book – Some Sort of Normal

A Journey into the Dark:

Review of Some Sort of Normal (Richard M. Grove)

by Brian Way

In Kafka’s iconic short story, “The Metamorphosis” (referenced in Some Sort of Normal, Ch. 32 and elsewhere), Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to discover that, while his physical body has been transformed into a “gigantic insect,” psychologically, he continues to exhibit emotional and intellectual capacities. In other words, he remains human. Even though he appears to be a bug, he remains human. He ruminates on his traumatic condition and reflects on the dreariness of his previous life as a travelling salesman and on the drabness of his room and the weather outside, and he feels hurt in being shunned by his family, yet he still feels “tenderness and love” and duty toward them. In the end, suicidally, he wills himself to death to give them freedom—at which time, ironically, his undeserving family begins to herd his beloved sister, Grete, onto the same fatally “buggy” path. Gregor’s situation is pathetically echoed in the condition of Mark Beetleman, the protagonist of Richard M. Grove’s Some Sort of Normal; as Gregor has been forced into his terminal carapace by his family’s (and society’s) parasitic greed, Mark has arrived in his isolated (s)hell by enacting, and re-enacting, his own latent desires. Mark confesses to being an incestuous pedophile, of having had sex with his adolescent daughter repeatedly over a several-year-span; now that he has been exposed, in his own words, he is “living a nightmare … [he] can’t shake” (Normal Ch. 1)

To exacerbate his situation, at least in his mind, Beetleman is living his “nightmare” alone. Except for conversations with his often-silent therapist Dr. Waleed; with an acerbic confidante named Frank; with his extremely narcissistic self; and with us, the reader. Mark finds himself cut-off from everyone about whom he really cares—his wife, his daughters, his brothers, his friends. His life has become a serial soirée of wives and lovers whose names he cannot recall. Some Sort of Normal is Mark Beetleman’s attempt to come to terms with his condition, with his feelings, with the meaning of what he has done and who he is. The novella is his soliloquy in search of identity, his “book of bosh,” his “wheelbarrow full of horseshit” (Normal Ch. 7).

Several canonical pieces of literature, from Light in August to Death in Venice, from The Color Purple to Lolita, from God Help the Child to The End of Alice, have broached the topic of incest and pedophilia and Some Sort of Normal joins that club, bluntly and ferociously. Grove’s novel tackles this topic in its own unique way by abandoning linear narrative. Here chapter after chapter appear like random snapshots, pages of a disoriented, fragmented photograph album, all presented with a range of literary styles: traditional third- and first-person narrative, epistolary forms (letters and e-mails), diary and journal entries, and poetry, all effectively layered as a biographical palimpsest to capture Mark Beetleman’s fractured life. In these, Mark revisits the actions and ideas that have led him to remorse, doubt and desolation, including an account of his ascent toward the original carnal act and his descent toward isolation and suicide after his behavior is exposed. In exploring such dark recesses of the human spectrum, Some Sort of Normal unfolds as a complex and fascinating fiction, a compelling read that sheds light into areas rare to the reader’s eye.

Moral philosophers, from Socrates and Plato to Mill and Kant, have contextualized ethical principles—if one knows what is right, one will do what is good; Kant’s categorical imperative affirms the existence of certain fixed moral laws and posits the rational idea that humans will shape their actions in alliance to those codes. But what if you know what is right and still do what is wrong? One begins to rationalize—what is right; what is wrong; according to whom? Mark grapples with the ethical issues inherent in his action as he sees them, and spins the wheel of blame from self to daughter to circumstance to society to differing historical norms and even to the periodic vacillation of cultural morays. At times he seems honestly pleading his case; other times, he is the unreliable narrator caught in his own web of lies, maybe? He weaves in broken pieces a “beetle-man’s” quixotic vision of the issues at hand.

Sometimes, as reader, one is nearly seduced by Mark’s arguments, nearly buys into his salesman’s lingo of prepubescent sexualization or adolescent desire, nearly forgives him his trespasses. Other times, not so much. By the final chapter, one thinks of Dickens as much as Kafka; like some kind of Scrooge discovering Christmas morning, Mark wakes from a hopeless and frightening dream and, in the end, forces himself into the realization that he is not a cockroach like Gregor Samsa. He simply chooses the froth of a Cappuccino over the acidic taste of the barrel of a gun. Now, for that choice to be credible, like those Dickensian heroes before him, he needs only to discover a benevolent heart.

The front cover of Some Sort of Normal shows a picnic table beneath the waters of a flood—whether the waters are rising or receding is unknown in much the same way, one supposes, as the state of “normal” is ultimately indeterminable. In “The Garden of Paradise” by Hans Christian Andersen, a fairy tale referenced by the therapist Waleed (Ch. 23), a prince travels on a lengthy and dangerous quest to find eternal life in the original Garden of Eden. Once there, “on the very first evening” he succumbs to his human folly and weakness, relenting to his desire, kissing the princess and losing his salvation; Eden sinks into the earth forever beyond his grasp. Death then forces him from the spot “to wander about the world for a while” with the uncertain hope that he will find, far away in the future, a “happier life in the world beyond the stars.” And so it is in the end for Mark Beetleman—like that picnic table in the flood, his is a flawed, imperfect life and ‘some sort of normal’ is the best he can have and, probably, the best he deserves. He is a bug after all, but he is human too.

Brian T. W. Way

English scholar, writer, poet


A Poem For Nico

Welcome Nico


My Dear Nico:


My grandson, only hours old

in terms of terra firma, this

your human existence. Welcome

to this earthly plane.

Is it your pennants or your reward

that you landed here though

through thought and deed

that is for you to determine.

It was wise of you to pick

two loving mothers

that will dote over you,

love you like no one else

possibly could but maybe not

fulfil your every whim.


Nana Kim and I are still in Cuba

but already love you nonetheless

despite the salt wind distance of flailing

palm fronds and pushing waves

into frothing white caps .

One day I hope we will walk

these sandy wind swept shores

of Cuba with you and snooze

under swaying palm filtered sun.

For now you will have to be content

to be cooed at by mothers’ love,

gawked at by the many others

that swoon in your presence.


We look forward to meeting you soon.


Grandpa Tai