How long ago she managed to hold

herself on toe, and twirl, and twirl

with grace and charm, bold

as the little ballerina girl


who stares at her tonight,

the sad ceramic leg now chipped

and immobile. ŌSleep tightÕ

she says Ōsleep tight my loveÕ light lipped.


The little mirrors have lost their sheen

a cloudy eye confirms,

tracing leg line flecked with tourmaline.

So these are natureÕs terms,


So these are natureÕs terms.




Salt Breathes Life


Gentle sound of clams purging sand

As ice cracks in early spring registered only by tiny attentive ears

Sensitive to sound with time in life to listen


No need for extraneous ornamentation

With richness of line, pattern, shade of shell together

Forming mosaic rivaling sand mandalas


Salt as balm stirring life

Salt as evil stifling it

Take your pick


But either way, as mandalas are brushed away

Something terrifying about last gentle movement


Before boiled death 




Two Poems on Emily Dickenson


Living Library


Less life than death in

Faint scent of long gone reader left in

My 1948 living library Dickinson


How the dead live through us

Is a mystery


Will the scent of my books

Move my son

Or anyone?



How Odd That Daring Dash


Seven of them floating in a five-line poem.

       A little bit fanatical,

          being ungrammatical. 

            By such audacity you engage   

          our curiosity.


Some called it a substitute for the devil –

       Why the period had to die

          is a riddle we canÕt solve.

            Nor need we bother. For we do sense

          that cessation serves to


arouse our pleasure and imagination

       drawing attention to the life

          you lived through; your caesura,

            retained for posterity in lead,

          traced on paper, the weight


of your hand revealing such intimacy.

       One has to wonder what is lost

          in print, dash lengths analyzed

            by the scholars who standardized

          those mysterious marks.


How odd that the daring dance of your dashes

       through its cryptic will, moves us still

          teetering and tottering

            robbing time its ebb, and through its flow –

          we hear your spirit sing.




I Learned a Lot from Larkin


Simply said with light and limpid touch

A finely chiseled phrase works wonders

Nudged to the left but not too much

When register is right

Form and content quit the fight


Images held for just enough time

Jog the soul gently midst dull daily grind

While riding on the train

To help us feel with heart and mind

The shape of glass in rain


Rhyming couplets now might seem a little quaint

A British thing perhaps, that conservative constraint

Halcyon and soothing

Formal play to ponder pain

How to leave a word alone, alone out in the rain


Relinquishing the grandiose allows one to convey

Such depth in lithe and sylphlike forms

One seldom sees today

Let the little words hold weight

Cut the fat, truncate, truncate!


My little ode to you now done IÕll pass it on to everyone

And when my friends come round to chat

IÕll tell them LarkinÕs where itÕs at

Gone for over thirty years and yet

Fresh images, still now, beget




Grand Gran


A visit with you then

Was like lunch with the queen

British and lavender clean

A twinkle in your eye, cig in hand

Everything regal and grand


IÕd listen to your stories

Of Shanghai shops and of the war

Of British ships and glories

Of the colonies and all that fell before 

The lovely liners brought you


To this gentle western shore

Where you could scan the sea

Driving scooter on the quay

Through sand salt woven windswept land

Shopping list in wrinkled hand


To buy the dainty doilies

For Royal Albert cups of tea

WeÕd drink with scones and butter tarts

Or Yorkshire puds and pie

Before IÕd say goodbye


And kiss you on the cheek

In reddening room of crimson sky

At end of dying day

And wave to you from the road outside

Where they say you passed away


© John Cole


Bio: John Cole was trained as a composer having completed his music studies at the University of Victoria (1989) 
and Simon Fraser UniversityÕs School for Contemporary Arts (1993) in Canada. In 1999 he received a two-year 
Monbusho government scholarship to study under Jo Kondo at Elizabeth University of Music in Hiroshima 
(graduating 2006). He has made Japan his home and currently teaches contemporary music at the latter institution 
among other universities in Japan. He has been devoting much of his time to writing poetry which is often informed 
by his music practice. His poems have appeared in The Lake and Poetry Pacific.