My Father

IMG_0137

My Father

            I saw my father yesterday evening. I walked through the zócalo, opened the main cathedral doors and walked in. The doors closed behind me. I looked towards the main altar and there my father stood, motionless. The evening light shone through the engraved glass panels and illuminated him as if he were some long passed saint come back to visit me. We stared at each other, but I couldn’t open my mouth to speak. The hairs on my neck stood on end and my hands shook. When I forced my mouth open, words stuck in my throat. He wore his best grey suit over a light blue shirt and a dark blue, hand woven tie: the outfit in which I had buried him.

               Three old women, dressed in black, broke the spell. One stood in front of me and wouldn’t let me approach my father. She held a large bag of knitting in her hands and the wool spilled everywhere as she pushed me away. The second threatened me with a pair of scissors that she held in her left hand and stabbed towards my face. The third beat a tailor’s measuring rod against my father’s head.  He nodded, smiled sadly, and they all turned their backs on me and hurried away out of the cathedral and into the square.

               Just for a moment, I stood there in silence. Then I pulled the doors open and ran in pursuit of my father. The setting sun filled the square with shadows that whispered and moved this way and that, as if a whole village had come down from the hills to walk beneath the trees and dance in the rays of the dying sun. I stood on the cathedral steps and called out my father’s name, but I could see no sign of him among the cut and thrust of the shadowy crowd.

               I ran out into that crowd and pushed at insubstantial people who stood firm one moment and then melted away the next like clouds or thick mist. I came to a side street and saw real people, flesh and blood beings, a group of villagers gathered behind their band. I stopped and as I did the village elder put a live match to the taper of the rocket that he clutched between his thumb and forefinger. The taper caught on fire and the rocket soared upwards with a searing whoosh. The village band marched forward and started to play a traditional dance as the rocket clawed its way into the sky to explode with a loud knock on the door of the gods.

               Tired of grasping at shadows and afraid of this living phalanx of men that marched towards me I went back to the cathedral and knelt at the altar of La Virgen de la Soledad, the patron saint of Oaxaca. Real wax candles stood before her altar, not tiny electric lights, and I inserted five pesos in the slot, took a taper, and lit a fresh candle from an ageing one that had started to sputter. I knelt and, for the first time in years, I prayed. I prayed for the soul I had saved from extinction by lighting my candle from his flame. I prayed for my father and my mother and, above all, I prayed for myself.

               On the way home to my second-floor apartment where I live alone, I bought two litres of mescal, one to send me to sleep, and the other so I would survive the next morning.

The Yfory* Tower

IMG_1333 (2)

The Yfory* Tower

“Tomorrow never comes,” they told me,
because, by the time it gets here,
it’s already today.

All my tomorrows are woven into today’s
threads of mist that weave silk scarves
around the open-mouthed trees,
ensuring their silence

Silence, save for click of cat’s claws,
slither of pen over page, tapping of keys,
letters turned into words, words that worm
their way over the page, soundless, into my head.

Geese fly high, arrowing their way to the south.
Autumn is on the wing as days shorten.
Cold weather will be here tomorrow
even though they tell me that tomorrow never comes.

Beethoven rewrites the Fifth. I refuse to open the door
when the postmen knocks, bearing his fatal message.
I guess he’ll be back tomorrow, although they tell me
that tomorrow never comes.

Yfory*:
Yfory, the Ivory Tower, means tomorrow in Welsh.

Going, going …

IMG_1336 (2).JPG

Going, going …

… and soon they’ll all be gone, save for the lucky ones that Clare gathers and sticks in pots to winter over in the house-warmth. Over the coming months, if you visit us, you’ll find these flowers in corners, on tables, in places that are touched by the low winter sun. Clare keeps lots of geraniums and they do winter over very well. She makes a selection of colors and then places them in sunlit spots. They bring color and light to the darkest days and help keep winter at bay. They are also great to photograph against snows and crows, and I often use their window reflections in my indoor photography.

IMG_1264.JPG

Here are some red and white geraniums getting their last touch of fall sunshine as they cling to the back porch.

IMG_1259 (2).JPG

This little group await their fall prune. Clare will trim them down and then bring them in. They will be slightly dormant for a while and then start to flourish once again. By the time next spring comes round, they will be ready for their outdoor adventures, a day at a time, back in overnight, and nursed and nurtured until they are ready for their full summer blossom.

It’s Thanksgiving this weekend, so a Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may you all have flowers to brighten your life and bring you some beauty and peace.

 

 

Spooky

IMG_1335 (2).JPG

Spooky

As Halloween draws near, the people at the park, Mactaquac Park, begin to spookify the countryside. Here’s the giant spider, coming to get you. It is the first in a series of spookified spookies.

IMG_1333 (2).JPG

And here’s the spookified ‘what will it be”? Might be a spookified pussy dog or a spookified puppy cat. Who knows? Right now it looks more cute than wicked. Keep it that way, I say.

 

IMG_1186 (2).JPG

No, they’re not here yet, but watch out for the boogies and the boogeymen. They’re not far away. And they may just be out to get you. So, when someone says ‘Trick of treat’? Be sure to say ‘treat!” You want the dog biscuit, not the Rottweiler. And don’t forget to drool and say ‘pretty please’.

IMG_1338 (2)

What we do know is that when autumn leaves, strange things creep in to fill our minds and take autumn’s place. It’s that creepy-crawly time, that time of night mists and strange visions, that season of mellow mists and fruitiness when things that go bump in the night suddenly do just that.

IMG_0169

 

 

So Sweet

IMG_1318 (3)

So Sweet

Withered I am
and soon will perish
I cherish this brief
last leaf-light bright
on tree and pond

Stark the flooded
trunks of beaver-
gnawed trees
their sails no
longer leaf-clad

Fall’s canvas
a paradise
for lost and lonely
philosopher-poets
tree-bright their light

Stored sunshine
aged in maple
birch forest oak
soaked up
in summer life
so brief so sweet

IMG_1317 (2).JPG

 

F-f-f-all

IMG_1337 (2).JPG

F-f-f-all

Not as good as the real thing, but the best I can do in five minutes with a set of felt pens. I am bewildered by the presence of so many colors, sometimes on the same tree and there are not enough pencils in y pencil box to do anything other than approximate.

IMG_1287.JPG

The light is incredible. Sometimes the tree seems to have stored all the summer sunshine in its leaves and, rain or shine, the light comes pouring out to enlighten us.

IMG_1283.JPG

And those reflections … the Beaver Pond doubles the color, turning the trees upside down and fragmenting their foliage, this way, that way. Pointillistic at one point, impressionistic at another, almost never cubist, although we can sense tilting planes in this upside-down surreal world that leaves us snatching at each new imposed reality of color and light.

IMG_1329.JPG

Stand beneath the trees. Look up through those leaves. Watch the light raining down, glimpses of blue between the orange, red, yellow, green and tawny leaves. I don’t have enough names for their colors. Green: what is green, what does it mean? I can see it, feel it, crumple it between my fingers if I am quick enough to catch a falling leaf … but what is it exactly, and what does it mean?

IMG_1318 (2).JPG

Espejismo and doble espejismo: the viewing of the world through a mirror, understanding what is a shadow and taking it for the real thing. And here, the shock of each red leaf turned into a shark’s bite of blood within still waters. Two worlds really: the top half normal and the bottom half turned upside down, leaf turned to color and color turned to a crimson streak.

IMG_1318 (3).JPG

There, see, catch them quick before they are gone, these autumn northern lights, this floating aurora borealis, this word picture trapped in these oh-so clumsy, oh-so fragile, oh-so imperfect words. Perfection, imperfection, and words and pencils shuffled to create the unreality of an autumn dream.

 

 

Sheep

IMG_1295 (2).JPG

 

Sheep

I wear the hide of the sheep
they slaughtered for me
twenty-three years ago
in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Like a sheep led to slaughter
I wait in the waiting room
along with other willing victims.
Heads down, silent, we clutch
open magazines, but do not
lift our heads or make eye contact.

In World War One, French troops
bleated like sheep as they marched
in tight columns towards Verdun.

They were disciplined and decimated,
one in ten shot for cowardice.
Is it cowardly to sit here, shivering,
glum faced, as we await
bad news and an uncertain fate?

I hate this uncertainty,
this inability to know what
is happening to my body.

Knowledge I can face, but
not doubt’s shadow dancing
like a will-o’-the wisp, and
leading who knows where,
keeping me awake as it did,
last night, stoking my fears
into this red-hot furnace
filled with burning coals
of fierce, fired-up doubt.

True bravery is to know fear,
to face it, and to face it down,
and to laugh in its face even
though your heart is breaking
and your gut tells you to run,
now, before it’s too late.