Silence

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Silence

Our conversation today:
a sun baked Roman aqueduct
dried up, no water.

In the bathroom,
brown sacking hangs
ragged on leaking pipes.

Our words are lifeless kites,
earthbound,
too heavy to rise.

Each sentence fills
with wasted movements
of lips, tongue, jaws and teeth

Enormous
barbed wire barriers
have grown between us.

Words and thoughts
hang like washing
pegged out on a windless day.

Dead soldiers
gone over the top,
their uniforms flapping
on unbroken wire.

A Multiple Trick Pony?

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Are All Writers ‘One-Trick Ponies’?

Forgive me, but I quote:

“Okay, who is the better writer; Fredericton’s Roger Moore, or Britain’s JK Rowling? (Harry Potter fans aren’t allowed to vote!) Some would argue Ms. Rowling, because of the vast number of book sales she’s enjoyed. Others would argue—compellingly—Mr. Moore, because of the diversity of writing he’s excelled at. Ms. Rowling has written a brilliant fantasy series, as well as a fairly average murder mystery. Mr. Moore has written literary analysis, reams of poetry, fiction (flash and otherwise), essays, academia, non-fiction and much more.

Where am I going with this? Two things occur to me as I perform this ridiculous compare-&-contrast between these two fine writers. My first thought is it’s madness to compare two very different writers and think you’ll arrive at a valid conclusion. My second thought is one of wonder. Writing a book is hard work. Writing a series is really hard work! Writing a series in a certain subject matter, and then switching to a different genre or subject matter is, well, taking the challenge up another notch. I admire those who attempt it, and until now, I’ve wished them well as I plodded along on my one-track series.”

For the full article, click on …

http://allanhudson.blogspot.ca/search?updated-max=2017-02-11T07:22:00-04:00&max-results=7

Comment:

Thank you, Chuck. However, I would remind you all that April 1 is April Fool’s Day / Le Jour des Poissons d’Avril. I would have expected this to appear on April 1, before midday.

March 1 is St. David’s Day, Dewi Sant, the patron saint of Wales. I take the above quote with a large pinch of salt, thrown over the shoulder.

Meanwhile,  I am avoiding black cats, will not walk under ladders, will not walk in toadstool rings, and am not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk in spite of the frost and snow.

“For whether we last
the night or no,
I’m sure is only
touch and go.”

Dylan Thomas … a poet, and a very good one, from my own home town.

 

Alebrijes or Inspiration

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 Alebrijes or Inspiration

 Are they half-grasped dreams
that wake, wide eyed, to a new day’s sun?

Or are they alive and thriving
when they fall from the tree?

Does the carver fish their color and shape
from his own interior sea?

Or does he watch and wait for the spirit
to emerge from its wooden cocoon
to be reborn in a fiery block of color?

Daybreak:
in a secluded corner of my waking mind,
my neighbor’s dog greets the dawn:
sparks of bright color born from his barks.

My waking dream:
dark angels with butterfly bodies,
their inverted wings spread over my head
keeping me comforted.

In the town square, the  artist
plucks dreams from my head
and paints them on carved wood.

Comment:   Alebrijes step out from dried wood and stand in the shower of paint that falls from the brush’s tip. Yellow flash of lightning, pointillistic rain, garish colors that mirror those of the códices. The carvings take the form of fantasy figures, anthropomorphic animals,
 and mythological creatures.

Sometimes one individual selects the wood, carves it, then covers it in paint. Occasionally an entire family takes part in the work of making the alebrije. One person collects the wood and prepares it for carving. Another carves and sands it. A third works on the undercoat, and a fourth applies the final patterns of paint.

The great debate: does the form in the wood 
reveal itself to the carver
 or do the carvers impose their own visions on the wood? In the case of the team, do the family members debate and come to a joint conclusion?

These thoughts, exchanged with wood-carvers in Oaxaca, have led to a series of interesting conversations. What exactly is creativity? Where does it come from? Do we, as artists, impose it upon our creations? Or do we merely observe and watch as new ideas float to the surface of our minds? How does the creative mind function? And, by extension, how much of the sub-conscious creative sequence can be placed into words?

These questions lead us into our own minds. How do we, as writers, frame our inspiration? Do we wait for the muse to descend? And what if she or he (for there are masculine muses, too) doesn’t? Does this waiting for the muse lead us into the dreaded realm of Writer’s Block where we sit and twiddle our thumbs and wait and hope? Or does it lead us into the land of positive expectations where we use basic writing exercises and look for inspiration among our thoughts and words?

A practical solution for inspiration is regular writing in the journal … regular writing. From this practice, we soon learn to recognize beauty for we often generate small gems that can be dug out and polished. Sure, there is a great deal of dross, but a good wood carving leaves lots of shavings, and a few cut thumbs. That’s the nature of artistic discovery … and remember, it is the beauty in ourselves and the world around us that we are seeing and describing. Reading the words of others also generates small sparks to which we respond and the corresponding interplay of ‘their words with ours’ is not to be under-estimated.

By extension, the Bakhtinian Chronotopos is also important: man’s dialog with his time and place. Bahktin uses the masculine ‘man’; a woman’s dialog may well differ, but her dialog with her time and her place is equally as important as a man’s. Sometimes more so, and we do not pay sufficient attention to this fact. That said, we must always remember St. Teresa of Avila’s delightful line: “También anda Dios en la cocina entre las pucheras” / God also walks in the kitchen among the pots and pans.

One of our tasks, as writers, is to find the beauty of our time and place. It may seem insignificant at first for we are such tiny beings in an enormous and often anonymous universe, but when we sit in the sunshine and see the dust motes rise and count the angels dancing in the sunbeams before our eyes, we are indeed witnessing the daily beauty that surrounds us. It is our task to name that beauty and to describe it. And remember, too, that it is there in the flying snowflakes, in the pale disc of the sun peering through clouds, in the slide of the raindrop down the window pane.

My job as a writer, as I see and feel it, is to sense and see the beauty that surrounds me. Then my task is to describe it and bear witness to it. To bear witness … sometimes, that beauty is brutal and the bearing witness is painful in itself. The knife or chisel slips, the blood flows, and the musty cobwebs applied to the open wound seem to do no staunching. But there is beauty in injury too and we must also bear witness to the brutal beauty of blood.

Such brutal beauty can be found in Tanya Cliff’s latest book, A Haiku for Ricky Baker. In this volume of poetry, Tanya exposes some of the problems inherent in child abuse.  Her inspiration is taken from real events and her poems describe the lives of real people. This poetry reveals the color of blood and hurts with the deep slice of the knife into the carver’s thumb. Tanya has two main tasks: the first is to bear witness and the second is to gather funds by offering the proceeds from this collection to the very children who need help. I wish her all the best in her endeavor and I encourage all my readers to explore this project of Tanya’s for themselves.

Water 2

15 May 2002 Pre-Rimouski 277

Rain Stick

The bruja turns her rain stick upside down.
Rain drops patter one by one,
then fall , faster and faster
until her bamboo sky
fills with the welcome
sound of rushing water.

An autumnal whirl of sun-dried cactus
beats against its wooden prison walls.

As I look heavenwards,
clouds gather,
rain falls in a wisdom of pearls,
cast from dark skies.

The scales fall from my eyes
and land on the marimbas,
dry beneath the arches
where wild music sounds,
half-tame rhythms,
sympathetic music
like this rainstorm
released by the bruja’s
magic hand.

(bruja: witch, witch doctor)

Comment: Every afternoon, in the rainy season, as regular as clockwork, the clouds build up and by five o’clock, the rain comes tumbling down. Nothing can describe the welcome smell of cool rain on dry dust and hot sand, the sound of raindrops pittering through the trees to splash on dry leaves, or the hiss of water on hot cobbles.

When the rain doesn’t come, then the Oaxacans who believe in the ancient traditions resort to sympathetic magic. They ask the brujos for help and the witch doctors bring out their rain sticks. Sympathetic magic: the sound of the sun-dried  cactus thorns falling through the hollow rain stick imitates the sound of the rain falling on the rain forest leaves. The clouds gather in sympathy and, sooner or later, the skies fill up with clouds, and down comes the rain.

 

Water 1

15 May 2002 Pre-Rimouski 277

Water

Water seeks its final solution as it slips from cupped hands.
Does it remember when the earth was without form
and darkness was upon the face of the deep?

The waters under heaven were gathered into one place
and the firmament appeared.
Light was divided from darkness
and with the beginning of light came The Word,
and words, and the world …

… the world of water in which I was carried
until the waters broke
and the life sustaining substance drained away
throwing me from dark to light.

The valley’s parched throat longs for water,
born free, yet everywhere imprisoned:
in chains, in bottles, in tins, in jars, in frozen cubes,
its captive essence staring out with grief filled eyes.

A young boy on a tricycle bears a dozen prison cells,
each with forty captives: forty fresh clean litres of water.
“¡Peragua!” he calls. “¡Super Agua!”

He holds out his hand for money
and invites me to pay a ransom,
to set these prisoners free.

Real water yearns to be released,
to be set free from its captivity,
to trickle out of the corner of your mouth,
to drip from your chin,
to seek sanctuary in the ground.

Real water slips through your hair
and leaves you squeaky clean.
It is a mirage of palm trees upon burning sand.

It is the hot sun dragging its blood red tongue across the sky
and panting for water like a great big thirsty dog.

Comment: Water: such a precious commodity, and more than a commodity, the very substance of life. Without it, we shrivel and die. Vegetation struggles to survive, the desert shifts its boundaries outwards, and a high tide of sand rises to engulf the cultivated land.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the Atoyac, the Green River, often runs dry. When it does, women kneel on the sand and pebbles to dig holes into which the water seeps. They wait for the holes to fill and use little cups to pour that water into their buckets. These water holes are also used to wash their clothes and they hang them out on the riverbank bushes to dry beneath a burning sun.

Twice I have been in Oaxaca when the rains have not arrived. I have seen the reservoirs sink lower and lower as the sun laps up the precious liquid and no rain falls. Oaxaca, with or without rain, is a land of dry toilets, chemical toilets, chemicals to put in the tap water when you wash and peel fruit and vegetables. You drink only bottled water. It is sold to the households in forty litre bottles and hawked round the street by boys on tricycles who cry out their wares.

In Oaxaca, almost every house has its own supply of water. The flat roof, azotea, catches the rain when it falls and channels it into large internal cisternas that trap the water and keep it cool.  Water to waste is a luxury that few can afford and most water is recycled when possible in one way or another.

The rules are strict: drink nothing direct from the tap; do not clean your teeth in tap water;  beware of ice cream and ice cubes; drink only water delivered from trusted hands. In addition: eat food only from establishments with running water and a reputation for safety. Avoid street vendors, especially the little ladies in the street who cook over open fires and and change their babies’ nappies only to return to their cooking with unwashed hands … There are so many things you learn if you want to be safe and streetwise. Above all, close your nose to the delights of those wonderful street side cooking smells.

 

The Dancer and the Dance

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The Dancer and the Dance

 1

she comes here to dance for me
only for me does she dress this way

 she shows me her dreams
unfolding them one by one
silk and cotton garments
drawn fresh from her scented closet

thin copper bracelets
carved wooden mask

 only her eyes reveal
subversive flesh and blood

 2

she orchestrates her story
skin drum
rattle of seeds in a sun-dried pod
single violin string
stretched across an armadillo’s shell

 I too am tense like an instrument
waiting to be played

 the bones of my love
reach out towards her

3

when she makes her music
familiar spirits return to the earth
dancing in a sash of moonlight

 she recreates an ancient spell
gold letters plucked from dark scrolls
no wands no words
just water’s purity
flicked fresh
across lips and face

 she binds me with the string of notes
she undoes with her hair
our bodies form an open altar
we worship with mysterious offerings
drawn from wells set deep within us

4

rain falls from the sky
Moon turns his face away
suddenly in darkened alleys
clouds hold hands and dance

dense streamers of light
dangle from street lamps
shadows remember their forgotten steps

gently she draws me to her
I try to follow
frail whirlpools of withered leaves
fragment weak sunshine
in light’s watery pool

 5

her magic grows
I take my first step
an unmapped journey
into desert space

we move to old rhythms
across moon flecked clouds

raindrops fall more slowly
faltering drum beat
diminishing water

6

high above us
the ghost of a melody
shaking its head
wringing its hands

 we return at last
to light and air
the moon’s vacant face
scowls in an empty field

someone has plucked the stars
one by one
and threaded them like a chain of daisies

 now there are no sky flowers
to adorn the night

7

noche de rábanos
someone has taken a knife
and peeled an enormous radish

this cartoon moon face
this full skull hanging from nothing
this lantern lighting from above

 now my lover sculpts time
and space
into small chunks

 each sacrifice
a jewel between her fingers

 I pin to my chest
three small notes
and a skeleton of words

8

inside my dancing head
the fires have gone out

 without her hands to guide me
my feet have turned clumsy

 scars layer my wrists and ankles
star crossed bindings
cutting against the grain

 I gather a harvest of stars
she holds them in her eyes

 her fingers are grasshoppers
making love in my hair

when she kisses my fingernails
one by one
we both know our bodies will never be the same

9

together we weave a slender cage
she cuts out my heart with her tongue
placing it on an altar inside the bars

she locks the tiny door
a silvery key wrought from moonstone

 my fluttering heart grows miniature wings
next time the door is opened
my wings will fly me to her lips

my heart is a caged bird on a tiny perch
it chirrups a love song
its image in the mirror answers back

breathless it scrapes its wings on the moon
its body striving upwards to the stars

10

on Monte Albán the danzantes
sway to soft music
their shadows dance in and on stone
as they have danced for centuries

wind rustles the grass
moon casts sharp shapes

darkness ascends the temple steps
huge fingers grasping upwards
an owl’s feathers clutching at the skies

at dawn tomorrow
the sun will rise beneath our feet
we will squint down on its majesty
we will pluck the ripeness of its orange
in our outstretched hands

11

our last night together
I pluck a blossom from the tulipán tree
a final offering of my love

 she gives it back
I place it in the pocket of flesh
where I once kept my heart

 tomorrow when the flower breaks
it will stain my shirt
a damp splash of blood
no longer running in my veins

 the scent of our happiness
will cling forever to my fingers

The Dancer 10, 11 /11

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10

on Monte Albán the danzantes
sway to soft music
their shadows dance in and on stone
as they have danced for centuries

wind rustles the grass
moon casts sharp shapes

darkness ascends the temple steps
huge fingers grasping upwards
an owl’s feathers clutching at the skies

at dawn tomorrow
the sun will rise beneath our feet
we will squint down on its majesty
we will pluck the ripeness of its orange
in our outstretched hands

11

our last night together
I pluck a blossom from the tulipán tree
a final offering of my love

she gives it back
I place it in the pocket of flesh
where I once kept my heart

tomorrow when the flower breaks
it will stain my shirt
a damp splash of blood
no longer running in my veins

the scent of our happiness
will cling forever to my fingers