Beaver Pond

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Beaver Pond at Mactaquac
for my beloved 

Beaver Pond, Mactaquac, on a fine spring day:
so sad to sit here knowing you can no longer
walk the trail. I remember the sun on your hair,
white, a flag of surrender to old age besieging
your mind and body. It cannot be seen on the board
walk where you stopped to commune with newts,
frogs, birds, fish, ducks, and the great blue heron
you disturbed. Remember? He rose from the reeds
with an anguished cry and a crack of mighty wings.

The wind in Island View is chill today, not a day
for walking in the wild. Monday: men arrive in a truck
and haul our garbage away. So much detritus,
such a mess at the roadside as winter ends and spring
brings thoughts of freedom to roam beyond spells
of ice and snow. Memories: I pack them into a green
green plastic bag and stuff them in the dustbin.

I want to be free. I want you to be free. I want to sit
and watch you wander, like you did last summer
contemplating the multiple meanings of grass, sun,
bird-song, herons, ospreys, beavers, their lodge,
this dam they constructed, this pond in which
they swim, nocturnal creatures, who live far away
from this lock-down and from our silent visits banned.

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Daffodils

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Daffodils

My daffodil day-dreams carry me back to Wales, that Land of Song where every valley conducts choirs of daffodils and their pale, brass voices are raised in an annual springtime hymn of hope. Beneath the trees, in Bishopston Valley, between Pyle Corner and Pwll Ddu, sheltered bluebells tinkle sweet tunes, lilies-of-the-valley bloom, and primroses raise their faces to the sky while hearkening to those springtime airs that sound where’er you walk. In Blackweir Gardens, the Feeder Brook flows into the castle moat and the castle’s central keep stands on the mound the Normans dug when they converted into a motte and bailey the old Roman camp that was built on an earthworks constructed by the Silures long before that countenance divine shone forth upon these clouded hills and long before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode. Generation after generation, all those who witnessed the birth of these flowers and strove to be the first to hear the cuckoo’s call, come alive again in this floral tribute. Oh, Land of Song: the bluebells may have gone, the larks may sing no more, cuckoo and cowslip may have fled the valleys, but all is not lost, not while the daffodils still toss their heads in sprightly dance and spring breaks out its freckled sunshine.

Comment: Win some, lose some. Survival is all. At the same time as I mourn everything  that is lost, I also celebrate all that survive. The grosbeaks have left us, moving further north as the weather warms. They have left more room for cardinals and hummingbirds have moved in to replace them, as have turkey vultures. Turkey Vultures, Zopilote, The Trickster, in Oaxaca, the bird that flew high up into heaven, stole the fire of the gods, and brought it back on his wings, now flies over the St. John River Valley, having moved up here with the warmer air from the south.

“The olde order changeth lest one good custom should corrupt the world” … indeed it does. And we must mourn and celebrate the olde order while preparing for, and celebrating, the arrival of the new. For the world has changed and is changing as I sit here and type these words and it will have twitched and changed again by the time you read them. Who knows exactly what is coming? How do we prepare for the unknown? How do we open our arms and embrace an uncertain future? Good questions all. I cannot answer them for anyone but myself, but I must ask them. Many of them were discussed today by Suzanne Moore in an article entitled: The way we once lived is now redundant. We must reinvent ourselves. Read it and start thinking about how we can be strong, daring, caring, and best prepare ourselves, not for our own extinction, but for our own reinvention.

 

 

Southern Platform

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Comment: The wind that whistles through Island View today carries snowflakes and ice pellets that pitter-patter across the window. The wind brought in clouds, grey wisps of drapery that curtained the sky. When the wind falls silent, the trees continue to wave and thereby fan the air into action and the wind starts up again. Yellow sunshine, warmth, the sun in Mexico, in Oaxaca, in Monte Alban where the danzantes dance in stone and my friends and I wander at will among sunshine and shadow. On grey days like these when I crave the sun, I conjure images of Oaxaca, its warmth and its mysteries of mescal, that early-morning spinner of inner myths, word music, and magic metaphors.

Sounds of Music

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Sounds of Music

Sounds of music everywhere, and in Cardiff now the black weir gurgles with laughter as you stride along. Gravel crunches in rhythm with your footsteps and the song birds invent new ways of singing their same old courting songs. Nesting birds pair up and sing about the joys of nesting. Beneath the trees, the Daffodils – Taffodils sway to the wood wind’s delicate fluting. A lace of golden lover’s hair, they curtain the sky above you as you climb the embankment, up and up, until the River Taff flows beneath you. Black and swift and deep and swollen with the last of the winter rains, the river surges along, its face freckled with sunshine.  The Taff, they say, cradles, as it murmurs its own sweet river song, the finest coal dust from the Rhondda Valleys and carries it out to be reborn in the sea. Here, in the river, fish and eels swim eyeless, so the fishermen say, as they gesticulate with brimming eyes and empty hands, weaving with hollow wind words mystical stories of the mythical salmon that were hooked, but lived to swim another day.

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Comment: A crazy cartoon with a stick man dancing to music that occurs just off the screen at the side of the page. He dances unseen, unheard, as the deer dance at midnight, on their hind legs, reaching for bitter berries wintering on the mountain ash, as the sunlight dances when speckled trout rise to snap at flies, as my heart dances when my beloved walks into the room and lights my world with a smile. Spring in Wales: so far ahead of us as we languish here, on Canada’s East coast, hoping that last night’s minus temperatures will stagger to zero and then surge upwards into plus and double plus. Meanwhile, the grey squirrel chases away the red squirrel who frightened away the chipmunk, my beloved’s pet chipmunk for whom she put out the early morning seed to comfort him on this fresh frosty morning with its chill wind dancing between still-barren trees.

Lamplighter

 

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Lamplighter

When I was very young, many of our streets still had gas lamps.  The lamp-lighter would appear in winter around three or three-thirty to light those lamps. I remember him walking up the street with his long pole over his shoulder, moving from lamp to lamp. We had one outside our front door. He would turn on the gas, then light the lamp from the lighted wick at the end of his pole.  Sometimes he carried a ladder with him. Then, every so often, when the lamp needed tending, he would climb the ladder and adjust the wick. These gas lights were not very bright but they stood out like light houses between stretches of darkness and we would walk from pool to glowing pool, as if they were stepping stones leading us up the hill to home. We all knew the lamplighter and he would often wave to us as we sat in the front room window to watch him walk by. We rarely saw him in the mornings when he came back to turn off the lamps. We were all tucked safely into our beds. I remember that I wanted to be lamplighter. Later I realized that there are many ways to light a lamp and spread brightness through the world. When I qualified as an academic and a teacher, I became a lighter of a very different set of lamps.

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Comment: I discovered this prose poem in an old and dusty manuscript. I can’t even remember when I wrote it. Prose poems: I discovered Charles Baudelaire’s Petits Poèmes en Prose in a small bouquiniste along the banks of the Seine when I studied French in Paris during the school year I spent in France, 1962-63. I have always loved his prose poems and I have always wanted to write some of my own. That I did, and then promptly forgot about them, is one of the wonders of my creative life. How could I forget these creations? Funny: reading what I wrote back then takes me straight into the front room in my grandmother’s house in Brynmill. She would sit in the bay window playing eternal games of patience and together we would eat grapes, peep at the cards, wait, we didn’t know for what, and watch the light slowly fade. Nobody ever told me my grandmother had cancer. She died from it one day when I was away at school and when I came home for the holidays, she just wasn’t there. Her chair and her table were still there, but her warm presence, her loving kindness, had all gone. I never had a chance to properly say good-bye to her. Maybe these belated words will serve that purpose.

 

Scars

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Scars

It’s just a tiny splinter, lodged in my little finger. I take a needle from my sewing kit, put on my glasses, and break the skin around the small black spot in an effort to dig the splinter out.

Suddenly, the vision changes and I am back in my grandfather’s house. My father has bent me over his knee and is jabbing at the splinter in my thumb with a needle from my mother’s sewing kit.

“Hold still,” he pushes me down with the elbow of his left arm, then thrusts the needle again and again into the now bleeding spot on my thumb. “Hold still. Stop wriggling.”

“You’re hurting me.”

“Good.”

My mother comes into the room and inspects my thumb.

“Put your glasses on,” she tells my father. “At least you’ll be able to see what you’re doing.”

“Ow, ow!” I struggle with each piercing thrust of the needle but my father only holds me tighter.

Back in the present, I can hardly see this other splinter, let alone pull it out of my little pinky. I have broken the skin, so I place a band aid over the spot. Hopefully, the plaster will draw the splinter out, it usually does, quite painlessly. I put my sewing kit away and check my right thumb. My age-old splinter, still in there, winks its little black eye back at me from beneath the tear-filled eyelid of its tiny white scar.

We bear so many scars. Not all of them are visible.

Comment: So my granddaughter decided that she could polish up and improve my drawing notebook (top photo). And she did. Proof positive that a red pen in the hands of a young lady can work wonders. The thin red line of life, that link that joins us generation to generation, stretches back to times that only I can remember, stretches forward into times that I will never see. I wonder what my grandfather thought when he sat on his chair by the old Welsh fire and I climbed up, onto his knee. “Grandpa, tell me a story.” And he always did: “Once upon a time …  there was a thin red line …” And look, there’s my grandfather’s old chair down in my basement in Island View, New Brunswick, Canada. It’s a long way from my grandfather’s old home in Swansea. Just think, I used to climb up on the back of that chair, while he was sleeping, and blow on the bald spot on the back of his head … one long thin red line of inherited mischief …

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Limpet

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Limpet

… like a limpet at the sea side
she clings to her inner rock
as the incoming tide
causes waters to rise,
threatening
to sweep her away.

A wind charges
over the bay,
brings a wave-surge,
white water urgent,
crashing against rocks.

Rock-face showered
and shocked,
the little limpet
clinging on,
knowing that this
is the way
limpets survive,
day after day,
generation
after generation.

Comment: We must also survive and we do so by hanging on as long as possible. The tides may rise, the mists come in, storms may send waves to come breaking over us … but they will not break us because we are limpets. So, imitate those limpets, cling to your rocks and hang on. However grim the situation might seem, the night will end, day will come, and we will survive. And remember that old Irish drinking song: “If Moonshine don’t kill me, I’ll live till I die.” And so will we all. And until then, enjoy the sunshine and the moonshine. This is your life, your planet, your set of circumstances. Hang in there and hang on, for as long as possible. Look for the good things in your life and when you find them, celebrate them and make the most of them. Remember the sundial: I count only the happy hours. Seek and you will find: for there is goodness all around you, even when the night seems to be at its darkest.

Why?

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Why?

“Where are you going?” I ask again. “To see a man about a dog,” my father replies.  “Why?” I ask. “Hair of the dog,” his voice ghosts through the rapidly closing crack as the front door shuts behind him. “Why?” I cry out.

I recall the mud nest jammed tight against our garage roof. Tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open. Parent birds sit on a vantage point of electric cable, their beaks moving in silent encouragement. A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw, a small body thudding down a ladder of air to crash beak first on the concrete.

“Why?” I ask.

The age-old answer comes back to me. “Wye is a river. It flows through Ross-on-Wye and marks the boundary between England and Wales.” The swallows perch on the rafters watching their fledgling as it struggles on the floor, the weakening wing flaps, the last slow kicks of the twitching legs.

“Why?” I ask.”

Y is a crooked letter invented by the Green Man of Wye,” my grandfather says.

“Why?” I repeat. “I want to know why.” Silence hangs a question mark over the unsatisfied spaces of my questing mind.

Comment: A golden oldie. We would all like to know why. But there are no answers. Just riddles cast, like two trunk-less legs of stone, on the sands of time. Nothing beside remains. Yet still we ask the age old question? Why? And still we get the age old answer from the ageing masters who rule our childhood lives and teach us everything they know: “Because.”

Purple

 

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Purple

 I write poems
in green ink,
but I prefer
purple.

Bruised clouds
on an evening sky,
dark depths
of a rainbow glow,
Northern Lights
singing at the deep
end of their scale …

… or just a desire
to be different …
slightly different …

as if that one thing,
the color of my ink,
might tip the scales
and turn me
from mediocrity
to celebrity

with a wave
of a violet wand,
or the click
of a pair
of ink-stained
fingers.

Comment: Juan Ramón Jiménez, Nobel Prize winner and author of Platero y yo, wrote a book entitled Almas de Violeta that was published in purple ink. He also wrote a book, printed in green ink. I used to have copies of them in my library, but alas, I gave my library away, so I cannot check for the title. I often wonder whether the color of the ink makes any difference to the quality of the writing. Same question with the keyboard or the pen. Some things seem to come more easily on keyboard or screen, but really, there is something about the smooth flow of pen and ink across the page that is enchanting just in itself. Now, back to my revisions for I am not just a writer, I am a re-writer. So off I go.

Butterflies

 

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Butterflies

“Poetry gives permanence to the temporal forms of the self.”
Miguel de Unamuno.

… butterflies … temporal forms … fluttering …
existing for one sweet day … they perch … spread
their wings … fan us with their beauty … flourish …
catch our attention … then caught by a gust
tear their wings on a thorn … and perish … blink
your eye and they are gone … yet reborn … they
cluster and gather in dusty ditches …
congregate on bees’ balm … smother Black-Eyed
Susan and Cape Daisy … shimmer in shade …
butterflies by day … fireflies by night …
terrestrial stars floating in their forest
firmament … dark tamarack … black oak … bird’s
eye maple … silver birch … impermanence
surrounds us … dances beneath stars … sings with
robins … echoes the owl’s haunting cry …
eternity held briefly in our hands …
then escaping like water or sand … black
words on white paper capturing nothing …
… my dialog … my time … my place … butterflies …

Comment: This is another golden oldie that gains in meaning day by day as the lock down continues. Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) was a respected academic, philosopher novelist, essay writer, story-teller and powerful poet. He is probably most famous internationally for the philosophy he espoused in The Tragic Sense of Life. Other works of his include Our Lord Don Quixote and Niebla / Mist. The photo shows one of the butterflies that adorn the garden by my kitchen window each summer.