On Being Welsh
in a land ruled by the English
A shortened version of this manuscript was awarded first place in the David Adams Richards Awards for a prose manuscript by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, 2020.
Individual stories have been published in Anti-Lang (M. T. Head), West Cost Short Story Slam (Teeth), and on commuterlit.com (Remembrance Day).
Individual stories have won awards as follows: Butterflies (Honorable Mention, Atlantic Short Story Competition, Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia), Auntie Gladys (Finalist, Wordfeast NB, Postcard Stories), Message in a Bottle (Honorable Mention, WFNB Creative Non-Fiction), The Key (Finalist, CBC Short Story Competition), Letting Go (First Place, WFNB Douglas Kyle Memorial, short story).
I would like to thank Lucinda Flemer, Primum Mobile, the first mover, who brought together the KIRA artists and turned them into a creative community. These artists include Geoff Slater and Chuck Bowie, both of whom have influenced the writings in this book. A special thank you must go to Ginger Marcinkowski, my Beta reader, who really deserves an Alpha Grade for all her help and understanding.
I would also like to thank Dr. Karunesh Kumar Agarwal (Managing Editor) Cyberwit.net for his editing skills and his invitation to participate in this poetry series.
Donna Morrissey, award winning Canadian author and judge of the 2020 D. A. Richards Award, wrote the following about my winning submission.
Judge’s Judgement: “This writer’s prose is eloquent, lyrical and beautiful. His stories are disturbing and memorable. It is an evocative journey through the deeply seeing eyes of an old man, and back through his tormented and deeply felt self as a beaten boy. There were times I held my breath against his suffering, and times I applauded his courage to keep on living. At all times I was held by the strength of such writing as would allow me those sparse and limited visuals to the bruising of the flesh whilst leading me directly into the tendered heart. Congratulations.”
The Story: Set in Tara Manor, a boutique hotel in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, the narrator searches for a story he can write. He rejects the stories and myths of other people and indigenous races, only to discover that he must be the subject of his own tale. It is a story of childhood abuse, first at the hands of his own family and then in Catholic and Protestant boarding schools in Wales where he was sent at the early age of six. It tells of a growing self-distancing from the world, including self-harm and attempted suicide, and then of self-discovery, understanding, and self-forgiveness, far from his Welsh homeland, in the Maritime beauty of Atlantic Canada.
Editor’s Comment: No doubt, here in these poems we are impressed by the ease and strength of the rhythm. Several of these poems show the passionate flight of profound imagination. The poems have poignant force of true feeling. All poems are irresistibly powerful.
Author’s Comment: Poems or stories? Both really, for On Being Welsh is composed of poetry written, not in verse, but in prose. Prose poems then, or poems in prose. How could I write anything but poetry when I come from the same town in Wales as Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins. I too was born with music in my heart and poetry on my lips.
One Small Corner
A Kingsbrae Chronicle
One Small Corner is available at the following link
Introduction to One Small Corner
I think of my creative writing in terms of visual, verbal photos. I create snapshots in words and these snapshots come from everywhere that I have been. For me, they are precious moments caught and frozen forever in the camera of the poet’s eye. Visual and verbal, they illustrate the life I have lived and the things I have seen. These are the phenomena on which my artistic life is founded.
I am not a philosopher by any means, but I have over time developed an artistic philosophy. It started a long time ago at Wycliffe College with my A level studies of French existentialism and continued later in the Graduate School at the University of Toronto, where I studied the origins of existentialism as they are expounded in phenomenology. Both these movements have influenced my life and my writing. Bakhtin’s chronotopos: “Man’s dialog with his time and place” has also been a great influence on my creative thinking. My art is indeed my dialog with my time, my place, and the people who inhabit them.
One Small Corner is the record of my stay at the KIRA Residence in St. Andrews-by-the-sea, New Brunswick, Canada. I was selected to be the only poet in the first cohort of Resident Artists and during the month of June, 2017, I was able to work full-time on this collection.
Empress of Ireland
Poems from Ste. Luce-sur-mer
The Empress is available at the following link
The Empress of Ireland
The poems which have come together to form the Empress of Ireland were begun in Ste. Luce-sur-mer, Quebec, in May 2002. It was off-shore from Ste. Luce, in the early hours of the morning of the 29th of May, 1914, that the Empress of Ireland collided, in dense fog, with a converted Norwegian collier whose bows had been strengthened for ice-breaking. There were approximately 15 minutes between the moment of impact (1:55 am) and the moment the Empress caught fire and sank (2:10 am). Although the disaster has received little international attention, more passengers perished in this accident (840) then in the loss of the Titanic (832) or the sinking of the Lusitania (791).
Introduction to the Empress of Ireland
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A Survivor lights a candle
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I first heard voices in the cries of the sea birds on the beach at Ste. Luce-sur-mer.
Borne on the wind, over the sigh of the waves, they seemed high-pitched, like the voices of children, or of men and women in distress. These were lost voices, the cries of people alone and frightened by the dark. I heard them calling to me.
That night, there were knocks at my cabin door and finger nails scratched at my window. Tiny sounds, almost beyond the range of human hearing: the snuffling of puppies when they turn over in their sleep and tug at each other, whimpering in their dreams.
I started from my sleep. But there was only the wind and the waves as the tide’s footsteps climbed a moonbeam path to ascend the beach. When I walked on the sand next day, at low tide, there was a whispering behind my back. Little voices crying to be set free.
A lone gull flew past my head and battered itself against the wind’s cage with outraged sturdy wings. That night, the mist descended. The church stepped in and out of its darkness and shadows gathered, persistent, at my door.
I walked out into the night and saw a lone heron surrounded by gulls. It was as if an adult, clamoured at by children, was standing guard over the beach. Then I saw the shadows of little people searching for their parents, the shapes of mothers and fathers looking for their off-spring, lost among the grains of sand.
Beyond them, on the headland, the church stood tall above the shadows. I saw grandmothers and grandfathers, their lips moving in supplication, kneeling before the granite cross which stands above the sea. As I approached, they turned to me, opened their mouths, mouthed silent words, then disappeared. When I went back to bed, faces and voices visited me in my dreams. When I got up next morning, they came to me in the speech of birds hidden in the foliage, in the words dropped by the osprey’s wing, in the click of the crab’s claw as he dug himself deeper into the sand.
“Speak for us!”
“Set us free!”
The words of the Empress of Ireland are not my words. They could never be my words. Foundered words, they are, rescued from the beach, and dragged from the high tide mark with its sea weed, carapace, charred wood, old rusted iron, and bright bones of long dead animals polished by the relentless action of wind, sea and sand.
Sun and Moon
Poems from Oaxaca, Mexico
is available at the following link
Introduction to Sun and Moon
A city of legends where the dead walk among the living and the stones beneath your feet come alive and talk to you. A city where the animals have voices and the songs of tree and leaf can be clearly heard. A city of hallucinations and spirits, of mystery and myths, a city, young in itself, built on land so old that memories clutch at you with treacherous fingers and lay siege to your heart claiming you for their own. This is the land of Sun and Moon. Come, enter its world. Join me there, if you dare.
Meeting my father in the main square
I saw my father yesterday evening, in Oaxaca. 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 thrust towards my face. The third smacked 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 another’s 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.
Obsidian’s Edge started out as At the Edge of Obsidian and was the second volume in the Oaxacan Trilogy (Sun and Moon, At the Edge of Obsidian, Obsidian 22). When I republished it in Create Space (now Kindle / KDP) I rewrote the last two volumes and turned them into a single book, Obsidian’s Edge, so that the Oaxacan Trilogy is now a Oaxacan Duology. My apologies to those who are eagerly awaiting the third book in the series.
Early Morning in Oaxaca
… dream worlds circle outside my bedroom window … starry sky … two full moons floating, one real, one mirrored in the glass … inside the bedroom, tulips inscribe red gashes on white-washed walls … sharp fingernails scrape across paint, blood red shadows trickle down to the floor …
… above the azotea, the temples of Monte Albán string out their sheets on the sky’s washing-line, glowing in the moonlight … against a background of granite and stucco, trenchant shadows sculpt dancers into grotesque, pipe-wire shapes as they struggle to escape their carved imprisonment …
… priests in long black robes gape at the night sky. From their sanctuary in the observatory, they plot how they will persuade the people to believe the future they will foretell as night’s giant finger herds the wild-cat stars …
… three young women walk at an angle up the temple steps … when they reach the top, a moonbeam holds them in its spotlight and they wax with the full moon’s beauty … the doorway to an unclosed grave opens its crocodile jaws and the three women descend the temple steps, ageing as they walk … at the temple’s foot, they enter the tomb’s dark mouth … an old man in a faded grey suit walks behind them … the grave swallows them all, burying them in the hidden depths beneath the mound …
… dreams back themselves into a cul-de-sac, a wilderness of harsh black scars … an ancient Aztec god catches Rabbit by his ears and throws him against the second sun that sizzles in the sky … his sharp teeth burrow, burying themselves deep in the sun-fire’s light … the second sun loses its glow and turns into the moon’s cold stone … the rabbit’s skull simmers in the new moon’s dwindling pool …
With a clicking of claws, knitting needles come together to pluck me outwards from my dreams and upwards towards death’s golden guillotine that floats in the sky. The moon sharpens its knife edge on the keening wind and sets my blood tingling. I want to be free, free from those nightmares, those nocturnal visions that rise up from the past and stalk me as I lie in bed.
Drowsing, I long for the alarm clock to shuffle its pack of sleepless hours and to waken me with its piercing call as it tears me from these winding sheets, these grave clothes in which I lie. I wait for the sun to shine into my window.
A Cancer Chronicle
The verse-story of one man’s journey
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A Cancer Chronicle
I was one of the lucky ones. In the hospice, Auberge Monsignor Henri Cormier, Georges Dumont Hospital, Moncton, I bore witness to many who suffered more than I did. Most of us were cured, as I was, but some were not. My wish is to give a voice to the voiceless who, for one reason or another, feel unable to express their pain, their longing, their suffering, their tears, their joy and laughter. If I can reach out to touch and comfort just ne cancer sufferer, this book will not have been written in vain.
Are these stories an exercise in creativity or are they a remembrance of things past? How accurate is memory? Do we recall things just as they happened? Or do we weave new fancies? In other words, are my inner photographs real photographs or have they already been tinted and tainted by the heavy hand of creativity and falsehood? The truth is that I can no longer tell fact from fiction. Perhaps it was all a dream, a nightmare, rather, something that I just imagined. And perhaps every word of it is true. I no longer know.
More short fiction from Moore
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Bistro Two, a miscellany of metaphoric myths, is a collection of 39 pieces that lead the reader, step by step, through a maze of fictional creations, magical in their meanderings. It is the companion volume to Bistro, a collection of short fiction that became one of three finalists in the New Brunswick Book of the Year Award (prose fiction), for 2016. “Enjoy,” as the waitress will say when she offers you your chosen dish from the Bistro’s Menu, a menu that masquerades as a Table of Contents, with all offerings collected in alphabetical order.
Angels visit me regularly, here in Island View. They speak to me through the mouths of birds, butterflies, flowers, and the nocturnal animals on their nightly walk. I listen to them carefully, for they are the messengers of Gaia, the earth goddess. If we pay no attention to her words, earth with its flora and fauna, including human beings, will be in serious trouble, and that will come sooner, rather than later. Listen to the living creatures and remember St. Francis of Assisi who called them his brothers and sisters, for that’s exactly what they are. They are our extended family, and as we treat them, so Gaia will treat us, when our time is up and she calls us home.
I have written very little about this poetry collection. It celebrates the loss of my mother (1987) and I put it together following in the footsteps of Francisco de Quevedo’s famous sonnet, Amor constante más allá de la muerte / Love constant beyond death. The collection also owes a great debt to the Swansea poet Dylan Thomas and his poem And Death Shall Have No Dominion, words that have walked with me on a daily basis ever since I first read read and understood them. This book needs to be read aloud. When I read it in public, I ask the audience to close their eyes and just listen to sounds and colors. The poems herein should be read aloud, recorded, and listened to. Oral poetry to be read in a light Swansea accent, that’s what I use when reading it.
A narrative fable for modern times.
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Monkey Temple is a narrative fable for modern times written in verse. It traces the life and times of Monkey from his early days in the Monkey Temple at Bristol Zoo to his exit from the Temple precincts. The fables, created in the style of LaFontaine, are driven by Albert Camus’s Existential Theory of the Absurd. Add a narrative sequence in the style of George Orwell’s Animal Farm to the upside-down world of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Carnival and the guiding structure of this entertaining and ingenious work is in place. And remember: “Don’t put your fingers in the cages: these monkeys bite.”