Poetry Painting

Poetry Painting

This was a totally new experience: a poem written over a painting that linked visual to verbal. I tried several versions of the words and have come up with a better one… but, once the words are on the canvas, it’s so hard to change them. The spoken word, once loosed, can never be recalled.

Our New Brunswick leaves have gone already. We are looking at ships’ masts, sails unfurled, in an anchored harbor. Further south, Thanksgiving is here. My distant neighbors and friends are contemplating turkeys and family gatherings and all that is good about harvest festivals and the end of the productive year, the agriculturally productive year, that is. Below them, in Mexico, the land of four continuous harvests, growth continues.

The cycle of the seasons rolls on and on. In the British Isles Woodhenge has turned into Stonehenge. Four thousand five hundred years of history measured in stone circles, seasonal star and sun points, times for sowing and harvesting. Absolutely bewilderingly marvelous. More than 5,500 standing stone calendars can be found in those islands.

And here, in my painting, leaves, letters, words deliver a message of intertextuality. Change is upon us. We live with it, focus on it, describe it in words. Each letter, each word, is a leaf on the tree, falling or soon to fall.

Autumn Leaves

Catch them
if
you can.


Catch them
while
you can.

Autumn Leaves.
Don’t grieve.
Close the door
when she is gone.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Autumn Leaves

Heart Ache

Hope Fall

Heart Ache

My heart is an empty nest, all feelings
fledged and flown. I yearn for the warmth
St. Kevin felt when the blackbird settled,
nested in his hand, laid her clutch of eggs.

Oh, the cold dark stare of the under-earth,
growing its cold chill upwards through feet and knees,
and the winter branch stiffness of hands frozen
into concrete branches, week after week, until
the blackbird’s eggs are hatched and fledged.

No saint am I. Just a father deprived of his distant
child, of his granddaughter developing, growing
older and wiser without him there to help her
on her way, or hinder, as old men often do,
unaware of the changing times and the ferocious
pull of new ideas, new tides, the swashbuckling
effects of the new world now upon us, a world
we oldlings, so long ago fledged and flighted,
will never understand nor grasp. How could we?

And yet that hand stretches out from the window
of the cells that hold us, bind us, imprison us,
and make us realize how strong are the wings
of love that flutter in our ageing hearts.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Heart Ache

Remembrance day

Remembrance Day

Memories deceive me with their falsehoods, flashing
shadow shapes, shifting with a move of the fingers,
dog into man, shift, man into a frightened mouse,
squeaking, like the ungreased iron-rimmed wheels
on a farm-cart with its load of hay and snapping dogs.
Watch out for the horse’s sideways kick, for the sting
of the farmer’s cruel whip, for the dogs’ white teeth.

What magic lantern now slips its subtle slides
across night’s screen? Desperate I lap at salt-licks
of false hope that increase my thirst and drive me
deeper into thick, black, tumultuous clouds.

My grandfather in the trenches, drenched in a gas cloud,
groping, choking, invalided home, returning, so brave,
to face that gas grave again and again, only to cough up
the last of his tortured lungs thirty years later. I remember
him bent over the table, struggling for breath, balancing
his hesitant life against an immanent death. Today it is

so different. A pandemic storm lays waste to memories
that dog my mind. At night a black dog hounds me, sends
my head spinning, makes me chase my own tail, round
and round. It snaps at dreams, shadows, ghosts of family
members who drift, slowly fading, through my mind.

I try to track them through Ancestry, through Tarot Cards
and Tea Leaves but they are all lost in a Mad Hatter’s
illusion of a dormouse adrift in a teapot in an unkempt
nursery rhyme of a tail within a tale and hunter home
from Caer-Filthy hill, I return to find my house empty,
my deserted body devastated, my future a foretold mess.

Click on the link for Roger’s reading.
Remembrance Day

Spirit Dance

Spirit Dance
Thursday Thought

One of my best friends came over today and we talked. We also went out shopping: blinds and curtain rails. I can no longer put them up. He can. We had a fun time. So much exchange of information in the car and in the store and afterwards, coming home.

We left the mounting of blinds and curtains for another day. But I invited him to choose a painting from my collection to recompense him for his time, his care, his attention, his help, and to thank him for his friendship and his reaching out. He chose this one, Spirit Dance, the one above, quite unique, one of my favorites. It was one of two that he liked. This was the other to which he aspired.

I asked him to help me choose a painting for the cover of my last book, Stars at Elbow and Foot, and this is what he selected. It is now on the cover of the book. He has a great eye for art. Well, it matches mine and he chooses my favorites. So I am happy with that.

But my Thursday Thought is this: in writing we say “kill your darlings”. Meaning, there are some great ideas in our poems, stories, novels, but they don’t quite fit. We love them. But we must kill them and cut them out. Sure we save them for later, but oh, do they ever belong.

I have never sold a painting. I cannot say ‘money talks’ like another of my friends, because to me it doesn’t. El Poema de Mio Cid: ‘partieron como la una de la carne‘ — they parted like the nail from the flesh. But, as another friend of mine, a preacher, said, when I visited my father in hospital: “there are no pockets in shrouds — you can’t take it with you.”

I am grateful to my friend for accepting the gift of my painting. I know he will cherish it and that it will be happy with him. But oh, I miss it. No: I don’t want it back. I want it loved and appreciated and yes, I know that when I go, I will not be able to take it with me. Nor any of the others. Does anybody want to adopt them, my beloved children?

Click here for Roger’s live reading.
Spirit Dance

Le Mot Juste

Danzante
dancing with joy!

Le mot juste

Searching for what exactly?
For the exact word, le mot juste,
the word that sums it all up,
catches the essence of the thing
and holds it in the mind forever.

Le mot juste? Think color.
Think color blind. Think blind.
Think of the world we see
reduced to grey scale.
Think of the seven colors
that stripe the rainbow sky,
each with a unique name:
it seems so easy, so simple.

But the world has changed.
Think now of the computer,
its screen more accurate
than the human eye and color
coordinated by a million or more
tiny little pixels that multiply
the seven rainbow colors
by a million or two and every
color numbered beyond
the recognition point
of the human eye: le mot juste
reduced to precision of number.

Think flowers. Think scent.
Think of the limited ways
we describe the smell of things.

I look across the breakfast table
and see my wife of fifty years,
a teenager reborn, walking into
the café where we first met.
I search my memory and my mind
for the words to describe that beauty,
that surge of excitement,
but I cannot find les mots justes.

Click on link for Roger’s reading
Le mot juste

Songs of Praise

Songs of Praise

Who has seen the early spring wind drifting
its thought-clouds across the grass, moving
shadows over the lawn’s green, thrusting spikes.

Sometimes, I speak my thoughts aloud, hoping
that nobody can hear or see them as they leave
migratory footsteps across my mind.

Autumn now and I watch the wind twist
leaves from the tree. Yellow and red,
they flee from me. I do not understand
their reluctance to stay, their urge to tear
away and leave. The birds must leave for they
cannot bear the cold, cannot stay without food.

At night, when I close the garage door, I sing
hymns to the trees and to him who always hears.
Each note forms like a pea in the pod of my throat
and launches itself skywards, migrating upwards,
in a feathered flock that celebrates in songs.

Words, migrant birds, their flight unplanned,
will not stay still, will neither perch, nor gather,
nor feed from the outstretched hand.

Click on link for Roger’s reading.
Songs of Praise.

Late Fall

Late Fall

Late fall with falling leaves,
trees stripped wind-blown bare,
and winter drawing close.

The huntsman, the archer,
the Cerne Abbas Giant,
Hercules and his club
walking high in the sky, a dog
forever at their heels, ever faithful,
ever true. Star-jewels line his belt,
where the star-sword swings,
the bow, and all his magnificence
displayed before us.
Bow down before him and rejoice.

The year is turning,
or has turned and we are turning
with it. Back to our pasts,
on to our futures, or else we stand
here, gazing skywards,
our feet mired in the present,
minds locked, nowhere to go.

Click on the link for Roger’s reading.
Late Fall


Memory Test

Memory

I did the memory test today. It’s hard to believe

that tomorrow I may not know where I am

nor what is the day. Others have passed this way,

none to my knowledge in my family. Sorrow gnaws

the red bone of my heart. The lady at the doctor’s

counter says she is seventy. Her bed-ridden mother,

for whom she seeks medicinal solace is ninety-eight.

Her mind, she says, is as sharp as a needle or a knife,

or a blade of grass. What dreams, I wonder, flit

through her head at night? Does she recall her child

hood with its pigtails, the first young man she kissed,

church on Sundays, the genders carefully segregated,

driving there in the family horse and cart? Thunder rolls

and shakes my world’s foundations; a storm watch,

followed by storm warnings, walks across my tv screen.

Lightning flashes: memories, are they made of this?

Click on the link for Roger’s reading.
Memory Test

Selfie with First Frost

Selfie with First Frost

The back ground is dark green, or should be. We have red and yellow leaves, of course, this is New Brunswick, Canada. And the white flecks are the frost on the grass. Lovely.

Look closely and you can see bits of me reflected in the glass of the painting. That’s why it’s a selfie. Not a total one, but a teeny little bit of one. How much of ourselves do we ever capture, in a photo, a painting, a poem, a piece of prose? Not much, I guess. And is it the real ‘us’ anyway? I very much doubt it.

Does it matter? No. If you want to see the real me, come and visit. But, be prepared: I am not who I seem and I am desperate to hide the real me from the real world. You may catch glimpses. And that’s about it.

And I have a cat, just like that. Runs to the basement, hides beneath a chair, sits and purrs in her basket, sleeps on the bed at night, winds herself round my knees at feeding time, is and isn’t, just like all pussy cats. And aren’t we all like that? Here today and gone tomorrow. All that joy and all that sorrow.

Enjoy us while you can. And can-can while you can-can!

Universitario Rugby Club, Santander

Universitario Rugby Club, Santander.

This photo just reappeared on Facebook, posted 17 October 2016. I couldn’t believe it then, and I can hardly believe it now. What an honor. What memories. Imagine: immortalized on a beer pump in the bar of a foreign-to-me-now rugby club.

“There is some far corner of a foreign bar
that is forever Canada, and Wales.
And in that bright brew,
a shadow will remain,
a memory, ghosting through,
whose stay was not in vain.”

Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity. The Olde Order changeth lest one good custom should corrupt the world. The memories fade as faces age and friends grow distant. They fade away like dreams in the early light of day.