Gambit 1

Gambit 1

She’d been there.
She’d have walked
those waxed floors,
looked down at her feet
to see her face distorted
in the elbow-grease
of sheen and shine.

Alone, she was, all alone,
abandoned.
Tonight, on her birthday,
I feel the chill hand
of her sorrow
clutch my heart.

Who can reach in,
who can melt the iceberg
rising beneath my ribs?
Who can warm chilled bones,
charm lost feelings
back into throbbing life?

Gone, all gone,
lost, forgotten, forsaken,
abandoned
on those same ice floes,
where she walked on thin ice,
with the darkest depths
calling out to her from far below.

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Gambit 1

Comment: My mother, had she lived, would have celebrated her 109th birthday. Watching Episode One of The Queen’s Gambit, I was overwhelmed by what my mother must have felt, all those years ago, when she lost another child. Did she actually feel and think in manner portrayed above? I’ll never know now.

Speaking

Speaking

I speak to a generation
I cannot see
as others in the past
have spoken to me
in languages I had to learn
words in books
hand-written on paper
or carved in stone

who now will listen with their eyes
as I have listened with mine
adding subtracting challenging
sometimes blindly accepting

my world is not their world
nor is their world mine

yet the sun still rises
the same moon
waxes and wanes

hate happens
yet hope and wisdom
still remain

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Speaking



Hollyhock

Hollyhock

Is it a silken purse
made from the pig’s ear
of its seed pod,
or just a single seed
excreted by
an incontinent bird?

Its bruised
evening-sky hues
stretch their emperor’s
imperial purple all too thin.
In the late summer sun
it swallows one errant bee
in its leviathan mouth.

Sole survivor,
from a score of flowers
that once climbed
the seven foot,
eight foot stalk
to sway in the wind,
it stands on guard
against fall cold
and winter’s snow.

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Hollyhock

Comment: I didn’t like the ending to the earlier version, so, when it came to reading it, I rewrote it first instead. I much prefer this version. Apologies to those who read the earlier words.



Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Long gone, those good old days, dead and gone,
their centers collapsed in on themselves
unable to hold on to time’s hands
circling the clock of ages, that timeless rock.

Beyond these days, long days when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier and even more heavy
with life lying in wait, to weigh us down,
always lying, and the lies themselves
more rocks added to the pile we must carry.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this endless hill only to have them roll down,
again and again, forcing us to stoop once more,
not to conquer, but merely to live our lives,
to journey onwards, relentlessly, to endure
from the beginning of the end until the last,
and we must endure, will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

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Sisyphus




Quilting

Quilting

A man among many women,
I sit silent, feeling their eyes
explore my flesh, my stitches.

I need glasses now for delicate
needlework. To thread a needle
the workshop leader has a gadget.

It passes from hand to hand,
ties the perfect quilter’s knot.
My grandpa’s canvas sewing kit,

World War One Vintage, served him
before the mast and in the trenches.
From it, I take a small looped wire.

I remember when I could see and he
could not, hence his need for me
to thread the needle and knot the knot
that he could no longer knot.

Now I choose my tiny patches,
join them, stitch them into a square
and, ironed out, into the quilt.

We must sign them, and I do.
My name and little sayings
in Spanish, Latin, and Welsh.

The leader asks me to translate them
then writes the meanings down.
“Beautiful work,” she tells me.

“Where did you learn to sew?”
I close my eyes, sew my lips tight.
Some secrets I’ll never let go.

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Quilting

Comment: I wrote this after reading the section entitled Quilt in M. Travis Lane’s book A Tent, a Lantern, An Empty Bowl (Windsor: Palimpsest Press, 2019). Poems that could double as paintings, proclaims the paragraph on the back cover. I have no such talent. My own poem is more of a memoir in the form of a narrative sequence. To each his or her own, or, in the modern parlance, to all their own. And a poet must do what a poet can do, each of us adding our own little offerings to the great sea that is poetry.








Grief

Grief

Grief leads us to the cliff’s edge.
It hardens our features,
brings tears to our eyes,
or turns our hearts into stones,
hard as rocks, cement blocks
that feel nothing.

Sometimes it pushes us
over the edge and we fall,
down, down, into a darkness
that never, ever seems to end.

Friends desert us.
Food is fruitless and fallow.
Our table top is a desert,
barren and bare,
with a lone and level
patchwork cloth that stretches
into far-reaching Saharas,
Gobi wastes of endless sand.

Who will resurrect the dying heart?
Who will hold it in their hands
and bring it pulsing back to life?
If you won’t do it for yourself
nobody else will care to try.

Think of the happy times,
the times when the sun shone,
the earth was warm,
and your life was a walk
in a garden full of flowers.

Then feel the sharp stones
beneath your feet and know
that joy and sorrow,
laughter and tears,
sun and clouds and rainbows too
will always grow
to lighten the lives
of all of us who dwell below.

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Grief


The Way

The Way

Old Roman Road
Puerto del Pico


I sought the way and thought
I had found the way, but now
I feel I have lost my way.
Long walked I in shadow and sun,
hard Roman road beneath my feet.

Then I found bleached beach sand,
heard the sea-gull’s piercing sound,
walked sun-path, moon-path, bright
across a shimmering bay and knew
that by chance I had found my way.

Then came the way of ice and snow,
Hudson Bay parka, the ski way,
the snow shoe way of winter boots,
and still I believed, eyes wide open
that I knew I was still on the way.

Now my feet are old and slow.
Blood runs cold, bones ache,
head spins, heart is an ambush,
lungs throb and clutch at air,
head in hands I sit in despair,
hoping to be found,
draped over a shoulder,
brought safe to flatter ground,
comforted, and set again on my way.

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The Way

Knowledge

Knowledge

“Knowledge: that which passes
from my notes to your notes
without going through anyone’s head.”

aka
Filling empty heads.”

I came here a beggar, begging bowl
in hand, begging for knowledge,
at the seat of all knowledge,
from the hands of those who knew.

They fed me, taught me,
brought me into knowledge,
as they knew it, but I yearned
for more, so much more.

I found it, one morning,
in my morning mirror, shaving.
I looked into my own eyes and asked:
“What are you teaching?”

My answer: words and empty words,
formulae handed down to me
over generations of people
who thought they thought because
they repeated what others had thought.

This was not what I sought.
Then, and only then, did I look
into the eyes of those I taught,
those who sought knowledge from me,
in all my worthlessness,
and I asked them what did they need,
what did they want to know,
and why did they want this knowledge.

Then I asked them how I could help them
to attain that knowledge for themselves
and to use it to construct their own lives,
on their own, without interference and shame
as I had never done.

Then, and only then, did I know
I had become a teacher in the true sense
of the word, and that together with me,
my students had learned to teach themselves
multiple ways in which to grow.

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Knowledge

Monarch

Monarch

I saw a monarch butterfly today.
A slow soul at summer’s end
slipping, fluttering quietly away.

This has become a regular trend:
scanning the obituaries every morning
in search of yet another lost friend.

Sad, this morning, to be mourning
the passing of someone I never knew,
a butterfly, lost, at the day’s dawning.

The news brings few things that are new,
with talk show hosts, all self-engrossed,
going on and on about the privileged few.

Monarchs and butterflies will perish too.
I soon will join them. Just like you.

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Monarch