Teddy and the Angels

Rosie, Teddy (BR, LR) Basil, and Orange (FR, LR). They are on holiday in Ste. Luce-sur-mer. Blueberry gets car sick and refused to travel.

Teddy and the Angels

Warm in Bed. Cozy. I roll over and the flashlight clipped to my Teddy Bear’s ear drives its hard, metal lump into my face.
            “Are you awake?” Teddy’s soft voice lilts across the pillow.
            “I am now.”
            “Look!” Teddy points with his little leather paw. “The moon: it’s climbing the fir tree.”
            Sure enough, a thin fingernail of gold is perched on a branch. It hides its face among the fir’s darkness and vanishes for a moment.
            “The maple tree has a garland of tiny Christmas lights,” says Teddy, pointing again.
            “Those aren’t Christmas lights, they’re stars.”
            “Spoilsport. Look, that one’s moving. I think it’s an angel.”
            “What time is it, Teddy?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “Here, lend me your flashlight.” I pull him towards me, switch on the torch, and focus its light on my wristwatch.  “4:55 AM. That’s the early morning flight from Toronto. It’s a plane.”
            “I’d much rather it was an angel.”
            “Me too.”
            “Can we pretend it’s an angel?”
            “Of course we can. But it’s gone now.”
            “Perhaps angels don’t live long when they come to earth.”
            “I think they live for ever. Especially if we believe in them.”
            “Do you believe in angels?”
            “I was taught to believe in my guardian angel.”
“What’s a guardian angel?”
“He’s the one who looks after you when you sleep at night.”
“But you don’t need a guardian angel. You’ve got me.”
“But you’re a teddy bear, not a guardian bear.”
“That’s true, but you’ve got Blueberry. He’s your guardian bear. Look at him standing there, on guard, all night long to protect you from the Night-Bumps.”
“Ah yes, good old Blueberry. I’ve got a busy day today. I need some more sleep.”
            “Okay. Blue berry and I will watch over you. I’ll watch over you. I’ll let you know if any more angels climb the tree.”
            “That would be nice. Now I’m going back to sleep.”
            “Good night. Or should that be ‘good morning’.”
            Some days, when I wake up, I think I have dreamed all of this. Other days, I believe in talking teddy bears and angels. Today, I’m not so sure.

Kite

Kite Flying

So light, the kite,
a butterfly in flight.

Breeze battered,
sky-blue shattered.

Children stare
seeing the wing-shape
fluttering there
rising on flimsy air.

Diving, dipping,
nylon cord slipping,
finger-flesh ripping.

Here come others,
children and mothers.

Butterflies, bright,
ready for flight,
fighting wind-might:
a child’s delight.

I didn’t have photos of a kite.
I offer some humming birds instead.
Listen closely:
you can hear them hum.

Dream

Fall Foliage

Dream

I dreamed last night
that angels lofted me
skywards and wrapped me
in cotton-wool clouds.

The nearest rainbow
was a helter-skelter
that returned me to earth
where I landed in
a pot of golden sunlight.

Red and yellow
were
my hands and face.
I stood rooted like
an autumn tree covered
in fall foliage with
no trace of winter’s woe.

“May this moment last
forever,” I murmured,
as the rainbow sparkled
and I rejoiced in
my many-colored coat.

Comment: I have noticed on several occasions that when I am reading a text, I change the wording on the page to a new wording that seems more in keeping with the rhythm of the moment. I see that I have done this here, more by accident than by plan. I have noticed this too when listening to Dylan Thomas’s recordings of his own verse. Each reading then becomes a new variant on the poem. In this case, I rather prefer the second variation, but I am not sure that I approve of the first one, nor nor do I approve of leaving words out. Naughty! I am afraid that I still haven’t developed the skill of reciting instead of reading my poems. I guess it will happen soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll just have to put up with these little flaws.

Dream … A poetry reading from One Small Corner
Fall Foliage in Island View

An Angel at Jarea

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An Angel at Jarea

An angel moves through the room
in the silences between our chatter.
He fills the interstices of speech
with the wonder of feathers
enlightened by rainbows.

Tranquil his footsteps
as we sense his presence.
He places his hand on an arm,
his arm around our shoulders,
and now, commanding silence,
a finger on his lips.

We sit here
scared by our intimate inadequacies,
scarred by the fierceness of our thoughts
as we sense the vacuum
of his soon-to-be absence.

Comment: The video reading of my poem follows. Ruby Allan, one of the five artists invited to participate in the first cohort at KIRA (2017) would always say, when a silence fell on the group, that ‘an angel is moving through the room’. This poem is dedicated to her, and to my friend, Geoff Slater, whose house and gallery we were visiting when the happenings depicted in this poem took place in June, 2017. Several years ago now, but I remember it like yesterday: a magic moment that I have tried to preserve in words. I could never have captured these moments in my verbal snapshots without the assistance of my friends. Thank you all so much.

 

Duende

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Duende
Federico García Lorca

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth,
you stand there, silent, wondering … can I?
will I?what if I can’t? … then a voice breaks
the silence, but it’s no longer your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark powers
volcanic within you, spewing forth their
lava of living words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, heart
by heart. Magic ends. The maelstrom calms.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell.
The Duende has left you. God is dead, deep
your soul’s black starless night. Exhausted,
you sink to deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the bottom of the bottle to save
your soul and permit you a temporary peace.

Comment: “Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende / All that has dark sounds has duende.” Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). García Lorca, an inspired and inspirational vocal performer, well understood those dark artistic powers that rise from a combination of earth, air, and fire to possess artists as they weave their magic, be it musical or verbal or a combination of both. Those who possess it know that they never really possess it, for it comes and goes with a will of its own and possesses them, body and soul, taking them over. Deus est in nobisit is the god within us, wrote the Romans with their understanding of the power of performance. And they are right. Those who possess it are changed by it, no longer know themselves, turn into something other than what they are and becoming something special. “Ah would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us” (Robert Burns). But what happens to us when the wondrous gift is taken away, when drab reality takes over from the glory of the stage, the spotlight, the performance of the play? That indeed is the question. And the answer varies with each of us.  I look with dismay on the comedians who, for one reason or another, when deprived of their audiences, have chosen the darkest of exits. The hollow shells of the performers who have given their all are sad things to behold. The existential emptiness that is left when the powers drain away is difficult to live with. That is why so many, faced with this darkness, akin to St. John of the Cross’ Noche Oscura del Alma / Dark Night of the Soul, chose not to live. That is not a choice that I will ever make. And I encourage all my friends to wait, to wait in patience and hope for the light, the glorious light and fire of the Duende, the Spirit that will return, will pluck us from the depths, and will raise us to the heights again.

Black Angel

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Black Angel

You cannot hide
when the black angel arrives
to knock on your door.

“Wait a minute!” you say,
“While I change my clothes
and comb my hair.”

But he is there before you,
in the clothes closet,
pulling your arm.

You move to the bathroom
to brush your teeth.

“Now!” says the angel.
Your eyes mist over.

You may know you are there,
but you can no longer see
your reflection in the mirror.

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Comment: Another Golden Oldie from the same dusty manuscript (as if e-files could get dusty), but a little bit more sinister, this one. As long as you can see your reflection and as long as your shadow is still clipped to your heels when the sun shines, you are probably all right. A friend of mine had a nasty turn the other night. He woke up with cramp at 3 in the morning, got out of bed to stretch, blacked out while he was stretching, and came round on the bedroom floor an hour later. It took him 10 minutes to roll over, perform a push up, get onto his knees, crawl to the chair, and pull himself upright. He climbed back into bed and forgot all about it until it was time for him to get up the next morning. Then he lay there worrying until the forces of nature forced him to his feet. Now he says he’s fine … he might be. I checked his shadow and it’s still there and when I talked with him on Messenger, he’d managed to shave.

Heroes

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Heroes

In 1898, when Spain lost Cuba, they lost the last vestige of their world-wide Empire and were forced to turn back in on themselves. Miguel de Unamuno, along with other artists from the Generation of ’98, turned to the concept of intra-historiaHistoria / history means the great historical events, battles and conquests, kings and kingdoms (how male it all was!). Intra-historia / intra-history meant the every day lives that ordinary people led, lives that had remained basically unchanged for centuries, except when the men who made history rode through.
Do the small things in life: that’s all most of us can do and have done, throughout the centuries. And we are the true heroes, certainly of intra-history, you and I, and people like us, because we have worked all our lives at our daily tasks, we have brought up our children, we have made the small, micro-world which we inhabit into a better place. Intra-history is dedicated to the house-wives and the house-husbands, heroes all, who have done those small things in life, walked the dogs, fed the chickens, milked the cows, gone out to work, day after day, to put food on the table, delivered and brought up the children, looked after the sick, assisted the dying on their departure from this world, buried them, and given them peace. Heroes all, especially in these times of troubles, I salute you. 
Nurses, health care workers, pharmacists, ambulance drivers, supermarket workers who allow us to bring the food to the table, care-givers, cleaners, garbage men, street-workers, heroes all, I salute you. It is time the ‘little people’ reclaimed their world and took it back for the REAL people, the real heroes.
So, my heroes, be brave, battle on, and accept this floral tribute.
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Settling Accounts

Empress 314

 

Settling Accounts

How did I earn my money? Let me count the ways.
Of madmen, priests and preachers, I sang the praise,
sinners all who tried to change my ways
by grooming me in all their awful styles
to share the sadistic rhythms of their wiles.

Then there were bosses, CEOs, and chief execs,
whose aim in life was troubling their employees,
the men for unpaid work, the women for sex,
and while we slaved, they lived a life of ease.

Senior teachers, department heads, and deans
reduced all genius to counting and recounting beans.
Those bean counters checking up on us, every hour,
flexing their muscles, overwhelming us with power.

Sometimes, at night, my nightmares fill with screams
as their abuse and privilege shake me from my dreams,
my dreams of freedom, sharing, caring, love, and joy,
all the small things I’d taken for granted when a boy.

In a twisted, corkscrew world we all must live
where the richest rob the poorest who work and give.
And even more shall be given to those who hold
while those who have-not labor and are sold.

A sad world this, but some things remain with me:
my power to dream, to create a legacy,
to mold still willing people with my voice,
to gift them beauty, thought, and power of choice.

Oh dreamers, join with me and sing, be it high or low,
but don’t forget your dreams, don’t ever let them go.

Comment: I went to pick up groceries today and sat in line, waiting in the car, rear hatch open, for 30 minutes. Unwilling to waste my time, I decided to write a poem. Oh dear: I had left my note book at home. I rummaged around the car and found a redemption slip from two years ago and a bank slip from last year. I wrote two poems, one on each of them, each poem thematically linked to the slip of paper it was written on. This is the bank slip poem. I’d say “Enjoy” except that this is what the waiter / waitress says each time s/he places a particularly unpalatable meal before me. Luckily this cannot happen anymore and I am eating delightfully well at home, thank you. I am not a Cordon Bleu Chef by any means, but I am a good one, having learned at my Welsh Grandmother’s knee when I was a tiny tot. Supper tonight: salmon and leek and potatoes! Cost: about $5. It would have cost fifty in a restaurant and it would have been half as good. So count your blessings: cooking and creativity are two of mine and yes, every time I look at what I have and see what so many others are missing … I break my heart.

 

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Hope

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Hope

Faith, hope, and charity
help us see with much more clarity.

We have faith in a vaccine cure,
though when it will happen,
we can’t be sure.

Charity comes from the rank and file
serving in supermarkets with a smile,
doctors and nurses work the day round.
On night shifts too, they can be found.

The garbage men, patrolling the street,
keeping homes and gardens neat,
tidy, clean and rubbish free,
helping to restore our sanity.

Police and army play their part
keeping us six feet apart,
doing the work we cannot do,
helping all not just the few.

Essential people, women and men,
bringing life back to normal again.

Comment: Many thanks to line painter Geoff Slater for this wonderful drawing from Scarecrow, one of my favorites. Scarecrow is a joint production between Geoff and I, with his drawings illustrating my story. This is the moment when Scarecrow dares to dream and hope that he will soon find and dance with his own beloved. Even in this current world of stress and sorrow, we are still allowed to have our hopes and dreams. Dream on my friends. Hope on. Hopefully this nightmare will soon be over.

Earth Bounty

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Earth Bounty
by
Victor Hendricken

 The paradox of life: in order to survive, we must consume; by consuming, we create waste; however, we do not see our waste as detritus, but as the product of living. 

Deep beneath earth’s surface, a miner drills a one and one-quarter inch hole eight to twelve feet deep into a rock face that is roughly twelve feet square. The miner repeats his task until the rock face resembles a block of Swiss cheese. Each hole is stuffed with explosive material. Then a blasting cap shaped like a metal matchhead, containing a fuse and trailing a wire pair sheathed in plastic, is gingerly inserted into each hole, buried up to twelve inches inside the explosive.

The miner and his partner (miners always work in pairs) connect the wires from each cap to a common grounded wire. The pair retreats to a safe area stringing out the grounded wire behind them, where they meet up with other pairs of miners waiting for permission from the mine captain to connect the trailing wires to an electrical junction box wired directly to a throw switch on surface. When all miners are assembled, they travel by hoist to daylight, where they hang their personal identification tags on the appropriate tag board confirming they are no longer in the deeps. The board is rechecked and the captain sirens a series of warning alarms and when certain that everyone is safe on surface closes the switch initiating the blast.  All drilled faces explode as one.

The miners hang their work clothes to dry, shower and change into street clothes. Some head home to family; some go to the bunkhouse kitchen; some seek out the comfort of a pub and the company of their workmates. No one is allowed to go underground again until the air is purged of dust and noxious gasses.

A miner drilling into rock containing copper in sulphide, oxide or elemental form is not thinking about copper pots for cooking, or copper wire for electrifying his house, or copper tubing to carry water from well to sink. He is fully engrossed in the task at hand: break the rock into manageable sized pieces and transport it from the deeps to the surface.  He is acutely aware of his dependence on number of feet advanced in the drift today, in the volume of ore bearing rock extracted from the stope.  He gives no thought to the growing piles of waste rock strewn about the nearby surface.

Out on the greenish grey ocean the fisher sets his traps. The location of each cage is identified by a floating coloured buoy.  The day is long and the sea rough.  In nearby locations, trawler lines and weighted nets are released to scavenge the ocean at various depths herding schools of many fish species to a common fate.  Some nets scrape the ocean floor to capture creatures succored there. Occasionally, fishers are forced to overnight on the ocean surface as their prey migrates below to nibble at the bait within the traps, to gather in large schools before the nets.

As each trap is hauled up, emptied and rebaited, the fisher is not thinking about lobster rolls. As he hauls in the bulging net and empties it into the ship’s hold, he is not thinking about blackened cod or fish cakes, sole adamantine or tender filet with baked potatoes and butter.  He is focused on hauling the catch from the deep ocean and filling the ship’s hold; delivering the dead and dying sea animals to the fish plant for processing into human and other food.  He does not count the discarded carcases of species that contaminate his daily catch.

The logger fells another tree, trims the branches and saws the tree into cordwood lengths. He inhales deeply while admiring his day’s work.  Chainsaw in hand, he does not think about houses or furniture.  He does not measure in board feet, nor does he envision dimensional lumber as he hews, stacks and hauls.  He focuses on cords piled, loads counted. Trees are objects to devour, not treasures to be taken.  He does not notice the acres of clear-cut whose topsoil will soon become prey to buffeting winds and torrential rain.

At the end of the day, perhaps on the empty street or in the local pub, the miner’s thoughts may wander to home, to sitting at his wooden table inside his wooden house, to eating a banquet of sautéed fish knowing only the supermarket as the meal’s origin.  At the end of the day, the fisher may walk the dark street from dock to home, peer down an alley dimly lit by doorways leading to cavernous public drinking places. He may wonder at the hidden resources protected by the alley, exposed by the alley. He will not wonder about the light’s source, the tungsten filament in the lamp, or the clinking glasses as he enters the pub.  At the end of the day, the logger will lay down his saw, turn in his axe, enter the pub from the street and take a seat near the alley door. He does not question the source of the fisherman’s platter he is served, nor does he think about the metal in the barroom tables and chairs, nor what goes into making a beer glass.  He marvels at the burnished wooden bar rail, harbours a fleeting image of his chainsaw.

When the three, the miner, the fisher and the logger, by happenstance meet, they do not tell secrets of their trade.  They speak instead of trivia and sports, avoid politics and talk of home. The angry metal teeth on the logger’s saw, the sharply honed edge of his axe, the height and girth of trees felled are no more in mind than the metal and wooden boat into which the fisher loads his catch, than the living, mineralized stope from which the miner draws his bonus.  Each protects his space as surely as a mother holds her child from nosy passers’ by.

Stories of mining pass only between miners; stories of fishing remain solely with fishers; stories of lumbering are wedged into spaces between lumberjacks.  No word is spoken of farmers plowing fields and harvesting crops.

And while we blithely drive our vehicles of iron, steel, copper and zinc, barbecue pink salmon and grey mackerel, slather slabs of butter on thick slices of homemade wheat bread, dance on decks of wood and nails and screws, the miner puts on his slickers and dons his hardhat and lamp; the fisher steps into his waterproof garb and rubber boots; and the logger twice ties his cork boots, sharpens his saw, and shoulders his axe.  The farmer quietly steps into his worn overalls, mounts his high-powered four-wheeled tractor and attacks worn out fields with plow and harrow.

Comment: This morning’s piece by my friend Victor. I publish it here with great pleasure. Victor has a sharp mind and an elegant pen. Hopefully, he will continue writing for me and, always with his permission, I will continue to publish his oeuvre.