Shower (A Selfie)

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Shower
(A Selfie)

I smell. I whiff. I gloriously stink.
My arms, my feet, my crotch, reek with beauty.
This is me. I am still alive. I’m rank.
The time has come, the Walrus said, to take
a shower. I strip. I weigh. I obey.

Hot water streams. Bathroom steams up. I draw
faces on grey glass, smiling, glum. Soft soap
works its miracle turning Japanese
nylon into a rough body cloth that
rubs and cajoles all putrid dirt away.

Butterfly from its chrysalis, I step
from the shower, sniff with caution, and stench
no more. I am clean. I no longer pong.
My body has been taken over by
perfumes no longer mine. Who am I now?

I am no more myself. I am no more
my own gorgeous underarm muscular
ripeness. I have left my odor circling
in the soap suds and drifting down the drain.
What a pain. It will take me a week or
more to start smelling like myself again.

Comment: The cartoon is today’s effort. I looked out of the window and saw all the garden plants with ‘no particular place to go’ and that’s how it is sometimes, especially at this time of year, the summer behind, us fall present , and the winter ahead. We are left with the tiding up, the readying for next year, a sense of sorrow, and a feeling of hope that yes, the garden will return and yes, we will be here to witness it.

So, what are the figures in my cartoon saying to each other? Well, they have been reading the wise words of my olde friend, Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself,” he told them, ” everybody else is taken.” What are they you ask? They are themselves, as I am myself, and you are yourself, and yes, I am very happy to be who I am. And of course, everybody else is taken, so who and what is there left for us to be?

On Learning Welsh

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On Learning Welsh
            Here I sit, an old man now, in front of my computer, learning at last my mother tongue, Welsh. English is the language of the invaders, the mine-owners, the men who own the steel works and foundries, and who rule this land with a fist of coal inside an iron glove. Welsh is the tongue of farmers and fishermen, of the villagers who live on the hills and tend the sheep and plant potatoes in tiny small holdings where only the fittest children survive.
My mother’s father was the last of us to speak Welsh. It was banned in our house because it was bad for the kids. In a working-class household, Welsh, be it language or accent, was a barrier to success. And success came from imitating your English betters, and climbing upwards, like a vine, or Jack on his beanstalk, until you achieved the impossible and talked and looked and dressed like them.
Sitting here, I have discovered the beauty of simple words, not so much their meaning as their sound, the way they flow, the poetry of remembered rhythms:
Cwmrhydyceirw, the Valley of the Leaping Stag, though legend has it that ceirw was really cwrw, and cwrw is beer, and its real name was the Valley of the Brown Stream Frothing like Beer.
Words have their own music, even if you cannot pronounce them properly: Mae hi’n bwrw glaw nawr yn Abertawe / it’s raining now in Swansea. Mae’r tywydd yn waeth heddiw / the weather’s worse today. Bydd hi’n dwym ddydd Llun / it will be warm on Monday. Why, oh why, in Wales, do we always talk about the weather?
Place names also have their own magic: Llantrisant, Llandaff, Dinas Powis, Gelligaer, Abertawe, Cas Newydd, Pen-y-bont … Meaning changes when you switch from one language to another:  gwyraig ty / a housewife, gwr ty / a househusband, a concept of equality that has ruled Welsh lives since Julius Caesar invaded Albion, coming from Gaul with his legions in 55 BC.
            Un deg chwech, dau deg saith, tri deg wyth, naw deg naw … The photographer asks me to speak in English, then in French, then in Spanish, then in Latin, and lastly in Welsh. He checks the memory card in his camera and looks puzzled.
“You put on a new face each time you speak a different language,” he tells me. “Look, this is when you spoke French.” He shows me the photo and yes, I look happy.
“And this is when you spoke Latin.” He holds out the camera and I see myself on the screen. I look ever so grim. English, French, Spanish, Latin, Spanish, and Welsh: all different and each language is a new a map carved into my face.  Am I a clown, then, a comedian, a chameleon to wear so many masks and to slip so easily from one to another? Which, then, is my language and where is the Old Red Sandstone from Wales into which I can carve my memories and my dreams? More important, which of those many tongues will shape my story as I sculpt each letter of my tale?

DIY Fridge Magnets

 

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DIY Fridge Magnets

Tired of your old fridge magnets? Worn out by dire warnings, by political slogans, by advertisements from unwanted people for even less wanted things? Join the club! I set it up yesterday: The DIY Fridge Magnet Recycling Club.

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Take that old magnetic advertisement for ‘who-knows-what’. If you don’t like the original photo, strip it off, some peel away with great ease. Others can be coloured over. In harder circumstances, you must stick  new painting surface over the old one. I use Crazy Glue for this quite simply because, yes, I know it’s a craze idea, and yes, crazy ideas not only work, they make and save money. When you have your new surface, paint away. I have used acrylic paints but I now use marker pens. Who cares? I’m crazy anyway. Who needs selfies? Here’s a self portrait, as stuck on my fridge. Crazy eh? Now you know exactly what I mean.

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Read My Book

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Read My Book

Of course, you don’t have to, if you don’t want to. More important, why spend  money on purchasing someone else’s words when you don’t have to? So here, for all you poor people, old and young, for penny-counters, penny-pinchers, and ultimate scroungers, here a is a free poetry book.

You don’t have to spend a penny (well, not in that way anyway) and all that poetry is all yours. Just click on the butterfly, decipher the words, and all my genius will be yours in the flick of a butterfly’s wings, be it Monarch, Red Admiral, Swallow-tail, or Indigo Bunting.

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Now tell me: what exactly is a butterfly kiss, or a butterfly’s sting? Answers on a postcard and in word-cloud form. And remember: there’s more to poetry than meets the eye.

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Carousel

Carousel

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Around and around a roundabout! I love it when the painted wooden horses open their mouths and rock up and down, and the little children hold out their hands to watching parents and grandparents, and big sisters and brothers hold them tight and keep them from falling off and the world passes by in a blur and open mouths are black holes in faces sucking the carousel in as it spins past in triumph.

And never forget the dodgem cars, weaving in and out, never dodging anything, but jousting like armor-clad knights of old, bumper to bumper, and ready, steady, charge! Or the old swing boats, twin-roped, non-mechanical, lifting us up to the skies and dropping us back to earth with that stomach-churning fall from stardom to the loss of innocence as the wooden break grinds, our thruppence is spent, and the ride is over.

Those days are as forgotten as one a penny, two a penny, or the tuppenny loaves that the elephants dropped, or the sing a song of sixpence where the twenty-four blackbirds descended like clothes pegs to devour the bread and honey and peck off the nose of the open-eyed innocent who never tired of the joke until the ultimate childhood squeal as his or her freckled or un-freckled nose was pinched and stolen away. So much lost, so much forgotten.

For two weeks now I have tried to photograph the hummingbirds, colibris, who visit the hollyhocks. Tonight, after a hundred or more photos, I managed to catch one in the fish-net of the camera. What joy: success after days and days searching for that delicate flash of red and green, only to find nothing there. Oh hummingbirds, I weep to see you, to capture you in the camera’s eye, to preserve you … for such a short, brief, moment of time.

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Wanderer

Wanderer
El Árbol de Tule

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So many tales are told about the árbol de Tule, that thousand year old tree standing outside the city of Oaxaca. Hernán Cortés is said to have sat beneath it when he came to Oaxaca in 1525, or thereabouts. And it was old then, and famous in folklore. The tree is also famous for the pictures that nestle in trunk and branches. For small change, the little boys, released early from school, will point their mirrors up, into the tree, and spotlight with reflected sunshine the features that you seek. A thousand years, or more, have produced a thousand images, or more. Even the face of  Hernán Cortés himself is said to be captured somewhere along the tree-trunk’s art gallery, if you can only find it.

Like Borges’s eternal library, your own portrait can be found there, somewhere. You must search patiently for it, staring into the tree bark until it takes on your features. Then you can move on, knowing that whatever happens you will be caught forever in the life of one of the world’s wonders: el árbol de Tule. But beware of imitations and avoid the plastic imitations and the photos from cheap camera’s that will trap your soul forever, leaving no trace of you in the real world. Ignore these warnings at your peril, or you too will be locked into your cell phone and sentenced to life imprisonment within those digital walls.

F-F-F-Forgetting

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F-F-F-Forgetting

    The apps and programs that no longer work. The computer files you can no longer access. The photos that vanish leaving a blank space in the album.
Now your memory goes on the blink and you forget faces and voices, friends, phone numbers, addresses, street names, the houses where people live, when to turn, where the best parking spots are, how far you can walk, where you were really going, and what you were sent out to buy.
Snow banks don’t help: that banked-up whiteness, that sticking out of the car’s snout into traffic, that stretch of your neck peering round corners. How many number plates have vanished into those white mists? How many cars? How many phone numbers have you forgotten?
You have forgotten the birthdays of your closest family and friends. When was your father born? When did he die? When and where did you bury him? Did you actually scatter his ashes or did someone else do it for you? When was your cousin born? When did he die? How close were you at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end? What color were his eyes, his hair? Did he even have any, hair, I mean of course?
What happened to that carton of eggs you abandoned in the store? Do you remember buying it, let alone leaving it there? How about your brothers, their faces, the sound of their voices? Did your own voice change when you emigrated?
Have those who live in Australia forgotten that they are Welsh? Do they speak like Australians, now, or do they still have those rich Welsh voices and rhythms that nobody in Wales ever wanted because they made us stand out when we moved, unwanted, to England? How many times have we, the Welsh, heard those threatening words: why don’t you go back home to Wales. Countless times, no doubt. In fact you have forgotten how many and you have forgotten so much.
Do you remember the parking spot in which you left your car? Do you recall your number plate or what model your car is, or what color?
“What day is it today,” you ask, for the second or third time. “I’m sure I know you,” you say to a friend who stops to talk to you in the shopping mall, “but I’m sorry, I can’t remember where we met and I can’t remember your name.”

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