Trinity

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Kingsbrae 22.4
22 June 2017

Trinity

A coming together of cultures,
these three statues, placed
equidistant, an equilateral
triangle, all things being
equal and none more equal
than others; three brothers;
mother, father, child; father,
son, and holy ghost: no women
there; perhaps three founding
cultures: English, French, and
Indigenous,  in alphabetical
order; and there they stand,
face to face to face,
a triangulation, in profile,
silhouetted, sharing positive
and negative space; and, at the dead
center of their union, at the spot
where all is still and nothing moves,
a living space, that takes away
your breath when you breathe
in air and light and sun and
a renewed hope; then faith runs
tingling round your body with
joy and life and love reborn.

Petroglyphs

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Un Verraco
a Celtic Stone Bull
One of the four
Toros de Guisando
700 BCE (?)

Kingsbrae 6.3
6 June 2017

Petroglyphs
&
Other Myths

(for Elise)

Writing on rock,
the words carved in stone,
imposed on earth’s bones,
sentenced for meaning.

This wise woman,
gifted with second sight,
looks deep in the rock
where stone spirits dwell,
sees with unearthly eyes
the stone soul in its residence.

She carves and shapes,
plucks out rare beauty
holding it up
for those of us who have eyes,
but cannot see.

Gentle her fingers,
harsh the rock,
troublesome the birth
that is beauty
drawn from the entrails
of our earth.

Proud mother,
birthing the soul-stone
from its amniotic
sea of rock.

Comment: The four Toros de Guisando are pre-Christian stone bulls, carved by the Vettones, the local Celtic tribe of the Spanish Province of Avila, north-west of Madrid. The Vettones carved sheep, pigs, and horses as well as stone bulls. The carvings were probably used as route markers, land markers, and markers for pasturage rights. In addition, they are often associated with burials and deaths and may have been used as grave markers. There are many such carvings in the Province of Avila, and the squares, streets, and parks of the capital city abound with them.

There is something about the texture of their stonework, especially on a warm summer’s day. Place your hand upon them and they seem to be filled with a secret life, flowing like blood beneath the stone’s surface. Graffiti were plentiful in the Roman Empire, and here the pre-Roman Celtic carvings were defaced by one of the Roman legions as they passed through. The following video will give some idea of the bulls. Alas, there was no orchestral music when I visited the bulls: we were surrounded by a stony silence.

Skeleton in the Cupboard: Flash Fiction

 

Skeleton

Skeleton in the Cupboard

Spring sunshine and I pull out my old summer coat, the one with its pockets stuffed full of memories and dreams. It hides all winter in the clothes cupboard and I free it each spring with the melting snow and the tiny tongues of grass that push through the winter debris that covers the lawn in early April.

Battered and bruised, its elbows discolored where the dry cleaner’s chemicals left disfiguring splodges, it has served me for twelve long summers. It is my constant warm-weather companion, hanging on my arm, my shoulders, gracing me with its comforting presence. Everywhere I travelled for the last twelve years, it has accompanied me.

It is shabby now and grubby. Wine from the bars in El Rincón, El Rastro, El Portalón, Casa Guillermo and many other landmarks have fallen upon it. Octopus, squid rings, mussels, clams, shrimp, goose barnacles, and various types of omelet have left their marks upon it. The English language, with its fish and chips, its bangers and mash, and its sosi, jegg and chips, all bourgeois meals, can never do justice to the pure poetry of Spanish tapas whose names roll off the tongue: pulpo, calamares, mejillones, almejas a la marinera, gambas a la plancha, percebes, tortillas españolas y vegetales. Here I spot a golden stain from riñones al jerez and there a black one from calamares en su tinta.

Weathered by wind and rain, this coat has climbed El Zapatero and walked with the transhumance herds up and down the old Roman road of the Puerto del Pico. It has followed the Ruta de la Plata, the silver trail that led from South America to Sevilla and up the Silver Road past Ávila to Madrid. It has walked through the house in El Barco de Ávila and seen the kitchen where they tore down a wall and found a walled up library, just like the one described by Miguel de Cervantes in the Quixote. It held books proscribed by the Spanish Inquisition that had been hidden away since 1556. It has walked through Piedrahita, San Miguel de Corneja, and Villatoro. It has walked the streets and squares of St. Teresa’s walled city of Ávila on multiple occasions and knelt with me, in prayer, before many a saint on many an altar.

It kept me warm in the hills around Gredos when the mists dropped suddenly down and turned warm day into freezing night. It accompanied me to the Monasterio de Yuste, where the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Fifth, retired to live out his days in prayer. It visited the spice towns of La Vera, and ventured into Garganta de Olla, to walk those ancient streets with me. It walked with me in the birthplace of St. John of the Cross and entered with me the depths of the earth where the verdejo is stored in huge oak barrels deep below the town of La Seca.

This old coat keeps its secrets. It remembers the moon hanging its lantern above the battlements on the Paseo del Rastro. We wandered there, she and I, arm in arm, entranced by the shadows that danced on the Medieval walls. When she shivered, I wrapped her in that coat and still it holds the perfumes of her body, the warm touch of her skin, the enchantment of those magic nights when the world stood still and we lay alone at its centre. Oh, and that green stain, there, at the back: that’s where I lay my coat on the grass in the little park under the walls by El Puerto de San Vicente, the one where the lovers go, late at night, beneath the trees, to be together in their loneliness …

Comment: A long time after posting this story, enlightenment knocked at my door. The new cartoon that I had used to illustrate My Old Coat was called Skeleton. Surely, I thought to myself, given the story’s ending, Skeleton in the Cupboard would make a better title. And it would. And I have changed it. A little bit of serendipity at a time (+3C outside the week after Easter) when I need some sunshine in my life. Any comments on the use (or overuse) of Spanish in this story would be very welcome. Best wishes to all my faithful (and unfaithful) readers.

Metalanguage

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Metalanguage I

I wonder what I’m doing here, so far from home, sitting
at the bar, with my beer before me, my face distorted
in half a dozen esperpentic mirrors, surrounded by
people half my age, or less, all smoking, cursing, using
foreign forms of meta-language, gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose, two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin with a sort
of snort of disapproval. It’s way beyond my bedtime; yet
I am held here, captured, body and soul, by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual that runs on unbroken
cycles of time: morning coffee, pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal, a brief siesta, back to the café
for a post-prandial raising of spirits, more coffee, then back
to work at four and struggle on until seven or eight when
the bar routine begins again with pre-supper tapas and wine.
Time, divorced from this cycle now lacks meaning.
Time within this cycle is meaningless too.

El Rincón
03 VIII 2005

Metalanguage II

I wonder what I’m doing here,
so far from home,
sitting at the bar, my beer before me,
my face distorted in half a dozen
fairground mirrors,
surrounded by people half my age,
or less, all smoking, cursing,
using foreign forms of meta-language,
gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose,
two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin
with a sort of snort of disapproval.

It’s way beyond my bedtime;
yet I am held here,
captured, body and soul,
by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual
that runs on unbroken cycles of time:
morning coffee,
pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal,
a brief siesta,
back to the café for a post-prandial
raising of spirits,
more coffee,
then back to work at four
and I struggle on until seven or eight
when the bar routine begins again
with pre-supper tapas and wine.

Time,
divorced from this cycle
now lacks meaning.

Time
within this cycle
is meaningless too.

Idlewood
24 IX 2016

Black Angel

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I first saw the Black Angel in Aldebarán’s cultural store in Ávila (2006). She sat there, in the shop window, along with several other angels, and I worshiped her from the distance of the street. Her image was taken from an original painting from Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400-1464). This was turned into a 3-D image and then converted into the statue I saw in the shop window.

I brought the statue back to Island View, placed it on the shelf above the fireplace, where it still rests, and wrote several poems on the theme of Angels. I gathered them together in a chapbook entitled All About Angels that I self-published in Fredericton in 2009. The chapbook was dedicated to Clare’s great-aunt, D. E. Witcombe who departed this world on October 15, 2008.

All About Angels was also based on a book of a similar title, Sobre los Ángeles, written by Rafael Albertí, one of the poets of Spain’s Generation of 1927. I avoided the ambiguity of the Spanish title — Sobre (in Spanish) can mean Above or Beyond as well as About — by limiting my own title to All About Angels.

For Carl Jung, angels are the messengers sent to inform people of the state of their world. For me, they are also the wild creatures that inhabit the world around me and often take the form of birds and other spiritual creatures. They can be best seen in those moments of solitude when we are most open to the natural world around us. Then, and sometimes only then, we can hear the urgent messages they bring.

 

Black Angel

You cannot hide
when the black angel comes
and knocks on your door.

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

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

Angel Choir

(on seeing the Northern Lights at Ste. Luce-sur-mer)

listen to the choristers with their red and green voices
light’s counterpoint flowering across this unexpected son et lumière
we tremble with the sky fire’s crackle and roar

once upon another time twinned in our heavenly prisons
we surely flew to those great heights and hovered in wonderment
now our earthbound feet are rooted to the concrete
if only our hearts could sprout new wings and soar upwards together

the moon’s phosphorescent wake swims shimmering before us
the lighthouse’s fingers tingle up and down our spines
our bodies flow fire and blood till we crave light and yet more light
yet when the lights go out we are left in darkness

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 Croaking Angels

Their tunes are one note symphonies,
croaks of joy
moving their fellows to ecstasy,
exhorting them to share
the splendors of ditch life,
in a springtime bonding
that will loft them to the skies.

There’s an ancient magic in this calling:
love and laughter,
moonlight and water,
all the joyous things
one links with spring.

Moonlight swings its cheerful love lamp.
New leaves and buds are also known to sing.