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.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
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.








Do Not Keep Count

Do Not Keep Count
On reading Keeping Count
poems by M. Travis Lane


Poems to be picked at
like a bunch of verbal grapes,
muscatel, perhaps, purpling,
seedless, their only off-spring
flowing through your mind.

Pluck one at random.
Hold its silken surface to the light.
Admire sunlight caressing
the unwrinkled skin.
Now taste it.
Savour it slowly,
tongue-held in your mouth.

Watch the world around you
changing as you see things
in so many different ways.
Everything moves into a new orbit.
Your world – born anew.

Just one?
No.
You cannot stop at one.
Taste another. Then another.
Do not keep count.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Do Not Keep Count

Comment: Sitting at my kitchen table, picking at Travis’s poems as I would pick at grapes, or flowers, I wrote this poem. Yesterday, Travis gifted me with her poetry book Keeping Count (Guelph, Gordon Hill Press, 2020). I hope my admiration for the poetry of M. Travis Lane – who has received less attention than she deserves (according to Maisonneuve) – shines though the words and images in this poem of mine.

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.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
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.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Way

Portrait of Moo

Moo by Fin

Finley has left. She has left me with a selection of her art and instructions to ‘show it to the world’. S o, here we have the Portrait of Moo by Fin. I guess many of you don’t know who Moo is, but don’t worry about it, neither do I and Fin has been busy for three weeks, trying to work it out for herself. Oh dear – what can the matter be? Finish the song for yourself, if you remember it in any of its many versions.

Meanwhile, I go back to my old friend, Robbie Burns, with whom I spoke only yesterday. He spoke to me through my eyes and, as I sat there talking, I digested his words of wisdom: “Ah would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.” The giftie gie us is, as you well know, the Scottish dialect for what comes out in Standard English as the gift give us.

So that’s how Fin sees Moo. When I next meet him, if he cares to show up chez nous, I will show him Fin’s portrait and ask him what he thinks. Until then, his identity – and I am assuming he is a he not a she – must remain a mystery as mysterous as this mysterious painting that appeared on my desk.

Cloud of Unknowing

Cloud of Unknowing

Sometimes the yearning heart
wraps itself in a cloud of unknowing.
Then come doubts and fears and a sense
of being alone and abandoned,
adrift on a rising sea, with night
drawing nigh and no horizon in sight.

But, at the centre of that cloud
that aching heart still thirsts
for cool water to soothe and cure
the ills of an internal world
that seeks a lighthouse on a shore
yet finally finds that light within itself,
and then is safe, and lost no more.

Fin on Swing

Fin on Swing

So, how do you get movement into a two-dimensional space? How do you get the to and fro, the up and down, the legs out front, the hair out back? And there are so many things missing. The alpacas watching. The goats guzzling. The peacock making whatever noise a peacock makes. Oh dear, I forgot all of those things. But then, I was never a great artist – just a dabbler in line and color, in sorrow and joy, but joy and happiness, shape and color, emotions above all. And when childhood meets second childhood – then there is joy and laughter and swings that go faster.

Blue Birds Over

Blue Birds Over

There used to be “Blue birds over, the White cliffs of Dover” – and I remember how white and bright they were, when I was a teenager, returning from my summers in France and Spain, to see them, shining, and to know that I would soon be back in England – an England I no longer recognize.

Windmills, cliffs collapsing, line-ups for miles of trucks and traffic waiting to make their way into a Europe that we rejected. I remember travelling to France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal and always being welcome. I remember the days when, as a pre-teen and an early teen, visas were still necessary for entry into some countries. And I remember how, later, with a European Passport, I was welcomed as a member of a larger community.

The Latin Mass, a common factor throughout Europe in my youth, now celebrated in many languages, is only open to those who speak those languages. Progressive or Retrograde? I guess, like beauty, everything is in the eye of the beholder. De gustibus non est disputandum – and that’s how it should be. But I long for that freedom, that sense of adventure, that sense of belonging that once, so long ago, I knew.

And yes, I wish I could still see those bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, not just lines of lorries and piles of portaloos and stress and discontent and impatience and misery. Just sign me sad, I guess, but now I know why those bluebirds are blue.

Rainbow Flower & Pot

Rainbow Flower and Pot

Finley has decided, quite rightly, that what she wants to paint, draw, or colour, is much more important than any of the page prompts in the drawing book I got her. That said, this could easily be a comic book cover – or the cover photo of my next book.

“I want to see the world again through the eyes of a little child” – Picasso. The gift of so doing is precious.