Fire and Flame

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Fire and Flame

1

The world is on fire.
Someone, somewhere
lit a match.
The world exploded.

A match in the lungs.
the whole world burning.

Someone, somewhere
sneezed into their sleeve.
the world collapsed
in a fit of coughing.

“It isn’t the cough
that carries you off,
it’s the coffin
they carry you off in,”
said the talking head,
scientific boffin.

2

Intelligence, give me
the exact name of things:
corona virus, vaccine,
air that’s pure,
drinkable water,
a new, fresh world
for my daughter
and her daughter.

I wish I could spare them
from all this slaughter.

Comment: The echoes in here are obvious to me, but to how many others? Octavio Paz strolls through the first stanza while Juan Ramón Jiménez patrols the second one. How many people read their poems now? Polvo seco de tesis doctoral / dry dust of a doctoral thesis, as my friend José María Valverde once wrote. He, too, passed and will all too soon be forgotten like the rest. And time: what is it? How does it function? Is it linear or circular and repetitive? It twists and turns, like we did last summer, but not like we’ll do this one. My old arthritic bones will allow me to twist no more. Vingt-et-un, quatre-vingt- et-un: twist and bust. Yet time flows by, like water under Le Pont Mirabeau and days blend into days. 79 days of lock down now, all voluntary, or is it 80? El tiempo aquí no tiene sentido / time is meaningless in here, as my friend and mentor, José Hierro wrote, so long ago. And yes, these memories linger on, as time lingers on, as life lies heavy around us, and time limps by with its lame, old feet, yet looking back, it has raced passed like a spring river in spate. And the leaves are back, and the flowers are coming up, and the spring birds and bees and butterflies are arriving … and, in spite of everything, perhaps even because of it, life is as lovely as it ever was. Keep safe, keep well!

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Ego

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Ego

I am not worthy
to be called her sun,
and yet her world
revolves around me.

She spins in my space
and short-circuits
her own life to make
mine more livable.

I’d like to say ‘joyous,’
but tears are in all things
(sunt lacrimae rerum)
and
death touches mortal minds
( et
mentem mortalia tangunt
).

The best I can offer:
a salt water world,
filled with inadequacies,
drowning us in tears.

Comment: Several things of note in this poem and the voice recording. Should we mix languages in a poem? Why ever not, so long as we explain them. This Latin tag goes back over 2,000 years and links my poem (Intertextuality, remember?) into a long Western tradition. Am I worthy of that tradition? Is my poem? Well, that is a totally different question. However, I am linked in, as you might phrase it. A second question: does my reading of the poem affect your understanding of the poem? If so, how and in what way? Does the phonic word play sun / son affect your understanding of the poem? If so, how? And how does the double meaning of ego work on your mind? Does the Freudian Ego / Id stand out? Or does the schoolboy “Quiz?” “Ego!” spring to mind. Or do you immediately think of the first person singular (Latin) ego as in ego sum lux, via veritas? More important: are you aware of any of this or does the poem disappear into a desert landscape of nothingness with no apparent strings attached? Good questions all: I invite you to think about them all. Blessings and best wishes. Keep safe.

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.

 

Lamplighter

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Gas Lamps

When I was very young, a long time ago, in Swansea, many of our streets still had gas lamps.  The lamp-lighter would appear in winter around three or three-thirty to light those lamps. I remember him walking up the street with his long pole over his shoulder, moving from lamp to lamp. We had one outside our front door. He would turn on the gas, then light the lamp from the lighted wick at the end of his pole.  Sometimes he carried a ladder with him. Then, every so often, when the lamp needed tending, he would climb the ladder and adjust the wick. These gas lights were not very bright but they stood out like light houses between stretches of darkness and we would walk from pool to glowing pool, as if they were stepping stones leading us up the hill to home. We all knew the lamplighter and he would often wave to us as we sat in the front room window to watch him walk by. We rarely saw him in the mornings when he came back to turn off the lamps. We were all tucked safely into our beds. I remember that I wanted to be lamplighter. Later I realized that there are many ways to light a lamp and spread brightness through the world. When I grew up, I became teacher, a coach, a faculty adviser, a mentor, a creator, and those roles allowed me to establish myself as a lighter of a very different set of lamps.

 

 

Her Shadow

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Her Shadow

“Birds, birds,” she shrieked with delight.
“The drab one is a girl like you,” I told her,
“but the bright one is a little boy.”

“Yellow,” she cried again with joy, “Yellow.”
Tiny hands plucked at air, catching nothing.

I can still see her standing there, her nose,
all wet and runny.  She left damp, snot-stained
marks, a sort of signature, on the cold wet glass.

She’s long gone now, way back home, but still
the window stays unwashed and her shadow
often comes between me and the morning sun.

Midnight

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Midnight

Primary red, this label, and the wine, fresh-drawn,
plucked from the bottle, tumbling tinto, into the glass.

Swirled, streaked ruby by overhead lights, bubbles
bright with hints of garnet, purple, brick at meniscus.

Sniffed, it smells of warm autumn days, scintillating
leaves, just crisping, turning color, and fruit all ripe.

Tasted: fruit bursts into hints of raspberries,
strawberries, spices, a touch of garrigue, mysterious.

Wine descends like water on a dry, hot, dusty day,
or rain after drought, when thirsty lands lap up

liquids, and rejoice in moisture’s blessings.
Raised now the glass, vineyard and vintners toasted,

midnight greeted, saluted the old day past and gone,
welcomed the fresh day walking in, swaddled, new born.

Pots and Pans

 

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Pots and Pans
St. Teresa of Ávila

A dusty highway. This woman riding
side-saddle on a hard, wooden seat, eyes
turned heavenward for inspiration. Frail,

fragile, she has never been strong, yet has
had enough strength, shoe-less, not soul-less,
to create her order of Discalced Carmelites

and found a hundred convents, safe havens
where woman can live in poverty, peace,
and prayer. Snow falls in high mountain passes.

Rivers rush downhill in springtime spate.
Mules rebel against cold waters. Bed bugs
bite … her God created them, so she suffers

in silence their indignities. Wounded heart
and soul, often doubting, faith always backing
her thoughts, words, deeds, she believes,

and that belief, as strong as this mule, as
solid as the San José corner-stone she laid.
She knows all too well that God often walks

and works his wonders for her faithful nuns
in convent kitchens cooking and washing
doing the small things, among pots and pans.

Comment:También anda Dios en la cocina entre las pucheras / God also walks in the kitchen among the pots and pans.” St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). It’s funny how, in times of stress, the little things in life come back back to haunt and help us. I have written of St. David, “Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd / do the little things in life,” and here is St. Theresa of Avila saying more or less the same thing, nearly a thousand years later, this time in Spanish, not in Welsh. Intertextuality: in this way, I am able to talk, through my eyes, with Dewi Sant and Santa Teresa. And, through me, you too can indulge in this saintly dialog.

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In my blog post, Triumphs, I wrote about how doing the little things in life can be so rewarding and so important for us as we age. No, I will never climb Mount Everest, but climbing up the stairs to my bedroom every night is, for me, a journey to the roof of my world and every ascent is a personal triumph, as is a safe descent each morning. I will never compete in a marathon, even though, back in my youth, I raced over ten miles and completed a half marathon. None of that now matters. What does matter is that I get my daily walk around the house, around the garden, around the block. My Olympic Goal is not to “own the podium”, a phrase I have always found slightly odious, but to win my daily wrestle with myself to just get my exercise done. Do the little things in life. In these troubled times, routine is important. Belief is important. Doing the little things that keep us alive is of paramount importance. And here’s a photo of a magnificent stork, in Avila, doing the little things in life.

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