Gambit 1

Gambit 1

She’d been there.
She’d have walked
those waxed floors,
looked down at her feet
to see her face distorted
in the elbow-grease
of sheen and shine.

Alone, she was, all alone,
abandoned.
Tonight, on her birthday,
I feel the chill hand
of her sorrow
clutch my heart.

Who can reach in,
who can melt the iceberg
rising beneath my ribs?
Who can warm chilled bones,
charm lost feelings
back into throbbing life?

Gone, all gone,
lost, forgotten, forsaken,
abandoned
on those same ice floes,
where she walked on thin ice,
with the darkest depths
calling out to her from far below.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor
Gambit 1

Comment: My mother, had she lived, would have celebrated her 109th birthday. Watching Episode One of The Queen’s Gambit, I was overwhelmed by what my mother must have felt, all those years ago, when she lost another child. Did she actually feel and think in manner portrayed above? I’ll never know now.

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


Sound of Absence

Sound of Absence

It’s a lonely walk round the animal park,
the petting zoo with its animated young,
goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, all of them
greedy and alert, ears pricked, eyes open,
munching away, hand-fed by the visitors.

Only the wind moves the swings today.
We walk in silence, but don’t stay long.
That little body that swung the swings,
those little feet that raced from place
to place at such a bewildering pace…

they are not here. We watched them board
the plane, fly up into the sky, head west
and home, and now we, the old folk,
abandoned, hold hands, and walk alone.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sound of Absence


Redemption

Redemption

I had no paper with me in the car
and wrote this on a bottle redemption slip.

Redemption:
that’s what I seek
and some days it seeks me.
A double need this need to redeem
and be redeemed. A double need too
this god I need, the god who needs me.

Lonely he will be without me,
and I without him.
Knock and the door will open.
Seek and ye shall find.

I look and, yes, he’s there,
him within me and me within him.

This redemption slip is all I need:
empty bottles on the one hand,
my empty heart on the other,
both now redeemed.

All of this while I sit in the car.
outside Wendy’s or outside Taco Bell,
sitting quite still and ready to wait,
not knowing my upcoming fate.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Redemption.

A Rub of the Green

A Rub of the Green

A child among timeworn men, I learn traditional songs, if ever there’s going to be a life hereafter, with the correct words, no messing about with watered down lyrics, for back in the Emerald Isle ‘they’re hanging men and women for the wearing of the green’. I listen as all the ageless grievances are aired yet again by the exiles who parade around the family kitchen.
            I study the old ways and practice songs and tales from Ireland until they become familiar. As for those men, I met them in later life, at my mother’s funeral, knowing I had never really known them or understood them, those uncles and cousins, realizing that my family had split apart a long time ago down religious and racial lines. Yet I still sensed our closeness and recognized the familiar map of Ireland drawn in their ageing faces.
            Their Weltanschauung was Irish Catholic while mine was Anglo-Welsh, tinged with Methodism. Each new school I attended introduced me to a new faith and eventually I believed in none of them. I became an outcast, standing on the outside, looking in. I often wonder what the early immigrants to Canada the French and English, Irish and Scottish, when they first came here. What did they see and, conversely, how were those people seen, and by whom? Who now will tell those stories and bring those early cultures back to life?
            Today, I sit on the shore at Indian Point and listen to the silence. I wait for the wind’s whisper as it whisks all footprints from the sand. I hear the song of the sea as it rises and falls. In my mind’s eye, I watch the rocks as they slowly crumble and I repeat the song of the stones as they grind together, metamorphosing unhurriedly into sand.
            It takes a juggler to hold all this ancient world together especially when the old nests are empty and the birds have all flown. Wave foam slips into a single footprint abandoned in the mud and sand. All around me there are tales to tell and songs to sing. Some of them are even mine.
            I often think about an immigrant’s first foot-print, a lone print on an empty beach, waiting to be swept away by the rising tide.  Man Friday, perhaps. Or was it Man Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday … Man Saturday is best. But it’s never on a Sunday, so Man Sunday is as impossible as Woman Sunday, for the sadness of our memories exiles our better halves, our better two-thirds, our better three-quarters.
            All around us, there are songs to sing, stories to tell, words to repeat, wordless moments to recreate. “Patience and shuffle the cards,” Cervantes wrote. “Distinguish between all those false sirens, your one true voice.” That’s Antonio Machado. Find your own star and follow it. That might even be me, though it’s probably in the I Ching or the Daily Horoscope.
            The nests were all empty. The birds had flown. Who wants to live alone in a jack pine crow’s nest hotel in the Land of his Fathers where nobody knows him, where he doesn’t speak the language, and where he now feels ill at ease? The last time I visited the UK, I sat on the English side of the Severn Bridge, drinking a cup of tea, but I couldn’t cross that bridge, and I couldn’t stay in a htoel, in the Land of my birth, where I no longer knew anyone.
            Not that Wales was ever the Land of my Fathers, for my father was born in England, and my grandfather in Ireland. The Land of my Mother, perhaps, for she was actually born there. But the Land of my Mother never appears in any national anthem, and Mother is always singular while apparently a man can have more than one father, depending I suppose on the rub of the green.

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.

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.

Nos Sadwrn

Nos Sadwrn

Saturday today, just another Saturday. Took a morning whirlpool bath, had breakfast went shopping, then decided to post something. But post what? Anything.

Qui tacet consentire videtur – whatever that mans, and I am sure someone out there can help me. Life takes funny steps at my age, and forgetting things is one of them.

Ephemera – the title of the leading painting, shows a poem being half-obliterated by autumn leaves and early snow. Everything seems so ephemeral, so quick to pass by. As for me, I blossomed and flourished like a leaf on a tree, but now I wither, slowly, shrinking back into myself. Or is it just a version of my myself? To thine own self be true. So easy to say. But I am no more myself, I have become the fifth of the twelfth. Or, as Apollinaire, whoever he was, once wrote: je ne me sens plus la, moi-meme. Je suis le quinze de l’onzieme. Oh accents, accents, accents – you can’t find them when you need them and you can’t lose them without expensive elocution lessons. And even with those lessons, rhythm and accent come creeping back again, when least you expect them to.

Jyst nos Sadwrn arall yn – and maybe there’s someone out there who can sort that one out for me too. But in spite everything, I guess it’s anither day, another post, and a drop more water under the Mirabeau bridge as well as just another Saturday night. meanwhile – Odeur du temps, brin de bruyere – et souviens-toi que je t’attends

Garcilasso

Garcilasso

“When I stand still and contemplate
the path that led me here.”

I see purple arrows
painted on the corridor floors
their sharp ends
pointing to the treatment room
where the machine’s stark metal throat
waits to swallow me.

I shed my Johnny Coat
and lie on the bed.
I mustn’t move
as they adjust me
tugging me this way and that,
in accordance with the red marks
painted on my belly and hips.

Then they raise my feet,
place them in a plastic holder,
cover me with a thin cotton sheet,
and leave the room to take refuge
in the safety of their concrete bunker.

With a click and a whirr,
the bed moves up and in,
the ceiling descends
and claustrophobia clutches.

The machine circulates
weaving its clockwork magic:
targeting each tumor, scrubbing me clean,
scouring my body, scarring my mind.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Garcilasso

Comment: It all happened a long time ago now, but one never forgets. The desire to reach out and help and comfort any and all sufferers is still with me. This is the link for my book, A Cancer Chronicle.