First Post of 2023

First Post of 2023

There is nothing to say, except that I have lost my way. Every poem posted to this blog is unavailable for publishing elsewhere. I may not submit them to journals, to editors, to competitions. This is one of the reasons why I have been silent for so long. It’s the same thing with Flash Fiction and stories. ‘Must be unpublished – no social media’. Alas – this blog is ‘social media’. So – I have lost my way, my reason for blogging. What can I blog about?

The weather – we have hardly seen the sun since well before Christmas. Snow, rain, icy rain, ice pellets – ofnadwy a diflas – disgusting weather. The sun shines in my heart. I also have bottled sunshine – sol embotellado – brought in from Spain. But who wants to read wet weather reports, day after day after day? Come to that – who wants to write them?

The news – this is even more depressing than the weather. I sometimes think that the papers deliver as much bad news as possible so we will be happy with the few items that do brighten our lives. Mal de todos, consuelo de tontos – when everybody falls on hard times, only fools take consolation from it.

Politics – spare me from politics and politicians. There is little good to say about any of them. Politicians are treacherous and their policies are worse. I remember the restaurant in Avranches with its sign on the wall – un jour sans vin est un jour sans soleil – a day without wine is a day without sunshine. Well, a day without politicians is a day full of sunshine – no matter what the weather is like outside.

Sports – we are sports-logged. I have never seen so much sport on the TV. Well, to be honest, I haven’t bothered watching it. Event after event, and events running simultaneously all around the world. I am fed up with tennis, soccer, ice hockey, rugby, and all the myriads of championships being played out before us. And the scandals – and the money changing hands – and the grotesqueness of ownership and player trading?

So, what is left to say? I have lost my way and I am trying to find a path through the wilderness of wild words that besiege me. Siege Perilous, indeed. What can I write about? What can I say? Maybe I should start an agony column.

Agony column – send in your questions and maybe, just maybe, I will think about them and comment on them. No. That won’t work. I already have too much on my plate. “Don’t tell me your troubles, I’ve got troubles of my own. Leave me alone, go on home, tell them to a friend, I’ve got troubles of my own.”

The sun – maybe, when the sun returns from his winter vacation, I will actually find something to write about. Maybe not.

Birthday – meanwhile, it’s my birthday I remember my grandfather reciting to me in the kitchen back home in Wales. “Today it is my birthday and I have ten thousand pounds to give away.” He would pause for a moment and then continue: “On second thoughts, I think it best to lock them back in my old oak chest.”

Poems – so the poems will stay in my old oak chest until I publish them properly. Flash Fiction and Short Stories too. In the meantime, any suggestions for this blog will be welcomed with open arms. Including folding it, shutting it down. Maybe it has served its turn and become, like me, out of date and obsolete.

Boxing Day

They’re not Boxing Gloves – but they could be. Photo by my friend Geoff Slater.

Boxing Day


            By the time I get up, the gloves are really off and the sparring has begun in earnest. I hear angry, raised voices, walk downstairs to the kitchen, and a hush falls on the room. Knife-edge glances slice their menacing ways through the thickening atmosphere.
            Time for boxing: on my left, in the blue corner, my mother, smoking what is probably her second packet of the day. A thin haze of grey smoke escapes from her bruised lips and a cloud of exhaled fumes crowns her head with a murky halo. On my right, in the red corner, my father. White-faced, hungover yet again, truly into the spirits of Christmas. He breathes heavily, like a Boxer Dog in the mid-summer dog-days, snoring and snorting at a bitch in heat. In the middle, my grandfather, the referee. He is keeping the combatants apart, creating a tiny breathing space so the true Spirit of Christmas can disentangle itself from those false Christmas Spirits and bring peace to earth again for at least sixty seconds between each round.
            I look around the heaving, seething, threshing silence of a room where conversation has suddenly ceased. The fire is burning merrily. Beside it, tongs, poker, and small shovel stand to attention. On the hearthstone, the little red brush, with its long handle lies in ambush. This is what my father uses to beat me when he can’t be bothered to take off his leather belt. Scorch marks from the hot coal fire sear the handle and back of the little red brush. I threw it on the fire one day, hoping to see the end of it. Of course, it was rescued from the flames, resurrected, and I got beaten for that act of rebellion too.
            “It’s all your fault!” My father breaks the silence, pointing at me. His red-rimmed eyes blazing with a sudden and renewed anger. He starts to rise, but my grandfather steps between us.
            “Go and see your granny,” grandpa tells me. “She’s in the kitchen. Go now!” He points to the kitchen door.
            I run a gauntlet of staring eyes and go to my gran. As I shut the door behind me, voices rise higher in the room I have just left. Boxing Day, indeed. The gloves are off. The battle has begun again. My grandfather has evacuated me from no-boy’s-land and, for a moment, I am no longer trapped in the mud-filled, cratered, shell-holes between the trenches, the uncut barbed-wire barriers, the poached-egg eyes peering through periscopes and spying on me from the parental and priestly parapets above the wooden duck-boards that line the floor on the far side of the room and keep the enemies’ feet clear of mud and water.

Wilderness

Wilderness

This wilderness wasn’t a wilderness
until they arrived and called it ‘wild’.

They constructed roads, ran boats
up and down our rivers,
built bridges, fenced fields,
built stone buildings, desecrated
the curves of the land
with square shapes and right angles,
razor sharp lines that ‘tamed it,’
they said, but we said ‘destroyed it’.

Where now the spring salmon runs?
The dam that put the river in chains
drove all those fish away.

Upstream, down stream,
towards the river and away from it,
the four cardinal points
brought ruin to our sense of direction.

Where now the land’s lost soul,
the ancient paths our people walked?

In place of the circles we built from stone,
the stones that pointed the time of sky,
that tracked the seasons,
and planting time and harvest time,
they gave us clockwork clocks.

Yes, they tamed this wilderness,
but they broke it down and we watched,
helpless, as they stole its soul.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Wilderness

Boats

Boats

At night the boats arrive to carry you
away to the lands in which you dream.

Each boat carries a different cargo. Each
boat means a different size and shape.

To find out what they carry, you must climb
on board, raise the hatch cover, and descend
to where the riches rest in the dark below.

Ancient maps, formed by Freud, then redone
in the symbolic imagery of Jung, point out
the perils the traveler may meet as he sails away.

“Here be monsters, here be dragons, here be
anything you wish to configure in your dreams.

And here be the spice lands, emerald isles
embedded with their scents in a turquoise sea.

But steer clear of Scylla and Charybdis,
the pool that whirls, the rocks that close and
crash to crush you with their grinding teeth.”

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Boats

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

You walk up the wooden stairs
and there you are, staring at yourself
in the fairground’s distorting mirrors.

Fatter, thinner, shorter, taller, a half-
and-half version, thinner at the top,
squat at the bottom, one of those Xmas
dolls you could flick, but never roll over.

What do we see when we look in the mirror?
Do we see our selves as we really are
or do we see the wretched deformations
of our diminishment?

So depressing to think that, back then,
I might have seen myself as I am now:
hair thinning, forehead larger,
shriveled shanks and wasted muscles,
breathless, when I climb the stairs,
and a butterfly heart that sometimes
flutters and stutters as it seeks the sun.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Hall of Mirrors

A Grouse

A Grouse

It hurts. She is so far away.
I can barely hear her voice on the phone.
It hurts. I can only comfort her with words,
useless words, clichés that will never
take her cares away, how could they?

Ghosts of a nearby past drift silently by.
I wonder what can say to each other,
whether we should chat about the weather,
or whether to let silence hold sway.
I don’t want her to put down the phone
even though we’ll talk again today.

My body hurts with her hurt. I know my pain
will soon go away, but hers – I hope it doesn’t stay.
Outside the window, two red squirrels play.
Words break the silence: I’ll call
you later. Make the most of your day.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Grouse.





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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.