Freedom

Spotify:
Remember to scroll down to the appropriate audio episode.

Freedom

We are all so lonely,
locked in our cardboard castles,
no view beyond the battlements,
save for the wild lands, the forest,
from which the enemy might come.

Wild beasts, we cage ourselves
in our isolation and bang our heads
on the bars we built to protect us.

Sometimes, at night, we ascend
to the topmost turret to observe
the stars that dance above us,
tracing our lives in their errant ways.

And is this freedom, this night sky,
with its wayward planets, trapped
in their overnight dance and weaving
our futures, for ever and ever, amen?

Obsidian’s Edge

Obsidian’s Edge
From morning to night
a day in Oaxaca

To purchase this book click on the following link

Obsidian’s Edge Print

Obsidian’s Edge Kindle

Obsidian’s Edge started out as At the Edge of Obsidian and was the second volume in the Oaxacan Trilogy (Sun and Moon, At the Edge of Obsidian, Obsidian 22). When I republished it in Create Space (now Kindle / KDP) I rewrote the last two volumes and turned them into a single book, Obsidian’s Edge, so that the Oaxacan Trilogy is now a Oaxacan Duology. My apologies to those who are eagerly awaiting the third book in the series.

Early Morning in Oaxaca

… dream worlds circle outside my bedroom window … starry sky … two full moons floating, one real, one mirrored in the glass …  inside the bedroom, tulips inscribe red gashes on white-washed walls … sharp fingernails scrape across paint, blood red shadows trickle down to the floor …
            … above the azotea, the temples of Monte Albán string out their sheets on the sky’s washing-line, glowing in the moonlight … against a background of granite and stucco, trenchant shadows sculpt dancers into grotesque, pipe-wire shapes as they struggle to escape their carved imprisonment …
            … priests in long black robes gape at the night sky. From their sanctuary in the observatory, they plot how they will persuade the people to believe the future they will foretell as night’s giant finger herds the wild-cat stars …
… three young women walk at an angle up the temple steps … when they reach the top, a moonbeam holds them in its spotlight and they wax with the full moon’s beauty …  the doorway to an unclosed grave opens its crocodile jaws and the three women descend the temple steps, ageing as they walk … at the temple’s foot, they enter the tomb’s dark mouth … an old man in a faded grey suit walks behind them … the grave swallows them all, burying them in the hidden depths beneath the mound …
            … dreams back themselves into a cul-de-sac, a wilderness of harsh black scars … an ancient Aztec god catches Rabbit by his ears and throws him against the second sun that sizzles in the sky … his sharp teeth burrow, burying themselves deep in the sun-fire’s light … the second sun loses its glow and turns into the moon’s cold stone …  the rabbit’s skull simmers in the new moon’s dwindling pool …
            With a clicking of claws, knitting needles come together to pluck me outwards from my dreams and upwards towards death’s golden guillotine that floats in the sky. The moon sharpens its knife edge on the keening wind and sets my blood tingling. I want to be free, free from those nightmares, those nocturnal visions that rise up from the past and stalk me as I lie in bed.
Drowsing, I long for the alarm clock to shuffle its pack of sleepless hours and to waken me with its piercing call as it tears me from these winding sheets, these grave clothes in which I lie. I wait for the sun to shine into my window.

Gaza Street

This is the original version. It is much better than the revision that I posted earlier. Sometimes, when we revise, we lose the freedom of thought and association that comes with the early version. Message: keep your variations and keep an open mind. Over-elaboration is the poet’s worst enemy.

Wingless in Gaza Street

amputees deprived of flight
they flutter grounded in the gutter

galley slaves chained to broken oars
they ply blunt stumps relentlessly

shorn of strength and beauty
their once glorious shuttles weave dark circles

my mouth is a full moon open in a round pink circle
bone and its marrow settle in subtle ice

futile fragility of the demented heart pumping
its frequency of fragmented messages

frail beauty torn from its element of air
this brightness of moths drowning in inky depths

the seven o’clock news brought to you
from an otherwise deserted street.

Wingless in Gaza

IMG_0177 2

Wingless in Gaza

amputees
they buzz an unending dance
in the dusty gutter

galley slaves
chained to broken oars
they ply rhythmic
blunt stumps

shorn of strength and beauty
their once coloured shuttles
weave dark circles

my mouth is a full moon
open in a round pink circle
shadowed by a skull
bone and its marrow
settle in subtle ice

futile fragility
of the demented heart
pumping the same frequency

fragmented messages
panicked veins

frail beauty
torn from its element of air

this brightness of fragile moths
wing-shorn
drowning in the inky
depths of the gutter

the seven o’clock news brought to you
from an otherwise deserted street

Dark is her shop

Dark is her Shop

IMG0014_1.jpg

I buy two liters of white mescal, cheap and rough,
without the second brewing: fire water, not smooth.
Two liters: she sells them in an old Coke bottle
she’ll seal with cellophane, and a rubber band.
Six worms I buy. Bedraggled fighters dragging
smoky trails as they plummet through a yellow sea.

In the shop next door I buy poinsettias.
When I get home, I put them in a vase
and watch them, red-eyed, watching me.
Bloodstains scratching a white-washed wall.

IMG0034_1.jpg

Misshapen gems in a ceramic prison, their beauty
breaks me down: a fragmented world, decimated
words, metaphors born from worms and mescal.

The eyes I see are not eyes because I see them:
they are eyes because … twin brown ovals …
they watch me as they float in a liquid mirror
within the upraised glass held by my hand.

Outside, beyond the balcony,
sun -blood melts like sealing wax.
The bougainvillea strains sharp stains
through a lonesome slice of sunlight
giving birth to flamboyán and tulipán.

My lemon tree leans over to listen.
Glistening pearls of dew embellish
its morning throat. Christmas decorations
these postage-stamp minstrels, thronging
each branch, filling me with song.

18 June 2002 butterflies in ditch 014.jpg

Butterflies, winged flakes of archaic paint,
flutter from temple walls leaving them barren.
Church towers, strong when terra firma shakes,
quiver insubstantial. Mescal melts the morning,
a miracle, this quiver of shimmering air.

Dreams

Dreams

All my former lives gather at night
thrusting their way forward
into the half-light of my drowsy mind.

Alive and thriving, they descend
from midnight’s tree of knowledge
and besiege me with grasping fingers.

Do my dreams fish these colors and shapes
from my own interior seas?

Or do they watch and wait for these spirits
to emerge from sleep’s cocoon
and be reborn in fiery blocks of color?

My neighbor’s dog greets the dawn
barking bright sparks of color
into secluded corners of my waking mind.

I dream dark angels with butterfly bodies,
their inverted wings spread over my head.

Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher

In my dreams, I track the sails of drifting ships,
white moths fluttering before the wind.

I think I have caught them in overnight traps,
but they fly each morning in dawn’s forgiving light.

I give chase with pen and paper, fine butterfly nets
seeking wild thoughts waiting to be caught, then tamed.

I grasp at something just beyond my fingertips,
but I can’t quite remember what it is.

I wake up each morning unaware of where
I have been the night before.

Kite

Kite Flying

So light, the kite,
a butterfly in flight.

Breeze battered,
sky-blue shattered.

Children stare
seeing the wing-shape
fluttering there
rising on flimsy air.

Diving, dipping,
nylon cord slipping,
finger-flesh ripping.

Here come others,
children and mothers.

Butterflies, bright,
ready for flight,
fighting wind-might:
a child’s delight.

I didn’t have photos of a kite.
I offer some humming birds instead.
Listen closely:
you can hear them hum.

Fire and Flame

IMG_1571 (2)

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!

IMG_1264

Triumphs

Avila 2007a 105 (2)

Triumphs
Luis de Góngora

Waking to birdsong in the morning,
making it safely to the bathroom
without tripping on the rug in the hall,
shaving without cutting my face,

getting in and out of the shower
with neither a slip nor a fall,
drying those parts of the body
that are now so difficult to reach,

especially between my far-off toes,
pulling my shirt over wet and sticky
patches still damp from the shower,
negotiating each leg of my pants,

tugging the strings of the plastic sleeve
that helps my socks to glide onto my feet,
forcing swollen toes into under-size shoes,
hobbling to the top of the stairs,

lurching down them, cautiously,
one step at a time, on guard for the cat,
the edge of the steps, the worn patches
where my stick might catch or slip …
one more step, triumph, I’ve made it.

Comment: “Cada pie mal puesto es una caída, cada caída es un precipicio / Each ill- place footstep means a fall, every fall is a precipice.” Luis de Góngora (1561-1627). I have reached the age of fragility and futility: every day that passes without an accident or a fall is a triumph. I re-read Luis de Góngora with increasing pleasure, the Polifemo (1613), above all, but also the later poems about the difficulties of ageing. When I read them I realize that I am not alone, that others have aged before me, and then I think of Jorge Manrique dead at the age of 39. And what poems he wrote, as did Góngora with a whole poetry movement named after him.

As for the photo: young storks in Avila, Spain, ready to fly. The one at the top is bouncing up and down, waiting for the breeze to get under his wings and lift him to sun and stars. High in the sky above him, almost unseen, his parents wait, ready to swoop down and assist him when he gets lift off. Uncertain he may be in those first few triumphant wing strokes, but down they come, place their wings below his wings and show him how it’s done. For him, it is the world that awaits him.

For me, and people my age, the world shrinks, walls close in, the daily process of living becomes more difficult. My joy: not in the lift off, but in the painstaking processes, getting up, getting washed and shaved, getting dressed, going downstairs, the early morning taste of fresh-brewed coffee, each sip a pleasure … and out in the garden, spring robins calling, a phoebe whistling, rose-breasted nuthatches, American Goldfinches, and the wondrous joy of just being here, sitting in the sunshine, lapping up the warmth, and every moment of every day a triumph renewed.

IMG_1060 (2)