Normality

Normality

In spite of grey skies,
blueish snow and early-
morning, under-cloud-
light combine to color
my garden several shifting
shades of blue-grey.

Light grows and the garden
starts to whiten. No deer as yet,
but they aren’t far away.

Two big ginger cats,
I think at first they are foxes,
stalk their marmalade path
through the trees towards the road.
I have never seen them
before. New neighbors?

One crosses the road
but the other hesitates, then flees,
as flashing school-bus lights
bring normality back to my early
-morning dream-filled world.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Normality

Selfie with First Frost

Selfie with First Frost

The back ground is dark green, or should be. We have red and yellow leaves, of course, this is New Brunswick, Canada. And the white flecks are the frost on the grass. Lovely.

Look closely and you can see bits of me reflected in the glass of the painting. That’s why it’s a selfie. Not a total one, but a teeny little bit of one. How much of ourselves do we ever capture, in a photo, a painting, a poem, a piece of prose? Not much, I guess. And is it the real ‘us’ anyway? I very much doubt it.

Does it matter? No. If you want to see the real me, come and visit. But, be prepared: I am not who I seem and I am desperate to hide the real me from the real world. You may catch glimpses. And that’s about it.

And I have a cat, just like that. Runs to the basement, hides beneath a chair, sits and purrs in her basket, sleeps on the bed at night, winds herself round my knees at feeding time, is and isn’t, just like all pussy cats. And aren’t we all like that? Here today and gone tomorrow. All that joy and all that sorrow.

Enjoy us while you can. And can-can while you can-can!

Babs

Babs

It was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

Babs held the cat in her arms. The vet slipped the needle into the shunt he had inserted into the animal’s paw and the tiny wind of life gusted from the cat’s fragile body. The struggle ceased. The cat’s head settled and her tongue protruded, just a little, in that beloved and well-known gesture. It was all over.

Babs had found that lump, hard, but smaller than a pea, on New Year’s Day. The next day, she carried the cat to the vet where they took blood samples and ran tests. The vet’s assistant called later that afternoon. A lymphoma, she said, small but deadly. Steroids might help. They would give the cat a 40% chance at a life that would get more difficult, in spite of any known treatment. The alternative was to bring her back in and put her down now, that very afternoon. Babs looked at the cat: highlights strayed through her fur and her bright eyes sparkled like sunshine on a lake.

Throughout January the steroids went in and the cat glistened and grew fat. At first, Babs saw no sign of the lump but by Robbie Burn’s Day it was back. Babs started to count the days: January 31, February 2. The lump grew larger.

Three years before, on Valentine’s day, Babs had salvaged the cat from the SPCA where she languished, abandoned in a cage. The cat was a stray, half feral, taken in from the streets and subject to who knows what sort of treatment and feeding in its infancy. Babs wondered if it was in those days of neglect that the cancerous seed took root? Or did those seeds come later, when the cat wandered the garden and fed off the wild life, mice and voles, and drank from the streams that flowed through the killing fields with their fertilizers, their weed killers, their nutrients, and their poisons?

“What are we doing to ourselves,” Babs wondered as she sat at the kitchen table and sipped a cup of tea. “Was my cat the canary in my coalmine, doomed to warn me of what’s to come? Will my own system be invaded then poisoned with cancerous growths? Will I be subject to that stumbling, downward road that leads in the end to an inevitable death?”

She lay awake that night alone in the bed wondering in what ways cancer might ravage her body. How long would chemotherapy keep her alive? Who would be there for her, who would hold and comfort her, who would slip that releasing needle into her veins when her time came?

Babs ran her fingers over her body as she imagined herself sliding day by day down that slippery slope that leads to the grave. Then she caught her breath, her heart raced, and her blood turned to ice as her fingers tripped against the colony of killers: three small hard lumps that nested in her soft breast.

Easter Sunday

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Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday: such a joyful day.
Last night the deer came out to play.
Good Friday’s snow is going away.

The Queen’s ‘Happy Easter’ was said at home.
The Pope held mass all alone in Rome.
I’m writing this poem and I’m home alone.

We’re locked down at home and so is the cat.
This morning she threw up her food on the mat,
three hoicks and a yuck and then a wet splat!

The snow is melting. The sun’s in the sky.
Rain is forecast and the river is high.
Let’s hope I stay well: I don’t want to die.

I know that I’ll die, sooner or later,
but if at all possible, let it be later,
‘cos I’m not quite ready to meet my creator.

Maybe he’s like me, with a tear of sorrow
for all things undone and left till tomorrow.

I do hope he’s a procrastinator
not a ‘do-it-right-now’ style of dictator.

 

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Spooky

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Spooky

As Halloween draws near, the people at the park, Mactaquac Park, begin to spookify the countryside. Here’s the giant spider, coming to get you. It is the first in a series of spookified spookies.

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And here’s the spookified ‘what will it be”? Might be a spookified pussy dog or a spookified puppy cat. Who knows? Right now it looks more cute than wicked. Keep it that way, I say.

 

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No, they’re not here yet, but watch out for the boogies and the boogeymen. They’re not far away. And they may just be out to get you. So, when someone says ‘Trick of treat’? Be sure to say ‘treat!” You want the dog biscuit, not the Rottweiler. And don’t forget to drool and say ‘pretty please’.

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What we do know is that when autumn leaves, strange things creep in to fill our minds and take autumn’s place. It’s that creepy-crawly time, that time of night mists and strange visions, that season of mellow mists and fruitiness when things that go bump in the night suddenly do just that.

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Herding Cats

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Herding Cats

Finley herds cats. At least, she thinks she does.
She spots them with an eager eagle eye,
then herds them, Murdoch, Logan, and Jenkins.

Murdoch sleeps on top of the cabinet.
“Come down,” Finley shrieks. Logan seems to sleep
beneath the settee. “Come out,” Finley pleads.

Jenkins catalogues himself between books.
Finley can’t find him. She climbs on a stool.
Murdoch opens a round grey eye, checks the
distance between them, and goes back to sleep.

Finley gets down from the stool and searches
for Logan and Jenkins. They have disappeared.

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Commentary: Finley loves cats and misses the three she has left behind her in Ottawa. She wants to cuddle Princess Squiffy but Princess Squiffy aka Vomit does not like noisy little girls who pursue her shrieking loudly. Result: we have hardly seen PS for nearly a week. She hides throughout the day in those mysterious priest-holes known only to catholics and cats, and waits for nightfall and an almost quiet house. Soft and silent, she emerges from the shadows where she has been hiding to sleep at the foot of the bed.

PS doesn’t love me either, but she has become so needy of quiet, respectful human contact that she has started to tolerate me, just a little bit. She raises her ears instead of flattening them and plumes out her tail, just to encourage me. Now she permits me to touch her gently and scratch her in her favorite spots, behind the ears and at the root of the tail. I look on this as a great favor … but I still think she scorns me completely, showering me with  total disdain most of the time.

“Moo,” Finley asks me. “Do you have a pussy cat?”
“Yes, Finley.”
“Where is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is she hiding?”
“Yes, Finley.”
“Can I see her?”
“If you can find her …”

And the great cat hunt begins: upstairs, downstairs, in my lady’s chamber. Goose steps everywhere, but there is no sign of the cat.

“Moo.”
“Yes, Finley.”
“Are you sure you’ve got a cat?”
“Yes, Finley. I’m sure.”
“I want to play with her.”
“I’m sure she’ll come out and play with you one day soon.”
“I don’t think you’ve got a cat, Moo.”

Seeing is believing / ver es creer. Whether seeing is believing, or not, what we don’t want to see is A’r gath wedi sgrapo Finley bach / the cat has scratched little Finley. Oh the joys of learning Welsh, especially as the day drags on, the cat cannot be found, and Mae’r baban yn y crud yn crio / the baby in the cradle is crying and tears of sadness blend slowly into snores, as the cat creeps up from her hiding place in the basement, pushes open the door, mews for her last food, and cuddles up beside me on the chair beside which I type.

Here is a link to Sosban Fach sung  Welsh by Cerys Matthews.  Turn your sound on and up and enjoy!

https://parallel.cymru/sosban-fach/?lang=en

 

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Miracles

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Miracles

Waking in the middle of the night, meandering along a moonbeam, making it safely to the bathroom without tripping on the rug in the hall, managing to pee without splattering the floor, the seat, the wall, or my pajamas, climbing back into bed, staring at the stars’ diminishing light until I manage to fall back to sleep. Listening to birdsong in the morning, walking to the bathroom without bruising my left arm against the door latch, shaving without cutting my face, getting in and out of the shower with neither a slip nor a fall and without dropping the soap, drying those parts of my body that are now so difficult to reach, especially between those far-off toes that I no longer see with regularity, pulling my shirt over those wet and sticky patches of skin still damp from the shower, negotiating each leg of my pants hanging on to the arm of the rocking-chair so I won’t fall over,  tugging the pulleys of the plastic mold that allows each sock to glide onto my feet, hoping my toe-nails, uncut for so long, will not catch in the wool and that the heel will end up in the right spot, forcing swollen toes into shoes now much too small, hobbling to the top of the stairs and lurching down them, one step at a time, with my stick in one hand and the balustrade in the other … always on guard for the quick, unsuspected rush of the cat, the edge of the steps, the worn patches where my cane might catch or slip … one more step, and I’ve made it down. The first of today’s many miniature miracles.

Carpe Diem

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Carpe Diem

This tube of toothpaste,
nearing its end,
folded over, again and again,
doubled into itself.

Squeeze it tight.
It’s all you’ve got.
Spread it on
the worst teeth.

Brush as you always did,
with hope, up and down,
not sideways. Nothing
before means anything.

Everything afterwards
is merely hope or dream.
A child, you chased
wind-blown leaves

catching them before
they hit the ground.
A scarecrow now, scarred
with age, arms held out,

palms up, hoping a leaf
will descend, a sparrow
rest in your hand,
or on your shoulder.

Writing Memories 9

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Writing Memories  9

Module 4.1: Love in Old Age

We discussed love in old age, how it happens, how it continues, how it changes with age, how important it is. As usual, we began with a poem and, since Princess Squiffy, aka Vomit, features in the above photo, I will begin with a speech, or maybe it was a rant, I overheard when my beloved was away in Ottawa and I was talking to her on Skype. I knew the cat talked, but I didn’t know exactly what she was thinking until I heard this.

Poem 1:

In Absentia
Princess Squiffy

“I hear your voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by your plastic plaything.

You aren’t here. He is. I can hear you
talk. I stalk to his noise box and see a
shadow, moving, but I can’t make it out.

My muscles first tense, then stiffen. I sniff,
lean forward, but find no trace of female
smell. I cannot sense you. You call me by

my favorite names, mew at me, and I
respond. Shifting shadows, your haunting tones,
memories dancing to the music of

your absence. I can’t eat. I bristle when
he laughs. Where are you, my love? He doesn’t
care for me the way you do. I loathe him.”

Commentary: Since these are the cat’s words, not mine, I do not think it would be right to alter them in anyway. Therefore they must stand as they are. Oh dear. Meanwhile, we must contemplate the love we have for animals, so important as we age. And yes, I love my cat, and my dog, and my false, stuffed Koala Bear, and my old goat, even though I am well aware that yes, Goats do Roam.

Poem 2:

Lost
for my beloved

My body’s house has many rooms and you,
my love, are present in them all. I glimpse
your shadow in a mirror and feel your
breath brush my cheek when I open a door.

Where have you gone? I walk from room to room.
When I seek, I no longer find. When I
knock, nothing opens. Sometimes I am scared
to enter a room because I know you’re
in there. I hear your footsteps on the stair.

Your voice, some days, breaks the silence, whispers
my name in the same old way. How can it
be true, my love, that you have gone, that you
have left me here alone? I count hours,
days, clutching dust motes, finding no solace
in salacious sunbeams and troubled dreams.

Commentary: I wrote this poem while my beloved was away in Ottawa, visiting our granddaughter. We Skyped regularly and it was during one of those Skyping sessions that the cat ranted the first poem. Love in old age takes many shapes, even for a poor little pussy cat. I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

Poem 3:

Le mot juste
for my beloved

Le mot juste, the exact word that sums it all up,
catches the essence of the thing painting it with care.

Seven colors stripe the rainbow sky, each with its name:
it seems so simple, but the world is changing every day.

Think color. Think blind. Think color blind. Imagine
the world we see reduced with failing eyes to grey scale.

Think flowers now, roses, daffodils, a hollyhock,
hydrangeas, hyacinths, hibiscus, poinsettia,

or the scent of early morning grass as it falls
beneath the blade. I look across the breakfast table

and see my wife of fifty years, a teenager reborn,
walking towards me in the café where we first met.

I search my mind for the words to describe her,
but I can no longer find le mot juste.

Commentary: What more can I say? I tried to rewrite this, but it is “so hard to recapture that first, fine, careless rapture” (Robert Browning). And I am many things, but certainly not a wise old thrush, singing each song twice over, though I wrote the above twice over, as you will see.

Le mot juste [Prose 1]:

Le mot juste
for my beloved

Le mot juste, the exact word that sums it all up, catches the essence of the thing painting it with care. Seven colors stripe the rainbow sky, each with its name: it seems so simple, but the world is changing every day. Think color. Think blind. Think color blind. Imagine the world we see reduced with failing eyes to grey scale. Think flowers now, roses, daffodils, a hollyhock, hydrangeas, hyacinths, hibiscus, poinsettia, or the scent of early morning grass as it falls beneath the blade. I look across the breakfast table and see my wife of fifty years, a teenager reborn, walking towards me in the café where we first met. I recall the café’s noise, the taste of the coffee, sugared, with cream, its bitter-sweet smell, the pink tip of her tongue testing her lipstick the hot, salt bite of melted butter on toasted crumpets. But when I search my mind for the words to describe her, I can no longer find le mot juste.

Commentary: No way, José. Great ideas, but they don’t cut it. Just stick to the original.

Poem 4:

Still
for my beloved

She moves more slowly up the slope, pushing
against the hill’s shallow grain. I know so
well her swaying grace of old, but now she
shuffles with the drag-foot limp of the aged,

and aged she has, like a good wine in an
oaken cask. Her beauty still lingers in
my memory, lodges in my mind and
still I see her as she was, and for me

still is, beautiful in body, mind … slim,
graceful, a joy to hold and behold. Her
eyes still sparkle and she bubbles still with

a champagne thrill that draws me to her, and
still she enhances each room she enters,
filling me, body, soul, with warmth and light.

Commentary: It is so difficult to watch other people age. It’s hard enough to work out what is happening in our own bodies and minds, but it is even harder to imagine what other people are going through. I look back on my grand parents, my parents, my own ageing process. Then there were cats, dogs, friends. I blinked twice and our daughter was suddenly entering middle age. My beloved and I have been together for fifty-eight years, fifty-three of them, married, here in Canada. So many memories. So much love. Sometimes words fail me. How can I say any more?

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