Croaking Angels

He knows the frogs are in there. He doesn’t need to hear them sing. But he loves to make them croak.

Croaking Angels

Their tunes are one note symphonies,
croaks of joy that move
their fellow frogs to ecstasy,
exhorting them to share
the splendors of ditch life,
in a springtime bonding
that will loft them skywards.

There’s an ancient magic
in this calling: water
and laughter, sunlight, warmth,
and all those joyous things
that fill the newborn spring.

Moonlight swings its cheerful love lamp.
New leaves and buds are also known to sing.

Comment: This always makes me think of the croaking chorus from Aristophanes. I do hope all those wonderful ancient plays, songs, myths, and legends are not forgotten in our croaking frog chorus of modern jingoistic advertisements and propaganda. Ah well, what’s a source for the proper goose is probably a source for the proper gander. Who knows nowadays? What we do know is that spring is just around the corner. Warmth and the absence of snow will help change our lives. And yes, that croaking chorus will be back.

Black Angel

from an original painting by Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400-1464)

Black Angel

You cannot hide
when the black angel comes
and knocks on your door.

“Wait a minute,” you say,
“While I change my clothes
and comb my hair.”

But she is there before you,
in the clothes closet,
pulling your arm.
You move to the bathroom
to brush your teeth.

“Now,” says the angel.
Your eyes mist over.

You know you are there,
but you can no longer see
your reflection in the mirror.

Comment:

I first saw the Black Angel in Aldebarán’s cultural store in Ávila (2006). She sat there, in the shop window, along with several other angels, and I worshiped her from the distance of the street. Her image was taken from an original painting from Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400-1464). This was turned into a 3-D image and then converted into the statue I saw in the shop window.

I brought the statue back to Island View, placed it on the shelf above the fireplace, where it still rests, and wrote several poems on the theme of Angels. I gathered them together in a chapbook entitled All About Angels that I self-published in Fredericton in 2009. The chapbook was dedicated to Clare’s great-aunt, D. E. Witcombe who departed this world on October 15, 2008.

All About Angels was also based on a book of a similar title, Sobre los Ángeles, written by Rafael Albertí, one of the major poets of Spain’s Generation of 1927. I avoided the ambiguity of the Spanish title — Sobre (in Spanish) can mean Above or Beyond as well as About — by limiting my own title to All About Angels.

For Carl Jung, angels are the messengers sent to inform people of the state of their world. For me, they are also the wild creatures that inhabit the world around me and often take the form of chickadees, crows, mourning doves, woodpeckers, deer, foxes, chipmunks, the occasional bear, and other spiritual creatures. They can be best seen in those moments of solitude when we are most open to the natural world around us. Then, and sometimes only then, we can hear the urgent messages they bring.

Alebrijes

Alebrijes

alebrije2
This is one of the first alebrijes I bought in the zocalo (main square) in Oaxaca. He has lost his ears and probably his tongue. They started falling out so we wrapped them up carefully and now we can’t find them. He’s still a happy chappy, hough, and has been in this house for a quarter of a century. Happy Birthday Alebrije!

     Alebrijes step out from dried wood and stand in the shower of paint that falls from the brush’s tip. Yellow flash of lightning, pointillistic rain, garish colors that mirror those of the códices. The carvings take the form of fantasy figures, anthropomorphic animals, and mythological creatures.
Sometimes one individual selects the wood, carves it, then covers it in paint. Occasionally an entire family takes part in the work of making the alebrije. One person collects the wood and prepares it for carving. Another carves and sands it. A third works on the undercoat, and a fourth applies the final patterns of paint.
The great debate: does the form in the wood reveal itself to the carver or do the carvers impose their own visions on the wood? In the case of the team, do the family members debate and come to a joint conclusion?
These thoughts, exchanged with wood-carvers in Oaxaca, have led to a series of interesting conversations. What exactly is creativity? Where does it come from? Do we, as artists, impose it upon our creations? Or do we merely observe and watch as new ideas float to the surface of our minds? How does the creative mind really function? And, by extension, how much of the sub-conscious creative sequence can be placed into words?

Alebrijes

 Are they half-grasped dreams
that wake, wide eyed, to a new day’s sun?

Or are they alive and thriving
when they fall from the tree?

Does the carver fish their color and shape
from his own interior sea,
or does he watch and wait for the spirit
to emerge from its wooden cocoon
to be reborn in a fiery block of color?

Daybreak:
in a secluded corner of my waking mind,
my neighbor’s dog greets the dawn with sparks
of bright colors born from his bark.

My waking dream: dark angels with butterfly bodies,
their inverted wings spread over my head to keep me warm.
In the town square, the local artist plucks dreams
from my head and paints them on carved wood.

IMG_0299
Our house iguana: he is not an alebrije, but is made out of painted metal foil, carved first, and then decorated. He’s the one who guards the front door and falls upon unwanted intruders when they least expect it. Never stay home alone without one, or two, or more. But watch out if you have too many and they get hungry.

Downsizing

fire the means of forging / Omega and Alpha / beginning and end

Downsizing

a double sword
this clearing out
of odds and ends

the library diminishing
book by book
so many memories
slipped between the covers
dust-bound now
yet springing so quickly
back to life

sorrowful not sweet
these multiple partings
from people I will never see again
save in my dreams

I think of book burnings
so many heroes
gong up in flames
fire their beginnings
fire their ends

fire the means of forging
the Omega and Alpha
of those book worlds
that surround us

fire words
encircling us
consuming us
outside and in

Silence

Where e’er she treads, the glossy flowers shall rise and light, like the light of flowers, will pierce any gloom and brighten the room.

Silence

When I wait for words to come
and they refuse,
I know that silence is golden
and spreads its early morning sunlight
across the breakfast table
where yellow butter melts on hot toast.

Light from the rose window in Chartres
once spread its spectrum over my hands
and I bathed in its speckled glow.

My fingers stretched out before me
and I was speechless,
for in such glory,
mortal things like words cease to flow.

So much can never be said
even if it is sensed: fresh coffee,
poutine à pain, bread baking,
flowers bursting into bloom,
the sense of immanent beauty that fills me
each time my beloved enters the room.

Bottle House, PEI

Light through glass, darkly: bottles set in one of the bottle house walls in PEI. The gardens are wonderful and well-worth a visit.

Bottle House, PEI
            The day begins with flowers: at the entrance, beneath the windows, flowers everywhere, a delicacy of scent. Beyond these flowers, even more flowers, then playthings in the garden: a child’s paradise, these sculptured faces, this glass among the trees, sun and shade, the fountain’s water, this dream of an old man, kept alive now by his children, a dream of health and sanity and peace out by the bay, where the mud red waters roll and the tide’s hand grasps at the land and pulls it down with watery fingers.
            Everywhere: faces and elements of faces: a nose, eyes, a mouth, open in surprise. Carved wooden faces, glass faces, pottery faces, flesh and blood faces, grandma’s face, grandpa’s face, then the grandchildren.
            Tourists travelling, old islanders returning to see family and friends, young islanders returning to visit the almost forgotten farms which their families worked a generation or three ago, before their exodus from the land.
            “This was grampy’s house!” they say or “that was my grandmother’s farm!” as if a life could be reborn in that pointed finger, those casual words. How many memories are snapped in each picture? How many lives are caught in this snapping of the fingers as the past is instantly summoned and perfection is bottled for a second or two in the magic of this house, this garden where the builder’s spirit roams. Sit still awhile. Be silent: you may hear him breathe, glimpse him, for a second, staking out the flowers, extracting a weed, checking the set of the concrete foundations, polishing a bottle, resting on a wooden seat, avoiding the slow snail on the path bejewelled by rain-drops from the trees or spray from the fountain. For where there are flowers, there must be water and rain and peace and happiness and all good things, glimpsed darkly through smoked glass yet grasped so smoothly in the sun’s bright light.
            This is the house of bottles, the glass house, where rough winds are shunned and the bottles are set in concrete. It is a museum of light and dark, the creation of sun and shadow as sunshine fails and the lighthouse’s flashlight beam reverberates from glass to stone and back again. Shapes, shadows, memories curved and carved in glass, set in glass, this shimmering beacon this glass house, this light house built as a heaven-haven for harboured ships and the soul’s refreshment, here, in these gardens, among these bottles, and at the chapel door, an angel-in-waiting.

Angel or fairy? It doesn’t matter. She was a gift one morning, when we visited. In this photo you can see how the bottles are set in the wall.

Three links to the Bottle House, PEI.

https://moore.lib.unb.ca/poet/Bottle_House.html

https://moore.lib.unb.ca/poet/Bottle_House_2.html

https://moore.lib.unb.ca/poet/BH3_Gardens.html

The Red Room

I looked for a picture of music, but could find nothing. No Carlos, no flute, no nothing. So, I invite you to use your imagination: just pretend these are the notes of an Andean flute, floating in the early morning air. Now close your eyes and listen carefully. Can you hear the music?

The Red Room

Carlos makes music on his flute.
He lives in the Green Room,
with its door just opposite mine

He creates the highest note of all
and it floats before me in the air,
a trapeze artist caught in a sunbeam
and suspended between the hands
that fling and those that catch.

His musical rhythms are different.
I try to follow his fingering.

In the space between notes,
tropical birds flash jungle colors
as they flit between flowers.

With a whirring of wings,
all music stops,
save for the robin’s trill
refreshing the early summer
with his eternal song.

Comment:

I finally found a photo of Carlos.
Here he is, in Kingsbrae Gardens,
playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy
on ‘half-filled’ water bottles
tuned to play a perfect scale.
Like an Andean bird, the man
could pluck notes from the air
and fill the world with music.

Light

Early morning light in the Red Room at KIRA. Such a splendid invitation for the enlightened mind to write poetry about the splendors of light.

Light

This fragile light
filtering through
the early-morning mind
filled as it still is
with night’s dark
shadowy dreams
their dance demonic
or perchance angelic
as light rises and falls
in time to the chest’s
frail tidal change
the ins and outs
of life-giving breath

Bright motes these birds
at my morning window
feathered friends
who visit daily
known by their song
their plumage
their ups and downs

they dazzle and sparkle
cracking the day open
with their joyous songs

Daybreak in the Red Room, KIRA

Dawn from the window of The Red Room, KIRA, June 2017.

Daybreak

… early morning sunshine
creepy-crawly spider leg rays
climbing over window and wall
my bed-nest alive to light
not night’s star twinkle
but the sun’s egg breaking
its golden yolk
gilding sheet and pillow
billowing day dreams
through my still sleepy head …

… the word feast festering
gathering its inner glimpses
interior life of wind and wave
the elements laid out before me
my banquet of festivities
white the table cloth
golden the woodwork’s glow
mind and matter polished
and the sun show shimmering
its morning glory …

Comment: It seems like only yesterday, though three and a half years have slipped swiftly by. Each summer I am envious of those chosen to represent their artistic disciplines at KIRA. The joys of waking in the Red Room and of writing at the desk there will stay with me for ever. It was pleasure and a privilege. And still I live in hopes to see sunrise from the Red Room once more. This poem incidentally is from my poetry collection entitled One Small Corner. It was written at KIRA (Kingsbrae Gardens) in the month of June, 2017. One Small Corner is available on KDP and Amazon. Here is a link to the KIRA Video.

Thin Ice

Thin ice, light snow, and the crows’ feet of age marking the earth face with graven beauty, scars like those made by time’s tick-tock arrows.

Thin Ice
Vulnerant omnia, ultima necat

I walk on thin ice
at the frayed edge
of my life.

I search for the key
that will rewind me,
but I fail to find it.

Who will winch up
the pendulums on
my grandfather clock,
resetting it
in spring and fall?

Who will watch
time’s sharp black arrows
as they point the path
of moon change
and the fleeting hours?

Each hour wounds me.
Who will tend me
when that last one kills?