Gower

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Gower

To be Welsh in Gower is to spell it funny
and pronounce it worse: Gwyr.
It’s to know how to say Pwll Ddu.
It’s meeting the cows in the lane to Brandy Cove
and knowing them all by name and reputation,
which one kicks, which one gores,
when to walk in the middle of the lane,
and when to jump for the safety of the hedge.

It’s to know the difference between the twin farmers
Upper and Lower Jones.
It’s to recognize their sheepdogs, Floss and Jess,
and to call them with their different whistles.
It’s knowing the time of day by sun and shadow;
it’s knowing the tide is in or out
by the salt smell in the air
without ever needing to see the sea;

and now, in this far away land called Canada,
it’s hearing your stomach growl for crempog or teisen lap
whilst memory’s fish‑hook tugs at your heart
in the same way your father hauled in salmon bass
at Rhossili, Brandy Cove, Pennard, Oxwich, and Three Cliffs.

Commentary: I was checking Gwyr, the Welsh for Gower, where I was born, and found this interpretation of the name. <<G is for generous, your giving nature. W is for wise, more tomorrow than today. Y is for young, the years never show. R is for rapport, friends seek you.>> I don’t know if that’s me, but it certainly wouldn’t be a bad set of descriptors to live up to.

 

Starry Night

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Starry Night
(1889 & 2019)

last night I saw stars
never thought to see them again
first time in years
a riot of bright lights
no dark spots floating
nor black holes barring
vision’s edge

just layer upon layer
star fields like buttercups
littering the sky
I had forgotten their names
forgotten how many existed
smiling frowning down
immortalized in myth
celebrated in song

daylight broke waves
an ocean of sunshine
untying dreams’ night-knots
sharp black and white memories
shifting to corkscrews of color

two refreshing rain drops
four times a day
a never-to-be-forgotten face
seen once again in close up
Fundy fogs clearing
mist un-threading between salt
laden pine roots gripping
splitting fragile rocks

complicated emotions
woven in simple words
no arm-waving propaganda
nor chanted simplicities
spat out to fool proper geese

De[con]struction

 

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De[con]struction
(1945 AD)

daylight regenerates
a stuttering roar
noise bursting into life

ladders and supplies
rise from earth to sky
loud voices verbal angels

barn dance on raw rafters
uncovering hidden layers
replacing worn-out tiles

ascending descending
Jacob wrestling with
his heavenly burden

no crows on patrol
cats long gone to ground
chaos and commotion

leave taking
a ritual shaking
rough tarry hands

a brave new world
rebuilt by three
not so wise men
less than three days

Dawn

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Dawn

I turn over in bed. The light on my neighbor’s garage has come on. It is triggered by movement and I get out of bed to see if the deer are back and crossing his yard. But no, it is not the deer, it is the paper-man, up early to deliver the news. He turns in the yard at the bottom of the street and his headlights flood my room with light as he drives up the road.

6:20 am. I go back to bed. The moon is a thin silver arc. It climbs out from its hillside bed and leaves the forest to scale the early morning sky. Today, the sun will rise at 7:49 am. Until then, this silver sky fish will follow Venus and Mars as they march across my window. On clear mornings I watch them as they move from frame to frame. A double window, with 24 panes of glass in four groups of six panes each. I lie in bed and count them in those sleepless hours before I feel the need to rise. I start with groups of 3 going 3-6-9-12-15-18-21-24. Then I go back down again 24-21-18-15-12-9-6-3.

I think of my father counting the dots on the wall as the sun moved slowly across the walls of his house in Rhiwbina. Then I too play games with the window panes, counting them one by one, then two by two, then three by three, then four by four. It is, I suppose, the magic of counting sheep. First, you count their legs, and then you divide by four. Venus and Mars grow brighter as the sky lightens a little bit more. The moon changes from a clouded orange to a shining silver. I play a new game, counting the window panes in Spanish, then French, and finally in my “use it lose it, long-abandoned” Welsh. I am no longer sure of the order of the numbers, so, when I hit a road bump, instead of stopping, I follow the language pattern and invent.

Dawn: what a funny time, what a funny word, so many funny meanings “and suddenly, it dawned upon me”. Here the dawn walks uphill towards me. It slowly fills the sky with light. The planets shine, then moon and planets disappears as, at 8:09, that first ruddy ray splits the darkness and lands rosy-red upon my bedroom wall. The planet’s dance has ended. The flirtatious moon has come and gone. Time now to end all games and to wash and dress and face reality. February 1: it is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Venus, Mars and moon dance through my mind, moving to a different tune.

Loss of …

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Loss of …

By the time I remembered your name,
I had forgotten your face. Then I couldn’t
recall why I wanted to talk to you.

I trace dark landmarks on the back of scarred
hands: blood maps, unremembered encounters,
dust covered photographs, grey, grim, anonymous,

not belonging in any family album.
At night I cruise among islands, emerald green
against sapphire seas. Why didn’t I visit

some of these places? Golden sand trickles through
night’s fingers and time’s hour glass, as stars
sparkle and planets dance in Platonic skies.

My memory fails. I wake each morning
unaware of where I have been the night before.
I track the sails of drifting ships, white moths.

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.

Comment: I first published this poem on July 31, 2018 (click here for the original post). Here it is now, in revised form. I find the revision process to be totally fascinating: the polishing of old ideas, the arrival of new ones, a different structure, a reshaping of the poem’s internal logic. So much happens in the revision process. Many great poets wrote and rewrote their poems, again and again.  I consider Francisco de Quevedo and Juan Ramón Jiménez to be poets who continually revised. A perusal of the variants to their poems (28 versions in the case of some of Quevedo’s poems) gives the reader an understanding of how the great poets think, of how they purge, intensify, sometimes simplify, usually improve their initial instincts. We lesser poets can learn so much from the greats. Above all, we can understand that poetry is a life-long practice, that it is a love of words and emotions, that it is a desire to catch and preserve the uncatchable that can never be completely caught. The critics say that the reader can never know the writer’s intentions. I agree with that, to a certain extent, as I never know why I am writing what I put down on the page. I guess I often have no intent. More important, my original intention can change as I write, and what I write is by no means what you understand I wrote when you read, for each of us processes the imagery, especially metaphors, in a different, and very personal, fashion. That said, when I rewrite a thought pattern emerges and my intentions become that much clearer, not from the words on the page, but from the footpath that led me in different directions until the final version emerged on the page.

Loss

Books

Loss of …
… something just beyond my fingertips
that I can’t quite remember

By the time I remembered your name,
I had forgotten your face.
Then I couldn’t recall why
I wanted to talk to you.

I trace dark landmarks
on the back of scarred hands:
blood maps,
unremembered encounters,
dust covered photographs,
grey, grim, not belonging in any album.

At night I cruise among islands,
emerald green against sapphire seas.
Why did I never visit so many places?

Golden sand trickles through
night’s hour glass as stars, planets
dance in Platonic skies.

My memory fails.
I wake each morning
unaware of where I have been.
I track the sails of drifting ships,
white moths.

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

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