My Father in Oaxaca

My Father in Oaxaca

I saw my father this evening. 
I walked through the zócalo,
opened the main cathedral doors,
looked up, and there he stood,
motionless. 

Light shone through stained glass
and gifted him a halo,
as if he were some long dead
saint come back to visit me. 

We stared at each other.
The hairs on my neck
stood on end.

My hands shook. 
When I forced my mouth open,
words stuck in my throat. 

He wore his best grey suit
over a light blue shirt
and a dark blue,
hand woven tie: 
the outfit in which
I had buried him.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
My Father in Oaxaca

Chronotopos

 Chronotopos

And this has been a dialog with my time and my place. But what is time? A river flowing? A long line leading from my beginning to my end? Alpha and Omega? An instant held between finger and thumb and so swiftly forgotten? A dream I dream when I am awake or asleep?  And which is my real dream, waking or sleeping, sleeping or lying awake?


            And what is my place? This house in which I now live? The garden I watch from my kitchen window? My town? This forested area where I think I belong? My county? My province? My region? And how do I relate to my “time” or my “place” to this being called “Roger”, this dream-Roger who dreams this post-amniotic ocean of life in which he now drifts?
            I dream I am male yet when I read Carl Jung I learn that a large part of me is female. I always thought I was masculine / macho / male, yet when a large part of me is feminine / hembra / female, I am no longer sure what I am. And how much does it matter?


            I have ten fingers yet I use only two to type. Two fingers manipulate twenty-six letters, selecting some, rejecting others, making careless mistakes, organizing and reorganizing, shuffling all those verbal cards. I turn this black-and-white keyboard world upside down when I think my subversive thoughts and type them onto the computer screen and then print them out on what starts as a snow-white page that slowly fills with ant-size letters.
            Time and place, male and female: I lay on my side in hospital and the young urologist shot me full of female hormones so my prostrate cancer would not take over my inner organs and destroy my life. Place and time: I lie awake at night and shape disturbing dreams, dreams I have never before dreamed of dreaming.


            Some nights I sense the end is drawing near. I fear it. In my beginning is my end. Beginning and end: both belong to me as do time and space, so central to the story of my life. For life will continue with or without me even if I am not there to bear witness. But I have been here, and parts of my story will remain embedded in the mind of each and every one of those who knew me and heard me speak.  

  Beethoven took the Fifth and rewrote it in his own image. I want to rewrite my life. I want my youth to return. I want to be young and athletic and lithe … I do not want to be this old man with a stick who bends double when he walks and sticks a blue sticker in the windscreen of his car.

I want to refuse to open the door when the postman knocks to deliver my mail. I know that soon he will bring me that registered letter, for which I must sign, with that last fatal message, the subpoena from which there is no appeal. I guess that like the snow and the wild geese, he’ll be back tomorrow, or the next day, in spite of those voices telling me that tomorrow never comes.
            And so, on an unusually Odd Sunday in a bar they once called Corked, or at another table in another wine bar with a different name, raise a glass to me when I am gone and leave an empty glass on the table for me. If you do, I promise I’ll be there.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Chronotopos

Comments: This, as promised, is the final chapter from On Being Welsh. Chronotopos is Bakhtin’s theory that all our writing is a dialog with our time (chronos) and our place (topos). “Know me, know my time and place.” When we discover and explore our time and place we begin to understand ourselves and our roles in life. Then we can start rethinking who and what we are, what we have been, what we want to be, what we need to do in order to change. But first, we must know ourselves, for without self-knowledge, we are ships adrift, floating rudderless on a rising sea, or driven by the forceful wind of others into places where we may not wish to go. My friends, I raise a glass to you, filled, alas, with orange juice, because it is breakfast time, here in Island View, on the first Sunday, damp and cold and wet of 2022.

New Year’s Day

Self-portrait with mask

New Year’s Day
What’s in a name?

Only the winners write the history of their conquests, only the winners. Am I a winner, then? Of course I am. I’m writing this aren’t I? Therefore, ipso facto, I am a winner. This means that although they trashed and thrashed me, they never broke me nor was I a loser. I survived. And in that world in which I lived, surviving without surrendering was a victory in itself. But this is no tale of a hero, of bloody deeds, of a great victory. It is a survivor’s tale. So, if I won, then they lost, and who knows now how the losers felt, history’s non-winners, their slates wiped clean now, their names anonymous, erased from my story, not carved in stone nor impressed into steel.
            What’s in a name? The Red Wings, the Black Hawks, the Braves, the Algonquins? Whose heart lies broken and buried at Wounded Knee? Why does the Wolastoq rise in the Notre Dame mountains and flow down through unceded land to the City of Fredericton that noble daughter of the woods, and on to the city of Saint John on Fundy Bay? Why Wolastoq, Notre Dame, Fredericton, Saint John?
            “Sticks and stones will break my bones, yet names will never hurt me.” But what if I am called Nemo and have no other name? No-name man, no-name woman, no-name child, no language to call my own, no culture, no history, except the one that others wrote and forced me to believe or the innocent who causes me to rebel

            “Grandpa,” she says, climbing on my knee. “Tell me a story. Please.”
            “Once upon a time,” I begin. “There was this little girl …” She wriggles and giggles.
            “What was her name?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “Yes, you do.”
            “Don’t.”
            “Do.”  
            “Was it me? Am I that little girl?”
            “You can be if you want.”
            “I want. How does my story end?”
            “I don’t know. You’ve only just started it.”

So, write your poems, write your stories, write your childhood, write your memories, write what you know, invent what you don’t know. You can’t remember your name? Give yourself a new one. You have forgotten your myths? Create new ones. You have forgotten your language? Seek and you will find, and when you have found, learn your language again, a word at a time, phrase by phrase, word-picture by word-picture, until you have renewed your world and your place in it. Let your ancestors stride through your veins again and again to stand in the spotlight that you shine upon them.
            Restriction, extinction, suppression of the weakest and poorest, survival of the fittest … You, you who are reading this, you who have survived, you can count yourself among the strongest and the bravest. Now name yourself for who and what you are.
            Pick up your pen and write. Lazarus I name you: step out from your living tomb, step out from your kennel-cave. Pick up your bed and walk and talk, and write your own story. And remember the words of Oscar Wilde, “Tell your own tale, and be yourself, my friend, because everyone else is taken.”

Click here for Roger’s reading.
New Year’s Day
What’s in a name?

Comment: This is the penultimate chapter from On Being Welsh. I will put the last chapter up tomorrow.

A Writer’s Year

A Writer’s Year

Comments: Limited edition. 40 copies. Self-published and printed by Covey’s, Prospect St., Fredericton. Free to workshop participants (all four of them!) and to anyone who asked for one. I also gave away free copies of my books to all participants as a reward for having the courage to brave Covid – masked and socially distanced – and to listen to me and share my ideas.

Comment: My first publication with Cyberwit.net. A pseudo-autobiography masquerading as a memoir. The original version of On Being Welsh was awarded first place in the D. A. Richards Prose Award (WFNB, 2020). It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My second publication with Cyberwit.net. allison Calvern helped me select and order these poems and my thanks go out to her for all her hard work. Geoff Slater and Ginger Marcinkowski also read and commented on the poems. Stars at Elbow and Foot covers 30 years of writing poetry, 1979-2009. It took a year or more to pull those thirty years together. It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My third publication with Cyberwit.net. An early version of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature placed second in the A. G. Bailey Award for a Poetry Manuscript (WFNB, 2020). I revised it during my second residency at KIRA (May-June, 2021), sharpening the vision and concentrating on the links between one creative form and another. Geoff Slater and Ginger Marcinkowski again read and commented on the poems and Geoff suggested that I write the Prelude: On Reading and Writing Poetry. It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My fifth book of the year, self-published and printed by Covey’s, Prospect St., Fredericton in a limited edition of 40 copies, once again given free of charge to my creative friends. Patti painted the flower on the poet-painter’s cheek and I thank her for that. Geoff Slater played a large role in my painting and drawing by persuading me that my cartoons were not worthless. John K. Sutherland has long supported my cartoon art, and he encouraged me to ‘leave tangible footprints’ and to get some of my art work into print. I couldn’t have done it without Salvador Dali, though, and that’s my version of his watch going over the waterfall.

Comment: My comments on a year’s work as a creative artist would not be complete without a mention of the Kingsbrae International Residencies for Artists that take in the summer months in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. I received an invitation to attend KIRA in May-June, 2021. I would like to thank Lucinda Flemer and the KIRA support group for their kindness in inviting me back. The creative friendships that I have made with KIRA artists over the years have just been amazing and the whole atmosphere at KIRA is not just inspiring, but awe-inspiring. Just look at this. How could a writer not be inspired.

Dawn from the Red Room at KIRA

I would also like to mention the online workshops that I have taken with Brian Henry, of Quick Brown Fox fame. I attended the Friday morning advanced writers workshops from January to March, and again from September to December. His knowledge, skills, organization, and support are second to none. I have made many wonderfully creative e-friends across e-mail and our Zoom classes. My year’s work would not be complete without a tip of the hat and a great big thank you to BH & QBF.

Final Comment: I am grateful to Jan Hull, Stoneist, for her reminder that today is Old Year’s Day and that the Roman deity, Janus, is a two-faced deity, with one face looking back towards the old year, as I have just done, and the other looking forward to the future, as I am doing right now. All in all, a busy year and a very enjoyable one. Let us hope that next year is also an enjoyable and a very creative one.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day

Still Life with Hollyhock
Geoff Slater

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. Intertextuality,
visible and verbal: this is a poem about
a painting of a digital photograph of a
hollyhock, a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, naturaleza muerta in Spanish,
a nature morte in French, a dead nature,
then, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display, in this coffin’s wooden frame.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Still Life with Hollyhock

Comment: Back home in Wales, Christmas Day was for family and Boxing Day was for friends. I guess the same traditions still exist here in Island View. And what better friend than Geoff Slater? I met him in 2017 at the first KIRA residency and we have been friends ever since. We have worked on so many projects together: painting, creative workshops, videos, sound recordings, poetry, and short stories. He has illustrated several of my books, McAdam Railway Station, Tales from Tara, Scarecrow, and I have put some of his drawings to poetry, Twelve Days of Cat. Last, but by no means least, his painting of a hollyhock from my garden appears on the front cover of my latest poetry book, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature (Cyberwit, 2021). The title of the collection, incidentally, came from sundry discussions we had on the nature of art and the Prelude: On Reading and Writing Poetry (pp. 7-31), was written at his suggestion. Poems to Geoff can be found on pp. 43, 44, and 61-62 of The Nature of Art.

So, Boxing Day is for friends. And I dedicate it to Geoff Slater and all the many friends I have made in KIRA, Kingsbrae, and throughout my multiple meanderings through the realms of academia, coaching with the NCCP and the NBRU, researching in communities like the ACH, the AATSP, and the MLA, various editorial positions on academic journals like the IFR, BACH, STLHE Green Guides, STLHE Newsletter, La Perinola, AULA, CJSoTL, Canadian Modern Language Review, Calíope, translating for different associations, including the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in St. Joseph’s Convent, Avila, and volunteering with STLHE and the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. To all those friends out there, including my friends and e-friends in TWUC, the LCP, and the WFNB, and those on Facebook, my blog, and my online Skype and Zoom courses and meetings, plus, of course, those I know via Quick Brown Fox, you are not forgotten. Here, for you, on Boxing Day, is a hug or a wave of the hand and a great, big thank you for being there.

Selection of my books
on the sea-shore at Holt’s Point.

The Nature of Art

The Nature of Art

It’s here and it looks beautiful. The photo does not do the cover justice as Geoff Slater’s painting is just phenomenal. The book holder wishes to announce that the photo does not do him justice either. He is much more good-looking in real life. I don’t have the Amazon / Kindle details yet, but I’ll post them as soon as they arrive. meanwhile, you will all have to make do with one poem. But remember: “A poetry book is a dream you hold in your hands.”

Still Life with Hollyhock
Geoff Slater

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. It is the painting
of a photo of a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, then, a nature morte, a dead
nature, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display in this coffin’s wooden frame.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Still Life with Hollyhock


Welcome Guests

Welcome Guests

They arrived last night, late.
Bright moonlight. Soft silence.
I neither heard nor saw them.

I awoke to moonlight on snow.
Shimmering stars. Orion
proud among prancing planets
sparkling in frosted air.

I looked out. Nothing there.
White wilderness of snow,
unmarked, but shadowed.

Dawn. An anxious child
on Christmas Day, I peeped
under the tree, and yes,
I cried out, “He’s been.”
I remember brightly
wrapped packets of gifts.

Today’s gifts: hoof prints
emerging from dark woods,
circling beneath the ash tree,
leading to the bird feeders,
and back into empty woods.

“Yes!” I said aloud. “At Last.”
And joy filled my heart.

Click on this link to hear Roger’s reading.
Welcome Guests

Comment:

Reading the poem aloud, I changed some of the word order to the rhythm of my speaking voice. It’s reading before an audience and hearing their reaction that tells me when a poem is right or needs retouching. Alas, those live readings are gone for now. Anchor, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog are good, but not quite the same. But, for a rhythm and voice poet, who loves live readings and welcomes a live audience, they are better than that midnight silence under dark trees.

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

Art from the Heart

Art from the Heart

Just out today, thanks to my good friend Jared who turned a difficult task into a simple one. And yes, this is my first art book, though there are two more, at least, to come. Thanks to Patti too for the delightful portrait of the author as a flower-child. That was some time ago. This is a very limited edition. Best friends only – BFF. NB The photos are rotten. I apologize for that. However, the cartoons are very special. Here are the two on Climate Change, much debated, sometimes denied, but all too true for this poor snowman.

Climate Change
aka

“I won’t believe in climate change until April or May.”

April May be Too Late.

Again, the book is fine.
My photos are shaky!

In Love with Love

Meditations on Machado and Mairena
In Love with Love

1

In a dream
I dream of you,
dream you into reality,
yearn for your name.
Now I’ll never be the same.

I dream you in a garden,
roses around you.
I stand there suffering,
my head crowned
with thorns.

Caught in the briers of your eyes,
I am trapped in the eye-
lash of your name.

Your presence taunts me.
Your absence haunts me.
My life
will never be the same,
oh Guiomar.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
In Love with Love 1