Gambit 1

Gambit 1

She’d been there.
She’d have walked
those waxed floors,
looked down at her feet
to see her face distorted
in the elbow-grease
of sheen and shine.

Alone, she was, all alone,
abandoned.
Tonight, on her birthday,
I feel the chill hand
of her sorrow
clutch my heart.

Who can reach in,
who can melt the iceberg
rising beneath my ribs?
Who can warm chilled bones,
charm lost feelings
back into throbbing life?

Gone, all gone,
lost, forgotten, forsaken,
abandoned
on those same ice floes,
where she walked on thin ice,
with the darkest depths
calling out to her from far below.

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Gambit 1

Comment: My mother, had she lived, would have celebrated her 109th birthday. Watching Episode One of The Queen’s Gambit, I was overwhelmed by what my mother must have felt, all those years ago, when she lost another child. Did she actually feel and think in manner portrayed above? I’ll never know now.

Eclipse

Eclipse


Was it a total eclipse,
or just a partial eclipse,
that sky the likes of which
I will never see again?

I do not want to see,
let alone experience,
the mushroom cloud
that descends from the skies,
then swells up again
to embrace them,
leaving my ashen body,
a bleak, black shadow
on a brick wall.

Meanwhile, back in my kitchen,
in the lull before the storm,
I wait and wonder if my world
and all within it
will be eclipsed.

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Eclipse


Hollyhock

Hollyhock

Is it a silken purse
made from the pig’s ear
of its seed pod,
or just a single seed
excreted by
an incontinent bird?

Its bruised
evening-sky hues
stretch their emperor’s
imperial purple all too thin.
In the late summer sun
it swallows one errant bee
in its leviathan mouth.

Sole survivor,
from a score of flowers
that once climbed
the seven foot,
eight foot stalk
to sway in the wind,
it stands on guard
against fall cold
and winter’s snow.

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Hollyhock

Comment: I didn’t like the ending to the earlier version, so, when it came to reading it, I rewrote it first instead. I much prefer this version. Apologies to those who read the earlier words.



Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Long gone, those good old days, dead and gone,
their centers collapsed in on themselves
unable to hold on to time’s hands
circling the clock of ages, that timeless rock.

Beyond these days, long days when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier and even more heavy
with life lying in wait, to weigh us down,
always lying, and the lies themselves
more rocks added to the pile we must carry.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this endless hill only to have them roll down,
again and again, forcing us to stoop once more,
not to conquer, but merely to live our lives,
to journey onwards, relentlessly, to endure
from the beginning of the end until the last,
and we must endure, will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

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Sisyphus




Me and My Bride!

Me and My Bride!

A friend wrote to me today and sent her greetings to ‘you and your bride’. Well, that delightful phrase set me thinking. Clare (my bride!) and I have known each other for 61 years and we have been married for 56 of them, 57 this Christmas. I often wonder how this wonderful woman has put up with me during all those years.

Mrs. Thomas Thomas, my good friend from the little village in Wales where my parents had their house, once told me about a friend of hers. That friend had been married for 35 years and had never had a quarrel or a fight with her husband. ‘There she goes,’ she told me one morning. ‘Never a fight with her husband. Bloody boring marriage, if you ask me.’

The point, I suppose, is that yes, there can be disagreements within a marriage, and doubts, and uncertainties, and questions about major decisions, and no, we don’t agree on everything? How could we? And one of the best parts about marriage, well, ours anyway, is agreeing to differ, and then making up again, as quickly as possible, after any disagreements.

Whatever, it is hard to argue against 61 years of togetherness and happiness. The secret formula? Clare’s – to learn my languages with me, to help me with my work, to lift me up when I am down. Mine – to love cooking for her, spoiling her, bringing her flowers, and trying to support her as she has supported me.

We have often led separate lives – Clare as a tennis player, a national gymnastics judge, a dedicated show secretary of the local kennel club, a show dog owner, groomer, and handler. Me – as a rugby player and coach, a researcher who has travelled frequently and visited important libraries in my field, a poet and short story writer who has taken and led workshops and writing groups.

We have also worked together at all levels. Each of my four graduate courses (MA, Toronto, 1967) demanded a paper every two weeks. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – paper #1. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday -paper #2. Saturday – rugby with U of T Blues or Toronto Irish. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – paper #3. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – paper #4.

I would sit in the kitchen and write the papers in longhand. Clare would sit at the other side of the table and type each page as I finished it. She did the editing too, when and where necessary. She also developed her computing skills faster than I did. Result: web pages, art work, design, photography, and several of my book covers. Our keys to success include team work, mutual assistance, deep caring and sharing, but separate paths, when and if we needed to take them.

So, there you have it. A swiftly-penned picture of me and my bride, or, as I call her, my better two-thirds. My life would have been very, very different without her. And don’t forget: behind every lucky man, there stands a wonderful woman.

Flower Power

Flower Power

The hollyhocks are back. A little bit late, but just starting to reveal themselves in all their glory. It’s been a strange spring, with frost warnings (and two actual frosts) in June, heavy rain, T-Storms, a tornado watch, extra hot days and, thankfully cold nights with the temperatures at +4C, even this month, July.

The yucca plant is flowering again, with three flourishing stems this time. It only started to flower late last week, but it, too, is full of promise. Somehow, while there are flowers, there is still some hope, some beauty, and some time and space for rejoicing.

Ah, daffodils, my favourite flowers.

Daffodils

Winter’s chill lingers well into spring.
I buy daffodils to encourage the sun
to return and shine in the kitchen.
Tight-clenched fists their buds,
they sit on the table and I wait
for them to open.

For ten long days the daffodils
endured, bringing to vase and breakfast-
table stored up sunshine and the silky
softness of their golden gift.

Their scent grew stronger as they
gathered strength from the sugar
we placed in their water, but now
they have withered and their day is done.

Dry and shriveled they stand paper-
thin and brown, crisp to the touch.
They hang their heads as their time
runs out and death weighs them down.

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Daffodils

Vis brevis, ars longa – life is short but art endures. Maybe my daffodils will last longer than the yucca and the hollyhocks. They will certainly outlive this year’s bloom. Time and tide wait for no man, and flowers too are subject to the waxing and the waning of the moon. That’s life, I guess. Long may it last.

To Meditate is No Disgrace


To Meditate is No Disgrace
The Water Tower
16

There comes a time when you can do no more.
You need to take a break, to step aside and wait
for the tide to turn and energy to flow.

The hard yards may be behind you,
but there’s hard yards waiting round the bend,
waiting for the break to end.

And you, you might bend and take a break,
but you must never break.

No one else can see what you see
or do what you do.
Nobody can take your place.
To take a break
and meditate is no disgrace.

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To Meditate is no Disgrace

Garcilasso

Garcilasso

“When I stand still and contemplate
the path that led me here.”

I see purple arrows
painted on the corridor floors
their sharp ends
pointing to the treatment room
where the machine’s stark metal throat
waits to swallow me.

I shed my Johnny Coat
and lie on the bed.
I mustn’t move
as they adjust me
tugging me this way and that,
in accordance with the red marks
painted on my belly and hips.

Then they raise my feet,
place them in a plastic holder,
cover me with a thin cotton sheet,
and leave the room to take refuge
in the safety of their concrete bunker.

With a click and a whirr,
the bed moves up and in,
the ceiling descends
and claustrophobia clutches.

The machine circulates
weaving its clockwork magic:
targeting each tumor, scrubbing me clean,
scouring my body, scarring my mind.

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Garcilasso

Comment: It all happened a long time ago now, but one never forgets. The desire to reach out and help and comfort any and all sufferers is still with me. This is the link for my book, A Cancer Chronicle.

Hair

Hair

Some have it, many don’t.
Some find it floating
one morning on their pillow,
short or long, all gone,
a dream faded in the light of day.

A woman’s crowning glory,
or so they say
yet I admire the bald skull,
its stiff stubble
stubbornly growing back
beneath head scarf or cap.

The lucky ones wear wigs,
often made from
another person’s loss.

The bravest flaunt their baldness,
battle flags their shining skulls,
blazing like badges of glory,
shiny medals awarded
in this never-ending war
against our own fifth column
and the enemy who devours us
from within.

Comment: Yet another of my friends is suffering from cancer. When will it ever end? This is my tribute to all who fight, or who have fought, the enemy within. Meet him head on. Never surrender. D o not give in.

Click here for Roger’s reading of Hair on Anchor.
Hair

Oily-Garcks

Oily-Garcks

And the oily-garcks betrayed the earth.
They drilled it full of holes
until the planet looked like a circle
of Swiss bankers’ cheese floating in space.

Mining, fracking, exploitation, internal combustion,
everything combined to make rainfall rise,
rivers flood, wild winds blow, hurricanes hustle,
lightning strike, again and again,
until forests flared, skies grew dark with cinders,
and land was reduced to water, dust, and even more ash.

The oily-garcks read their bibles and in their pride
they built super-fortunes, super-structures, super-yachts,
modelling those super-yachts, two or three each,
on double or triple the dimensions of Noah’s Ark.

Then they loaded them. They invited, two by two,
their friends, physicians, doctors, opticians, surgeons,
specialists, generalists, nurses, masseurs and masseuses,
body guards, anybody, really, who would keep them alive.
Next came their wives, concubines, girl friends, partners,
and those they loaded, old and new, by the dozen.

Earth warmed and her ice caps melted.
The seven seas rose higher and higher until
there was only one cruel, grey, destructive sea.

The oily-garcks set sail in their arks beneath
dark skies and an even darker future.
They sailed for forty days, forty weeks,
forty months, and then for forty years.

Nothing.

Gaia, raped, mocked, tortured, and destroyed,
had neither given nor promised a rainbow covenant.
No let up in the rains and winds, no supply ships,
no neutral landing sites, no undrowned friends,
no friendly rainbow in the sky to promise peace.

The oily-garks had brought no living food.
Their fridges were stacked with frozen dishes,
caviar, lobster, tenderloins, great wines, fine liqueurs.
They didn’t even bring a dove, just helicopters
launched from helipads that took off, year after year,
in search of the land that had disappeared.
They searched and searched until their fuel ran out.
In all that time, what did they see? They saw the sea.

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Oily-garks