Time-Spirits

IMG_0868.JPG

Time-Spirits

Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is a concept from 18th- to 19th-century German philosophy, translated as “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the times”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch.
Wikipedia

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Poems for troubled times.

Introduction

Our world finds itself in an incredible mess right now. Somehow, we have to sort it out. Images and metaphors tie past, present, and future together. We must pick our ways through the difficulties of these troubled times, as you must pick your way through the intricacies of these poems. Many of you will give up. Some of you, the chosen few, will make your way to the heart of each poem.

These poems are deliberately cryptic. Each one is a mind game I am playing with you. I do not underestimate you. I have placed clues throughout each poem and if you follow the clues you will arrive at many of the poem’s hidden meanings. Some poems are more difficult than others, their meaning more recondite. Others seem very straightforward, yet still contain secrets.

            This style of poetry has a long history going back to Anglo-Saxon riddles and way beyond, back into the mists of time. Luis de Góngora (1561-1627) and Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) specialized in similar forms of recondite poetry, often based on metaphor and the juego alusivo-elusivo, the game of alluding to something while eluding the act of saying what it is. Jorge Guillén (1893-1984) and Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) also played this game, as did Octavio Paz (1914-1998). In the works of all of these poets, the clues may rest in the poem or they may be found in a generic knowledge of the mythology of the poem’s exterior world.

             Always remember that “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana). Otherwise expressed, in the words of T. S. Eliot: “Time present and time past / are both perhaps present in time future / and time future contained in time past” (Burnt Norton). The seeming anachronisms in these poems suggest that all time is ever-present and that each new day presents us with events that have already occurred on many occasions.

Commentary: The idea for Time-Spirits aka Zeitgeist was born around the kitchen table in Island View on Saturday, 22 December 2018, during a literary conversation between Gwen, Victor, and Roger. A poem at a time, one after another, grew from that table top chat. The result: 70 poems, not easy to read, deliberately difficult, that reflect our troubled times. My thanks to Geoff Slater, line-painter, who drew the cover picture: Robin Red in Claw and Breast, a symbol of nature ‘red in tooth and claw’. So are we in the words of Albert Camus who writes ‘nous sommes ou les meurtriers ou les victimes’ . Is it the early bird that catches the worm? Or is it the late worm that gets caught by the bird? Whichever: it’s the worm that gets eaten, until the robin bites the dust, when he is eaten in his turn. Just think of it as nature doing its regular recycling …

 

IMG_0865 (2).JPG

 

 

 

Eden 2

 

20180823_152000-1_resized

Eden 2
(1956 AD)

Mushrooms
cremini oysters pearl
love them

love them not
garlic mushrooms
flash-fried
in atomic frying pans

nor magic mushrooms
nor radioactive fungi
spores parachuted down
mushroom grey
clouds

built this berth canal
an umbilical cord
birthing oceanic links
not division
nor destruction

Eden’s Garden
a walk in the park
an earthly paradise
closed to many
open for few

lost now
that projected paradise
not much room
four maneuvers
all things
vanished in a flash
horizon’s banana
split in an instant
everything lost

20180823_152000-1_resized

Eden 1

IMG_0608.JPG

Eden 1
(1956 AD)

wet rags of dirty washing
hang on the Siegfried
line’s barbed wire

flesh rent ripped
broken-glass anger bottled
blood-mottled concrete

bones mixer-crushed
blood sacrifice a keep-safe
ash-cross camouflage
stretched sketched
over grime and crime

heavy the spike-toll
rooted the rock
chips off old blocks
these flint flakes flying

faceless this sphinx
inscrutable smile
where now
sands of the Nile

ample ammunition
beneath this apple tree
flat-footed lame-duck walk
goose-stepped after expulsion

walled this garden
to lock what in
to keep who out

 

IMG_0591 (3).JPG

Cogito ergo sum

 

IMG_0057

Cogito ergo sum
(1812 & 1942-43 & 2019)

I think therefore I am
what I am but what am I

a man who borrows and buys
who runs up false credit

sneaks away from unpaid bills
and reads fake falsifications

or listens to such things on tv
talk shows where noddies nod

finger-talk shaking their heads
and grinning so much people can

even see them smile while chatting
with them on land-line phones

I am at the center of my universe
egocentric terracentric heliocentric

a boiled egg this world a cracked
shell this starry firmament

and me with my silver spoon
poised to dig into worldly riches

stuffing them into my mouth
as I lie in the ripped steaming

horse’s belly behind me dead cities
the whole world flaring into flame

ahead of me this winter snow my fate
an albatross noosed around my neck

 

Comment:

Poetry is made up of little touches, a metaphor here, a line change there, a word less, an idea more.  As a result, poets dabble with their verses, shifting them around, sliding them about. I call it “shuffle and cut”. Some arrangements are more effective than others; the big question: which is which? Every word-change alters tone, emphasis, meaning, exposition. What, for example,  is the correct place for “the center of my universe”? Should it start the poem? Should it appear in the middle? Which is more effective? While one answer may please one person, that same answer may displease somebody else. As poets, we must make choices, we cannot always “have patience and shuffle the cards”. Somewhere, the cards, like the male deer who visit my garden, must stop. But where do they stop? Where do the words make their final stand?

Cogito ergo sum
(1812 & 1942-43 & 2019)

centered on my universe
terra- helio- ego

I think therefore I am
what I am but what am I

a man who borrows and buys
who sets up false credit

runs away from unpaid bills
reads fake falsifications

listens to talk shows on CBC
tv shows where noddies nod

shake their heads or smirk
grin so much people can

even see them smile while
talking to them on the phone

a boiled egg this world cracked
shell this starry firmament

me with my silver spoon
poised to dig into worldly

riches stuffing them into my mouth
I lie in the warm steaming belly

dead this horse behind me cities
whole worlds flaring into flame

ahead of me this winter snow my fate
an albatross noosed around my neck

IMG_0641.JPG

Dustbin Alley

20180823_152000-1_resized.jpg

Dustbin Alley
(1789 AD)

all the dustbins
dancing down the street
trying to achieve
a spring time copulation
to create more dustbins

you can’t have a revolution
without dustbins
dustbin … dustbins … dirty
dusty dustbins

a sadistic way to look at
basket-bins full of sawdust
heading between potholes
wind-blown bins
a right St. Vitus’s Dance

him sitting next to me
knitting a new red cap
to place upon
the old dictionary
me standing
on Gibraltar’s Rock so fair
this square in Paris
Place de la Bastille
where tumbrils rattle
over cobbles

Old Moll in a Moll’s Cap
toothless fairy
at a Goblin Party
afraid of mushrooms
scared of toadstools
[sick]

20180823_152016_HDR-1_resized - Copy.jpg

Tangled Garden

 

IMG_0087

Tangled Garden
(1916 AD)

indoor daffodils
drink water
dosed with chemicals
survive in a vase
refuse to crumple
won’t furl their flags

outside
sunshine and shade
Cape Daisies Peonies
Sunflowers
Black-eyed Susan
threading her colored ribbons
through butterflies
and Bees Balm

towering the Hollyhock
seeded by a surprise wind
coming in from nowhere

weeds crowd together
vox populi
these dandelions
beloved of the gods
ubiquitous
totally indestructible

The Painting Lesson

The Painting Lesson
KIRA 

image4

Geoff is teaching the participants in the creative retreat how to paint a cone flower. He plucked several on the way to the workshop and placed a couple in a cup of water so we could study them in close up. Mine are on the table just to my left hand. The golf cart outside is the main means of transport when it is time to move me from place to place. It’s so much easier to sit in comfort rather than to pick my way carefully over slightly uneven grass. Geoff has shown me how to paint the background to my flower. Alas, my background is nothing like his background. I often wonder if this is because I went to school in England, while he went to school in Canada. Certainly our backgrounds are very different. Geoff took the Golf Cart keys from Mad Max. Hence the drive over to Studio #1, where I wrote for a month in June 2017 was very smooth. Mad Max is very kind and gentle. Until he gets behind the wheel of a golf cart. Then he earns his nick-name: Mad Max. My plastic chair is about to collapse and land me on the floor. But I don’t yet know that. It will happen about three minutes after this photo was taken, but the camera had gone by then. Fortunately. Or the next picture would show my rear end raised into the air in all its glory with my little legs kicking.

 

image3

This next photo shows my painting with my lovely cone flower painted in. My cone flower does not resemble Geoff’s cone flower, nor does it look like the real thing that sits on the desk in front of me. I hope you can see my  cone flower in the painting, but if you can’t, don’t worry. My best advice is search for something that doesn’t look like a cone flower and you will find mine. We are not sure what happens when I paint. Whereas all the obedient students have only one large realistic flower in their painting, my painting sprouts flowers as if by magic. They just appear, like dandelions. They are everywhere and in all colors. It’s quite the bouquet, really, though that is not what it was meant to be. It was meant to be a cone flower. Geoff says I have a unique and powerful style of my own. I think this is instructor-speak for “Roger, you can’t paint for love or money and, as a painter, you are as dumb and stubborn and inflexible as a knot in a lump of wood, but shucks, I’m not a negative person, so I’ll call your messy message unique.” Thanks, Geoff. It’s nice to be unique. Much better than being an abject failure. When Clare saw my painting, she thought my eye-sight was going, so she made an appointment for me to see the optician, or whatever he’s called, next week. Or the week after. I couldn’t make out the date. Her hand-writing is so blurred. Maybe her hand-writing is unique, too. Either that or she also needs an eye-appointment.

image5

This is the final product. Geoff says it is very strong and demonstrates the strength of my personality. I think it looks like a cross between a Tangled Garden, a nightmare bristling on the facade of one of Monet’s Cathedrals, a Van Gogh flowery sky, and a walk in the park with Picasso when he was trying to relearn how to paint as a very young child would paint. The other participants say they like the energy of my brush strokes. Brush strokes, a lovely idea. I hold the brush like a carving knife and, pretending the canvas is a lump of recalcitrant cheddar cheese or a fierce Shropshire Blue, I attack it with my bristle sword, hacking it into colorful lumps that can be whatever the viewer thinks they might be. Speaking of cheese, this painting is the sort of dream that comes in the night to haunt me when I have eaten too much cheese. The slashing of the nightmare with the paintbrush sword brings a moment of release and a wonderful feeling of relief and relaxation when canvas and cheese are cheerfully hacked and the contents of their souls released into a heaven-haven of paint. Ah soul: I think you can see one or two souls flitting through my tangled garden. I’ll tell you a secret, though: I don’t know how they got there. I thought I was painting butterflies at the time.