Piled Higher and Deeper

Piled Higher and Deeper

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” Oscar Wilde

And those -isms keep piling up. Deconstructionism, expressionism, Marxism, socialism, liberalism, determinism, naturalism, conceptism(o), establishmentarianism, anti-establishmentarianism, dis-establishmentarianism, anti-disestablishmentarianism, culteranism(o), euphemism, malapropism, minimalism, impressionism, cubism, pointillism, – sometimes I am so clever that I don’t understand a word of what I am saying-ism.

But I sound good. I baffle people with my outrageous knowledge and I send them to their dictionaries and their Google to find out what I might actually mean. But all too often, I don’t know what I mean myself.

So – let’s all go on a wild-goose-chase-ism and find the meaning of the meaning of existentialism, or maximism, or good-for-nothing-ism, or piled-higher-and-deeper-ism, or cough it up, it might be a chicken-ism in a trying to escape-ism mode.

Enough, no more. Tis not as sweet now as it was before. – a lovely Shakespearian-ism. So let us shake ourselves, like a Labrador out of the water or a dog with fleas and rid ourselves of one or two of these itchy -isms.

On Life and Living

On Life and Living

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Oscar Wilde

To live, to really live, what does it mean? I guess that depends on each one of us, our backgrounds, our education, our culture. W. H. Davies wrote one of my favourite poems “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” To know how to live is also to know how to stand and stare, how to make time for oneself, how to take joy in the simple things.

But what if the simple things are no longer accessible or ‘within easy reach’ as my poet friend, Jane Tims, would phrase it? When the cost of living rises, when we cannot afford to heat our homes, when we have to choose between eating or heating, or between food and medicine, can we truly be said to be living? Then, like it or not, existence, in the words of Sartre, precedes essence, and the very act of existing, surviving, maintaining body and soul together, takes over from any thoughts that may strike us, any time we may have to stand and stare.

Do the little things in life, said St. David of Wales, Dewi Sant. But what happens when so many of these little things are taken away from us? Some of us are lucky, privileged, blessed – and we are able to heat the house, run the car, meet a sudden unexpected bill. We do not have to choose between heat or eat, between food or medicine. Others are not so fortunate. They may have lost their homes. They may not have a car, or they may be living in it. Their transport may be a metal trolley, ‘borrowed from a shopping mall before it was lost’. Their only unexpected bill may be the Old Bill, coming to arrest them for loitering, with or without intent. For these people, on a daily basis, an hourly, basis, life’s hard choices are upon them. They are faced every day with a very different choice in answer to Hamlet’s question – ‘to be or not to be?’.

I see them, the people making those choices, sitting on the sidewalk outside the super-market, plastic coffee cups before them. Heads down, eyes closed, scarcely able to look me in the eye. I see them at the traffic lights, holding up their cardboard signs. I look at them as they sit there or stand there or walk up and down, sitting, standing, staring at the traffic.

They also give a new meaning to the last couplet of W. H. Davies’ poem – “A sad life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” They have the time to sit, and stand, and pace, and stare – indeed they do – but do they live, or do they just exist? And for how long? These are the real questions.

Sisyphus Sings Nabucco

Sisyphus Sings Nabucco

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

Long days will come when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier with life lying in wait,
to weigh us down with all those lies, each
falsehood a rock added to the daily pile.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this hill each day, only to have them roll down,
overnight, 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, we will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sisyphus Sings Nabucco



Suit of Lights


Suit of Lights

I am a man of straw
shivered by raw winds,
frosted by the cold
enveloping this enigmatic body,
dry bones set rattling.

I walk with two sticks,
a stick man then,
not just a sick man,
as broken as this broken body,
old sack of out-muscled blood.

When the magic hour
descends, earth glows
with a different light,
and my world is transformed,
translucent, bright.

A touch of the almighty,
this beauty suddenly
surrounding me,
blessing me,
and all my doubts,
with this suit of lights.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Suit of Lights


Hold Fast

Hold Fast

On days like these,
the center must hold,
but not just hold,
it must writhe and strive
to live longer, be stronger,
to hold together so that the periphery
understands that it too is at the center
of an extended web of life
that contains us all,
you and me,
past and future generations,
in a great chain of being alive
and knowing that yes, we are here,
we are, at heart, really only one,
and totally unique,
is spite of the sameness
that sometimes surrounds us
as time’s spider-web
unravels, oh so fast, so slow,
and yet still we are here,
and still the center holds.

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Hold Fast

Message

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

4

Message

Six in the morning.
The phone rings,
shatters our dreams.

A skeletal voice
at the other end announces
the name of the deceased
in ritual words, ending
with my condolences.

Five in the morning here,
nine in the morning over there.
Death at a distance,
three thousand miles
and four hours between us,
yet the phone call arrives
on time, instantaneous.

Your father, your mother, her mother,
gone, their absence heralded
by the police, a lawyer, a doctor,
a nurse practitioner,
an anonymous nurse,
someone you will never meet.

That call can come anytime.
While you are out in the car,
or in the garden, digging,
or maybe shovelling the snow.

And maybe that’s how death will come,
says Seamus Heaney, by telephone,
an unexpected call
from an unexpected caller.

The phone rings and your partner listens,
then hands over the receiver:
“It’s for you, my dear.”

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Message

Monkey’s Clockwork Universe

Monkey’s Clockwork Universe

Some days, monkey winds himself up
like a clockwork mouse.
Other days he rolls over and over
with a key in his back
like a clockwork cat.

Monkey is growing old and forgetful.
He forgets where he has hidden the key,
pats his pockets, and slows right down
before he eventually finds it
and winds himself up again.

One day, monkey leaves the key
between his shoulder blades
in the middle of his back.

All day long, the temple monkeys
play with the key, turning it round and round,
and winding monkey’s clockwork,
tighter and tighter, until suddenly
the mainspring breaks

and monkey slumps at the table
no energy, no strength,
no stars, no planets, no moon at night,
the sun broken fatally down,
the clockwork of his universe
sapped, and snapped.

Comment: Monkey Temple is A Narrative Fable for Modern Times written in verse. The poems show strong links to Surrealism and Existential Philosophy. They portray the upside-down world of Carnival and out line Monkey’s Theory of the Absurd in a dystopian world that mirrors that of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, LaFontaine’s Fables, the esperpento of Valle-Inclan, and the witty conceptismo of Francisco de Quevedo. This is a walk through the jungle of the Jungian innermost mind. But watch out for those monkeys: they bite.

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Monkey Temple
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Monkey Temple
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Empress of Ireland

Empress of Ireland
Poems from Ste. Luce-sur-mer

is available at the following link:
Click here to purchase Empress of Ireland

The Empress of Ireland

The poems which have come together to form the Empress of Ireland were begun in Ste. Luce-sur-mer, Quebec, in May 2002. It was off-shore from Ste. Luce, in the early hours of the morning of the 29th of May, 1914, that the Empress of Ireland collided, in dense fog, with a converted Norwegian collier whose bows had been strengthened for ice-breaking. There were approximately 15 minutes between the moment of impact (1:55 am) and the moment the Empress caught fire and sank (2:10 am). Although the disaster has received little international attention, more passengers perished in this accident (840) then in the loss of the Titanic (832) or the sinking of the Lusitania (791).

Introduction to the Empress of Ireland

Click on the link below to read an early post with a new sound recording of
A Survivor lights a candle
https://rogermoorepoet.com/2020/11/23/a-survivor-lights-a-candle/

I first heard voices in the cries of the sea birds on the beach at Ste. Luce-sur-mer.

Borne on the wind, over the sigh of the waves, they seemed high-pitched, like the voices of children, or of men and women in distress. These were lost voices, the cries of people alone and frightened by the dark. I heard them calling to me.

That night, there were knocks at my cabin door and finger nails scratched at my window. Tiny sounds, almost beyond the range of human hearing: the snuffling of puppies when they turn over in their sleep and tug at each other, whimpering in their dreams.

“Who’s there?”

I started from my sleep. But there was only the wind and the waves as the tide’s footsteps climbed a moonbeam path to ascend the beach. When I walked on  the sand next day, at low tide, there was a whispering behind my back. Little voices crying to be set free.

“Who’s there?”

A lone gull flew past my head and battered itself against the wind’s cage with outraged sturdy wings.  That night, the mist descended. The church stepped in and out of its darkness and shadows gathered, persistent, at my door.

I walked out into the night and saw a lone heron surrounded by gulls. It was as if an adult, clamoured at by children, was standing guard over the beach. Then I saw the shadows of little people searching for their parents, the shapes of mothers and fathers looking for their off-spring, lost among the grains of sand.

Beyond them, on the headland, the church stood tall above the shadows. I saw grandmothers and grandfathers, their lips moving in supplication, kneeling before the granite cross which stands above the sea. As I approached, they turned to me, opened their mouths, mouthed silent words, then disappeared.  When I went back to bed, faces and voices visited me in my dreams. When I got up next morning, they came to me in the speech of birds hidden in the foliage, in the words dropped by the osprey’s wing, in the click of the crab’s claw as he dug himself deeper into the sand.

“Release us”

“Speak for us!”

“Set us free!”

The words of the M Press of Ire are not my words. They could never be my words. Foundered words, they are, rescued from the beach, and dragged from the high tide mark with its sea weed, carapace, charred wood, old rusted iron, and bright bones of long dead animals polished by the relentless action of wind, sea and sand.

One Small Corner

One Small Corner
A Kingsbrae Chronicle

is available at the following link:
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Introduction to One Small Corner

I think of my creative writing in terms of visual, verbal photos. I create snapshots in words and these snapshots come from everywhere that I have been. For me, they are precious moments caught and frozen forever in the camera of the poet’s eye. Visual and verbal, they illustrate the life I have lived and the things I have seen. These are the phenomena on which my artistic life is founded.

I am not a philosopher by any means, but I have over time developed an artistic philosophy. It started a long time ago at Wycliffe College with my A level studies of French existentialism and continued later in the Graduate School at the University of Toronto, where I studied the origins of existentialism as they are expounded in phenomenology. Both these movements have influenced my life and my writing. Bakhtin’s chronotopos: “Man’s dialog with his time and place” has also been a great influence on my creative thinking. My art is indeed my dialog with my time, my place, and the people who inhabit them.

One Small Corner is the record of my stay at the KIRA Residence in St. Andrews-by-the-sea, New Brunswick, Canada. I was selected to be the only poet in the first cohort of Resident Artists and during the month of June, 2017, I was able to work full-time on this collection.

Finisterre

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Finisterre

Nothing left now but this pain in my heart.
It makes me think about ageing, growing old,
that unstoppable process of the body’s slow,
inevitable breaking down from all to nothing.

I should probably go to the doctor, but what
can she, will she do? She can’t stop the hands
on my body clock and lop ten or twenty years
from my life. Nor can her pills, lotions, potions

gift me with the long-sought magic of the Fountain
of Youth. The truth, unwelcome as it is, is that
the day I was born I took my first steps on the path
to death, my own death, an inescapable law

that tells me that body and spirit will be forced
apart, that the flesh will wither and perish,
and that the person the world and I know as
me will no longer be able to hold together.

Comment: Finisterre, the Pillars of Hercules, the Nec Plus Ultra beyond which there is nothing, Terra Incognita … that spot in Newfoundland where my friend, Dr. Leo Ferrari, who founded the Flat Earth Society, stood at the edge of the world and looked at the horrible void below him which ended in nothingness.

Nihilism is the point of view that suspends belief in any or all general aspects of human life, which are culturally accepted. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not exist at all. Nihilism may also take epistemological, ontological, or metaphysical forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or reality does not actually exist.

The term is sometimes used in association with anomie  to explain the general mood of  despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence that one may develop upon realizing there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws.

Nihilism has also been described as conspicuous in or constitutive of certain historical periods. Many have called post-modernity  a nihilistic epoch and some religious theologians and figures of religious authority have asserted that post-modernity and many aspects of modernity, represent a rejection of theism, and that such rejection of theistic doctrine entails nihilism. All the above is borrowed shamelessly from this Wikipedia article on nihilism.

What this leads to is the danger of losing our faith in these troubled times. G. K. Chesterton wrote, a long time ago, in the century before last, that people who lost their faith were inclined to believe anything. Please, do not believe everything and anything you hear. For example, no, Leo, my friend, the world is not flat. And no, my beloved readers, drinking Chlorox or Drano will do you much more harm than good. In fact it may well turn you into the nihil [Latin for nothing] from which nihil-ism is formed.

More important: believe in life, in positivity, in the light that will shine through this darkness. Believe, as Our Lord Don Quixote [thank you, don Miguel de Unamuno, for that wonderful book, and thank you also for gifting us with your philosophy in The Tragic Sense of Life] believed that yes, we can see all of this through and that yes, we are the children of our deeds, and that yes, as my friend Pedro Calderón de la Barca told me a long time ago, obrar bien, to do only good, be the best that we can be, that’s what really matters in this vale of tears and shadows, this tv reality show that we call life.