Fall

Fall
13 October 2016

Just one leaf dropping from the tree
and the fall a call of nature and no freak
chance of fate. What throw of the dice
eliminates Lady Luck? None at all,
or so the poet says, lying there, indisposed,
his ribs cracked hard against the wooden
boards of the porch and his right foot
caught in such a way that the hip slips
slightly from its socket and try as he may
he cannot stand but lies there in the chill
evening wind, a lone leaf, getting on in age,
plucked from his tree and cast to the ground.

Comment: And don’t forget the family of crows, sitting in the tree, giving me the eye. watching every movement. I half expected them to flap down on to the balcony, and take a closer look, but when I started to move, it was game over, Rover, and they all cawed and flew away.

Vets

Autumn Leaves, the Peace Park, Mactaquac

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Vets
A Thursday Thought

Mary Jones

I met her unexpectedly in a restaurant in St. George.
I was masked, but she knew me right away. She hadn’t
changed. How could she have? She is as she is. Straight
forward, upright, honest, true to her words and her values.
Ex-military. A United Nations Peace-Keeper. A Blue Beret.
World traveller to some of the roughest, toughest, ugliest,
craziest spots. Everywhere she went, she helped keep the peace.

She came back home to find out what she already knew: that
rural New Brunswick was as wild as anywhere she had been.
She was anonymous, here, was just another number in a book,
a casualty in a nameless war of attrition after which the winners
rewrite the history of events, twisting them this way, that way
to suit themselves and their own instincts and interests.

“Best of the best,” I wrote in the book I gave her. Fortuitous,
it was, finding her again, finding that copy close to hand,
reserved for her alone. That book and this poem are my tribute
to her for her courage, her fortitude, and her strength of will.
They are also a tribute to her role in making the world a safer place
in which others, less fortunate, can create, without fear, their lives.

Comment: There is very little more to be said. Each former soldier is an individual with a history and personality of their own. This is my tribute to a very good friend who served her country and the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces with pride and distinction. Mary Jones, I, an academic, a writer, and a non-combatant, salute you for all the positive values which you have brought into this sometimes troubled world of ours. You and your well-being are in my Thursday Thoughts.

Painting the School Outing

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Painting the School Outing
Beaver Pond, Mactaquac

The yellow of the school bus is easy, but
what colors do you give the rain of school
kids descending? And how do you portray
their energy, their noise, the tones of French
and English? What colors are their vowels,
their consonants, their high-pitched voices?

You can sketch their orderly rows as they snack
on the top-hat magic pulled out of backpacks.
But it’s not so easy to paint the pop of Pepsi cans,
the scent of chocolate bars, or the crackle of chips
released from packets and popped into mouths.

Running round after lunch, they drive the wild
birds wild with their unorganized games of tag,
their impromptu dances, their three-legged races,
their winners and losers, their joys and sorrows.
Fishing nets are produced from nowhere. Girls,
boys wander to water’s edge in search of prey:
incipient frogs, newts, tadpoles, bullheads, but
how do you paint the wet and wriggle of them?

Try painting this. Whistles sound. Kids regroup.
The bus reloads and goes. Now paint the silence.
Sketch the tranquility of woods, bird-calls back,
of the beaver pond with its lilies stretching their
green necks skywards towards a pale blue sky
where cotton clouds cluster together in celestial
flocks. A pastoral scene, this painter’s paradise.

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A Farwell to Charms

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A Farewell to Charms

Early tomorrow, my love, you’ll fly away.
Today, you’ll walk around the Beaver Pond
where red and yellow leaves abound. A thin grey

webbing garlands one dead tree. I’m not too fond
of tent worms. I hate them when they swing
from low branches. Give me a fresh green frond

caught by the morning sun in early spring
or else bright autumn leaves so soon to fall.
I love American Goldfinches when they sing

that last departing song. I love most of all
those occasional visitors: do you recall that bright
blue Indigo Bunting with his “I’m-a-lost-bird” call?

The hunting hawks give everyone a fright.
They perch on top of a garden tree
then step off into space to claw-first alight

on some poor songbird trilling away, quite free
from fear, his unfinished symphony of song.
It’s getting late, my love. You walk towards me
out of the woods. I’ll end this poem with a plea:
don’t forget me … and don’t stay away too long.

Beaver Pond

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The Beaver Pond
Last October

Leaves walked tip-toe footprints,
delicate, on dark water.
Wrinkled brown tongues lapped
towards dry land. Everywhere
low light fell bright on stripped
white branches.

Open were the pond’s shiny spaces,
dry and withered were its reeds.
Clouds floated in the tarn’s spotted mirror.
Islets of seeded grass marked spots
where underwater logs rotted back to life.

We gazed on emptiness, empty nests,
and a burnt, tanned earth that waited
for what strange second coming?
The wind’s chill arm wrapped us
in the silent thought of oncoming winter.

Crazy Glue

The autumn leaves: what does it take with it when it goes? And what does it leave behind?

Crazy Glue

Late last night, a fallen star grazed by the lamp-post. A bouquet of golden sparks flew from an iron tree and sanctified the gutter. The gas lamps sputtered patiently in uniform rows. A scarecrow stuttered into the limelight and shook my hand. She was wearing my grandmother’s Easter bonnet, with all the flowers renewed, but she couldn’t keep my heart from last winter’s left over crumbs. Suddenly a tulip thrust through the concrete. It became as red as a robin and flew into the lounge bar of a public house. The bronze leaf necklace circling my throat filled with a flow of springtime song. My heart stood upright, a warped piano in my breast, and my skeleton tarried at the corner to play knuckle-bones with the wind. Torn butterflies of news fluttered round and round and kissed my eyelids when they closed. Yesterday’s horoscope winked its subversive eye and called to the hermit in his lonely cell: “Look out for the stranger with the tin can alley smile. Tie your heart to the tail of the first stray dog that comes whistling down the street and follow it home to the empty house that breathes in and out, moving thin membranes of memory.”
            That’s where I now live. Upstairs, downstairs, a lonely route I tread while the wind at the window scratches tiny notes. Something breaks loose in the confines of my mind and walks beside me. My twin brother stalks through this silvery sliver of splintered glass, this simian mirror wrinkling our troubled suits of skin. I glimpse the old moon’s monkey face through a broken window. Jagged and thin, it wanders like an itinerant snail, cobbled with clumsy clouds. Once, I descended the playground slide in a shower of sparks. A vagabond in a paving stone sky, I rumbled across metal cracks, a knapsack of nightmares humped on my old man’s back. Tell me: when the snail moves house, who stores the furniture he leaves behind? The hermit crab lurks naked on the beach, seeking new lodgings. Who killed the candle and left us in darkness?
            Two eyes in limbo watch me roll this snowman’s belly of flab across an unknown, clouded room where yesterday I got lost in the mirror. I know how to swim, but I would have drowned, except the light was too shallow and my feet touched bottom when I let the wheels down. I swam on and in looking for a deserted island on which to build my idle sand castle dreams. Two people said they saw my reflection swimming like a goldfish in the silver of that secret space. They said I stared back out at them with circles of longing ringing my eyes; but I laughed when they said they had seen me, for when I looked in the mirror this morning to shave, I just wasn’t there. My razor dragged itself over an empty space and its sharpened blade scraped white music from the margin of a cd rom that spun on edge like dust rings round a vanished planet. Now there is a black hole where my passport photo used to thrive. Someone plucked me from the circle and cut me out in the dance last night. Today I’m looking for a scrapbook in which to stick myself with crazy glue that never, never, ever comes undone.

Daffodils

Daffodils
A poem for the lady who brought some to us when Clare fell

IMG_0145.JPG
Daffodils in our garden, last year in Island View. We won’t see the live ones until May, at the earliest. I dream of them at night, tossing their heads in sprightly dance’, in Roath Park and Blackweir Gardens, Cardiff. They will be out now, all ready to welcome Dydd Dewi Sant on March 1.

Daffodils

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’s done.

Dry and shriveled they stand paper-
thin and brown, crisp to the touch.
They hang their heads:
oncoming death weighs them down.

Thanks Giving

Thanks Giving

Driving from St. Andrews to Island View,
giving thanks for fall foliage as I pass
fields and forests filled with autumn blushes
blueberry patches brushed with cyan,
violet, sprinkled with primary red.

Trees crowd close, encroach, add yellow
and orange, fresh tonal values at each turn.

Sunlight strokes white touches of pointillistic
beauty through showers of golden leaves.

 Ochre and brown burn shades where pinprick 
black ghosts shadow grays through a gilded tree.

Cubist, this fire-bright, iron-sheeted shed.
Surrealist that rusted tractor, abandoned.
The road’s black thread ties together vivid
impressions of leaves as they tumble and fall. 

Fall

Mactaquac and geese at the head pond

Fall

Red leaves multiply on maple trees.
Bright berries staining a mountain ash.

One flower survives on the hollyhock,
its blaze of glorious blooms lost, faded
in a silence of dried seeds, absent bees.

Hummingbirds are now long gone. Geese
gather in great gaggles feasting on grass
before taking flight and soaring south.

I want to ask questions about their journey
but they mouth denial and waddle away
to paddle on grey waves when I approach.

Comment: With a temperature yesterday of 21 C (that’s plus 21 C) rafts of geese are still around. These photos are from earlier in the fall. I love the way several stand erect, looking at and for possible intruders, while others feed. Shared responsibilities. I guess we humans could learn a great deal from the geese, if only ‘we were not full of care / and had some time to stop, and stare’ (W. H. Davies, one of my favorite Welsh poets, the verses changed slightly and adapted to Mactaquac). Roedd hi’n y tywydd heulog a cynnes yfory / the weather was sunny and warm yesterday. What a joy to be able to write that in Welsh after so many years without the language.

Carpe Diem

Autumn in the Garden

Carpe Diem

Seize the day. Squeeze this moment tight.
Nothing before means anything. Everything
afterwards is merely hope and dream. 

A tiny child, you chased wind-blown leaves
trying to catch them before they hit the ground
Elf parachutes you called them and trod with care
so as not to crush the fallen elves as they lay leaf-bound.

I stand here now, a scarecrow scarred with age,
arms held out, palms up, in the hope that a leaf will descend,
a fallen sparrow, and rest in my hand.

When one perches on my shoulder and another
graces my gray hair, my old heart pumps with joy.

Comment: Autumn in the Garden was framed by Geoff Slater who gifted it to me this summer. Thank you Geoff. A double picture, it shows the flowers and the trees with that first touch of drifting snow. NB it snowed here in Island View early September this year while we still had flowers and leaves. The poem, Carpe Diem, is from a series of quasi-sonnets. Quasi, because they rarely have 14 lines! Oh Petrarch: shake in your shoes.