The Water Tower

The Water Tower

I took the e-file to Covey’s, the Printer on Prospect Street, Fredericton, on Monday. On Tuesday, Jared set up the files for printing, and I received the book on Thursday morning – nice and early. What an incredible turn around. The writing time-frame is interesting too. Geoff painted and posted. I wrote. The whole thing came together in less than a month. It just shows what inspiration, collaboration, and hard work can do. Here is a poem (# 17) from the book.

17

This year’s snow is not last year’s snow.
Tell me, if you know,
where did last year’s snowfall go?

These flowers you paint,
they are not last year’s flowers.

Time flows and the world renews itself.
It may seem the same, but it’s not.
Nor are you the same. How could you be?

You too have renewed yourself,
grown, like these flowers you paint,
these flowers that will wither and perish
to lie buried beneath fresh snow.

You cannot walk in the same river twice.
Nor can you paint the same flower
once it has withered and gone.
The flowers you paint can never be
the ones you painted before.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Water Tower

Bruised

Bruised

The clematis unfolds its flowers: bruised purple on the porch. Beneath the black and white hammers of ivory keys, old wounds crack open. A flight of feathered notes: this dead heart sacrificed on the lawn. I wash fresh stains from my fingers with the garden hose. The evening stretches out a shadow hand to squeeze my heart like an orange in its skin. Somewhere, the white throat sparrow trills its guillotine of vertical notes. I flap my hands in the air and they float like butterflies, amputated in sunlight’s net. The light fails fast. I hold up shorn stumps of flowers for the night wind to heal and a chickadee chants an afterlife built of spring branches.

Pressed between the pages of my waking dreams: a lingering scent; the death of last year’s delphiniums; the tall tree toppled in the yard; a crab apple flower; a shard of grass as sharp as glass, as brittle as a bitter, furred tongue at winter’s end.

I know for certain that a dog fox hunts for my heart. Vicious as a vixen, the dog fox digs deep at midnight, unearthing the dried peas I shifted from bowl to bowl to count the hours as I lay sick in bed. I sense a whimper at the window, the scratch of a paw. I watch a dead leaf settle down in a broken corner and it fills me with sudden silence. Midnight stretches out a long, thin hand and clasps dream-treasures in its tight-clenched fist.

The lone dove of my heart flaps in its trap of barren bone and my world is as small as a pea in a shrunken pod. Or is it a dried and blackened walnut in its wrinkled shell of overheating air? Sunset, last night, was a star-shell failing to fire. Swallows flew their evensong higher and higher, striving for that one last breath lapped from the dying lisp of day. Its last blush rode red on the clouds for no more than a second’s lustrous afterglow.

I lower defunct delphiniums, body after body, into their shallow graves. Night’s shadows weave illusions from earth’s old bones. Rock becomes putty, malleable in the  moonlight. Midnight readjusts her nocturnal robes and pulls bright stars from a top hat of darkness. Winged insects with human faces dance step by step with circling planets and clutter the owl’s path. Night swallows the swallows and creates more stars. The thin moon hones its cutting edge into an ice-cold blade.

Click here to listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Bruised

Daffodil Day

Daffodil Day

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.

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Daffodils

Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus

Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus

Daffodils
(for my mother)

Light in dark
bright yellow stridence
shrill golden dog’s bark
to warn off death’s wolves
that freeze her blood

she dreaded night’s unease
the devil’s wintry anti-spring
life’s darkest sparks

but loved the daffodils’
sunny March cadence
of brief piercing dance

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Daffodils

Light

Light

Striving onwards to the light
I don’t need a ladder
nor an Aladdin’s Lamp
to transport me upwards,
not to stardom
but to the sun and stars
that wait, day and night,
outside my window.

Prince of Mirth,
soon to be Lord of Light,
I will wear my hibiscus crown
for a short time,
but with joy and pleasure,
a treasure I will treasure
until the natural end
when stars, sun, and crown
come tumbling down,
leaving me alone,
naked, yet clothed in,
and surrounded by,
light.

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Light.

Spiders

Spiders

The spider plant
spins out web after web,
all knotted together,
then ejected
from the central nest.

One landed on my floor
the other afternoon
with an enormous clunk.
A huge new set of offspring
and roots ejected and sent
on a voyage of discovery
to find a new home.

Mala madre / bad mother.
Oaxacans have a curious way
of naming their plants.
I lived in an apartment
above a courtyard
filled with malas madres.

There was also
A Bird of Paradise
that nested in the same tree,
a banana plant, in flower,
a huge hibiscus,
and such a variety
of prize poinsettias
that I could never get
the varieties straight:
red, white, cream, single,
clotted, and double-crowned.

In the powder room,
downstairs, our hibiscus
is about to break
into winter blooms.

It is covered in spider mites.
Every day, I hunt them down,
squishing them whenever I can.

My daughter calls me cruel
and a padre malo.

I say ‘no: it’s them
or the hibiscus.
You can’t have both.’

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Spiders


One Goldfish

Ephemera

One Goldfish

A great big thank you to Allan Hudson, editor of the South Branch Scribbler Blog. He e-mailed me on my birthday, last Sunday, and asked me if I had a story that he could use on his new blog page Short Stories from Around the World. These will be published every other Wednesday, starting today. I am very honoured and proud to be the author of the first story, One Goldfish, third place in the WFNB non-fiction award (2020), that opens the series. It was revised and reworked in the Advanced Writing Course, run by Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox fame. I would like to thank Brian and all my fellow participants who helped me rework the story. On Allan’s blog you will find links to other contributions from me. You will also find a series of featured authors, from New Brunswick, the Maritimes, Canada, and all around the world. Allan does a great job for us minor, struggling literary figures, not just for the greats. I encourage you to follow his blog and support him.

Ephemera

My painting (above) is entitled Ephemera. It shows a literary text semi-obliterated by various colors and devices. If we have learned anything from Covid it should be the fragility of life, the insubstantiality of existence, and the enormous powers of the natural world that surrounds us. My friends: take nothing for granted. Carpe Diem – seize the day – and “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may – for time it is a’flyin – and that poor flower blooming today – tomorrow may be dying.” This is Robert Herrick, of course. Here is my own version of the theme from The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature.

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.

Grey clouds fill the sky. A distant sun
lights up the land but doesn’t warm the earth
nor melt the snow. The north wind chills
body and soul, driving dry snow
across our drive to settle in the garden.

The daffodils promise warmth, foretell
the sun, predicting bright days to come.
When they do, red squirrels spark at the feeder.

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

Their scent grows stronger as they gather
strength from sugared water. But now
they begin to wither, their day almost done.

Dry and shriveled they stand this morning,
paper-thin, brown, crisp to the touch, hanging
their heads as oncoming death weighs them down.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Daffodils

Self-portrait with flowers

Self-portrait with flowers

I walk past the Jesuit Church
where the shoe-shine boys store
polish, brushes, and chairs overnight.
I walk past the wrought-iron bench
where the gay guys sit, caressing,
asking the unsuspecting to join them.

Nobody bothers to ask me for a match,
for a drink, for charity, for a walk
down the alley to a cheap hotel.

The witch doctor is the one who throws
the hands of all the clocks into the air
at midnight, in despair.
He’s the one who leaves this place,
and returns to this place, all places being one.

The witch doctor sees little things
that other men don’t see. He reaches out
and flicks a fly away from my nose.
“It too has lost its way,” he sighs.

I think I know who I am,
but I often have doubts when I shave,
rasping the razor across my chin’s dry husks.
The witch doctor, my lookalike, my twin,
stares back at me from my bathroom mirror.

Three witches dance on the waning soap dish.
One spins the yarn, one measures the cloth,
one wields the knife, that will one day sever
the thread of I, who the same as all
poor creatures, was born only to die.

You too must one day look in that mirror,
oh hypocrite lecteur,
mon semblable, mon frère.

Type on this link for Roger’s reading.
Self-portrait with flowers

Comment: My thanks to all those who click on earlier poems and express their liking for them. I am particularly pleased when an earlier poem lacks a voice reading. Then I can revisit it, rethink it, rewrite it, record it, and speak it aloud. Here’s the link to the earlier version of the poem Charles Baudelaire. Fast away the old year passes, and we must renew ourselves, our thoughts, and our poetry for the new year soon to be upon us. To all my readers, old and new, welcome to that world.

Mindfulness

Hollyhock by Geoff Slater

Mindfulness

Gardens of Mindfulness

What is it about generic greens, their power of growth,
renewal, resurgence? In the Auberge, Moncton’s Hospice
for cancer patients, sufferers wore green clothes, shirts,
blouses, skirts, trousers. Green for recovery, for hope,
for the persistent belief that nature mattered, more,
that nature could be omnipotent, ubiquitous, everywhere
around us.  The patients planted a small garden, almost
an allotment. They walked in it, sat beside it, watched
the flowers grow, grew their own cells anew, hoped.

Exercises are easier, more fulfilling, when done in green
surroundings. Go green for improved moods, better self-
esteem, growth beyond the muscles of cold iron pumped
indoors by hot, sweating bodies. Never underestimate
the healing power of walking barefoot on grass, your toes
curling into the early-morning coolness of fresh, new dew.

Focus your attention on the here and now. Forget the past.
Let the future take care of itself. Your most important
therapeutic tool is this moment of awareness when you
and your world are one. Erase loneliness and isolation.
Don’t pander to the pandemic. Talk to your plants. You
may not think they’re listening, but they are. And you
must listen to them too. Learn the languages of tree and
shrub, of butterfly and bee, of Coneheads and Cape Daisies.
Bask in beauty: sunflowers, hollyhocks. All will be well.

“Verde, que te quiero verde. / Green, how I love you green.”
Federico García Lorca (!898-1936).

Comment: I have been discussing Mindfulness with several people recently. Whether it be the Covid-19 outbreaks or the necessity of staying apart from friends and family, some of my seem to have become more isolated and more introverted over the last couple of years. As a result, the theme of mindfulness has arisen, often spontaneously. So, this poem is dedicated to all of us who feel the need to live in the moment and to concentrate on the development of our inner growth and being. It is taken from my book The Nature of Art nd the Art of Nature (pp. 134-35), soon to be available on Amazon and at Cyberwit.net

Click on the link to hear Roger’s reading.
Gardens of Mindfulness

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