Nochebuena

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Poinsettia is called nochebuena in Oaxaca.
It also means ‘Christmas Eve’ in Spanish.

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Nochebuena

Nochebuena / Christmas Eve:
last year, a star fell down the chimney
and landed on the poinsettia.
The cat and the dog stood up to deliver
new versions of their Christmas vision.
Birch bark: ghosts on the snow bank turned
white in the moonlight as they danced,
so slender and so bright.

This year an obsidian knife
hacks through my mind
slicing it into two uneven pieces.
Snowflakes invade its split personality.
Thin ice spreads across glacial fires.
Incarcerated birds sing deep in my rib cage.
A child’s world: with its lost toys lies
buried beneath fresh snow.

Tears freeze in my eyes,
drip from my eyelashes,
and fall to the earth as stars.
Soon I will be an enormous sunflower,
trapped in this wet clay rag of a body.

If I sit here in silence
will the world, like a garden
growing wild, go on without me?
The flowers in my yard close
their mouths and refuse to answer.

Passerines

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Passerines

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Returning passerines jostle and shove,
greedy to approach the feeder.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Grosbeaks

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Grosbeaks, greedy for sunflower seeds,
jostle, shove, and push, to establish
their pecking order at the picnic table.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Comment: What’s in a name? Change the birds and the poem changes. The same poem? Or is it? Does only the title change? I’ll let you decide. Do you have a preference? Please tell me.

Monet at Giverny

Monet at Giverny

1

his lily pond
a mirror shattering

shards of clouds

flames beneath the lilies
fractured fish

2

the executioner stripes evening
across the sacrificed horizon

in blood we were born
 in earth will we rest
our flesh turned to bread

empurpled this imperial wine
streaming with day’s death
 these troubled waters

3

green footprints
the lily pads
a halo
this drowned man’s beard
liquescent

like the gods
he dreamed
he walked dry
on water

flowering goldfish
this thin line of cloud

4

maples flash ruby thoughts
ripples flowing outwards

as heavy as a stone at Stonehenge
this altar tumbling downwards
through a liquid sky

5

wisteria and his curly blue locks
Narcissus clad in an abyss of lilies
imperial his reflection and perilous

slowly he slides to sleep
merging into his imaged dream

a vaulted cathedral
his earthbound ribs
the blood space immaculate

6

night and day and sun and clouds
leapfrogging over water

something survives
sepia tints
dreaming on and on

exotic this sudden movement
Carassius auratus flowering

7

Clos Normand and the Grande Allée
closed to him now
folded his flowers
their petals tight at his nightfall

dark their colours
mourning for his mornings of light
fled far from him now

8

can we soften this sunstroke of brightness
le roi soleil threatening to blind us?

rey de oros
the sun glow braiding itself
an aureate palette

a susurration of leaves

9

the lady of the lake
holding out her hand
handing him an apple

l’offrande du Coeur
 a scarlet heart of flame

monochromatic this island
brown earth in a crimson lake
the world reborn in tulips

10

Especially
 when the dying sun

molten fire spreading
a limpid light
sky brimming over into pond

trapped in low clouds
a slash of colour here
and there a tree
a fountain of gold

the sun an apple
blushing
on a setting branch

11

silver-white the money plant
moonlight between fine-tuned fingers
its rattle of seeds

blunt the moon’s bite
raked from water
gaunt its gesture

twin ripples
face to face
with the moon

12

upside down these clouds
bright in their winter boats

the night wind blows
clean dry bones
across the sky

13

fish aloft like birds
skimming wet sunshine

spring’s first swallow
rising from the depths
to snatch a golden note
quivering in the air

14

thunder raises dark ripples

lightning a forked tongue
insinuated into paradise

an apple tossed away
caution thrown over the shoulder
as sharp as salt

15

winds of change

that first bite
too bitter to remember

16

timeless this tide
this ebb and flow

oh great pond-serpent

biting yourself
forever

Gaza Street

This is the original version. It is much better than the revision that I posted earlier. Sometimes, when we revise, we lose the freedom of thought and association that comes with the early version. Message: keep your variations and keep an open mind. Over-elaboration is the poet’s worst enemy.

Wingless in Gaza Street

amputees deprived of flight
they flutter grounded in the gutter

galley slaves chained to broken oars
they ply blunt stumps relentlessly

shorn of strength and beauty
their once glorious shuttles weave dark circles

my mouth is a full moon open in a round pink circle
bone and its marrow settle in subtle ice

futile fragility of the demented heart pumping
its frequency of fragmented messages

frail beauty torn from its element of air
this brightness of moths drowning in inky depths

the seven o’clock news brought to you
from an otherwise deserted street.

Clematis

Not clematis, but bruised clematis clouds.
I’ll keep looking.
Maybe I’ll find the real things.

The clematis unfolds 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 while 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 dream: 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 brittle as a bitter tongue at winter’s end. I know for sure that a dog fox hunts for my heart. Vicious as a vixen, the fox digs deep at midnight, unearthing the dried peas I shifted from bowl to bowl to measure time as I lay 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 the delphiniums, body after body, into their shallow graves. Night’s shadows weave illusions from earth’s old bones and 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 appear with the 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.

Now that’s a clematis bruise!

Earth to Earthlings

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March 1 is St. David’s Day: Dewi Sant, patron saint of Wales. While we are here, immersed in cold and snow, in Wales, spring is arriving, the daffodils are out, trees are budding. This poem is a reminder that winter will end and sunshine and spring will return. So for St. David’s Day, I wish you joy and hope.

Earth to Earthlings

“Get out and about,” she told me.
Take off your socks and shoes.
Walk barefoot on the earth and grass:
twin pleasures, you can choose.”

I took two canes, one in each hand,
and left the house to walk the land.

In the garden I took off my shoes
to walk barefoot on the lawn;
when grass sprang up between my toes
I was instantly reborn.

I stood in the shade of the crab apple tree
and let leaf and flower spill over me.

Sunlight took away my frown
and freckled a smile on my face.
I was blessed again with hope and light;
earth and grass filled me with grace

When white blossoms filtered down
they gifted me a flowery crown.

I stooped to reach my shoes
and carried them home in my hand,
maintaining as long as I could
my contact with this magic land.

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Pilgrims


Flowers from Oaxaca. They will be carried by the young girl who will place them on her head. Her brother will walk beside her on her pilgrimage around the twelve central Oaxacan shrines.

Pilgrims

On the cathedral steps,
a boy pierces his lips
with a cruel spine of cactus.

The witch doctor
catches the warm blood
in a shining bowl.

The boy’s sister
kneels before el brujo,
who blesses her
in an ancient ritual.

Walking the pilgrim road,
she will visit all twelve
central Oaxacan shrines.

On her head she will carry
this basket filled with flowers
and heavy stones.

El Brujo casts
copal on his fire.
Brother and sister
girl inhale the incense.
The witch doctor
marks their cheeks with blood.

Daffodils

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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

Comment: A Golden Oldie. My mother loved daffodils and planted them all over the garden in Cardiff, Wales. They are the national flower of Wales and break into blossom just in time to welcome St. David on St. David’s Day, soon to be upon us, Dydd Dewi Sant.

Daffodils

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

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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.

Silence

Where e’er she treads, the glossy flowers shall rise and light, like the light of flowers, will pierce any gloom and brighten the room.

Silence

When I wait for words to come
and they refuse,
I know that silence is golden
and spreads its early morning sunlight
across the breakfast table
where yellow butter melts on hot toast.

Light from the rose window in Chartres
once spread its spectrum over my hands
and I bathed in its speckled glow.

My fingers stretched out before me
and I was speechless,
for in such glory,
mortal things like words cease to flow.

So much can never be said
even if it is sensed: fresh coffee,
poutine à pain, bread baking,
flowers bursting into bloom,
the sense of immanent beauty that fills me
each time my beloved enters the room.