Bottle House, PEI The day begins with flowers: at the entrance, beneath the windows, flowers everywhere, a delicacy of scent. Beyond these flowers, even more flowers, then playthings in the garden: a child’s paradise, these sculptured faces, this glass among the trees, sun and shade, the fountain’s water, this dream of an old man, kept alive now by his children, a dream of health and sanity and peace out by the bay, where the mud red waters roll and the tide’s hand grasps at the land and pulls it down with watery fingers. Everywhere: faces and elements of faces: a nose, eyes, a mouth, open in surprise. Carved wooden faces, glass faces, pottery faces, flesh and blood faces, grandma’s face, grandpa’s face, then the grandchildren. Tourists travelling, old islanders returning to see family and friends, young islanders returning to visit the almost forgotten farms which their families worked a generation or three ago, before their exodus from the land. “This was grampy’s house!” they say or “that was my grandmother’s farm!” as if a life could be reborn in that pointed finger, those casual words. How many memories are snapped in each picture? How many lives are caught in this snapping of the fingers as the past is instantly summoned and perfection is bottled for a second or two in the magic of this house, this garden where the builder’s spirit roams. Sit still awhile. Be silent: you may hear him breathe, glimpse him, for a second, staking out the flowers, extracting a weed, checking the set of the concrete foundations, polishing a bottle, resting on a wooden seat, avoiding the slow snail on the path bejewelled by rain-drops from the trees or spray from the fountain. For where there are flowers, there must be water and rain and peace and happiness and all good things, glimpsed darkly through smoked glass yet grasped so smoothly in the sun’s bright light. This is the house of bottles, the glass house, where rough winds are shunned and the bottles are set in concrete. It is a museum of light and dark, the creation of sun and shadow as sunshine fails and the lighthouse’s flashlight beam reverberates from glass to stone and back again. Shapes, shadows, memories curved and carved in glass, set in glass, this shimmering beacon this glass house, this light house built as a heaven-haven for harboured ships and the soul’s refreshment, here, in these gardens, among these bottles, and at the chapel door, an angel-in-waiting.
What’s in a name? At the Farmer’s Market there are fourteen puppies in a cardboard box. One of the puppies, still blind, clambers whimpering over the side of the box and totters toward me. An elderly lady picks him up, thrusts him towards me and says: “Here: he’s your dog. He wants to be with you!” “No way, Lady!” I say and turn away. When I exit the market, I walk past the dog box. There are five dogs left but the one that wandered in my direction has gone. The salesman calls out to me: “Hey you!” He walks towards me. “That woman said you’d be back for your dog. Here: take him!” He unzips his coat, and there’s the dog, snuggled against his chest. “When was he born?” I ask. “January 16!” comes the reply. January 16 is my birthday. Today is March 8, the anniversary of my mother’s death. The dog is 53 days old, much too young to leave his mother. When I get home, my wife tells me to take the dog straight back to the market. “I can’t do that!” I say. “The man will be gone by now.” “But we don’t know anything about the dog!” “I’ll clean up after it.” I say. “I’ll feed it and train it.” “You’ll have to put it in a cage.” She tells me. “I’m not having it peeing and pooping all over the floor. You know why they’re called poopies.” Later that evening, I force the little puppy into the old dog’s crate, and I retire to bed. No sooner have I gone upstairs than there’s an unholy noise from the kitchen. “Help me!” I say to my wife. She laughs. “Not a chance! You know the rules!” Down in the kitchen the puppy is in distress. I take him out of his cage and he waddles and wags and promptly pees. I clean up after him and wonder what to do. The cage isn’t a solution. There’s no box in which to put him and any form of captivity, like a board across the door or a baby’s gate, sets him howling again. I gather my sleeping bag and a couple of cushions and I lie down on the kitchen floor. He immediately snuggles up to me, finds my finger, and sucks on it. I get up off the floor, make my way to the fridge, open the door, and pour a glass of milk; for the rest of the night, every time the dog gets restless, I stick my finger into the milk and the dog sucks my finger. I spend the next week doing this. While I’m lying on the floor, I study the dog. “What is your name?” I ask him constantly. Then, one night, as I watch him bounce across the room towards my milky finger, I know what to call him. “Tigger!” If I had waited another week, I might have called him Pooh! Tigger never leaves me. He is like an orphaned duck who follows the first human being who feeds it. Tigger follows me around the house with his nose behind my knee and if I stop suddenly, he bumps into me. My wife has started to call me Dada Duck. I now call her Mother Duck and our daughter has been renamed Baby Duck. Tigger has a second name: Dada Duck Dog. We have a little corner piece on our lot where the roads join and all the dogs stop, including mine. I went out there one day and put up a large sign with “Pooh Corner!” written on it. Beside it I placed an arrow which points “To the house!” All the children on the block love Tigger. When he came home, he weighed 6 pound and covered six tiles. Full grown, he weighs 110 pound and covers 108 tiles! He is gentle and well-behaved and everyone adores him. Some of the children want to buy a little saddle and ride on him, he is certainly big enough, but I won’t let them do that. The children on the block now call me Christopher Robin. At Christmas, they bring me pots of honey. As eleven years went by, Tigger grew old and slow. He developed cancer and had arthritis. On fine days he was fine, but on damp days he could hardly place one foot in front of the other. He had difficulty climbing the stairs and would sleep for hours rising only for his morning and evening walks and his food. Yesterday, el cinco de mayo, at 12 noon, Tigger passed away. Today, there is a little white cross at the corner of our lot. The children have laid a circle of flowers around the cross. On it somebody has painted: R.I.P. Tigger.
This fragile light filtering through the early-morning mind filled as it still is with night’s dark shadowy dreams their dance demonic or perchance angelic as light rises and falls in time to the chest’s frail tidal change the ins and outs of life-giving breath
Bright motes these birds at my morning window feathered friends who visit daily known by their song their plumage their ups and downs
they dazzle and sparkle cracking the day open with their joyous songs
… early morning sunshine creepy-crawly spider leg rays climbing over window and wall my bed-nest alive to light not night’s star twinkle but the sun’s egg breaking its golden yolk gilding sheet and pillow billowing day dreams through my still sleepy head …
… the word feast festering gathering its inner glimpses interior life of wind and wave the elements laid out before me my banquet of festivities white the table cloth golden the woodwork’s glow mind and matter polished and the sun show shimmering its morning glory …
Comment: It seems like only yesterday, though three and a half years have slipped swiftly by. Each summer I am envious of those chosen to represent their artistic disciplines at KIRA. The joys of waking in the Red Room and of writing at the desk there will stay with me for ever. It was pleasure and a privilege. And still I live in hopes to see sunrise from the Red Room once more. This poem incidentally is from my poetry collection entitled One Small Corner. It was written at KIRA (Kingsbrae Gardens) in the month of June, 2017. One Small Corner is available on KDP and Amazon. Here is a link to the KIRA Video.
A fiery wedge, fierce beneath black-capped clouds, alive the firmament with light, breaking its waves over woods, waters, tranquil the bay, grey, yellow-streaked, then blue, the new day dawning, driving night away, false shadows fleeing.
To rock this new born babe, to swaddle it in a cloak of cloud, disguised for a moment its promise, nature nurturing heart and mind, filling the flesh with memory’s instantaneous flash breaking its light into the dark where no light shone, fearful, the dream world, gone now, dwindling, as day light shafts its arrowed flight.
How thoughtful My Lady who placed me here, at this desk, at this window, at this moment of time.
Glorious, this day-break: words no justice can do to peace and light, this early morning, filtering sunlight through the waking mind, relighting the fires within the heart, and glory a word’s throw away outside this window.
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.