A Moment

A Moment

“A moment in your life,” she said,
“a moment that changed you forever.”

A bad boy,
banned from representing the school,
condemned to acting as a servant
to the chosen few,
those who were good enough to go.

They gathered early in the refectory.
I served them tea.
But first I salted the tea pot with Epsom Salts,
or something similar.
The tea pot frothed and foamed , then settled.

Later, the house master called me.
“Can you dance? he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Show me,” he said. He handed me a chair
and put a record on his gramophone.
I danced, six legs, to his satisfaction.

“Put on your Sunday suit,” he said.
“Be on your best behavior.
It appears we have suffered a bout
of gastro-enteritis.”

That’s where I met her.
Age seventeen. At a school dance.
The one. My one. The only one.
Sixty years later, we’re still together.
Writing this, I see us as we were back then.
My chest goes tight.
My eyes overflow with tears.

Click on this link for Rogers reading.
A Moment.


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

My Father in Oaxaca

My Father in Oaxaca

I saw my father this evening. 
I walked through the zócalo,
opened the main cathedral doors,
looked up, and there he stood,
motionless. 

Light shone through stained glass
and gifted him a halo,
as if he were some long dead
saint come back to visit me. 

We stared at each other.
The hairs on my neck
stood on end.

My hands shook. 
When I forced my mouth open,
words stuck in my throat. 

He wore his best grey suit
over a light blue shirt
and a dark blue,
hand woven tie: 
the outfit in which
I had buried him.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
My Father in Oaxaca

A Writer’s Year

A Writer’s Year

Comments: Limited edition. 40 copies. Self-published and printed by Covey’s, Prospect St., Fredericton. Free to workshop participants (all four of them!) and to anyone who asked for one. I also gave away free copies of my books to all participants as a reward for having the courage to brave Covid – masked and socially distanced – and to listen to me and share my ideas.

Comment: My first publication with Cyberwit.net. A pseudo-autobiography masquerading as a memoir. The original version of On Being Welsh was awarded first place in the D. A. Richards Prose Award (WFNB, 2020). It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My second publication with Cyberwit.net. allison Calvern helped me select and order these poems and my thanks go out to her for all her hard work. Geoff Slater and Ginger Marcinkowski also read and commented on the poems. Stars at Elbow and Foot covers 30 years of writing poetry, 1979-2009. It took a year or more to pull those thirty years together. It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My third publication with Cyberwit.net. An early version of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature placed second in the A. G. Bailey Award for a Poetry Manuscript (WFNB, 2020). I revised it during my second residency at KIRA (May-June, 2021), sharpening the vision and concentrating on the links between one creative form and another. Geoff Slater and Ginger Marcinkowski again read and commented on the poems and Geoff suggested that I write the Prelude: On Reading and Writing Poetry. It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My fifth book of the year, self-published and printed by Covey’s, Prospect St., Fredericton in a limited edition of 40 copies, once again given free of charge to my creative friends. Patti painted the flower on the poet-painter’s cheek and I thank her for that. Geoff Slater played a large role in my painting and drawing by persuading me that my cartoons were not worthless. John K. Sutherland has long supported my cartoon art, and he encouraged me to ‘leave tangible footprints’ and to get some of my art work into print. I couldn’t have done it without Salvador Dali, though, and that’s my version of his watch going over the waterfall.

Comment: My comments on a year’s work as a creative artist would not be complete without a mention of the Kingsbrae International Residencies for Artists that take in the summer months in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. I received an invitation to attend KIRA in May-June, 2021. I would like to thank Lucinda Flemer and the KIRA support group for their kindness in inviting me back. The creative friendships that I have made with KIRA artists over the years have just been amazing and the whole atmosphere at KIRA is not just inspiring, but awe-inspiring. Just look at this. How could a writer not be inspired.

Dawn from the Red Room at KIRA

I would also like to mention the online workshops that I have taken with Brian Henry, of Quick Brown Fox fame. I attended the Friday morning advanced writers workshops from January to March, and again from September to December. His knowledge, skills, organization, and support are second to none. I have made many wonderfully creative e-friends across e-mail and our Zoom classes. My year’s work would not be complete without a tip of the hat and a great big thank you to BH & QBF.

Final Comment: I am grateful to Jan Hull, Stoneist, for her reminder that today is Old Year’s Day and that the Roman deity, Janus, is a two-faced deity, with one face looking back towards the old year, as I have just done, and the other looking forward to the future, as I am doing right now. All in all, a busy year and a very enjoyable one. Let us hope that next year is also an enjoyable and a very creative one.

Anniversary Poem

Anniversary Poem

“Hoy cumple amor en mis ardientes venas
veinte y dos años, Lisi, y no parece
que pasa día por el.”

Francisco de Quevedo

“For twenty-two years my captive heart has burned.”
Christ, what crap that is. The only heart burn
I have known came from your cooking: African
Nut Pie, as detailed in the cookbook I bought you
for Christmas on our first wedding anniversary,

remember? And do you remember the ride to Kincardine
on the train? A dozen coaches left Toronto and one
by one they were shunted away until only you and I and an
elderly man ploughed through the snowstorm in the one
remaining carriage. Deeper and deeper piled the snow.

You looked through the window and started to weep:
“What have I done?” you cried in shock and grief. Outside:
Ontario lake-effect snow. Headlights from two waiting
cars lit up the station. We drove to the homes of people
you didn’t know, third generation cousins of mine.

You’re the only bride I know who was carried to church
in the arms of the total stranger giving her away
in place of the father she never knew. The snow lay six
foot deep (eighteen inches fell on your wedding day
alone) and you, with a white wedding dress and black boots

up to your knees. Cousin Walter carried you to the altar:
how they laughed as they chanted that old song to us.
Later, when they tapped the glasses and fell silent
at the meal, I didn’t know what to do. And you, my love,
standing up, kissing me, married after six days in Canada.

Comment: 55 years ago today. Where have they all gone? How quickly they slipped away. So many memories. So much happiness.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Anniversary Poem

55 Years Married

Poppies by Clare

55 Years Married

White Flame
in praise of my beloved

White flame, her hair, emerging from shadows,
lighting her path downhill toward water’s edge.
Wind-driven waves splash lake-side where she
will wander. I watch her footsteps, not now
as firm as once they were. Burgeoning age

grips hip and joint. Toes and heels no longer
lift in the same old way. Component parts
break down, arteries clog, arthritis worms,
painful, into fingers, wrists, and knees. I
recall nursery rhymes: “Jack be nimble, Jack

be quick,” but she isn’t anymore and
neither of us could jump over candles.
Candlelight, inner light, outer light, her
hair, so pure, so white, her voice clear as a
bell, soft yet luminous, as she picks her
way on a perilous path through wayward

woods, not stumbling yet, nor lumbering,
and still she lives, as I still live, in hopes
to see each other, until earth stops our eyes
and we can see, sense, touch, hear no more …

Comment: Yes, we got married 55 years ago today. This poem, written for Clare, appears on page 120 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature in the section entitled The Nature of Human Nature. I have written several very personal poems about Clare and our relationship and they can be found in Secret Gardens the chapbook I published in 1991 on the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary. Several poems from that collection also appear in Stars at Elbow and Foot. Selected Poems, 1979-2009. (Cyberwit, 2021). The painting that decorates this page is also by Clare. She is a talented multi-media designer and several of my book covers were designed by her. This is one of her rare paintings. We have three of them on the wall, and they are all exceptional.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
White Flame

Rain or Shine

Rain or Shine

Ginger Marcinkowski
(KIRA, August, 2019)

“My walk each morning, rain or shine,
feathers my black galoshes with dewy grass.
There I would ramble through gated doors
that kept out the world and sealed in
my pen’s work for that day. 

I often found myself sidetracked,
exploring paths that led through flowerbeds,
and up to my favorite sculptures.
I paused to watch my fellow artists
as they focused on chosen subjects
unaware that I was eavesdropping. 

Then silently, I would steal away
along the well-trod path to my studio,
pausing long enough to greet the llamas
and baby goats. If I listen carefully
I can still hear their bleating. 

In wonder, every day, I climbed the steps
of wood that led to my studio, opened
the door, and turned to breathe in my good
fortune. ‘What a blessed woman you are,’
I would tell myself before taking my place
for hours on end at my desk, each moment,
each stroke of the pen, each letter added
to the growing lines on the page, a gift.”

Comment: This is a found poem, found in the sense that it doesn’t belong to me. I met Ginger at KIRA in August, 2019, and we became close friends. We have corresponded regularly since meeting and she has become one of the best beta readers I have ever had, open, fiercely, honest, knowledgeable, and challenging. This challenge for me ‘to be the best that I can be’ really does bring the best out of me as a writer.

A found poem: I found it in one of the e-mails Ginger sent. In it she described a typical day for her at Kingsbrae. Isolated from its e-mail prose, the lines shortened and the thoughts slightly re-arranged, it became this poem, Ginger’s poem, her poem. I offer it to her, as she offered her writing talents to me, openly and with great humility. It can be found in the section entitled Impressions of KIRA Artists on pages 66-67 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature (Cyberwit, 2021, details to follow when available).

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Rain or Shine

AMGD

AMGD

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 she was just a 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:

This poem for my friend Mary Jones is from the section Art of the Portrait. It can be found on page 54 of my poetry book The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This book will soon be available online at Cyberwit.net and Amazon. More details when they are available.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading of the poem.

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


When I Paint

Meditations on Messiaen
Insights from Beyond

7

When I paint

I choose at random a brush and a color.
Then I stroke bright lines across a white page.
Fresh snow waiting for tracks and footprints.

“I draw meaning out of shape and color,”
Henri Matisse with scissors and cut outs.
And I am here with brushes and tubes of paint,
totally clueless, waiting for inspiration to descend.

But it doesn’t. Just these lies, these colors, these shapes
that define my life and elaborate a destiny
that I never planned nor wished for.

Colors, so vibrant. Anger. Energy. Tranquility. Rebirth.
Thoughtfulness. Meaningful. Moments held
in the mind’s eye, clasped between fingers,
dripping off the ends of a brush,
mixed and mingling in the unconscious mind’s eye
that contemplates, yet never judges, the colors
that unfold subtle, untold meanings, across the page.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
When I Paint