Black umbrellas burgeon beneath sudden rain. Waterproof cloth opens to provide protection. Churches fill with defenseless passersby.
The cigarettes they smoke flare shooting stars through finger bars of flesh and bone. After the rain, gypsy women flower in the street.
Carnations carve wounds in their sleek, oiled hair. They offer good luck charms and fortune telling.
“Federico! Federico,” the gypsies cry out, “tomorrow, the guards will take you from your cell. They will drive you to the hills and shoot you dead.”
“Tonight,” Federico replies, “I’ll paint the city red. And tomorrow… ” “Tomorrow,” the gypsies sigh, “the Alhambra’s walls will run red with your blood.”
Comment: I have made some minor changes to the sonnet that was published in Iberian Interludes (available online at this link) The sonnet is a Golden Oldie, going back to our visit to Granada in 1986. I asked my pre-teenage daughter if she would like to go to a country where there was no snow in winter. She laughed at me. “Don’t be so silly, dad, there’s no such thing as a winter without snow.” We got to Madrid on January 5 and awoke to 3 inches of snow on January 6. “There, dad,” she said. “Told you so.” We took the train down to Granada and that year they had six inches of snow in the city center, for the first time in forty years! It also rained, and this is a poem about the Granada rain.
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Vets A Thursday Thought
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.
Eclipse at KIRA June, 2021 as seen from the Red Room
Another exercise in light and the emotions triggered by changing light. I couldn’t look at the early morning sun, with its partial eclipse, especially through the camera’s eye. So I did my best through the digital screen. These photos are the result of hope and a set of digital colors that are way beyond my human eyes to comprehend.
Incredible moments in time and space, and oh so subjective, this seeming objectivity of the camera’s eye. Who are we, what are we, we tiny morsels of humanity when we see ourselves, so miniscule, so seemingly meaningless, beneath the daisy eye of heaven and the celestial dance that began before us and will continue long after we have gone.
The Old 100th in metrical form:
“All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. Him serve with mirth, his praise foretell, Come ye before him and rejoice.” Scottish Psalter, 1650.
Comment: No, I am not an overtly religious man and definitely not ‘a man of any cloth’. However, yesterday afternoon I received my second shot of Moderna and I want to offer my thanks to all those, world-wide, who made the vaccine possible and also to all the New Brunswickers and Canadians involved in distributing and delivering the Covid-19 vaccine. Today, I remembered my digital photos of the partial eclipse I witnessed at KIRA, St. Andrews, NB, earlier this month. So, this morning, for better or for worse, I have come before you to encourage you to rejoice.
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Dawn at KIRA
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.
Comment: The poem dates from June, 2017, my first KIRA residency, and can be found in One Small Corner. A Kingsbrae Chronicle (available at this link). The photo, however, dates from this morning, Friday, 11 June 2021, and coincides with my second KIRA Residency. The early morning light in the Red Room is indeed glorious, and the room well deserves its name. The small table by the window overlooking Minister’s Island and Passamaquoddy Bay is a wonderful place for a writer who wishes to create nature imagery based on impressions of light and changing light.
Wake up, sleepy heads, get out of bed and admire the sun as he starts his daily climb. He has left the underworld and his horses have started to draw his chariot on its daily trip up the sky. Look closely, and you can just see the hot breath of their efforts, up there, just above the sun.
Now you are a river flowing silver beneath the moon. High tide in the salt marsh: your body fills with shadow and light. I dip my hands in dappled water. Twin gulls, they float down stream, then perch on an ice-floe of half-remembered dreams. Eagle with a broken wing, why am I trapped in this cage of flame? When I turn my feathers to the sun, my back is striped with the black and white of a convict’s bars. Awake, I lie anchored by what pale visions fluttering on the horizon? White moths wing their snow storm through the night. A feathered shadow ghosts fingers towards my face. Butterflies stutter against a shuttered window. A candle flickers in the darkness and map in runes the ruins of my heart. Eye of the peacock, can you touch what I see when my eyelids close for the night? The black rock of the midnight sun rolled up the sky. Last night, the planet quivered beneath my body and I felt each footfall of a transient god. When will I be released from my daily bondage?
Oh dear, I no longer know whether I am writing poetry or prose. Maybe I should contact Survey Monkey and have a survey on the subject. Clearly the above is prose because it has no line breaks. But what happenswhen we do this?
Cage of Flame
Now you are a river flowing silver beneath the moon. High tide in the salt marsh: your body fills with shadow and light. I dip my hands in dappled water.
Eagle with a broken wing, why am I trapped in this cage of flame? When I turn my feathers to the sun, my back is striped with the black and white of a convict’s bars.
Awake, I lie anchored by what pale visions fluttering on the horizon? White moths wing their snow storm through the night. A feathered shadow ghosts fingers towards my face. Butterflies stutter against a shuttered window. A candle flickers in the darkness and maps in runes the ruins of my heart.
Eye of the peacock, can you touch what I see when my eyelids close for the night? The black rock of the midnight sun rolled up the sky.
Last night, the planet quivered beneath my body and I felt each footfall of a transient god. When will I be released from my daily bondage?
Sure, it’s the same text. But is it? And what happens if we change the line breaks? Does the rhythm stay the same in both cases? It certainly does when I read it, but how about you? Poetry or prose? Tell me if you knows! And what’s the difference anyway if the words roll off your tongue and metaphors, mystery, and magic rule?
Cage of Flame can be found in my poetry collection Though Lovers Be Lost and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot (Selected Poems, 1979-2009). Both are available at this link.
Visitors Day at KIRA and the artists work in their studios showing their methods and techniques to visitors from the local community and further afield. The mist disappears very quickly and we are left with sunshine and warmth. A good day for sitting out on the porch and waiting for guests.
I sit behind my table on the porch at KIRA, making notes in my journal and waiting for the advent of guests. I have no plans other than to sit ad write. If people arrive and wish to engage me in conversation, that will be great. It will be even better if they pick up a book, open it, choose a poem or a passage of prose, and allow me to read it to them. They can follow the text while I read. When people do arrive, they look first at the covers of the saddle-stitch books and chapbooks. Many comment on the wonderful pencil sketches that Geoff provided for them. A couple are drawn to the bright colors and cartoons of the larger books. Title and cover combine together to persuade each visitor to pickup a book and start to read it.
This is more or less what guests and visitors see when they approach the book table. You have to imagine me, the poet, sitting behind that table, masked if I do not know the guests, unmasked and at a safe distance if I do. I find it difficult to read out loud with the mask on. It is much easier, mask off.
I promised one guest, alas, I have forgotten her name, that I would post a poem and a voice recording of it, here on my blog, so that she and her friends could hear me read. This is the poem I read to her. I do hope she is able to locate my blog and follow this up. Here is the poem, from Sun and Moon. Poems from Oaxaca.
Santo Domingo Worshipping Gaia before the great altar in Santo Domingo
If the goddess is not carried in your heart like a warm loaf in a paper bag beneath your shirt you will never discover her hiding place
she does not sip ambrosia from these golden flowers nor does she climb this vine to her heavenly throne nor does she sit on this ceiling frowning down
in spite of the sunshine trapped in all this gold the church is cold and overwhelming tourists come with cameras not the people with their prayers
my only warmth and comfort not in this god who bids the lily gilded but in that quieter voice that speaks within me
and brings me light amidst all this darkness and brings me poverty amidst all this wealth
I will post some of the other poems that I read on the porch over the next few days. Meanwhile, be patient with me. I feel that I am all off-balance, trapped between two worlds, part of me is away in KIRA and part of me is home in Island View. I find it difficult to work on my KIRA2021 project, a rewrite of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This manuscript placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey poetry award in 2020. Since then, I have been revising it and adding to it, with KIRA2021 in mind. However, creating and posting seem to be two conflicting skills right now. The need to express (open blogging) and the need to create (secretive and non-sharing). I hope this helps to explain my irregular postings and my absences from this blog.
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Color and Shape
Waking up to an early morning sky that leaves eyes and mind stained with raspberry juice and blueberries. Night’s vain shadows flee, leaving behind a certain something, a residue of resonance resounding down half-aware corridors unconscious of what they are seeing, unaware of the beauty they have seen. Misty the memories, slipping , sliding into the oblivion of falling back to sleep only to wake to another world, gray scale now, a tissue of cloud and mist and something mysterious, sensed, but not grasped, by searching fingers.
Hard to believe it’s the same room, the same window, the same camera, the same day, the same scene. Clarity, perhaps, but lost the mystery, the nature of that wild rainbow world blessing my waking moments, coloring my dreams, my rapidly dissolving dreams.
I retuned from the Red Room at KIRA to spend the weekend at home with Clare and this is what was waiting for me in the garage: a large parcel with books! So, we opened it and, to our delight, a constellation of stars emerged to bless us with their light and wisdom.
So, here I am, standing before the only island in Island View, with the first two copies of Stars at Elbow and Foot (Selected Poems, 1979-2009) out of the box and in my hands. Delightful. As soon as I have the purchasing details, I will place them online.
With regard to this collection, some thanks are due. First to my editor, Dr. Karunesh Kumar Agarwal who always does such a fine job in editing and publishing what I send him. Second to Allison Calvern who helped me choose, order, and revise the collection. Allison has always been such a strong supporter of writing, first here in Fredericton, and now in Ottawa. My thanks and best wishes go out to her. Third, to Chuck Bowie who told me with no uncertainty that THIS was the cover painting, and forget the others! Fourth, to Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox who reached out to me one day, when my writing spirits were at low tide, and refilled my spiritual glass with encouragement and enthusiasm. Fifth, to all the readers and commentators on my blog and on Facebook. Your ticks are so important. Your comments are so welcome. Thank you all. Sixth, to the multitude of friends and editors who have encouraged me and my work, supported me, and pushed me to push myself further. Writing is a lonely task. We writers rely on others for so many things: support, advice, encouragement, and occasionally for the bus fares that help us stay on that writing bus and to never get off until we reach our destination.