Bears

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BEARS

Think of pink salmon caught in pools,
plucked from water, tossed to air,
the catch stacked rainbow‑fired.

Winter now:
unsnubbable, lumbering overcoats
closeted, laid to rest;
seeking power in hibernation
till sun from summit melts frosty dark:
fresh heartbeats forged in forest’s night.

Think alchemy:
prime matter moved safely in flask or jar.

Think circus stars:
The Great Bear leads the Lesser,
dancing to the trainer’s whip,
tumbling from their pedestals.

Secure behind bars,
think fallen stars.

Sandman

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Sandman

The sandman brings
sand to put in my sandwich.

He brings it from
the nearby beach.
It’s as fierce as
fine salt in life’s
dwindling hour glass,
thin-waisted sandpaper
thinning down our ways,
throwing sand in the clockwork
that ticks out our days.

Sand rasps between toes,
sticks fast to our feet,
grows castles on the beach
where no grass grows.

Seven, lucky seven,
those clouds close to heaven,
but beware the sandbox
if you count up to eight.

World Book Day

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World Book Day
23 April 2017

A word about World Book Day before it is over: April 23 is the death date of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. While the dates are the same, the days are not. Spain used the Gregorian Calendar, but England used the Julian calendar, with the result that Cervantes died on the same date as Shakespeare, but ten days before him.

The connection between these dates was made in Catalonia in 1925 and it was there that the death of Cervantes was celebrated. Don Quixote, after all, decided to travel to Barcelona, rather than Zaragoza, in the second part of Don Quixote (1615). The link to the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (author of the Comentarios reales) linked two continents and three great, very original authors.  In 1995, UNESCO declared April 23 to be World Book and Copyright Day.

The conflict between the two calendars (Julian and Gregorian) also complicates the dates mentioned in the various ships engaged in the Spanish Armada that sailed for England in 1588. Battles took place on different day and different dates, according to the not always accurate logs of the two navies.

Two complicate things further, time at sea was very difficult to judge and candles, water clocks, sandglasses, and lanterns were all very unreliable and gave great differing times for the different actions that took place during the engagements.

In 1988, for the three hundredth anniversary of the event, instead of days and hours, the ships’ actions were logged into a computer along with the retro-calculated tidal tables. What emerged was a seaman’s account of time and tide in which actions were seen in the light of the actual sea environment. As a result, very different picture of that famous series of sea battles emerged.

Love Poem @ 70

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Love Poem @ 70

1
We walk on tiptoe round the garden,
peeling free the sunlight cloud by cloud.

Sometimes, the heart is a sacrifice of feathers,
bound with blood to an ornate altar.

Petrus:
this rock cold against my chest.
Piedra:
centuries of stone carvings
come alive in your face.

If our arms were to meet
around these columns
of sun-warmed flesh and stone,
what would become of us?

2
Beneath my skin, the woad
flows as blue as this evening sky.
Your skin is bronzed
in the warmth of my gaze.

Yellow light bends
low in the fields below us,
each darkening pool
a warrior fallen
beneath time’s scythe.

The moon paints a delicate circle.
Its great round eye opens out
above the rooftops,
a cathedral window
opening on the sky.

Tonight it bears
the wisp of an eye lid
carved from  cloud.

Your teeth are diadems of whiteness
aglow in your face.

We tie shadows to our heels
and dance in triumph
to the village music
sounding in street and square.

3
Daylight bends itself round rock
and turns into shadow.
We flourish in blocks of flickering flames.

Dreaming new selves from roots and branches,
we clasp each creation with greedy fingers.

Dark angel bodies with butterfly wings,
our shadows have eloped together.
They sit side by side holding hands
at a table in the central square.

4
Church bells gild the barrio’s rooftops.
Our fingers reach to the skies and hold back light.
We draw shadow blinds to shut out the sun.
Night fills us with stars and a sudden sadness.

We dream ourselves together in a silent movie,
closed flesh woven from cobwebs
lies open to a tongue-slash of madness.

The neighbor’s dog wakes up on the azotea.
He barks bright colors as dawn declares day
and windows and balconies welcome the sun.

Can anyone see the dew-fresh flowers
growing from our tangled limbs?

Your fingers sew a padlock on my lips:
We listen to the crackle of the rising sun.

Minus

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Minus

“The earth is geoidal, i.e. earth-shaped.”
These words, dictated to me by the geography
master when I was about fifteen years old,
taught me that teachers didn’t really know
all there was to know. Nor, indeed, did they
need to know everything. “I don’t know,
I’ll check and tell you later,” breaks the myth
of infallibility but sets up sympathetic links.

“What do groundhogs eat?” the little girl
asks her classroom teacher. “Spaghetti,”
comes back the instant answer from one
who doesn’t know that every day the child
watches the groundhog that lives in her yard
devour delicate New Brunswick violets.
“Spaghetti, with mushroom sauce, of course.”

Then one day comes the spelling test:
“How do you spell minus?”
M-I-N-O-S.”
“Wrong. Try again.”
M-I-N-A-S.”
“Wrong again.
You think you’re so clever.
Everybody knows it’s
M-I-N-U-S.
Don’t we class?”
The class breaks into shrieks and giggles.

Everyone knows how to spell minus:
even the one who has just read how Theseus
followed Ariadne’s thread to escape from
the Minotaur who roamed the Labyrinth
beneath the Cretan Palace of Knossos.

That one was present too, in her own mind,
at the Siege of Minas Tirith, when Gandalf
held five evil kings at bay and Aragorn fought
the nameless Dark Lord who dwelt beneath
the shadow in the land of M-O-R-D-O-R,
a Lord not so powerful M-I-N-U-S his ring.

Old Eight Hoots

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Old Eight Hoots

Winter has touched us
with this change of clocks
and darkness clutches now,
an hour or so too soon.

Old eight hoots watches:‑
he calls; I cough;
but he will not swoop.

He sits tight‑perched, out of sight;
chills me with his ghostly chorus,
hoo‑hooing me home.

Bright stars crackle the sky.
Frost crisps fallen leaves.
A mist weaves webs scarce‑seen.

And all around,
as cold ground creaks
its wordless tongue‑leafed language,
night‑shapes abound.

Pony

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Pony

for Jude
(and the WYPOD)

“A pony, a pony, my kingdom for…” Of course,
he didn’t want a pony. He was losing the battle
and the kingdom’s sceptre is not a baby’s rattle
to be tossed aside, even for the fastest horse.

Ponies and palfreys are not for kings. A princess
may ride a pony, and a side saddle, fit for a queen,
may grace a horse’s back, but a horse between
a princess’ legs is crass. How cramped the dress,

how wrinkled the nobleman’s brow seeing
his daughter, his wife, the female of the breed
straddling, legs apart, a broad-backed steed.

No: ponies are for Christmas, not for kings fleeing.
A horse, then, hung with bells, covered in red:
not with ribbons, but the old king, flayed and dead.