A book is a book is a book

A book is a book is a book

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde

A good friend of mine once told me that her creative writing writing prof in the MFA program told the class: “We are not writers. We are re-writers.” Our mission in life, then, is not just to rewrite, but to think and to revise. The art of writing lies in analysis, research, thought, and thinking carefully about (a) what we are about to write and (b) what we have just written. As a great Spanish writer once said “I write as I speak and when writing I count my syllables.”

So can the same principle be applied to reading? In my undergraduate poetry courses, one of my wiser profs announced that “It is better to read one poem a hundred times, than a hundred poems once.” Is re-reading better than reading? Good question. But it is what I call a swimming pool question: it has shallow ends and deep ends. Joke – it depends, you see, upon the quality of the material one is reading. For example, does a single reading of the Bible suffice? I read it through, page by page, when I was twelve years old. Was that it? No, I still return to it – the good book – from time to time, selecting, remembering, checking, looking for comfort, advice, or sometimes, pure joy in the sound of the language – King James version, of course.

What other books have I read and re-read? Lazarillo de Tormes, Don Quixote, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The first book in the Harry Potter series – it reminded me of elements of my own childhood, especially the cupboard under the stairs. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt. The Wind in the Willows, Gongora’s Polifemo, Quevedo’s Metaphysical Poems and his Cycle to Lisi. Octavio Paz’s Sunstone / Piedra de Sol, Lorca’s Romancero Gitano, his Poet in New York, and his plays. Platero y yo. Charlotte’s Web. Several of Shakespeare’s plays, including McBeth, Henry V, King Lear, and a couple more. Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and Stalky and Co. Mary Gentle’s Golden Witchbreed. Robert Bly’s Morning Poems, Iron John, The Sibling Society. Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life and his Niebla. Enough, no more. It is not as sweet now as it was before. And there are so many more to which I have returned, again and again.

So, think about all the time wasted on trivial books, books that remained unfinished, books that have never been opened. One person’s vegetarian or vegan’s fare is a carnivore’s poison [sick]. Sometimes a book mirrors our thoughts. Sometimes it challenges us to rethink our lives and our philosophies. Sometimes it comforts us or takes us back into our childhood. And sometimes it just bores us and we cannot finish it.

A rose is a rose is a rose. A book is a book is a book. Or is it? We are not readers – we are re-readers. And if we aren’t, we ought to be. Think about that. Carefully.

Loss

Loss

By the time I remembered your name
I had forgotten your face,
and then I couldn’t recall
why I wanted to talk to you
in the first place.

Words and phrases bounce,
water off a duck’s back.
They sparkle like a high tide
rejected by the retriever
as he shakes his coat dry
on emerging from the sea.

This book I read is a word parcel,
a clepsydra of droplets,
a rainbow strung with colored beads,
each scouring a bull’s eye
on the world’s taut literary hide.

Mapa mundi of forgotten lands,
I trace dark landmarks
on the back of scarred hands
and wonder why I have never visited
faraway places with strange-sounding names.

Tourist guide to a failing memory,
I track the trails of drifting ships
as their white sails vanish,
blank butterflies from a distant summer,
floating over a darkening horizon.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Loss

To be a writer (Revised)

To be a writer
revised version

To be a writer ….

Those who would true valor see,
let them come hither.
One here will constant be,
through foul or fair weather.
There’s no discouragement
will make her once relent
her first avowed intent,
to be a writer.

Those who beset her round
with dismal stories,
do but themselves confound:
her strength the more is.
No blank page can her fright,
she’ll with a sentence fight,
and she will have a right,
to be a writer.

Rejections nor false friends
can daunt her spirit.
She knows she at the end
will a book inherit.
So critics fly away,
she’ll fear not what they say,
she’ll labor night and day
to be a writer.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
To be a writer

revised version

Comment: I first wrote this poem in January 2021. It is, of course, a rewriting of John Bunyan’s hymn / poem, To be a pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress. In the original version, I kept the male pronouns. However, after collaborating as the only male participant in [Quick Brown Fox] Brian Henry’s Advanced Writing Group of 13 fantastic women writers, I realized that the female pronoun was, in so many cases, the most appropriate one. I therefore made the necessary adjustments. You can find the old poem at this link – personally, I prefer the new version! https://rogermoorepoet.com/2021/01/11/to-be-a-writer/

Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Long gone, those good old days, dead and gone,
their centers collapsed in on themselves
unable to hold on to time’s hands
circling the clock of ages, that timeless rock.

Beyond these days, long days when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier and even more heavy
with life lying in wait, to weigh us down,
always lying, and the lies themselves
more rocks added to the pile we must carry.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this endless hill only to have them roll down,
again and again, forcing us to stoop once more,
not to conquer, but merely to live our lives,
to journey onwards, relentlessly, to endure
from the beginning of the end until the last,
and we must endure, will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sisyphus




Starless Night

Starless Night

Night without moon, without stars.
Dark sand dropped filling my mouth.
I walked the lonely bed of a dried up river.
When I stumbled in my dream,
my feet left no marks on the sand.  

Colorless was my path
through shadow and shade
where a thousand figures of darkness
danced before me,
hollow their eyes,
their mouths black caverns.
No flesh decked their bones
and no night birds called.

Footless the earth worm
sighed a sibilant song.
Mindless he drew in a net
full of sorrows, silver fish
darkling losing their sparkle.

The dusky shawl of knitted dreams
wrapped itself around my shoulders
and I picked at knots of tangled memory
that bled like fresh wounds.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Starless Night

An Experiment Gone Wrong

An Experiment Gone Wrong

Not everything turns out the way you want it to, and some experiments are total failures. Just look at the poor snowman in these cartoons.

On the left – “I won’t believe in global warming until April or May.”

On the right – “April May be too late.”

Oh dear – all those crows and doggy dump time. How embarrassing.

As for me, I tried painting today with my paint and draw kit on my computer. What a disaster: I handle a mouse even more clumsily than I handle a paint-brush. I was going to publish the ‘first attempt’ as a warning to others. But it wouldn’t convert. So I looked for a better idea: no innovation and back to the tried and true.

Oh Moo of little faith.

This isn’t a poem, so there’ll be no sound track with this one. “Oh brothers and sisters I bid you beware – of giving your heart for a snowman to tear – especially when the sun is warming the air.”

“Do you like Kipling?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never kippled.”

Mirror Image

Mirror Image

I am the one who throws his hands up
into the air to join all the clocks that stop
at midnight, when the moon is full, and ghosts
patrol the streets in search of their loved ones.
I am also the one who leaves this place,
and returns to this place, all places being one.

I think I know who I am, but I have my doubts
when I shave. The razor rasps across my chin’s
dry husks and I see the bare bones of eye-sockets
staring back at me from my bathroom mirror.

Three witches dance on the soap dish. One spins
the yarn, the second measures the cloth, while
the third reaches for the razor that will one day sever
my thread, poor earth-bound, time-worn creature
that I am, born only to one day die.

You too must one day see yourself in that mirror,
oh fraudulent reader, my lookalike, my friend.1


1 oh hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère – Baudelaire.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Mirror Image

Comment: A whole week since I last posted. Nothing much has happened. I have been writing, revising, and critiquing the work of my friends, but I have posted nothing. I regret the absence, the current lack of commitment. I guess power losses, T-storms, rain and storm watches have something to do with it. Also the current nature of the world – for avoiding reality, in all its forms, including the poetic, is sometimes the easiest path to take.

Gloves

Gloves

“I work in a match factory.”
“Do you put the heads on?”
“No. I put the gloves on.
They’re boxing matches.”

A golden oldie, still vibrant,
from the Goon Show, BBC, 1950’s.

Your gloves are off now and they lie
on the table where you work.
How long have you had them?
Fifteen, twenty years?
Like good wine, carefully stored,
old friends are better with age.

A second chestnut from the Goon Show:
“Have you put the cat out?”
“No, dear. It wasn’t on fire.”

And that’s another good reason
why the water tower,
and its full renovation,
is so very, very important.

Bible and Water Tower,
hand in glove:
“And Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed
like any of these.”

Comment: A gorgeous photo, colors and textures, light and dark, from my friend, Geoff Slater, the line painter and muralist. He is working on restoring the mural on the water tower in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Gloves.

Poema de Amor

Poema de Amor / Love Poem
Complete version

Mitla is a sacred burial place in the Oaxaca Valley. The caves in the hills above the town are said to lead directly to an underworld from which demons and devils emerge at night and by means of which humans can communicate with the souls of the dead. Mitla, in fact, is often called the city of the dead. Legend has it that if you embrace  a certain magic column in the Palace at Mitla, the time left for you to live can be measured by the distance between your fingers as they reach round the pillar and almost touch. The pillar, they say, grows and shrinks according to the length of the seeker’s life. Petrus,  a rock, in Latin, evolves into piedra, a rock or stone in Spanish: upon this rock will I build my church.

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 glyphs alive in your face

if our arms meet round these all too human columns
what will become of us?

2
beneath your skin the woad lies as blue as this evening sky
yellow light bends low in the fields below us
each darkened pool a warrior fallen beneath the scythe

the moon paints a delicate circle
its great round open eye stands out
above the rooftops
tonight it bears an eye lid carved from  cloud

our teeth are diadems of whiteness
we tie shadows to our heels
and dance in triumph through street and square

3
daylight bends itself round rock and turns into shadow
we flourish in blocks of fire

dreaming new selves from roots and branches
we clasp each resurrection with greedy fingers
will the moon rise again tonight and will we watch?

dark angel bodies with butterfly wings
our shadows have eloped together

we can see them sitting side by side
bumping knees at a table in the zócalo

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 day
night fills us with stars and silhouettes

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
“Listen to the crackle of the rising sun!”

Click on this link to hear Roger reading on Anchor.
Poema de Amor

Fake News

 Fake News

Sometimes at night I hear deer walking across the lawn outside my bedroom window. Intruders in the garden, they rattle the feeders then walk darkly into the woods. Sometimes a coyote howls at the fingernail moon and my heart pumps sudden blood, rapid, through my veins.

            Below me, in the hall, the grandfather clock ticks the night away. I stitch myself up in my dreams, count the black sheep in the family, and iron old ghosts upon the ironing board until they are as flat as the white shirts we wore in boarding school on Sundays.

            If I close my eyes, they rise up before me, those Sunday shirts, flapping their arms, and mouthing their apologies for the sorry life they made me lead. No, I didn’t need to spend those days praying on my knees before the stations of the cross. Nor did I need to ask forgiveness for all the transgressions pulled from me, like teeth, in the Friday confessional.

            Marooned in a catholic cul-de-sac, I walked round and around in rigid circles. An academic puppet, I was trapped in the squared circle of an endless syllogism. Who locked me into this labyrinth of shifting rooms where sticky cobwebs bound windows, doors, and lips? Why did the razor blade whisper a love song to the scars crisscrossing my treacherous wrist? Who sealed my lips and swore me to secrecy?

            A tramp with a three-legged dog, I slept beneath a pier at midnight and woke to the sound of the waves rolling up the summer beach. Once, I stole a deckchair, placed it at the edge of the sea, and told the tide to cease its climbing. The moon winked a knowing eye and the waves continued to rise. Toes and ankles grew wet with wonderment and I shivered at the thought of that rising tide that would sweep me away to what unknown end?

            Last night I wrapped myself in a coward’s coat of many-colored dreams. My senses deceived me and I fell asleep in a sticky web spider-spun by that self-same moon that hid among the clouds and showed her face from time to time. My fragile fingers failed to unravel all those knots and lashings and I was a child again walking the balance beam that led from knowledge to doubt.

            A thin line divides the shark from the whale and who knows what swims beneath the keel when the night is dark and the coracle slides sightless across the sea? I gather the loose ends of my life, weave them into a subtle thread, and make myself a life-line that will bind my bones and lash my soul to my body’s fragile craft.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Fake News