Lost Angel

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Lost Angel

One day she was there,
the next day she was not.

She slipped through our fingers
like water or fine sand,
here one day
and gone the next

We looked away for a moment,
and when we looked back
she had disappeared.

The wind whispers secrets
that are multiplied
by grass tongues
wagging on deserted dunes.

The wind thinks she left us
to join the children
who play hide and seek
on empty September beaches.

“Hush now,” says the wind,
“if you make a sound
the children will know you are here.

They will slide through clefts in the rocks
and hide in silence, waiting
until you too have disappeared.”

Comment: Another Golden Oldie, this one from my book All About Angels. I wrote All about angels in homage to Rafael Alberti’s book, Sobre los angeles, one of my favorite poetry books in Spanish. My angels are not Alberti’s angels. How could they be when his angels are Spanish and mine are Welsh and Canadian? Do you really  believe in angels, you ask. Well, you’ll never know, because I’ll never tell you. That said, I did write a book about them.

Anniversary

 

 

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Birthday
a year ago today
… but it wasn’t my birthday

Buy a balloon.
Make sure the color is bright.
Fill it with all your sorrows,
then let it take flight.

Look: up and away it goes
and all your sorrows go with it.
You’ll feel much better now.

Buy yourself a party hat
and a birthday cake.
So what if it’s not your birthday.
It’s always someone’s birthday.

Don’t forget the candles.
Take a match and light them.
Now let your cares go up in smoke.

Recycling

Books

Recycling

“You never know when you might need it,” my
grandfather said, finger-nails cracking red-
waxed parcel string. Bright sealing wax rained down
on the tablecloth, covering it with hard,
scarlet chips. Wax cracked, tight knots emerged.
One by one, my grandfather first loosened
them, then sought the string’s free end, following
it along its snaking way from knot to
knot. Like Theseus following his twine
through the labyrinth below the palace, my
grandfather mused, hesitated, followed
the clues given him by the knotter’s mind.
Set free from its parceled knots and lashings,
he looped the string around his fingers and
tied the twine into a tight bow that he
stowed away for future use. Reef knots, slip
knots, sheep-shanks, bowlines, bowlines-on-the-bight,
he showed me how to tie them all. He taught
me too how to never tie granny knots.
“Never cut string with a knife: untie knots,”
strict his advice. I follow it today.

Commentary:
The photo shows my grandfather’s chair sitting before my basement desk where I write and store my books. I used to climb up the back of this chair when I was a tiny child, and blow on the bald spot on his head while he was asleep. Such memories nesting in the attic corner of the dormant mind. One day, I will write about that. Oh: I just did.

Friday Fiction: Crave More

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Friday Fiction
04 May 2018
Crave More

Crave More: I hate those words. I always choose
a cart with the shop’s name on the handle.
I can handle that. I can’t stand a cart
that screams Crave More at me every time I
bend to place an item in the wire grid.
If stores were honest they would write Think More
and Crave Less
 on their shopping carts. I bet
that would cut into profits. Anyway,
there I was, in LaLaLand, leaning on
my cart, half asleep, when this ghost drifted
towards me. “Help me,” it said. “I’m hungry.
I need money for food.” I woke up from
my dream, looked at the ghost, tall, skeletal
thin, cavernous eyes and cheekbones sticking
out, gaps in the teeth, grey face drawn with shame.
“Sorry,” came automatically. Then I
too felt shame. I looked at him again. “I
only carry plastic.” The excuse limped
heavily across the air between us.
I saw something in his eyes, I knew not
what, and turned away. As I walked away,
I added one hundred pound of muscle
to the scarecrow frame. Took forty years off
his age. Filled his body with joy and pride,
not shame, and remembered how he played, hard
and fast, but true. I ran the card index
of former players that I had coached through
my mind. I knew their moves, and attributes,
the way they played the game, strengths, weaknesses …
I remembered him holding up the Cup.
But I couldn’t remember his name. I
pushed the cart all over the store in a
frantic search for him. At the ATM
I withdrew cash. I could hand it to him.
I could tell him he had dropped it. I went
through a thousand scenes. I could invite him
to the snack bar. I could tell him to buy
what he needed and follow me. Check out
time, I would add his purchases to my
bill. I looked everywhere. He was nowhere
to be seen. One opportunity. One
chance. That’s all we get. Miss it, and we blow
the game. Grasp it and we medal with gold.

Commentary:
I have been experimenting with iambic pentameter, counting words and syllables on my fingers, tapping rhythms on the table, driving Clare crazy, and disturbing the cat. I have also disturbed my usual way of writing, for better or for worse I am not yet sure. Yesterday’s entertainment was to rewrite my brief story, Crave More, as a poem in pseudo-iambic pentameter. The measures seem to function and the rhythm and word count move both within the line and in the melodic, rhythmic phrasings that move between lines in a constant enjambement.

So, by all means let me know what you think of this experiment.  Here’s the link to the short story, also called Crave More. I would love to receive your opinions on narrative pseudo-iambic pentameter.

Revised Version:

Encounter

I was in the Superstore, leaning on
my cart, half asleep, when this ghost drifted
towards me. “Help me,” it said. “I’m hungry.
I need money for food.” I woke up from
my dream, looked at the ghost, tall, skeletal
thin, cavernous eyes and cheekbones sticking
out, gaps in the teeth, grey face drawn with shame.
“Sorry,” came automatically. Then I
too felt shame. I looked at him again. “I
only carry plastic.” The excuse limped
heavily across the air between us.
I saw something in his eyes, I knew not
what, and turned away. As I walked away,
I added one hundred pound of muscle
to the scarecrow frame. Took forty years off
his age. Filled his body with joy and pride,
not shame, and remembered how he played, hard
and fast, but true. I ran the card index
of former players that I had coached through
my mind. I knew their moves, and attributes,
the way they played the game, strengths, weaknesses …
I remembered him holding up the Cup.
But I couldn’t remember his name. I
pushed the cart all over the store in a
frantic search for him. At the ATM
I withdrew cash. I could hand it to him.
I could tell him he had dropped it. I went
through a thousand scenes. I could invite him
to the snack bar. I could tell him to buy
what he needed and follow me. Check out
time, I would add his purchases to my
bill. I looked everywhere. He was nowhere
to be seen. One opportunity. One
chance. That’s all we get. Miss it, and we blow
the game. Grasp it and we medal with gold.

Comment to the Revision:

The first eight lines of the original poem set the scene. While I tried to use them to accentuate commercial exploitation of the customer’s potential for greed, Crave More, they are not essential to the story of the encounter. Meg noticed this and following her interaction I have revised the poem, eliminating those first eight lines.

This is an interesting and inter-active way to work. Thank you Meg!

Broken Record

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Broken Record

I have worked on this poem for a long time now. I worry about it, gnaw at it like a dog gnaws at a bone or a cat plays with an insect trapped beneath its feet. Francisco Quevedo  (1580-1643) rewrote one of his poems (Miré los muros de la patria mía) six times between his first version (1603) and his last version (1643) two years before his death. Are we condemned to dance attendance on those poems that haunt us? I don’t really know. Here is the link to my first version of Broken Record. Is it the best one? The only one? The one I should keep? Here is my link to This Old Man. Is this a better version? Does the change of photo change the context of the poem?

Like Francisco de Quevedo and his long history of Miré los muros … I can no longer tell.  That said, here is the latest version of my poem. I hope you like it. Do some clicking (it’s also called research) and let me know what you think. I look forward to your comments.

Broken Record (?)

A vinyl disc going
round and round,
the diamond-tipped needle
stuck in a groove:
me and my broken-
record memories.

I stop old friends
in the supermarket
and, when I start to talk,

they stand there,
tapping their feet,
trapped in a doldrum
where no winds fill
their sails to move them on.

Caught in multiple mirrors
surrounding the barber’s chair,
my tongue is an open razor
constantly stropped.

I have turned into
a babbling book of hours,
life’s moribund albatross
necklaced,
a hot towel round
my reluctant throat.

 

 

Revisions

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Revisions

This carving may be gently touched

Original Version
(Pseudo-Jackpine-sonnet with a fifteenth line)

It doesn’t act like a bear. It has a
Spaniel’s stop. Its jaws are wedged in a
grin. Its tongue hangs still. No saliva drops
from its chin. Motionless eyes. This carving’s
tame. Children sit safely on its back, may
stroke the mighty muscles. It’s safe. Woodworm,
like moth, have left holes in its back. More:
many a crack ensures its tameness. Its shoulders
hunch. Sixteen claws probe at the concrete museum
floor. It’s nearer ear is chipped like my grandmother’s
tea-set. There’s lots of room for slips between cups
and this bear’s lips. Yet I can sense death’s closeness.
Suddenly, I know you’re in there, Bear, alive, alert,
angry, hungry. I feel you move: cold sweat covers
my false, carved skin.

Revised version:
(Meaning within each line rewrite)

It doesn’t act like a bear.
Its head bears a Cocker Spaniel’s short, sharp stop.
Its jaws are wedged in a grin.
Its tongue hangs still.
No saliva drops from its chin.
Motionless eyes.
This carving’s tame.
Children may sit safely on its back,
may stroke the mighty muscles.
It’s perfectly safe.
Woodworm, like moth, have left holes in its back.
More: many a crack ensures its tameness.
Its shoulders hunch.
Sixteen wooden claws chisel the concrete museum floor.
It’s nearer ear is chipped like my grandmother’s tea-cup.
There’s lots of room for slips between cups and this bear’s lips.
I can sense death’s closeness.
Suddenly, I know you’re in there, Bear,
alive, alert, angry, hungry.
I feel you move:
cold sweat covers my false, carved skin.

Comment:

Be careful how you revise your earlier work. The ‘revision’ often loses the impact of the original. By extension, don’t destroy you  original, ever: you may want to restore it one day. My horoscope said: ‘You will dither all day and never get anywhere. Take a firm grip. Drink less coffee.’

Lorca

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Lorca

Solidarity screamed out from posters and stamps
that carried snapshots of the dead poet’s face.

We still haven’t found his body.
He said we never would.

They tortured him first, taunted him for being homosexual;
trussed him up; laid him face down; then shot him,
for a joke, in the offending area.

He took a long time to die. When he did,
they dumped his body in some hillside ossuary
above his home town. But first they carved
the bullets out of his corpse,
three from the anal tract,
keeping them as souvenirs.

Next day his followers were put to death.
Waverers were soon convinced by bullets
lodged at the base of another’s skull.

Later that week, Fascists, drunk, laughed
uproarious in their favorite bars.
They dropped the bullets into white wine,
watching the blood trail as it drifted down,
then drank to the re-establishment
of what they now called law and order.

Commentary:

Another Golden Oldie, also from Broken Ghosts (Goose Lane, 1986).  The Spanish poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca (poetic Generation of 1927), predicted the mystery surrounding his own death and the unknown location of his body in a poem from his surrealist collection, Poet in New York. The recent decisions in Spain to open Civil War graves and seek the identity of victims via DNA testing and other more modern means has also led to the controversial reopening of many of the wounds of a Civil War that never really healed in many parts of the country. The Basque problems and the recent troubles in Catalonia bear witness to the continued memories of Civil War and post-Civil War repression.