The End of Time

Meditations on Messiaen.
Quartet for the End of Time.

3

The End of Time

A thin violin crying
its cat-gut heart out
in tears of sound, falling,
rhythmic raindrops,
down a grey-streaked face
tight with stress and pain.

Such concentration,
such soulfulness packed
into each mindful note.

An audience of one,
I sit, head bowed,
meditating on the meaning
of meaning and nothingness,
the nothingness of being condemned
to oblivion yet oblivious
of the how and when.

Each note a hammer-blow,
then, the piano hammering nail
after nail into this coffin body
I drag through the motions
of extracting meaning
from this meaningless life.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

The End of Time

Dark Angel

Meditations on Messiaen.
Quartet for the End of Time.

2

Dark Angel

He will come, the dark angel,
and will meet me face to face.

He will take all that I own,
for it is only temporary
and all my possessions are on loan.

My house, my wife, my car,
my daughter, my grand-child,
 my garden, my trees, my flowers,
They are not mine.
I do not possess them.

I only own this aching heart,
these ageing bones,
this death that has walked beside me,
step by step, every day
since the day I was born.

That indeed is mine,
and nobody else’s.
That is my sole possession.
That is the only thing I own.

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Scroll down to appropriate episode.
Dark Angel

Waiting

The story of one man’s journey

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Waiting

I remember pushing
my father around the ward
in the hospital.
Two weeks we had together.

My father sat in his wheel chair
and I wheeled him
up and down.

“Cancer,” they told me.
“But it’s kinder not to let him know.”
In those days, it was better to die
without knowing why.
Did I betray him by not letting him
know what I now need to know?

One day, he begged me for help
and I lifted him out of his wheelchair
and placed him on the toilet.
He strained and strained
but could not, would not go.

“Son,” he said, sitting there,
“Will you rub my back?”
How could I say no?

That strong man,
the man who had carried me
in his arms, on his back,
and me standing there,
watching him,
his trousers around his knees,
straining hopelessly,
and me bent over him,
rubbing his back,
waiting,

for him to go.

Comment: Thank you, once again, Alejandro Botelho of Diverse TV. This was a great reading. If you, dear reader, are interested, you can listen to it HERE. Alejandro’s reading of my poem begins at 40.52 and ends at 42.33. But remember, the other poems are also well worth listening to and Alejandro has a great voice and wonderful interpretation. A further comment: first there is the text. Then there is Alejandro’s excellent reading. Then there is my own reading. From each of these the observant reader and / or listener will extract a slightly different emphasis and meaning. In my own case, following Alejandro’s reading of the original text, I have added some minor changes, to add to the intertextual rhythm of the words. Tolle, lege et vade mecum. A Cancer Chronicle is available HERE.

My Grandfather

WWI Dispatch Rider. A friend of my grandfather’s.

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My Grandfather

My grandfather gave me my first sewing lessons.
He sat before the kitchen fire and put a grey
wooden darning mushroom inside the sock,
stretching woolen threads to expose the hole.

He chose with care his colors: bright yellows,
oranges, reds, sky blues, anything that stood out
against the sock’s dark rainy-day drabness. If
the socks were thin, he split new wool, pulling it
into individual strands that he would dampen
with his tongue. Then he would thread the needle.

Wool in place, he would cross-hatch the sock’s hole,
slowly forming a life-raft that he’d fill with color.
All my life, I have darned socks, sewn buttons,
and mended my sweaters. I use bright colors,
to my friends’ dismay. I still have my grandfather’s
World War One sewing kit, all wrapped up in
a canvas bag with his needles and some wool.

It’s wonderful to touch where his strong hands were.
There are dark blood traces where he pricked his thumb
and deeper stains where he sewed up wounded friends.

Comment: My Grandfather, the poem, is available on DiversityTV where it is read by Alejandro Botelho. Thank you, Alejandro, for a great reading and a fine interpretation of this poem. Click here > My Grandfather < for Alejandro’s reading. Note that My Grandfather begins at 13.30. Note too that the other poems on this site are worth listening to as well.

Dance of the Spheres

Dance of the Spheres
Thursday Thoughts
26 August 2021

I thought for a moment that, yes,

I was an angel and I was dancing

on a pinhead with so many other

angels, and all of us butterflies

spreading our wings with their peacock

eyes radiant with joy and tears spark

-ling in time to the music that wanders

up and down and around with inscrutable

figures held spell-bound in a magic moment

… and I still feel that pulsing in my head,

that swept up, heart stopping sensation

when the heavens opened and the eternal

choir raised us up from the earth, all

earthbound connections severed and all

of us held safe in an Almighty hand.



Comment: This poem is from my book A Cancer Chronicle (2017) where it is published under the title Sewing Circle. While in the Auberge Monsieur Henri Cormier, in Moncton, undergoing treatment, I joined the quilting group. What fun, one anglophone man learning French from, a dozen Acadian women. What fun: and yes, I did learn a tremendous amount about so many things, including the peace, mindfulness, and inner concentration of sewing and quilting.


A Cancer Chronicle
The verse-story of one man’s journey
Click on the link below to purchase this book

A Cancer Chronicle

The Origin of the World

Dawn from the Red Room at KIRA. Another form of birth.

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The Origin of the World
Gustave Courbet
 
L’Origine du monde

The origin of the world and where I came from,
her deep, moist cave that cast me from dark to light.
She loved me, she said, depriving me of her warmth,
leaving me to go back to her lover, loving him more.

Was it guilt that drove her to drinking whisky?
A forty-ouncer a day at the end, sometimes more.
She would wake in the night, wander the house,
banging against chairs, tables, walls, and doors.

She ran up bills in local shops, and the keepers
would dun me for the money she owed. She also
borrowed cash and some days her fingers were bare.
She left pawn shop IOUs on the table and I drove

 into town to redeem her rings. Once, in a drunken
frenzy, she cursed her only child. A mother’s curse is a
terrible thing. Living albatross, it claws lungs and heart.
Its weight drove me to the bottle. I too sought oblivion.

Joy came when blackness descended, the albatross flew,
amniotic waters rocked me in warmth and comfort,
and my body’s boat floated once again on an endless sea.
Reborn each day, mornings cast me back from dark to light.

Comment: Here is the link to the DiversityTV reading of The Origin of the World. The Origin of the World begins at 28.40. I will attach my own reading from Spotify, just as soon as I complete it. I always find it fascinating to compare the way others read with the way I do. meanwhile, I would like to thank Alexandro Botelho for his invitation for me to participate in his DiversityTV show. I enjoyed his reading very much and I wish him all success with this venture.

Calling It a Day

Calling it a Day

This auriferous sky, sewn with sharp sequins.
Is there a warp, a leaning towards meaning,
a lurch maybe towards the moon’s dark side?
Questions: knights-errant questing for answers.

Who planted our DNA into that first Garden?
Or did the garden fill us with its own seeds?
Why did those little plants take root and grow?
Why do they now wander everywhere, restless?

This auriferous sky, sewn with sharp sequins.
Is there a warp, a leaning towards meaning,
a lurch maybe towards the moon’s dark side?
Questions: knights-errant questing for answers.

Rampant feet patrol our castle’s heights
while we seek instant gratification, swift
possession, our fingers probe each passing
cloud, reaching for all, but grasping none.

A satellite glides its razor edge, slices
the night’s eye into pin pricks of light.
The moon balances her orange unicycle
on thin black lines, hills edged with trees.

Lesser incandescence of a departed sun,
that low, lone moon slowly climbs the sky.
Released from their earthbound burdens,
who knocks this night at heaven’s gate?

Here on the back porch, midnight slowly
covers me with its dark gray cape of grief.
My grief is your grief, your grief is mine, all
grief is one, why do we all then grieve in vain?

Why?

Why?

“Where are you going?” I ask again.
 “To see a man about a dog,” my father replies.
  “Why?” I ask.
  “Hair of the dog,” his voice ghosts through the rapidly closing crack as the front door shuts behind him.
  “Why?” I cry out.
 Years later I remember this episode. The mud nest nestles tight against a beam beneath our garage roof. Tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open. Parent birds sit on a vantage point of electric cable, their beaks moving in silent encouragement. A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw, a small body thudding down a ladder of air to crash beak first on the concrete.
“Why?” I ask.
The age-old answer come back to me.
“Wye is a river. It flows through Ross-on-Wye and marks the boundary between England and Wales.”
The swallows perch on the rafters watching their fledgling as it struggles on the floor, the weakening wing flaps, the last slow kicks of the twitching legs.
“Why?” I ask.”
“Y is a crooked letter invented by the Green Man of Wye.”
“Why?” I repeat. “I want to know why.”
Silence hangs a question mark over the unsatisfied spaces of my questing mind.
A golden oldie. We would all like to know why. But there are no answers. Just riddles cast, like two trunk-less legs of stone, on the sands of time. Nothing beside remains. Yet still we ask the age old question: why? And still we receive the age-old answers from those ageing wise men who ruled our childhood and taught us everything they knew.
“Why?”
“Because.”

Comment:

Alas, we have lost our hollyhocks, not all of them, but most. They have been drowned in torrential rain, blown and bent, ravished by raging winds, and they have been scorched in a heat-warning scorched earth policy that left them and the garden all forlorn. As for the lawn, between chinch bug, crows, raccoons, and a surge in weeds and bugs, it is a desolation.

What is worse: they were so beautiful, those hollyhocks. Multi-coloured, stately, and tall. Hopefully, they will return next year. We do hope so. And equally hopefully next year will be a better year for them. And for you and me. Meanwhile, I savour the photos and mourn their loss. Meanwhile…

“Why?” I ask “Why?”

The answer echoes back across the years in well-known voices that have long been silenced.

“Because.”

Christmas Angel

Christmas Angel

Once upon a time
he sang carols,
but now he chokes
on red-herring bones
and obscure meanings.

When he opens his mouth,
his tongue falls bleeding on the silver tray
encased in wood
passed round to collect the money.

His knees are dusty from lack of use.
What wooden doll’s head
rocks back and forth on his shoulders?

On Christmas Eve, a painted
clothes peg lies in a wicker cradle.

He swaddles it with birdsong
and hums forgotten words
to half-remembered tunes.

Christmas Angel can be found in
All About Angels.


All About Angels
Paperback edition


All About Angels
Kindle Edition

Building on Sand

Building on Sand

Everywhere the afternoon gropes steadily to night.
Some people have built fires,
others read by candlelight.

Geese, drifts of snow their whiteness,
settle on the riverbank. They walk
on thin ice at civilization’s edge.
Around them, the universe’s clock
ticks slowly down.

Who forced that scream
through the needle’s eye?
Inverted, the Big Dipper,
hangs its question mark
from heaven’s dark eyelid.

Ghosts of departed constellations
stalk the sky. Pale stars bob
phosphorescent on the flood.

The flesh that bonds,
the bones that walk,
the shoulders and waist
on which I hang my clothes,
now they stand alone
and listen at the water’s edge
to the whispering trees.

They have caught the words
of snowflakes strung between the stars.
Moonlight is a liquor
running raw within them.

Comment: The verse version (above) is from Though Lover’s be Lost. The prose version (Below) is from Stars at Elbow and Foot.

Building on Sand

Everywhere the afternoon gropes steadily to night. Some people have built fires, others read by candlelight. Geese, drifts of snow their whiteness, settle on the riverbank. They walk on thin ice at civilization’s edge. Around them, the universe’s clock ticks slowly down. Who forced that scream through the needle’s eye? Inverted, the Big Dipper, hangs its question mark from heaven’s dark eyelid. Ghosts of departed constellations stalk the sky. Pale stars bob phosphorescent on the flood. The flesh that bonds, the bones that walk, the shoulders and waist on which I hang my clothes, now they stand alone and listen at the water’s edge to the whispering trees. They have caught the words of snowflakes strung between the stars. Moonlight is a liquor running raw within them.

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