Yellow

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Yellow

Sunshine and daffodils: my grand-daughter
paddles in the kitchen sink. Her mother
washes feet and dishes. “Sit,” Finley says,
and “stand,” following the words with actions.

“Yellow,” she says, “yellow,” as daffodils
fill the computer screen to shine in that
far-off kitchen five hundred miles away
by road, but immediate by I-Pad.

“Yellow,” Finley repeats, “yellow.” Soon
in that distant province where spring arrives
so much earlier than here, she will see
daffodils dancing their warm weather dance,

tossing their heads to gold and yellow trumpets,
fresh, alive, and young in the soft spring breeze.

Commentary: Not a large vocabulary, back then … yellow … yellow hair, yellow jello, yellow dog, yellow cat, yellow daffodils, well, we got that one right anyway. So, she is here now, yet again, with an enlarged vocabulary and two feet taller. She comes shopping with me, swings on the shopping cart, runs everywhere, will not sit still, slips and slides like stones in a slate quarry. She takes my cane, I call it a walking stick, and thwacks it in the air, a danger to sundry and all. Knows what she wants: not this, not that, no, yes, THIS … and points with a sticky finger at whatever it is that has caught her fancy.

She runs away from me, and I cannot catch her. I stand there quietly, waiting for her to return. And she does, with a squeal and a shriek and cries of joy after even a brief absence. We talk magic. I say I am invisible, and she cannot see me. She says she is invisible, but I poke her in the ribs with my index finger and she squeals again. Magic, she says, you can do real magic. I nod. Me too, she says. And she is the real magician for she is four years old and has me bewitched.

Finley at Two

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Finley at Two

Blood of my blood, my daughter’s daughter,
I live too far away to watch each day the laughter
on your lips, the sparkle of your eyes.

I see them when we Skype. Such a miracle
this magic machine that reduces distance
and time and brings you here to me.

I see you trying to stand, to understand,
to hold my image in your mind, to figure
out these moving shadows on the screen.

Words, born from poetry in my heart
and music on my lips, sometimes fall short,
and fail. Perhaps I should carve you a Welsh

love spoon. But time is not on my side. So brief,
this life: I wonder if we will ever meet again.

Commentary: Seeing Finley again, now aged four, has made me question all my earlier poems about her. I am overwhelmed by her energy, her interests, her concentration. I am bowled over by her flexibility, her strength, her joy in simple things. The above is not a new poem: it is a rewrite of an older poem, one that no longer served its purpose. I reshaped it as a sonnet, not traditional, but a sonnet none the less. I doubt that I will have much time on my own over the next two weeks in which to write. I guess I will pick away at this blog, adding a little something every so often, when the energy runs down and tranquility descends. Bear with me: I’ll be back.

 

 

 

A Different Kind of Doorway

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A Different Kind of Doorway

When one door closes, another opens. And yes, they are so important, these doors, that open and close. One day everything is open to us; the next, the future seems closed. But another door opens and we walk right through.

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Or maybe we don’t. So much depends. The brain drain, as they called it. The migration of students from Great (as she used to be) Britain to North America.  “Make sure,” they told us, “That you can see light at the end of the tunnel. If you can’t, don’t go.” I went to Canada for a year and stayed here for the rest of my life. I came to New Brunswick for a year and stayed here for the rest of my life.

Regrets? None. Dim o gwbl /  none at all, as we say in Welsh, the language of my maternal grandfather, from the land of my father(s), who never spoke a word of it. A language that I am just learning now with great pleasure, in the evening of my life. I am losing my French. I am losing my Spanish. I am learning Welsh.

So how do we open those doorways? Well, that depends on you, each one of you. Keep your eyes open. Study. Learn. Don’t waste your life. Recognize your talents. Don’t despair. Never give in. Nil carborundum illegitimi. No. Don’t allow yourself to be beaten down. Believe. Breathe deep and believe. And remember: there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Any tunnel. Don’t give up. Never give up. You just have to find that light. Seek: and you will find it.

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Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

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Do hummingbirds hum? Only when they’re humming birds. Otherwise they are quite silent, when alone, and the whirring of their wings is what whisks them up and away. In Oaxaca, the colibris are the souls of dead warriors killed in action. Their bravery is rewarded by their transference to a colibri in the afterlife, for colibris are given the gift of serving the sun in Mexican Mythology.

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Here in Island View, New Brunswick, we only see the ruby-throated hummingbirds. No ruby throat, and they are usually females. Obviously, when they have their backs to us, then it is more difficult to determine male or female.

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I desperately wanted to catch one feeding in the hollyhocks. Alas, they vanished inside the larger flowers. Also, they were much too quick for these old eyes and ageing fingers. So I just clicked away and hoped and this was the best I could do. I am still hopeful though… there’s still quite a bit of summer left.

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Ghost Train

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Ghost Train

Old fair grounds, I remember them well, the coconut shy, the dodgems, the swing boats, what the butler saw, the bearded lady, the tunnel of love, the ghost train … with its skeleton that loomed out of the darkness, the spider webs that draped themselves over your face unless you ducked, the witch on her broomstick, cackling, the flashing lights, the eerie voices,  the laughter, the screams …

… I arrived early so I could sit in my usual place. I watched the men enter, tapping hesitant, unsteady, slow, leaning heavily on sticks. I saw the women bald and beautiful , naked skulls hidden beneath hats and head scarves. Haunted looks lurked behind staring, wide-open eyes as the outpatients waited for something to leap out and frighten them, not spider webs and skeletons,  but the ghastly visions of tubes, pills, chemo, needles, all the paraphernalia that tortured them first time round.

The annual check-up seems so much easier. Blood tests, screenings, fervent hopes that the devil in the detail, horned, fork-tongued, cloven hoofed, red tailed, hasn’t been hiding, like a wayward ghost, in the small print of blood tests, scans, urine samples, all too ready to break free, leap out and beat us once again into submission.

The ghost train: has that cancer really gone or could it come back, condemning us once more to hospice or ward, to chemo and radiation, to the knife, or to other things more radical?

I sniff the double hospital smells of despair and ill-health, of hope and cures for all those ills, and I am there again, arms folded across my chest, lying motionless on that moving bed of bleached white sheets, heading slowly into that tunnel that smells of polished steel, where machinery coughs and starts and stops as flashing lights whirl their cadences of kill or cure above my troubled head.

Tunnel of love or ghost train? I guess I’ll soon find out.

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Tall Hollyhocks

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Tall Hollyhocks

Well, it isn’t quite an English Country Garden, but we now have some tall hollyhocks, and I mean TALL holly hocks. My beloved isn’t short, in fact she’s taller than me, but these hollyhocks are HUGE. Douglas Bader and Reach for the Sky are in a similar league.

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Six, foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch … I guess that was a week or two ago. Looks like an eight foot, nine foot, ten foot bunch to me right now. Maybe I should write the Hollyhock Boat song. I’d need to get someone else to sing it for me though. Somehow, this is my Island View in the Sun, doesn’t quite cut it for me. And I hope I don’t have to cut them. Not until the snow flies start breeding anyway. And that makes me wonder: has anyone ever actually seen a snow fly? I know I haven’t. But then, I’m just an ignorant immigrant. I am happy to admit it. That way, nobody can discriminate against me.

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The snow flies? They went that way. This way, that way, all ways lead to the Hollyhocks in Island View. And they are so beautiful. Even painters want to paint them.

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Oops, sorry: that was last year’s. And so was this painting: last year’s hollyhock preserved for ever. Well, I am not so sure about that anymore, either. But well done Geoff Slater. And many, many thanks.

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Eternity

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Eternity

Eternity: where can it be found? Not in these flowers that have already faded and gone. Where then? In mortal beings, condemned to dust? In wild words cast upon the wind? In friends and friendships, oh so perishable?

Oh where and oh where has my little dog gone?

Carved in Stone: that’s what people sometimes say … or it’s not carved in stone, as if words in stone lasted forever. They rarely do. Very little endures. Here today and gone tomorrow, or, like a stomach ache, gone with the wind.

Maybe the answer lies here, in this sequence I worked out a long time ago. Rock of Ages, cleft for me … oh where and oh where can we hide our mortality. Click on this link and you may have the answer. There again, you may not. Work it out for yourself: what are all  those anonymous marks, carved into stone and shadowed by a setting sun? If you know, please let me know. Quick now, before it’s too late, and we two too are gone.