Dreamers

Dreamers

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” Oscar Wilde.

“The dreamers by day are dangerous people, for they are the ones who make their dreams come true.” T. E. Lawrence.

Two interesting and contrasting quotes on dreamers. They seem to contradict each other – but do they? How do we dream? What do we dream of when we dream? What does the word ‘dream’ really mean? How can it change, that meaning when a person announces in a sharp, sarcastic voice: “In your dreams.”? Were the Everly Brothers right when they sang their version of dream, dream, dream?

There is no right and wrong with dreams. Some dreams come at night. They rise from deep within our resting – restless minds, asking questions, answering questions, doubling down on what we did, or didn’t do. Some dreams are obsessive and occur again and again. These are individual to each sleeper and cannot be interpreted, en masse, by a dictionary of dreams. Other night dreams creep in through the bedroom window. These may not be our dreams – they may be the dreams of other people, come to disturb us as we sleep. These can be dangerous dreams, disturbing moments, and that’s why the indigenous have created dream-catchers that will snare those dreams and prevent them from entering.

Other dreams come by day. Day-dreaming is a rite of passage for many young children, trapped in boring school rooms with an ageing teacher droning on and on. “Knowledge is that which passes from my notes to your notes without going through anyone’s head.” I woke up enough from my day dream during that particular first-year lecture to note those words in my notebook. They were the only notes I took in that class and I day dreamed my way though a year of that man’s pseudo-lectures.

But the dreams we dream by day – yes, they can indeed be dangerous – because we can make them happen. One person dreams of being a doctor and, against all the odds, that person becomes one. Another visualizes – another form of day-dreaming – breaking a world record. And does so – such people fulfill their day-dream. Some, like Don Quixote, dream the impossible dream. These are fantasists whose dreams will never come true, for they are based on unrealities, and not founded on the essential truths of real life.

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight.” Much as I love this quote, I am disturbed by the adverb ‘only’. It is so limiting. Dreamers, as I have tried to show, can find their way by day as well. “His punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” This, too, I find enigmatic and disturbing. Why should dreamers be punished when they can also be rewarded? Why is seeing the dawn a punishment? Why is seeing the dawn before the rest of the world a sort of double punishment? And why does the dawn punish people? In order to answer that question, we must define the dawn! Maybe we’ll do that in another post.

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.

Looking at the Stars

Looking at the Stars

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  Oscar Wilde

Another beautiful quote from Oscar Wilde. I look at the world around me and I see two different spheres – the celestial one where, on a clear night, Orion patrols the winter skies, his faithful dog star at his heels. These are nights of great beauty, fields where mythical animals wander their ways, clothed in sparking suits of light.

Then I open the newspapers, read the news, and wonder what we are all up to. Up to? Down to, rather, for I have that sneaking feeling that so many of us are indeed lying in the gutter, somewhere, thrown out of a moving car, and abandoned, like some dead deer in a roadside ditch. Everywhere, the news is dark and dreary – wars, rumors of war, shootings, beatings, corruption, lies – or terminological inexactitudes, as Winston Churchill called them, the word ‘lies’ not being permitted in the Mother of Parliaments.

The Mother of Parliaments, indeed. And what a non-sensical mess that has become. To repeat the litanies of nonsense spouted in the English Parliament nowadays, I hesitate to call it ‘the British Parliament’, is to risk rusting and ruining my computer keyboard with the salt tears I shed.

So many of them, then, literally lying- the word has multiple meanings – in the gutter. So many of us dragged down with them. But, each night, when the skies are clear and the clouds move away, I find myself, once again, looking up at the stars. Per ardua ad astra – through hardship to the stars.

Breathe deep – keep the faith and believe.

Luminescence

Luminescence

Our world can sometimes seem to be a very dark place. Early yesterday morning, sitting on the back bumper of my car, breathing heavily, unable to shift the weight of snow, rain, freezing rain, ice pellets that had accumulated in our drive, I was gripped by the cold hand of old age and despair.

I remembered the talk show quiz games in which one option was to call a friend. So I did. He turned up after work, started the snow blower and did for me what I was no longer able to do for myself. He cleaned the paths round our house, at the back, to the bird feeders, and down the front the heat pump at the side.

He brought light and joy back into my world, made me realize I was not alone, and I gave him, as a token of my gratitude, this painting: Luminescence.

Those of us who are still capable of bringing light and joy to others must continue to do so. Whatever we do, we must not let the dark side and the shadows take over.

My friend – you touched my heart. I thank you.

No Turkey, No Presents, No Tree

No Turkey, No Presents, No Tree.

And that’s how it is this year. Partly by choice. We decided against the stress of a turkey. Is it cleaned out correctly? Is it stuffed properly? Will we put bacon on top? Is it cooked to perfection? What about the trimmings? Stuffing (inside and out)? Bread sauce? Cranberry sauce? And the vegetables? And the Christmas Pudding? Will it be ready on time? Does it look nice? Have we laid the table properly? There are only two of us now. How much turkey can two people eat anyway? So we’ll have none of that this year. No stress. No cooking. No washing up. No leftovers. No turkey. The poem – The Twelve Days of Turkey – makes this clear.

As for the presents, well, that’s a sad story. We don’t really need anything. The house looks like a cross between a junk-shop and a museum gone mad. As Dylan Thomas said of Swansea Museum: it looks like a museum that belongs in a museum. And that’s what the inside of our house is beginning to look like. A crazy place inhabited by two crazy people and a crazy cat. Well, the cat would have loved some wrapping paper to play in, if it were a normal cat, but it’s not. So even the wrapping paper won’t be missed. No presents means no disappointment and that means that the Poem of Lower Christmas Expectations does not have to be written.

As for the tree, well, we don’t have a living tree, chopped down, and fed water daily, so that it can sprinkle its needles steadily over the carpet before it’s time to go. And the, on the way out, it drops the lot. Then we must vacuum clean, Hoover, Dyson, brush up, do the necessary, whatever it is, to make the place clean again. And oh, that cold January air when we open the sliding door to force the tree out. Force it out indeed – after 12 or so days inside, it doesn’t want to go out in the cold and freeze. And neither do we.

So, it’s a minimal Christmas. Three LED trees from past years. Clare’s Auntie’s artificial tree from her old shop in Cheap Street, Frome. Some strings of lights. Everything inside the house and nothing outside. And inside we have warmth, light, a fire in the stove, and for dinner, a tourtière, Acadian, all nicely spiced. With a selection of trimmings, to be determined later. Bread sauce and cranberry sauce probably. Oh yes, and we have a variety of puddings that can steam while we are eating. A minimal Christmas, then. No high expectations. The Christmas Mangers from Mexico and Spain all in place. And Christmas music, also from Mexico, on the disco and ready to go.

And yes, this will be the best Christmas ever. Because it is taking place within our hearts. And all best wishes for a wonderful day and an even better year to follow, to all of you, too.

Silence

Silence

Words emerge from the silence
of wood and stone. They break
that silence when they are born.

Silence, once broken, cannot
be repaired. A word once spoken
cannot be recalled.

The greatest gift is to know
how to be alone amidst the crowd,
how to sink into silence.

A world of words smothered
at birth and that world, unborn,
dismissed, forgotten, still-born.

A lost world of words whirled
on the silent wind that fans
the unborn fire within you.

The spider web of the mind
blown clear by the wind
that blows unspoken words.

The sultry silence of wood and stone,
the hush of the tadpole swimming
into its own metamorphosis.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Silence

A Good Friend

A Good Friend

Sitting at the kitchen table, sitting with my friend, Geoff Slater. He drove up from Bocabec to see me and help me sign some books. We have published several collections together – McAdam Railway Station, Scarecrow, Twelve Days of Cat, Tales from Tara, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature, and The Water Tower.

Scarecrow and Twelve Days of Cat contain Geoff’s drawings and my prose and poetry, while The Water Tower is composed of Geoff’s photos, taken while completing the repainting of his wonderful mural, adorning the water tower in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Today we signed copies of Scarecrow, Twelve Days, and McAdam. I have been very lucky with most of my literary and artistic friendships. It always gives me great pleasure to receive my friends at home and to talk away the hours on the chiming clock.

I also enjoy cooking for them, and today I made a delicious paella with ham, chicken, and shrimp. More important, the rice – I had a packet of Bomba Spanish paella rice, and what a difference that made to the cooking of one of my favorite dishes. The socarrat, that crispy layer that coats the bottom of the frying pan or paella was simply wonderful!

Writing can be a lonely life. What a blessing is a good friend, totally creative, off whom one can bounce ideas, exchange artistic stories – our narratives as we call them – and even collaborate on the creation of more art works. Geoff Slater – line-painter extraordinaire – I salute you!

Movember

Movember

When we men threaten to grow moustaches,
walking unshaven, amid the leaves
that crackle and pop as they rustle,
wind-blown, against our feet.

But pity us, poor hairless ones,
whose youthful skin still bears no beard –
can we we force a moustache to our lips?

That said, a chain of purple lights
adorns the wall in front of me
and I type to its imperious, flashing
bulbs, a constant reminder of bygone days

when the biopsy proved cancerous
and my prostate threatened my body
but was prevented from entering my bones.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Movember

Comment: November is prostate cancer month. My heart goes out to any and all who are suffering from this form of cancer. Caught early, it is curable. Get checked out, as quickly as possible. The sooner you catch it, the sooner your medical team can be formed to inform and advise you as to your choices. And YES, you have choices. I will always be grateful for the help I received, from my own medical team, back in 2014-15, when I was first diagnosed and then cured. Cured, yes. But the nightmare of a possible return always remains, ticking away like a time-bomb at the back of my mind.

Sisyphus Sings Nabucco

Sisyphus Sings Nabucco

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

Long days will come when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier with life lying in wait,
to weigh us down with all those lies, each
falsehood a rock added to the daily pile.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this hill each day, only to have them roll down,
overnight, 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, we will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sisyphus Sings Nabucco



Words

Words

Words grow like flowers, invasive,
cruel, beautiful, cutting, and when cut,
they wither and fade, like flowers too.

Catch them while you can, I say.
Catch them, hold them tight,
press them to you heart,
for time is voracious
 and will soon devour them,
 swallowing them in the black holes
of forgetfulness, carelessness,
and memory loss.

Shine a light on your words.
Underline them, grace them with stars,
think about them, carefully.

And remember, the word
once spoken or written
can never, ever be recalled.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Words