Little Boy Lost

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Little Boy Lost

I’ll never forget, years ago,
standing in the snow,
looking through a window,
seeing a friend’s family
gathered inside by the fire.

Shadows danced as the children
decorated their Christmas tree:
laughter and warmth and joy,
and me outside in the snowy street,
walking past, on my way home,
an only child destined
to be alone in my lonely room.

I also recall empty rooms,
cold corridors, stark loss,
and the sorrow of surviving
on my own.

So, I created my own family
and filled my mind with
boys and girls, siblings,
people I could see and touch,
a family to which I could belong.

Basil Bear Packs

Basil Bear Packs

            “You promised.”

            “I know I did.”

            “Then take me with you. I’m only small. I’ll fit in a pocket.”

            “All right: go and pack.”

            “What shall I pack?”

            “Don’t ask me. I don’t know. I’ve never travelled with a teddy bear before.”

            The conference is a strange one. There are no women present and only one person of color. Nobody speaks to him. When he reads, I am the only one to hear his paper. It’s actually quite good.

            I move from that session to the next one. The man sitting beside me opens his briefcase and tells me to look inside. I do. He has two pistols in there.

“Are you packing?” he asks me.

     “No,” I reply. “But I packed to come here. So did my guardian.”

“Guardian?” the man raises his eyebrows. “That’s cool: a body guard, eh? You need to pack round here. But a body guard is great. Where are you going tonight?”

I tell him.

“That’s a dangerous area of town. You’d both better be packing if you go down there.”

“Thanks for the advice,” I nod to him. “Are you going to the reception?”

“Yup,” he smiles. “I’ll see you there. And don’t forget to pack.”

“Well, Basil,” I see when I get back to the hotel room. “It looks like you’ll be going out with me tonight.”

“That’s great,” little Basil gives me a big teddy bear smile.

When I get to the reception, my friend from earlier is there. He nods at me and smiles at the bulge on the left side of my jacket.

“Good to see you’re packing. Can I have a look?”

“Sure,” I say and open my coat. Basil sits up, opens his eyes, and gives him a little wave. The man’s mouth falls open. He stares at me, wild-eyed.

“Ain’t nobody gonna tackle a mad man who’s carrying a teddy bear,” I say. “Now that’s really packing.”

He walks to the bar, orders a double-double and swallows it, Ker-Splosh.

“That’s telling him,” says Basil, snuggling back down in the warm beneath my armpit. “Hi-ho, Silver: let’s go out and get those gangsters.”

Comment: For Tiffany who understands the important things on the brighter side of life.

Golden Angel


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Golden Angel

He stands beneath guardian trees,
his saffron garments glossed with gold.

Hands cupped, body bent,
he softly swells as he dips
beneath sun and rain.

He speaks to me:
wild prophet from an ancestral book
that I believed in when I was a child,
but no longer read or understand.

I try to interpret the aroma of his lips,
his slow, small growth of gesture.

His winged words are traps
tripping my tongue, clipping my wings,
preventing me from flight.

Shape-shifter, she changes before my eyes
and takes on her earthly disguise.

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Man from Merthyr

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Man from Merthyr

 Memory loss punched holes in your head
and let in the dark, instead of the light.
Constellations faded from your sight,
erased by the arch-angel’s coal-dust wing.

 “I’m shrinking,” you said, the last time I saw you,
you, who had been taller, were now smaller than me.

 Tonight, when the harvest moon shines bright
and drowns the stars in its sea of light,
I will sit by my window and watch for your soul
as it rockets its way to eternity.

My eyes will be dry. I do not want pink runnels
running down this coal-miner’s unwashed face.
I’ll sing you this lullaby, to help you sleep.

“When the coal comes from the Rhondda
down the Merthyr-Taff Vale line,
when the coal comes from the Rhondda
I’ll be there,” with you, shoulder to shoulder.
Farewell, my friend, sleep safe, sleep deep.

Earth to Earthlings

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March 1 is St. David’s Day: Dewi Sant, patron saint of Wales. While we are here, immersed in cold and snow, in Wales, spring is arriving, the daffodils are out, trees are budding. This poem is a reminder that winter will end and sunshine and spring will return. So for St. David’s Day, I wish you joy and hope.

Earth to Earthlings

“Get out and about,” she told me.
Take off your socks and shoes.
Walk barefoot on the earth and grass:
twin pleasures, you can choose.”

I took two canes, one in each hand,
and left the house to walk the land.

In the garden I took off my shoes
to walk barefoot on the lawn;
when grass sprang up between my toes
I was instantly reborn.

I stood in the shade of the crab apple tree
and let leaf and flower spill over me.

Sunlight took away my frown
and freckled a smile on my face.
I was blessed again with hope and light;
earth and grass filled me with grace

When white blossoms filtered down
they gifted me a flowery crown.

I stooped to reach my shoes
and carried them home in my hand,
maintaining as long as I could
my contact with this magic land.

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Chance Encounter

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“You only find what you leave behind.”

Chance Encounter
(Overheard at the bar)

“Meeting her, unexpected,
with another man,
and me, with another woman,
all four of us looking
bemused by what the other
had chosen in each
other’s absence
— suspense and silence —
then the halted, faltering
politeness of a nod,
a handshake, ships
passing in the night,
signals no longer recognized.”

Striations

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The iguana that guards the front door of our house. At night he comes alive, goes round on patrol, checking and securing everything and everybody. Beware the jaws that bite, the claws that clutch!

Striations

There are striations in my heart, so deep, a lizard could lie there, unseen, and wait for tomorrow’s sun. Timeless, the worm at the apple’s core waiting for its world to end. Seculae seculorum: the centuries rushing headlong. Matins: wide-eyed this owl hooting in the face of day. Somewhere, I remember a table spread for two. Breakfast. An open door. “Where are you going, dear?” Something bright has fled the world. The sun unfurls shadows. The blood whirls stars around the body. “It has gone.” she said. “The magic. I no longer tremble at your touch.” The silver birch wades at dawn’s bright edge. Somewhere, tight lips, a blaze of anger, a challenge spat in the wind’s taut face. High-pitched the rabbit’s grief in its silver snare. The midnight moon deep in a trance. If only I could kick away this death’s head, this sow’s bladder, this full moon drifting high in a cloudless sky.

Comment: a fitting ending for the month of February: ubi sunt? Where have all those days gone: Ou sont les neiges d’antan?

Pilgrims


Flowers from Oaxaca. They will be carried by the young girl who will place them on her head. Her brother will walk beside her on her pilgrimage around the twelve central Oaxacan shrines.

Pilgrims

On the cathedral steps,
a boy pierces his lips
with a cruel spine of cactus.

The witch doctor
catches the warm blood
in a shining bowl.

The boy’s sister
kneels before el brujo,
who blesses her
in an ancient ritual.

Walking the pilgrim road,
she will visit all twelve
central Oaxacan shrines.

On her head she will carry
this basket filled with flowers
and heavy stones.

El Brujo casts
copal on his fire.
Brother and sister
girl inhale the incense.
The witch doctor
marks their cheeks with blood.

Daffodils

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Daffodils
(for my mother)

Light in dark
bright yellow stridence
shrill golden dog’s bark
to warn off death’s wolves
that freeze her blood

she dreaded night’s unease
the devil’s wintry anti-spring
life’s darkest sparks

 but loved the daffodils’
sunny March cadence
of brief piercing dance

Comment: A Golden Oldie. My mother loved daffodils and planted them all over the garden in Cardiff, Wales. They are the national flower of Wales and break into blossom just in time to welcome St. David on St. David’s Day, soon to be upon us, Dydd Dewi Sant.

Daffodils

Daffodils
A poem for the lady who brought some to us when Clare fell

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Daffodils in our garden, last year in Island View. We won’t see the live ones until May, at the earliest. I dream of them at night, tossing their heads in sprightly dance’, in Roath Park and Blackweir Gardens, Cardiff. They will be out now, all ready to welcome Dydd Dewi Sant on March 1.

Daffodils

For ten long days the daffodils
endured, bringing to vase and breakfast-
table stored up sunshine and the silky
softness of their golden gift.

Their scent grew stronger as they
gathered strength from the sugar
we placed in their water, but now
they have withered and their day’s done.

Dry and shriveled they stand paper-
thin and brown, crisp to the touch.
They hang their heads:
oncoming death weighs them down.