Full House

IMG_1173 (3).JPG

Full House

Full house: echoing footsteps, shadows,
everywhere, a litter of toys, crayons,
colored pages, jigsaw puzzles, Barbie
and Ken found at the back of a shelf.

Memories: pinned to the fridge, found
in strange places, an almond on my chair,
a drawing in my notebook, a message,
unintelligible, scrawled on shopping lists.

That peremptory voice calls my name
and I drag myself from sleep, only to know
it was a dream, netted up from slumber’s
dark midnight sea. I drift off again and

see her again, opening the bedroom door,
calling, calling, ever present in voice,
song, and dervish dance, such energy,
round and round, bouncing on my bed,

rolling the exercise ball across the floor,
oblivious to danger, harm, the perils of
unbalancing, stumbling, slipping, falling,
aware of the need for sticking plaster

comforts littering thighs, knees, calves,
feet arms, elbows, where ever instant
attention calls for instant, urgent treatment.
I will always remember the ambushes

that rolled off the tongue, phrases way
beyond the skills of a four-year old. What
if her mother is a lawyer, the youngster
shouldn’t control that sort of language.

She remembered so much from her last
visit. We thought she would have forgotten
us, but no, she remembered where almost
everything was hidden, out of sight but

no longer out of reach. Just a little bit taller,
stronger, more determined, faster, so fast
and loud we could not keep up. This morning
I awoke to the silence of an empty house.

Rolling Stones

IMG_1159 (2).JPG

Rolling Stones

I have counted down the days, hours, minutes,
one by one, each tock of my grandfather clock
linked in pen and ink chains of endless words.

From arrival to departure, time’s fickle finger has
pointed me onwards into my future or backwards
into a delusional past that never was as I recall it.

Packed bags, backpacks crammed full of snacks,
ammunition against the hunger wars soon to be
upon them, they commence their long journey home.

Grown ups, some in their second childhood, bemoan
ties that bind, tides that rip us apart, tearing hearts,
swinging us in and out as, cockle-shell heroes, we man

our coracles and consult wide-ranging horoscopes that
never fail to comfort, the future’s wild words, written
in pitiless skies to guide and inspire all earthly creatures

born into sadness and death. No heroes in this house.
Just two old people, grey-haired, broken, contemplating
this soon to be silent home, knowing the Rolling Stones

were right, that rocks in motion don’t gather no moss,
that each lost moment is a finger-nail torn from flesh,
that today of all days could verily be ‘the last time’.

Commentary: Here for such a little while and gone already. Two years since they were here and two more years before they come back again. The silence is overwhelming. Only CNN with its endless cacophony breaks into the conscious mind, though that mind is unconscious now of words and their meanings. Images of emptiness, empty nests, this empty nest, these empty nests fill the vacancy of space. The heart is a black hole in the chest, sucking everything out of the light and into that dark, vacant space.

IMG_1112 (2).JPG

Things

18581930_1306791786107970_4016640231053970709_n-1

Things I carry with me

            That old black cast-iron stove, wood-fired, that baked the best ever breads and cakes and warmed the bungalow on cold, summer mornings. The Welsh dresser with its age-blackened rails that displayed the plates, and cups, and saucers. The old tin cans that ferried the water from the one tap located at the end of the field. Full and wholesome, its weight still weighs me down as I carry it in my dreams. The Elsan toilet from the shed by the hedge and the shovels that appeared, every so often, as if by magic, as my uncle braved the evening shadows to dig a hole on the opposite side of the field, as far from the bungalow as possible.

            The outhouse at the end of the garden. The steps down to the coal cellar where they went when the sirens sounded, to sleep in the make-shift air raid shelter, along with the rats and mice that scurried from the candles. The corrugated iron work shop in the garden where my uncle built his model ships, the Half-Penny Galleon and the Nonesuch. The broken razor blades I used to carve my own planes from Keil Kraft Kits, Hurricanes and Spitfires, an SE5, and once, a Bristol Bulldog. Twisted and warped, they winged their ways into nobody’s skies, though once we built a paper kite that flew far away in a powerful wind and got tangled in a tree. The greenhouse from which I stole countless tomatoes, red and green. Kilvey Hill towering above the window ledge where the little ones sat when there were more guests than chairs in the kitchen. The old bombed buildings across the street. The bullet holes in the front of the house where the Messerschmidt strafed us.

            The old men spitting up coal dust from shrivelled lungs. The widows who took in lodgers and overnight travelers. The BRS lorries, parked overnight, that littered the street. The steep climb upwards into those lorries. The burrowing under dirty tarpaulins to explore the heavy loads, and many other things. The untouchable, forbidden drawer where the rent money waited for the rent collector’s visit. The old lady, five houses down who, when the shops were shut, sold warm Dandelion & Burdock and Orange pop for an extra penny a bottle.  The vicious, snub-faced Pekinese that yapped fierce defiance from the fortress of her lap. The unemployed soccer referee who on Saturdays walked five miles to the match and five miles back just to save the bus fare, his only financial reward. My father’s shadowy childhood. His first pair of shoes, bought at five years old, so he wouldn’t go barefoot to school.

            Wet cement molded onto the garden wall, then filled with empty bottles to be smashed when the cement set solid. The coal shed where the coal man delivered the coal: cobbledy-cobbledy, down the hole. The outside toilet with its nails and squares torn from yesterday’s newspaper. The lamp-lighter who lit the lamps every evening as the sun went down. The arrival of electricity. The old blackout curtains that shut in the light and shut out the night. The hand rolled fabric sausage that lay on the floor by the door and kept the heat of the coal fire in the kitchen. The kitchen itself with its great wooden chair drawn up by the fire. That chair: the only material possession I still have from that distant past.

Yellow

IMG_0617

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

IMG_1058 (2).JPG

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

different kinf of doorway.png

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.

Avila 2008 072 (2).jpg

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.

Avila 2007a 105 (2).jpg