One Goldfish

Ephemera

One Goldfish

A great big thank you to Allan Hudson, editor of the South Branch Scribbler Blog. He e-mailed me on my birthday, last Sunday, and asked me if I had a story that he could use on his new blog page Short Stories from Around the World. These will be published every other Wednesday, starting today. I am very honoured and proud to be the author of the first story, One Goldfish, third place in the WFNB non-fiction award (2020), that opens the series. It was revised and reworked in the Advanced Writing Course, run by Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox fame. I would like to thank Brian and all my fellow participants who helped me rework the story. On Allan’s blog you will find links to other contributions from me. You will also find a series of featured authors, from New Brunswick, the Maritimes, Canada, and all around the world. Allan does a great job for us minor, struggling literary figures, not just for the greats. I encourage you to follow his blog and support him.

Ephemera

My painting (above) is entitled Ephemera. It shows a literary text semi-obliterated by various colors and devices. If we have learned anything from Covid it should be the fragility of life, the insubstantiality of existence, and the enormous powers of the natural world that surrounds us. My friends: take nothing for granted. Carpe Diem – seize the day – and “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may – for time it is a’flyin – and that poor flower blooming today – tomorrow may be dying.” This is Robert Herrick, of course. Here is my own version of the theme from The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature.

Daffodils

Winter’s chill lingers well into spring.
I buy daffodils to encourage the sun
to return and shine in the kitchen.
Tight-clenched fists their buds, they sit
on the table and I wait for them to open.

Grey clouds fill the sky. A distant sun
lights up the land but doesn’t warm the earth
nor melt the snow. The north wind chills
body and soul, driving dry snow
across our drive to settle in the garden.

The daffodils promise warmth, foretell
the sun, predicting bright days to come.
When they do, red squirrels spark at the feeder.

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

Their scent grows stronger as they gather
strength from sugared water. But now
they begin to wither, their day almost done.

Dry and shriveled they stand this morning,
paper-thin, brown, crisp to the touch, hanging
their heads as oncoming death weighs them down.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Daffodils

My Father in Oaxaca

My Father in Oaxaca

I saw my father this evening. 
I walked through the zócalo,
opened the main cathedral doors,
looked up, and there he stood,
motionless. 

Light shone through stained glass
and gifted him a halo,
as if he were some long dead
saint come back to visit me. 

We stared at each other.
The hairs on my neck
stood on end.

My hands shook. 
When I forced my mouth open,
words stuck in my throat. 

He wore his best grey suit
over a light blue shirt
and a dark blue,
hand woven tie: 
the outfit in which
I had buried him.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
My Father in Oaxaca

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

Wishing all my followers a wonderful Christmas and let us hope that the New Year brings us some relief from Covid-19 and all the ensuing vicissitudes. Sunny here in Island View and coldish, but not too bad. A tiny sprinkling of snow, so we qualify for a White Christmas – una blanca navidad.

AMGD: The full phrase attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the author of Ejercicios espirituales / Spiritual Exercises and the Founder of the Jesuits, is Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem or “for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity.” 

So, to continue with the Latin: Pax Amorque /Peace and Love. My friends: whatever your customs and beliefs, make this Christmas a good one and let us all wish for a Happy New Year.

Anniversary Poem

Anniversary Poem

“Hoy cumple amor en mis ardientes venas
veinte y dos años, Lisi, y no parece
que pasa día por el.”

Francisco de Quevedo

“For twenty-two years my captive heart has burned.”
Christ, what crap that is. The only heart burn
I have known came from your cooking: African
Nut Pie, as detailed in the cookbook I bought you
for Christmas on our first wedding anniversary,

remember? And do you remember the ride to Kincardine
on the train? A dozen coaches left Toronto and one
by one they were shunted away until only you and I and an
elderly man ploughed through the snowstorm in the one
remaining carriage. Deeper and deeper piled the snow.

You looked through the window and started to weep:
“What have I done?” you cried in shock and grief. Outside:
Ontario lake-effect snow. Headlights from two waiting
cars lit up the station. We drove to the homes of people
you didn’t know, third generation cousins of mine.

You’re the only bride I know who was carried to church
in the arms of the total stranger giving her away
in place of the father she never knew. The snow lay six
foot deep (eighteen inches fell on your wedding day
alone) and you, with a white wedding dress and black boots

up to your knees. Cousin Walter carried you to the altar:
how they laughed as they chanted that old song to us.
Later, when they tapped the glasses and fell silent
at the meal, I didn’t know what to do. And you, my love,
standing up, kissing me, married after six days in Canada.

Comment: 55 years ago today. Where have they all gone? How quickly they slipped away. So many memories. So much happiness.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Anniversary Poem

55 Years Married

Poppies by Clare

55 Years Married

White Flame
in praise of my beloved

White flame, her hair, emerging from shadows,
lighting her path downhill toward water’s edge.
Wind-driven waves splash lake-side where she
will wander. I watch her footsteps, not now
as firm as once they were. Burgeoning age

grips hip and joint. Toes and heels no longer
lift in the same old way. Component parts
break down, arteries clog, arthritis worms,
painful, into fingers, wrists, and knees. I
recall nursery rhymes: “Jack be nimble, Jack

be quick,” but she isn’t anymore and
neither of us could jump over candles.
Candlelight, inner light, outer light, her
hair, so pure, so white, her voice clear as a
bell, soft yet luminous, as she picks her
way on a perilous path through wayward

woods, not stumbling yet, nor lumbering,
and still she lives, as I still live, in hopes
to see each other, until earth stops our eyes
and we can see, sense, touch, hear no more …

Comment: Yes, we got married 55 years ago today. This poem, written for Clare, appears on page 120 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature in the section entitled The Nature of Human Nature. I have written several very personal poems about Clare and our relationship and they can be found in Secret Gardens the chapbook I published in 1991 on the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary. Several poems from that collection also appear in Stars at Elbow and Foot. Selected Poems, 1979-2009. (Cyberwit, 2021). The painting that decorates this page is also by Clare. She is a talented multi-media designer and several of my book covers were designed by her. This is one of her rare paintings. We have three of them on the wall, and they are all exceptional.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
White Flame

LoVe

LoVe

I love to be cryptic. Nothing better than a series of hidden messages concealed, or partly concealed, within a pair of paintings. And what have we here? Well, can you work it out for yourselves? Or do you need an explanation?

Okay: an explanation it is. First, the title of this blog post and of the painting on the left. LoVe. LV = Roman numerals for 55 / fifty-five. LoVe = love it. More, much more: I also love my beloved and, on Friday, 24 December, this year, we will have been married for 55 years, all of them spent in Canada, where we got married, all that time ago.

Perspective: so important, even in a painting that lacks perspective. So, let’s put it into perspective: that’s the year before Canada’s Centenary. And yes, we visited Expo in Montreal in 1967. Or, if you are a sports fan, that’s the Christmas before the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup (1967) for the last time. And we were living in Toronto. And I was studying at U of T. Wow and double wow: nobody in Canada, under the age of 54, was alive last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the big one. And still the Maple Leafs, like our marriage, endure. We are the everlasting drum-beating bunnies, going on and on, for ever and ever.

Now look deeper. See what else you can see. I will assist you no further, except to add the initials – and title – of the right hand painting. AMGD. Work that one out, if you want to and if you can. And remember: presents for special anniversaries like ours come from the heart – not from a gift shop. So that is my anniversary present for my beloved. What a pity: she never reads my blog.

AMGD

AMGD

Mary Jones

I met her unexpectedly in a restaurant in St. George.
I was masked, but she knew me right away. She hadn’t
changed. How could she have? She is as she is. Straight
forward, upright, honest, true to her words and her values.
Ex-military. A United Nations Peace-Keeper. A Blue Beret.
World traveller to some of the roughest, toughest, ugliest,
craziest spots. Everywhere she went, she helped keep the peace.

She came back home to find out what she already knew: that
rural New Brunswick was as wild as anywhere she had been.
She was anonymous. Here she was just a number in a book,
a casualty in a nameless war of attrition after which the winners
rewrite the history of events, twisting them this way, that way
to suit themselves and their own instincts and interests.

“Best of the best,” I wrote in the book I gave her. Fortuitous,
it was, finding her again, finding that copy close to hand,
reserved for her alone. That book and this poem are my tribute
to her for her courage, her fortitude, and her strength of will.
They are also a tribute to her role in making the world a safer place
in which others, less fortunate, can create, without fear, their lives.

Comment:

This poem for my friend Mary Jones is from the section Art of the Portrait. It can be found on page 54 of my poetry book The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This book will soon be available online at Cyberwit.net and Amazon. More details when they are available.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading of the poem.

Lorca’s Duende

Lorca’s Duende

Duende
“Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende.”
“All that has dark sounds has duende.”
Federico García Lorca (1898-1936)

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering
teeth, you stand there, silent, wondering: can I?
will I? … what if I can’t? … then a voice
breaks the silence, but it’s not your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark powers
volcanic within you, spewing forth their
lava of living words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, soul
and heart. It’s all over. The magic ends.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell.
The Duende has left you. Your God is dead. Deep
your soul’s black starless night. Exhausted,
you sink to deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the bottom of the bottle to save
your soul and permit you a temporary peace.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Lorca’s Duende

Comment:

I guess the secret is to have infinite trust and to hand yourself over to those higher powers during the performance. Some can do it individually, others need to be part of a team. It works differently for each one of us. But when the lower element surrenders to the soul-fulfilling higher element, miracles happen. And when they are over, we are left bereft. It’s the same, in many ways, with mystical experiences. After we venture into the beyond, Messiaen’s Au-dela, upon our return to our earth-bound existence, we are left stunned and stranded by our former voyage into absolute beauty.

Spirit of Boo

Spirit of Boo

So, I can’t draw dogs, nor people, nor reality. But I can draw spirits, and moods, and emotions. This is NOT my neighbors’ dog. It is the spirit of their dog: energy, joy, happiness, and total and complete love. What more could a doggy want or an artist, however useless, do.

Boo: I salute you.
Woof!

Original drawing, dated 9 August 2014, can be found in my drawing notebook of that year. I used it as a model for the painting, was completed on Tuesday, 30 November 2021.

In Love with Love

Meditations on Machado and Mairena
In Love with Love

1

In a dream
I dream of you,
dream you into reality,
yearn for your name.
Now I’ll never be the same.

I dream you in a garden,
roses around you.
I stand there suffering,
my head crowned
with thorns.

Caught in the briers of your eyes,
I am trapped in the eye-
lash of your name.

Your presence taunts me.
Your absence haunts me.
My life
will never be the same,
oh Guiomar.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
In Love with Love 1