Friday Fiction: Big Blue Sea

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Friday Fiction
6 April 2018

Big Blue Sea

bad story I shout … because anger is stronger than fear … and I can’t analyse this story … I can’t look at it objectively … lucidity fails me … because I’ve been there … and because this story takes me back … returns me to that dark tunnel of the machine’s mouth … back to those flashing lights … back to the clacking teeth of the surgical saws … back to my own biopsies … those invasive surgeries … so deliberately concealed … so little understood … back to the memories of my mother … lying there … silent … needles taped to her arms … motionless but moving … ceiling lights casting orange shadows over African violet bruises on her arms … I communed with her in silence … my spirit seeking her spirit … in a wordless dance of two spheres … bonded by a common gravity yet circling suns … each in a different universe … spheres that would never again meet … not in this life … not in this dance … a beach … she was … with the tide running out … abandoned … empty … and nobody told me … nobody … said … a … word … as I sat there … and now … as I sit here … I find … I cannot write a word …

 … yet when I dream … I revisit these scenes … or do they drop round to visit me … returning like dream-ships in the night … white sails flashing beneath the moon … pale figures restless on spider-fine cordage … and the sequence a black-and-white conjunction of something just beyond my fingers … shy sparrows that I reach out for … yet cannot quite grasp … nor can my night mind exceed them …an Easter flower on a white-clothed altar … flickering candles snuffed out between finger and thumb … dark ghosts of spirits spiraling … surreal images dredged up from the unconscious and paraded at the tide-mark edge of the semi-conscious mind … only to be flayed by the rays of the rising sun and scattered into a million diamond drops that cling to the eye-lashes … and I remember looking at the pastel-paint walls of her hospital room … or looking out at the place I parked the car … beneath her hospital window … and a black dog played in the car park … ran round in circles … chasing its tail … as my dreams chase their tails and weave their willow-wand images in and out of my Mind’s flawed flower basket … weird this fishing weir … these circled sticks netting dreams on the open sea … as a dream-catcher traps them at the window and holds them … stopping them from coming in … and they perch like chirping sparrows in search of breadcrumbs … welcome on the window-sill … singing their mourning chorus … and no … I will not mourn … I cannot mourn her passing … for she is long gone now … I watch the last bus … the last train … pulling out of the station … and me in my dreams abandoned on the platform … and the train pulling away … like a sailing ship … bearing her to her final holiday … a cruise across the big blue sea …

Tangled Garden

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Tangled Garden

Forget-me-nots twine
intricate designs,
periwinkle fantasies
dancing between
green pods,
red flowers:
runner beans.

Every night,
I pull them apart
with clumsy fingers,
yet they knot again,
fresh each day,
like tangles
in my daughter’s hair.

Onions push through
a pride of trumpeting
daffodils.
They were all
just bulbs
last fall
when my mother
planted them.

The painting that introduces my poem is by my good fried Jane Tims, a multi-talented creative artist. Her poetry and art work can be found on her blog. Please take time to look at her work on New Brunswick’s Covered Bridges and the wonders of our local foods that are all Within Easy Reach.

Braids

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Braids

All thumbs,
I can manage
two bunches,
one on each side.

But now,
with her mother gone,
it’s much more difficult
to part my daughter’s hair
neatly into three.

I work hard to perfect
that one thick plait
she loves down her back.

As for fish-bones
and French braiding…
she begs me to try

and I promise
that when my thumbs
turn into fingers,
I’ll give it a go.

Help!

 

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Help!

The world turns full circle
and my mother is on the phone.
It’s four AM. “Help me!” she cries,
from the far side of the Atlantic.

Her ship is sinking fast and she’s
nine sheets to the wind.
“I’ll stick my head in the oven,”
she says, “and turn on the gas.”

What can I say? What can I do?
She makes so many threats.
She’s crying “Wolf!” and her words
now bounce off this duck’s back.

Yet still I wake at night to hear
her whispered words, and they still
chill with their razor’s edge of
“Help me! Help! Please help!”’

Silence

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Silence

Our conversation today:
a sun baked Roman aqueduct
dried up, no water.

In the bathroom,
brown sacking hangs
ragged on leaking pipes.

Our words are lifeless kites,
earthbound,
too heavy to rise.

Each sentence fills
with wasted movements
of lips, tongue, jaws and teeth

Enormous
barbed wire barriers
have grown between us.

Words and thoughts
hang like washing
pegged out on a windless day.

Dead soldiers
gone over the top,
their uniforms flapping
on unbroken wire.

Losing It

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Losing It

When you lose it,
whatever it is,
your fingers pick at seams,
hankies, skirts, shirts, jeans,
or strip a label from a bottle,
or crumble bread, or …

There are so many things
you can do,
personal things.

On the table:
a vacant cereal bowl,
a silver teaspoon in a saucer,
an empty teacup
returning your round
moon-face stare.

Comment: I would like to thank everyone who joined in this discussion today (blog, e-mail, and Facebook). The poem transcribed above is the final version, subject to later consideration of course. Earlier versions, with selected comments, are set out below.

1

Losing It

When you lose it
whatever it is
your fingers pick at seams
hankies skirts shirts jeans
or strip a label from a bottle
or crumble bread or

there are so many things
you can do
personal things

on the table
a vacant cereal bowl
a silver teaspoon in a saucer
an empty teacup
returning your round moon stare

your hands
twist and pull
your nails
click together

blunt needles knit
then unpick stitches
trying to unravel
then to repair
this ball of empty air

 Comment: This is a Golden Oldie. It dates from the final illness and passing of my mother, thirty years ago next month. When I wrote it, I wasn’t punctuating my poetry. Nowadays, I prefer punctuation as it guides the reader in terms of the rhythm and flow of words. Leaving it exactly as I wrote it means you, as reader, have to wrestle with the meaning, the order, the pauses, the rhythm. My guess is that this over-complicates the poem. However, it was a difficult time, so the poetry I wrote at that time was also difficult. I will be interested in any comments on the following question: to punctuate or not to punctuate?

Comment from Judy: An out there idea: what if  for Losing it – you ended poem with first stanza?
Reply from Roger: What if, indeed? Then it would need a tweak or two, something like this: the poem changes, but does it gain or lose?

2

Losing It

blunt needles knit
then unpick stitches
trying to unravel
then to repair
this ball of empty air

your hands
twist and pull
your nails
click together

your fingers
pick at seams
hankies skirts shirts jeans
or strip a label from a bottle
or crumble bread or

there are so many things
you can do
personal things

on the table before you
a vacant cereal bowl
a silver teaspoon in a sauce

an empty teacup
returning
your round moon stare

Comment from Jan: Play it again, this time with punctuation. This time I have returned to Judy’s original suggestion, and just placed the last stanza first. Then I have punctuated the poem. Revision and re-creation time: this is fun! I punctuated the above version, then cut it down to the first poem published at the start of this article. Tank you all for the help.