I dreamed last night that angels lofted me skywards and wrapped me in cotton-wool clouds.
The nearest rainbow was a helter-skelter that returned me to earth where I landed in a pot of golden sunlight.
Red and yellow were my hands and face. I stood rooted like an autumn tree covered in fall foliage with no trace of winter’s woe.
“May this moment last forever,” I murmured, as the rainbow sparkled and I rejoiced in my many-colored coat.
Comment: I have noticed on several occasions that when I am reading a text, I change the wording on the page to a new wording that seems more in keeping with the rhythm of the moment. I see that I have done this here, more by accident than by plan. I have noticed this too when listening to Dylan Thomas’s recordings of his own verse. Each reading then becomes a new variant on the poem. In this case, I rather prefer the second variation, but I am not sure that I approve of the first one, nor nor do I approve of leaving words out. Naughty! I am afraid that I still haven’t developed the skill of reciting instead of reading my poems. I guess it will happen soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll just have to put up with these little flaws.
she said, and I imagined her
sitting before the blank spread of a canvas,
a ship’s sail waiting for a sea-side breeze
to fill that empty space with color and mood.
What routes will her paintbrush take
as it wanders over the new world
lying before her?
Plein air, al fresco,
in garden and street,
before the shops and then
on headland and shore,
alone or accompanied,
with sea birds wading
and the gull’s cry echoing its sea of sound
as the sun sets in its bonfire of brightness
and throws light and shadow, chiaro-oscuro,
Comment: The lead photo of Ruby Allan in her studio was taken in her KIRA studio in June, 2017, by my friend and fellow artist, the Peruvian pan-piper and flautist / flutist, Carlos Carty. The poem comes from my book, One Small Corner (2017), written in KIRA during my residency. It can be found on page 94 in the section entitled Artists.
In this poem I have tried to capture the idea of Ruby painting in the fresh air (plein air / al fresco) in St. Andrews-by-the-sea. Clearly, as you can see from the above photo, the sea is so important to this town, as are harbors and boats and the men that man and sail them. The light is important too as it changes throughout the day or with wind and weather. As you can see, Ruby’s paintings are filled with light and she catches those magic moments when the world seems to freeze and stand still. I try to imitate visual art when I write, and I try to fill my poetry with those magic moments as I create verbal pictures that seize the seconds and hold them, even if it be for just a little while.
The KIRA artists (Roger Moore, June, 2017) were invited to make a video on the ways in which they worked. Here is my KIRA video. This is the first time I have ever made a video of myself. I am not into selfies (wrong generation) and had to be ‘persuaded’ to do this. The instructions were simple: something easy that anyone could do under lock down or in a home-schooling situation. I hope you enjoy the show!
LJ sat at a table in a dark corner of the Bistro. He held a plastic bag in his hands and moved what looked like dried brown fava beans, one by one, through his fingers. A priest at prayer, his lips moved in a silent mantra as he counted the beans: “… twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine.”
Robin and Will watched him closely, looking for the tell-tale signs that would announce LJ’s return to his former life.
Same-sex couples danced through the Bistro. They avoided this one corner that formed an oasis of severity amidst the gaiety and noise of Carnival celebrations.
“How much does he remember?” Robin looked at Will. Will shrugged and the two men exchanged worried glances.
A whooping conga of men dressed in garish, feathered costumes that revealed more than they concealed, approached the table where the three friends sat. The conga came to a stop in front of them.
“Now what have we here?” The leader asked. He turned to his followers flashing a white, toothy smile.
“Let’s see what you’ve got, darling,” he reached towards LJ’s plastic bag.
“Don’t touch him,” said Robin, rising to his feet.
Three large men broke away from the line and two grasped Robin while the third put his arms on Will’s shoulders and held him in his chair.
“I’m warning you,” Robin said.
“Shut it,” said the leader.
LJ closed the plastic bag that held the twenty-nine fava beans and put it in is breast pocket, next to his heart.
“Don’t put them away, darling, they look delicious,” the leader grinned his enormous grin. He was a big man, not tall, but broad and heavy. “Give them to me, I want to eat one. C’mon, I’ll just pop it in my mouth and suck it.”
The Conga crowd roared their approval.
LJ got to his feet. He was a small man, but wiry. The night-fighter, they had called him. He was the one who slipped out at night through enemy lines and knifed the sentries. One hand over their mouths, one hand on his knife, all sounds extinguished till they relaxed, lifeless, then that one quick twist of the knife and the ear-lobe severed as the dead man was lowered to the floor.
“Wanna dance?” The conga leader wiggled his hips and ran his tongue over his lips, then puckered a little kiss.
LJ’s face turned red, the veins engorged, and his eyes stood out. Nobody saw him move, nobody ever saw LJ move. He grasped the Conga leader’s windpipe with his left hand and drew him forward until they were locked eyeball to eyeball. LJ’s night-fighter knife lay flat across the man’s jugular.
“LJ, no,” Robin screamed. “Not number thirty.”
LJ kept staring at the man he held. His knife disappeared.
“You’re not worthy,” he said, leering into the Conga leader’s purpling face. “You’d dishonor them.”
Will and Robin breathed a sigh of relief.
Comment: Bistro is the title story in a collection of short stories and flash fiction. Bistro, the book, was one of three finalists (and the only self-published book) in the New Brunswick Book Awards (Fiction, 2017). Bistro (the collection) is available on Amazon. The sound recording below is my own reading of the story and the opening cartoon, Belle Bottom Naval Gazing, is the picture on the cover of Bistro, the book. It is also my own work.
Monkey’s masculine penis envy
focuses on the great snakes,
pythons, boa-constrictors, anacondas,
basking beneath hot-house lights
that maintain a rigid temperature,
desert and jungle warmth and moisture
ready at the flick of a switch.
They lounge in glass cubicles,
checking each other out
for size, weight, length, girth,
with a roll of the eye and a casual flicker
of a forked lightning tongue.
Fed for far too long
on fetched food
from the untroubled tenured trough,
many have become sedentary,
and much too comfortable
to even think about
renewing their lives,
or sloughing their skins.
Give him a magnifying glass
and monkey nit-picks!
He likes nit-picking.
Hunting for fleas,
he combs through the fur
of less fortunate monkeys.
Monkey see: monkey do,
and what monkey does best
is crack fleas between his nails
and stick his paw in the jam jar.
Here, in the Kinder Monkey Garten,
young monkeys learn monkey skills:
how to conduct monkey business,
how to throw a monkey wrench
into other monkeys’ plans,
how to wear monkey suits,
how to square round pegs
and fit them into triangular holes,
how to build better monkey traps,
how to reinvent the monkey wheel,
again and again and again.
Monkey likes to perch enthroned
at the top of the monkey temple.
Paradise is to squat
on the organ-grinder’s shoulder,
top banana that.
(after a Fable by Lafontaine and with memories of Bakhtin
and his upside-down worlds of Carnival and the Antipodes)
Swine flu has struck the temple. Unter– monkeys sniffle and grovel,
blaming each other for their snuffles.
They request a platypus duck to oversee a kangaroo court
with chief scapegoat monkey absent of course.
The unter-monkeys sit in a circle,
where all are equal but some are more equal than others.
They pass a lyre bird feather round and round,
weeping crocodile tears and lying through
the tight monkey grins of their alligator teeth.
A black-capped chickadee lends his cap to the platypus duck
who then pronounces sentence,
“There is no defence: guilty, in absentia, guilty as charged.”
“Fumer l’herbe d’autrui? Quel crime abominable!”* **
*”Smoking someone else’s grass, what an abominable crime.”
** “Manger l’herbe d’autrui? Qel crime abominable!”
LaFontaine: Les animaux malades de la peste.
(After George Orwell’s Animal Farm,
an inverted Mr. Micawber, and a Gower proverb)
Although monkey has been the primus primate inter pares,
he has never done anything himself,
so he reduces all competitive monkeys to his own level
by negating anything they have ever done.
Only then, will he be their equal.
“All monkeys are equal,
but some monkeys are obviously
more equal than others!”
Here, in the temple’s garbage dump,
monkey finds the lowest of the low,
scratching for fleas and baring
their yellowed, monkey teeth.
They scrabble in the temple’s garbage,
searching for something,
anything to reject yet again.
Monkey writes anonymous letters
with a poisoned pen.
He conceals his hand
and throws ambiguous stones.
He has learned from blows
delivered to another monkey’s head
and has become a wise monkey:
Monkey’s template for survival in the temple:
“Dick other monkeys before they can dick you!”
Primus primate steadily ascends
the monkey puzzle tree:
but the higher he climbs,
the more he reveals