Terza Rima

Terza Rima
Apologia pro carmina mea

Dear reader who reads my poems: sometimes
I say what I do not mean to write
and write what I don’t mean to say. Rhymes

make things clearer, for I puzzle what I might
say, and plan ahead so an awkward word
will not intrude. Words, birds in flight,

bright as postage stamps across the absurd
white snow of a page or a digital screen.
When I think about it, I assume about a third

of what I say, I really mean. Who has seen
the early morning wind drifting our thought-cloud
across the lawn, moving shadows cast on green

blades of grass, as we think our thoughts aloud,
each thought a pea in a pod, as some we clasp
between finger and thumb while others crowd,

and the loud, uneasy word slips from our grasp
to wound or injure or otherwise to hurt and maim.
It’s not my aim to do this. My word is not an asp

or a viper or a screw to be driven. I lay no claim
to hurt and yet sometimes a word slips sideways
and does not say what I mean it to say. I aim

to please, to tease, to provoke, in so many ways
and yet I often hurt where no hurt is intended.
If I have done you wrong and my word displays
unintended ends, forgive me: let all rifts be mended.

Cage of Flame

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Cage of Flame

Now you are a river flowing silver beneath the moon. High tide in the salt marsh: your body fills with shadow and light. I dip my hands in dappled water. Twin gulls, they float down stream, then perch on an ice-floe of half-remembered dreams. Eagle with a broken wing, why am I trapped in this cage of flame? When I turn my feathers to the sun, my back is striped with the black and white of a convict’s bars. Awake, I lie anchored by what pale visions fluttering on the horizon? White moths wing their snow storm through the night. A feathered shadow ghosts fingers towards my face. Butterflies stutter against a shuttered window. A candle flickers in the darkness and map in runes the ruins of my heart. Eye of the peacock, can you touch what I see when my eyelids close for the night? The black rock of the midnight sun rolled up the sky. Last night, the planet quivered beneath my body and I felt each footfall of a transient god. When will I be released from my daily bondage?

Oh dear, I no longer know whether I am writing poetry or prose. Maybe I should contact Survey Monkey and have a survey on the subject. Clearly the above is prose because it has no line breaks. But what happens when we do this?

Cage of Flame

Now you are a river flowing
silver beneath the moon.
High tide in the salt marsh:
your body fills with shadow and light.
I dip my hands in dappled water.

Eagle with a broken wing,
why am I trapped in this cage of flame?
When I turn my feathers to the sun,
my back is striped with the black
and white of a convict’s bars.

Awake, I lie anchored by what pale visions
fluttering on the horizon?
White moths wing their snow
storm through the night.
A feathered shadow ghosts
fingers towards my face.
Butterflies stutter against
a shuttered window.
A candle flickers in the darkness
and maps in runes the ruins of my heart.

Eye of the peacock,
can you touch what I see
when my eyelids close for the night?
The black rock of the midnight sun
rolled up the sky.

Last night, the planet quivered
beneath my body and I felt
each footfall of a transient god.
When will I be released
from my daily bondage?

Sure, it’s the same text. But is it? And what happens if we change the line breaks? Does the rhythm stay the same in both cases? It certainly does when I read it, but how about you? Poetry or prose? Tell me if you knows! And what’s the difference anyway if the words roll off your tongue and metaphors, mystery, and magic rule?

Cage of Flame can be found in my poetry collection Though Lovers Be Lost and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot (Selected Poems, 1979-2009). Both are available at this link.

Inquisitor

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Inquisitor

Inquisitor

He told me to read,
and plucked my left eye from its orbit.
He slashed the glowing globe of the other.
Knowledge leaked out, loose threads dangled.
He told me to speak and I squeezed dry dust
to spout a diet of Catechism and Confession.

He emptied my mind of poetry and history.
He destroyed the myths of my people.
He filled me with fantasies from a far-off land.
I live in a desert where people die of thirst,
yet he talked to me of a man who walked on water.

On all sides, as stubborn as stucco,
the prison walls listened and learned.
I counted the years with feeble scratches:
one, five, two, three.

For an hour each day the sun shone on my face,
for an hour at night the moon kept me company.
Broken worlds lay shattered inside me.
Dust gathered in my people’s ancient dictionary.

My heart was like a spring sowing
withering in my chest
It longed for the witch doctor’s magic,
for the healing slash of wind and rain.

The Inquisitor told me to write down our history:
I wrote … how his church … had come … to save us.

Inquisitor was also a requested reading last Saturday. My promise, to put it up on the blog, with a reading in my own voice is now fulfilled. I love this poem: it speaks volumes about the Catholic Church in Oaxaca and the relationship of the Dominicans with the local people, aboriginals all and inhabitants of the Valley of Oaxaca for at least 10,000 years. The numbers represent the approximate date, 1523, of the arrival of the Conquistadores in Oaxaca, about three years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, now Mexico City. The poem, Inquisitor, can be found in Sun and Moon and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot, both available through this link.

Painting the School Outing

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Painting the School Outing
Beaver Pond, Mactaquac

The yellow of the school bus is easy, but
what colors do you give the rain of school
kids descending? And how do you portray
their energy, their noise, the tones of French
and English? What colors are their vowels,
their consonants, their high-pitched voices?

You can sketch their orderly rows as they snack
on the top-hat magic pulled out of backpacks.
But it’s not so easy to paint the pop of Pepsi cans,
the scent of chocolate bars, or the crackle of chips
released from packets and popped into mouths.

Running round after lunch, they drive the wild
birds wild with their unorganized games of tag,
their impromptu dances, their three-legged races,
their winners and losers, their joys and sorrows.
Fishing nets are produced from nowhere. Girls,
boys wander to water’s edge in search of prey:
incipient frogs, newts, tadpoles, bullheads, but
how do you paint the wet and wriggle of them?

Try painting this. Whistles sound. Kids regroup.
The bus reloads and goes. Now paint the silence.
Sketch the tranquility of woods, bird-calls back,
of the beaver pond with its lilies stretching their
green necks skywards towards a pale blue sky
where cotton clouds cluster together in celestial
flocks. A pastoral scene, this painter’s paradise.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale

Full Moon Over KIRA

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Full Moon Over KIRA

Who shall dredge this midnight moon
from the shoals of Passamaquoddy Bay?
Gaunt the moon-rakers’ faces, harsh their hands
hauling on nets, heaving her up, rippled and dimpled,
blunt her bite as she emerges from submersion,
raked from water in the traditional ritual.

Upside down, these reflected clouds,
as bright as full-moon fishing boats
distorted from below as the night wind
blows clean dry bones across a mirrored sky
where shadow fish fly wet with moonshine.

Oh pity her, you people, as she’s dragged
from her element and exposed to air and oxygen
that will slowly kill her, make her fade,
frail and fragile, not meant for this world of rock
and stone, flower and field, but destined to walk
in heavenly meadows or to rest in the shallows
where she rocks to sleep in the sea’s endless cradle.

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Books for Sale

Duende

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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.

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Books for Sale

Spring

Spotify:
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Spring

Slow going
this snow going,
but at least
it isn’t snowing.

Snow forecast
on the weather show,
but we all know
it cannot last,
now the equinox
is past.

With a roll of drums
Easter comes,
but friends and family
stay away.

So all alone
and safe at home
we’ll spend
our Easter day.

Everybody understands
how often we must
wash our hands.

Don’t go unmasked,
even when asked,
and all our friends
must safely stay
at least six feet away.

Comment: I just received this poem as a memory on Facebook. Interesting. I remember writing it, online, a year ago today, and what a fun time I had. Here’s the link to the video. I loved being involved in the creative experience. It was my first poetry video. I do hope you like it.

Duende

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Duende
Federico García Lorca

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 no longer 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, heart
by heart. Magic ends. The maelstrom calms.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell.
The Duende has left you. 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.

Comment: “Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende / All that has dark sounds has duende.” Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). García Lorca, an inspired and inspirational vocal performer, well understood those dark artistic powers that rise from a combination of earth, air, and fire to possess artists as they weave their magic, be it musical or verbal or a combination of both. Those who possess it know that they never really possess it, for it comes and goes with a will of its own and possesses them, body and soul, taking them over. Deus est in nobisit is the god within us, wrote the Romans with their understanding of the power of performance. And they are right. Those who possess it are changed by it, no longer know themselves, turn into something other than what they are and becoming something special. “Ah would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us” (Robert Burns). But what happens to us when the wondrous gift is taken away, when drab reality takes over from the glory of the stage, the spotlight, the performance of the play? That indeed is the question. And the answer varies with each of us.  I look with dismay on the comedians who, for one reason or another, when deprived of their audiences, have chosen the darkest of exits. The hollow shells of the performers who have given their all are sad things to behold. The existential emptiness that is left when the powers drain away is difficult to live with. That is why so many, faced with this darkness, akin to St. John of the Cross’ Noche Oscura del Alma / Dark Night of the Soul, chose not to live. That is not a choice that I will ever make. And I encourage all my friends to wait, to wait in patience and hope for the light, the glorious light and fire of the Duende, the Spirit that will return, will pluck us from the depths, and will raise us to the heights again.

Writing a Poem Video

 

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Writing a Poem

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!