The Dying of the Light

The Dying of the Light
Rage, Rage

Sometimes you wake up in the morning
and you realize that you can do no more.
What is it about family split-ups, the ugliness
of a disputed divorce, the glue coming
unstuck in an already unstable marriage,
a financial settlement that satisfies nobody
and impoverishes both sides of a divide?

And how do you bridge that divide
when you are friends with father, mother, children
and the wounds are so deep that everyone wants out,
whatever the costs and whatever it takes?
And what is it about the deliberate wounding
of each by the others, leaving permanent scars
that will never heal over, no matter how hard one tries?

And what is it about lawyers, when too many guests
gather around the Thanksgiving turkey and knives
are out for everyone to take the choicest cuts
leaving nothing but a skeletal carcass,
no flesh on the bones, and the guests all hungry
and their empty bellies rumbling for more, more, more.

My thanks to Brian Henry for publishing this on Quick Brown Fox.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Fake News

 Fake News

Sometimes at night I hear deer walking across the lawn outside my bedroom window. Intruders in the garden, they rattle the feeders then walk darkly into the woods. Sometimes a coyote howls at the fingernail moon and my heart pumps sudden blood, rapid, through my veins.

            Below me, in the hall, the grandfather clock ticks the night away. I stitch myself up in my dreams, count the black sheep in the family, and iron old ghosts upon the ironing board until they are as flat as the white shirts we wore in boarding school on Sundays.

            If I close my eyes, they rise up before me, those Sunday shirts, flapping their arms, and mouthing their apologies for the sorry life they made me lead. No, I didn’t need to spend those days praying on my knees before the stations of the cross. Nor did I need to ask forgiveness for all the transgressions pulled from me, like teeth, in the Friday confessional.

            Marooned in a catholic cul-de-sac, I walked round and around in rigid circles. An academic puppet, I was trapped in the squared circle of an endless syllogism. Who locked me into this labyrinth of shifting rooms where sticky cobwebs bound windows, doors, and lips? Why did the razor blade whisper a love song to the scars crisscrossing my treacherous wrist? Who sealed my lips and swore me to secrecy?

            A tramp with a three-legged dog, I slept beneath a pier at midnight and woke to the sound of the waves rolling up the summer beach. Once, I stole a deckchair, placed it at the edge of the sea, and told the tide to cease its climbing. The moon winked a knowing eye and the waves continued to rise. Toes and ankles grew wet with wonderment and I shivered at the thought of that rising tide that would sweep me away to what unknown end?

            Last night I wrapped myself in a coward’s coat of many-colored dreams. My senses deceived me and I fell asleep in a sticky web spider-spun by that self-same moon that hid among the clouds and showed her face from time to time. My fragile fingers failed to unravel all those knots and lashings and I was a child again walking the balance beam that led from knowledge to doubt.

            A thin line divides the shark from the whale and who knows what swims beneath the keel when the night is dark and the coracle slides sightless across the sea? I gather the loose ends of my life, weave them into a subtle thread, and make myself a life-line that will bind my bones and lash my soul to my body’s fragile craft.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Fake News

           

Teeth WFNB 5 March 2022

Teeth WFNB
5 March 2022
This is the story I was reading last night when Island View suffered its brief power outage and I was cut off from the WFNB Zoom reading. My apologies for the break in communications. First the text and then the live reading.

Lunchtime.
            I open a can of tom8to soup and heat it on the stove. I slice the remains of yesterday’s loaf of bread into one-inch cubes and fry them in olive oil and garlic. Tom8to soup with croutons. Then I put two slices of bread in the toaster. My father will only eat toast soaked in butter and layered with Marmite when he eats tomahto soup.
            “Lunch is ready,” I call out.
            The black American Cocker Spaniel, bought by my mother in a moment of madness, by telephone, unseen, camps in the kitchen. It nests at the far end of the table, by the stove, and defends its territory with warning growls and a snapping of yellowed teeth. I do my best to avoid the dog.
            “Dad, your lunch is ready,” I call out, a little bit louder. Dog, as my father calls it, growls and clatters its teeth. It has hidden a treasure in the folds of its old, gray comfort blanket, and guards it with the fierce, loving worry of a dragon protecting its golden hoard.
            My father enters the kitchen just as I place the soup on the table.
            “I’m not ready to eat,” my father growls. Put it back in the pot.”
            “What’s wrong, dad? I thought you were hungry.”
            “My teeth,” my father mumbles through a mouthful of pink gums. “I can’t find my teeth.”
            “Where on earth did you put them?”
            “I don’t know. If I knew where I’d put them, I wouldn’t have lost them.”
            My father circulates round the kitchen opening drawers, lifting saucepan lids, and shaking empty yogurt pots to see if they’ll offer up the rattling sound of lost teeth.
            “I can’t find them anywhere. I can’t eat lunch without my teeth.”
            “But it’s only soup, dad, tom8to soup.”
            “I don’t like tom8to soup. Your mother always made tomahto soup. Why can’t you be more like your mother?”
            “Sorry, dad. I’ll call it tomahto soup, if that will make you feel better. But it’s still made out of tom8toes.”
            “Don’t be so sarcastic. Help me find my teeth,” my father stomps towards the stove and Dog growls fiercely from its blanket as it guards its treasure.
            “Take that, you dirty dog,” my father pokes Dog in the ribs with his stick and Dog howls and spits out what it is chewing.
            “There they are,” my father’s voice trembles with excitement. He bends down, picks up his teeth, still hairy from the blanket and bubbly from Dog’s saliva, and pops them into his mouth. “That’s better,” he says, sitting down at the table. “Now I can enjoy my lunch.”

Click on this link for a ‘live’ reading of the story,
complete with Welsh accent.

Last Year’s Snow

Last Year’s Snow
Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?
Villon.

Meditations on Messiaen
Inner Migrants

4

Last Year’s Snow

Last year’s snow: where did it go? The snow-blower
blew it around while my daughter made snow angels,
but that snow melted, so long ago. We made a snowman.

I remember rolling snowballs around the yard. They grew
so big we could hardly lift them, one large lump onto
another, and then we planted stick-arms, a hat, a nose.

Our dog visited him. Sniffed. Drilled yellow holes into his feet.
Crows sat on his arms, cawed and cawed, totally unafraid,
no scarecrow this, this fake man made entirely of snow.

The crows saw worse in the roadside snowbanks. Dead deer,
snow plowed into the banks and abandoned at roadside,
their bodies waiting for spring sun to resurrect them.

Our annual question: where did the snowman go?
And its sequels: last year’s snow, the birds that nested
in last year’s nests, what happened? Where did they go?

I have searched near and far, but I haven’t found them,
not a trace, not a song, not a feather floating down.
Where did they go?

No hay pajaros en los nidos de antano.
Miguel de Cervantes.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Last Year’s Snow.

Click on this link for Georges Brassens
Ballade de temps du temps jadis

Sea Shore Poems 1

Words
Poems from the Sea Shore

Here, on the seashore,
the whisper of waves,
splashed with a flash of sun,
wind fingering the hair,
the light a delight,
and wordless this world
though its beauty be
configured in words.

The scything of the sea,
the land seized in snippets,
grey stones, red rocks,
gelatinous mudflats,
blue on white striations.

Seagull wings
snipping celestial ribbons,
salt caked keen on lips,
sea weed scents sensed
yet never seen.

Captivated we stand here,
unattached our single wings,
save to this singular beauty:
peregrine, the falcon soul,
so solitary as it soars.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Words

Change

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

6

Change

The wind of change will blow and change will come,
heralded not by brazen trumpets and a roll of drums,
but overnight in stealth and silence. The valleys will lose
their coal. The seams will shrink, smaller and smaller,
until even the tiniest child will not find room the kneel
at the coal-face and sweat in adoration, shovel and pick
in hand, prying and praying in praise of the black god.

Change will come. The mines will be closed.
The miners will go on unemployment. They will move
to other areas, where mines still flourish, for a life time
spent underground is not that easy to forget and change
is never easy. Who ever said it would be easy?

The men in grey suits bring change. They walk and talk
and plan the changes they will bring about. The pit-head
baths will turn into super stores, a new trading estate will offer
work to the workless who will be changed into worthy workers
once again with course after course of education and retraining.

Yes, change will come. Some will pack up and leave,
only to return as they cannot face the face of change
as once they faced the coal-face, on their knees all day,
praying. Some will go overseas, by boat or plane.
They need never fear for Australia is near. America is a siren
singing bedrock songs of welcome and freedom. Canada calls
and many arrive there to face the white face of winter
rather than that merry, coke-black face of Old King Coal.

Yes, change will come. You will change. Your children
will be born into change and only your memories will recall
life before change, that life everlasting that came
before the fall of coal and your immortality is now
a Post-lapsarian call to constant change, secuale seculorum,
for ever and ever, until that final change. Amen.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Change

And every valley

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

5

And Every Valley

And every valley shall be filled with coal.
And the miners will mine, growing old
before their time, with pneumoconiosis
a constant companion, and that dark spot
on the grey slide of the sidewalk a mining
souvenir coughed up from the depths
of lungs that so seldom saw the sun
and soaked themselves in the black dust
that cluttered, clogged, bent and twisted
those beautiful young bodies into ageing,
pipe-cleaner shapes, yellowed and inked
with nicotine and sorrows buried so deep,
a thousand, two thousand feet deep down,
and often so far out to sea that loved ones
knew their loved ones would never see
the white handkerchiefs waved, never
in surrender but in a butterfly prayer,
an offering, and a blessing that their men
would survive the shift and come back
to the surface and live again amidst family
and friends and always the fear, the pinched
-face, livid, living fear that such an ending
might never be the one on offer, but rather
the grimmer end of gas, or flame, or collapse,
with the pit wheels stopped, and the sirens
blaring, and the black crowds gathering, and
no canaries, no miners, singing in their cages.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

And every valley

Message

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

4

Message

Six in the morning.
The phone rings,
shatters our dreams.

A skeletal voice
at the other end announces
the name of the deceased
in ritual words, ending
with my condolences.

Five in the morning here,
nine in the morning over there.
Death at a distance,
three thousand miles
and four hours between us,
yet the phone call arrives
on time, instantaneous.

Your father, your mother, her mother,
gone, their absence heralded
by the police, a lawyer, a doctor,
a nurse practitioner,
an anonymous nurse,
someone you will never meet.

That call can come anytime.
While you are out in the car,
or in the garden, digging,
or maybe shovelling the snow.

And maybe that’s how death will come,
says Seamus Heaney, by telephone,
an unexpected call
from an unexpected caller.

The phone rings and your partner listens,
then hands over the receiver:
“It’s for you, my dear.”

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Message

Ash Wednesday

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

3

Ash Wednesday

Each of the select will be marked with a seal,
ash on the on the chosen one’s forehead
signifying all grief and guilt consumed,
reduced to the ashes of this burnt-out sign.

Dust to dust and ashes to ashes, for of dust
are we made, and though the embers may glow
for a little while, that ash will soon grow cold.
Words are quick forgotten yet memories linger.

They wander among celestial fields of glory
where nimbuses of nebulae crab sideways
to claw-crack veiled mysteries in an effort,
often vain, to reveal them and lay them bare.

Bird song, far below, flickering fading,
luminous confusion of son et lumière,
infused with the ineffable joys of paradise
and time eternal, successive yet simultaneous.

Birds in the branches of the Tree of Life
gather its fruits with multitudinous song.

Forgotten offerings litter the hidden path,
trodden by the few wise men who in the world
did live. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh may not
be accepted. The offerings are we ourselves, for a
broken and a contrite heart will not be despised.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Ash Wednesday

Clockwork Universe

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

2

Clockwork Universe

A golden globe of sunlight, this orange,
moving in time with the shadows in the skies
that time has ticked to captivate the stars.

Its auburn skin burgeons, polished shiny
by the low fall sun penetrating the window,
desiring to slice this tree-fruit into segments.

A Prelapsarian orange, it glows with the glory
of its unblemished birth in that distant garden
where everything was perfect, before the Fall.

Apples and oranges, chalk and cheese.
Clichés ring out but oranges and lemons sing
the bells of St. Clements as children dance.

Heads bowed they pass beneath archways
of linked hands, imaginary scaffolds bringing
candles and choppers to chop off their heads.

So much more certain, a clockwork orange,
wound up and ready to serve as an alarm clock
that awakes us to the realities of unsustainability.

Or are we all just marginal oranges, placed here
to be devoured, when needed, or thrown away
when our time has run out and our glow is gone?

Circular perfection, balanced now in my hand.
When my nail pierces the peel it releases a perfect
storm of essence of orange, assaulting the senses,
droplets, scent on nostrils, tangy taste on tongue.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Clockwork Universe