Hollyhock

Hollyhock

Is it a silken purse
made from the pig’s ear
of its seed pod,
or just a single seed
excreted by
an incontinent bird?

Its bruised
evening-sky hues
stretch their emperor’s
imperial purple all too thin.
In the late summer sun
it swallows one errant bee
in its leviathan mouth.

Sole survivor,
from a score of flowers
that once climbed
the seven foot,
eight foot stalk
to sway in the wind,
it stands on guard
against fall cold
and winter’s snow.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Hollyhock

Comment: I didn’t like the ending to the earlier version, so, when it came to reading it, I rewrote it first instead. I much prefer this version. Apologies to those who read the earlier words.



Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Long gone, those good old days, dead and gone,
their centers collapsed in on themselves
unable to hold on to time’s hands
circling the clock of ages, that timeless rock.

Beyond these days, long days when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier and even more heavy
with life lying in wait, to weigh us down,
always lying, and the lies themselves
more rocks added to the pile we must carry.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this endless hill only to have them roll down,
again and again, forcing us to stoop once more,
not to conquer, but merely to live our lives,
to journey onwards, relentlessly, to endure
from the beginning of the end until the last,
and we must endure, will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sisyphus




Quilting

Quilting

A man among many women,
I sit silent, feeling their eyes
explore my flesh, my stitches.

I need glasses now for delicate
needlework. To thread a needle
the workshop leader has a gadget.

It passes from hand to hand,
ties the perfect quilter’s knot.
My grandpa’s canvas sewing kit,

World War One Vintage, served him
before the mast and in the trenches.
From it, I take a small looped wire.

I remember when I could see and he
could not, hence his need for me
to thread the needle and knot the knot
that he could no longer knot.

Now I choose my tiny patches,
join them, stitch them into a square
and, ironed out, into the quilt.

We must sign them, and I do.
My name and little sayings
in Spanish, Latin, and Welsh.

The leader asks me to translate them
then writes the meanings down.
“Beautiful work,” she tells me.

“Where did you learn to sew?”
I close my eyes, sew my lips tight.
Some secrets I’ll never let go.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Quilting

Comment: I wrote this after reading the section entitled Quilt in M. Travis Lane’s book A Tent, a Lantern, An Empty Bowl (Windsor: Palimpsest Press, 2019). Poems that could double as paintings, proclaims the paragraph on the back cover. I have no such talent. My own poem is more of a memoir in the form of a narrative sequence. To each his or her own, or, in the modern parlance, to all their own. And a poet must do what a poet can do, each of us adding our own little offerings to the great sea that is poetry.








Do Not Keep Count

Do Not Keep Count
On reading Keeping Count
poems by M. Travis Lane


Poems to be picked at
like a bunch of verbal grapes,
muscatel, perhaps, purpling,
seedless, their only off-spring
flowing through your mind.

Pluck one at random.
Hold its silken surface to the light.
Admire sunlight caressing
the unwrinkled skin.
Now taste it.
Savour it slowly,
tongue-held in your mouth.

Watch the world around you
changing as you see things
in so many different ways.
Everything moves into a new orbit.
Your world – born anew.

Just one?
No.
You cannot stop at one.
Taste another. Then another.
Do not keep count.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Do Not Keep Count

Comment: Sitting at my kitchen table, picking at Travis’s poems as I would pick at grapes, or flowers, I wrote this poem. Yesterday, Travis gifted me with her poetry book Keeping Count (Guelph, Gordon Hill Press, 2020). I hope my admiration for the poetry of M. Travis Lane – who has received less attention than she deserves (according to Maisonneuve) – shines though the words and images in this poem of mine.

The Way

The Way

Old Roman Road
Puerto del Pico


I sought the way and thought
I had found the way, but now
I feel I have lost my way.
Long walked I in shadow and sun,
hard Roman road beneath my feet.

Then I found bleached beach sand,
heard the sea-gull’s piercing sound,
walked sun-path, moon-path, bright
across a shimmering bay and knew
that by chance I had found my way.

Then came the way of ice and snow,
Hudson Bay parka, the ski way,
the snow shoe way of winter boots,
and still I believed, eyes wide open
that I knew I was still on the way.

Now my feet are old and slow.
Blood runs cold, bones ache,
head spins, heart is an ambush,
lungs throb and clutch at air,
head in hands I sit in despair,
hoping to be found,
draped over a shoulder,
brought safe to flatter ground,
comforted, and set again on my way.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Way

Knowledge

Knowledge

“Knowledge: that which passes
from my notes to your notes
without going through anyone’s head.”

aka
Filling empty heads.”

I came here a beggar, begging bowl
in hand, begging for knowledge,
at the seat of all knowledge,
from the hands of those who knew.

They fed me, taught me,
brought me into knowledge,
as they knew it, but I yearned
for more, so much more.

I found it, one morning,
in my morning mirror, shaving.
I looked into my own eyes and asked:
“What are you teaching?”

My answer: words and empty words,
formulae handed down to me
over generations of people
who thought they thought because
they repeated what others had thought.

This was not what I sought.
Then, and only then, did I look
into the eyes of those I taught,
those who sought knowledge from me,
in all my worthlessness,
and I asked them what did they need,
what did they want to know,
and why did they want this knowledge.

Then I asked them how I could help them
to attain that knowledge for themselves
and to use it to construct their own lives,
on their own, without interference and shame
as I had never done.

Then, and only then, did I know
I had become a teacher in the true sense
of the word, and that together with me,
my students had learned to teach themselves
multiple ways in which to grow.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Knowledge

Monarch

Monarch

I saw a monarch butterfly today.
A slow soul at summer’s end
slipping, fluttering quietly away.

This has become a regular trend:
scanning the obituaries every morning
in search of yet another lost friend.

Sad, this morning, to be mourning
the passing of someone I never knew,
a butterfly, lost, at the day’s dawning.

The news brings few things that are new,
with talk show hosts, all self-engrossed,
going on and on about the privileged few.

Monarchs and butterflies will perish too.
I soon will join them. Just like you.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Monarch






Losing Language

Losing Language

To lose your language
is to lose your dignity and your muse.

It’s to lose the power of self-expression
and to frustrate the longing soul
that flutters like a butterfly
striving to reach for the beauty of light
yet frustrated by the weight
of its now useless wings
unable to rise.

So much the soul sees at night,
wandering in dreams among the stars.
Memories of former rooms
where the old inhabitants still dwell,
shadows among the shadows,
some still gifted with limited
powers of speech,
but others, tongue-tied and silent,
and our chatter reduced
to a net of butterfly buzz words.

Oh for the freedom of flight,
for the liberty of my language found anew
and capable still of shaping and recreating
the world of silence in which I now live.

Based on a Welsh Poem by Harri Webb
Colli iaith a cholli urddas.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Losing Language

Redemption

Redemption

I had no paper with me in the car
and wrote this on a bottle redemption slip.

Redemption:
that’s what I seek
and some days it seeks me.
A double need this need to redeem
and be redeemed. A double need too
this god I need, the god who needs me.

Lonely he will be without me,
and I without him.
Knock and the door will open.
Seek and ye shall find.

I look and, yes, he’s there,
him within me and me within him.

This redemption slip is all I need:
empty bottles on the one hand,
my empty heart on the other,
both now redeemed.

All of this while I sit in the car.
outside Wendy’s or outside Taco Bell,
sitting quite still and ready to wait,
not knowing my upcoming fate.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Redemption.

Floribundia

Floribundia

Words grow like flowers, invasive, cruel, beautiful, cutting, and when cut, they wither and fade, just like flowers. Catch them while you can, I say. Catch them, hold them tight, press them to you heart, for time is voracious and will soon devour them, swallowing them down in the black holes of forgetfulness, carelessness, and memory loss. Shine a light on your words. Underline them, grace them with stars, think about them, carefully. And remember, the word once spoken or written can never, ever be recalled.

Joy of Light

I wait for words to descend, soft, peaceful.
They brush my mind with the soft touch of a grey
jay’s wings. When they refuse to come, I know
that silence is golden. Sunshine spreads its early
morning light, upwards, under the blinds, into
my room and my eyelashes radiate its rainbow.

Light from the rose window in Chartres
once spread its spectrum over my hands,
and I rejoiced in the glory of its speckled glow.
I spread my fingers before my face and marveled
at the suit of lights clothing my body. In such
splendour mortal things like words cease to flow.

Words are inadequate. They cannot express what I feel
when I breathe in color and light and my heart
expands into an everlasting rose, as red as dawn,
as bright as a blushing sunrise over Minister’s Island.
Flowers burst into bloom. A sense of immanent beauty
fills me as light, and warmth, and joy disperse night’s gloom.

Click to hear Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Floribundia & Joy of Light