Carlos makes music on his flute. He lives in the Green Room, with its door just opposite mine
He creates the highest note of all and it floats before me in the air, a trapeze artist caught in a sunbeam and suspended between the hands that fling and those that catch.
His musical rhythms are different. I try to follow his fingering.
In the space between notes, tropical birds flash jungle colors as they flit between flowers.
With a whirring of wings, all music stops, save for the robin’s trill refreshing the early summer with his eternal song.
I finally found a photo of Carlos. Here he is, in Kingsbrae Gardens, playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on ‘half-filled’ water bottles tuned to play a perfect scale. Like an Andean bird, the man could pluck notes from the air and fill the world with music.
This fragile light filtering through the early-morning mind filled as it still is with night’s dark shadowy dreams their dance demonic or perchance angelic as light rises and falls in time to the chest’s frail tidal change the ins and outs of life-giving breath
Bright motes these birds at my morning window feathered friends who visit daily known by their song their plumage their ups and downs
they dazzle and sparkle cracking the day open with their joyous songs
… early morning sunshine creepy-crawly spider leg rays climbing over window and wall my bed-nest alive to light not night’s star twinkle but the sun’s egg breaking its golden yolk gilding sheet and pillow billowing day dreams through my still sleepy head …
… the word feast festering gathering its inner glimpses interior life of wind and wave the elements laid out before me my banquet of festivities white the table cloth golden the woodwork’s glow mind and matter polished and the sun show shimmering its morning glory …
Comment: It seems like only yesterday, though three and a half years have slipped swiftly by. Each summer I am envious of those chosen to represent their artistic disciplines at KIRA. The joys of waking in the Red Room and of writing at the desk there will stay with me for ever. It was pleasure and a privilege. And still I live in hopes to see sunrise from the Red Room once more. This poem incidentally is from my poetry collection entitled One Small Corner. It was written at KIRA (Kingsbrae Gardens) in the month of June, 2017. One Small Corner is available on KDP and Amazon. Here is a link to the KIRA Video.
A fiery wedge, fierce beneath black-capped clouds, alive the firmament with light, breaking its waves over woods, waters, tranquil the bay, grey, yellow-streaked, then blue, the new day dawning, driving night away, false shadows fleeing.
To rock this new born babe, to swaddle it in a cloak of cloud, disguised for a moment its promise, nature nurturing heart and mind, filling the flesh with memory’s instantaneous flash breaking its light into the dark where no light shone, fearful, the dream world, gone now, dwindling, as day light shafts its arrowed flight.
How thoughtful My Lady who placed me here, at this desk, at this window, at this moment of time.
Glorious, this day-break: words no justice can do to peace and light, this early morning, filtering sunlight through the waking mind, relighting the fires within the heart, and glory a word’s throw away outside this window.
He who would true valor see, let him come hither. One here will constant be, come bad or fair weather. No line length can him fright, he’ll with a paragraph fight, and he will have a right, to be a writer.
Those who beset him round with dismal stories, do but themselves confound: his strength the more is. There’s no discouragement will make him once relent his first avowed intent, to be a writer.
Rejections nor bad critics can daunt his spirit. He knows he at the end will a book inherit. So critics fly away, he’ll fear not what they say, he’ll labor night and day to be a writer.
Comment: John Bunyan tempted me and I fell into temptation. In fact, as my good friend Oscar Wilde once said: “I can resist anything except temptation.” So, ladies and gentlemen, change the he to a she or the pronoun of your choice, turn the writer to a sculptor, stoneist, poet, playwright, painter, novelist, dramatist, comedian, song-writer, singer. Breathe deep. Believe in your own artistic talent and remember: “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” Remember this too: “You’ll never get to Vancouver by bus, if you get off the bus at Montreal or Toronto.”
Once a month, they used to stick a needle in my arm and check my PSA, cholesterol, and testosterone: blood pressure rising, cholesterol high.
The doctors kept telling me it was a level playing field but every week they changed the rules and twice a year they moved the goal-posts.
Monday Night Football: a man in a black-and-white zebra shirt held a whistle to his lips while another threw a penalty flag. It came out of the tv and fell flapping at my feet. Someone on the field called a time out.
I haven’t seen my doctor for three years. My urologist has been silent for more than eighteen months. It’s been two years since I last spoke with my oncologist.
I have become collateral damage. My body clock is ticking down. I know I’m running out of time.
Comment: I know I am not the only one to have fallen between the cracks in the medical service. Nor will I be the last. I don’t want to cry ‘wolf!’ and yet I feel as though I have been completely rejected. A year after I recovered from my cancer, I received a survey asking me to assess my post-cancer treatment and services. I read it and cried. I did not even know that the services I was being asked to assess were even being offered. I had certainly received none of the follow-up services. “A law for the rich and a law for the poor” indeed. And so many cracks between so many floorboards with so many people falling through. This is not a rant: it is a warning that all of us must look out for ourselves. I can assure you that if you don’t care for yourself, nobody, but nobody, except for your nearest and dearest, will give a damn for you either.
In the mud nest jammed tight against the garage roof, tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open.
The parents sit on a vantage point of electric cable, mouths moving in silent encouragement.
A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw, a small body thudding down a ladder of air to crash beak first on the concrete. “Why?”
“Wye is a river. It flows through Ross-on-Wye and marks the boundary between England and Wales.”
And the swallows perch on the rafters watching their fledgling as it struggles on the floor: the weakening wings, the last slow kicks of the twitching legs. “Why?”
“Y is a crooked letter invented by the Green Man of Wye.”
Comment: This is the original poem, written back in the eighties, wow, that’s forty years ago. I included it in my first poetry chapbook, Idlewood (published, 1991). It was a slim volume, dark green color, typed and photocopied, very humble, but MINE! A couple of years ago I wrote a prose poem, sort of flash fiction, in one of my Welsh sequences and included the story as part of the text. It came to me as a memory yesterday morning, and I posted it on Facebook. Here now is the story. Hopefully, you have just read the poem: I hope you liked it but, as I know all too well, de gustibus non est disputandum. I would like to know if you prefer the poetry to the prose. Please let me know, pretty please?
“Where are you going?” I ask. “To see a man about a dog,” my father replies. “Why?” I ask. “Hair of the dog,” his voice ghosts through the rapidly closing crack as the front door shuts behind him. “Why?” I cry out. I recall the mud nest jammed tight against our garage roof. Tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open. Parent birds sit on a vantage point of electric cable, their beaks moving in silent encouragement. A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw, a small body thudding down a ladder of air to crash beak first on the concrete. “Why?” I ask. The age-old answer comes back to me. “Wye is a river. It flows through Ross-on-Wye and marks the boundary between England and Wales.” The swallows perch on the rafters watching their fledgling as it struggles on the floor, the weakening wing flaps, the last slow kicks of the twitching legs. “Y is a crooked letter invented by the Green Man of Wye,” my grandfather says. “Why?” I repeat. “I want to know why.” Silence hangs a question mark over the unsatisfied spaces of my questioning mind.
Openings are so important. They should be magnets drawing you in, but sometimes they’re whirl-pools dragging you down.
You try to hold your breath, but you must breathe and let go, you must go with the flow and sink to whatever awaits you in the deep.
Down there, it’s a different world. Light breaks its alternate shadow, and you are the light in the darkness, down there, where no sun shines.
You are the glow-worm, glowing where no stars glow. You are the line, the sinker, the hook, the bait, the temptation that encourages your opponents to sacrifice their own peace, to join you, to swim, or to drown.
Comment: To take or not to take, that is the question. It’s a long time since I read Hamlet or played competitive chess. I have forgotten many of the ins and the outs, the traps and the snares, the devils that hide in the details of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Sometimes we must just take a chance and play by the seat of our pants. Sometimes we must try to recall all the nuances and shades of meaning. And we all know how one step leads to another and how a misstep leads to one disaster after another. Not to win or lose, but to play up, play up, and play the game. Says who? I don’t find those words in my favorite chess book: Chess for Money and Chess for Blood. The poisoned pawn, indeed: and a throw of the dice never eliminates chance / un coup de dès n’abolira jamais le hasard. Go on, take the pawn, throw the dice, I dare you.
I wander a vacant, black and white wonderland of empty, accusing, crossword puzzle squares. Most mornings, I sit at the kitchen table, head in hands, puzzled by the news and the crossword puzzle’s clues.
Outside my window, crossbills squat on the feeder, squabbling, heads turned sideways, blinking,
and winking sly eyes. A yellow-bellied sapsucker hops over syrup-sticky squares. His hand-carved chess board
glistens as feasting flies swarm beneath the sun.
My own thoughts are rooted in a stark, new reality. They walk wordless through threatening spaces where unmasked people wander grey, concrete streets or walk in shops, in the opposite direction to arrows, painted on the floor to guide them.
Cross-words, cross-purposes: why do some people obey the current laws while others ignore them and risk their health as well as the health of others by doing what they damn well please, in spite of the scientists who beg them to do otherwise? Like the puzzle’s clues: I just don’t know.
Comment: Well, last year was a year like no other that I can remember. It is so easy to dismiss it as an aberration, but we shouldn’t do that. Hopefully next year will be better. But it might get worse. Let’s look on the bright side and hum along with the song the humming birds are humming: “Yesterday is history, today is still a mystery, but what a day it’s going to be tomorrow.” I still can’t workout how or why some shoppers just head up the shopping aisles, walking or pushing their carts in the wrong direction. Nor how they can stand for five minutes at a time choosing a breakfast cereal, one hand on the handle of their angled carts, another poking at the cereal boxes, and the aisle totally blocked. I also love the people who still handle every apple in the box before choosing just one of them. For apple you may substitute grapes, pears, avocadoes, tomatoes. Oh the joys of ageing in an age of skepticism and pandemic. Mind you: if life is, as Albert Camus always insisted, absurd, or if it is, as Calderon told us, nothing but a dream, I guess none of it matters anyway. Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux / we must believe that Sisyphus is happy!