I love the sales shows on the telly. The sales lady comes and and starts talking and you can’t stop her once she gets going. My golly, once they start talking they’d sell you anything from snake oil to …. well, I heard a good sales pitch today. It went like this.
“See how delicately the necklace is carved? Then it is highly polished in a new process that leaves it bright and shiny, like a brown diamond.”
The model whirls and twirls, showing off her best points, not to mention what she is encouraging viewers to buy, the bracelet, the ear-rings, the shiny necklace. Television and online sales. No sense across the screen of touch, of taste, of smell. Just a temptation to enter a vision that the sales girl is selling. The model whirls, the music rings out, the camera focuses on the band in the background. The lead singer wears exactly the same jewelry as does the model: identical necklace, ear-rings, bracelet.
I struggle to catch the words, but you know how modern music distorts the lyrics, twists the sounds. Later, I put the words of the song back together. I recognize snippets, portions, and then the whole verse clicks. Intertextuality, I think, verse responding to verse across cultures and the ages. No wonder that I recognize it and can put the words back together with the help of the original.
“Only twenty left,” the sales lady says. The model smirks, wiggles, shows off her multiple gems, and smiles. “Call this number now,” the sales lady points to a number in the corner of the screen. “Nineteen, eighteen left, be quick. You don’t want to miss out on one of these.”
“Remember,” the sales lady says. “these are original dog turds. They say you can’t polish a turd, but you can. In fact, with today’s new freeze dry technology you can collect dog turds, freeze dry them, and then carve, shape and polish them. No more doggy bags and doggy waste. It’s one of the best forms of recycling.” The sales lady smiles at the camera and the show band breaks once again into that snappy song and chorus. While the lead singer sings, the camera focuses in on her necklace, her ear-rings, and then her bracelet. And I piece together the words:
“Gather ye dog turds while ye may,
for time it is a’flying,
and that fresh dog turd, dropped today
tomorrow you’ll be drying.”
“Looks like a dog turd.
Smells like a dog turd.
Feels like a dog turd.
Tastes like a dog turd.
Thank Dog we didn’t step in it.”
Imagine a spotlight of sun peeping for a moment through dark, cool woods. Then this glimpse of wood texture beneath the bright, creamy butter color of these fungi. A moment’s magic caught by the camera and preserved forever, or until the computer crashes, or the funds for this blog page run out. So much potential beauty lost in the impermanent mists of time.
Old, ruined buildings. Churches and barns, their people moved on, their roofs crumbling, their windows boarded up. A heavy snowfall and, back-broken, they fall to their knees and yield to the weight of snow. A storm-surge of age and ailments break over them. Wildflowers creep up and in. The names on the gravestones slowly vanish, layer by layer, letter by letter, until even the names are no more.
Such will be our fate: all our glory reduced to nothing. Sic transit gloria mundi [Thus pass the worlds’ glories] as the Romans once said. All our books and words reduced to dust. No more living words, just Polvo seco de tesis doctoral [Dry dust of a doctoral thesis] in the prophetic words of my good friend, the Spanish-Canadian poet José María Valverde.
So, our July project, a video of the first KIRA poet reading his KIRA poem, is now completed. I read One Small Corner at KIRA and Geoff Slater, Jeff Lively, and Cameron Lively added video to verse in this blend of magic. Thank you so much: I really appreciate this visual rendition of my words. So much so, that for once, I am at a loss for words. I will just let the video speak for itself and myself. Just click on the link below and you will be transported to KIRA and Kingsbrae Gardens on a magic carpet. swift and smooth.
Our September / October project is to inaugurate the first KIRA Boutique Retreat (Creative Writing). This will run from September 30 to October 6. I will be one of the facilitators, along with Geoff Slater, the artistic director at Kingsbrae and Jeremy Gilmer, this year’s writer in residence (July 2018). For a description of my own stay at KIRA last year (June, 2017), click on the first link. Click on either the second or the third link below for more information on KIRA and the Boutique Retreat.
Monkey Meets An Anarchist Ant
(Memories of El Camino de Santiago)
The anarchist ant dresses in black.
He wears a little red base-ball cap
backwards on his head.
His eyes are fiery coals.
“Phooey!” He says.
“It’s folly to go with the flow.”
So he turns his back
on his companions and marches
in the other direction.
Some ants call him a fool.
The Ant Police try to turn him.
The Thought Police try
to make him change his mind.
Others, in blind obedience
to a thwarted, intolerant authority,
first bully him, then beat him,
then bite him till he’s dead.
Comment: One of the legends of the Road to St. James, the pilgrim route across Northern Spain that I walked in 1979, states that if you do not walk the road as a human being, in your own lifetime, you will come back as an ant and be forced to walk it ant form, when you are dead. I stood on the hill outside Astorga, looking back at the city. On the old pilgrim road, at my feet, and beneath the old Cruz de Harapos, a colony of ants was busy walking in a long line towards Santiago de Compostela. One turned his back on the group and started to walk the other way, but he didn’t last long. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard.” Fair enough. But watch out for the ant-police and the thought-police.
The programs that no longer work.
The files you can no longer access.
Photos that vanish
leaving a blank space in the album.
Memory that goes on the blink.
Forgotten phone numbers,
the birthdays of family members,
that carton of eggs left in the store,
your cousin’s face, her name,
the parking spot where you left your car.
“What day is it today,” you ask,
for the second or third time.
“What time is it?”
“Who’s that coming for tea?
Are you sure I know them, dear?”
“Where did you say we were going?”
“Just round the corner, to visit a friend.”
Or should that be … round the bend?
Comment: Apparently I placed this poem on Facebook a year ago, but I have found no trace of it here, on the blog. This time last year, I lost both of my computers to what was diagnosed as obsolescence. Luckily I had most things backed up. The group who swore they could transfer 99% of my hard-drive material to the new machine, migrated just 1% (my desk top) and the other 99% went on walkabout. I was able to piece much of it back together, but obsolescent programs and out of date apps no longer functioned. So much material was deemed irretrievable. This experience made me realize, yet again, how fragile is our hold on our possessions, our memories, our sanity, and yes, our very lives. For me, it is a very sobering thought that, with a flick of a switch, I, like my computer, could be turned off, and 99.9% of the wonders of my beautiful existence would totally disappear from the memory-banks of this earth. Some say, and I believe them, that, like my computer, I will be re-cycled, recirculated. I will become a part of the wider oceanic world-consciousness. Alas, we can have faith in whatever we wish to believe, but sometimes, we really don’t know.
(With glorious memories of Macarronic Latin)
Pontius Parrot is very clever
and very pontifical.
He pontificates from his pulpit.
His name isn’t Polly
and he doesn’t have a pulpit
but he parrots words
in Macaronic Latin:
“Caesar adsum jam forte.”
Pontius Parrot is
perky at the podium.
He bounces up and down,
preens himself prettily,
rattles his chains,
shakes his bars:
Shame and scandal
wear him down.
A dysfunctional family
of feathered friends
until he was black and blue
and threw up copiously:
“Caesar sic in omnibus.”
He dips his wings in holy water,
calls for some soft soap,
feathers and claws.
Poor Pontius Parrot,
He can only say
“Brutus sic in at.”
Comment: Anyone who suffered through school Latin, especially if they went to boarding school or grammar school, will recognize famous Macarronic Latin quotes such as the verb bendo, whackere, ouchi, sorebum, and the one the author of Monkey Temple reproduces in the above poem. If you are unfamiliar with Macarroni Latin and have had the good fortune to have avoided both grammar and boarding schools, just read the Latin normally in English and you will establish its Macarronic meaning.