Paradise Lost

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Paradise Lost
(1667 AD)

nobody answers
bewitched by your knock
ultimate betrayal
front door locked

cold finger elegies
devils ascending
rhythmic drumming
rain descending

knock again louder
nobody’s replies
ahoy there the house
nobody’s inside

memories flutter
life’s dead butterflies
doorstep-marooned
look around take stock

ghosts watch from windows
sockets open in shock
that key in your pocket
might open the lock

a mystical place
between heaven and earth
land of my fathers
house of my birth

Umbrella

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When it rains, everyone needs an umbrella.

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Umbrella

Black clouds overhead,
yet I walk dry
beneath a black umbrella.

Pitter-patter of falling rain:
my ears strain to catch
a nearby robin’s song.

I have mislaid his voice
and can no longer
translate his liquid trills

nor transform them
into a sunlight that will glisten
through dripping leaves.

Frogs in the summer pond
explode light bulbs in my brain.

A rainbow glistens in the pools
beneath my feet.

I want to see my garden reborn,
with words and my world renewed.

I thirst once more for life’s
sweet, fresh water.

Here below is the voice recording of my poem Umbrella.

Touch and Go

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Touch and Go

            Rain. Persistent rain. Cornish mizzle that chills and wets. Basque chirrimirri penetrating flesh and bone. Low clouds blanket buildings, wrap themselves round the windshield. Cling with the tenacity of Saran wrap. Visibility variable, now clear, now a muffler round the car’s headlights. Darkness gathered, still gathering. Lights moving, cars moving, the road moving, blending first with the lights then with the shadows, shape-shifting.

            Down the hill now, out of the city lights, into the countryside. The road changing, patches and potholes, lights flickering in and out, darkness and light. Small animals of light, the potholes, shimmering, bumping by. Another pothole, moving, turning from side to side, a pothole with a ringed tail and two tiny eyes. A baby pothole, misses the front wheels, not the back. One dull, dry thump.

            What were you doing there, in the middle of the road? Why alone? Why no mother, no brothers? Why so small? I didn’t mean to … I didn’t want to … Why me? Why you? Why now? If only …

            Light breaks through the darkness clouding my mind. Memories: the driver on the road to Kincardine, chasing a jackrabbit, trapped in the headlights, a Belgian Hare, dodging down the middle of the country road. Laughing, the driver, with the joy of his hunt. Then: one dry thump. The car stopped, the hare, still twitching, held by its long ears, shown as a trophy at the car window, then thrown in the trunk. Memories: two lads in a half-ton, on a back road by Grand Lake. A sunny Sunday. Spotting the ground hog at the roadside. Driving at it with the truck. Swerving to hit it. The joy and laughter in their faces, looking back. One dry thump. The ground hog, front half viable, spine fractured, back legs paralyzed, dragging itself with its forearms to the roadside, dropping into the ditch.

            Legend tells of the man who met Death in Cairo. Death looked surprised to see him. “What are you doing here?” he asked. Fear filled the man. He ran, packed his bags, left Cairo with its vision of Death. Traveled to Baghdad. Met there with Death, who welcomed him. “Why were you surprised to see me in Cairo?” the man asked. “Because we had a meeting here in Baghdad, tonight,” Death replied. “And I didn’t know if you’d show up.”

“Every morning, at day break,
oh Lord, this little prayer I make,
that thou wilt keep thy watchful eye,
on all poor creatures born to die.”

            Dylan Thomas wrote those words in his poetry play for radio, Under Milkwood. All poor creatures born to die. That’s us. That’s you and me. We don’t know how, or why, or where, or when. And it doesn’t matter. That’s the whole point: it doesn’t matter. Our death was born with us, walks with us, lives inside us, and one day will take us by the hand, each of us, we poor creatures, born to die. What matters is that we live while we can, rejoice while we can, thrive while we can, think while we can, write while we can, enjoy every moment of every day that is gifted to us …

            Enlightenment came last night, at the darkest, warmest of times. It followed me home and crept with me into my bed. I thought of all the creatures found each spring morning, their lives cut short at night along the sides of our New Brunswick roads: deer, porcupine, squirrels, groundhogs, foxes, domestic and feral cats, dogs, skunks, and yes, one, very special, baby raccoon, a tiny raccoon, so small as to be almost invisible in chirimirri, mizzle, and mist.

            His spirit came to me in the under-blanket dark, wrapped itself warm around me, and brought me comfort. “You too,” he whispered. “You too. But not just yet. My work is done. I can go now. But you still have lots of work to do. Remember: Vis brevis, ars longa,” his raccoon spirit nuzzled me and I reached out and patted him. Then both of us settled down to dream our different dreams of a life and death that is surely nothing but a dream, or a game of touch and go.

Rain / Il pleut

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I remain fascinated by Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes. I first met them when, as a  teenage flâneur in Paris, I wandered the quays along the banks of the Seine, entranced by the literary treasures of the bouquinistes. Eighteen years old, I had just been released from a twelve year sentence to a boarding school education (6-18 years of age). I loved the freedom of Paris and the joys of choosing my own poets and my own poetry books will always stay with me. Apollinaire was not a set text. He was a personal discovery and a true  joy. I remember the light blue cover and the worded rain drops inscribed upon it when I bought my first Livre de Poche, the poems of Apollinaire.

Caligrammes are out of fashion now, their virtues taken over by the joys of concrete poetry. I still write some, drawing them out by hand. I find this much easier than planning them on typewriter or computer, though I have done both. The cartoon – poem hybrid, printed above, is my intertextual reflection on Apollinaire’s original Rain / Il pleut which can be found on page 62 of the above link from Le Mercure de France.

I look at the snow steadily mounting outside my window and I hope that we will not see rain for a long, long time. Not until Easter and the welcome warmth of spring. That said, I miss the rain. It was a constant part of my childhood and I remember spending day after day, head pressed to the window pane (yes, I do know how to spell it), watching the raindrops sliding down while behind me, the old coal fire threw out enough heat to warm me in my daily loneliness.