Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day

I live in the presence of flowers again. Red, white, and pink, with a touch of greenery. I bought them for my beloved on Valentine’s Day to acknowledge her presence in my life. Day. I avoided the pre-packed supermarket flowers and went to the florists. What a mess they were in: flowers and packages scattered everywhere along with cards, vases, teddy bears wearing hearts on their sleeves and other parts of their anatomy.  “Excuse the mess,” the young man said. “It’s Valentine season and we’re very busy.” “Don’t worry,” I replied. “I’m getting old and it looks just like home.”

We walked through the sliding doors and into the back room where the loose flowers are stored. “Careful,” he told me. “It’s cold in here.” “Don’t worry,” I replied. “It’s -16 out there and the wind’s bitter. This is actually quite warm. I feel right at home.” He showed me round his stock and I settled on a combination of large and small carnations in red, white, and pink. “They all come with greenery,” he told me. “You go back out into the warm, and I’ll get them ready for you.”

I wandered round the shop, looking at Teddy Bears and trinkets but I didn’t fall into temptation. I am not always able to do avoid temptation, but today I was strong. I was tempted by a balloon, but the thought of driving home and having the thing deflate on me was not encouraging. After a few minutes, the man arrived with my flowers. “How are you going to pay?” he asked. “It depends on the price,” I said. He quoted a ridiculously low figure and added “That’s if you pay cash.” I did, and we both looked very happy.

When I got home, I presented the flowers to my beloved. “Not now,” she told me. “I’m busy. Just leave them on the table and I’ll get round to them later.”

“The best laid plans of mice and men” (and also of lovers on Valentine’s Day) “aft gang agley”. I hope I have quoted Burns correctly. I think gang agley can be translated as go astray. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long. Within a few minutes, vases were produced and filled with water and chemical additives, flowers were trimmed and organized by size and shape and color, suitable cooing sounds of appreciation could be heard.

Appreciation of what? Of my undoubted and unquenchable love? Of the wonderful scent and color of those Valentine flowers? Of the neat quick way they had been vased, trimmed and ordered?  Who knows? But one thing I do know, sometimes it is better not to ask. Especially on Valentine’s Day. A little bit later, a certain someone was on the phone, checking our bank account and our Credit Card Expenditures. Now, I don’t know what that was all about. And I don’t intend asking. Not on Valentine’s Day.

Siege Perilous

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Siege Perilous

           My second name begins with G … G for Galahad.

         Siege Perilous: the chair calls me, sings out my name, craves my body warmth and blood. I move towards it, hear it groan to me in greeting. I feel it sink beneath my weight, feel its heat and comfort, sense the heart-sound of its old, carved, polished wood. My father sat here before me and his father before him, and his father … and so on down the ringing halls of time.

           Siege Perilous welcomes me as it welcomed them. It cherishes me, nourishes my flesh and blood, my sense of belonging within a great chain of being whose links vanish backwards into forgotten, far-off mists. The chair understands that we are weaklings. It accepts us are we are, strengthening our strong points, filling in for our gaffes, gifting us with the ability that allows us to see ourselves as we truly are, willing spirits in an all too flimsy flesh. Impervious its wood to words or tears, it strips away our masks, dismantles our disguises, meets our inner being face to face, seat of wisdom carved from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

           The chair rarely rejects us, though sometimes it senses the rot within and moves us on. More often than not, it brings light to our darkness, pierces our clouds of unknowing with its beam of sunshine, illuminates our darkest nights. It cares for us, wraps us in the warm wings of its radiance, carries us onward when we are alone, shapes our own heart-wood with its hand-carved arms that cling and clutch and cleanse of impurities. Blood warms its veins, the blood of the generations that have climbed here as children, sat on the elders’ laps, listened to their tales, then shared their inheritance, before sitting here themselves.

           A sense of entitlement wraps its veil around Siege Perilous and the Forgotten Table. It shuts out doubt and fear. We feel its power transmitted through us, fear, fire, foes all defeated. Power: the power of good to defeat evil, of truth to conquer lies, of my people to survive. They may seem to be crushed, and yet they will rise; defeated, they will overcome; victorious, they will be magnanimous in their victory.

           King Arthur: the Once and Future King … King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table … Siege Perilous … the Vacant Chair … the Holy Grail … Excalibur: the Sword in the Stone … Arthur himself … Galahad, Geraint, Percival, Gawain, Lancelot … all equal … all pure, honest, innocent, celibate … Camelot …

Merlin the Magician and Wondrous Wizard, conjurer of truth and falsehoods … the historian-poet adjusts his rose-tinted spectacles, smiles, clacks the false white teeth that spin-doctored so much verbal magic, so many mystical myths, fabulous fables, phenomenal falsehoods … and started, pen on paper, to create yet again another set of nonsensical, downright gut-jarring lies.

Heart

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Heart
(sonnet for Hanna and Cherry)

club-foot the pigeon feet
burned off by frost and lime
cracked this egg shell in its cup
the world’s heart overflowing

this silver spoon carved from milk
-tops pecked by morning birds
who placed it in my mouth

song of the blackbird
sung from the corrugated iron roof
where he whistles his virtuosity

playing cards placed face down
who holds the jolly joker
with his floppy cap and jingling bells
who holds the red ace key to my heart

 

Rain

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Kingsbrae 20.4
20 June 2017

Rain

Hand in hand, we walk
beneath black umbrellas.
Grass beneath our feet is wet
and water seeps through
our shoes, soaking our socks.

Cold and numb in spite of the date
(the summer solstice draws near),
my ears strain against the pitter
-patter of falling rain to catch
the nearby robin’s song.

He has mislaid his voice
and I can no longer translate
his liquid notes into soul music
that might lighten mind and day.

Clouds gather and empty themselves
over our umbrella-covered heads.
In spite of damp and dark that rule,
thoughts abound and hop around,
like frogs in a summer pool, while
light bulbs explode in my brain.

Blockhouse

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Kingsbrae 19.4
19 June 2017

Blockhouse

We have become comfortable together.
We sit, food untouched on the table,
and play catch-up with our lives.

I tell her about my writing problems
and she tells me about her hopes and
fears for the future now her partner’s
walked out and left her for a younger girl.

Later, I sit in the car while she walks
on the headland by the blockhouse.

Mist covers Passamaquoddy Bay.
There was a time when I thought
she might walk out into that mist
and fade away, but she was strong.

Now I watch her walk away and
know that she’s really here to stay.

It’s Over

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It’s Over

The big top’s empty now.
The crowd’s gone home.
The trainer’s put down his whip
and lions and tigers are safely
asleep back in their cages.
Dim are lime and spotlights.
Yellow glow caravan windows
as juggler and clowns wipe
clean their grease paint smiles,
strip off their sequined clothes,
and prepare for bed. One by one,
the lights go out until darkness
rules menagerie and circus.
Only in the heads of little boys
and girls do the dancers still dance,
the ponies still prance, the tamers
still crack their whips and hold up
their chairs to keep wild animals
glued to their perches, while high
above, in the bedroom’s canvas roof
wire walkers strut their stuff, above
white sheets and the safety nets
of Teddy clutched, and mattress.

Never The Twain

 

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Never The Twain

“And never the twain shall meet.”

This was the chorus that my grandparents often chanted at me when family members started rowing with each other over one trivial incident or another.
“But what happens when the twain do meet,” I used to ask.
“Don’t be silly,” they said. “The twain never meet. Ever.”
But I know very well that they do.
I know.
I’ve seen them together.

Funny things, they are, the twain, and opposites in so many ways. But so nice, in spite of what some people, especially my grandparents, used to say about them.

Not only do they meet, but they can be happy together and very, very friendly.
“Long time, no see,” the twain say, and they often embrace quite warmly with a bunch of flowers held between them.

Mind you, the twain can also be quite awkward and occasionally very abusive towards each other. I remember my mother and father fighting “like cats and dogs” as my grandparents used to say.

Now, my grandparents had a cat. It was black and white and striped like a zebra. They called it Spot. My parents had a dog. It was an English Cocker Spaniel, gold in color, and off-spring to a famous sire, the Six-Shot Woody Woodpecker. They called the dog  Wimpy but it was by no means a wimp and fought with everything in sight, especially the cat.

So when my father and mother fought and the family cat and dog fought, I thought, quite reasonably in my opinion, that the dog (with his short hair) was male and the cat (with her long hair) was female, and that was the reason why they fought like cats and dogs. And “never the twain shall meet” as my grandparents used to say about my mother and father and the cat and the dog.

I guess it was too early to learn about the birds and the bees when, young and all too innocent, I was learning about the cats and the dogs.

And of course it’s only natural that the twain should meet. My mother and my father, like the cat and the dog, had to meet somewhere, didn’t they? How else would I be here? Now, we weren’t the sort of family that practiced contraception by throwing stones at the storks to keep the babies away.

But I could never work out why the cat always had female kittens while the dog had all-male off-spring. That was a bit too much for me, and nobody ever really explained anything I those days.