Inundation

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Inundation

Seven flashes of light, then raindrops start
falling, one, two, followed by a curtain
dragging its damp dishcloth wetness over
windows, walls. It pocks the river’s troubled
face. Rising waters surpass all levels
from former floods. Water pours into homes,
floods basements, climbs stairs. Drowned branches scratch at
second floor windows as they float by.  Old
people evacuate their houses, are
boated to higher ground, beloved pets
upon their laps, boxed and caged. Men wonder
when this will end while older people shake
their heads, saying that they have never seen
anything like it. Overhead the storm
gathers strength. Rain tumbles, bubbling in
brooks that slide downhill filling the river.
Grand Lake now extends from Freddy to Saint
John. Why has it come to this? What can we
do to appease the mindless river gods,
fall on our knees and pray, if so, for what?
Last year we suffered drought, forest fires,
wells running dry, wild life dying of thirst.
This year it is death by inundation.
Rain continues. Thunder rolls. The wind gets
up and drives waves high against house windows.
Lightning carves fresh scars across dark clouds.
We shuffle our feet, accepting our fate
with grimaces, hugs, kisses, and sad smiles.

Thursday Thoughts: On Water

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Thursday Thoughts
03 May 2018
On Water

In the seventy-fourth year of my life,
sitting on the car in Mactaquac Park,
waiting for my wife to walk down the slope
to where I’m writing, a warm wind today,
sunshine, the river still rising, more rain
called for tonight, another inch or more,
that’s twenty to thirty millimeters,
you can hear from here the restless waters
powering the dam’s dynamos, creating
great creamy waves to wash over coffee
colored waters fathered upriver with
their splintered debris wafted from waters
still gathering strength in the north where snow
melts steadily while the stormy sky builds
clouds, and weathermen forecast thunderstorms
yet to descend and overflow our streams:
sitting safely I fear for those downstream
who deal with flooded basements, water pumps,
animals in distress, destruction come,
no sanctuary save in flight, wood, mortar,
brick promising no safety, no respite
from rising waters and eternal rain.

Commentary:

In the great flood of 1973, we lived on the Woodstock Road in Fredericton. We watched the river waters rising. Luckily they stopped on the other side of the road from where we were living and didn’t cross the road. This year we live out of town on the other side of the hill away from the river. Each time we drive into town we see the river waters and measure how they rise. Our hearts go out to those folk who are forced to evacuate their homes. We find it hard to believe that the waters are now at the levels they reached in 1973 and may, in some places, exceed those levels by a meter or more.

Next weekend, Word Spring, the spring meeting of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, is scheduled to take place in Quispamsis. Yesterday, the people of Quispamsis found themselves on flood alert and were told to prepare for instant evacuation. It rained last night and more rain is expected. While it may not rain here in Island View, the catchment area of the St. John River, the Rhine of North America, is enormous. Any rain falling in the north of the province may affect the river. The snow is still melting from the deep woods and clear cutting along the river banks has, according to some, affected the ground’s ability to retain water.

All in all, a difficult situation and one that is forecast to last for another week or ten days. More details can be found here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/homes-cottages-flooded-1.4645225?cmp=news-digests-new-brunswick

Friday Fiction: It’s Snowing

 

 

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Friday Fiction
It’s Snowing
20 April 2018

I wish it was fiction, but it isn’t. Friday, 20 April, 2018: clouds fill the sky, thick, fluffy clots drift down nodding at me as they pass my window. An inch of snow covers  grass, deck, pathways, lawn.

It’s snowing.

I check the weather forecast: +6C / 43F with light rain forecast for today. So much for the computer and the weather forecast. Look outside: snow is tumbling down, and it’s getting thicker. The blonde bimbo who waves her arms across the weather map with its bars and contours tells me it’s raining. She’s trapped indoors, in a tv studio, reading from a teleprinter. Wake up, lady, and smell the green tea. Then look out the window. But wrap up warmly … because it’s snowing.

Why is it snowing? Several reasons:

  1. I took my snow tires off the car last week: a sure sign it will snow.
  2. I got my hair cut yesterday: that always brings a change, for the worst in the weather, especially when I get a summer haircut, nice and short.
  3. To reassure me that my choice in coming to Canada was the correct one: I could have gone to Australia where my cousins are in danger of being burned out yet again by their third major bush fire in ten years. Here, it just snows. And snows. And so …

It’s snowing on April 20. This is personal. This is a personal attack on my humanity and sanity. I know: I chose to come here, to spend my life here, and I love it … but snow on April 20, when the tv bimbo is calling for rain and wet weather?

What will the robins do? Yesterday, they wandered in little groups all over the grass, chirping happily, singing for their suppers, pulling worms out of the brown earth as fast as they could go. Today, not a robin in sight. Not one.

But the crows are back: ubiquitous, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal, the seculae seculorum crows squat, feathers fluffed, beaks to the wind, hunkered down in skeletal trees, counting the snow flakes as the fall … caw … caw … caw …

Crows and snow: I think of school porridge, burning for breakfast.  I can’t shake off those memories. They haunt me at breakfast time. Porridge suddenly appears as if from nowhere. The smell of burning tickles my nose. My cereal plate fills with the  grinning face of porridge. It makes faces at me, nurdling and grimacing as I try to picture Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies, and Sugar Frosted Flakes, robins, not crows, green grass, not this bright, white table cloth spread on the lawn before me.

Oh for the sweetness of the robin’s song, the dawn chorus of a thousand songbirds lighting up the morning, sunlight on the grass … not a hope … forget it … look out of the window …

It’s snowing.

Blackfly

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Blackfly

Open car door or window:
they whisk in with the wind.
Silent they head for light,
crawling steadily up the inside
surface of the windshield.

If you are quick, you can
catch them now. Kill them
cleanly before they gorge
on your blood, spreading it
thin, your own raspberry jam
blocking your line of sight.

When you exit the car,
you see the killing fields,
blackberry jelly spread
thick on number plates,
dimming your headlights
with dark clots of death.

Comment: We drove down to St. Andrews on Monday and visited Kira and the Kingsbrae Gardens. Such beauty, such a wonderful reception, and the food in the garden café was marvelous. On the way home, the pinging of blackfly against the windshield made us think it was raining. When we got out of the car, headlights, hood, and license plate were covered with thick films of dead flies. We kept doors and windows closed, except for a brief moment at the service station, where we filled up with much more than gas.

Ticks

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Ticks

Ticks, as a student, are never to be feared.
They are good for you,
mark your rites of passage,
never catch on your skin
or bite into your beard.

Ticks in the woods creep and crawl,
people really don’t like them at all.
They fall and they climb,
bring diseases like Lyme.

Leeches are bad and suck at your blood.
They swell up with your juices
as you well knew they would.
But leeches don’t kill, as tick bites might.
So get out your tweezers and squish ticks on sight.

Comment: Ticks are about. Watch out for them and be very careful with them. Announcement on CBC Radio, 19 May 2017.

Punctuation in Poetry

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Punctuation in Poetry

Gardeners

when three bearded men
unbury winter’s bones they pick
at old wood scars dead trees and
their limbs now lying there lifeless

they dig deep at flowerbeds
uprooting a riot of Japanese
Knot Weed untangling roots
all tangled and twisted with
Bees’ Balm and perennials
that stray across borders
unwelcome immigrants neither
barriers nor fences can possibly hold

they probe between flag-
stones where wintering birds
and squirrels and chipmunks
cracked the seeds and wild weeds
that grow there and flourish

but where would the land be
and what would it accomplish
without helping hands
and the power of strong fingers
and fresh eyes that spot those
intruders who diminish
the space where good flowers
grow strong with fresh herbs
chives and oregano basil
and parsley peppermint sweet
crushed beneath feet

Comment: I posted this poem yesterday. It’s another raw poem. On re-reading it, I found it confusing. To punctuate or not to punctuate, that was my question. I decided to rewrite it and use punctuation. Here’s the new version.

Gardeners

Three bearded boys unbury
winter’s bones. They pick
at old wood scars, dead trees and
their limbs now lying lifeless.

They dig deep at flowerbeds
uprooting a riot of Japanese
Knot Weed, untangling roots
all tangled and twisted:
Bees’ Balm, Cape Daisies,
and quick-growing weeds
that run across borders,
unwelcome migrants
that barriers can’t hold.

They flourish between flag-stones
where wintering birds,
squirrels, and chipmunks
cracked seeds from the feeders.

Where would the land be,
and what would it accomplish
without helping hands,
the power of strong fingers
that pluck out the intruders
that infringe on the spaces
where proper plants grow
unthreatened by weeds?

Second Comment: Both versions work, but in different ways. The first version is more spontaneous and less logical. It allows thought and image to freely flow, but there’s some repetition and a certain lack of clarity. It does allow the  reader to be creative and to seek for alternate meanings and choose the combinations that please the most. The second version is more logical and expresses a slightly different train of thought. Punctuation forces revision and a revision that punctuates demands good grammar, less freedom of speech. The result is a tighter, much closer expression. By extension, the need to punctuate also demands more thought, more concision. Needless words are eliminated. Better combinations are possible. In addition, I find the rhythm becomes more prominent, but less spontaneous. To punctuate or not to punctuate: only the poet can decide, but any comments will be most welcome.

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Gardeners

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Gardeners

when three bearded men
unbury winter’s bones they pick
at old wood scars dead trees and
their limbs now lying there lifeless

they dig deep at flowerbeds
uprooting a riot of Japanese
Knot Weed untangling roots
all tangled and twisted with
Bees’ Balm and perennials
that stray across borders
unwelcome immigrants neither
barriers nor fences can possibly hold

they probe between flag-
stones where wintering birds
and squirrels and chipmunks
cracked the seeds and wild weeds
that grow there and flourish

but where would the land be
and what would it accomplish
without helping hands
and the power of strong fingers
and fresh eyes that spot those
intruders who diminish
the space where good flowers
grow strong with fresh herbs
chives and oregano basil
and parsley peppermint sweet
crushed beneath feet

Comment: This was the day for Thursday Thoughts, but I don’t have any, save for those in the poem. How does Mother nature manage without us? What is the difference between a weed and a flower? Why do the dandelions dance in my garden and why so many, fresh every spring? What happens when the gardeners no longer garden and nature takes over? Is the wilderness that arrives really a wilderness? The garden that grows, does it really need us? Do we own the land, or does the land own us? The same with development: do we shape the land or does the land shape us? Was the wilderness a wilderness before we arrived? I watch the deer drifting past the trees in the garden. They are so tolerant, so aware of my presence. “Beware of the possessive,” my teddy bear tells me. “I’m not your Teddy and you’re not my master. The world exists without you possessing it. It will continue without you. And yes, I can hear you: ‘my flowers, my garden, my bees and my deer, my house and my grounds, my groundhog and my Teddy.”‘ “My God,” says the Teddy Bear who sits on my bed and hears me snore and watches me dreaming … “Whatever are you thinking?”