Breakdown

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Commentary:

This was the first time I had been to the baths in Oaxaca. These came highly praised  by family and close friends and the combination of mist, steam, and herbs, combined to loosen the body and soothe the soul. The Mixtec baths and massage are very highly regarded, incidentally, and one can go to the equivalent of sweat lodges in order to enjoy a day at an ancient historic spa. The masseur himself was incredible. I lay face down initially. When he want to turn me over, he got a bucket of cold water, threw it over me and flipped me in mid-air as I reacted to the ice cold water. Hard to believe now. I also remember having to buy a small bar of paper-wrapped soap. And locking my valuables up in a little chest to which only he had the key. These baths feature in my novel, People of the Mist. Unpublished, alas, but I may get around to revising it one day. All I need is some encouragement!

 

Au Revoir

Au Revoir

Au Revoir

Commentary:

This construction (verbal and visual) dates back to my visits to Oaxaca, Mexico (1995-2001). So many friends, so many happy relationships, and then the world turned and I never went back. I remember doing yoga early in the morning on the azotea. Zopilote, the turkey vulture, wings motionless, flew high above the world, the sun lighting up his wings with its fiery flame. Zopilote, aka Trickster, the bird who stole fire from the gods and brought it back to earth so women could make men their morning chocolate over the old wood stoves or open fires. Or was that all a myth, fake news as some would say today when everything we touch is fake? So much has been lost, destroyed. So much beauty, verbal and visual, has been laid aside, destroyed, and forgotten. Au revoir, good-bye, will we ever see it again? Adieu, goodbye, we will never see it again, it’s gone for good. So much meaning in these brief French phrases, synonyms in English, yet carrying such different meanings in French.

Amarrada nuestra barca a otra ribera … Antono Machado wrote those words. We will awake one morning, he suggested, to find our boat moored on the other side of the river between life and death. And so we will. But in our daily lives, we try to ignore that fact. We seize the day, drowning our sorrows in a sea of forgetfulness: for tonight we’ll merry, merry be, we sing, but tomorrow we’ll be sober. Or will we? And nowadays, who cares anyway? As Seamus Heaney writes “my friends and neighbors, let it flow. We’ll be stood no rounds in eternity.”

Yesterday, I met a man in a wheel chair sitting outside the store where I was shopping. He asked me if I could spare some change and I told him I only carried plastic (true). Then next man who approached gave him a cigarette. My beloved was sitting in the car and I gave her a five dollar bill from the parking money and asked her to give it to the man in the wheel chair. So: how did we feel? Good for an act of charity? Bad for not responding immediately? Terrible that we see people living in poverty in a supposedly rich country? Fearful that one day the money would run out and that we too would be out there, begging for money, grateful for a cigarette, a hand out, a helping hand … happy for anything that would help postpone the inevitable end?

And then there was the bird that fell don the chimney and perished in the fireplace. We never even knew he was there until we found his feathers and his body, lifeless among cold ashes. So which is it to be: au revoir or adieu? Or even worse, the middle finger, the scowl, and the old ‘screw you’?

Chronos

 

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Chronos
(700 BC & 1933 AD)

tub-thumped these clouds
grey-framed skylights
gathering sky

corralled on coral
this ship’s figure-head
mouth open to speak
a foghorn
her bare breasted
Scylla & Charybdis
lighthouse lights

goat-legged beach-comber
wandering a lug-worm beach
avoid those places
where the sea-weed

water the father
earth the mother
false union
engendering an egg
waves breaking
their broken marriage

cyclical the sickle
ticking rocks to sand
time personified

Stones (3 May 1808)

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Stones
(3 May 1808 AD)

stones once thrown
can never be brought back
nor words once spoken
nor the bullet
once released
from musket or gun

here lies who knows who
face down in the dust
shirt soaked in blood
body pierced with lead

nor water time nor love
can ever flow back
beneath that bridge

some kneel some pray
some raise their eyes
to uncaring skies
every one of them dies
shooters
those waiting to be shot

even the soldiers
reloading their guns
never understand
how time’s tide runs
ebbs and then flows
until everyone goes

this you
lying face down
on cobble stones
well know

 

Comment: 

The poem is drawn in part from the Goya painting of the shootings, El tres de mayo de 1808. The painting above is a close-up of Geoff Slater’s latest mural, still in progress, at Macadam Railway Station in New Brunswick. “If only the stones could speak, what stories they would tell.” This re-post was inspired by a visit to Seasons of the Witch on  Mr. Cake’s Cake or Death site with its images of Goya’s Black Paintings. So, we have a continuing Goya mini-Fest, May the Second and May the third.

Don’t tell me your troubles

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Don’t tell me your troubles

vultures circle overhead
tight-beaked grimacing
ready for any old thing
to drop down and die
leaving them some space
they bounce on the wind
feather-tips poised to plunge

drivers drive dodgem cars
through pot-holed filled
parking lots
bumper to bumper grinding
following each pedestrian
plodding from hospital to car

red alert three bell alarm
an engine starts
reversing lights flicker
someone’s coming out

cock fights dog fights
domestic pussy cats
all booted and spurred
claws out for the bust up
three dust ups already
today

nobody happy
everyone hopping mad
round and round
circling false alarms
sitting waiting
for someone to move

we’ll all be late
for our appointments
no room at this inn
not here not today
my friends no parking

That Wall

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That Wall
(1953 AD)

build that wall
top it with wet cement
place bottles in a row
sign it date it
carve the barrier in stone

when the cement sets
break those bottles
impenetrable barriers

walled now this garden
its interior holy of holies
a paradise for the chosen few
peace and roses only a dream
glimpsed from the outside

a climber climbs
rips flesh shreds clothes
mottles concrete with blood
wet washing hung in fleshy strips
a red flag now this Siegfried line
its shattered glass wire
its see-through brittle anger
excluding all intruders

walled this garden studio
this monument
built by my father
seeking to block who out
trying to lock who and what in