A Good Friend

A Good Friend

Sitting at the kitchen table, sitting with my friend, Geoff Slater. He drove up from Bocabec to see me and help me sign some books. We have published several collections together – McAdam Railway Station, Scarecrow, Twelve Days of Cat, Tales from Tara, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature, and The Water Tower.

Scarecrow and Twelve Days of Cat contain Geoff’s drawings and my prose and poetry, while The Water Tower is composed of Geoff’s photos, taken while completing the repainting of his wonderful mural, adorning the water tower in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Today we signed copies of Scarecrow, Twelve Days, and McAdam. I have been very lucky with most of my literary and artistic friendships. It always gives me great pleasure to receive my friends at home and to talk away the hours on the chiming clock.

I also enjoy cooking for them, and today I made a delicious paella with ham, chicken, and shrimp. More important, the rice – I had a packet of Bomba Spanish paella rice, and what a difference that made to the cooking of one of my favorite dishes. The socarrat, that crispy layer that coats the bottom of the frying pan or paella was simply wonderful!

Writing can be a lonely life. What a blessing is a good friend, totally creative, off whom one can bounce ideas, exchange artistic stories – our narratives as we call them – and even collaborate on the creation of more art works. Geoff Slater – line-painter extraordinaire – I salute you!

Movember

Movember

When we men threaten to grow moustaches,
walking unshaven, amid the leaves
that crackle and pop as they rustle,
wind-blown, against our feet.

But pity us, poor hairless ones,
whose youthful skin still bears no beard –
can we we force a moustache to our lips?

That said, a chain of purple lights
adorns the wall in front of me
and I type to its imperious, flashing
bulbs, a constant reminder of bygone days

when the biopsy proved cancerous
and my prostate threatened my body
but was prevented from entering my bones.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Movember

Comment: November is prostate cancer month. My heart goes out to any and all who are suffering from this form of cancer. Caught early, it is curable. Get checked out, as quickly as possible. The sooner you catch it, the sooner your medical team can be formed to inform and advise you as to your choices. And YES, you have choices. I will always be grateful for the help I received, from my own medical team, back in 2014-15, when I was first diagnosed and then cured. Cured, yes. But the nightmare of a possible return always remains, ticking away like a time-bomb at the back of my mind.

Fin on Swing

Fin on Swing

So, how do you get movement into a two-dimensional space? How do you get the to and fro, the up and down, the legs out front, the hair out back? And there are so many things missing. The alpacas watching. The goats guzzling. The peacock making whatever noise a peacock makes. Oh dear, I forgot all of those things. But then, I was never a great artist – just a dabbler in line and color, in sorrow and joy, but joy and happiness, shape and color, emotions above all. And when childhood meets second childhood – then there is joy and laughter and swings that go faster.

Me and My Bride!

Me and My Bride!

A friend wrote to me today and sent her greetings to ‘you and your bride’. Well, that delightful phrase set me thinking. Clare (my bride!) and I have known each other for 61 years and we have been married for 56 of them, 57 this Christmas. I often wonder how this wonderful woman has put up with me during all those years.

Mrs. Thomas Thomas, my good friend from the little village in Wales where my parents had their house, once told me about a friend of hers. That friend had been married for 35 years and had never had a quarrel or a fight with her husband. ‘There she goes,’ she told me one morning. ‘Never a fight with her husband. Bloody boring marriage, if you ask me.’

The point, I suppose, is that yes, there can be disagreements within a marriage, and doubts, and uncertainties, and questions about major decisions, and no, we don’t agree on everything? How could we? And one of the best parts about marriage, well, ours anyway, is agreeing to differ, and then making up again, as quickly as possible, after any disagreements.

Whatever, it is hard to argue against 61 years of togetherness and happiness. The secret formula? Clare’s – to learn my languages with me, to help me with my work, to lift me up when I am down. Mine – to love cooking for her, spoiling her, bringing her flowers, and trying to support her as she has supported me.

We have often led separate lives – Clare as a tennis player, a national gymnastics judge, a dedicated show secretary of the local kennel club, a show dog owner, groomer, and handler. Me – as a rugby player and coach, a researcher who has travelled frequently and visited important libraries in my field, a poet and short story writer who has taken and led workshops and writing groups.

We have also worked together at all levels. Each of my four graduate courses (MA, Toronto, 1967) demanded a paper every two weeks. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – paper #1. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday -paper #2. Saturday – rugby with U of T Blues or Toronto Irish. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – paper #3. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – paper #4.

I would sit in the kitchen and write the papers in longhand. Clare would sit at the other side of the table and type each page as I finished it. She did the editing too, when and where necessary. She also developed her computing skills faster than I did. Result: web pages, art work, design, photography, and several of my book covers. Our keys to success include team work, mutual assistance, deep caring and sharing, but separate paths, when and if we needed to take them.

So, there you have it. A swiftly-penned picture of me and my bride, or, as I call her, my better two-thirds. My life would have been very, very different without her. And don’t forget: behind every lucky man, there stands a wonderful woman.

A Moment of Joy

A Moment of Joy:

It’s always great when a friend actually reads one of my books and then writes to me to say how much he (in this case) enjoyed it. I quote: “I really enjoyed the concept of the image and writing. I’ve attached my favourite of the bunch. Audibly said “wow” when I read it.” It really makes my day (week, month, journey) worthwhile when someone reaches out and says ‘Wow!” Thank you, that certain someone. You shall remain anonymous for now, but your words will live on!

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Launch Pad

The Water Tower

The Water Tower

I took the e-file to Covey’s, the Printer on Prospect Street, Fredericton, on Monday. On Tuesday, Jared set up the files for printing, and I received the book on Thursday morning – nice and early. What an incredible turn around. The writing time-frame is interesting too. Geoff painted and posted. I wrote. The whole thing came together in less than a month. It just shows what inspiration, collaboration, and hard work can do. Here is a poem (# 17) from the book.

17

This year’s snow is not last year’s snow.
Tell me, if you know,
where did last year’s snowfall go?

These flowers you paint,
they are not last year’s flowers.

Time flows and the world renews itself.
It may seem the same, but it’s not.
Nor are you the same. How could you be?

You too have renewed yourself,
grown, like these flowers you paint,
these flowers that will wither and perish
to lie buried beneath fresh snow.

You cannot walk in the same river twice.
Nor can you paint the same flower
once it has withered and gone.
The flowers you paint can never be
the ones you painted before.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Water Tower

Love Song

Poema de Amor (3 & 4)

3

daylight bends itself round rock and turns into shadow

we flourish in blocks of fire

dreaming new selves from roots and branches

we clasp each resurrection with greedy fingers

will we watch the moon again tonight?

dark angel bodies with butterfly wings

our shadows have eloped together

we can see them sitting side by side

bumping each other’s knees at a table in the zócalo

4

church bells gild the barrio’s rooftops

our fingers reach to the skies and hold back light

we draw blinds to shut out the day and shadows fill us

we dream ourselves together in a silent movie

closed flesh woven from cobwebs

waiting to be opened by a slash of the tongue

the neighbour’s dog watches from the azotea

he barks bright colours as dawn opens doorways on the street

can he see the flowers growing from our tangled limbs?

your fingers sew a padlock on my lips

“Listen to the crackle of the rising sun!”

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Poema de Amor

House of Dreams

House of Dreams

1

The clematis unfolds

bruised purple on the porch.

Jazz piano:

beneath the black

and white hammers

of ivory keys,

old wounds crack open.

A flight of feathered notes:

this dead heart

sacrificed on the lawn.

I wash fresh stains

from my fingers

with the garden hose.

2

The evening stretches out

a shadow hand.

I feel my heart

squeezed like an orange

by long, dark fingers.

Somewhere,

the whitethroat

trills its guillotine

of vertical notes.

I flap my hands in the air.

They float there,

white butterflies,

amputated

in sunlight’s

net.

3

The light fails

fast, I hold up

shorn stumps

of flowers

for the night

wind to heal.

The pale magnolia

bleeds into summer:

white petals

melting on the lawn

like snow.

Sparrow sings

an afterlife

built of spring

branches.

4

Pressed between

the pages of my dream:

a lingering scent;

the death of last

year’s delphiniums;

the tall tree

toppled in the yard;

a crab apple flower;

a shard of grass

as brittle

as a bitter tongue

at winter’s

end.

5

A leaf lies down

in a broken

corner

and fills me

with a sudden silence.

I revise

our scrimshaw history

carving fresh tales

in the ivory

of new found bones.

6

A vixen

hunts for my heart.

She digs deep

at midnight

unearthing

the dry teeth

you buried

from my borrowed

head.

Click here to hear Roger read this poem on Anchor.
House of Dreams

Hope

Hope

In the half-light, on my evening walk,
the first pale-green spears of spring
stuck out their tongues
from the lips of leaf mold
and dark earth to mock me.

“Back home,” they said, “the daffodils
are in full bloom. In Ireland
the shamrock refuses to surrender.
It will not be trampled underfoot.”

“But this is my home,” I replied.
“Believe: and spring will come,”
the earth cried out.
La paciencia todo lo alcanza
patience achieves everything.”

The darkness deepened. Night came on.
But the sun still shone within my heart,
and filled me with hope.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Hope.



Outreach

Outreach

It’s so easy to cast the tiniest
pebble into the tranquil pond.

Sit and watch the ripples spreading,
flowing outwards, touching unknown
shores with a smidgen of warmth,
a lapping of love.

Reaching out, from the center
to the periphery, not knowing
where the outreach is going,
but knowing that the effort is
never in vain if it helps someone’s
suffering, reduces their loneliness,
brings light to their lives,
and relieves their pain.

Bread cast upon the waters,
returned in great store,
three, five, seven, ten times
more than what you cast.

Your spider-web lines
thrown inwards and outwards
in a gesture of faith, hope,
and a charity chest of tenderness
to lighten a burden, to remove
the dark from another’s heart.

It’s so easy to select a pebble,
but who will throw that first stone?

Click here to hear Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Outreach