Quilting

Quilting

A man among many women,
I sit silent, feeling their eyes
explore my flesh, my stitches.

I need glasses now for delicate
needlework. To thread a needle
the workshop leader has a gadget.

It passes from hand to hand,
ties the perfect quilter’s knot.
My grandpa’s canvas sewing kit,

World War One Vintage, served him
before the mast and in the trenches.
From it, I take a small looped wire.

I remember when I could see and he
could not, hence his need for me
to thread the needle and knot the knot
that he could no longer knot.

Now I choose my tiny patches,
join them, stitch them into a square
and, ironed out, into the quilt.

We must sign them, and I do.
My name and little sayings
in Spanish, Latin, and Welsh.

The leader asks me to translate them
then writes the meanings down.
“Beautiful work,” she tells me.

“Where did you learn to sew?”
I close my eyes, sew my lips tight.
Some secrets I’ll never let go.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Quilting

Comment: I wrote this after reading the section entitled Quilt in M. Travis Lane’s book A Tent, a Lantern, An Empty Bowl (Windsor: Palimpsest Press, 2019). Poems that could double as paintings, proclaims the paragraph on the back cover. I have no such talent. My own poem is more of a memoir in the form of a narrative sequence. To each his or her own, or, in the modern parlance, to all their own. And a poet must do what a poet can do, each of us adding our own little offerings to the great sea that is poetry.








Red Sky

Red Sky
After a long conversation
with my hero:
Travis Lane.


Red sky at night,
shepherd’s delight.
Red sky in the morning:
sailors take warning.


But I am not a sailor,
nor will I ever be one.
Nor a tinker, nor a tailor, nor
part of any nursery rhyme.

So easy to follow the sheep,
and graze where they may graze,
in safety, and the shepherd’s crook
all too close at hand, with both
hands and shoulder all too ready
to save, comfort, and carry
home to the security of a safe place.

Better by far to float along,
guided by sun, stars, and tide,
choosing your own route as you go,
or going with the eternal flow,
going where it takes you,
red skies at night, storm warnings
in the morning, and everywhere
the give and take of creating
new things, new paths, wherever
you may choose to go.

“Red car at night,
wifey’s delight.
Red car in the morning,
hubby take warning.”


Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Red Sky



Knowledge

Knowledge

“Knowledge: that which passes
from my notes to your notes
without going through anyone’s head.”

aka
Filling empty heads.”

I came here a beggar, begging bowl
in hand, begging for knowledge,
at the seat of all knowledge,
from the hands of those who knew.

They fed me, taught me,
brought me into knowledge,
as they knew it, but I yearned
for more, so much more.

I found it, one morning,
in my morning mirror, shaving.
I looked into my own eyes and asked:
“What are you teaching?”

My answer: words and empty words,
formulae handed down to me
over generations of people
who thought they thought because
they repeated what others had thought.

This was not what I sought.
Then, and only then, did I look
into the eyes of those I taught,
those who sought knowledge from me,
in all my worthlessness,
and I asked them what did they need,
what did they want to know,
and why did they want this knowledge.

Then I asked them how I could help them
to attain that knowledge for themselves
and to use it to construct their own lives,
on their own, without interference and shame
as I had never done.

Then, and only then, did I know
I had become a teacher in the true sense
of the word, and that together with me,
my students had learned to teach themselves
multiple ways in which to grow.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Knowledge

Losing Language

Losing Language

To lose your language
is to lose your dignity and your muse.

It’s to lose the power of self-expression
and to frustrate the longing soul
that flutters like a butterfly
striving to reach for the beauty of light
yet frustrated by the weight
of its now useless wings
unable to rise.

So much the soul sees at night,
wandering in dreams among the stars.
Memories of former rooms
where the old inhabitants still dwell,
shadows among the shadows,
some still gifted with limited
powers of speech,
but others, tongue-tied and silent,
and our chatter reduced
to a net of butterfly buzz words.

Oh for the freedom of flight,
for the liberty of my language found anew
and capable still of shaping and recreating
the world of silence in which I now live.

Based on a Welsh Poem by Harri Webb
Colli iaith a cholli urddas.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Losing Language

Tangled Web

Tangled Web

“Oh what a tangled web we weave
when we first practice to deceive.”


But who are we deceiving, us or them,
ourselves for believing our own propaganda
or them for being deceived by what they hear?

Propaganda, properly goosed,
and the goose wrung by its neck
and strung up to dry before
we pluck it, season it, and cook it
in its own grease
for a heavy Christmas dinner
so much cheaper than a chicken
or a turkey, unless
we breed them ourselves.

Or would you rather duck?
What’s that flying over there?
I don’t know.
Here comes another one.
Flying low.
“Duck!”

Or, as the duck said at Christmas:
“Peace on earth:
but put an end to peas,
please.”

Sound of Absence

Sound of Absence

It’s a lonely walk round the animal park,
the petting zoo with its animated young,
goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, all of them
greedy and alert, ears pricked, eyes open,
munching away, hand-fed by the visitors.

Only the wind moves the swings today.
We walk in silence, but don’t stay long.
That little body that swung the swings,
those little feet that raced from place
to place at such a bewildering pace…

they are not here. We watched them board
the plane, fly up into the sky, head west
and home, and now we, the old folk,
abandoned, hold hands, and walk alone.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sound of Absence


Portrait of Moo

Moo by Fin

Finley has left. She has left me with a selection of her art and instructions to ‘show it to the world’. S o, here we have the Portrait of Moo by Fin. I guess many of you don’t know who Moo is, but don’t worry about it, neither do I and Fin has been busy for three weeks, trying to work it out for herself. Oh dear – what can the matter be? Finish the song for yourself, if you remember it in any of its many versions.

Meanwhile, I go back to my old friend, Robbie Burns, with whom I spoke only yesterday. He spoke to me through my eyes and, as I sat there talking, I digested his words of wisdom: “Ah would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.” The giftie gie us is, as you well know, the Scottish dialect for what comes out in Standard English as the gift give us.

So that’s how Fin sees Moo. When I next meet him, if he cares to show up chez nous, I will show him Fin’s portrait and ask him what he thinks. Until then, his identity – and I am assuming he is a he not a she – must remain a mystery as mysterous as this mysterious painting that appeared on my desk.

Redemption

Redemption

I had no paper with me in the car
and wrote this on a bottle redemption slip.

Redemption:
that’s what I seek
and some days it seeks me.
A double need this need to redeem
and be redeemed. A double need too
this god I need, the god who needs me.

Lonely he will be without me,
and I without him.
Knock and the door will open.
Seek and ye shall find.

I look and, yes, he’s there,
him within me and me within him.

This redemption slip is all I need:
empty bottles on the one hand,
my empty heart on the other,
both now redeemed.

All of this while I sit in the car.
outside Wendy’s or outside Taco Bell,
sitting quite still and ready to wait,
not knowing my upcoming fate.

Listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Redemption.

Floribundia

Floribundia

Words grow like flowers, invasive, cruel, beautiful, cutting, and when cut, they wither and fade, just like flowers. Catch them while you can, I say. Catch them, hold them tight, press them to you heart, for time is voracious and will soon devour them, swallowing them down in the black holes of forgetfulness, carelessness, and memory loss. Shine a light on your words. Underline them, grace them with stars, think about them, carefully. And remember, the word once spoken or written can never, ever be recalled.

Joy of Light

I wait for words to descend, soft, peaceful.
They brush my mind with the soft touch of a grey
jay’s wings. When they refuse to come, I know
that silence is golden. Sunshine spreads its early
morning light, upwards, under the blinds, into
my room and my eyelashes radiate its rainbow.

Light from the rose window in Chartres
once spread its spectrum over my hands,
and I rejoiced in the glory of its speckled glow.
I spread my fingers before my face and marveled
at the suit of lights clothing my body. In such
splendour mortal things like words cease to flow.

Words are inadequate. They cannot express what I feel
when I breathe in color and light and my heart
expands into an everlasting rose, as red as dawn,
as bright as a blushing sunrise over Minister’s Island.
Flowers burst into bloom. A sense of immanent beauty
fills me as light, and warmth, and joy disperse night’s gloom.

Click to hear Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Floribundia & Joy of Light