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Nochebuena / Christmas Eve: last year, a star fell down the chimney and landed on the poinsettia. The cat and the dog stood up to deliver new versions of their Christmas vision. Birch bark: ghosts on the snow bank turned white in the moonlight as they danced, so slender and so bright.
This year an obsidian knife hacks through my mind slicing it into two uneven pieces. Snowflakes invade its split personality. Thin ice spreads across glacial fires. Incarcerated birds sing deep in my rib cage. A child’s world: with its lost toys lies buried beneath fresh snow.
Tears freeze in my eyes, drip from my eyelashes, and fall to the earth as stars. Soon I will be an enormous sunflower, trapped in this wet clay rag of a body.
If I sit here in silence will the world, like a garden growing wild, go on without me? The flowers in my yard close their mouths and refuse to answer.
The clematis unfolds bruised purple on the porch. 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 while the evening stretches out a shadow hand to squeeze my heart like an orange in its skin. Somewhere, the white throat sparrow trills its guillotine of vertical notes. I flap my hands in the air and they float like butterflies, amputated in sunlight’s net. The light fails fast. I hold up shorn stumps of flowers for the night wind to heal and a chickadee chants an afterlife built of spring branches. 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. I know for sure that a dog fox hunts for my heart. Vicious as a vixen, the fox digs deep at midnight, unearthing the dried peas I shifted from bowl to bowl to measure time as I lay in bed. I sense a whimper at the window, the scratch of a paw. I watch a dead leaf settle down in a broken corner and it fills me with sudden silence. Midnight stretches out a long, thin hand and clasps dream-treasures in its tight-clenched fist. The lone dove of my heart flaps in its trap of barren bone and my world is as small as a pea in a shrunken pod. Or is it a dried and blackened walnut in its wrinkled shell of overheating air? Sunset, last night, was a star-shell failing to fire. Swallows flew their evensong higher and higher, striving for that one last breath lapped from the dying lisp of day. Its last blush rode red on the clouds for no more than a second’s lustrous afterglow. I lower the delphiniums, body after body, into their shallow graves. Night’s shadows weave illusions from earth’s old bones and rock becomes putty, malleable in the moonlight. Midnight readjusts her nocturnal robes and pulls bright stars from a top hat of darkness. Winged insects with human faces appear with the planets and clutter the owl’s path. Night swallows the swallows and creates more stars. The thin moon hones its cutting edge into an ice-cold blade.
Light in dark bright yellow stridence shrill golden dog’s bark to warn off death’s wolves that freeze her blood
she dreaded night’s unease the devil’s wintry anti-spring life’s darkest sparks
but loved the daffodils’ sunny March cadence of brief piercing dance
Comment: A Golden Oldie. My mother loved daffodils and planted them all over the garden in Cardiff, Wales. They are the national flower of Wales and break into blossom just in time to welcome St. David on St. David’s Day, soon to be upon us, Dydd Dewi Sant.
When I wait for words to come and they refuse, I know that silence is golden and spreads its early morning sunlight across the breakfast table where yellow butter melts on hot toast.
Light from the rose window in Chartres once spread its spectrum over my hands and I bathed in its speckled glow.
My fingers stretched out before me and I was speechless, for in such glory, mortal things like words cease to flow.
So much can never be said even if it is sensed: fresh coffee, poutine à pain, bread baking, flowers bursting into bloom, the sense of immanent beauty that fills me each time my beloved enters the room.
Bottle House, PEI The day begins with flowers: at the entrance, beneath the windows, flowers everywhere, a delicacy of scent. Beyond these flowers, even more flowers, then playthings in the garden: a child’s paradise, these sculptured faces, this glass among the trees, sun and shade, the fountain’s water, this dream of an old man, kept alive now by his children, a dream of health and sanity and peace out by the bay, where the mud red waters roll and the tide’s hand grasps at the land and pulls it down with watery fingers. Everywhere: faces and elements of faces: a nose, eyes, a mouth, open in surprise. Carved wooden faces, glass faces, pottery faces, flesh and blood faces, grandma’s face, grandpa’s face, then the grandchildren. Tourists travelling, old islanders returning to see family and friends, young islanders returning to visit the almost forgotten farms which their families worked a generation or three ago, before their exodus from the land. “This was grampy’s house!” they say or “that was my grandmother’s farm!” as if a life could be reborn in that pointed finger, those casual words. How many memories are snapped in each picture? How many lives are caught in this snapping of the fingers as the past is instantly summoned and perfection is bottled for a second or two in the magic of this house, this garden where the builder’s spirit roams. Sit still awhile. Be silent: you may hear him breathe, glimpse him, for a second, staking out the flowers, extracting a weed, checking the set of the concrete foundations, polishing a bottle, resting on a wooden seat, avoiding the slow snail on the path bejewelled by rain-drops from the trees or spray from the fountain. For where there are flowers, there must be water and rain and peace and happiness and all good things, glimpsed darkly through smoked glass yet grasped so smoothly in the sun’s bright light. This is the house of bottles, the glass house, where rough winds are shunned and the bottles are set in concrete. It is a museum of light and dark, the creation of sun and shadow as sunshine fails and the lighthouse’s flashlight beam reverberates from glass to stone and back again. Shapes, shadows, memories curved and carved in glass, set in glass, this shimmering beacon this glass house, this light house built as a heaven-haven for harboured ships and the soul’s refreshment, here, in these gardens, among these bottles, and at the chapel door, an angel-in-waiting.
Seize the day. Squeeze this moment tight. Nothing before means anything. Everything afterwards is merely hope and dream.
A tiny child, you chased wind-blown leaves trying to catch them before they hit the ground Elf parachutes you called them and trod with care so as not to crush the fallen elves as they lay leaf-bound.
I stand here now, a scarecrow scarred with age, arms held out, palms up, in the hope that a leaf will descend, a fallen sparrow, and rest in my hand.
When one perches on my shoulder and another graces my gray hair, my old heart pumps with joy.
Comment:Autumn in the Garden was framed by Geoff Slater who gifted it to me this summer. Thank you Geoff. A double picture, it shows the flowers and the trees with that first touch of drifting snow. NB it snowed here in Island View early September this year while we still had flowers and leaves. The poem, Carpe Diem, is from a series of quasi-sonnets. Quasi, because they rarely have 14 lines! Oh Petrarch: shake in your shoes.
No Exit a line painting by Geoff for Andrea Slater
Where is the entry point, where the exit? This labyrinth of lines, straight, not circular, baffle the eye, confuse with a negative space that lightens colors and begs more darkness.
Mystery surrounds the sitter’s form: the board walk, no Dutch kitchen this, the chair on which she sits, the locket she wears, the landscape, seascape against which she is framed. White noise, perhaps,
but noise that turns to a single voice, a single line, that of the paint-brush tip-toeing, delicate its thread through interior, exterior meaning, just beyond
the viewer’s grasp. Yet walking past, each person stops, stands still, as the painting draws them in, ties them up, binds them with an ineffable thread, stronger than words,
mightier than the eye that traces its way along paths that deceive, disturb, throw us from the high-wire created by an artist who turns circular colors into linear space.
Comment:No Exit forms a part of my manuscript collection The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature that placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey Award (2020). This collection will soon be made available online at Amazon / KDP.
Geoff Slater the inventor of line-painting, gifted me this painting, one of my hollyhocks about two years ago. This is indeed a gift that keeps on giving.