Flowers

Flowers

“With freedom, flowers, books, and the moon, who could not be perfectly happy?” Oscar Wilde

Yesterday I bought my beloved some flowers. I searched among the bunches in the supermarket to find some that were not full blown but ready to spring from bud to blossom. I had the freedom to buy and with it the freedom that comes from having a little bit of money to spare for those frivolities that keep love alive at any age.

As for books, I read them and I write them, and sometimes they write me, and sometimes I can tell the difference, and some times I can’t. “What is this life, if full of greed we have no time to sit and read. Or when we lay awake at night, we don’t have time to think or write.”

Then there is the moon. “Please let the light that shines on me, shine on the one I love.” An old sea-farers’ song also sung by the beloved left behind on the home shore. There are few things as fascinating as a garden in the moonlight. Delightful too are night flowers blossoming beneath a full moon. “Boys and girls come out to play, the moon is shining as bright as day. Leave your pillows and leave your sheets and join your playfellows in the streets.”

So there you have a recipe for perfect happiness. Freedom from need, cash for frivolities and flowers, moonlight in which to serenade one’s beloved, and a book in which to record the recipe and keep it fresh in mind – add them one by one, stir them gently, plant them – and may perfect happiness blossom for you, too.

Mallards

Mallards

They flew twice around the house, then settled in on the snow. Not a pond in sight. Six of them: beautiful. The snow was fairly fresh and they sort of swam through it, looking very clumsy. Between low light, fly screens, and dirty winter windows, the photos aren’t great. But what fun. This is the best way to shoot things: with a camera.

“Duck! Here comes another one!”

Spiders

Spiders

The spider plant
spins out web after web,
all knotted together,
then ejected
from the central nest.

One landed on my floor
the other afternoon
with an enormous clunk.
A huge new set of offspring
and roots ejected and sent
on a voyage of discovery
to find a new home.

Mala madre / bad mother.
Oaxacans have a curious way
of naming their plants.
I lived in an apartment
above a courtyard
filled with malas madres.

A Bird of Paradise
nested in the same tree,
while in the garden
a banana plant, in flower,
a huge hibiscus,
and such a variety
of prize poinsettias
that I could never get
the varieties straight:
red, white, cream, single,
clotted, and double-crowned.

In the powder room,
downstairs, our hibiscus
is about to break
into winter blooms.

Sider mites crawl all over it.
Every day, I hunt them down,
squishing them whenever I can.

My daughter calls me cruel
and a padre malo.

I say ‘no: it’s them
or the hibiscus.
You can’t have both.’

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Spiders


Why?

Why?

“Where are you going?” I ask again.
 “To see a man about a dog,” my father replies.
  “Why?” I ask.
  “Hair of the dog,” his voice ghosts through the rapidly closing crack as the front door shuts behind him.
  “Why?” I cry out.
 Years later I remember this episode. The mud nest nestles tight against a beam beneath our garage roof. Tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open. Parent birds sit on a vantage point of electric cable, their beaks moving in silent encouragement. A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw, a small body thudding down a ladder of air to crash beak first on the concrete.
“Why?” I ask.
The age-old answer come back to me.
“Wye is a river. It flows through Ross-on-Wye and marks the boundary between England and Wales.”
The swallows perch on the rafters watching their fledgling as it struggles on the floor, the weakening wing flaps, the last slow kicks of the twitching legs.
“Why?” I ask.”
“Y is a crooked letter invented by the Green Man of Wye.”
“Why?” I repeat. “I want to know why.”
Silence hangs a question mark over the unsatisfied spaces of my questing mind.
A golden oldie. We would all like to know why. But there are no answers. Just riddles cast, like two trunk-less legs of stone, on the sands of time. Nothing beside remains. Yet still we ask the age old question: why? And still we receive the age-old answers from those ageing wise men who ruled our childhood and taught us everything they knew.
“Why?”
“Because.”

Comment:

Alas, we have lost our hollyhocks, not all of them, but most. They have been drowned in torrential rain, blown and bent, ravished by raging winds, and they have been scorched in a heat-warning scorched earth policy that left them and the garden all forlorn. As for the lawn, between chinch bug, crows, raccoons, and a surge in weeds and bugs, it is a desolation.

What is worse: they were so beautiful, those hollyhocks. Multi-coloured, stately, and tall. Hopefully, they will return next year. We do hope so. And equally hopefully next year will be a better year for them. And for you and me. Meanwhile, I savour the photos and mourn their loss. Meanwhile…

“Why?” I ask “Why?”

The answer echoes back across the years in well-known voices that have long been silenced.

“Because.”

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks

I have published three books this year and I am working on a fourth and a fifth. Somehow, the blog, like these hollyhocks, seems ephemeral. It will not out last me, though its seedlings, children and grandchildren, may creep into my printed books and remain a lot longer. These, incidentally, are the children and grandchildren of the first hollyhock grown in the garden. I think a little bird must have dropped it about five years ago. Now it has seeded and reseeded itself. Reseed, yes — recede, we hope not. They are so tall we can sit in the kitchen and they are at eye level with us.

And don’t forget the yucca. He was $120 in the local garden store. Reduced to half price ($60). Then to $50. “We are in the wrong zone for yuccas,” I told the salesman. “Yours for $20, then. He probably won’t last.” That was 32 years ago. And baby, just look at that yucca now.

He hides behind the hollyhocks, but he doesn’t live in their shade. Not by any means. There are so many things to see and do. The blog seems to have drifted by a little bit. I know it’s lonely, but I haven’t forgotten it, as the hollyhocks haven’t forgotten the yucca and vice versa. It’s just that it’s summertime and things are busy and well, I guess I’ll try to do a little bit better. I promise!

Monet at Giverny

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Monet at Giverny

Day’s executioner stripes evening
across the sacrificed horizon.
In blood he was born, in earth
will he rest his flesh, turning it into bread.
Purple this imperial wine streaming with day’s
death, ruffling these troubled waters.

Green footprints, the lily pads.
A halo, this drowned man’s beard,
liquescent. Like the gods, he dreamed
he walked dry on water.
Stepping stones, these goldfish
flowering beneath this thin line of cloud.

Maples flash ruby thoughts that ripple
outwards, waves cast upon a liquid sky
towards what farther shores?

Wisteria blesses him with its curly blue locks.
Narcissus, he clads himself in an abyss of lilies,
imperial, his reflection, and imperiled.
Slowly he slides to sleep, merging into his dream:
a vaulted cathedral, his earthbound ribs,
the blood space immaculate.

His lily pond turns into a fallen mirror,
shattering as it ripples in the breeze.
Shards of clouds flare like flames. Fractured
fish, red and gold, shelter beneath white lilies.

Night and day, sun and moon, leapfrog
over tranquil water. Something always survives:
sepia tints, old photos, dreaming on and on.

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Books for Sale

Nochebuena

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Poinsettia is called nochebuena in Oaxaca.
It also means ‘Christmas Eve’ in Spanish.

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Nochebuena

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.

Passerines

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Passerines

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Returning passerines jostle and shove,
greedy to approach the feeder.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Grosbeaks

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Grosbeaks, greedy for sunflower seeds,
jostle, shove, and push, to establish
their pecking order at the picnic table.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Comment: What’s in a name? Change the birds and the poem changes. The same poem? Or is it? Does only the title change? I’ll let you decide. Do you have a preference? Please tell me.

Monet at Giverny

Monet at Giverny

1

his lily pond
a mirror shattering

shards of clouds

flames beneath the lilies
fractured fish

2

the executioner stripes evening
across the sacrificed horizon

in blood we were born
 in earth will we rest
our flesh turned to bread

empurpled this imperial wine
streaming with day’s death
 these troubled waters

3

green footprints
the lily pads
a halo
this drowned man’s beard
liquescent

like the gods
he dreamed
he walked dry
on water

flowering goldfish
this thin line of cloud

4

maples flash ruby thoughts
ripples flowing outwards

as heavy as a stone at Stonehenge
this altar tumbling downwards
through a liquid sky

5

wisteria and his curly blue locks
Narcissus clad in an abyss of lilies
imperial his reflection and perilous

slowly he slides to sleep
merging into his imaged dream

a vaulted cathedral
his earthbound ribs
the blood space immaculate

6

night and day and sun and clouds
leapfrogging over water

something survives
sepia tints
dreaming on and on

exotic this sudden movement
Carassius auratus flowering

7

Clos Normand and the Grande Allée
closed to him now
folded his flowers
their petals tight at his nightfall

dark their colours
mourning for his mornings of light
fled far from him now

8

can we soften this sunstroke of brightness
le roi soleil threatening to blind us?

rey de oros
the sun glow braiding itself
an aureate palette

a susurration of leaves

9

the lady of the lake
holding out her hand
handing him an apple

l’offrande du Coeur
 a scarlet heart of flame

monochromatic this island
brown earth in a crimson lake
the world reborn in tulips

10

Especially
 when the dying sun

molten fire spreading
a limpid light
sky brimming over into pond

trapped in low clouds
a slash of colour here
and there a tree
a fountain of gold

the sun an apple
blushing
on a setting branch

11

silver-white the money plant
moonlight between fine-tuned fingers
its rattle of seeds

blunt the moon’s bite
raked from water
gaunt its gesture

twin ripples
face to face
with the moon

12

upside down these clouds
bright in their winter boats

the night wind blows
clean dry bones
across the sky

13

fish aloft like birds
skimming wet sunshine

spring’s first swallow
rising from the depths
to snatch a golden note
quivering in the air

14

thunder raises dark ripples

lightning a forked tongue
insinuated into paradise

an apple tossed away
caution thrown over the shoulder
as sharp as salt

15

winds of change

that first bite
too bitter to remember

16

timeless this tide
this ebb and flow

oh great pond-serpent

biting yourself
forever

Earth to Earthlings

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March 1 is St. David’s Day: Dewi Sant, patron saint of Wales. While we are here, immersed in cold and snow, in Wales, spring is arriving, the daffodils are out, trees are budding. This poem is a reminder that winter will end and sunshine and spring will return. So for St. David’s Day, I wish you joy and hope.

Earth to Earthlings

“Get out and about,” she told me.
Take off your socks and shoes.
Walk barefoot on the earth and grass:
twin pleasures, you can choose.”

I took two canes, one in each hand,
and left the house to walk the land.

In the garden I took off my shoes
to walk barefoot on the lawn;
when grass sprang up between my toes
I was instantly reborn.

I stood in the shade of the crab apple tree
and let leaf and flower spill over me.

Sunlight took away my frown
and freckled a smile on my face.
I was blessed again with hope and light;
earth and grass filled me with grace

When white blossoms filtered down
they gifted me a flowery crown.

I stooped to reach my shoes
and carried them home in my hand,
maintaining as long as I could
my contact with this magic land.

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