Garcilasso

Garcilasso

“When I stand still and contemplate
the path that led me here.”

I see purple arrows
painted on the corridor floors
their sharp ends
pointing to the treatment room
where the machine’s stark metal throat
waits to swallow me.

I shed my Johnny Coat
and lie on the bed.
I mustn’t move
as they adjust me
tugging me this way and that,
in accordance with the red marks
painted on my belly and hips.

Then they raise my feet,
place them in a plastic holder,
cover me with a thin cotton sheet,
and leave the room to take refuge
in the safety of their concrete bunker.

With a click and a whirr,
the bed moves up and in,
the ceiling descends
and claustrophobia clutches.

The machine circulates
weaving its clockwork magic:
targeting each tumor, scrubbing me clean,
scouring my body, scarring my mind.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Garcilasso

Comment: It all happened a long time ago now, but one never forgets. The desire to reach out and help and comfort any and all sufferers is still with me. This is the link for my book, A Cancer Chronicle.

We’ll rant and we’ll roar…

We’ll rant and we’ll roar

Rant, I say, rant and rage away, rage, rage against
the death of friendship, and loathing built now
on what was once holy oath and undying love.
This is a blood sport where even the spectators
are spattered with the refined frenzy of friends
turned into fiends and foes, and this is a protest,
a rant against love that doesn’t last, that doesn’t stand
the test of time, against families that break up,
against a society that breaks them up, driving wedges
and knives between people once bound
by the puppet strings of love, against relationships
that can no longer continue, against the rattling
of dead white bones in empty cupboards where skeletons
dance their way into legal daylight and the spectators
 call for more: more blood, more money, more blood money,
and the engagement diamond is a blood diamond now,
a tarnished garnet, and where is the Little Old Lady
of Threadneedle Street, that spire inspired needle
that will stitch their world back together,
and stitch you back together when you’ve been shocked
out of your own ruby-sweet rose-tinted world
and torn into little bits in their oh-so-bitter one,
the biters bitten and those bitten biting back in return,
 a new world this world of snapping turtles,
turtles standing on the back of turtles, and turtle after turtle
all the way down until this carnival world puts down
its dead clown mask and turns turtle in its turn.

Comment: My thanks to Brian Henry for publishing this on Quick Brown Fox.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
We’ll rant and we’ll roar

The Dying of the Light

The Dying of the Light
Rage, Rage

Sometimes you wake up in the morning
and you realize that you can do no more.
What is it about family split-ups, the ugliness
of a disputed divorce, the glue coming
unstuck in an already unstable marriage,
a financial settlement that satisfies nobody
and impoverishes both sides of a divide?

And how do you bridge that divide
when you are friends with father, mother, children
and the wounds are so deep that everyone wants out,
whatever the costs and whatever it takes?
And what is it about the deliberate wounding
of each by the others, leaving permanent scars
that will never heal over, no matter how hard one tries?

And what is it about lawyers, when too many guests
gather around the Thanksgiving turkey and knives
are out for everyone to take the choicest cuts
leaving nothing but a skeletal carcass,
no flesh on the bones, and the guests all hungry
and their empty bellies rumbling for more, more, more.

My thanks to Brian Henry for publishing this on Quick Brown Fox.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

The Auld Enemy

The Auld Enemy

Divide and Conquer

They divided us into houses, Spartans and Trojans,
and encouraged us to compete with each other,
single combat, and then team against team,
house against house, eternal, internal civil war.

We divided ourselves into Cavaliers and Roundheads,
Monarchists and Parliamentarians, Protestants and Catholics,
and we continued those uncivil wars that marred the monarchy,
brought down the crown, and executed the Lord’s anointed.

We fought bitterly, tribe against tribe, religion against religion,
circumcised against uncircumcised, dorm against dorm,
class against class, territorial warfare. We defended our bounds,
bonding against all outsiders to guard each chosen ground.

With it came the denigration of the other. Not our class.
Scholarship boy. Wrong end of town. Wrong accent.
We don’t talk like that here. Speak the Queen’s English, you…
and here … we inserted the appropriate word of vilification.

Our wars never ended. We carried them from prep school
to junior school, to senior school, sometimes changing
sides as we changed schools or houses, always clinging
grimly to our best friends, protectors, and those we knew best.

After school, all those prejudices continued to hold us down,
haunted us through university, red-brick or inspired spires,
Trinity Oxford, Trinity Cambridge, or Trinity Dublin,
each gilded with the white sniff of snobbery that gelded us.

Alas, we carried them, piled in our intellectual rucksacks,
through university, into grad school, out into the wide world,
infinitely small minds based on prejudice and pride, continuing
our tribal warfare, unable to understand anything at all,
other than us or them, shoulder to shoulder, divide and conquer.

Comment: My thanks to Brian Henry for publishing this on Quick Brown Fox.

Click here to listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Auld Enemy: Divide and Conquer

Bruised

Bruised

The clematis unfolds its flowers: 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. 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 waking dreams: 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 sharp as glass, as brittle as a bitter, furred tongue at winter’s end.

I know for certain that a dog fox hunts for my heart. Vicious as a vixen, the dog fox digs deep at midnight, unearthing the dried peas I shifted from bowl to bowl to count the hours as I lay sick 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 defunct delphiniums, body after body, into their shallow graves. Night’s shadows weave illusions from earth’s old bones. 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 dance step by step with circling 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.

Click here to listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Bruised

Fearful Friday

Fearful Friday

“I met a traveler from an antique land
who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
tell that its sculptor well those passions read
which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
the lone and level sands stretch far away.”
[Percy Bysshe Shelley]

Comment: Not my poem – I only wish it was – but certainly it expresses some of my sentiments at the current time. What on earth is happening? Who do we think we are? What do we think we’re doing? Where do we think we are going? ‘Vanity of vanities – all is vanity.’

Vis brevis. Ars longa.

Click here for Roger’s reading of Shelley’s poem.
Fearful Friday – Ozymandias – on Acorn

Ghosts

Ghosts

Who are they, these ghosts
who flit into our lives
and leave us foundering
in treacherous waters
as we search for
enlightenment and meaning?

Why do they return,
revenants, to disturb
our peace and quiet,
and to trouble our sleep.

Who are they?
So deep, so distant,
we no longer know them.
Memory’s fish-hook
cannot snag them,
cannot haul them
back into daylight reality
far from night’s net
of silvery dreams.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Ghosts

Comment: I read the poem out loud, copied it to Anchor and Spotify, then found I didn’t like the way it sounded. So, I rewrote it. That accounts for the difference between the sound recording and the revised written text. Fun and games.

Empty Nest

Empty Nest

X marks the spot
where the energy ran out,
the moment when the tide turned
and water ebbed instead of flowing.

A place… a time…the sudden scent
not of presence, but of absence.
The absence of movement,
noise, of that other body
that once walked the rooms,
floors, opening and shutting doors,
windows, a robin’s whistle,
a thrush’s trilled song…
gone now, gone, all gone.

We drift through silent sadness,
avoid each other’s eyes,
sit with our heads in our hands
or knit our fingers together
in desperate gestures
that express our emptiness,
the emptiness of an empty nest…

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Empty Nest

Revisionism

Revisionism

Chalk on a blackboard.
Black, red, blue, green markers
on a white board.

Here comes the eraser.
The board is wiped clean,
or almost clean, figures,
letters, blurred, just about
ready for the next class.
This happens again and again.

What remains?
Notes in a student’s book?
Memories of a lesson
in tedious boredom,
the teacher droning on and on.

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

Yesterday’s lessons:
dry dust of a doctoral thesis.

Revisionism:
“What color is the blackboard?”
“Last year, it was green, but
this year, the blackboard is white.”

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Revisionism

Gilt Trip

Gilt Trip

A walking gilt trip
and the woes of the journey
packed into the old kit bag
that bends your back
and weighs down your shoulders.

Take care lest you stumble,
for if you stumble
you will surely fall, and every fall
is a precipice that will never allow you
to get back up again.

Where is the stranger, the faceless one,
the as-yet-unknown one who will care
just because he cares and will help you
stand up once more on your own two feet?

Take root where you stand.
Plant your feet solidly into the ground.
The winds of change will blow,
but they will not topple you.

Raise your eyes to the sunrise.
Strive upwards, ever upwards,
turn towards the light,
that fragile lightness
of everlasting light.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
G
ilt Trip