The End of Time

Meditations on Messiaen.
Quartet for the End of Time.

3

The End of Time

A thin violin crying
its cat-gut heart out
in tears of sound, falling,
rhythmic raindrops,
down a grey-streaked face
tight with stress and pain.

Such concentration,
such soulfulness packed
into each mindful note.

An audience of one,
I sit, head bowed,
meditating on the meaning
of meaning and nothingness,
the nothingness of being condemned
to oblivion yet oblivious
of the how and when.

Each note a hammer-blow,
then, the piano hammering nail
after nail into this coffin body
I drag through the motions
of extracting meaning
from this meaningless life.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

The End of Time

Dance of the Spheres

Dance of the Spheres
Thursday Thoughts
26 August 2021

I thought for a moment that, yes,

I was an angel and I was dancing

on a pinhead with so many other

angels, and all of us butterflies

spreading our wings with their peacock

eyes radiant with joy and tears spark

-ling in time to the music that wanders

up and down and around with inscrutable

figures held spell-bound in a magic moment

… and I still feel that pulsing in my head,

that swept up, heart stopping sensation

when the heavens opened and the eternal

choir raised us up from the earth, all

earthbound connections severed and all

of us held safe in an Almighty hand.



Comment: This poem is from my book A Cancer Chronicle (2017) where it is published under the title Sewing Circle. While in the Auberge Monsieur Henri Cormier, in Moncton, undergoing treatment, I joined the quilting group. What fun, one anglophone man learning French from, a dozen Acadian women. What fun: and yes, I did learn a tremendous amount about so many things, including the peace, mindfulness, and inner concentration of sewing and quilting.


A Cancer Chronicle
The verse-story of one man’s journey
Click on the link below to purchase this book

A Cancer Chronicle

Dance of the Snow Flies

Dance of the Snow Flies

“When the snow flies…” they keep saying.
I have seen blackfly, felt them nesting in my hair,
picking painlessly at my scalp, until, next day,
the itching begins and the bites get scratched,
one after another, until they turn into scabs.

But I had never seen a snow fly, hard as I tried.
When the geese fly… yes, I have seen and wondered
at their spring invasion and their autumn retreat.
I have marveled too at the goslings’ rapid growth,
those golden fluff balls taking first to the water,
and then one day, suddenly, they rise in the air.

Last year, in a moment of madness, I stood beneath
Aurora Borealis and marveled at the sky’s flickering
colors. The light became sound and it was then,
astounded, I saw them dancing, those snow flies,
dancing me senseless, in their rainbows of light.

Listen to the podcast here.
Dance of the Snow Flies.


Comment: “La Poesía se explica sóla, si no, no se explica” — famous words by Pedro Salinas the great Spanish poet of the Generation of 1927, who taught at Johns Hopkins University. So, I will not attempt to explain my words. They stand for themselves, or not, as the case may be.

However, I will venture into the area of the cliché and the commonplace. People use so many phrases without thinking about what they mean. To examine the cliché and explore its meaning is a delight. What are snow flies? And what will they do when that moment of their release comes about? When the snow flies dance beneath the Northern Lights on a late fall night in New Brunswick, they become visible to the watchful human eye. And now you know what happens “when the snow flies… dance!”

Calling It a Day

Calling it a Day

This auriferous sky, sewn with sharp sequins.
Is there a warp, a leaning towards meaning,
a lurch maybe towards the moon’s dark side?
Questions: knights-errant questing for answers.

Who planted our DNA into that first Garden?
Or did the garden fill us with its own seeds?
Why did those little plants take root and grow?
Why do they now wander everywhere, restless?

This auriferous sky, sewn with sharp sequins.
Is there a warp, a leaning towards meaning,
a lurch maybe towards the moon’s dark side?
Questions: knights-errant questing for answers.

Rampant feet patrol our castle’s heights
while we seek instant gratification, swift
possession, our fingers probe each passing
cloud, reaching for all, but grasping none.

A satellite glides its razor edge, slices
the night’s eye into pin pricks of light.
The moon balances her orange unicycle
on thin black lines, hills edged with trees.

Lesser incandescence of a departed sun,
that low, lone moon slowly climbs the sky.
Released from their earthbound burdens,
who knocks this night at heaven’s gate?

Here on the back porch, midnight slowly
covers me with its dark gray cape of grief.
My grief is your grief, your grief is mine, all
grief is one, why do we all then grieve in vain?

A Theory of the Absurd

A Theory of the Absurd

I wonder what I’m doing here, so far from home, sitting
at the bar, with my beer before me, my face distorted
in half a dozen fairground mirrors, surrounded by
people half my age, or less, all smoking, cursing, using
foreign forms of meta-language, gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose, two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin with a sort
of snort of disapproval. It’s way beyond my bedtime, yet
I am held here, captured, body and soul, by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual that runs on unbroken
cycles of time: morning brandy, pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal, a brief siesta, back to the café
for a post-prandial raising of spirits, more blanco, then back
to work at four and struggle on until seven or eight when
the bar routine begins again with pre-supper tapas and tinto.
Who am I? What am I? Where am I going? I wander, restless,
 streets and squares, enter other bars and restaurants, consume
verdejo, manzanilla, tinto de verano, the original and many
 falsifications, in corner bars, on patios, sampling liqueurs,
cognacs and coñac, Fundador, Carlos Quinto, Torres Diez,
sol y sombra, Cuarenta y Tres, pasteles con café quemado.
Time, comprehended in this new life-cycle, lacks meaning.
Time, in a cycle I have long abandoned, is meaningless too.

Man from Merthyr

Man from Merthyr

Memory loss punched holes in your head
and let in the dark, instead of the light.
Constellations faded from your sight,
erased by the arch-angel’s coal-dust wing.

 “I’m shrinking,” you said, the last time I saw you,
you, who had been taller, were now smaller than me.

 Tonight, when the harvest moon shines bright
and drowns the stars in its sea of light,
I will sit by my window and watch for your soul
as it rides its coal-fired rocket to eternity.

My eyes will be dry. I do not want pink runnels
running down this coal-miner’s unwashed face.
I’ll sing you a Welsh lullaby, to help you sleep.

“When the coal comes from the Rhondda
down the Merthyr-Taff Vale line,
when the coal comes from the Rhondda
I’ll be there.”

With you, my friend, shoulder to shoulder.
“With my golden pick and shovel, I’ll be there.”
Farewell, my friend, safe journey, sleep deep,
as deep as a Rhondda coal mine may you sleep.

Survivors

Survivors

Last night’s rainstorm shrank the house.
We closed down rooms
and now the walls are closing in.
There’s so much we no longer use, nor visit,
so many rooms we no longer enter.

Almost all our friends downsized long ago.
We are the holdouts. We love it here
in this big house with its lawns and trees
and flowerbeds with bees’ balm, butterflies, birds,
and the yard abuzz with sunshine and bees.

But now we are starting to throw things out.
Maybe we’ll move, next summer perhaps,
or maybe not. For now is the time of indecision.

Like friends of the same age,
we travel the lesser road of memory loss,
a name and a face here,
a date or phone number there.

Perhaps, when the time comes,
we will have forgotten how to move.
Meanwhile, the mandatory old man’s question:
‘where did I put my glasses?’

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.”

Inquisitor

Remember to scroll down to get the correct audio episode on Spotify

Inquisitor

Inquisitor

He told me to read,
and plucked my left eye from its orbit.
He slashed the glowing globe of the other.
Knowledge leaked out, loose threads dangled.
He told me to speak and I squeezed dry dust
to spout a diet of Catechism and Confession.

He emptied my mind of poetry and history.
He destroyed the myths of my people.
He filled me with fantasies from a far-off land.
I live in a desert where people die of thirst,
yet he talked to me of a man who walked on water.

On all sides, as stubborn as stucco,
the prison walls listened and learned.
I counted the years with feeble scratches:
one, five, two, three.

For an hour each day the sun shone on my face,
for an hour at night the moon kept me company.
Broken worlds lay shattered inside me.
Dust gathered in my people’s ancient dictionary.

My heart was like a spring sowing
withering in my chest
It longed for the witch doctor’s magic,
for the healing slash of wind and rain.

The Inquisitor told me to write down our history:
I wrote … how his church … had come … to save us.

Inquisitor was also a requested reading last Saturday. My promise, to put it up on the blog, with a reading in my own voice is now fulfilled. I love this poem: it speaks volumes about the Catholic Church in Oaxaca and the relationship of the Dominicans with the local people, aboriginals all and inhabitants of the Valley of Oaxaca for at least 10,000 years. The numbers represent the approximate date, 1523, of the arrival of the Conquistadores in Oaxaca, about three years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, now Mexico City. The poem, Inquisitor, can be found in Sun and Moon and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot, both available through this link.

Stars at Elbow and Foot

Stars at Elbow and Foot

Stars at Elbow and Foot
(Selected Poems,1979-2009)
is now available online at the following link:

Purchase
Stars at Elbow and Foot

“These poems reveal an impressive tenderness and have a very great variety.
The ceaseless radiation of sublime ideas is perceptible in these poems.”

“A poetry book is a dream you hold in your hands.”