Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Long gone, those good old days, dead and gone,
their centers collapsed in on themselves
unable to hold on to time’s hands
circling the clock of ages, that timeless rock.

Beyond these days, long days when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier and even more heavy
with life lying in wait, to weigh us down,
always lying, and the lies themselves
more rocks added to the pile we must carry.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this endless hill only to have them roll down,
again and again, forcing us to stoop once more,
not to conquer, but merely to live our lives,
to journey onwards, relentlessly, to endure
from the beginning of the end until the last,
and we must endure, will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sisyphus




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.








Grief

Grief

Grief leads us to the cliff’s edge.
It hardens our features,
brings tears to our eyes,
or turns our hearts into stones,
hard as rocks, cement blocks
that feel nothing.

Sometimes it pushes us
over the edge and we fall,
down, down, into a darkness
that never, ever seems to end.

Friends desert us.
Food is fruitless and fallow.
Our table top is a desert,
barren and bare,
with a lone and level
patchwork cloth that stretches
into far-reaching Saharas,
Gobi wastes of endless sand.

Who will resurrect the dying heart?
Who will hold it in their hands
and bring it pulsing back to life?
If you won’t do it for yourself
nobody else will care to try.

Think of the happy times,
the times when the sun shone,
the earth was warm,
and your life was a walk
in a garden full of flowers.

Then feel the sharp stones
beneath your feet and know
that joy and sorrow,
laughter and tears,
sun and clouds and rainbows too
will always grow
to lighten the lives
of all of us who dwell below.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Grief


The Way

The Way

Old Roman Road
Puerto del Pico


I sought the way and thought
I had found the way, but now
I feel I have lost my way.
Long walked I in shadow and sun,
hard Roman road beneath my feet.

Then I found bleached beach sand,
heard the sea-gull’s piercing sound,
walked sun-path, moon-path, bright
across a shimmering bay and knew
that by chance I had found my way.

Then came the way of ice and snow,
Hudson Bay parka, the ski way,
the snow shoe way of winter boots,
and still I believed, eyes wide open
that I knew I was still on the way.

Now my feet are old and slow.
Blood runs cold, bones ache,
head spins, heart is an ambush,
lungs throb and clutch at air,
head in hands I sit in despair,
hoping to be found,
draped over a shoulder,
brought safe to flatter ground,
comforted, and set again on my way.

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Way

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

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.

A Rub of the Green

A Rub of the Green

A child among timeworn men, I learn traditional songs, if ever there’s going to be a life hereafter, with the correct words, no messing about with watered down lyrics, for back in the Emerald Isle ‘they’re hanging men and women for the wearing of the green’. I listen as all the ageless grievances are aired yet again by the exiles who parade around the family kitchen.
            I study the old ways and practice songs and tales from Ireland until they become familiar. As for those men, I met them in later life, at my mother’s funeral, knowing I had never really known them or understood them, those uncles and cousins, realizing that my family had split apart a long time ago down religious and racial lines. Yet I still sensed our closeness and recognized the familiar map of Ireland drawn in their ageing faces.
            Their Weltanschauung was Irish Catholic while mine was Anglo-Welsh, tinged with Methodism. Each new school I attended introduced me to a new faith and eventually I believed in none of them. I became an outcast, standing on the outside, looking in. I often wonder what the early immigrants to Canada the French and English, Irish and Scottish, when they first came here. What did they see and, conversely, how were those people seen, and by whom? Who now will tell those stories and bring those early cultures back to life?
            Today, I sit on the shore at Indian Point and listen to the silence. I wait for the wind’s whisper as it whisks all footprints from the sand. I hear the song of the sea as it rises and falls. In my mind’s eye, I watch the rocks as they slowly crumble and I repeat the song of the stones as they grind together, metamorphosing unhurriedly into sand.
            It takes a juggler to hold all this ancient world together especially when the old nests are empty and the birds have all flown. Wave foam slips into a single footprint abandoned in the mud and sand. All around me there are tales to tell and songs to sing. Some of them are even mine.
            I often think about an immigrant’s first foot-print, a lone print on an empty beach, waiting to be swept away by the rising tide.  Man Friday, perhaps. Or was it Man Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday … Man Saturday is best. But it’s never on a Sunday, so Man Sunday is as impossible as Woman Sunday, for the sadness of our memories exiles our better halves, our better two-thirds, our better three-quarters.
            All around us, there are songs to sing, stories to tell, words to repeat, wordless moments to recreate. “Patience and shuffle the cards,” Cervantes wrote. “Distinguish between all those false sirens, your one true voice.” That’s Antonio Machado. Find your own star and follow it. That might even be me, though it’s probably in the I Ching or the Daily Horoscope.
            The nests were all empty. The birds had flown. Who wants to live alone in a jack pine crow’s nest hotel in the Land of his Fathers where nobody knows him, where he doesn’t speak the language, and where he now feels ill at ease? The last time I visited the UK, I sat on the English side of the Severn Bridge, drinking a cup of tea, but I couldn’t cross that bridge, and I couldn’t stay in a htoel, in the Land of my birth, where I no longer knew anyone.
            Not that Wales was ever the Land of my Fathers, for my father was born in England, and my grandfather in Ireland. The Land of my Mother, perhaps, for she was actually born there. But the Land of my Mother never appears in any national anthem, and Mother is always singular while apparently a man can have more than one father, depending I suppose on the rub of the green.

Cloud of Unknowing

Cloud of Unknowing

Sometimes the yearning heart
wraps itself in a cloud of unknowing.
Then come doubts and fears and a sense
of being alone and abandoned,
adrift on a rising sea, with night
drawing nigh and no horizon in sight.

But, at the centre of that cloud
that aching heart still thirsts
for cool water to soothe and cure
the ills of an internal world
that seeks a lighthouse on a shore
yet finally finds that light within itself,
and then is safe, and lost no more.