A Different Kind of Doorway

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A Different Kind of Doorway

When one door closes, another opens. And yes, they are so important, these doors, that open and close. One day everything is open to us; the next, the future seems closed. But another door opens and we walk right through.

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Or maybe we don’t. So much depends. The brain drain, as they called it. The migration of students from Great (as she used to be) Britain to North America.  “Make sure,” they told us, “That you can see light at the end of the tunnel. If you can’t, don’t go.” I went to Canada for a year and stayed here for the rest of my life. I came to New Brunswick for a year and stayed here for the rest of my life.

Regrets? None. Dim o gwbl /  none at all, as we say in Welsh, the language of my maternal grandfather, from the land of my father(s), who never spoke a word of it. A language that I am just learning now with great pleasure, in the evening of my life. I am losing my French. I am losing my Spanish. I am learning Welsh.

So how do we open those doorways? Well, that depends on you, each one of you. Keep your eyes open. Study. Learn. Don’t waste your life. Recognize your talents. Don’t despair. Never give in. Nil carborundum illegitimi. No. Don’t allow yourself to be beaten down. Believe. Breathe deep and believe. And remember: there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Any tunnel. Don’t give up. Never give up. You just have to find that light. Seek: and you will find it.

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Ghost Train

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Ghost Train

Old fair grounds, I remember them well, the coconut shy, the dodgems, the swing boats, what the butler saw, the bearded lady, the tunnel of love, the ghost train … with its skeleton that loomed out of the darkness, the spider webs that draped themselves over your face unless you ducked, the witch on her broomstick, cackling, the flashing lights, the eerie voices,  the laughter, the screams …

… I arrived early so I could sit in my usual place. I watched the men enter, tapping hesitant, unsteady, slow, leaning heavily on sticks. I saw the women bald and beautiful , naked skulls hidden beneath hats and head scarves. Haunted looks lurked behind staring, wide-open eyes as the outpatients waited for something to leap out and frighten them, not spider webs and skeletons,  but the ghastly visions of tubes, pills, chemo, needles, all the paraphernalia that tortured them first time round.

The annual check-up seems so much easier. Blood tests, screenings, fervent hopes that the devil in the detail, horned, fork-tongued, cloven hoofed, red tailed, hasn’t been hiding, like a wayward ghost, in the small print of blood tests, scans, urine samples, all too ready to break free, leap out and beat us once again into submission.

The ghost train: has that cancer really gone or could it come back, condemning us once more to hospice or ward, to chemo and radiation, to the knife, or to other things more radical?

I sniff the double hospital smells of despair and ill-health, of hope and cures for all those ills, and I am there again, arms folded across my chest, lying motionless on that moving bed of bleached white sheets, heading slowly into that tunnel that smells of polished steel, where machinery coughs and starts and stops as flashing lights whirl their cadences of kill or cure above my troubled head.

Tunnel of love or ghost train? I guess I’ll soon find out.

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Bubbles

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Commentary:

Words and images: pictures in the words and a sharp, black line severing the pictures. Solombra, in Octavio Paz’s words, the razor-sharp line between sun and shade. Breathe in the bubbles as they surge through the child’s wire ring. Rise with them as they float heavenwards, up to the cathedral roof, its spire, the blue sky beyond. When did you last feel this free? Shake out those cares, those worries, inhale, breathe deep, feel the sunlight bubbling through your veins, bringing you back to life, renewing your creativity. Go on, do it. You know you want to. More important, you know you need to. Those grey concrete streets have been wearing you down for too long. Gaze at flowers. Feel the trunk of a tree. Snuggle up to an alpaca. Grow a hollyhock in your garden. You haven’t got a garden? Buy a potted geranium and keep it in your house, summer and winter, your life-long friend and reminder that there are some things much more important than the daily toil. And YOU are one of them.

Carpe Diem

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Carpe Diem

This tube of toothpaste,
nearing its end,
folded over, again and again,
doubled into itself.

Squeeze it tight.
It’s all you’ve got.
Spread it on
the worst teeth.

Brush as you always did,
with hope, up and down,
not sideways. Nothing
before means anything.

Everything afterwards
is merely hope or dream.
A child, you chased
wind-blown leaves

catching them before
they hit the ground.
A scarecrow now, scarred
with age, arms held out,

palms up, hoping a leaf
will descend, a sparrow
rest in your hand,
or on your shoulder.

Quill

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Quill

This old fashioned quill,
a goose feather, plucked,
trimmed, and split,
hare-lip of split hairs,
words and ideas cleft,
sucked in, thrown out,
no clout in the cloister
where the mind walks dry
amidst terminal showers,
meteors of rhyme and reason,
shootings stars falling,
filled with imperfections,
each star a still-born child,
running wild in some meadow,
a heavenly paradise
where walled-in imps
seek an exit outside the box
into which they have been boxed,
with mindless spiders
weaving webs of fine spun words,
filling the sails of pea-green boats,
laden with meanings
destined to set out
and never arrive.