Christmas Day

Christmas Day

Wishing all my followers a wonderful Christmas and let us hope that the New Year brings us some relief from Covid-19 and all the ensuing vicissitudes. Sunny here in Island View and coldish, but not too bad. A tiny sprinkling of snow, so we qualify for a White Christmas – una blanca navidad.

AMGD: The full phrase attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the author of Ejercicios espirituales / Spiritual Exercises and the Founder of the Jesuits, is Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem or “for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity.” 

So, to continue with the Latin: Pax Amorque /Peace and Love. My friends: whatever your customs and beliefs, make this Christmas a good one and let us all wish for a Happy New Year.

Anniversary Poem

Anniversary Poem

“Hoy cumple amor en mis ardientes venas
veinte y dos años, Lisi, y no parece
que pasa día por el.”

Francisco de Quevedo

“For twenty-two years my captive heart has burned.”
Christ, what crap that is. The only heart burn
I have known came from your cooking: African
Nut Pie, as detailed in the cookbook I bought you
for Christmas on our first wedding anniversary,

remember? And do you remember the ride to Kincardine
on the train? A dozen coaches left Toronto and one
by one they were shunted away until only you and I and an
elderly man ploughed through the snowstorm in the one
remaining carriage. Deeper and deeper piled the snow.

You looked through the window and started to weep:
“What have I done?” you cried in shock and grief. Outside:
Ontario lake-effect snow. Headlights from two waiting
cars lit up the station. We drove to the homes of people
you didn’t know, third generation cousins of mine.

You’re the only bride I know who was carried to church
in the arms of the total stranger giving her away
in place of the father she never knew. The snow lay six
foot deep (eighteen inches fell on your wedding day
alone) and you, with a white wedding dress and black boots

up to your knees. Cousin Walter carried you to the altar:
how they laughed as they chanted that old song to us.
Later, when they tapped the glasses and fell silent
at the meal, I didn’t know what to do. And you, my love,
standing up, kissing me, married after six days in Canada.

Comment: 55 years ago today. Where have they all gone? How quickly they slipped away. So many memories. So much happiness.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Anniversary Poem

55 Years Married

Poppies by Clare

55 Years Married

White Flame
in praise of my beloved

White flame, her hair, emerging from shadows,
lighting her path downhill toward water’s edge.
Wind-driven waves splash lake-side where she
will wander. I watch her footsteps, not now
as firm as once they were. Burgeoning age

grips hip and joint. Toes and heels no longer
lift in the same old way. Component parts
break down, arteries clog, arthritis worms,
painful, into fingers, wrists, and knees. I
recall nursery rhymes: “Jack be nimble, Jack

be quick,” but she isn’t anymore and
neither of us could jump over candles.
Candlelight, inner light, outer light, her
hair, so pure, so white, her voice clear as a
bell, soft yet luminous, as she picks her
way on a perilous path through wayward

woods, not stumbling yet, nor lumbering,
and still she lives, as I still live, in hopes
to see each other, until earth stops our eyes
and we can see, sense, touch, hear no more …

Comment: Yes, we got married 55 years ago today. This poem, written for Clare, appears on page 120 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature in the section entitled The Nature of Human Nature. I have written several very personal poems about Clare and our relationship and they can be found in Secret Gardens the chapbook I published in 1991 on the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary. Several poems from that collection also appear in Stars at Elbow and Foot. Selected Poems, 1979-2009. (Cyberwit, 2021). The painting that decorates this page is also by Clare. She is a talented multi-media designer and several of my book covers were designed by her. This is one of her rare paintings. We have three of them on the wall, and they are all exceptional.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
White Flame

LoVe

LoVe

I love to be cryptic. Nothing better than a series of hidden messages concealed, or partly concealed, within a pair of paintings. And what have we here? Well, can you work it out for yourselves? Or do you need an explanation?

Okay: an explanation it is. First, the title of this blog post and of the painting on the left. LoVe. LV = Roman numerals for 55 / fifty-five. LoVe = love it. More, much more: I also love my beloved and, on Friday, 24 December, this year, we will have been married for 55 years, all of them spent in Canada, where we got married, all that time ago.

Perspective: so important, even in a painting that lacks perspective. So, let’s put it into perspective: that’s the year before Canada’s Centenary. And yes, we visited Expo in Montreal in 1967. Or, if you are a sports fan, that’s the Christmas before the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup (1967) for the last time. And we were living in Toronto. And I was studying at U of T. Wow and double wow: nobody in Canada, under the age of 54, was alive last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the big one. And still the Maple Leafs, like our marriage, endure. We are the everlasting drum-beating bunnies, going on and on, for ever and ever.

Now look deeper. See what else you can see. I will assist you no further, except to add the initials – and title – of the right hand painting. AMGD. Work that one out, if you want to and if you can. And remember: presents for special anniversaries like ours come from the heart – not from a gift shop. So that is my anniversary present for my beloved. What a pity: she never reads my blog.

Spirit of Boo

Spirit of Boo

So, I can’t draw dogs, nor people, nor reality. But I can draw spirits, and moods, and emotions. This is NOT my neighbors’ dog. It is the spirit of their dog: energy, joy, happiness, and total and complete love. What more could a doggy want or an artist, however useless, do.

Boo: I salute you.
Woof!

Original drawing, dated 9 August 2014, can be found in my drawing notebook of that year. I used it as a model for the painting, was completed on Tuesday, 30 November 2021.

Le Mot Juste

Danzante
dancing with joy!

Le mot juste

Searching for what exactly?
For the exact word, le mot juste,
the word that sums it all up,
catches the essence of the thing
and holds it in the mind forever.

Le mot juste? Think color.
Think color blind. Think blind.
Think of the world we see
reduced to grey scale.
Think of the seven colors
that stripe the rainbow sky,
each with a unique name:
it seems so easy, so simple.

But the world has changed.
Think now of the computer,
its screen more accurate
than the human eye and color
coordinated by a million or more
tiny little pixels that multiply
the seven rainbow colors
by a million or two and every
color numbered beyond
the recognition point
of the human eye: le mot juste
reduced to precision of number.

Think flowers. Think scent.
Think of the limited ways
we describe the smell of things.

I look across the breakfast table
and see my wife of fifty years,
a teenager reborn, walking into
the café where we first met.
I search my memory and my mind
for the words to describe that beauty,
that surge of excitement,
but I cannot find les mots justes.

Click on link for Roger’s reading
Le mot juste

Selfie with First Frost

Selfie with First Frost

The back ground is dark green, or should be. We have red and yellow leaves, of course, this is New Brunswick, Canada. And the white flecks are the frost on the grass. Lovely.

Look closely and you can see bits of me reflected in the glass of the painting. That’s why it’s a selfie. Not a total one, but a teeny little bit of one. How much of ourselves do we ever capture, in a photo, a painting, a poem, a piece of prose? Not much, I guess. And is it the real ‘us’ anyway? I very much doubt it.

Does it matter? No. If you want to see the real me, come and visit. But, be prepared: I am not who I seem and I am desperate to hide the real me from the real world. You may catch glimpses. And that’s about it.

And I have a cat, just like that. Runs to the basement, hides beneath a chair, sits and purrs in her basket, sleeps on the bed at night, winds herself round my knees at feeding time, is and isn’t, just like all pussy cats. And aren’t we all like that? Here today and gone tomorrow. All that joy and all that sorrow.

Enjoy us while you can. And can-can while you can-can!

My First Thanksgiving

My First Thanksgiving

For the first twenty-two years of my life
Thanksgiving held no meaning, no life,
no substance, no form, nothing familiar,
nothing special to hold my attention.

When I emigrated to Canada
my cousins changed all that
with an invitation to visit them
in Kincardine for Thanksgiving.

Turkey on the table, colored
table napkins, and a family gathered,
arms outstretched, to make me welcome.

We were all surprised at how alike we looked.
“Like Cousin George, in Vancouver,” they said.
“Like Cousin Elsie in Revelstoke.”
“Like my mother’s mother, back home
in Swansea,” I said.

They told me how the Second World War
had brought the family back together
on these special holidays:
Christmas in Wales for the Canadian boys
or Thanksgiving in Winnipeg
for the Welsh boys learning to fly.

That Thanksgiving, the old family names
turned to photographs: snaps of my mother’s wedding,
my grandmother holding me, age three, on her knee.

And finally, as a special Thanksgiving gift,
a long-distance call to Britain and Clare
on the telephone saying
“Yes,” she would come to Canada,
and “yes,” she would marry me.

And I remember crying all the way
from Kincardine to Toronto,
and that was my first Thanksgiving in Canada.

Comment: A Golden Oldie, indeed. This poem is from my collection Secret Gardens. The secret love poems I write to Clare. It was published on our Silver Wedding Anniversary, 24 December 1991. It is a pleasure to re-publish it here for Thanksgiving, 2021. Now what am I going to do for 24 December 2021?

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

My First Thanksgiving

Octo-+Plus

Octo+Plus

The Octo-Plus has eaten up all my words and the stream has run dry. When the words don’t flow, I let the paint flow instead. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That might actually be a self-portrait, lurking in the bottom left corner of the painting’s glass. Ah, the ghost, not in the machine, but in the painting. It’s a hard life, being a writer when the words dry up.

I remember the old school’s terms of abuse “Oh, dry up!” Well, 70 years later, I have done just that. Mind you, it’s only for a day or two, and look, miracle of miracles, I am writing again. Leave the keyboard, take up your pen. The words are flowing and you’re writing again.

True Love

True Love

True love flows so much deeper
than an exchange of body fluids
or a handing over of ritual rings.

Our advancing lives are no longer
ruled by nature’s primal urges.
Our bodies have been taken over
by old age stiffness, aches, and pains.

Some nights, I wake up to find
she no longer breathes. I reach out
in panic, touch her gently, and when
she breathes again, I heave a sigh
redolent with love and relief.

Listen to podcast here.
True Love