Daffodils

Daffodils
A poem for the lady who brought some to us when Clare fell

IMG_0145.JPG
Daffodils in our garden, last year in Island View. We won’t see the live ones until May, at the earliest. I dream of them at night, tossing their heads in sprightly dance’, in Roath Park and Blackweir Gardens, Cardiff. They will be out now, all ready to welcome Dydd Dewi Sant on March 1.

Daffodils

For ten long days the daffodils
endured, bringing to vase and breakfast-
table stored up sunshine and the silky
softness of their golden gift.

Their scent grew stronger as they
gathered strength from the sugar
we placed in their water, but now
they have withered and their day’s done.

Dry and shriveled they stand paper-
thin and brown, crisp to the touch.
They hang their heads:
oncoming death weighs them down.

Black Angel

from an original painting by Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400-1464)

Black Angel

You cannot hide
when the black angel comes
and knocks on your door.

“Wait a minute,” you say,
“While I change my clothes
and comb my hair.”

But she is there before you,
in the clothes closet,
pulling your arm.
You move to the bathroom
to brush your teeth.

“Now,” says the angel.
Your eyes mist over.

You know you are there,
but you can no longer see
your reflection in the mirror.

Comment:

I first saw the Black Angel in Aldebarán’s cultural store in Ávila (2006). She sat there, in the shop window, along with several other angels, and I worshiped her from the distance of the street. Her image was taken from an original painting from Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400-1464). This was turned into a 3-D image and then converted into the statue I saw in the shop window.

I brought the statue back to Island View, placed it on the shelf above the fireplace, where it still rests, and wrote several poems on the theme of Angels. I gathered them together in a chapbook entitled All About Angels that I self-published in Fredericton in 2009. The chapbook was dedicated to Clare’s great-aunt, D. E. Witcombe who departed this world on October 15, 2008.

All About Angels was also based on a book of a similar title, Sobre los Ángeles, written by Rafael Albertí, one of the major poets of Spain’s Generation of 1927. I avoided the ambiguity of the Spanish title — Sobre (in Spanish) can mean Above or Beyond as well as About — by limiting my own title to All About Angels.

For Carl Jung, angels are the messengers sent to inform people of the state of their world. For me, they are also the wild creatures that inhabit the world around me and often take the form of chickadees, crows, mourning doves, woodpeckers, deer, foxes, chipmunks, the occasional bear, and other spiritual creatures. They can be best seen in those moments of solitude when we are most open to the natural world around us. Then, and sometimes only then, we can hear the urgent messages they bring.

Alebrijes

Alebrijes

alebrije2
This is one of the first alebrijes I bought in the zocalo (main square) in Oaxaca. He has lost his ears and probably his tongue. They started falling out so we wrapped them up carefully and now we can’t find them. He’s still a happy chappy, hough, and has been in this house for a quarter of a century. Happy Birthday Alebrije!

     Alebrijes step out from dried wood and stand in the shower of paint that falls from the brush’s tip. Yellow flash of lightning, pointillistic rain, garish colors that mirror those of the códices. The carvings take the form of fantasy figures, anthropomorphic animals, and mythological creatures.
Sometimes one individual selects the wood, carves it, then covers it in paint. Occasionally an entire family takes part in the work of making the alebrije. One person collects the wood and prepares it for carving. Another carves and sands it. A third works on the undercoat, and a fourth applies the final patterns of paint.
The great debate: does the form in the wood reveal itself to the carver or do the carvers impose their own visions on the wood? In the case of the team, do the family members debate and come to a joint conclusion?
These thoughts, exchanged with wood-carvers in Oaxaca, have led to a series of interesting conversations. What exactly is creativity? Where does it come from? Do we, as artists, impose it upon our creations? Or do we merely observe and watch as new ideas float to the surface of our minds? How does the creative mind really function? And, by extension, how much of the sub-conscious creative sequence can be placed into words?

Alebrijes

 Are they half-grasped dreams
that wake, wide eyed, to a new day’s sun?

Or are they alive and thriving
when they fall from the tree?

Does the carver fish their color and shape
from his own interior sea,
or does he watch and wait for the spirit
to emerge from its wooden cocoon
to be reborn in a fiery block of color?

Daybreak:
in a secluded corner of my waking mind,
my neighbor’s dog greets the dawn with sparks
of bright colors born from his bark.

My waking dream: dark angels with butterfly bodies,
their inverted wings spread over my head to keep me warm.
In the town square, the local artist plucks dreams
from my head and paints them on carved wood.

IMG_0299
Our house iguana: he is not an alebrije, but is made out of painted metal foil, carved first, and then decorated. He’s the one who guards the front door and falls upon unwanted intruders when they least expect it. Never stay home alone without one, or two, or more. But watch out if you have too many and they get hungry.

Sympathetic Magic

Nunca llueve en los bares: it never rains in the bars.

Sympathetic Magic

“Rain, we need rain.”
The bruja whirls her rain stick.
Rain drops patter one by one,
then fall faster and faster
until her bamboo sky fills
with the sound of rushing water.

An autumnal whirl of sun-dried cactus
beats against its wooden prison walls.
Heavenwards, zopilotes float
beneath gathering clouds.
Rain falls in a wisdom of pearls
cast now before us.

Scales fall from my eyes.
They land on the marimbas,
dry beneath bar arches
where wild music sounds,
half-tame rhythms,
sympathetic music
like this rainstorm released
by the bruja‘s magic hand.

Comment: Bruja: witch, witch doctor; Oro de Oaxaca: mescal, the good stuff; Zopilote: Trickster, the turkey vulture who steals fire from the gods, omnipresent in Oaxaca; Marimbas: a tuned set of bamboo instruments. But you knew all that!

Flight of Fancy

IMG_0220
Luck, sometimes, just being in the right place at the right time. One step, two steps, and up he went and look at those footsteps. His flight, a step of faith, two steps of faith, and away he goes, fait accompli. Another golden oldie. I do love rediscovering them. The photos, too.

Flight of Fancy

Just by chance, I caught this cormorant.
“Behind you, quick,” said Clare.
I turned and ‘Click!’

Such a miracle:
the first steps of flight
taken over water.
That first step heavy,
the second one lighter,
and the third one
scarcely a paint brush
pocking the waves.

The need to take flight
lies deep within me.
Fleeing from what?
Running towards what?
Who knows?

All I know is that the future
lies to the right of this photo
and the past lies to the left,
and I don’t know
the meaning of either.

But I do remember the words
of Antonio Machado:
‘Caminante, no hay camino,
sólo hay estela sobre la mar.’

“traveler, there is no road,
just a wake across life’s sea.”

Comment: I revised this poem a few minutes ago and cut it down to its essentials. If you want to read the original and check the revisions, click on this link to the earlier poem. Any comments on the rewrite and the revision process would be welcome.

Special Angels

IMG_0130
Another golden oldie and, with the snow fallen and my back aching, it does sometimes feel like it’s an uphill battle. There are always angels at the roadside, though, and some have called and offered to help. Thank you, special angels.

Sometimes the road seems uphill all the way. Lungs burn. Breath comes hot and hard and chunky in the throat. Legs hang heavy, muscles will not obey the owner’s instructions.

Consult the operating manual: “Take a break,” it says. “Rest now. Don’t push too hard.” But to rest is to give in, to come to an abrupt halt, or to drift backwards down the hill.

What stubborn streak is painted so deep in us that it shouts ‘never surrender’ when our most urgent need seems to be to throw in the towel? Is it the urge to get to the top, to see the lower lands stretched out below us? Or is it the mantra of fight the good fight?

Many things can drive us on: a need, a desire, a whim, an urge, or merely a refusal to stop fighting. Some of us will never give up. We will never lie down and curl up in a corner, a dead leaf to be blown hither and thither by the cold night wind.

Look carefully: there are no drugs, no needles, in the biker’s uniform. There is no small accessory motor hidden in the back wheel to help when times get hard.

The mouth is open, the eyes are set on the target, the legs still move, the sun still shines, and three smiling heart-shaped faces cheer the cyclist on.

Who can they be, these three angels at the road side, who can they be? Yet they are there and we are here and the bike is there and the hill is there and sometimes … yes, sometimes, the road IS uphill all the way.

But we keep the pedals turning and we don’t get off our bikes … and that’s life.

Downsizing

fire the means of forging / Omega and Alpha / beginning and end

Downsizing

a double sword
this clearing out
of odds and ends

the library diminishing
book by book
so many memories
slipped between the covers
dust-bound now
yet springing so quickly
back to life

sorrowful not sweet
these multiple partings
from people I will never see again
save in my dreams

I think of book burnings
so many heroes
gong up in flames
fire their beginnings
fire their ends

fire the means of forging
the Omega and Alpha
of those book worlds
that surround us

fire words
encircling us
consuming us
outside and in

Silence

Where e’er she treads, the glossy flowers shall rise and light, like the light of flowers, will pierce any gloom and brighten the room.

Silence

When I wait for words to come
and they refuse,
I know that silence is golden
and spreads its early morning sunlight
across the breakfast table
where yellow butter melts on hot toast.

Light from the rose window in Chartres
once spread its spectrum over my hands
and I bathed in its speckled glow.

My fingers stretched out before me
and I was speechless,
for in such glory,
mortal things like words cease to flow.

So much can never be said
even if it is sensed: fresh coffee,
poutine à pain, bread baking,
flowers bursting into bloom,
the sense of immanent beauty that fills me
each time my beloved enters the room.

Angels

How many dancing on the head of a pin?

Angels

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.

Crow’s Feet

A crow, but not a beach. You’ll have to click on the link at the bottom of the page for the real beach photos.

Crow’s Feet

a convict’s arrows
marking the eye’s corner
and the beach at low tide
with its crackle of wings
as sea-birds fly
their defensive patterns
feathered sails
on a canvas wind

how many crabs
made in the image
of their carapaced god
hide in the sand
half-buried waiting
for the tide to turn
and water to return
and give them refuge

abandoned shells
postage stamps
glued in the top right-hand corner
of a picture post card beach

who can decipher
the sea’s hand writing
this mess of letters
stitched by sandpipers
who thread the beach’s eye
inscribing dark secrets
with the sewing machine
needles of their beaks

pregnant this noon tide silence
this absence of waves
where the quahaug lies buried
secured by a belly button
a lifeline to air and light
surrounded by crow’s feet
tugging at the beach’s dry skin

sand beneath my feet
sand between my toes
dry sand sandpapering

Comment:
And here’s the link to the beach photos.

https://moore.lib.unb.ca/poet/Crows_Feet.html