Mountain Ash

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Mountain Ash

Honey sweet bark drilled by beaks
bleeds the rowan’s life away.
Who do we kill: bird or tree?

Decision made, the sap-suckers,
claws trapped in sackcloth, fluff
their feathers, leave their feast.

Red beads on the mountain ash:
a rosary of bright berries.

Bitter on the tongue, sunset’s
first flourish tinting my dream.

Midnight gnaws at the moon.
Its white skull drifts, a stone knife,
sharpened, in the sky’s iron hand.

At shadowed garden’s shallow
edge, the sorbus aucuparia bends,
its spirit walking night’s waters.

Nochebuena

IMG0034_1.jpg
Poinsettia is called nochebuena in Oaxaca.
It also means ‘Christmas Eve’ in Spanish.

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Nochebuena

Nochebuena / Christmas Eve:
last year, a star fell down the chimney
and landed on the poinsettia.
The cat and the dog stood up to deliver
new versions of their Christmas vision.
Birch bark: ghosts on the snow bank turned
white in the moonlight as they danced,
so slender and so bright.

This year an obsidian knife
hacks through my mind
slicing it into two uneven pieces.
Snowflakes invade its split personality.
Thin ice spreads across glacial fires.
Incarcerated birds sing deep in my rib cage.
A child’s world: with its lost toys lies
buried beneath fresh snow.

Tears freeze in my eyes,
drip from my eyelashes,
and fall to the earth as stars.
Soon I will be an enormous sunflower,
trapped in this wet clay rag of a body.

If I sit here in silence
will the world, like a garden
growing wild, go on without me?
The flowers in my yard close
their mouths and refuse to answer.

Aubade

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Aubade

Driving in winter, early one morning,
from Island View
to the Georges Dumont Hospital in Moncton
for Cancer tests

1

The crows in the garden complain of the cold,
cawing from their look-out points
with short, sharp calls.

A life of ease they seem to live,
but when the mercury descends and water freezes
icy blinds inside our window panes and snow-
squalls bluster in from north and west,
who knows what’s best for those poor birds
aloft in their crow’s nest spars,
sailing snow’s seas,
steadfast in their skippering of wind-bent trees?

This Arctic cold is such
that neither man nor beast can love it much,
crouched close to whatever warmth there is,
shivering in the wind’s cold touch.

 2

 Yesterday, a dozen crows pecked at salt grains
scattered over this road.

A black-clad chorus, they rejoiced
when sunshine drew the white-tailed deer,
from winter depths of banked up snow.

Not long ago she was alive.
Now she lies stiff and broken.

Soon she’ll be picked up by workmen,
tossed into the back of their truck,
dumped, and forgotten.

What magic spell invokes what beginnings?
To what end do we prolong our days?
What myth, this fairy-tale I call my life?
Stars drift hidden through the sunny sky.

3

Driving home from the hospital,
bullied by fierce winds
on a snow-packed road,
I dream as I drive.

I envision a past
that never was, a future
that may never be.

As I hibernate in that past,
last summer’s flowers
flourish in my mind.

The car skids into a snow bank
and my world shakes in shock.

A thirty wheeler rumbles by:
there are so many ways to die.

Passerines

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Passerines

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Returning passerines jostle and shove,
greedy to approach the feeder.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Grosbeaks

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Grosbeaks, greedy for sunflower seeds,
jostle, shove, and push, to establish
their pecking order at the picnic table.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Comment: What’s in a name? Change the birds and the poem changes. The same poem? Or is it? Does only the title change? I’ll let you decide. Do you have a preference? Please tell me.

Sharp-Shin

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Sharp-Shin

She surveys her empire
from our back porch
steps into space
plunges her body’s weight
into fragile air.

A feathered arrow,
she makes contact, feet first,
bowling the unsuspecting robin
over on the ground.
His shrill shriek emerges
from a beak shredding failing air.

The hawk’s claws clench.
Her victim’s movements weaken,
eyes gaze into darkness.

One final spasm,
a last quick twitch,
and the robin is gone,
one wing dragging,
borne skywards
in the hawk’s claws.

Monet at Giverny

Monet at Giverny

1

his lily pond
a mirror shattering

shards of clouds

flames beneath the lilies
fractured fish

2

the executioner stripes evening
across the sacrificed horizon

in blood we were born
 in earth will we rest
our flesh turned to bread

empurpled this imperial wine
streaming with day’s death
 these troubled waters

3

green footprints
the lily pads
a halo
this drowned man’s beard
liquescent

like the gods
he dreamed
he walked dry
on water

flowering goldfish
this thin line of cloud

4

maples flash ruby thoughts
ripples flowing outwards

as heavy as a stone at Stonehenge
this altar tumbling downwards
through a liquid sky

5

wisteria and his curly blue locks
Narcissus clad in an abyss of lilies
imperial his reflection and perilous

slowly he slides to sleep
merging into his imaged dream

a vaulted cathedral
his earthbound ribs
the blood space immaculate

6

night and day and sun and clouds
leapfrogging over water

something survives
sepia tints
dreaming on and on

exotic this sudden movement
Carassius auratus flowering

7

Clos Normand and the Grande Allée
closed to him now
folded his flowers
their petals tight at his nightfall

dark their colours
mourning for his mornings of light
fled far from him now

8

can we soften this sunstroke of brightness
le roi soleil threatening to blind us?

rey de oros
the sun glow braiding itself
an aureate palette

a susurration of leaves

9

the lady of the lake
holding out her hand
handing him an apple

l’offrande du Coeur
 a scarlet heart of flame

monochromatic this island
brown earth in a crimson lake
the world reborn in tulips

10

Especially
 when the dying sun

molten fire spreading
a limpid light
sky brimming over into pond

trapped in low clouds
a slash of colour here
and there a tree
a fountain of gold

the sun an apple
blushing
on a setting branch

11

silver-white the money plant
moonlight between fine-tuned fingers
its rattle of seeds

blunt the moon’s bite
raked from water
gaunt its gesture

twin ripples
face to face
with the moon

12

upside down these clouds
bright in their winter boats

the night wind blows
clean dry bones
across the sky

13

fish aloft like birds
skimming wet sunshine

spring’s first swallow
rising from the depths
to snatch a golden note
quivering in the air

14

thunder raises dark ripples

lightning a forked tongue
insinuated into paradise

an apple tossed away
caution thrown over the shoulder
as sharp as salt

15

winds of change

that first bite
too bitter to remember

16

timeless this tide
this ebb and flow

oh great pond-serpent

biting yourself
forever

One Small Corner

One Small Corner
A Kingsbrae Chronicle

is available at the following link:
Click here to purchase One Small Corner

Introduction to One Small Corner

I think of my creative writing in terms of visual, verbal photos. I create snapshots in words and these snapshots come from everywhere that I have been. For me, they are precious moments caught and frozen forever in the camera of the poet’s eye. Visual and verbal, they illustrate the life I have lived and the things I have seen. These are the phenomena on which my artistic life is founded.

I am not a philosopher by any means, but I have over time developed an artistic philosophy. It started a long time ago at Wycliffe College with my A level studies of French existentialism and continued later in the Graduate School at the University of Toronto, where I studied the origins of existentialism as they are expounded in phenomenology. Both these movements have influenced my life and my writing. Bakhtin’s chronotopos: “Man’s dialog with his time and place” has also been a great influence on my creative thinking. My art is indeed my dialog with my time, my place, and the people who inhabit them.

One Small Corner is the record of my stay at the KIRA Residence in St. Andrews-by-the-sea, New Brunswick, Canada. I was selected to be the only poet in the first cohort of Resident Artists and during the month of June, 2017, I was able to work full-time on this collection.

Blue, blue day

Blue Blue Day

Blue, blue day

“My grandfather told me there’d be times like these” and he was right. I wonder about his blue days, down there in the trenches, on the Somme, and on other fronts. He survived. He was a survivor. Sometimes that’s the only thing to be. So how do we survive? How do we ignore the snipers, the whizz-bangs, the star shells, the other things that go bump in the night?

There is no single answer. One of my best friends goes into hospital tomorrow, 6:00 am, buccal cancer. An operation. All may be well afterwards. I certainly hope so. I will be here for him, as my grandfather was there for me, as I have been there for others, as others have been there for me. I will not mention names. A blue, blue day indeed. But what shade of blue? If all goes well, the celestial blue of joy and hope, the blue of Mary’s robe when she crushes the serpent beneath her foot, the joy of the blue sky after the storm.

Not, we hope, the dark blue, almost purple, of the gathering storm, the blue of thunder clouds turning almost into black, the midnight blue of the last chance saloon with its overtones of tragedy and disaster. “I never felt more like singing the blues”… indeed I didn’t. But what shade of blue? And for me, it is always the blue of clearing skies, the blue of Mary’s robe, the blue of hope.

“And still I live in hopes to see, Swansea Town once more,” thus sang my father’s father during WWI. He was gassed, he was wounded, he was decorated, he was mentioned in dispatches, so many things happened to him. But he survived the snipers, Big Bertha, the star shells, the whizz-bangs, and he saw his beloved “Swansea Town once more.” As I hope I will, but my dream of a return to the blues of Swansea Bay may be fulfilled in a very different fashion.

Alas, my beloved Swansea Town is now a city. “And so I live in hopes to see, Swansea City once more.” It doesn’t sound the same, does it? It doesn’t have the same carry, the same rhythm, the same resonance. And what about Town Hill? Has it now been renamed City Hill? I am sure Town Hall, the old Brangwyn Hall where my father used to work, is now City Hall, which my father never entered. Enough, no more for “you can never walk in the same river twice” (Heraclitus).

Wingless in Gaza

IMG_0177 2

Wingless in Gaza

amputees
they buzz an unending dance
in the dusty gutter

galley slaves
chained to broken oars
they ply rhythmic
blunt stumps

shorn of strength and beauty
their once coloured shuttles
weave dark circles

my mouth is a full moon
open in a round pink circle
shadowed by a skull
bone and its marrow
settle in subtle ice

futile fragility
of the demented heart
pumping the same frequency

fragmented messages
panicked veins

frail beauty
torn from its element of air

this brightness of fragile moths
wing-shorn
drowning in the inky
depths of the gutter

the seven o’clock news brought to you
from an otherwise deserted street

Aubade

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 Aubade

Fluffed up in their look-out points,
the birds in the garden complain of the cold
with short, sharp calls.

A life of ease they seem to live,
but when the mercury descends and water freezes
icy blinds inside our window panes and snow-
squalls bluster in from north and west,
who knows what’s best for those poor birds?

Crows, aloft in their crow’s nest spars,
sailing snow’s seas,
steadfast in their skippering of wind-bent trees
don’t seem to suffer so much.

This Arctic cold is such
that neither man nor beast can love it,
crouched close to whatever warmth there is,
shivering in the wind’s cold touch.

Driving home from the hospital,
bullied by fierce winds on a snow-packed road,
I dream as I drive.
I envision a past that never was,
a future that may never be.

As I hibernate in that past,
last summer’s flowers flourish in my mind.

The car skids into a snow bank
and my world shakes in shock.
A thirty wheeler rumbles by:
there are so many ways to die.