Sisyphus Sings Nabucco

Sisyphus Sings Nabucco

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

Long days will come when light will fail
to enlighten, eyes will be dimmed, the burden
will grow heavier with life lying in wait,
to weigh us down with all those lies, each
falsehood a rock added to the daily pile.

Carrying them is one thing. Rolling them up
this hill each day, only to have them roll down,
overnight, 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, we will endure to the last.

“Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”
Albert Camus

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Sisyphus Sings Nabucco



Speaking

Speaking

I speak to a generation
I cannot see
as others in the past
have spoken to me
in languages I had to learn
words in books
hand-written on paper
or carved in stone

who now will listen with their eyes
as I have listened with mine
adding subtracting challenging
sometimes blindly accepting

my world is not their world
nor is their world mine

yet the sun still rises
the same moon
waxes and wanes

hate happens
yet hope and wisdom
still remain

Click for Roger’s reading on Anchor
Speaking



Hold Fast

Hold Fast

On days like these,
the center must hold,
but not just hold,
it must writhe and strive
to live longer, be stronger,
to hold together so that the periphery
understands that it too is at the center
of an extended web of life
that contains us all,
you and me,
past and future generations,
in a great chain of being alive
and knowing that yes, we are here,
we are, at heart, really only one,
and totally unique,
is spite of the sameness
that sometimes surrounds us
as time’s spider-web
unravels, oh so fast, so slow,
and yet still we are here,
and still the center holds.

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Hold Fast

New Year’s Day

Self-portrait with mask

New Year’s Day
What’s in a name?

Only the winners write the history of their conquests, only the winners. Am I a winner, then? Of course I am. I’m writing this aren’t I? Therefore, ipso facto, I am a winner. This means that although they trashed and thrashed me, they never broke me nor was I a loser. I survived. And in that world in which I lived, surviving without surrendering was a victory in itself. But this is no tale of a hero, of bloody deeds, of a great victory. It is a survivor’s tale. So, if I won, then they lost, and who knows now how the losers felt, history’s non-winners, their slates wiped clean now, their names anonymous, erased from my story, not carved in stone nor impressed into steel.
            What’s in a name? The Red Wings, the Black Hawks, the Braves, the Algonquins? Whose heart lies broken and buried at Wounded Knee? Why does the Wolastoq rise in the Notre Dame mountains and flow down through unceded land to the City of Fredericton that noble daughter of the woods, and on to the city of Saint John on Fundy Bay? Why Wolastoq, Notre Dame, Fredericton, Saint John?
            “Sticks and stones will break my bones, yet names will never hurt me.” But what if I am called Nemo and have no other name? No-name man, no-name woman, no-name child, no language to call my own, no culture, no history, except the one that others wrote and forced me to believe or the innocent who causes me to rebel

            “Grandpa,” she says, climbing on my knee. “Tell me a story. Please.”
            “Once upon a time,” I begin. “There was this little girl …” She wriggles and giggles.
            “What was her name?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “Yes, you do.”
            “Don’t.”
            “Do.”  
            “Was it me? Am I that little girl?”
            “You can be if you want.”
            “I want. How does my story end?”
            “I don’t know. You’ve only just started it.”

So, write your poems, write your stories, write your childhood, write your memories, write what you know, invent what you don’t know. You can’t remember your name? Give yourself a new one. You have forgotten your myths? Create new ones. You have forgotten your language? Seek and you will find, and when you have found, learn your language again, a word at a time, phrase by phrase, word-picture by word-picture, until you have renewed your world and your place in it. Let your ancestors stride through your veins again and again to stand in the spotlight that you shine upon them.
            Restriction, extinction, suppression of the weakest and poorest, survival of the fittest … You, you who are reading this, you who have survived, you can count yourself among the strongest and the bravest. Now name yourself for who and what you are.
            Pick up your pen and write. Lazarus I name you: step out from your living tomb, step out from your kennel-cave. Pick up your bed and walk and talk, and write your own story. And remember the words of Oscar Wilde, “Tell your own tale, and be yourself, my friend, because everyone else is taken.”

Click here for Roger’s reading.
New Year’s Day
What’s in a name?

Comment: This is the penultimate chapter from On Being Welsh. I will put the last chapter up tomorrow.

The Great Pretender

The Great Pretender

This from the days when I was a wannabe artist who thought he could actually be an artist. But no, it was not to be and the masks fell off and dropped to the ground. There was no Covid back then, so I didn’t have to pick them up and put them back on again. And I didn’t have to stay two metres – six -feet – away from the painting. If you paint with the Devil, you need a long brush. Also known s a Devil’s Paint Brush.

To paint or not to paint, that is the question. So, I chose the path of mindfulness, la escondida senda por donde han ido los pocos sabios que en el mundo han sido / the hidden path along which have walked the few wise men who have lived in the world. And yes, art, in all its forms, is mindfulness, being in yourself, being aware of the moment, being taken up by that split second when paint hits paper, canvas, or whatever, and being absorbed totally in that.

Gardening will do that for you. Also what I call hyperspace, that wonderful world between fingertips, and screen where the great ideas flow naturally, like paint, and words come tumbling out onto the page. Today’s theme: The Great Pretender. Not all the words are wonderful, nor all the ideas great. The greatest skill is to be able to differentiate between gems and dross. This comes with patience and practice. But when the words flow, and the paint settles, there are few joys like it.

Giving Thanks

Sunrise from the Red Room, KIRA.

Giving Thanks

How could one not give thanks for the bounties of Thanksgiving? Listening to Cross Country Check Up, last night, as I have done for the last 55 years, I was amazed at how people, some of them in dire circumstances, were able to find things for which to be thankful. I haven’t made a list of the things for which I am thankful and I certainly didn’t call in to the talk show to give my opinion, but let me think…

I am thankful for the beauty of the natural world. Just look at that sunrise! Yesterday we walked in Mactaquac and admired the beauty of the changing leaves. Migrating geese put on a display, taking off from the waters of the head pond, flying, then settling down again. We: I am grateful for the presence of my beloved, still beside me after all these years. I am grateful that we are together and that we are both of us able to walk and indulge in this province’s autumnal beauties.

I am grateful for faithful friends. I will not name them all. If I did, this blog would never be finished. This morning, an e-mail from Geoff Slater, whose paintings and drawings have often appeared on the blog, spoke of the nature of ritual and how we use it. He spoke of external rituals and how, during times like these, when our normal lives are upside down, we lose the ability to follow our external rituals. This may cause dismay and a loss of stability to many. However, he also reminded me that we, as practicing artists, have established our own internal rituals. These keep us going in the difficult times, for they are always there to fall back on. Following his line of thought, I explored my own daily rituals, the ones that have kept me going throughout Covid-19. Thank you, Geoff, for those ideas and for your long-term friendship.

I am grateful for the initial offer, from the University of Toronto, to come to Canada to study all those years ago. Canada gave me a chance to challenge my established rituals and to build and shape new ones that were more suitable to my inner being, a being that I had kept well hidden from the Masters of the Universe who limited my creativity, and ruled the rituals of my Boarding schools and my undergraduate studies. Above all, I am grateful for that rich, inner world of creativity and dream and I am doubly grateful for those who have allowed me and encouraged me to express it and set it down for others to share.

So, Thanksgiving Day: a day on which to give thanks for all the blessings that are in our lives, large and small. Sure, times are tough. Sure, we could all do with more money. Sure, we could go on and on about our wants and needs. But today my want and my need is to give thanks for who, what, where, when and why I am. As my friend Norman Levine once wrote: Canada Made Me.

Thank you, Canada.
Thank you, New Brunswick.

Eaux Canada!

Dancing Bananas

Dancing Bananas

“The only difference between a madman and me is that I am not mad,” Salvador Dali. It is a great honor to borrow his words and to be able to make the same declaration: the only difference between a madman and me is that I am not mad.

Mikhail Bakhtin: carnival, the world turned upside down, the world going bananas and those bananas dancing, as you can see in the painting above. It is a mad moment frozen in the still time of paint. And why shouldn’t bananas dance? Some one out there will remember Thunder Bay, 1981: ‘you just have to go bananas’ and the bananas duly appeared at half time instead of the oranges. Saint John, 1985: same thing.

And now the dancing bananas have emerged once more to fill your minds with pleasure and your hearts with joy. Go, bananas, go. Bananas-a-go-go. Way to go, bananas. And I tell you, given the current state of society, going bananas is the only way to go. So, in the next election, I shall form the Banana Party and we can all stand firmly, shoulder to shoulder and shout “Oh, Mighty Banana!” and “Go, Bananas!”

Ah yes, and my next painting? Maybe it will be Banana Custard or Banana Splits, not that I have ever done the splits!

Insights

Insights
Thursday Thoughts
07 October 2021

This is a painting inspired by one of Messiaen’s works: Visions from Beyond. His music inspired me to write the Meditations on Messiaen, and I have posted several of those poems on this page. For me, creativity is continuous: verbal and visual. The visual includes painting and photography, the verbal, short stories, poems, and short philosophical pieces on life and art. This is the link to the first poem from the sequence entitled Visions from Beyond. I should add that the audio reading is part of what I call creativity too: audio, visual, verbal. The complete package.

My Thursday thought: I feel that I have been blessed. To be able to see, speak, write, hear, and express some of the beauty of this world around me. I know there is ugliness out there, sickness, ill health, poverty and despair. So far, I have been spared. “Why me?” I think to myself, “Why me?” Then I cease to question and I just say “Thank you” to the Spiritus Mundi and to the Muse when she descends.

Every morning, when I wake, my mind runs through some of the hymns I used to sing as a child. “Songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee.” “Laud, bless, and praise Him all thy days, for it is seemly so to do.” “Good Shepherd may I sing Thy praise, within Thy house forever.” Meanwhile, until that time comes, I will do my best to celebrate and sing the beauties of this world in the oh-so-limited ways I know best, poetry and paint!

Dizzy Dawn

Dizzy Dawn

There is so much happening. It’s hard to keep track of it all. Reading and annotating the material I am working on for my online writing seminar. Painting: a delightful relief and relaxation. Who cares if I can’t paint? I can make meaning out of shape and color, like my friend Matisse. Writing: the poetry is back and I will start revising those short stories again soon. I may also go back to my first novel. I have abandoned it for too long.

Meanwhile, each dawn is a busy dizzy time. This morning I decided to lie in bed until 24 birds had flown past my new bedroom window, one for each new pane of glass. It took about fifteen minutes. I watched the mist rise and then the sun start to break through and when the sun came, so did the birds. Dizzy Dawn is now hanging on the wall, along with another set of paintings I have finished recently.

Life is good. I hope it stays that way for as long as possible.

Hot Line to God

     

Hot Line To God

What would you do if you had a hot line direct to God? What would you say? You wouldn’t need to punch in a number, he’d be right there, at the other end of the line when you picked up the phone. Hello, is that you, God? Yes, I am who I am. Would you then give your name? It’s me, John. I know. How do you know? Have you got one of those little screens that tells you who’s calling? No. I’m omniscient. You’d pause a little at this point, wouldn’t you? What would you say next? What’s omniscient? I am. But what does omniscient mean? It means I am God. I know everything. That would make you think.
            So, would you ask for definitions, like you just did, or would you move in another direction? Like this. So you know why I’m calling, then? Of course. Wow, that’s another conversation stopper. If he knows why you’re calling, why did you call in the first place? To ask him something? It’s sunny here. What’s the weather like where you are? The same as always. How’s that exactly? Heavenly. Maybe this conversation isn’t going the way you thought it might. You could try again. Well, if you know why I am calling, what are you going to do about it? Nothing. Why not? Free will. But you’ve got to do something. Why? Because I think you should. Are you omniscient? No. Then why should I do what you think I should do? Because… because
            And there you are. On the telephone to God. Left speechless. Perhaps you wonder if the phone’s been hacked. You go ahead and ask him. Has this phone been hacked? No. Are you really God? Yes. And this is your direct line? Yes. Can you prove you are God? Of course. Will you prove it to me? No. Don’t you have a code word or something that proves who you are? No. What about a security number? No. So how can I believe what you say? Either you will or else you won’t. But what if you’re a con artist, an evil genius, a thief who wants to lead me astray? Some have said I am just that. What? Who? Throughout the ages, there have been doubters. There have? Of course. But I’m not a doubter. Then why are you asking these questions? If you’re omniscient, you know why I am worried. I do. So what are you going to do about it? Nothing. Why not? Not free will again?
            Knock and it will open, seek and you will find. You mean I called you to hear those words? You will hear them if you want to. Some have ears and do not hear. But you could do something about that? What do you have in mind? The churches are empty. Make people go to church on Sunday. On Sunday? Only on Sunday? What about Friday, or Saturday? What about the other days of the week? You’re all powerful. What would you advise? Advise? I don’t give advice. Or orders. I have given people free will. They can choose what they want to do. If they want to go to the mosque, the synagogue, the church, they may find me there. There again, they may not. Some have eyes and cannot see. These would walk right past me and even if I hung there on the cross and winked at them, they’d never recognize me.
            You find it frustrating, eh? It’s like a Socratic Dialog where you only get to answer yes, or no, or three bags full. How persistent are you? Will you keep going? What other direction would you like to take? If the weather’s heavenly where he is, perhaps he’s in heaven. Why not ask him if he ever leaves heaven? Do you ever leave heaven? No. Why not? I am ubiquitous. What does that mean? It means I am everywhere. The people who really seek me can find me anywhere they look. I don’t understand. You’re not omniscient. But how can you be in two places at once? If I am everywhere, as I am, heaven travels with me, wherever I go. So I could find you anywhere I looked? If you knew how to look properly, you would. Others did. Where did others find you? John the Baptist found me in the wilderness. St. Francis of Assisi found me among the flowers and the plants, the flora and the fauna. As did St. John of the Cross. St. Teresa of Avila was slightly more mundane. She found me walking in the kitchen among the pots and pans. 
            Where should I look for you? How would I know? Because you’re omniscient. But I gave you free will. I cannot tell you how to use it. If I did, it wouldn’t be free. Couldn’t you give me a little hint? Not one. Why not? Because a hint from me would be the Word of God. And I am tired of being carried down from the mountaintop with my words carved in stone, only for the misguided to twist them out of shape and give them alternative meanings. People do that? Of course. That’s why so many no longer go to church on Sundays. Where do they go? Some of the good ones go out into the woods and contemplate the snow in winter, the leaves in summer and fall, and they find me there. Others work in the kitchen, or at their knitting, and they find me among the pots and pans, or between their stitches. Still others find me in the crossword puzzle, or the Sudoku, or in one of those brief moments when, alone, they close their eyes, breathe deep, listen to their bodies, and find that I am there within them.
            You are within us? Deus est in nobis. Meaning? God is in us. So I don’t need a telephone with a direct line to you. Not at all. And remember, telephone lines are dangerous. They can always be hacked. Now I’m confused. Sorry. Must go. There’s an emergency on the other line.
            You hear the click on the other end of the line as the phone goes down. You are overcome by a tsunami of sorrow and grief, a tidal wave of loneliness and abandonment sweeps you away and you cry out in your anguish that which you have never heard or spoken before, the words of the twenty-second psalm or of Christ on the Cross: Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?

Click here to listen to Roger’s reading.

Hot Line to God