Cat & Janies

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Cat & Janies

Everybody needs a cat to keep them honest. Dogs are cynics. Cats, on the other paw, are born manipulators. Princess Squiffy, seen here, is intent on the red squirrel that is eating seed just to the left, outside of the picture. PS is trying to hypnotize it, draw it close. If it comes near she will pounce and scare the ‘bejabers’ out of the poor squirrel.

Behind the cat are three blossoms from Clare’s geranium collection. Clare salvages the best geraniums each fall, re-pots them, and keeps them indoors throughout the winter. They bring us joy and color whenever they blossom and are as bright as male cardinals against the snow. We have a pair of cardinals who visit regularly, but hungry, prowling neighborhood pussy cats are often on patrol, so the cardinals are very wary and do not hang around for long. I can’t say I blame them. I don’t mind the blood red reflection of the geraniums on the snow. I am adverse to the blood-red of real blood.

Speaking of which, as I grow old and my skin becomes drier and more like parchment, I find I cut myself much more easily than I used to. This morning I pumped gas into the car. The air was cold, my hands were cold, my skin was taut. I noticed nothing until I got inside the gas station to pay. I had blood all over my hands from a half-inch crack in the skin of my right index finger. I do not know how it happened. But there it was. The young girl in the gas station was excellent and cleaned and patched me up in no time at all. She was very nice to me. I felt lucky. So I bought three lottery tickets. Within five days we’ll find out whether I was lucky or not.

It’s wonderful to be around young people. So much bounce, so much energy. So much joie de vivre. Mind you, our granddaughter wears us out in no time at all. I guess I’ve earned peace, rest, comfort, and relatively easy living in my retirement, mon âge d’or, just like Princess Squiffy. She’s a house cat, incidentally. She can look at that bountiful banquet of squirrel and bird, but she cannot reach out and touch. She can merely make the window rattle as she charges the sliding door. She reminds me of the Pelican, whose beak can hold more than her belly can. Except in her case, especially with the birds, it’s more like her eyes behold more than her belly can. Whatever I do, I don’t want a kitty smorgasborg, nor do I want to turn the bird feeder into a pussy cat feeder.

Speaking of pussy cats and how they belong in houses, here’s one of my favorite short poems from Guillaume Apollinaire: Le chat (1911).

Je souhaite dans ma maison :
Une femme ayant sa raison,
Un chat passant parmi les livres,
Des amis en toute saison
Sans lesquels je ne peux pas vivre.

I searched for the text online, as I had mislaid my own collection of his poetry. By the
way, Apollinaire is one of the few poets (English, French, Spanish, or Other), whose
poems I did not give away during the ‘Grand Clean Out’. The little drop down offered to
translate this page for me and, for once, I clicked it. Here’s their rendition of the poem.

The cat

I wish in my house:
A woman having her reason,
A cat passing among the books,
Friends in any season
Without which I can not live.

 Now all I need to ‘make my day’ is a poem about Geraniums, and I know exactly where to find one.

 

Turds

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I love the sales shows on the telly. The sales lady comes and and starts talking and you can’t stop her once she gets going. My golly, once they start talking they’d sell you anything from snake oil to …. well, I heard a good sales pitch today. It went like this.

“See how delicately the necklace is carved? Then it is highly polished in a new process that leaves it bright and shiny, like a brown diamond.”

The model whirls and twirls, showing off her best points,  not to mention what she is encouraging viewers to buy, the bracelet, the ear-rings, the shiny necklace. Television and online sales. No sense across the screen of touch, of taste, of smell. Just a temptation to enter a vision that the sales girl is selling. The model whirls, the music rings out, the camera focuses on the band in the background. The lead singer wears exactly the same jewelry as does the model: identical necklace, ear-rings, bracelet.

I struggle to catch the words, but you know how modern music distorts the lyrics, twists the sounds. Later, I put the words of the song back together. I recognize snippets, portions, and then the whole verse clicks. Intertextuality, I think, verse responding to verse across cultures and the ages. No wonder that I recognize it and can put the words back together with the help of the original.

“Only twenty left,” the sales lady says. The model smirks, wiggles, shows off her multiple gems, and smiles. “Call this number now,” the sales lady points to a number in the corner of the screen. “Nineteen, eighteen left, be quick. You don’t want to miss out on one of these.”

“Remember,” the sales lady says. “these are original dog turds. They say you can’t polish a turd, but you can. In fact, with today’s new freeze dry technology you can collect dog turds, freeze dry them, and then carve, shape and polish them. No more doggy bags and doggy waste. It’s one of the best forms of recycling.” The sales lady smiles at the camera and the show band breaks once again into that snappy song and chorus. While the lead singer sings, the camera focuses in on her necklace, her ear-rings, and then her bracelet. And I piece together the words:

“Gather ye dog turds while ye may,
for time it is a’flying,
and that fresh dog turd, dropped today
tomorrow you’ll  be drying.”

“Looks like a dog turd.
Smells like a dog turd.
Feels like a dog turd.
Tastes like a dog turd.
Thank Dog we didn’t step in it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight

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Spotlight

Imagine a spotlight of sun peeping for a moment through dark, cool woods. Then this glimpse of wood texture beneath the bright, creamy butter color of these fungi. A moment’s magic caught by the camera and preserved forever, or until the computer crashes, or the funds for this blog page run out. So much potential beauty lost in the impermanent mists of time.

Old, ruined buildings. Churches and barns, their people moved on, their roofs crumbling, their windows boarded up. A heavy snowfall and, back-broken, they fall to their knees and yield to the weight of snow. A storm-surge of age and ailments break over them. Wildflowers creep up and in. The names on the gravestones slowly vanish, layer by layer, letter by letter, until even the names are no more.

Such will be our fate: all our glory reduced to nothing. Sic transit gloria mundi [Thus pass the worlds’ glories] as the Romans once said. All our books and words reduced to dust. No more living words, just  Polvo seco de tesis doctoral [Dry dust of a doctoral thesis] in the prophetic words of my good friend, the Spanish-Canadian poet José María Valverde.

Lost

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Lost

My body’s house has many rooms and you, my love,
walk through them all. Your shadow dances on walls,
in mirrors, and your breath brushes my cheek

every time I open doors or windows. That silly cat
looks for you and hisses when I bring her kibble.
I move from room to room, but when I seek you,

you are no longer here. I knock, nothing opens.
Afraid, sometimes, to enter a room, I know
you are in there. I hear your footsteps on the stair.

Sometimes your voice seems to break the silence.
You whisper my name in the same old way.
How can it be true, my love, that you have gone,

that you have left me here alone? I count the hours,
the days, embracing dust motes. I find no solace
in salacious sunbeams and my occasional dreams.

Comment: Regular visitors to this blog will probably recognize this poem. It is a rewrite of an earlier one, also bearing the title Lost (click here for earlier post). I rewrote, or rather, reorganized the structure of the poem, added some words, and subtracted others. I did this earlier this summer while Clare was in Ottawa visiting our daughter and grand-daughter. And yes, I missed her. I always do when she in not present or I am away. Comments on either version will be welcome, particularly if you prefer one version over the other.

Welsh Miners

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Miners

What has become of the caged
canary who lit up my life?
I hear the pit pines creaking.
Now nobody dares strike a match.

Birds descending in an iron cage,
our lungs blackened and scarred,
scared, we sing dark hymns
knowing we are doomed.

On hands and knees, we crawl
to the coal-black altars of our gods.
Blind from birth, pit ponies
trust us in their solitudes.

Don’t they know that when
the canary falls from its perch,
we’ll abandon them and claw
our way, anywhere, to safety?

Within the chalk tomb-tunnels
of my calcined skull,
a lone thought searches
an abandoned mine for a memory
it can no longer find.

Dandelion Flowers

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Dandelion Flowers

My flowers fly bright flags as if trooping their colors
for Her Majesty, the Queen of England. They drink water
dosed with chemicals to keep them healthy and alive,
refusing to fade, flourishing in their vase on the table.

They withstand both sunshine and shade, neither wilting
nor fainting under the hot summer sun. In this house
there dwells no queen, just a domestic pussy cat
called Princess Squiffy who knows she may look at a Queen.

“Your Majesty,” say Cape Daisies as the pussy cat passes.
“Ma’am,” say Peonies and Pansies, bending knees, bobbing heads.
Outside my window, the garden fills up with onlookers,
still green Tomatoes, Clematis, and a tall Hollyhock.

A multitude of weeds crowds onto the lawn. Dandelions
standing splendiferous, waiting to take plebeian selfies,
for plebs, they are, vox populi, people’s voice, people’s choice.

Some ancient god must have loved them very much,
for they are ubiquitous, and totally indestructible.
That said, you must never trust them in your flower bed.