Cage of Flame

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Cage of Flame

Now you are a river flowing silver beneath the moon. High tide in the salt marsh: your body fills with shadow and light. I dip my hands in dappled water. Twin gulls, they float down stream, then perch on an ice-floe of half-remembered dreams. Eagle with a broken wing, why am I trapped in this cage of flame? When I turn my feathers to the sun, my back is striped with the black and white of a convict’s bars. Awake, I lie anchored by what pale visions fluttering on the horizon? White moths wing their snow storm through the night. A feathered shadow ghosts fingers towards my face. Butterflies stutter against a shuttered window. A candle flickers in the darkness and map in runes the ruins of my heart. Eye of the peacock, can you touch what I see when my eyelids close for the night? The black rock of the midnight sun rolled up the sky. Last night, the planet quivered beneath my body and I felt each footfall of a transient god. When will I be released from my daily bondage?

Oh dear, I no longer know whether I am writing poetry or prose. Maybe I should contact Survey Monkey and have a survey on the subject. Clearly the above is prose because it has no line breaks. But what happens when we do this?

Cage of Flame

Now you are a river flowing
silver beneath the moon.
High tide in the salt marsh:
your body fills with shadow and light.
I dip my hands in dappled water.

Eagle with a broken wing,
why am I trapped in this cage of flame?
When I turn my feathers to the sun,
my back is striped with the black
and white of a convict’s bars.

Awake, I lie anchored by what pale visions
fluttering on the horizon?
White moths wing their snow
storm through the night.
A feathered shadow ghosts
fingers towards my face.
Butterflies stutter against
a shuttered window.
A candle flickers in the darkness
and maps in runes the ruins of my heart.

Eye of the peacock,
can you touch what I see
when my eyelids close for the night?
The black rock of the midnight sun
rolled up the sky.

Last night, the planet quivered
beneath my body and I felt
each footfall of a transient god.
When will I be released
from my daily bondage?

Sure, it’s the same text. But is it? And what happens if we change the line breaks? Does the rhythm stay the same in both cases? It certainly does when I read it, but how about you? Poetry or prose? Tell me if you knows! And what’s the difference anyway if the words roll off your tongue and metaphors, mystery, and magic rule?

Cage of Flame can be found in my poetry collection Though Lovers Be Lost and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot (Selected Poems, 1979-2009). Both are available at this link.

Inquisitor

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Inquisitor

Inquisitor

He told me to read,
and plucked my left eye from its orbit.
He slashed the glowing globe of the other.
Knowledge leaked out, loose threads dangled.
He told me to speak and I squeezed dry dust
to spout a diet of Catechism and Confession.

He emptied my mind of poetry and history.
He destroyed the myths of my people.
He filled me with fantasies from a far-off land.
I live in a desert where people die of thirst,
yet he talked to me of a man who walked on water.

On all sides, as stubborn as stucco,
the prison walls listened and learned.
I counted the years with feeble scratches:
one, five, two, three.

For an hour each day the sun shone on my face,
for an hour at night the moon kept me company.
Broken worlds lay shattered inside me.
Dust gathered in my people’s ancient dictionary.

My heart was like a spring sowing
withering in my chest
It longed for the witch doctor’s magic,
for the healing slash of wind and rain.

The Inquisitor told me to write down our history:
I wrote … how his church … had come … to save us.

Inquisitor was also a requested reading last Saturday. My promise, to put it up on the blog, with a reading in my own voice is now fulfilled. I love this poem: it speaks volumes about the Catholic Church in Oaxaca and the relationship of the Dominicans with the local people, aboriginals all and inhabitants of the Valley of Oaxaca for at least 10,000 years. The numbers represent the approximate date, 1523, of the arrival of the Conquistadores in Oaxaca, about three years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, now Mexico City. The poem, Inquisitor, can be found in Sun and Moon and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot, both available through this link.

Saturday at KIRA

Early morning sun through mist.

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Saturday at KIRA

Visitors Day at KIRA and the artists work in their studios showing their methods and techniques to visitors from the local community and further afield. The mist disappears very quickly and we are left with sunshine and warmth. A good day for sitting out on the porch and waiting for guests.

View from my book table.

I sit behind my table on the porch at KIRA, making notes in my journal and waiting for the advent of guests. I have no plans other than to sit ad write. If people arrive and wish to engage me in conversation, that will be great. It will be even better if they pick up a book, open it, choose a poem or a passage of prose, and allow me to read it to them. They can follow the text while I read. When people do arrive, they look first at the covers of the saddle-stitch books and chapbooks. Many comment on the wonderful pencil sketches that Geoff provided for them. A couple are drawn to the bright colors and cartoons of the larger books. Title and cover combine together to persuade each visitor to pickup a book and start to read it.

Visitor’s view of the book table.

This is more or less what guests and visitors see when they approach the book table. You have to imagine me, the poet, sitting behind that table, masked if I do not know the guests, unmasked and at a safe distance if I do. I find it difficult to read out loud with the mask on. It is much easier, mask off.

I promised one guest, alas, I have forgotten her name, that I would post a poem and a voice recording of it, here on my blog, so that she and her friends could hear me read. This is the poem I read to her. I do hope she is able to locate my blog and follow this up. Here is the poem, from Sun and Moon. Poems from Oaxaca.

Santo Domingo
Worshipping Gaia before the great altar
in Santo Domingo

If the goddess is not carried in your heart
like a warm loaf in a paper bag beneath your shirt
you will never discover her hiding place

she does not sip ambrosia from these golden flowers
nor does she climb this vine to her heavenly throne
nor does she sit on this ceiling frowning down

in spite of the sunshine trapped in all this gold
the church is cold and overwhelming
tourists come with cameras not the people with their prayers

my only warmth and comfort
not in this god who bids the lily gilded
but in that quieter voice that speaks within me

and brings me light amidst all this darkness
and brings me poverty amidst all this wealth

I will post some of the other poems that I read on the porch over the next few days. Meanwhile, be patient with me. I feel that I am all off-balance, trapped between two worlds, part of me is away in KIRA and part of me is home in Island View. I find it difficult to work on my KIRA2021 project, a rewrite of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This manuscript placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey poetry award in 2020. Since then, I have been revising it and adding to it, with KIRA2021 in mind. However, creating and posting seem to be two conflicting skills right now. The need to express (open blogging) and the need to create (secretive and non-sharing). I hope this helps to explain my irregular postings and my absences from this blog.

Monet at Giverny

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Monet at Giverny

Day’s executioner stripes evening
across the sacrificed horizon.
In blood he was born, in earth
will he rest his flesh, turning it into bread.
Purple this imperial wine streaming with day’s
death, ruffling these troubled waters.

Green footprints, the lily pads.
A halo, this drowned man’s beard,
liquescent. Like the gods, he dreamed
he walked dry on water.
Stepping stones, these goldfish
flowering beneath this thin line of cloud.

Maples flash ruby thoughts that ripple
outwards, waves cast upon a liquid sky
towards what farther shores?

Wisteria blesses him with its curly blue locks.
Narcissus, he clads himself in an abyss of lilies,
imperial, his reflection, and imperiled.
Slowly he slides to sleep, merging into his dream:
a vaulted cathedral, his earthbound ribs,
the blood space immaculate.

His lily pond turns into a fallen mirror,
shattering as it ripples in the breeze.
Shards of clouds flare like flames. Fractured
fish, red and gold, shelter beneath white lilies.

Night and day, sun and moon, leapfrog
over tranquil water. Something always survives:
sepia tints, old photos, dreaming on and on.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale

Duende

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Duende
“Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende.”
“All that has dark sounds has duende.”
Federico García Lorca (1898-1936)

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering
teeth, you stand there, silent, wondering: can I?
will I? … what if I can’t? … then a voice
breaks the silence, but it’s not your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark powers
volcanic within you, spewing forth their
lava of living words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, soul
and heart. It’s all over. The magic ends.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell.
The Duende has left you. Your God is dead. Deep
your soul’s black starless night. Exhausted,
you sink to deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the bottom of the bottle to save
your soul and permit you a temporary peace.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale

Spring

Spotify:
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Spring

Slow going
this snow going,
but at least
it isn’t snowing.

Snow forecast
on the weather show,
but we all know
it cannot last,
now the equinox
is past.

With a roll of drums
Easter comes,
but friends and family
stay away.

So all alone
and safe at home
we’ll spend
our Easter day.

Everybody understands
how often we must
wash our hands.

Don’t go unmasked,
even when asked,
and all our friends
must safely stay
at least six feet away.

Comment: I just received this poem as a memory on Facebook. Interesting. I remember writing it, online, a year ago today, and what a fun time I had. Here’s the link to the video. I loved being involved in the creative experience. It was my first poetry video. I do hope you like it.

Dream

Fall Foliage

Dream

I dreamed last night
that angels lofted me
skywards and wrapped me
in cotton-wool clouds.

The nearest rainbow
was a helter-skelter
that returned me to earth
where I landed in
a pot of golden sunlight.

Red and yellow
were
my hands and face.
I stood rooted like
an autumn tree covered
in fall foliage with
no trace of winter’s woe.

“May this moment last
forever,” I murmured,
as the rainbow sparkled
and I rejoiced in
my many-colored coat.

Comment: I have noticed on several occasions that when I am reading a text, I change the wording on the page to a new wording that seems more in keeping with the rhythm of the moment. I see that I have done this here, more by accident than by plan. I have noticed this too when listening to Dylan Thomas’s recordings of his own verse. Each reading then becomes a new variant on the poem. In this case, I rather prefer the second variation, but I am not sure that I approve of the first one, nor nor do I approve of leaving words out. Naughty! I am afraid that I still haven’t developed the skill of reciting instead of reading my poems. I guess it will happen soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll just have to put up with these little flaws.

Dream … A poetry reading from One Small Corner
Fall Foliage in Island View

Duende

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Duende
Federico García Lorca

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth,
you stand there, silent, wondering … can you?
will you?what if you can’t? … then a voice breaks
the silence, but it’s no longer your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, mouths open, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark power,
volcanic within you, spewing forth its
lava of live words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, heart
by heart. The magic ends. The maelstrom calms.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow
shell. The Duende has left you. God is dead,
deepening your soul’s black night. Exhausted,
you sink through deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the wine bottle’s bottom
that will save your soul and permit you peace.

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Coffee House

Roger poster 1

I have not been very active on the reading scene for some time now, so I welcome this chance to appear in public behind a microphone and with a book in my hand.

My thanks to Jane Tims for organizing this reading and creating the poster.

If anyone is in the area, please drop in and visit. I’ll be on my best behavior.

I promise.