A Month Ago

A Month Ago

A month ago, on November 23, I posted my last message on this blog. Since then, nothing. Silence.

For thirty days and thirty nights the world has been as silent as the painting I posted above. It has been as silent as snow flakes circling. As quiet as the ribbons tied silently together. Nothing stirred. Nothing moved. Nothing.

Can an absence be a presence? Sometimes it is, for example, when we lose a tooth, a family member, or a friend. In their absence, we lament the loss of their presence. With a tooth, we run the tongue around the empty space, noticing the tenderness of the flesh, the hollow within the gum.

It’s the same with friends. They go AWOL. Move on. Forget their promises of eternal friendship. They become the empty space where the tooth once stood. At first we grieve. Then we become used to their absence. Then, one day, we realize that their voices have fallen silent and then they are friends no more.

Right now, there is a hollow in my life. An absence. I cannot put my finger on what is missing, absent, as always, without leave. Maybe it is the Christmas beliefs that dogged my childhood. Maybe it is the emptiness that warns of oncoming storms, each one greater than the one before. Maybe it is just the premonition, the suspicion, that all is not well with the world.

This year we gave more money than ever before to the Feed a Family Fund. Then we sent extra money to the local foodbank. Everywhere we see that the social ball of string is unwinding and ends no longer meet. It seems our society no longer has the will or the means to justify any ends, except selfish ones. Is it everyone for themselves, then, and the devil take the hindmost? Sometimes it feels like it.

I have seen the hindmost, human beings they are, just like you and me, except they are wrapped in blankets, begging at traffic lights, sitting outside the supermarket, a coffee cup at their feet, hoping for a penny to drop. Where have all the pennies gone? Gone to the smelters everyone. So they wait for a nickel to drop, or a dime, or even a quarter.

Covid-19 and all its subsequent derivations may well have been at the heart of all this. The isolation. The masking. The distancing. The fear of the unknown. The fear of the stranger in our midst. We have become used to living with those fears. We still have Covid-19 and its variations, some with long term complications. We now have a virulent flu as well. And there are various viral infections circulating.

The Apocalypse? Not yet. The Apocalypse has four horsemen and I have only mentioned three. So – where is the fourth one hiding? When will he appear? What will he look like? Maybe he’s lurking in a food bank, an unrepentant Grinch preparing to steal the food? Perhaps he hides in an unheated house? Can he be spotted at the dinner table, where the parent or parents are not eating, so that a child may eat?

I throw these questions out. Outside my window, clouds gather and snow starts to fall. I listen carefully. But all I can hear is the silence to which I have grown accustomed.

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

writing by candlelight
the flickering flame
casting shadows
over thought and word

tell me what are shadows
but the false promises
festering in Plato’s Cave
or a fake finger show
projected on an unwilling wall

yellow and red the flames
sweet scented the smoke rising
from melting wax
my mind alive with memories

this night of nights
when family ghosts
drift through the room
and my childhood clutches
the red bag of my heart
with death’s cold fingers

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor
Day of the Dead



Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

You walk up the wooden stairs
and there you are, staring at yourself
in the fairground’s distorting mirrors.

Fatter, thinner, shorter, taller, a half-
and-half version, thinner at the top,
squat at the bottom, one of those Xmas
dolls you could flick, but never roll over.

What do we see when we look in the mirror?
Do we see our selves as we really are
or do we see the wretched deformations
of our diminishment?

So depressing to think that, back then,
I might have seen myself as I am now:
hair thinning, forehead larger,
shriveled shanks and wasted muscles,
breathless, when I climb the stairs,
and a butterfly heart that sometimes
flutters and stutters as it seeks the sun.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Hall of Mirrors

The Path Taken

The Path Taken

I followed a path and found my way,
but evening shadows led me astray
far from the uplands and the sun
to a land where darker waters run.

Where now, I ask, the summer beach,
salt water, cool, within easy reach?
I no longer hear the sea-gull’s cry,
white-wings lofting him to the sky.

I tread winter’s path of ice and snow
bent branches forcing me to stoop low,
a horse-shoe hare running out ahead,
behind, a white wolf fills me with dread.

My feet are cold, my steps are slow,
my muscles ache, my blood won’t flow.
Head spins, lungs throb and clutch at air,
my  heart fills up with dark despair.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
The Path Taken

Loss

Loss

By the time I remembered your name
I had forgotten your face,
and then I couldn’t recall
why I wanted to talk to you
in the first place.

Words and phrases bounce,
water off a duck’s back.
They sparkle like a high tide
rejected by the retriever
as he shakes his coat dry
on emerging from the sea.

This book I read is a word parcel,
a clepsydra of droplets,
a rainbow strung with colored beads,
each scouring a bull’s eye
on the world’s taut literary hide.

Mapa mundi of forgotten lands,
I trace dark landmarks
on the back of scarred hands
and wonder why I have never visited
faraway places with strange-sounding names.

Tourist guide to a failing memory,
I track the trails of drifting ships
as their white sails vanish,
blank butterflies from a distant summer,
floating over a darkening horizon.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Loss

Words

Words

Words grow like flowers, invasive,
cruel, beautiful, cutting, and when cut,
they wither and fade, like flowers too.

Catch them while you can, I say.
Catch them, hold them tight,
press them to you heart,
for time is voracious
 and will soon devour them,
 swallowing them in the black holes
of forgetfulness, carelessness,
and memory loss.

Shine a light on your words.
Underline them, grace them with stars,
think about them, carefully.

And remember, the word
once spoken or written
can never, ever be recalled.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Words

Reunion


Reunion

So sad, the reunion.
Each year, fewer participants,
faces older, hair whiter
(if there’s any left)
grizzled beards,
hands shaking, not just shaken,
memories lost or at odds
with reality, multiple dreams
turning into nightmares.

So much lost, youth,
energy, confidence, contact,
microscopic minds
turned in on themselves,
cognitive cogs
barely functioning.

What really happened
all those years ago?
Nobody remembers.
Nobody cares.
Nobody really wants to know.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Reunion


Suit of Lights


Suit of Lights

I am a man of straw
shivered by raw winds,
frosted by the cold
enveloping this enigmatic body,
dry bones set rattling.

I walk with two sticks,
a stick man then,
not just a sick man,
as broken as this broken body,
old sack of out-muscled blood.

When the magic hour
descends, earth glows
with a different light,
and my world is transformed,
translucent, bright.

A touch of the almighty,
this beauty suddenly
surrounding me,
blessing me,
and all my doubts,
with this suit of lights.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Suit of Lights


Clichés

Clichés

I buried myself in an ice-cube.
I dug in so deep that nobody
could find nor touch me.

“Hurt yourself,” I told myself,
“hurt yourself
so badly that nobody
will ever be able to hurt you
again.”

Clichés:
cutting off your nose
to spite your face,
shooting yourself
in the foot, arm, or leg,
self-destructing
in so many ways,
and all clichés.

And me, alone,
everything cut off,
torn down, worn away,
visible, some days,
yet untouchable,
locked away
in this frozen land
where warmth
never flows
and winter
holds sway.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Clichés

Gambit 1

Gambit 1

She’d been there.
She’d have walked
those waxed floors,
looked down at her feet
to see her face distorted
in the elbow-grease
of sheen and shine.

Alone, she was, all alone,
abandoned.
Tonight, on her birthday,
I feel the chill hand
of her sorrow
clutch my heart.

Who can reach in,
who can melt the iceberg
rising beneath my ribs?
Who can warm chilled bones,
charm lost feelings
back into throbbing life?

Gone, all gone,
lost, forgotten, forsaken,
abandoned
on those same ice floes,
where she walked on thin ice,
with the darkest depths
calling out to her from far below.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor
Gambit 1

Comment: My mother, had she lived, would have celebrated her 109th birthday. Watching Episode One of The Queen’s Gambit, I was overwhelmed by what my mother must have felt, all those years ago, when she lost another child. Did she actually feel and think in manner portrayed above? I’ll never know now.