Signs of Age

Meditations on Messiaen
Wisdom from Beyond

1

Signs of Age

Wisdom in the wrinkled skin,
the grin that glows with humor,
the sun sign of old age,
or merely that of ageing,
the knowledge that, yes, many
have walked this wobbly way before,
and many will follow.

What is pain, but the knowledge
that we are alive, and relatively well,
and still on the green side of the grass.
Long may it last. When the pain is gone,
we shall soon follow. For this is age,
and age is this pain, and the painful
knowledge that we are no longer young,
can no longer bend the way we bent,
or touch our toes, or even see our toes,
some of us. The golden arrow pierces
the heart. Fierce is the pain. But when
that arrow is withdrawn and the heart
no longer lives in love, why, how we miss
that pain, how we weep to find it gone,
perhaps never to come back again.

Pain, like rain, an essential part of the cycle
of the seasons, of the days and the weeks,
and all the months and years that walk us
around time’s circle, in time with the earth
and its desire to open its arms, and welcome us,
and greet us, and bring us rest, from our pain.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Signs of Age

Rage, Rage

Meditations on Messiaen
Why do the people?

5

Rage, rage …

Sometimes you wake up in the morning
and you realize that you can do no more.
What is it about family split-ups, the ugliness
of a disputed divorce, the glue coming
unstuck in an already unstable marriage,
a financial settlement that satisfies nobody
and impoverishes both sides of a divide?

And how do you bridge that divide
when you are friends with father, mother, children
and the wounds are so deep that everyone wants out,
whatever the costs and whatever it takes?
And what is it about the deliberate wounding
of each by the others, leaving permanent scars
that will never heal over, no matter how hard one tries?

And what is it about lawyers, when too many guests
gather around the Thanksgiving turkey and knives
are out for everyone to take the choicest cuts
leaving nothing but a skeletal carcass,
no flesh on the bones, and the guests all hungry
and their empty bellies rumbling for more, more, more.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Rage, Rage

Migrants

Meditations on Messiaen
Why do the people?

4

Migrants

Think natural disasters. Think famine,
wars, violence, plague. How our world changes
when refugees arrive, blend, contribute,
offer so much, their languages, cultures.

Yet we still exploit them, stealing subtle
things, their identities, their energy,
their ability to adapt, to give
so much and really to take so little.

Who would want to build a wall,
to reject them, to deny entry?
Maybe a million Indigenous people
can actually claim the right

to belong here. Most of us are immigrants,
late-comers in one way or another.
To accept, to grow together in peace,
to establish a nation where people

need not fear imminent expulsion
for the color of their skin, their language,
their religion, their political thoughts,
the fact they may not even vote for us.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Migrants

Push to Shove

Meditations on Messiaen
Why do the people?

3

Push to Shove

When push comes to shove, who stands
at one end of the gangplank, who at the other,
the shipboard one with a gun or a cutlass,
the other poised above circling sharks,
their grey triangular mini-sails threatening.

Can you hear the siren song emerging from
Davey Jones, waiting below, his locker door
open, as it has been so often before? Is this
fate or a fait accompli? Don’t ask me.

Let’s leave him there, the condemned man,
walking his plank, tied blindfold to his stake, seated
before the firing squad, standing on the crossing,
not quite ready to dance on a rope’s end, or riding
the tumbril to La Place de la Bastille, carrying
the time-bomb candle that will light him to bed.

Waiting, waiting, like them, we are all of us waiting,
in media res, waiting for push to come to shove.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Push to Shove

A Rainbow of Clichés

Meditations on Messiaen
Why do the people?

2

A Rainbow of Clichés

It’s raining outside. A tympany of raindrops
drums rhythmically on roof and window.
Thunder rolls. Lightning flashes, lighting up the sky.
our lights flicker, but we don’t lose power.

“It never rains in the bars,” they say in Spain.
Yet it’s raining in my heart, a sad song,
raindrops, tear drops, my best friend,
tested for Lyme disease, now tested for Covid.

“It never rains unless it pours,” they say in Wales.
And here it comes again, that nineteenth session
of Covid nerves, heart fluttering, nostrils twitching,
that unmasked girl standing six inches behind me,

texting, all thumbs, totally absorbed in the medium
that delivers massage after massage, click here,
out from the empty spaces between her ears and into
the void beyond, bouncing from tower to tower,

small stones cast in a tranquil pond, rippling their way
to whatever eternity lies out there, external realities ignored,
enveloped in the smoke screen of the texting self,
mask-less, fearless, coughing, not covering her mouth.

Here come those clichés. ‘I’m all right, Jack.’ ‘It’s all
about me.’ ‘My life, my freedom to do what I want.’
“It ain’t the cough that carries you off, it’s the coffin
they carry you off in.” A coughing fit, fit for a coffin.

Better, I suppose, than World War One trench warfare,
when it’s over the top, and look: officers, chaplains, men,
the whole battalion, hanging from that old barbed wire.

Click on link below for Roger’s reading.
A Rainbow of Clichés

Message

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

4

Message

Six in the morning.
The phone rings,
shatters our dreams.

A skeletal voice
at the other end announces
the name of the deceased
in ritual words, ending
with my condolences.

Five in the morning here,
nine in the morning over there.
Death at a distance,
three thousand miles
and four hours between us,
yet the phone call arrives
on time, instantaneous.

Your father, your mother, her mother,
gone, their absence heralded
by the police, a lawyer, a doctor,
a nurse practitioner,
an anonymous nurse,
someone you will never meet.

That call can come anytime.
While you are out in the car,
or in the garden, digging,
or maybe shovelling the snow.

And maybe that’s how death will come,
says Seamus Heaney, by telephone,
an unexpected call
from an unexpected caller.

The phone rings and your partner listens,
then hands over the receiver:
“It’s for you, my dear.”

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Message

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem

Seize the day. Squeeze this moment tight.
Nothing before means anything. Everything
afterwards is merely hope and dream. 

A tiny child, you chased wind-blown leaves
trying to catch them before they hit the ground.
Elf parachutes you called them and trod with care

so as not to crush the fallen elves as they lay leaf-bound.
I stand here now, a scarecrow scarred with age,
arms held out, palms up, in the hope that a leaf

will descend, a fallen sparrow, and rest in my hand.
When one perches on my shoulder and another
graces my gray hair, my old heart pumps with joy.


Comment:
Coming soon to a garden near you!

Listen to the podcast
Carpe Diem

A Theory of the Absurd

A Theory of the Absurd

I wonder what I’m doing here, so far from home, sitting
at the bar, with my beer before me, my face distorted
in half a dozen fairground mirrors, surrounded by
people half my age, or less, all smoking, cursing, using
foreign forms of meta-language, gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose, two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin with a sort
of snort of disapproval. It’s way beyond my bedtime, yet
I am held here, captured, body and soul, by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual that runs on unbroken
cycles of time: morning brandy, pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal, a brief siesta, back to the café
for a post-prandial raising of spirits, more blanco, then back
to work at four and struggle on until seven or eight when
the bar routine begins again with pre-supper tapas and tinto.
Who am I? What am I? Where am I going? I wander, restless,
 streets and squares, enter other bars and restaurants, consume
verdejo, manzanilla, tinto de verano, the original and many
 falsifications, in corner bars, on patios, sampling liqueurs,
cognacs and coñac, Fundador, Carlos Quinto, Torres Diez,
sol y sombra, Cuarenta y Tres, pasteles con café quemado.
Time, comprehended in this new life-cycle, lacks meaning.
Time, in a cycle I have long abandoned, is meaningless too.

After the Floods

After the Floods
(2004 BC & 2018-2019)

as the crow flies
so the pigeon
holding straws
within its beak
time to rebuild

who now knows
the unknown
perceives the abyss
beneath egg-frail
cockle-shell hull

waters recede
islands re-emerge
bald skulls of hillocks
stripped of grass and trees
water-logged fields
old bones dug up
displayed in the ditch

mud walls fallen flat
warped wooden planks
water-swollen
so much stolen
by water wind and wave

Prostate

Prostate

Pictures and models.
1 Prostate: normal size and shape.
2 Prostate enlarged.
3 Prostate enormously enlarged.
4 Prostate lumpy, malformed,
          cancerous, and me prostrate.

Lumpy and treacherous:
a gross shape growing
its grossness within me.
Gross, but mine and a vital
part of my living body.

A mad world this, twisted
time and fairground mirrors
distorting everything, and me
grossed out by the mechanical
clockwork, tick-tock, snip-snap,
removing samples for some
lab to examine and test.

“Give them back!”
I want to scream.
I guess I’ll get them back
on Judgement Day,
when the body resurrects
and I am whole again,
warts, cancer, and all.

Meanwhile, the biopsy’s done.
I get up from the bed
and the nurse hands me a towel
so I won’t drown my sorrows
in my body blood, a crimson
tide, ample, thick, flowing red.

Comment: After a couple of phone calls, some e-mails, and some messages on Facebook, I realize that some of my friends are actually following this blog and reading it. Thank you for the care and attention you have shown me by writing or calling to inquire about my health. All is well. I visited my urologist yesterday for a regular check-up and sat there a little longer than usual, waiting. Never one to waste time, I studied the things in the office and discovered a model prostate over which I could run my fingers (I didn’t!). It showed the four stages of prostate enlargement and cancer development as outlined above. I had no paper with me, so I jotted down four poems on the back of the paper bag in which I carried the injection I would later receive. This poem was one of them. The reference to Judgement Day and the recovery of body parts comes from one of Quevedo’s Suen~os, El suen~o del infierno, I believe. Anyway, my apologies, if I have worried you. I am fine, thank you. However, as Quevedo also wrote, “The day I was born I took my first step on the road to death”. Alas, I too am one of Dylan Thomas’s ‘poor creatures, born to die,’ as are we all. If not now, when? Not too soon, I hope. Blessings and thanks to all who read this. Take care and stay healthy.