Billy

 

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Chronotopos

A dialog with time and space.

But what is time? A river flowing? A long line leading from our beginnings to our end? Alpha and Omega? An instant held between finger and thumb and so swiftly forgotten? A dream we dream when we are awake. Or asleep. And which is the real dream, waking or sleeping? Sleeping or lying awake?

And what is space? This house in which Billy lives? The garden Billy watches from his widow? Billy’s town? His district? His county? His province? His region?

And how does Billy relate to his “time” or his “place” and what is this being called “Billy”, this dream Billy dreams, this post-amniotic ocean of life in which Billy floats?

Billy dreams he is male. When he reads Carl Jung he learns a large part of him is female. Billy thought he was masculino / macho / male, yet when a large part of him is femenina / hembra / female, he’s no longer sure what he is.

Billy has ten fingers yet he uses only two to type. Two fingers manipulating twenty-six letters and Billy turns his black-and-white keyboard world upside down when he thinks his subversive thoughts and types them onto the page.

Time and place, male and female: Billy lay on his side in hospital and the young urologist shot him full of female hormones so his prostrate cancer would not takeover his inner organs and destroy his life.

Place and time: Billy lies awake at night and shapes disturbing dreams, dreams he never before dreamed of dreaming.

Billy senses the end is drawing near.

He fears it. Yet he loves it. He loves it because it’s his and nobody else’s.

In Billy’s beginning is his end.

Beginning and end: both belong to him.

Time and space, so sacred to Billy’s life … they will continue with or without him.

Billy may not be there to bear witness. But he has been here and parts of him will remain embedded in the mind of each and every one of those who knew him.

On an unusually Odd Sunday at Corked: raise a glass to Billy’s name when he is gone.

Leave an empty glass on the table for Billy and he will be there.

Okay

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Okay

So, I felt sorry for the squirrel, I admit that. But I didn’t bring him into the house. Nor did I open the door and let him in. Honest. Maybe it was the cat. She’s been watching him all day. Yes, that’s it. It was the cat. She saw him out there in the cold, felt sorry for him, slipped open the screen door and let him in. I could believe that. But no, I don’t know how those nutshells got there. Of course it wasn’t me. You know I’m allergic to nuts and no, that wasn’t me sneezing. It must have been the cat. Or the squirrel. Have you looked for him? I bet she’s round here somewhere. Why are you always blaming me for everything?

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Evidence? I don’t call that evidence? What are you accusing me of anyway? And no, I didn’t leave that tiny crust of bread in the nut pile. Must have been the squirrel. You know I like bread. Squirrels don’t like bread. I bet she left it there. Or the cat. What do you mean: it couldn’t have been the cat? How do you know she didn’t jump up on the counter and eat all those nuts? You’re just guessing and you want me to look bad. She does jump up on things, I’ve seen her do it. She’s always good when you’re around.  She’s not so good when I’m here on my own. That’s why I call her Vomit. I know she doesn’t throw up on your chair, but she throws up on mine. I bet she organized all this, just so I would get the blame.

What do you mean, you’ve left it up to the jury? What jury? You’re no taking me to court for this. Are you? Seriously? I can’t believe you’d find a jury willing to convict me on the suspicion that it might have been me, not on the sort of circumstantial evidence you’re presenting in those photos. And no, I’m not doing lie-detectors or DNA. The jury’s out there now? I don’t believe you. You can’t bring a jury home, to this house, to convict me of the crime of eating your pistachios. Can you? What do you mean: look out of the window? Oh no! You can’t be serious.

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Love me

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Love me …  love my cat. I think she’s bemused by the sudden smell of all those flowers. She didn’t like the snow yesterday, either. Hands up all those who did. Ah yes, all the students and teachers who had their tenth snow day. No wonder the internet was so crowded all day long. It wasn’t that easy to get on and off but it was so easy to lose the connections. Speaking of connections, yet another circular debate is going round and round the Brexit roundabout in London today. That’s London, England, not London, Ontario. Oh the sea, oh the sea, thank God it still flows between Brexit and me. You’ve got to love it though, especially on St. Valentine’s Day: all those basket cases putting all their eggs into one little Brexit basket. They remind me of a set of Oaxacan donkeys, blinkered and blindfolded, walking round all day in circles, trying to grind the maguey or to draw water from an artesian well (una noria). It’s a thankless task at the best of times, but an incredibly tiring one when there’s a drought and a dearth of clear-thinking and intelligence. Round and round and round they goes, and when they’ll stop, nobody knows. Wow, I’m glad I got that off my chest: now I can enjoy Valentine’s Day with my beloved and my cat. As for Valentine’s Day: say it with flowers.

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Here are the geranium, a little bit winter-struck, still red-hearted and perky in the post-storm sunshine. I always marvel at how they  settle down, go all green-leafed, then start to blossom again: a miracle of love and kindhearted attention.

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And here’s Don Quixote keeping vigil just behind the carnations. Oh Brexiteers, he stands on guard for thee. He’s very quiet though. Not sure about anything, except the need to guard the flowers from fear, fire, and foe. He’s a good man, is Alonso Quijano el Bueno. He doesn’t round round in circles and lose sleep over uncounted and uncountable, slaughtered sheep. Speaking of which, the Welsh are campaigning for Welsh Lamb. They do not wish their products to be labelled with the Union Jack, but with the Red Dragon of Wales, Y Draigg Coch Cymraig. I hope I’ve got that right: it’s been so long. Meanwhile, speaking of love, Northern Ireland is talking divorce from the UK and a renewed marriage with the south. Scotland is talking love-talk with the Europeans and muttering about separation (was it really 1606?) from the Union. And Plaid Cymru is once again flexing it’s separation muscles. For how much longer, in the current state of division, will we be able to talk of a United Kingdom? Valentine’s Day: it’s best to be off with the old love before you are on with the new. Yet there’s mucho flirting going on between many possible future partners, even while undying love is being spouted across the various negotiating tables. The Queen of Hearts rules on Valentine’s Day: “Off with their heads!” Oh dear, whatever will the little caterpillar say, let alone Malice in Blunderland?

And the cat came back. Thank heavens. I cannot imagine Valentine’s Day without some flowers, my beloved, the cat, and a great deal of love and understanding. May the joys of red flowers and open hearts (not the surgical kind) be with you this day, and may you find a ray of sunshine to sit in for the rest of what still promises to be a stormy and snow-filled winter.

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Copperopolis

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Copperopolis

Mountains and craters on the moon look like this:
scarred, barren landscape, scabs of a dead industrial
revolution that created the largest copper smelting
plant in the world. Labourers strove for a living,
but met early with death. Rows of tiny, brick hutches
where families crowd, breeding like rabbits. Back
yards with greenhouses, cracked flagstones, allotments
where life-saving vegetables grow, and a chicken-coop
for the occasional egg worshipped after childbirth.
I remember it well. The garden walls adorned with
broken glass, set in concrete, so nobody could take
food from the garden, or steal the precious hens.
Washday on Monday, when furnace dust had settled
after the day of rest. Clothes hung out on Tuesday,
stained with the industrial waste that clogged bays,
fields, and farms. Summer and Fall, my father walked
shoeless to school, worked hard to buy himself winter
shoes. He sanctified footwear for the rest of his life.
He studied hungry, slept famished, and awoke to hunger
and cold. Born into poverty, we were rich in love.
My father broke out, scaled those walls, got odd jobs,
went to night school, educated himself, became someone.
He wanted the world for me. But my hands were too small
to grasp the enormity of what he had achieved and who he was.
He aimed for the stars, failed, but scraped his wings on the moon.
I cut my teeth on broken bottles and never wanted to leave.

Forgetfulness

 

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Forgetfulness

a lone dog tied out in the rain
a lost German Shepherd barking at stars and moon
grass growing through plastic flowers on a grave
a name eroded by the sand paper wind
a solitary sea bird carving its name on a cloud
a sea gull slicing the sky with its wing
unwashed dishes sunbathing in the sink
a knife and a fork side by side not speaking
the bike with a flat tire growing dust by the door
the kite’s face locked in the prison of the tree
a teddy bear sitting by a forgotten glass of wine

Forgetfulness is also me and my blog. I have been writing elsewhere all week, preparing two manuscripts for a competition. It’s been a long slog: gathering the material, organizing it, structuring it, revising it, polishing it, cutting unwanted material, searching for valid replacements.

Tuesday I had the honor and the pleasure of working with a local high school in their  creative writing program. I am no longer a part of the Writers in Schools Program (WiSP), so this was a freebie. I came, I sat, I talked. And then I drove home again. I answered questions from the students on my life as a writer. It was very interesting for me as some of the questions were sharp and pertinent. How do you deal with writer’s block?   Do you write by hand or on the computer? Where do you get your inspiration? Hopefully my responses were of some interest to the students who gathered to listen. The one question I expected to field was never asked: “How much do you earn as a writer? The answer of course is very little, if anything. I write for pleasure, not for money, and I have never been published by a major press.

According to TWUC, the Writers’ Union of Canada, the average earnings of a writer in Canada are $12,500. Subtract the millionaire big earners (e.g. Margaret Atwood, David Adams Richards, et al) and most writers earn considerably less. Poets are traditionally at the bottom of the pay scale and I am principally a poet. The transition from print to digital also has everyone running in different directions. Personally, I like writing. I don’t like the marketing, advertising, selling of myself and of my books.  In fact, I now self-publish and give my books away. There’s very little money in it, but I enjoy myself and my friends seem to appreciate the gifts I give them.

Unless you are a ‘top draw writer’, working with a large, established company, you are unlikely to earn much money from your creative writing. In fact, many writers make their money from workshops, fellowships, grants, residencies, retreats, and things like that. I took a different direction. I chose to be an academic / teacher / researcher (full time) and a writer on a part-time basis. The academy kept food on the table for my family. The writing was always in addition to the mainline job. Retired now, I can dedicate myself to writing full-time, and that is just what I am doing.

Writing: so many meanings, so many ways to write. I blog, I maintain a journal, I write e-mails, I post to Facebook, I write poems, short stories, and I have written three unpublished (and probably unpublishable) novels. Also on two separate occasions, I have run a weekly sport’s column (athletics and rugby) in local newspapers. I have written academic books, translations, book reviews, peer-reviewed articles, and I have maintained, with the assistance of my beloved, an online bibliography and an online searchable data base. I have also helped edit some fourteen academic journals during my time as an academic. In my editing career I have been an editor, a co-editor, an associate editor, an assistant editor, an editorial assistant, and a book review editor, as well as sitting on the editorial and / or advisory boards of a handful of magazines. I have managed to do this in three languages (English, French, and Spanish). So, what exactly do I say when people ask me “What do you write?”

I am also a fan of the following statement, though I cannot remember where I first heard it. “We are not writers, we are re-writers.” This is certainly true of my editorial roles in academic magazines, for I have done a tremendous amount of rewriting and revisions for the people who have submitted their work to the magazines I was helping. So, there it is, in a nutshell … except for one thing, I have been involved in so many writing experiences, that I have forgotten many of them. Forgetfulness: the theme of today.

 

Friends

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Friends

When good friends get together they can talk and walk and hug and hold and discuss so many awkward and difficult things, like how the body fills with spirit and the reader can be swept away in the magic of voice and how time and space can be suspended in the majestic act of creation that spins a web of forgetfulness around us and makes us forget who and what we are as we forge new worlds and the duende (Lorca’s dark earth spirit of love, want, and creation) holds us captive and drives us onward and inwards until we give birth to that which was waiting to be born, even though we never knew that the seed had even been planted, and “What is this?” we ask as we survey the new born entity fresh on the page, held in the hands, suddenly full of life and breathing on its own, a thing of beauty in its own right, that made complete sense as we struggled to hold it as it grew and transformed and transitioned from internally ours to externally and eternally theirs, a product of mind and body now belonging no longer to us but to the world beyond us, and we long to know its fate, to watch it as it walks along its path, its destiny now in its own hands, and “What is it?” people ask as we stand still and know not what to tell them, or else they say “Nice”, sigh, and go back to their two-thumbed clicking and their imaged devices, bereft of the imagination to see and explore that which has just been placed before them, this babe in swaddling clothes, this new creation, “Here, have some,” they say, thrusting our way the chips on which they are munching, or the curly French Fries they are crunching, or the pistachios, or whatever, and their coffee cools on the table, and their eyes are locked on the text that moves between their fingers across the electronic page, and this is life, as they know it, this shifting screen of shadows, this black and white stage that moves across the wall of the man-cave, woman-cave, in which they have immersed themselves, their noses close to that shifting screen, their minds elsewhere, trapped in the instantaneous insanity of the hyper-cyber-space that inhabits the void behind their eyes and between their ears, as they try to judge the price of everything never understanding the value of anything, let alone what we have created, and “Take away his grant,” “Let her wither on the vine,” “They’ll soon forget to be creative when we chain them up face to face with harsh reality,” and was that what they said to Goya, to El Greco, to Leonardo, and what exactly did they say to Lorca, before they shot him dead and rolled him into that common grave along with all the other murdered men and women, teachers and artists, poets and thinkers, and we, poor parents, holding our precious precocities in their swaddling clothes and wondering why we ever set out on this adventure, and why we are creators in the first place and “Watch out, here it comes again!” the tsunami, the tidal wave that sweeps us away and drives us into the black holes of our inner lives where a dark sun shines and shadows dance and lead us on and on until we have caught our dreams, squeezed them dry of their nothingness, and turned them into the weavings of an actuality stuffed full with new life, a new reality, a new creation, something that is truly ours, yet outside ourselves, and we gaze at it for a moment then position it in its cradle of reeds, place it in the river, push it out into midstream and eyes fill with tears and heart with hope as we watch it float away to make its own life, sink or swim, on this sea of sorrows, where someone, downstream, may bend to the waters and say “Holy Moses: what on earth is this?” or “How are we going to judge and assess it?”

Pills

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A four-legged Harlequin cluckless duck: that’s what I feel like some mornings. In Spain they say: dar tres pies al gato / to give the cat three legs. This means to complicate life, to screw things up … and yesterday, I screwed everything up. But, of course, but it wasn’t my fault. It never is my fault. How could it be my fault? Repeat after me: I am perfect, therefore it was not my fault. QED.

Pills: yup. I forgot to take them again. Sometimes I think if they were actually Pils (as in Pilsner, or should that be Pilsener?) I would always remember them. Maybe I should wash my morning pills down with a shot of Pilsener (or should that be Pilsner?). That way I might remember to remember them. I would certainly remember my morning Pils. Pils, Pilsner, Pilsener: what’s in a name? Well, according to the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) there are three classifications for Pilsners:  1 German Pilsner, 2.Bohemian Pilsener (note the extra E) and 3 Classic American Pilsner. As for my own Pills (or should that be Pils?), there are several medical classifications for them, but, of course, I always forget what they are.

There’s the pill for the back pain and the arthritic hip. I usually forget that one if the sun is shining and the sky is clear. Then there’s the one that eats away at bad cholesterol. I don’t often forget that one, as it’s the same shape and color as the two for high blood pressure, which I don’t have any longer as I rarely forget those pills. But when I do forget them, like I did yesterday, then I feel like the duck portrayed in the opening portrait.

But I’m forgetting myself … it’s never my fault. First I got up late because I didn’t fall asleep until early in the morning. Then, Molly Maid arrived while I was showering and wanted to clean the bathroom while I was in it. Not the most exciting prospect at my age. Then, when I had shooed them away, I was able to sneak out with a towel around me and actually get dressed. Then the telephone rang with an unrecognized number and I thought t was a robot call, so I left it to ring, but it was milady who was vacationing abroad so I picked up the phone and she talked for an hour. She left me with the promise that her friend would be calling me and two minutes after I put the phone down, that friend was on the phone, and that was another hour gone.

By this stage, Molly Maid is ready to perform their disappearing act, so I go to see them off, and breakfast has to be abandoned because it’s lunch time. So I make lunch, but I never take my pills with lunch and anyway, it’s snowing, and there might be rain later, but my arthritis isn’t plaguing me yet, so I really don’t need that particular pill, and the phone goes again. This message asks me to do something, so I do it. And the snow is falling and I don’t want to go out and plow the snow. Cold and boring. So I find something to do which is very, very important, but I like crossword puzzles. And the Brexit debate is on, so I follow that and wow, is that ever a mess. I think I’m screwed up until I listen to that lot: garbled garbage spoken with posh, plum in the mouth accents and imitation working-class foibles. Might as well be chewing straws and have their ears sticking out through ancient straw hats. Like donkeys.

So, by now tea-time is getting close and it’s time to think about eating, or blowing the snow, but the man next door has plowed out the end of the drive where the grader has left a ton of the stuff, and the man up the road is on the way down to help clear the rest, and he is travelling like a whirling dervish, and I limp down the corridor (or should that be corrida?) to say ‘hi!’ but he’s already turning the corner to the drive, so I limp to the garage to say ‘Hi and thank you!’ but he’s already half way up the drive on his way home, so I wave twice at his back and shout ‘thanks’ but he can’t hear me above the noise of the snow blower and he’s gone without seeing me, no eyes in the back of his head, I guess. So I wait till he gets home and I call him on the phone and we talk and I thank him. Then someone calls me and we talk. Then my daughter calls me and we talk.

And now it’s time for La-la-la-la-laCoronation Street, and I haven’t had any supper yet, and I know I have forgotten something, but I open my can of evening Pilsner (from Pilz, don’t go there) and I’ve forgotten something, but I don’t remember what it is and … what was I saying? Ah yes, no pills with my Pilsener and that’s what I forgot, and there they were this morning, lying on the table, and hopefully I won’t forget them today, but I haven’t had my breakfast yet and the cricket in Antigua will be starting soon and … oh dear … I know I’ve forgotten something. Ah yes, the clock, I’ve forgotten to wind the clock. But there’s something else and if you remember what it is, please let me know.