Shadows

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Shadows

My front door stood open,
but I thought I’d left it
closed.

I tip-toed in and called:
“Is anybody there?”

Echo answered
‘… there, there, there …”
then silence.

I walked
from room to room,
startled by shadows.

I opened doors,
looked under the table,
searched behind chairs.

Nothing. No one.
The house stood
still and empty,

save for the fear,
the silent fear,
that lurked
like a remembered cancer
and occupied each room.

First published on this blog, Shadows, 27 April 2017. Here now with some minor changes and a voice recording.

 

 

 

Life

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Life

A champagne glass
bubbling to the brim,
your voice over the phone,
sparking and sparkling.
“I’ve got a new job,” you say,
and fresh horizons
open before my eyes.
I see your ship sailing
towards undiscovered lands.
A better life beckons:
more responsibility,
higher pay, a move away
from the routines, once fresh,
now boring, that hold you back.
“Well done. Congratulations!”
I hear you start the car.
“Take care. Drive safely.”
You accelerate away
driving into the  unknown
dimensions of a newer life
beyond this life,
a life I will never know.

Rain

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Rain

Parched, the dry brown grass,
taut the earth, tighter than a drum.
Footsteps echo a rhythmic, hollow sound:
marimba music with death tones.
No joy in the barefoot beat of heel and toe.

For months now, no rain has fallen.
The fire crackle is feared in the forest.
Elsewhere, trees catch and the woodlots blaze.
What good are showers, dry thunder clouds,
building, always building, but never releasing
the surging tide that this commonwealth needs?

We yearn for a thick blanket of cloud to gift us
with the long, slow soak of an English spring.
The grass speaks out with its many tongues,
each as sharp as a blade, and calls for rain,
for liquid to pour down from the sky and end
the dryness of drought. We need to fill the wells,
to let the streams overflow with the bounty of water.
We need the green, green grass: not this baked,
bare, arid crunch and crumble of taut brown earth.

Diagnosis

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Diagnosis
(sonnet)

Diagnosed with a terminal illness
called life, I know it will end in death.
For more than seventy years, that end
has lived within me, walked beside me,
sat at my bedside, and shared my sheets.

We have shared so many things: laughter,
joy, victory, defeat, the soul’s dark night,
the winding ways of fortune’s labyrinth.
When cancer called, we faced it together,
and life won out for a little while longer.

Hand in hand, we are together again,
our ménage à trois, engaged in a three
-legged race, blindfolded, unsure of who,
what, why, where, and especially when.

Damnatus

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Damnatus / Doomed

‘Poor poets of today: condemned to be nothing more than the dry dust of an unread doctoral thesis.’ They languish, empty headed, in dark rooms, those poets, hunched over their computers, waiting fr someone or something to fill up their heads. They hammer away at their keyboards, correcting their spelling with an  ever cautious spell-check. Intent on making their poems cryptic, they shrug off the sunshine, the beach, the flowers in the garden,  the cardinals, orange and red, who clamor at the feeder, and concentrate on abstract meanings, abstruse words, and twisted thought.

Phone calls go unanswered. Friends are left hanging on the vine to dry. These poets are worse than wallflowers at a dance or lemons out on a date as their crowded heads fill up with metaphors and myths that limp their unsteady ways onto screen and page. Oh pity the blisters on their fingers, the calluses that harden their fingertips to the delights of re-writing, again and again, for they are not real writers but real re-writers, and every thought is a skirmish with unreality, a pledge to continue their servitude to their life’s mission: the curdling of words and the nurdling of poetic thought. What better poetry is there than a hamburger for the hungry or a helping hand stretched out across a street to help a beggar in need … but there are neither burgers nor beggars in these un-windowed buildings, just the poverty of a poetry undiscoverable in its lack of lustre gloom..

Where is the graduate student, earnest, destined to be penniless, who will delve into the notebooks of these poets’ lives and dig out the thought-gems, the diamonds that will make everyone great, publisher and published, poet and practitioner of the uncritical art? Will someone not take that student by the hand and lead him to pastures green, or to the sea, to taste and test the blessed salt and the winds that will drive away the mind’s unwholesome fog and bring light and understanding that will un-cuff the wrists and heal the immortal wounds for, left untreated, they will bleed for all eternity?

Oh the bright bracelet of learning bound round the heart-bleed wrist. Oh the false knowledge gained, that leads poet and critic up and down the slippery garden path towards promotion, tenure, and a seat on the picket fence. Oh those grey human bodies chained to their wooden desks in a dusky library or transfixed on metal seats in academic meditation. Sit and watch while cobwebs sprout in the unused brain and the only certainty lies in footnotes and bibliographical entries that rise like a surging tide to flood the drowsing mind that craves more sleep.

What bright word, what metaphor dim, has poisoned the wit so it effortless moves into the serenity of contemplation? Look on this pathless sea of words, ye mighty, and despair. But take great care: for what if this sylvan warrior awakes, steps out of that figmented dream, sees the reality beyond the shadows, demands a proper challenge, a walk in the park, a vision of the grass that is so much greener on the other side where the administraitors gather and garnish paper and paperclips as they strive for the privilege of herding more and more slovens in their poetic pursuits?

Oh grant them more grants, these purloined poets. Gift them pure visions of things that never were and will never be. Never let them break away from their dissolute dreams that wrap their disadvantaged forms in the ignorance of mental slumber, half-sharpened pencils, and a box of blunt sharpeners..

Middens by Jarea

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Kingsbrae 25.4
25 June 2017

Middens by Jarea

Garbage dumps they are to us,
filled with childhood treasures,
shaped flints, arrowheads, spear
tips, scrapers for deer hide,
so many castaway items.

Garbage dumps to us, maybe,
but for the Passamaquoddy
who first settled this area
and lived on this shore,
these precious middens
are anything but dumps.

They are guide posts,
lighthouses in the moonlight,
signposts to point the way
for wayfarers and wanderers,
at high tide, low tide,
and especially when the mudflats
bathe beneath sun and moon
and the channels twist and turn,
serpentine labyrinths in their wanderings.

Garbage: we dig up what they have left,
expose past lives to scientific theories,
and destroy their navigational knowledge,
the science they left behind.

This Old Man

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Kingsbrae 16.1
16 June 2017

This Old Man

This old man, with his bundle of memories
carried on his back like a snail carries his shell,
a broken record, he played, with the gramophone needle
stuck in a groove and the same tales repeated.

The ancient  mariner who lives in his brain
stops people in the street and retells
the old story: life’s doldrums where
no winds blew and his ship just drifted,
with no wind to bring it home.

Then blew the wind of change, and suddenly
the sun was just as warm as it was in his youth.
The sea became blue again.  Flowers flourished
brighter, stronger. Birds chirped in the trees.
Light grew bright and he felt beauty return to
the new-born world of his second childhood.

Comment: My journal tells me that I wrote the original version of this poem on Friday, 21 April 2017, and posted it to my blog on Sunday, 23 April 2017 . Today’s rewrite changes the structure and tone of the poem and illustrates how time and place can influence any previously generated word sequence. For time and place we can also substitute attitude and change of heart, as Ludwig Wittgenstein suggests. More important, perhaps, our attitude and outlook can change with the weather and the state of our digestion. This is the same poem, then, written by the same person, on two different days. Or was it the same person? My stay at this residency would suggest that perhaps the person has changed along with his attitude, his outlook, his digestion, and the weather.