Dark Angel

Meditations on Messiaen.
Quartet for the End of Time.

2

Dark Angel

He will come, the dark angel,
and will meet me face to face.

He will take all that I own,
for it is only temporary
and all my possessions are on loan.

My house, my wife, my car,
my daughter, my grand-child,
 my garden, my trees, my flowers,
They are not mine.
I do not possess them.

I only own this aching heart,
these ageing bones,
this death that has walked beside me,
step by step, every day
since the day I was born.

That indeed is mine,
and nobody else’s.
That is my sole possession.
That is the only thing I own.

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Dark Angel

Pepe’s Bar

Pepe’s Bar

Friday Fiction

Pepe’s bar was at the top of a steep, cobbled street, on the left-hand side. When we got there, it was crowded with men, mostly fishermen off the North Atlantic ships that cross the sea to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The men stay away for weeks at a time, and when they get back home, they too have a huge thirst, large and curious appetites, and money with which to indulge them. We all pushed our way into Pepe’s bar to join the crowd.
            “Phew! Let’s get out of here. The place stinks of fish!”
            “We can’t go without drinking something. You know what Pepe’s like.”
            “Let’s share a porrón.”
            And a porrón of red wine duly appeared. The porrón is designed for a small boat in the open sea. It is a glass flask of variable size, holding half a litre or a litre of bright red wine, depending upon the number of people drinking from it. It has a wide funnel at one end through which the wine enters and a thin spout at the other through which the wine exits in a fine ruby jet which the experts shoot directly into their mouths; done with skill, no lips ever touch the flask which circulates from hand to hand amidst cries of appreciation for the skilled and jeers for the careless (and the educational tourists, like me, here to learn about the language and the culture) who suddenly choke and cough as they squirt a red stream of wine up their noses and onto face, shirt, and tie. By dint of hard work, some of it done in the bath tub at home while nobody is watching, I can manage a porrón in the quiet confines of the bar; but I still don’t know how I would fare, out at sea, in an open, wind-swept boat.
I was soon going to find out.

Full Moon Over KIRA

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Full Moon Over KIRA

Who shall dredge this midnight moon
from the shoals of Passamaquoddy Bay?
Gaunt the moon-rakers’ faces, harsh their hands
hauling on nets, heaving her up, rippled and dimpled,
blunt her bite as she emerges from submersion,
raked from water in the traditional ritual.

Upside down, these reflected clouds,
as bright as full-moon fishing boats
distorted from below as the night wind
blows clean dry bones across a mirrored sky
where shadow fish fly wet with moonshine.

Oh pity her, you people, as she’s dragged
from her element and exposed to air and oxygen
that will slowly kill her, make her fade,
frail and fragile, not meant for this world of rock
and stone, flower and field, but destined to walk
in heavenly meadows or to rest in the shallows
where she rocks to sleep in the sea’s endless cradle.

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Wake

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Wake

Such a miracle:
the first steps of the cormorant’s flight
taken over water.

That first step heavy,
the second lighter,
and the third scarcely a paint brush
pocking the waves.

The need to take flight
lies deep within me.

Like a ship at sea,
or a seabird over the waves,
I will leave white water in my wake
to prove that I was here,
for a little while,
but have now gone.

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Brandy Cove

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Brandy Cove

I remember teaching my granny
how to climb the steep slope
from the beach to the headland.

“It’s easy, gran,” I said. “Look!”
I leaped from tussock to tussock,
up the path, each patch of grass
a stepping stone leading me upwards.

She stood there, below me,
breathing hard, her left hand
held against her chest,
just beneath her heart.

“Wait for me,” she said, panting.
“I’m catching my breath.”
I ran back down, then held out
my hand to help her.
It was so long ago,
but I remember it well.

Who now will hold out
a helping hand
as I age, pause, hand on heart,
to catch my own breath,
as I climb, not a steep cliff path,
but the stairs up to bed?

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Potholes and Portholes

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Potholes and Portholes

My poems are drawn from my life,
not from the lives of others.

I live my words,
drawing them wriggling
through the holes
punched by others in my flesh.

Pot-holes,
portals to the underworld,
so many cars
slithering in spring’s freshet
melt of tarmac and metal flesh.

Portholes:
so many ships,
leaving port,
sailing away
into unknown seas
well beyond my ken.

Fun in Fundy

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Fundy

Salt on the sea wind sifts raucous gulls in packs,
breeze beneath wings, searching for something
to scavenge. Seaweed. The tidemark filled with
longing. A grey sea crests and rises. Staring eyes:
stark simplicity of that seal’s head filling the bay.
Next day, his body stretched dead on the beach.

The river runs rocky beneath the covered bridge.
Campers have created first nation’s rock people,
heaping stone upon stone. At low tide, on the dried
river bed, there is no easy way to say no. White foam

horses stamp and foam in the sea farrier’s forge. Cold
winds blow at Cape Enrage. Wolfe Point sees late
gales transform the beach: the sandbar carved:
a Thanksgiving turkey, stripped to bare rib bone.

Dead birds sacrificed so I can walk here in comfort,
my anorak stuffed with their plundered plumage.

Crow’s Feet

A crow, but not a beach. You’ll have to click on the link at the bottom of the page for the real beach photos.

Crow’s Feet

a convict’s arrows
marking the eye’s corner
and the beach at low tide
with its crackle of wings
as sea-birds fly
their defensive patterns
feathered sails
on a canvas wind

how many crabs
made in the image
of their carapaced god
hide in the sand
half-buried waiting
for the tide to turn
and water to return
and give them refuge

abandoned shells
postage stamps
glued in the top right-hand corner
of a picture post card beach

who can decipher
the sea’s hand writing
this mess of letters
stitched by sandpipers
who thread the beach’s eye
inscribing dark secrets
with the sewing machine
needles of their beaks

pregnant this noon tide silence
this absence of waves
where the quahaug lies buried
secured by a belly button
a lifeline to air and light
surrounded by crow’s feet
tugging at the beach’s dry skin

sand beneath my feet
sand between my toes
dry sand sandpapering

Comment:
And here’s the link to the beach photos.

https://moore.lib.unb.ca/poet/Crows_Feet.html

Lighthouse

A lighthouse to light your way, shining to make the night as clear as day and to highlight any obstacles that might stand in your way.

Lighthouse

            Once upon a time that lighthouse on the quay was a young boy who sat within the shadow of his father’s tale. He sensed he would never feel the power of his own words because he didn’t seem to have any on account of the black hole inside him that swallowed everything up. He thought he would never know the joys of creating his own myths, telling his own story. He thought he would never come to grips with storm music, wind and rain, a lost path sought and found. He longed for someone to gift him a rainbow, with or without its pot of gold. He also thought that the fatal shadow, cast upon a child by a father, would always be there.
            One day, the early morning sun knocked on his bedroom window. He drew back the curtains and let in the light. That day, he emerged from the shadow and saw that the world was bright and filled with sunshine. Each morning, he breathed in the sunlight, felt it flow through his body. His heart pumped new blood and he was refreshed by the joy of living, of being himself, of being nobody but himself, unique and wonderful, subject to nobody’s wishes and whims. Gradually he grew into the person he was always destined to be.
            The sun’s rays lit up his face and eyes. Sunshine flourished within him and renewed not only him but all that he touched. Light flooded out like the beam from that other lighthouse, over there, on those rocks, that was put there to help and guide wayfarers and seafarers lest they become lost at sea.
            Lost, he found himself. Found, he centred himself. Joy and hope, belief and knowledge took root under the sun that each day nourished his body, soul, and spirit. Renewed, light flooded from him. He burned like a bonfire or a beacon and became one of those special lights that enlighten the world. He became that lighthouse.

Comment: One of the prose poems from Tales from Tara that slipped in here by accident. I have included it for, and dedicate it to, my good friend and fellow writer, Judy Wearing, to wish her well with health and strength in this new year that is now turning into something special.

Why?

Different bird, same question: why? This one is from one of the beaches on the road to North Cape, PEI. Why, indeed?

Why?

In the mud nest jammed tight against the garage roof,
tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open.

The parents sit on a vantage point of electric cable,
mouths moving in silent encouragement.

A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw,
a small body thudding down a ladder of air
to crash beak first on the concrete.
  “Why?”

 “Wye is a river.
      It flows through Ross-on-Wye
      and marks the boundary
      between England and Wales.”

And the swallows perch on the rafters
watching their fledgling
as it struggles on the floor:
the weakening wings,
the last slow kicks of the twitching legs.
“Why?”

“Y is a crooked letter
     invented by the Green Man of Wye.”

Comment: This is the original poem, written back in the eighties, wow, that’s forty years ago. I included it in my first poetry chapbook, Idlewood (published, 1991). It was a slim volume, dark green color, typed and photocopied, very humble, but MINE! A couple of years ago I wrote a prose poem, sort of flash fiction, in one of my Welsh sequences and included the story as part of the text. It came to me as a memory yesterday morning, and I posted it on Facebook. Here now is the story. Hopefully, you have just read the poem: I hope you liked it but, as I know all too well, de gustibus non est disputandum. I would like to know if you prefer the poetry to the prose. Please let me know, pretty please?

Why?

“Where are you going?” I ask. “To see a man about a dog,” my father replies. “Why?” I ask. “Hair of the dog,” his voice ghosts through the rapidly closing crack as the front door shuts behind him. “Why?” I cry out. I recall the mud nest jammed tight against our garage roof. Tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open. Parent birds sit on a vantage point of electric cable, their beaks moving in silent encouragement. A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw, a small body thudding down a ladder of air to crash beak first on the concrete. “Why?” I ask. The age-old answer comes back to me. “Wye is a river. It flows through Ross-on-Wye and marks the boundary between England and Wales.” The swallows perch on the rafters watching their fledgling as it struggles on the floor, the weakening wing flaps, the last slow kicks of the twitching legs. “Y is a crooked letter invented by the Green Man of Wye,” my grandfather says. “Why?” I repeat. “I want to know why.” Silence hangs a question mark over the unsatisfied spaces of my questioning mind.