False Spring

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False Spring

Winter whiteness slowing now,
and the tide that full bore crashed
white waves against our house
receding to garden’s foot where
warm roots wait their waking.

But winter still stalks the land
and April brings snow, more snow,
as if there will never be an end
to these waves of whiteness,
thinner, trimmer, true, but
unwelcome as spring days grow
longer and sunrise beckons
ever more early with Crow
and Blue Jay breaking the morning’s peace
into raucous pieces
as they bounce from branch to branch …

.. and brown the earth, and barren,
and bare, the robins finding no food
and flying on, while the passerines
just call and pass us by, finches at the feeder,
purple and gold, yet singing no songs,
and the robins, hop-along casualties
of this long-delayed spring that promises,
to come but never arrives …

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Comment: Not so bad this year, the weather, but it’s been a funny winter, most strange, and totally discomforting, what with the pandemic, the lockdowns, the relief of going back to yellow, fresh lockdowns, and so many things happening everywhere while we were trapped inside where nothing was happening, save in the various forms of virtual reality that replaced quotidian reality with a mixture of faux, fake, and false, all wrapped up in a brown-paper bag of honey-sweet smiles and scowls, raised voices, and bottled anguish.

Daffodils

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Daffodils

Winter’s chill lingers well into spring.
I buy daffodils to encourage the sun
to return and shine in the kitchen.

Tight-clenched fists their buds,
they sit on the table and I wait
for them to open.

Grey clouds fill the sky.
A distant sun lights up the land
but doesn’t warm the earth
nor melt the snow.

The north wind chills the mind,
driving dry snow across our drive
to settle in the garden.

Our red squirrels spark at the feeder.
The daffodils promise warmth,
foretell future suns, predicting
bright warmer days to come.

Trucks

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Trucks

Flocks of colored passerines flying up
and down cracked tarmac roads, this way and that.
Spring songs fill the highway’s grey-black throat
with noise and color. Songs? Coarse the engine
growl, the grinding gears, the rattle and roar
of ten-wheeler trucks, dust and stones pinging
off the windshields and hoods of passing cars.

Noisy, smelly, dusty, yet welcome spring
visitors, predicting new building sites,
foretelling fresh human nests, promising
an end to winter’s frost, snow and ice, with
the assurance of warmer weather to come,
days longer, nights shorter, holidays at hand,
and a finish to the pothole season.

Passerines

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Passerines

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Returning passerines jostle and shove,
greedy to approach the feeder.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Grosbeaks

Light dances and reduces spring’s snow.
Tiny white islands float in a rising tide of green.

The late spring sun carves charcoal lines of shadow.
What remains of the winter is no longer smooth,
but dimpled and wrinkled,
glowing with a million tiny dots of color.

Dew point: occasional snowflakes
float down — feathered parachutes.

Dots of refracted sunshine spin out from the sun-
powered crystals that turn in my window.
They cut through the heavy air that the hyacinths
weight with their redolence.

The soft white flowers of the cyclamen
respond to the dancing points of light,
the curved edges of its leaves soak up the sun.

Grosbeaks, greedy for sunflower seeds,
jostle, shove, and push, to establish
their pecking order at the picnic table.

They are random, like thoughts,
flighty, and totally untamable.

Comment: What’s in a name? Change the birds and the poem changes. The same poem? Or is it? Does only the title change? I’ll let you decide. Do you have a preference? Please tell me.

Croaking Angels

He knows the frogs are in there. He doesn’t need to hear them sing. But he loves to make them croak.

Croaking Angels

Their tunes are one note symphonies,
croaks of joy that move
their fellow frogs to ecstasy,
exhorting them to share
the splendors of ditch life,
in a springtime bonding
that will loft them skywards.

There’s an ancient magic
in this calling: water
and laughter, sunlight, warmth,
and all those joyous things
that fill the newborn spring.

Moonlight swings its cheerful love lamp.
New leaves and buds are also known to sing.

Comment: This always makes me think of the croaking chorus from Aristophanes. I do hope all those wonderful ancient plays, songs, myths, and legends are not forgotten in our croaking frog chorus of modern jingoistic advertisements and propaganda. Ah well, what’s a source for the proper goose is probably a source for the proper gander. Who knows nowadays? What we do know is that spring is just around the corner. Warmth and the absence of snow will help change our lives. And yes, that croaking chorus will be back.

Rain

 

Fundy 2004 003

Rain

rain
song-birds
trilling liquid notes
spring songs
flooding gardens

oh!
competitions
ritualistic rivalries
staking out territories
winter stalwarts
versus
nouveaux venus
with their summer wealth
of well-fed health

everyone competing
for their garden niche
males en garde
guarding each square inch
their earthly paradise
carved in my yard

Comment: They lit up the Mountain Ash as if it were a Christmas Tree, American Goldfinches, twenty-four of them. The rain ran down the window panes and all the photos blurred and distorted. One at each end of the garden, two robins sang. Two pair of Purple Finches, the bright male and the dowdy female, pecked beneath the feeder as the chickadees, siskens, and juncos flitted in and out. The red squirrel scattered the ones in the tree and the grey squirrel ran at and over the ones on the ground. Chaos. And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, until the garden was empty and birds and animals had taken shelter.

 

 

 

 

Sounds of Music

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Sounds of Music

Sounds of music everywhere, and in Cardiff now the black weir gurgles with laughter as you stride along. Gravel crunches in rhythm with your footsteps and the song birds invent new ways of singing their same old courting songs. Nesting birds pair up and sing about the joys of nesting. Beneath the trees, the Daffodils – Taffodils sway to the wood wind’s delicate fluting. A lace of golden lover’s hair, they curtain the sky above you as you climb the embankment, up and up, until the River Taff flows beneath you. Black and swift and deep and swollen with the last of the winter rains, the river surges along, its face freckled with sunshine.  The Taff, they say, cradles, as it murmurs its own sweet river song, the finest coal dust from the Rhondda Valleys and carries it out to be reborn in the sea. Here, in the river, fish and eels swim eyeless, so the fishermen say, as they gesticulate with brimming eyes and empty hands, weaving with hollow wind words mystical stories of the mythical salmon that were hooked, but lived to swim another day.

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Comment: A crazy cartoon with a stick man dancing to music that occurs just off the screen at the side of the page. He dances unseen, unheard, as the deer dance at midnight, on their hind legs, reaching for bitter berries wintering on the mountain ash, as the sunlight dances when speckled trout rise to snap at flies, as my heart dances when my beloved walks into the room and lights my world with a smile. Spring in Wales: so far ahead of us as we languish here, on Canada’s East coast, hoping that last night’s minus temperatures will stagger to zero and then surge upwards into plus and double plus. Meanwhile, the grey squirrel chases away the red squirrel who frightened away the chipmunk, my beloved’s pet chipmunk for whom she put out the early morning seed to comfort him on this fresh frosty morning with its chill wind dancing between still-barren trees.

Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus

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Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus
Happy St. David’s Day

March the First, St. David’s Day:  and here, in Island View, the snow accumulates and I can hardly see the trees at the bottom of the garden. A squirrel gnaws at the sunflower seeds put out by my beloved on the step by the sliding window so that Princess Squiffy, the house cat, can have her morning cartoon show, her Squiff and Squirrel, through the glass of the sliding door. Nose to nose, cat and squirrel, separated only by a thin layer of glass, stare at each other, like Roman gladiators.

Temperatures are still low and snow continues to fall. Softly, gently, it fills the hoof prints left in the old snow by the hungry deer who come each night to empty the bird feeders.  Gone, all gone, everything that squirrel and bird have left behind. Seven deer visit us. They troop through the garden every night, moving from tree line to feeder along regular pathways trodden down by their hooves. Sometimes I see them, in the middle of the night. They cast eerie shadows beneath the moon and startle if I move too fast and they spy me at a window. If I am quiet, I see their delicate muzzles, their long black tongues reaching out to lap up the precious seeds that will keep them going through this long, hard Canadian winter, a winter made even harder this year with its incredible changes, its highs and lows, its rains and snows, its fogs and thaws, its icy rain, then plummeting temperatures with black ice threatening again and again.

St. David’s Day/ Dydd Dewi Sant. In Cardiff / Caer Dydd, the daffodils blow their trumpets beneath already flourishing trees. The Feeder Brook, aka the Black Weir,  flows steadily through Blackweir Gardens to join the Taff  and the Taff runs out to join the Severn, and the Severn flows out into the Irish Sea, and that joins the Atlantic, and the Atlantic flows into the Bay of Fundy, and the River St. John flows past the end of my road to eventually join the Bay of Fundy and then the Atlantic Ocean, and now, on St. David’s Day, we hold hands in a great North Atlantic Wave and we are all united, from snowy sea to shiny sea.

My day-dreams carry me back to Cymru / Wales, that land of song where the wind conducts the daffodils and their pale, brass voices are raised in a hymn of hope that all will be well, that their spring, that was once my spring, will join this spring, that is now my spring, and that sunshine and flowers will triumph and that brighter days will soon return …

Not that these days aren’t bright. A new snake skin of snow covers the ground and the old, sloughed skin gradually disappears as a blank, fresh page invites new footprints.  A new month, a new page, a new beginning.  The signatures of crow and squirrel, Blue Jay and Chickadee, cat and dog appear as if by magic in the garden’s autograph album. A mysterious finger traces those special words Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus / Happy St. David’s Day and the snow continues falling, blanking out all memories from my old man’s mind.

Ticks

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Ticks

Ticks, as a student, are never to be feared.
They are good for you,
mark your rites of passage,
never catch on your skin
or bite into your beard.

Ticks in the woods creep and crawl,
people really don’t like them at all.
They fall and they climb,
bring diseases like Lyme.

Leeches are bad and suck at your blood.
They swell up with your juices
as you well knew they would.
But leeches don’t kill, as tick bites might.
So get out your tweezers and squish ticks on sight.

Comment: Ticks are about. Watch out for them and be very careful with them. Announcement on CBC Radio, 19 May 2017.

Punctuation in Poetry

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Punctuation in Poetry

Gardeners

when three bearded men
unbury winter’s bones they pick
at old wood scars dead trees and
their limbs now lying there lifeless

they dig deep at flowerbeds
uprooting a riot of Japanese
Knot Weed untangling roots
all tangled and twisted with
Bees’ Balm and perennials
that stray across borders
unwelcome immigrants neither
barriers nor fences can possibly hold

they probe between flag-
stones where wintering birds
and squirrels and chipmunks
cracked the seeds and wild weeds
that grow there and flourish

but where would the land be
and what would it accomplish
without helping hands
and the power of strong fingers
and fresh eyes that spot those
intruders who diminish
the space where good flowers
grow strong with fresh herbs
chives and oregano basil
and parsley peppermint sweet
crushed beneath feet

Comment: I posted this poem yesterday. It’s another raw poem. On re-reading it, I found it confusing. To punctuate or not to punctuate, that was my question. I decided to rewrite it and use punctuation. Here’s the new version.

Gardeners

Three bearded boys unbury
winter’s bones. They pick
at old wood scars, dead trees and
their limbs now lying lifeless.

They dig deep at flowerbeds
uprooting a riot of Japanese
Knot Weed, untangling roots
all tangled and twisted:
Bees’ Balm, Cape Daisies,
and quick-growing weeds
that run across borders,
unwelcome migrants
that barriers can’t hold.

They flourish between flag-stones
where wintering birds,
squirrels, and chipmunks
cracked seeds from the feeders.

Where would the land be,
and what would it accomplish
without helping hands,
the power of strong fingers
that pluck out the intruders
that infringe on the spaces
where proper plants grow
unthreatened by weeds?

Second Comment: Both versions work, but in different ways. The first version is more spontaneous and less logical. It allows thought and image to freely flow, but there’s some repetition and a certain lack of clarity. It does allow the  reader to be creative and to seek for alternate meanings and choose the combinations that please the most. The second version is more logical and expresses a slightly different train of thought. Punctuation forces revision and a revision that punctuates demands good grammar, less freedom of speech. The result is a tighter, much closer expression. By extension, the need to punctuate also demands more thought, more concision. Needless words are eliminated. Better combinations are possible. In addition, I find the rhythm becomes more prominent, but less spontaneous. To punctuate or not to punctuate: only the poet can decide, but any comments will be most welcome.

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