Building on Sand

Building on Sand

Everywhere the afternoon gropes steadily to night.
Some people have built fires,
others read by candlelight.

Geese, drifts of snow their whiteness,
settle on the riverbank. They walk
on thin ice at civilization’s edge.
Around them, the universe’s clock
ticks slowly down.

Who forced that scream
through the needle’s eye?
Inverted, the Big Dipper,
hangs its question mark
from heaven’s dark eyelid.

Ghosts of departed constellations
stalk the sky. Pale stars bob
phosphorescent on the flood.

The flesh that bonds,
the bones that walk,
the shoulders and waist
on which I hang my clothes,
now they stand alone
and listen at the water’s edge
to the whispering trees.

They have caught the words
of snowflakes strung between the stars.
Moonlight is a liquor
running raw within them.

Comment: The verse version (above) is from Though Lover’s be Lost. The prose version (Below) is from Stars at Elbow and Foot.

Building on Sand

Everywhere the afternoon gropes steadily to night. Some people have built fires, others read by candlelight. Geese, drifts of snow their whiteness, settle on the riverbank. They walk on thin ice at civilization’s edge. Around them, the universe’s clock ticks slowly down. Who forced that scream through the needle’s eye? Inverted, the Big Dipper, hangs its question mark from heaven’s dark eyelid. Ghosts of departed constellations stalk the sky. Pale stars bob phosphorescent on the flood. The flesh that bonds, the bones that walk, the shoulders and waist on which I hang my clothes, now they stand alone and listen at the water’s edge to the whispering trees. They have caught the words of snowflakes strung between the stars. Moonlight is a liquor running raw within them.

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The Messenger

The Messenger

Clarity is essential now: the cycle of seasons, the will and willingness to change. Nothing can alter this flow: rain and river, pond and sea, the moon pull of the tide. Each half-truth glimpsed through the helmet’s slotted visor as we charge in the lists, knee against knee, spear against spear, knight against knight. On the shore at the earth’s edge, a new planet mapped in miniature: each grain of sand, a speck of dust, light upon the palm, yet the whole beach, in unison, weighing us up, weighting us down. This world, immanent, renascent, growing more solid through its thinning veil of mist. Freckled the water, as the wild man sculls towards us, over the waves, over the sand, a fisher of what kind of men? Was he without guilt, he who cast that first stone? The pond’s water-mask, reconfigures in ever-widening circles traveling who knows where to lap at an unseen shore. Light bends like a reed; liquid are the letters dancing, distorted, on speckled waters and the white sand undulating under the rising waves.

Comment: So this is the messenger, and what now is the message? And who or what do we believe? And why should we believe it? Better by far, say some, to bury our heads in the sand and to pretend to be unaware, uncaring about all that is going on around us. Why worry about what we cannot change? Just let it be. But not all people think that way. And, unfortunately, not all people think. I do. But I am beginning to think that I am one of the few who does think. And not only that, I think I am getting out of step with the world around me. Yes, I know the Spanish saying: “in the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king”. I am neither blind, nor one-eyed, nor am I a king, nor a king-maker. More than anything, I think I am an anarchist ant!

Monkey Meets an Anarchist Ant
Memories of El Camino de Santiago

The anarchist ant is dressed in black.
He has a little red base-ball cap worn
backwards on his head.

His eyes are fiery coals.
“Phooey!” He says. “It’s folly
to go with the flow.” so he turns
his back on his companions
and marches in the other direction.

Some ants call him a fool.
The Ant Police try to turn him.

The Ant Police try to turn him.
The Thought Police try
to make him change his mind.

Others, in blind obedience
to a thwarted, intolerant authority,
first bully him, then beat him,
then bite him till he’s dead.

Monkey’s Clockwork Universe

Monkey’s Clockwork Universe

Some days, monkey winds himself up
like a clockwork mouse.
Other days he rolls over and over
with a key in his back
like a clockwork cat.

Monkey is growing old and forgetful.
He forgets where he has hidden the key,
pats his pockets, and slows right down
before he eventually finds it
and winds himself up again.

One day, monkey leaves the key
between his shoulder blades
in the middle of his back.

All day long, the temple monkeys
play with the key, turning it round and round,
and winding monkey’s clockwork,
tighter and tighter, until suddenly
the mainspring breaks

and monkey slumps at the table
no energy, no strength,
no stars, no planets, no moon at night,
the sun broken fatally down,
the clockwork of his universe
sapped, and snapped.

Comment: Monkey Temple is A Narrative Fable for Modern Times written in verse. The poems show strong links to Surrealism and Existential Philosophy. They portray the upside-down world of Carnival and out line Monkey’s Theory of the Absurd in a dystopian world that mirrors that of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, LaFontaine’s Fables, the esperpento of Valle-Inclan, and the witty conceptismo of Francisco de Quevedo. This is a walk through the jungle of the Jungian innermost mind. But watch out for those monkeys: they bite.

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Mirror Image

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Mirror Image
(on seeing the outline
of a painting on the reverse side
of my painted note-book page)

What price these corkscrew lines,
reversed, seen through a glass, darkly,
the wrong side of a tapestry,
all twisted threads and imaginings,
no clear pattern of thought
or design, as if designated by an errant
hand and signed by a man with a mission
to bewilder, confuse, muddle, shock,
turn inside out, back to front, upside down
all our notions of what is what,
and who is when, and why, and where?

Yet there is meaning to this madness,
a sense of a blind man trapped underground
in the labyrinth of his darkened mind
with only a thin thread of belief
to guide him, upwards and outwards,
away from the torrid torment of doused flames,
the damp spark’s midnight glow,
the search for substance in a new world,
insubstantial in a neologism, whirled
through inner spaces and spun, guileful,
out of the back of the hand to spin,
this way, that way, who knows which way,
according to the moment of delivery,
the angle of acceptance,
the untrained brain of the recipient,
tottering on the brink of a world
with a definite end: the suicide of logic.

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Dalí ‘s Clock

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Dalí ‘s Clock
Salvador Dalí

A clock, a sheet hung out, strung out,
on a canvas washing line. No wind,
no pegs, soon to be sun-bleached, dried,
then folded in on itself, corner to corner
the sheet, and the watch, how will it fold?

Face to face, in half circles, perhaps, or
back-to-back with time cut in half, a tick
without its companion tock, a stutter of time,
halved, then quartered, then in an eighth,
a quesadilla of broken springs and tiny
wheels within wheels, all disjointed,
with glass fragmenting, shattering.

While we watch, our clockwork universe
disintegrates before our eyes, in a tiny
explosion as all chronological creation
implodes into a logic of carnival, absurd
our words and world, devoid of meaning,
a pocket-watch going over a waterfall,
a timepiece soon to break into rusty pieces,
painted by a man who dreams he isn’t mad.

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Limbo Dancing

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Limbo Dancing

Yesterday I went limbo dancing
in the bedroom mirror.
Lower and lower I danced
until I fell into the mirror
and became my reflection.

Rough were the waters.
I know how to swim, but
I thought I would drown,
except the light was too shallow
and my feet touched bottom
when I let down my wheels.

I swam on and in
looking for a deserted island
on which to build
my idle, sandcastle dreams.

Two people said they saw
my reflection swimming,
a goldfish in a silver space.

They said I stared back at them
with circles of longing
ringing my eyes, but I laughed
when they said they had seen me,
for when I looked in the mirror
that reflected the mirror,
I saw myself limbo dancing,
stranded between
heaven and hell
in a dance hall called Virus
where I drank Corona.

Whose eyes watch me now
as my video goes viral
and I twist and I dance
in a fantasy land
filled with sweet nothings.

Deer Dance

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Deer Dance

They came with the snow, of course. Last year there were seven, this year six of them sniffed their cautious way, step by step, into the yard. I looked out of the bedroom at 3:00 am, and there they were, standing beneath the mountain ash and reaching up to the lower branches to snaffle the berries. They also dug into the snow and ate the fruit that had fallen beneath the tree. The night was cold and dark. I didn’t want to risk the camera and have the flash or the laser beam frighten them so I just stood and watched.

Next morning, I wondered if it had all been a dream. Then I saw the dance-steps in the snow. They have been back a couple of times now and this morning Clare spotted seven, in the early morning light, ghosting their almost perfect camouflage through the trees. So now we have a couple of questions: are there two groups this year, one of six and one of seven? Or had the seventh deer from last year rejoined the group?

We think the group of six has larger deer while the group of seven has two seemingly smaller ones. But this may be a trick of moon light and shifting moon shadows. Climate change: the local deer at sixes and sevens. What would Ocho Venado, the Oaxacan / Mixtec King known as Eight Deer, think of it? Ah, a conundrum indeed. And when and if I work out any answers, I will let you know.

Surrealism

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Surrealism
KIRA Retreat Day 4

Only one of the Kingsbrae alpacas could understand and illustrate what we did today. This one showed us so many things. Luckily we smuggled him into the writing classes and the art classes and nobody was any the wiser. In fact he taught one class himself, and one participant served as translator, moving from Spanish to English with almost as much ease as he taught.

He began this morning with a reading that linked Symbolism to Surrealism to Magical Realism. It was a fascinating piece that nobody in the room, myself included, had ever heard before. So, we began with a concrete, literary example, then moved to a theoretical session. The alpaca began by explaining the difference between a lama, an alpaca, and a vicuña. This was extremely interesting, and something we hadn’t considered before. Luckily, these three creatures, two of them mythical (but which two?), do not have-isms attached to them and were therefore much easier to understand.

The lama began the theoretical session by offering some meditation exercises, very peace-giving.  Then he moved into the nitty-gritty of automatic writing. He followed this with some examples of how, rather than copying the automatic writing, we could select prime elements from it. This selection process allows the writer to mine the subconscious while avoiding some of the repetitious nature of the automated pen on the suppliant page.

In all cases, all participants read from their work and the sharing of subconscious inanities was a great way to break any ice that came with the overnight change in the weather.

After lunch, we had a second writing exercise that stretched into two exercises. These were courtesy of a second lama and entailed describing unknown and known objects. One of the participants was very uncooperative and instead of writing words drew pictures in his notebook. This drew comments of ‘Naughty, naughty,” from the lama and that student was given a time out on the golf cart driven round the lawn by the KIRA equivalent of Mad Max.

In our final session, the art lama appeared. He had carefully plucked all the flowers in Kingsbrae and then eaten them. However, in an incredible act of bravery, the ladies present stole some from his hoard and placed them in water cups. The participants then scattered random dots of paint upon a canvas and agreed that, seen from a distance and in the dark, they looked like flowers on a tarmac road under storm clouds on a thundery night when nothing could be seen.

By now, the lama who had been tied to the fishing weir, oh, I forgot to tell you about that, sorry, had been rescued when the Old Sow let the water out of the Passamaquoddy bath tub (aka low tide). Luckily no harm was done and a delicious, fossilized piece of Turkish Delight was shared by the participants all of whom agreed that nothing like this had ever happened to them before, and I believe them.

Mad Max took everyone for a ride on the Golf Cart and we all chased deer round the Kingsbrae Gardens while singing “I’ve been working on the chain gang” and “For it’s a jolly good yellow.”

Moon

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Moon

when the glue of the universe
sticks to your fingers
the turtle’s snap
is a red-tailed kite
sky blue across the marsh

where now the will o’ the wisp
that ragged wanderer
in his tinker’s coat
all hash-tags and patches

frost crisps the leaves
dry cactus in a tilted rain stick
they patter and fall
three deer watch from the ditch
twitching their ears

gibbous this rabbit moon
night hung from the sky
who will gnaw next at the rind
of its round yellow cheese