Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs

I remember my mother and father fighting “like cats and dogs” as my grandparents used to say. Now, my grandparents had a cat. It was black and white and striped like a zebra. They called it Spot. My parents had a dog. It was an English Cocker Spaniel, gold in color, and off-spring to a famous sire. They called it  Wimpy but it was by no means a wimp and fought with everything in sight, especially the cat.

So when my father and mother fought and the family cat and dog fought, I thought, quite reasonably in my opinion, that dogs (with their short hair) were male and cats (with their long hair) were female, and that was the reason why they fought like cats and dogs. And “never the twain shall meet” as my grandparents used to say about my mother and father and the cat and the dog. I guess it was too early to learn about the birds and the bees when, young and all too innocent, I was learning about the cats and the dogs.

And of course it’s only natural that the twain should meet. My mother and my father, the cat and the dog, had to meet somewhere, didn’t they? How else would I be here? We weren’t the sort of family that practiced contraception by throwing stones at the storks to keep the babies away. But I could never work out why the cat always had female kittens while the dog had all-male off-spring. That was a bit too much for me, and nobody ever explained anything in those days.

And look, in spite of the differences between them, even cats and dogs can sometimes live together in peace. And opposites can and do attract, don’t they?

Moment

Moment
St. Patrick’s Day

So soft, so subtle, this moment,
when land and sea reach out
and touch each other,
sea hand offered for the land
to raise up and kiss.

The Equinox draws near.
This is the moment when sun and moon,
day and night are equal.
It is the moment when the world
seems to stop, then moves again
in another direction,
from winter’s darkness into daylight
and the spring’s delight.

And still I live in hopes to see
the land of my birth once more,
the land of my fathers
where my father and mother met,
the land where I first saw daylight,
felt the land reach out to the sea,
felt the joy of the sun-licked sea kiss,
saw daffodils dance on the shore,
and swans swimming on the sea.

“And still I live in hopes to see…
Swansea Town once more.”

Click here for Roger’s reading on Acorn.
Moment

Teeth WFNB 5 March 2022

Teeth WFNB
5 March 2022
This is the story I was reading last night when Island View suffered its brief power outage and I was cut off from the WFNB Zoom reading. My apologies for the break in communications. First the text and then the live reading.

Lunchtime.
            I open a can of tom8to soup and heat it on the stove. I slice the remains of yesterday’s loaf of bread into one-inch cubes and fry them in olive oil and garlic. Tom8to soup with croutons. Then I put two slices of bread in the toaster. My father will only eat toast soaked in butter and layered with Marmite when he eats tomahto soup.
            “Lunch is ready,” I call out.
            The black American Cocker Spaniel, bought by my mother in a moment of madness, by telephone, unseen, camps in the kitchen. It nests at the far end of the table, by the stove, and defends its territory with warning growls and a snapping of yellowed teeth. I do my best to avoid the dog.
            “Dad, your lunch is ready,” I call out, a little bit louder. Dog, as my father calls it, growls and clatters its teeth. It has hidden a treasure in the folds of its old, gray comfort blanket, and guards it with the fierce, loving worry of a dragon protecting its golden hoard.
            My father enters the kitchen just as I place the soup on the table.
            “I’m not ready to eat,” my father growls. Put it back in the pot.”
            “What’s wrong, dad? I thought you were hungry.”
            “My teeth,” my father mumbles through a mouthful of pink gums. “I can’t find my teeth.”
            “Where on earth did you put them?”
            “I don’t know. If I knew where I’d put them, I wouldn’t have lost them.”
            My father circulates round the kitchen opening drawers, lifting saucepan lids, and shaking empty yogurt pots to see if they’ll offer up the rattling sound of lost teeth.
            “I can’t find them anywhere. I can’t eat lunch without my teeth.”
            “But it’s only soup, dad, tom8to soup.”
            “I don’t like tom8to soup. Your mother always made tomahto soup. Why can’t you be more like your mother?”
            “Sorry, dad. I’ll call it tomahto soup, if that will make you feel better. But it’s still made out of tom8toes.”
            “Don’t be so sarcastic. Help me find my teeth,” my father stomps towards the stove and Dog growls fiercely from its blanket as it guards its treasure.
            “Take that, you dirty dog,” my father pokes Dog in the ribs with his stick and Dog howls and spits out what it is chewing.
            “There they are,” my father’s voice trembles with excitement. He bends down, picks up his teeth, still hairy from the blanket and bubbly from Dog’s saliva, and pops them into his mouth. “That’s better,” he says, sitting down at the table. “Now I can enjoy my lunch.”

Click on this link for a ‘live’ reading of the story,
complete with Welsh accent.

On Being Welsh

On Being Welsh

On being Welsh in a land ruled by the English
Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus

             I am the all-seeing eyes at the tip of Worm’s Head.
I am the teeth of the rocks at Rhossili.
I am the blackness in Pwll Ddu pool
when the sea-swells suck the stranger
in and out, sanding his bones.

Song pulled taut from a dark Welsh lung,
I am the memories of Silure and beast
mingled in a Gower Cave.

Tamer of aurox, hunter of deer,
caretaker of coracle,
fisher of salmon on the Abertawe tide,
I am the weaver of rhinoceros wool.

I am the minority,
persecuted for my faith, for my language,
for my sex, for the coal-dark of my thoughts.

I am the bard whose harp, strung like a bow,
will sing your death with music of arrows
unleashed from the wet Welsh woods.

I am the barb that sticks in your throat
from the dark worded ambush of my song.

Click here for Roger’s reading.
On Being Welsh

And every valley

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

5

And Every Valley

And every valley shall be filled with coal.
And the miners will mine, growing old
before their time, with pneumoconiosis
a constant companion, and that dark spot
on the grey slide of the sidewalk a mining
souvenir coughed up from the depths
of lungs that so seldom saw the sun
and soaked themselves in the black dust
that cluttered, clogged, bent and twisted
those beautiful young bodies into ageing,
pipe-cleaner shapes, yellowed and inked
with nicotine and sorrows buried so deep,
a thousand, two thousand feet deep down,
and often so far out to sea that loved ones
knew their loved ones would never see
the white handkerchiefs waved, never
in surrender but in a butterfly prayer,
an offering, and a blessing that their men
would survive the shift and come back
to the surface and live again amidst family
and friends and always the fear, the pinched
-face, livid, living fear that such an ending
might never be the one on offer, but rather
the grimmer end of gas, or flame, or collapse,
with the pit wheels stopped, and the sirens
blaring, and the black crowds gathering, and
no canaries, no miners, singing in their cages.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

And every valley

Brandy Cove

Spotify:
Remember to scroll down to the appropriate audio episode.

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?

Click on this link to peruse my Books for Sale page.

On Being Welsh

On Being Welsh
in a land ruled by the English

On Being Welsh
in a land ruled by the English

is available at the following links:

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/9388319842

https://www.amazon.com/dp/9388319842

A shortened version of this manuscript was awarded first place in the David Adams Richards Awards for a prose manuscript by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, 2020.

Individual stories have been published in Anti-Lang (M. T. Head), West Coast Short Story Slam (Teeth), and on commuterlit.com (Remembrance Day).

Individual stories have won awards as follows: Butterflies (Honorable Mention, Atlantic Short Story Competition, Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia), Auntie Gladys (Finalist, Wordfeast NB, Postcard Stories), Message in a Bottle (Honorable Mention, WFNB Creative Non-Fiction), The Key (Finalist, CBC Short Story Competition), Letting Go (First Place, WFNB Douglas Kyle Memorial, short story).

I would like to thank Lucinda Flemer, Primum Mobile, the first mover, who brought together the KIRA artists and turned them into a creative community. These artists include Geoff Slater and Chuck Bowie, both of whom have influenced the writings in this book. A special thank you must go to Ginger Marcinkowski, my Beta reader, who really deserves an Alpha Grade for all her help and understanding.

I would also like to thank Dr. Karunesh Kumar Agarwal (Managing Editor) Cyberwit.net for his editing skills and his invitation to participate in this poetry series.

Donna Morrissey, award winning Canadian author and judge of the 2020 D. A. Richards Award, wrote the following about my winning submission.

Judge’s Judgement: “This writer’s prose is eloquent, lyrical and beautiful. His stories are disturbing and memorable. It is an evocative journey through the deeply seeing eyes of an old man, and back through his tormented and deeply felt self as a beaten boy. There were times I held my breath against his suffering, and times I applauded his courage to keep on living. At all times I was held by the strength of such writing as would allow me those sparse and limited visuals to the bruising of the flesh whilst leading me directly into the tendered heart. Congratulations.” 

The Story: Set in Tara Manor, a boutique hotel in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, the narrator searches for a story he can write. He rejects the stories and myths of other people and indigenous races, only to discover that he must be the subject of his own tale. It is a story of childhood abuse, first at the hands of his own family and then in Catholic and Protestant boarding schools in Wales where he was sent at the early age of six. It tells of a growing self-distancing from the world, including self-harm and attempted suicide, and then of self-discovery, understanding, and self-forgiveness, far from his Welsh homeland, in the Maritime beauty of Atlantic Canada.

Editor’s Comment: No doubt, here in these poems we are impressed by the ease and strength of the rhythm. Several of these poems show the passionate flight of profound imagination. The poems have poignant force of true feeling. All poems are irresistibly powerful.

Author’s Comment: Poems or stories? Both really, for On Being Welsh is composed of poetry written, not in verse, but in prose. Prose poems then, or poems in prose. How could I write anything but poetry when I come from the same town in Wales as Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins. I too was born with music in my heart and poetry on my lips.

On Being Welsh

On Being Welsh in a land ruled by the English

This is now published and in my hands. I do not yet have full details on links and where and how to purchase, but I will put them up as soon as I have them. Meanwhile, I am grateful to my cover artist, who always does such a great job, and to my editor, Dr. Karunesh Kumar Agarwal (Managing Editor) Cyberwit.net. What a pleasure it has been to work with him. The cover picture, incidentally, is An Only Son.

I am now working on my next book, Stars at Elbow and Foot. I am sure many will recognize the title as coming from a line of a man born in the same town in Wales as I was: Dylan Thomas. The island in the picture is the only Island visible in Island View, incidentally. Alas, I do not have a picture of my cat, though I may put one on my next cover.

Ah yes, time to celebrate. I guess we’ll open a barrel of wine tonight. Hopefully we won’t finish it one sitting. I’d be lying if we did. This incidentally is the bodega where I got baptized. If you haven’t got baptized in a Spanish bodega, you haven’t lived. I’ll tell you about it sometime. How I miss that verdejo! Unfortunately, the verdejo didn’t miss me, and that’s how I got baptized. ‘Ya te hemos bautizado!’ “Que sea yo, y no el vino.” And if you understand that, you speak pretty good Spanish or Spanish pretty good … and you probably have an evil mind, just like mine.

Here I am, on the sea-shore, selling C-shells and thinking about my evil mind. But remember, my evil mind is mine, and it’s a one-of-a-kind. You go and find your own. And watch out for those Saint John C-gulls.

Go on, buy one and read it.
I dare you.

Sunday in Wales

To be Welsh on Sunday
(This prose poem should be read out loud, fast, and in a single breath!)

              To be Welsh on Sunday in a dry area of Wales is to wish, for the only time in your life,  that you were English and civilized,  and that you had a car or a bike and could drive or pedal to your heart’s desire, the county next door, wet on Sundays, where the pubs never shut  and the bar is a paradise of elbows in your ribs and the dark liquids flow, not warm, not cold, just right, and family and friends are there beside you  shoulder to shoulder, with the old ones sitting  indoors by the fire in winter or outdoors in summer,  at a picnic table under the trees or beneath an umbrella that says Seven Up and Pepsi (though nobody drinks them) and the umbrella is a sunshade on an evening like this when the sun is still high  and the children tumble on the grass playing  soccer and cricket and it’s “Watch your beer, Da!” as the gymnasts vault over the family dog till it hides beneath the table and snores and twitches until “Time,  Gentlemen, please!” and the nightmare is upon us as the old school bell, ship’s bell, rings out its brass warning and people leave the Travellers’ Rest, the Ffynnon Wen,  The Ty Coch, The Antelope, The Butcher’s, The Deri, The White Rose, The Con Club, the Plough and Harrow,  The Flora, The Woodville, The Pant Mawr, The Cow and Snuffers — God bless them all, I knew them in my prime.

Comment: I wonder how many other ‘serious drinkers’ or ‘amateurs’ remember these pubs and clubs. And, oh yes, there were so many more. The Mexico Fountain, The Tennis Court, The Old Market Tavern, The New Market Tavern, The Load of Hay, all those many colored dragons: green, black, blue … the Three Lamps, the Cricketers, the Villiers Arms, the Birchgrove Arms, the Rose and Shamrock, several Red Dragons, the Church, the Black Swan, I can’t remember how many different Georges, and Kings’ Heads, the Vine Tree, the Sun, the Oak tree, the Penguin, the Naval Volunteer, the Quadrant, the Coronation Tap, the Mauretania, The White Horse, the Black Horse, the Old Grey Mare … so many memories, and all deniable, and I’ll never forget the Wheelbarrow Race (ask me about it), nor Pickety Witch, one of those pubs at which I never stopped!

Survivor

Survivor

Every day, now he’s learning to speak Welsh,
he finds out something new about his childhood.
It’s not the need to talk so much as the necessity
of diving into himself and mining his memories.

Brynhyfryd / Mount Pleasant.
Pen-y-Bont / the End of the Bridge.
Ty Coch / the Red House.

This latter the house in which he was born,
way out of town, by Fairwood Common,
away from the strafing and bombing.
The war generation of his family all born
in the same in-the-country Gower bed.
No room in war-time hospitals
not even for the birth of war babies.

Three of his brothers did not survive
those rough, household births.
He still bears the forceps’ scars
from the moment the doctor
plucked him out, head first,
and hung him up by the heels,
shaking him, bringing him back to life.

He bears other scars as well
from the survivor’s burden of carrying
three dead brothers for seventy long years,
alive and kicking in the womb-warm
crevices of his still beating heart.