These shirts show signs of wear and tear, The collars frayed, the cuffs rubbed bare. I see the signals everywhere. I see them in my mind like doom. They float like ghosts upon the loom. I slip them on like skin, perfume. I'll have the collars turned before I fold them neatly in the drawer. Perhaps they'll look like new once more. © Glen Fisher
A boy lies on his back looking at clouds. Only he is not looking, he is up there with them, up where they slide and collide mysterious as fate insubstantial as air. I have not seen clouds in sixty years, until today - there, overhead, in the blue sky that scrolls and unfolds - there, where they always were. ©
From the Lost Poetry Project
This Sunday morning constitutional finds us traipsing across the stubby field, over the earthen wall of the dam where a couple of Egyptian geese meditate or drowse in a circle of brown water. We rise toward the morning light, climbing toward trees, seeing the rolling grassy joins and planes of the Botanical Gardens lay themselves out like an architect's drawing: the pencilled city an imagined hum on the horizon. Marching along, one eye on the roving dog. Uniformed plovers in a line keep watch amid a few tall blades of grass. Two break away, yapping, running decoy. We crest the hill; pausing to draw breath, to look back. This is the way that we have come. This is where we are. The sky reaches, hazy, poignant, over our heads. The sky today is the delicate, light-filled blue I remember as a small boy plunging my arm into the salt shock of the rock pool, grasping for starfish, anemones; or hunting with a muslin net bound with wire to a length of knotty bamboo or pale dowel for snail-green fish that flicked through watery weeds. I remember too the blue eye, tender, all-seeing, that peered through shimmering leaves, onto a circle of grass in Newlands Forest, onto white knees, skirts, a girl's arms and lips and face: the marvel of trusting flesh and miracle of first love. The boy that I recall is not the same man who pauses near you, here. Perhaps the light is different, after all. The Botanical Gardens, in this mild sunlight, stretch before us like a tracing; the contours, the trees, the cyclists and walkers, the stilted plovers, the quiet open spaces, a sketch only, the colours implied. And we, also, stand in a harder light. Trial and error have taught us that some things can not be shared between us, can not be said. Some things, we've come to accept, are not - are possibly never - to be. And yet, yet the light moves me, this soft bright autumnal morning; the boy reminds me. Lost in our thoughts, we gaze out, separate - but, inevitably and still, joined together by the passing years: responsibilities, children, laughter, friendship, tears. The wind stirs. I turn, as if some presence urges. As if the sky is hurling meteor showers, cosmic dust, asteroid fragments. But then, without a word being spoken, our feet have found the path again. Some subject occurs: your voice beside me as I go, and other voices calling.
And just to mix things up, here is a teeny weeny poem from my Lost Poetry project.
Words and pictures, folks, words and pictures!
The Gift Let me wake within your eyes And sleep again in your safe arms, Free from the terrors of surprise Protected from all worldly harms: I swear your love, with its strong powers, Will raise a man so joyful, true, He'll charm the desert into flowers And give the sun and moon to you.
The Road We Travel I think about the road we travelled, How it all seemed so serene - The sun shone down, like no tomorrow, On timeless hills and fields of shimmering green. Yet there was work to do, and cares to manage, Your sick child never really out of mind. This journey too would end, no matter - We understood, and still the world seemed kind. This was forever - as if we knew Nothing could harm us, there'd be no blame; The love we shared, whatever happened, Be unconsumed by flood or flame. Your sleeping spirit, trusting, still, Lay in my care throughout that night. Thankful, when the morning brightened, I saw you turn toward the light.
Speaking of Love I say these words In place of touch, For things unsaid Or dreamed too much: For finding love And learning 'wait', And knowing words Like love, are fate.
Once upon a time – it was a dark and stormy night, as I recall, my poor heart in turmoil, my tongue let loose upon the world in verse and worse – once upon a time, when I was younger, quite a lot younger in fact, and of course much less sensible than I am now, now when I think and talk mostly in prose, I was a writer of pomes, long and short, a few of them published, in little (very little) magazines but most of them – not that there are many – folded in darkness, and to all intents lost.
But now, as I sort through boxes of old letters, photographs, scribblings, mementos, the big clean-up in preparation for our return to Toronto, a fistful of old poems have resurfaced. Some of them I think had best remain in the cupboard, and a few, for the sin of bad writing, belong in the dustbin. But there are a few – just a few – that I might allow out, for a spin down the driveway or a night at the ball, before midnight strikes and the party is over.
I call this the Lost Poetry Project, and here is a modest first instalment.
Matisse's Painting of a Nude In Matisse's painting of a nude the woman sits with her back to us, arms lifted up, doing her hair. Paint moulds her body; it is as if Matisse's fingers, without a brush, by pure feel, have touched and shaped her into life. Domesticity and love: her tender curves, her weight, sturdy yet delicate - the intimacy and trust of a moment held forever in Matisse's mind. Feeling her presence, stillness, almost imagining her scent, I realise it is not the painter who has shaped the girl - it is she who has filled his heart, moulded thought and feeling into one, and projected herself there. So this year rises in my mind: everything you have said, gesture, touch, inhabits these spaces and re-creates you here.
That long-ago moment
in a hotel corridor –
a woman’s soft mews and a man’s
blunt panting. My own life
undone by this happiness.
Or by no more than a mutually
satisfactory encounter, a moment
stolen behind a thin painted door.
Until the couple stopped
whatever they were doing.
A sudden silence
and I moved quickly on.
This was not one of those
Photo opportunities, you know,
Where the bird glides in from
Stage left and
To the right
With a pristine
Pink and silver
Salmon or something
A missile ready to launch
From its claw
Flakes of morning light
Falling from its not yet barbecued
This was murder, a brawl in the shallows
Which ended badly
For the thrashing creature in the water
Which had not started it
But for a moment there I thought
Could have drowned the fish eagle
Dragged it under.
I must have shot
Intent on the action, thinking of
Flickr, of the prints
I would make. Only after
Did I see what had happened.
There was drama, certainly,
The bird had to eat, and the fish
Grubbing about in the mud or slime
Had no idea
How its world would instantaneously
Flip upside down.
They make a good series,
Those images, nonetheless.
I am happy to show them.
The morning light fell in flakes on the deck
That overlooked the bend in the river.
We are leaving here, I thought.
We won’t see this again.
Then there are the poems – pomes, John Lennon called them – which are unfamous by definition, since they never were published, or submitted for publication.
This is a conceit, of course – these poems like their published cousins would doubtless be languishing in the same dry obscurity even if they had been published. Still, it’s a nice point to make – you know, I coulda been champion of the world!
Here’s one of them.
Some journeys are a metaphor, and this
Just past, continues in my mind.
It’s true, we’ve travelled down this way before,
But love sees more when love is blind.
The journey outward seemed like a return.
Once in the air, our thoughts turned south.
Though coming home was leaving all again,
I touched your knee, and longed to kiss your mouth.
We both knew better. But who cared?
Time heals, it seems, but does not cure.
A different kind of truth was bared.
We said goodbye, but wanted more.
My darling, though you are not mine,
My journey has a different aim:
To leave until you give the sign
That brings me to your heart again.