Skipped Stones

Study of Water Plants in May

Skipped Stones
Leaves
sprout up
out of nowhere,
and are
rolled,
the smoke of which
comes from
the parted lips
that warn
of the dangers
of relying on
imagination,
and tell you
there are not
in fact
places
where your stone
might have stopped
as it skipped
across the waters.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit  1 Graphic 50 Words.

Sketch 10: Notes

The poem from Watercolors this month is Notes.

The words came to me as I thought about my experience of listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.

Miles_Davis_-_Sketches_of_Spain

Thanks are in order to Smaktakula for recommending this album to me.  Never having been a great fan of the trumpet, I found it nothing short of amazing to discover being swept away by the music.

I’ve only been to Spain twice, one time in Madrid, and the other in Barcelona.  But I have a great fondness for the country and language and would love to go south and visit Granada and Seville.

Have a listen:

The Appointment

The Appointment
In the backseat
a blurry picture
of what was
about to unfold.

They’re whispering
and you’re wondering
what it is that they mean.

A police presence
and the roads are
cordoned off
and though someone
had mentioned
the president speaking
very close to where
the hospital you were going to was
you wondered

and then
you felt
what a dog feels
when it enters
the car
and knows
it will never
return.

 

Great Lakes

Great Lakes

I’ve worked the ships
since I was young
that twist and turn
at a slow
but steady pace
along the rivers
and canals of
a continent
across
the Great Lakes.

There are times
when I close my eyes
and dream
of when
the birch bark canoes
glided effortlessly
along these waters.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

Although this was a sketch I liked very much, it was not at all clear how I was going to approach it never having  been on an industrial ship. However, I have seen them move on the water. As I began to think of my experiences of the Great Lakes I realized my first trip by ferry boat was to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron when I was about 8.

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit  1 Graphic 50 Words.

The Chinese Restaurant

Szechuan Garden Chinese Restaurant

Red lanterns hung
giving light
to a dim atmosphere
bordering on the
clandestine
as if boats
were sneaking out to sea
with contraband.

The music
echoing out
did not soothe
as much as
make one
question
what might
come next.

The menu
with its characters
of sheer beauty
from which
you ordered
as the
candle flickered away
like fireflies gone lost,
exchanging
the happenings of a day
that would remain with you
as long as
the Great Wall
traversed space
from which its citadels
had stood as a reminder
of the threats that come
to everyone
in unfamiliar territory.

The ink wash paintings
with the calligraphy
you could not
decipher
but imagined
to be
a reflection
of the placid
waters.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

The Ladder

Tazewell Street, Downtown Norfolk

The inner city
church
with stain glass windows
was where you sat
in a wooden pew
and listened,
wondering how
so beautiful
a story
could be made
as dull as the
Eucharist,
tasteless
body
without blood.

But the streets
to which you
scampered off
were different.

If only
you could look up
and see
the sky.

You didn’t take
the steps of
the shadow
but the ladder itself
that led not
as in Jacob’s dream
to heaven
but a rooftop
where instead of
lying
with a concrete block
for a pillow
you stood
as the bright light
flowed.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

With this sketch, my attention was immediately drawn to the ladder and its shadow. And from there certain idea began to form and eventually found their way into words.

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

 

 

1 House 100 Years.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: William Shakespeare

Sonnet LX by William Shakespeare
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ’gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand.
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Granby Street

Granby Street

I walk down Granby Street
all these years later.

I was taken
to see a world
I’d never known
of rolling clouds
over mountain peaks,
of crashing waves and
insufferable heat.

I never knew
if I’d return
or be buried
at sea.

 

All along the
dock
we
victoriously
disembarked,
moving about
in riotous dance,
duffel bags
slung easily
over shoulders.

I bought the
best suit
I could afford
and a pair of shoes
to impress
a  lady.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketches by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

Hoops

Hoops
At the circus as a child
a tiger jumped through the flaming kind
supposedly for your entertainment;
the plastic kind
swirled around your waist
in joyful abandon.

Now there are questions
assumed to have
some sort of relevance
to the job at hand,
instead of merely showing
your ability at delivering
a memorized
response.

The Record Shop

The Record Shop

The albums you found
among the racks
the long fluorescent lights
illuminated.

Bursting smoke
came from
the cargo trains
that sped down
the tracks
where the hoboes
did not skip as much as
stumble.

The needle dropped
and the vinyl spun
on the old turntable
housed in a cabinet
in the living room -
opening your eyes,
and chronicling
the years.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

A Little Introduction as to What Will Follow

One of the great things about blogging is the people you meet.
For a long time I’ve taken an interest in John Spiers’ blog where he talks about the renovations he’s doing on his house getting it ready for its centennial.  Recently, I came to discover he drew, and through a series of short exchanges we decided to do an experiment – I would write poems inspired by his sketches, and he would draw sketches inspired by my poems.
This is going to be done at a very leisurely pace and no promises will be made as to how often or how many sketches and poems there will be. I hope you enjoy.

July 4, 1976

July 4, 1976
You walked slowly through the crowds
as the Grand Marshal of the Parade
waved
and though he’d never been to war
was a hero to all
having played one
in countless roles.

At the edge of Cody
time stood still
as cars passed
by without consideration.

Although received wisdom
followed
more often than not
brings untoward results,
you decided to separate
and at a later point
reunite.

After crossing the street
you threw your backpack at your feet,
heading in the wrong direction.

You glanced to see
a pick-up pulling over
and your cousin
running towards it.

But it abruptly stopped
and a brawny man
jumped out
and began hollering
as if he were a drill sergeant
and his victim
a young recruit.

You quickly approached.

“What’s the hassle, man?”

Disbelief struck his face,
before he continued
his tirade.

“I fought in the war
and don’t like you all
comin’
in our part of the country
with your ideas.”

“My dad fought in the war!
Your country?
What in the hell
does that mean?”

“That’s it with you
and your kind.
You don’t have to tell me
what your ideas are…”

“We don’t believe in our country
is that what you think?”

Days earlier you had passed
the holy mountain
that manifest destiny defaced
in the state whose senator had won the flying cross
but was denounced as wanting
peace at any price.

“Don’t be smart asses with me.
You reds don’t know
the first thing
about country.”

“Reds? Where’d you get that idea?”

“Just you two get out of here
cause if you’re not,
I’ll be back later
with friends.”

In a huff he hopped back in
and sped away
clouds of dust
rising up.

Small Steps

Small Steps
Small steps you took
downward
before that one big step
that had a world transfixed
on a hot and muggy July day.

Clouds of smoke rose
from the horn-rimmed architects
puffing away at cigarettes
they were willing to walk
a mile for.

Sketch 9: The Unbroken Circle (’76)

Our poem this month, The Unbroken Circle (’76), describes an experience I had during the Bicentennial year. It was late June, and we  were on our way to Yellowstone National Park and had arrived in the city of Cody in the state of Wyoming, a place not known so much for its progressive ideas as for its conservativeness. I mean the last time they voted for a Democrat for president was 1964.  I’m not a big fan of the Democrats or anything although they did have the only candidate in my lifetime on a major ticket I’d have unconditionally supported (George McGovern), who as fate would have it went down to unbelievable electoral defeat, and Tricky Dick was reelected:

Richard_Nixon_greeted_by_children_during_campaign_1972

It’s just the Republicans have gone so far right they’re well off the page and into the margins.

Anyway, we were picked up by a guy who I swear bore an uncanny resemblance to:

436px-John_Wilkes_Booth-portrait

He told us of a concert and invited us to a party in the middle of nowhere where we were surrounded by young people whose appearance cast serious doubt on the notion they had campaigned four year earlier for Dick Nixon.  My problem at first was simple: how to open up a can of Coors.  Before you’re too hard on me, consider Wikipedia’s entry on the contraption:

“In the 1970s, Coors invented the pollution-free push tab can. However, consumers disliked the top and it was discontinued soon afterward.”

It sounds to me like a noble but doomed experiment – a little like introducing the metric system in the U.S.

For a few hours we soaked in the sun and the wide expanse of space. Then we went to see The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

We had a great time. The music was inspiring, and their encore was a stirring rendition of this song:

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Robert Lowell

Children of the Light by Robert Lowell
Our fathers wrung their bread from stocks and stones
And fenced their gardens with the Redmen’s bones;
Embarking from the Nether Land of Holland,
Pilgrims unhouseled by Geneva’s night,
They planted here the Serpent’s seeds of light;
And here the pivoting searchlights probe to shock
The riotous glass houses built on rock,
And candles gutter by an empty altar,
And light is where the landless blood of Cain
Is burning, burning the unburied grain.

Patriotism

Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

I’m inclined to agree with the caveat that the word means many things to many people in the same way Christianity or Socialism does.

To my mind, a true patriot is someone like Marlene Dietrich.  When Hitler came to power, she was living abroad. Some years later she was approached by Nazi officials promising whatever she wanted if she would only return. (And people do make such concessions, consider Klaus Mann’s brilliant Mephisto.) During a wartime interview she said, “Boys, don’t sacrifice yourselves. The war is crap and Hitler’s an idiot.”

During her 1960 tour of Germany she was spat upon by a woman who shouted,  “I hate this woman! She betrayed Germany in the war.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, her body was reburied in Berlin next to her mother as was the wish in her will. In 1993 her grave was desecrated.

Listen to her sing.  And remember:

Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar
In a theater
born before the fall
like the Trinity
you sat
listening to all
unholiness
until the end
when you remained seated
although everyone else had risen
to their feet in rapturous applause
as if the curtain had been again
split asunder.

After the crowd thinned
you went to his dressing room
where he wore a smile
and showed his usual predilection
for hermeneutics.

Just who did you think you were
to quote scriptures to the Master?

 

A Place I Never Reached

“Can Any Good Thing Come out of Nazareth?”

Such a ridiculous sentiment. On the surface it suggests there are places of which we should expect nothing. There are those who genuinely seem to believe that to be considered worthy you must come from such and such place.  Or have gone to such and such a college. If your blood is merely red…

No, I’m not talking about the city in Israel:

764px-The_virgins_fountain_Nazareth_Holy_Land_(i.e._Israel)

Nor for that matter am I talking about the place in Pennsylvania The Band sang about:

My train pass not being valid I had to hitchhike, and rides were unfortunately hard to come by. At least part of the problem was the difficulty of anyone who actually wanted to give me a ride actually being able to do so without putting themselves at considerable risk. To give you an idea of the distance I covered after 8 hours or so, imagine taking the journey with a donkey.

252px-Donkey_a(Photographer: Watta)

To be honest, I should have probably noticed I wasn’t in an area particularly renowned for the leisurely strolls of the bourgeoisie. When two men jumped out of a van and approached, I knew at least I wasn’t going to be kidnapped, my net worth being considerably lower than Patty Hearst or the poor guy whose ear was cut off.

Actually it was the police who after showing me their IDs, asked,  “Do you want to be in a line up? We’ll pay you.” Although I could have used a little hard cash, just the tiniest possibility of being picked as the guilty party by an eyewitness (and we know how very unreliable they are) put me off the idea. They were fine with that and just told me to be careful as I was in a dangerous neighborhood.  It was getting dark, and their warning prompted me to get a bus ticket and head back into the center of the great big metropolis, never having reached my destination.

Book 24

“But he found his father, alone, on a well-banked plot,
Spading a plant. He had on an old, dirty shirt,
Mended and patched, and leather leggings
Pieced together as protection from scratches.
He wore gloves because of the bushes, and on his head
He had a goatskin cap, crowning his sorrow.
Odysseus, who had borne much, saw him like this,
Worn with age and a grieving heart,
And wept as he watched from a pear tree’s shade.”
24.233-241

Book 22

“But everyone he saw lay in the blood and dust,
The whole lot of them, like fish that fishermen
Have drawn up in nets from the grey sea
Onto the curved shore. They lie all in heaps
On the sand beach, longing for the salt waves,
And the blazing sun drains their life away.
So too the suitors, lying in heaps.”
22.408-414

Sketch 8: Descent

This particular poem deals with an image from my grandmother’s funeral. I’ve always thought smell to be my most acute sense so it’s not surprising that incense should be an important part of my memory. A single smell can easily transport me back in time.

My grandmother was Catholic, and Catholicism was very important to her generation, defining them in a way it never did me. But then again, I lived in different times – a Catholic would soon become president of the United States, and it had been a long time since No Irish Need Apply signs were seen. When I visited relatives in Ireland, and they took me to the rubble that remained of my grandmother’s house, they also brought me to a landmark where Catholics used to secretly meet to worship when the religion had been outlawed. I was asked, “How would your parents feel if you married a Protestant?”

Although titles for me are more often than not a necessary evil, I do like this one and the double meaning of descent.

Book 20

‘”You are shrouded in night from top to toe,
Lamentation flares, your cheeks melt with tears,
And the walls of the house are spattered with blood.
The porch and the court are crowded with ghosts
Streaming down to the undergloom. The sun is gone
From heaven, and an evil mist spreads over the land.”
20.387-392

Book 19

“Snow deposited high in the mountains by the wild West Wind
Slowly melts under the East Wind’s breath,
And as it melts the rivers rise in their channels.
So her lovely cheeks coursed with tears as she wept
For her husband, who was sitting before her.”
19.221-225