Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Robert Frost

A Late Walk by Robert Frost
When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words.

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

Ireland

“A hundred cares, a tithe of troubles and is there one who understands me? One in a thousand of years of the nights?”
(James Joyce -Finnegans Wake)

Ireland is a beautiful country. Its luscious green landscape can calm the troubled soul.

800px-Akes_lough_gur_clouds_trees_Ireland(Photographer: Jon Sullivan)

Uragh_Wood(Photographer: Espresso Addict)

As an English speaker, there’s the added advantage that you’ll never struggle to communicate or make yourself understood.  There’s also that lovely Irish lilt.  It’s been a favorite of mine since I can remember and one I heard my grandmother use growing up. I always try to include a shan’t here and there in honor of her.

My grandmother and her sisters had left the poverty in Ireland for a better life, and while before their marriages they worked as domestic help in the home of one of the U.S.’ greatest railroad barons, that was the closest they would ever come to wealth; their lives were a struggle to get by.

When their parents, who had not come with them, fell ill, Mary, the oldest sister, returned to Ireland.  In the meantime, WWI broke out, and she was unable to return to America.  It was her son and family I visited.

I had not warned them I was coming, and when I arrived at the doorstep, he was not exactly sure who I was, but a little explaining convinced him, and I was welcomed into their home, where they fed me well.

One day we took a trip to see what remained of my grandmother’ s house:

picture 2 of family home in ireland

The view from it was absolutely gorgeous:

picture 1 of irish landscape

Their idea of America was greatly influenced by the movies they saw, and they just assumed everyone had a gun.  Now this was in 1984 when I’m sure everyone didn’t have a gun.  If they were to ask me now, what would I tell them? I know what the NRA would like me to tell them – no, but if they did, everyone would be a lot safer.

They believed in spirits – no, not the Holy Spirit, formerly known as the Holy Ghost, which they no doubt did believe in.  But other ones you  might have read about.  While on the side of the materialists without their rigid arrogance stance that everyone is in error and could see right if they’d just listen, I could understand as we drove through the mist like I understood on those windy roads in Germany’s deep forests how Grimms’  fairy tales had come to be.

They asked me what my parents’ reaction would be if I married a Protestant.  Their Catholicism obviously meant a lot to them in a way that it had never or would ever for me.  They took me to a place called Martyrs’ Rock where the Catholics had prayed when their religion had been forbidden under English rule.

After a few days, they drove me into the city of Sligo where I would take the train, but not before I thumbed a ride to Yeats’  grave.

 

Yeats_grave_tn

I also thought to drop in and see what The Yeats Society was up to.  I can only guess they didn’t know what to make of me.  Very unlike Copenhagen a few weeks later where at the tourist bureau they put me on the phone with a Danish professor whose expertise was Kierkegaard and who was willing to meet up for a drink to talk about the great Dane:

Soren_Kierkegaard(Photographer: Sperantarice)

All roads, and train tracks for that matter, lead to Dublin.

 800px-Grafton_St,_Dublin(Photographer: Donaldytong)

 “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay…”
(James Joyce – Finnegans Wake)

220px-Duclin_Liffey_Dark_2008(Photographer: Jerome)

By all means enjoy the pubs:

800px-Temple_Bar_Dublin_at_Night (Photographer Trevah)

 Whether or not Guinness is actually the emperor of malted liquors I can only say if you do drink it, you will not forget it.

If you find a place with live music, by all means indulge.  Irish music has a real soul to it.  In case you doubt me:

 Enjoy both the city and the country in this lovely enchanted isle.

 

A Dry County

A Dry County
You drank
as those in the Midwest do
second nature
a beer or two.

You did not see
the wind sweeping on the plains
as much as the sun
beating mercilessly down.

A landscape with oil rigs turning about,
mechanical drills set to bleed the earth dry.
A windmill whose parts had been
disassembled.

You drank
as those in the Midwest do
second nature
a beer or two.

 

Sketch 11: The Final Embrace

As those of you who visit on a regular basis know,  every month (okay, nearly every month) I write a little background on one of the poems in my first collection, Watercolors.  If you haven’t got it, it’s free. You can download it at Smashwords by clicking on the cover on the right or here at Barnes & Noble.  By all means, write a review.

Anyway, our poem this month is The Final Embrace.  It’s about learning of the illness that would eventually take my dad’s life and journeying back to him.

Before I got the news, I was sitting in my apartment, which had a wonderful view of the sea and listening to James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James. Because I didn’t have a phone (At the time, the waiting list for one was something like eight years.), my mom had called my next door neighbor.

Living in a relatively small city, I had to fly out from a larger one about two hours away. It was before the days of the Internet so I had booked my tickets through a travel agent. Unfortunately, I had found a very greedy one. While in the street with my suitcase waiting for my taxi, someone from the travel agency told me they’d made a mistake in the pricing and needed more money. I thought I’ll give you whatever you want – I’m not going to argue. And I thought how I would give all the money I had if only my dad would be well again.

Worry

Worry
You awake
in your comfortable bed
wrapped in worry.
You toss around
until morning
when you rise
exhausted
no problem
having been
solved.

Green Leaves

Green Leaves
Green leaves move through the sky
like darting swallows.

Days and dates are as fluid
as the rapids
that ran down the creek
to the falls.

She’s unable to sit still
even for a moment
as if doing something
would fight off the decline approaching
on every side.

Her fingers are pointing,
bracing herself at every corner.

Green leaves move through the sky
like darting swallows.

Amnesia

Amnesia
With a friend
of years
you carefully traced
the steps
of a man who had come with a trade
to the thirty-eight states
and while you weren’t expecting to see
the hooks where the carcasses hung
the town’s first meat market
had been listed
as a historic site.

The blonde girl
you asked for directions
was as cheerful as could be
and asked you to contribute
something to the family of soldiers
who you knew were sent
not to promote peace in the world
as they no doubt believed
but to spread
a special form of chaos.

It could hardly be standing
in this land of amnesia.

No, raze the building
and in its place
let towers rise
to assault
the memory of a man
who brought his goods
with horse and buggy
into the capital city.

Our Midmonth’s Poet: William Butler Yeats

When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Shopping with Dementia

Shopping with Dementia
Unable to decide what
she wants
until she
sees someone
with it,
unwilling to listen
to any suggestion
that comes from my mouth
without feeling
I’m telling her
what to do.

After longer
than I’d like
to imagine
we’d finished
finding what
she may or may not
have needed.

The cop
at the exit
stopped
the blacks and latinos
and had them
open up
their bags
and produce their receipts
while we
were waved on
past.

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.