Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Literature”

Family (Repost)

I remember visiting my cousin in the hospital (first person is him, last verse) but didn’t realize until looking at the date of the post that it was 5 years ago. Unfortunately, he died last week, the warning(s) not heeded.

Family
A family
may have
its own unique warning
to save one
from what nature or nurture
combined to produce.

Ours was simple:
If you drink,
you die.

My uncle
was justifiably
marked as Cain,
but all that he shattered
was tidily
swept away.

My aunt found herself
in a position
impossible to
escape,
and
her gentle spirit
was no match
for the bottles
strategically placed.

My brother was wild
as the wind
with a temper
that knew no end
or solace.

Who would
have imagined
as she rose to the top
that the punches
thrown at my cousin
would have finally
knocked her out?

I lie now
my body
like a beached
whale,
my face jaundiced,
but my red eyes
still show their
cunning.

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

As you know, the President of the United States is a man of his word (nah, don’t ask what his word is) so he is bound to honor all his promises.

Because I am sympathetic to their plight I really must take exception to the idea that returning to the mines is in anyone’s best interest.  In the U.S. fatalities are way down from what I guess was the peak of 3,242 in 1907. It seems it’s now down to about 20 a year.  Black lung disease is still a problem though.

China (another promise)

is still remarkably accident prone.  In 2013, 1049 people died.  Nothing like the march to progress.

Embodiments

Embodiments
To see the future
clear and not
a blur
of known
uncertainties,
grasping
colossal embodiments.

A Seal

A Seal
Church bells toll
like a Roman soldier’s hammering.

The ring you kissed
swirls forever
in the sea.

Joined forever
on the anvil
a seal as strong as death.

Silence

Silence
After an eternity
of silence,
the seagull
perched on the cross,
squawks to the blue breeze
in the searing sun
its sorrow.

Love

Love
Light that slips through
the curtains at night
that appears
vibrating
beneath the sea’s shallow depths
as a series
of intersecting frames.

God Save the Queen

God Save the Queen
The first time you met
at the bus stop,
he acted as if he knew you
and when you asked,
“Have we met?”
he responded,
“I just introduced myself.”

As he began to expound
on his admiration for all things English,
you understood he’d mistaken your language
for your country,
and you let it slide,
not dispelling the illusions he held
with a reference to Cromwell.

Throughout the years
you’d run into him on occasion,
but definitely not one
you’d expect to engage
in a conversation that played by rules
you’d understand.

Now after years,
you saw him,
and reflected how age
seems to take its toll on some
and not so much on others.
He was sitting at a café,
gray stubble covering his face,
and as you passed,
you swore you heard him mutter,
“God Save the Queen.”

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico
The sound of the sea surf
could be heard
as the Caribbean sun
beat down
and you walked along
the fairway with your boss,
whose golf ball
always seemed to disappear
before being found
in the best place possible,
aided by a hole in his pants.

Mother and Son

Mother and Son
After the arrest,
not a word is said of her,
and he is sent away
to an orphanage
from which
he eventually escapes,
a stowaway on a steamer
that brings him back,
lice-infested in tattered clothes
with a rash that makes the skin crawl.

After his return,
he’s told she’s away on business,
and he is sent back
until another escape
finds him living in the ventilation shaft
of a railroad station
outside of which he begs and steals.

After being caught,
the orphanage where he returns
has lost all patience
and sends him to a military school
where they discover
a problem with his heart,
and he is forced instead to work
in a factory breathing in toxic fumes
and eating wallpaper paste to stave off hunger
until he flees at night
across the Gulf of Finland.

Amused

Amused
In the middle of the night
you sit together
and though they stand
and shout,
you are calm in each other’s presence
and amused
as they try to make sense of the world
like that inhabitant of the isle
where are you soon to dock.

The Miraculous

The Miraculous
His appearance must have put the
hiring committee off
as did his accent
and place of origin.

All the questions put to him
were answered
most unsatisfactory.

No, not suitable at all.

Fallen

Fallen
The claws of a screeching cat pierce
a soul whose blood slowly drips
on the newly fallen snow that drifts.

The Shadows

The Shadows
He intricately mapped his way
about the ancient streets
ideologically sound
or otherwise
planting bombs
living dangerously.

But when he lost
what had meant the most,
he could no longer find his way
among the shadows.

A Precarious Existence

A Precarious Existence
The absence
I feel
is similar in kind
to when
you left your family
behind
for the jungles
where you lived
a precarious
existence.

Aching

Aching
The aching pain
of frozen wind.

The burning
blaze of reddened cheeks.

The tiring stain
that never leaves.

The phantom limb
I still can feel.

The New Year

The New Year
In that spacious house
near where the gangster dwelled,
America’s most wanted in
a Fedora hat,
the two of you sat,
the new year having earlier been ushered in
elsewhere,
and from your treasure chest
you both took a few,
and with the music
already soothing
the resolutions sworn off,
you watched the wind
blow snow about
the frozen lake.

Sappho Fragment (96)

“But now she is conspicuous among Lydian women
as sometimes at sunset
the rosyfingered moon

surpasses all the stars. And her light
stretches over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields.”

From Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

 

Sappho Fragment 34

“stars around the beautiful moon
hide back their luminous form
whenever all full she shines
on the earth

silvery.”

From Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

Sappho Fragment (31)

“….tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead-or almost
I seem to me.”

From Sappho Fragment 31

Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

Sappho Fragments (1 & 2)

For those who are interested, join us in our reading of Sappho.

”                            And fine birds brought you,
quick sparrows over the black earth
whipping their wings down the sky
through midair-

they arrived.”

From Fragment 1

“And in it cold water makes a clear sound through
apple branches and with roses the whole place
is shadowed and down from radiant-shaking leaves
sleep comes dropping.

And in it a horse meadow has come into bloom
with spring flowers and breezes
like honey are blowing.”

From Fragment 2

Anne Carson’s If Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho

 

 

 

The First Thing We Do

The First Thing We Do
Jack would do
anything
for anyone
you were told.

So you waited
in his lobby
interested to hear
what information
he might provide.

From a plaque on the wall
a Bible verse stated
obedience to God
would bring about good governance.

A painting of Washington
kneeling on the banks
of the Delaware
hung.

As for your mother,
she’d already crossed
the Rubicon.

Jack’s secretary,
who’d earlier
said
her father, too,
was suffering from
dementia
and had expressed such
understanding,
told you coldly,
“He can’t see you.”

No jot and tittle
means sympathy’s
in short supply.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: William Blake

The Tiger by William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Color of Movement

The Color of Movement
A university student
spent the summer cycling
the States
with a controlled substance in his
possession.

At a bar on Route 66
he had a drink
with a local man
with the gift of gab
before going outside with him
to the alley.

They talked and joked
until a cop car peeked round
their shoulders.

He quickly put away
all incriminating evidence
and stood perfectly still
convinced of his constitutional right
against unlawful search and seizure.
His newly-found friend, however,
was less convinced,
sprinting off like
a bolt of lightning.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Wilfred Owen

Dulce et Decorum est  by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

 

 

 

Sketch 12: Watercolors

Poetry may be based on a real life experience or one’s imagination or a combination of the two.

Take a look at Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s oil painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini (The Annunciation):

345px-Rossetti_Annunciation

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Horn of Plenty

Horn of Plenty
Those that cleared
the fields
and planted
crops
vanished.

Let God be praised
for the plague
and
our
full plates.

Our Midmonth’s Poet: Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s Caution by Walt Whitman
To the States or any one of
them, or any city of The
States, Resist much,
obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience,
once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation,
race, city of this earth,
ever afterward  resumes
its liberty. –

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.

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 23

“And death shall come to me from the sea,
As gentle as this touch, and take me off
When I am worn out in sleek old age,
With my people prosperous around me.
23.287-291

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

Book 21

“Odysseus strung the great bow. Lifting it up,
He plucked the string, and it sang beautifully
Under his touch, with a note like a swallow’s.”
21.435-437

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

Book 18

“’Out of the doorway, geezer, before I throw you out
On your ear! Don’t you see all these people
Winking at me to give you the bum’s rush?
I wouldn’t want to stoop so low, but if you don’t
Get out now, I may have to lay hands on you.’”
18.11-15

Book 17

“There lay the hound Argus, infested with lice.
And now, when he sensed Odysseus was near,
He wagged his tail and dropped both ears
But could not drag himself nearer his master.
17.227-330

Book 16

“They fell to feasting. There was plenty for everyone,
And when they all had enough of food and drink,
Their minds turned toward rest, and they took the gift of sleep.
16.515-517

Book 15

“Telemachus and his crew were now near to shore
And furling the sails in the early light.
They struck the mast quickly and rowed the ship
Up to her mooring. They threw out the anchor-stones,
Made the stern cables fast, and then disembarked
Onto the beach, where they prepared their meal
And mixed the glinting wine.”
15.540-546

Book 14

“The sea grew dark beneath it, and Zeus thundered
And struck the ship with a lightning bolt.
She shivered from stem to stern and was filled
With sulfurous smoke. The men went overboard,
Bobbing in the waves like sea crows
Around the black ship, their day of return
Snuffed out by the god.”
14.329-335

Book 13

“At the harbor’s head a slender-leaved olive
Stands near a cave glimmering through the mist
And sacred to the nymphs called Naiades.
Inside are bowls and jars of stone
Where bees store honey, and long stone looms
Where the nymphs weave shrouds as dark as the sea.”
13.105-110

Book 12

“‘On the other route there are two rocks.
One stabs its peak into the sky
And is ringed by a dark blue cloud. This cloud
Never melts, and the air is never clear
During summer or autumn. No mortal man
Could ever scale this rock, not even if he had
Twenty hands and feet. The stone is as smooth
As if it were polished. Halfway up the cliff
Is a misty cave facing the western gloom.'”
13.75-83

Book 11

“Then out of Erebus
The souls of the dead gathered, the ghosts
Of brides and youths and worn-out old men
And soft young girls with hearts new to sorrow,
And many men wounded with bronze spears,
Killed in battle, bearing blood-stained arms.
They drifted up to the pit from all sides
With an eerie cry, and pale fear seized me.”
11.34-41

Book 10

“The winds rushed out
And bore them far out to sea, weeping
As their native land faded on the horizon.”
10.53-55

Book 9

“There we sailed in,
Some god guiding us through the murky night.
We couldn’t see a thing. A thick fog
Enveloped the ships, and the moon
Wasn’t shining in the cloud-covered sky.
None of us could see the island, or the long waves
Rolling toward the shore, until we ran our ships
Onto the sandy beach. Then we lowered sail,
Disembarked, and fell asleep on the sand.”
9.137-145

Book 8

“A stranger and suppliant is as dear as a brother
To anyone with even an ounce of good sense.”
8.591-592

Book 7

“Outside the courtyard,
Just beyond the doors, are four acres of orchard
Surrounded by a hedge. The trees there grow tall,
Blossoming pear trees and pomegranates,
Apple trees with bright, shiny fruit, sweet figs
And luxuriant olives.”
7.119-124

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