Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Writing”

Golf

I like playing golf. However, I will admit not having for quite a while. This is largely due to the fact that where I was living there were only private courses for the rich. I’d love to start up again. It’s reasonably inexpensive, good exercise, and relaxing.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood are waking up on the weekend and going out to the Par 3 golf course with my dad. We’d get up at the break of dawn, and I can still see the glistening dew come up from the green as I putted. In one of my few times at a private club an employee came up to inquire what I was doing there. I must have seemed out of place to him.

I also enjoy watching golf on TV. That is not to say there isn’t a lot that has to be ignored. There’s a lot of sanctimoniousness (is any announcer as bad as Jim Nantz?) and way too much analysis. Commercials, which should always be ignored*, advertise BMW, Wells Fargo, and Rolex (not Folex).

*There are exceptions:

Vive la France! Vive la République!

A Calm

A Calm
The sand flies
and the lake water laps
against the rickety dock.

Standing in the water
your head
a somersault
of stars.

You awake
in a long white bed
with a calm
you would never again
know.

From “Evening” 2

“There are spiderwebs among the berries,
The stems of the supple vines are still thin,
Like little ice floes, little ice floes,
In the gleaming water of the sky-blue river, clouds swim.”

Anna Akhmatova

From “Evening”

“Cut out for this black wound
A shroud of evening gloom
And command the blue mist
To read psalms over me.”

Anna Akhmatova

“You are Not Privileged”

This was the announcement I was given by my computer when I tried to open a browser yesterday morning. First time it ever happened but it seems reminiscent of the times in which I’m told I can’t do something unless I’m the administrator. Anyway, I restarted the computer and have not yet been told again of my lowly status.

It seems to be a suitable mantra for the new administration.

Anna Akhmatova

Alastair wrote a great review of the book, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. I’m about halfway through – it’s excellent. At any rate, I came across a quote from Anna Akhamatova, whose poetry I recall reading a little of in my 20s. Reading some it now has left me speechless:

“Terror fingers all things in the dark,
Leads moonlight to the axe.
There’s an ominous knock behind the
wall:
A ghost, a thief or a rat…”

“You are no longer among the living,
You cannot rise from the snow.
Twenty-eight bayonets,
Five bullets.
A bitter new shirt
For my beloved I sewed.
The Russian earth loves, loves
Droplets of blood.”

It is time to pick up a copy of this book.

Our Imperfections

“Everything is perfect in the universe – even your desire to improve it.”
Wayne Dyer

I saw this quote today and took objection. Perhaps, I do take things too literally. If the universe was perfect, why would we have to improve it? And perhaps more importantly, why would our desire to improve it be perfect? Are we superheroes? Chances are our desire might be less than perfect – even I daresay imperfect.

Of course, the whole point is to connect your desire to perfection.  It buys  into the whole self-help (a misnomer if there ever was one) industry worth an estimated $11 billion.  Yes, people are even getting rich off our desire to feel better about ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for feeling better about ourselves, provided we’re attempting to be decent human beings.

Does Donald Trump buy self-help books? Nah, but he’ll peddle them in a second if he thought he’d make a buck.  Should Donald Trump feel good about himself?

A Shadowy Realm

A Shadowy Realm
I am brought down.
A slow descent
into the bowels of the earth,
a shadowy realm
where I dwell
strangulated,
far from the Cedars of God.

God Forbid

God Forbid
In theological circles
I imagine there is a word
for lack of grace.

Having put away my robes,
I am no longer privy to it.

Certainly this is how
he appears to me.

Someone like an
Antiochus Epiphanes
famous for his lack of décor.

Sunday’s Choice

A PC Mao Suit

If everyone believes
what they’re told,
then they have entered childhood,
which is fine while it lasts,
but weren’t we advised to put away such things
when we were older?

Being re-educated
is not what it’s cracked up to be,
and my desire to be reformed is
I will say without a straight face
marginal at best.

So find me a peasant
who has learned not to read,
and let him do his best
to develop in me
a fashion sense

An Emerald Day

My Other Blog

Thought I’d pass on information concerning my new blog – quite different than this one – about politics or rather what passes for politics.

https://fedupwitheverythingblog.wordpress.com/

Jagged

Jagged
The world explodes
in jagged pieces,
cut through souls
lying in state
in shattered repose.

Bereft

Bereft
A face bereft
of all emotions
raises his hands
through which
the arteries of life
once flowed.

Mutiny of the Bounty

Mutiny of the Bounty
Exhaustion set in from the very start.

The professor expounds on autopilot.

Mind-numbing material
meant not to enlighten but confound.

All across the room
the shell-shocked.

A mutinous crew of bounty.

The First Almond Tree

The First Almond Tree
The first almond tree
blossomed without me.

Swirling flakes
replacing leaves.

The heart,
a hundred times,
unleashed.

Gospel Stories I

Gospel Stories 1
Unable to deal
with the world as it is,
refuge is sought.

The dusty landscape cries,
“Worthy I do not deem myself!”

With a thunderous voice,
a blossom sprouts.

.

Continents of Design

Continents of Design
Snowflakes fell
the size of which
held continents
of design.

Roads traversed
so as not to encounter
those whose unlucky spins
put an end to the happy day
they were expecting.

Bails of hay on farm fields rolled.

Bleak whiteness obscured
one’s sense of place.

Montana ’65

Montana ‘65
Snuck in the trunk
at motels,
where ice machines rattled and shook,
along the highways heading west
to the dusty old cattle ranch
with its large log creaky fence;
the simple kitchen
with its bourbon-breathed cook
who fed you cookies and milk;
the fool’s gold glistened in the sun
as you climbed to a top
where you could touch the clouds.

Waters Crossed

Waters Crossed
As you crossed
the waters
beneath which
Indians are buried,
massive steel arches
towered above you,
an erector set
blown out of proportion.

Darkness came early;
the chill hung
like frozen hogs
in a slaughterhouse.

“But It’s Freezing!”

 

1200px-Groundhog-Standing2

It may be too early to say so for certain, but it is possible that my brief respite from blogging is over.  I have no illusions that I’ll have the time to write as I did before, but I hope to post something now and then.  I would also love to think I’ll be back to reading my favorite blogs as well.

“I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

Soon and very soon I’ll be saying goodbye to blogging.  It’s been a very enjoyable three years but a new job in a new country will no longer permit me the time I need let alone the focus necessary (if anything, I’m a man easily distracted).

When I emerge on the other side, my head will poke up like a groundhog ushering in spring.

Until then, all the best.

 

 

 

“Put me down.”

Every year I return home to see my mom.

After a severe stroke three years ago, which had been preceded by a number of TIAs (mini-strokes) over the years beginning in the 1980s, she’s been declining steadily.  We were fortunate to get her driving license away from her about a year back before she’d killed anyone.  The truth be told it was her doctor who was responsible, and everyone who tells how easy it is is talking about someone else’s parent. Last November we got her into a wonderful assisted living facility where despite no longer being able to converse as she had and largely being fixated on three things (money, going out to eat, my room is a cage) she had a certain quality of life.

During the first week of my visit a month ago things went relatively well although I’ll be the first one to admit my mom has never been an easy person to deal with and age combined with cognitive impairment has not helped in this regard.  There was much for me to complain about and complain I did to friends and relatives and whoever was ready for an earful.  The next few days were as pleasant as they have ever been – we went out to eat at a great Italian place with a cousin and aunt, and she even went to the casino (She loves her slots.).  Then Wednesday mid-morning when I was about to go to her place for lunch, I got word she’d had a massive stroke.   The doctors did not think she’d survive. We were forced to put her into a nursing home and into the Rapid Terminal Decline program.

But she has since rebounded.  Her health care directive made it clear that she did not want to be in a nursing home (see title for a direct quote) and considered quality of life to be of the utmost importance.  We are constantly being pushed for therapy, which my sister and I are resisting to the very fiber of our being.

I was reminded of the wonderful film, The Sea Inside.

Incommunicado (and Incognito)

Off again at the end of the week, back in the first week of June.

Groucho_glasses(Photographer: StickyWikis)

A Sliver of the Moon

For those interested, my new collection of poetry, A Sliver of the Moon, is available. As for further writing, I am hoping to have my second novel out by summer’s end. Now after that, it’s not necessarily silence, but I am certainly expecting things to be a lot more quiet around here. Think perhaps of those probes seeking evidence of extraterrestrial life. A new job in another country will just not allow the considerable free time I’ve had all these years.

Goodbye

The long and the short of it –
a quarter century
of one’s life.

The heat was once
intense,
ancient steps rising up
in sweat.

The sun was always
an elixir
since those days
at university in the
mountains.

The sea
stands
as a replacement for
those thousand lakes
of a child –
cleaner and bluer.
The first time
you swam
you felt as if you floated,
and it would be impossible to sink.

It is not the last goodbye.
You will return
for a month or two
a year
to enjoy the best
on offer,
no longer having
to tolerate the rest.

The language goes with you
and you will use it,
sometimes as a code.

The Desert Sand

The Desert Sand

The wind blew in bursts.

Microscopic grains of sand
swirled about.

In the taxi cab you sat
your lower back
having given out.

Arriving at the hotel,
you seriously doubted
if on getting out
you’d be able to stand.

Fearfully you struggled
and were so relieved to see
passersby
with open hearts
asking if you needed
assistance.

An Absence

Been laid up with the flu – hoping it’ll pass at some point.  I do have my doubts!

Anyway, things are on the move here or rather I’ll be on the move in March and probably April so I’ll be likely be absent from the blogging world for the next few months.

Here’s to hoping spring comes to all with its usual delights.

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 (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

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.

Sketch 3 (W&S): The Family Cow

Sometimes things take you by surprise. You might have been in a restaurant with a friend and gone to the salad bar only to return to find someone sitting in your spot and wearing your glasses. Or maybe you were traveling and had an unexpected encounter.

I think most people who have done any amount of hitchhiking will tell you that you’re about as unlikely to be picked up by someone who takes their holiday in Martha’s Vineyard as you are by those who spend their summers in the Hamptons. It’s safe to say your rides will come from either the middle or the working classes so it’s probably wise to hide that patrician accent of yours.

We had crossed our way into Wyoming and for the life of us weren’t able to get a ride. When hitchhiking, there are times of scarcity (eight hours and only eight-three miles) and then prosperity (the next ride, one thousand six hundred and sixty-six miles). We’d been on the side of the road for a spell and were just looking to get a little closer to our destination. That is not to say we didn’t periodically slip into the woods for a smoke before returning out again to brave the passing traffic.

When the old school bus pulled over, and the door opened, we were met with a decidedly unpleasant odor. I looked at my cousin with concern. He just said, “We can hardly be turning down rides.”

I took it in all very quickly and this from someone who nearly always take a very long time to register anything. The grinning driver with his Van Dyke. His pregnant wife. The young girl lying on a mattress in a feverish state. Two children playing with toy soldiers. The bus was packed with all of their earthly possessions.

All of us use our experiences to try and make sense of things. That’s why when we heard a sound we thought the kids had one of those toys where after you select the barnyard animal of your choice, you hear a cackle, grunt, or moo as the case may be. However, when we spotted something moving, we realized it was their cow.  To say we were startled would have been an understatement.

The Bane of the Blooming Moon

The Bane of the Blooming Moon
1
In a cottage
at the end
of a trail of tears
a newborn baby
was cradled in a doctor’s arms
unresponsive.

Beside himself
with terror,
the father snatched the boy,
and raced outside.

With an axle
he crushed the icy lake surface
and plunged the child in.

It came out crying.

2
The old rancher
with uncouth manners
looked upon the tiny infant
and predicted its demise,
but it had other ideas
fighting off the convulsions
that wracked his body,
the temperatures
nothing but a bathtub of ice
could dispel.

3
With his parents
traveling the vaudeville circuit
he slept in the drawers of cheap hotels,
was cared for by chorus girls
backstage.

At seven,
his mother,
the singer,
took a very public dose
of mercury
and
lived
though her marriage
and career
ended.

4
As he retraced the steps
to his ancestral home,
clouds dispersed
and the moon transformed
the disconnect
between words and thoughts,
shadows at the bottom of his soul.

The church bells chimed
across the makeshift bases
set up in a field
of weeds and thistles.

Near the swamp
a wildcat’s back arched
to the sky
as if to ward off evil.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Jean Toomer

Storm Ending by Jean Toomer
Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

A Flat-Bed Ford

Lyrics aren’t always what you imagine them to be. Perhaps like me, you’ve misunderstood a line or two.  What the Lizard King was wailing was actually, “If you give this man a ride, sweet memory will die.”

Even if you do happen to understand the words correctly you may not know what all of them mean.  I’ll confess being none the too wiser to the meaning of turnpike in Simon and Garfunkel’s lovely America.  And I’ve only just realized what a flat-bed Ford looks like; it is not at all what I imagined.

1960_Ford_F-100_(6273194496)(Photographer: OSX II )

W&S Sketch II: The Crab Apple Tree

For those who don’t have Water and Silt, the poem I’ll be talking about can be found here accompanied by John Spiers’ drawing.

Raised in the suburbs, I knew only a little of the difficulties my parents faced growing up.  My mom’s parents were immigrants, and she was a child of the city surrounded by a mix of Irish, Italian, and French-Canadians, all struggling as best they could in a new country at a time in which things were terrible economically. My dad grew up on a farm so in many ways had it easier, and while only only eight miles from the downtown area, it might have been hundreds.

Since my maternal grandmother died when I was only seven,  I have few memories of the farmhouse with its ornate curtains and the sun pouring in through the windows. I can remember sitting on a slope that led up to the cornfields talking with a cousin. Another time dancing about as the marvelous seedpods from a maple twirled like helicopters as they fell. Near the large oak with the tire swing was another tree, and all about its trunk in a circular pattern were crab apples, which I examined to see whether they had holes before brushing one against my t-shirt and biting into it, tasting a tartness that remains with me to this day.

 

 

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?

Sketch 1: Water and Silt

Today’s poem can be found in my new collection or in accompaniment with John Spiers’ wonderful sketch.

My dad was a dreamer, a word that some people (not anyone here I’m sure) use dismissively. I never have.

He had many dreams and while this was not by any means the most important, it was one that had a direct impact on the way I view life.

All dreams don’t come true, of course. The rain does fall on the just and on the unjust.

Although my dad mainly made map and roads, he did on occasion put up buildings.  The particular ones in question were townhouses, which were not then the ubiquitous phenomena they are now.  There was every reason to believe the development would  be a success. Its location would be just a short commute into the metro area once the proposed freeway was completed.

But then the 1974 US recession took place and the freeway was delayed.

The comfortable life I had led was no more.

No, it wasn’t the Appalachian poverty you read about in Winter’s Bone but our new home was very old and in very bad shape, and though I always had something to eat, we ate what we could afford, and during that four-month period we consumed more eggs than we probably should have mainly because they came free from the ornery hens in the chicken coop in back.

It was difficult being uprooted, and I absolutely hated my time spent there. However, now that I’m much older (in fact, the same age as my dad was then), I can appreciate that the experience gave me an understanding I might not have had otherwise. Empathy is important as is a willingness to lend a hand.  There but for the grace of God go I.

 

 

Concerning the Sketches

Having already equaled the number of Hercules’ labors without even lifting a finger, I have decided to do the same with my second collection of poems, Water and Silt.

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.

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.

Water and Silt

I’m happy to announce I’ve just published my second poetry collection, Water and Silt, on Amazon.  It’s cheap as dirt or perhaps even cheaper (Have you gone to a gardening supply store lately?).

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.

Hiatus

I’ll be taking a hiatus and will be completely off the grid from next week for about a month.

Wednesday’s Choice

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