Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rosewater


When I have a heavy teaching load, and am under too much stress, I keep a bottle of rosewater in the car and I spray my face between classes as a pick-me-up. It works wonders for me, One day I had a tough class, someone brought roses and a 3rd grader said, you always smell of roses. I love that smell. It reminds me of you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

CAERNARFON

CAERNARFON

I stood at the massive gates 
of mighty Caernarfon Castle
one sultry summer evening, 
my back to Avalon, and the Holy Isle. 
I marveled at its tawny leonine beauty, 
reflected on twilight's indigo shoulders,
crowned with stars wavering in the moat.
But it was a fortress built by the enemy, 
with shackled native hands, for Longshanks, 
an agent of suppression, along with Beaumaris,
a triune kingdom on the edge of Anglesey.
Conwy Castle to the north, was once called
Aberconwy Abbey, founded by Llywelyn the Great,
the Prince of Wales. It was settled by English squatters,
where the Welsh were forbidden upon pain of death.
Such a gentle, pastoral word: colonization.
Images of sheep gamboling in green pastures.
Fields strewn with a hard culture of white bones.
And then the turbulent tide in the Menai Straits
began whispering a jumble of older names: 
Cair Segeint, the Roman garrison, Segontium,
or Cair Custoient, where stood the fort of Constantius,
he who begat Constantine the Great,
and Caer Aber Sein, the fort on the River Seiont.
And what of the hammer of the Ordovices?
In this rugged pasturage of bone, Caratacus still walks.
Not even Agricola launched the last sling and arrow.
In the kingdom of Gwynedd, the dream
of Macsen Wledig may have called me home
to the mouth of the River Seiont,
but the natives are still restless,
two dragons still fight in Dinas Emrys.
Owain Glyndŵr, the last prince of Wales,
returned and turned the bloodied tide,
a sleeping hero awaiting the klaxon call
of sword against stone—once and future king.
In my grandmother's house, the name
Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots,
was a curseword, along with Cromwell.
I found the dark road leading
to the bailey gate paved over
with the historical intent
of oppression.

3/24 and 4/1/2015


MEDBH

MEDBH

Sovereign Medbh
of the Welcoming Thighs
was a force to be reckoned with. 
Ask the Ard Rí, 
Tara's honeyed hills were her breasts; 
the sacred wells, and the harvest, her gift. 
Watch for the white mare. 
She knows where the sacral kings lie.

3/24/15

Saturday, March 21, 2015

First Day of Spring


Sunlight falling on an antique plate nailed to the wooden fence took my breath away, but I was posting photos, and so, let the image go back into the void...then I saw a photo of early morning light and wished I'd snagged that moment. But it is indelible, in the mind's eye.

DAVID BEST'S TEMPLE BURNING IN DERRY

DAVID BEST'S TEMPLE BURNING IN DERRY

First day of spring,
an eclipse of the sun.
Annealed grief rains
in the form of ash
drifts over the River Foyle.
David Best's temple burns
the troubled past.
I remember Sunday,
Bloody Sunday.
My grandmother sobbing
as she cradled the radio.

3/21/15

Drought Diaries


Drought Diaries: Yesterday's bathwater, destined for the two-gallon flush, missed the toilet, only to hit a Costco package of toilet paper rolls, which promptly swelled up, doubling in size like a tight school of bloated pufferfish holding their collective breath.

I won't mention finding knives and forks in the flowerbeds after dishwater is recycled to thirsty plants feeling a bit peckish for water. A good thing I don't have any real silver! Otherwise it'd add another layer of dimension to seeding the clouds with silver to make it rain.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Shetlandish Escape Artists


My Shetlands were a mighty pint-sized force to be reckoned with. Talented escape artists. I got so desperate that I'd hobble their front legs as they were grazing, (a long lead was useless), but they'd nimbly hop over to the neighbor's lush lawn. So I hobbled their back legs too. They GALLOPED in double spancels, then I cross-tied the hobbles and the little frickers stag-leaped their way down the road, looking like little Lippizanners in Airs Above the Ground. I was so desperate, I considered hog-tying them. Don't mention electric fences. Already been there, done that. They simply dove right through electric fences. Not like Ralf the Cow who got her udder hung up on the wire. My aunt called them the Little Shits. My vet eventually bought them, they were a matched pair, and I had to laugh, as he spent the next decade or so chasing them all over Bear Valley and Olema.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dread virus and earthquakes

The dread virus is back. It hit last night like freight train—with a vengeance. Aches & chills. My hands ache too, so even typing is challenging. It's a nightmare of a virus. The other night I was coughing so hard my ribs hurt. Now I'm merely voiceless.

I feel like Cesar Vallejo's Thursday poem in the rain. They beat him hard with a stick... I hurt so much last night from every joint, I dreamed in B&W, about the strength of earthquakes robbing all color from the world. Most of my dreams are muted. Rarely do I have B&W dreams. Especially ones that make a point of going from color to B&W like a slow strobe.

So there really was a 3.0, earthquake at 7 Am, with the epicenter in San Leandro, on the Hayward Fault. So I wasn't dreaming after all. I thought it was the virus. OK, then, the quake was practically under my pillow. I found some kitchenware knocked on floor. An apple went gamboling about. Some plastic bowls fell off shelf and an avocado went on walkabout on the kitchen floor. And there was another earthquake on the San Andreas Fault in Soledad. Carry on. Where's my cough syrup? My hot toddy?

added, rev. 3/2017

Friday, March 6, 2015

CHICKADEE DOPPELGANGER

CHICKADEE DOPPELGANGER

Chestnut-backed chickadee
viciously dukes it out 
with his own reflection 
headbanging his beak
in 4/4 time, day after day, 
chattering a storm of outrage, 
with his mate in the sidelines,
egging him on to drive 
that cheeky impostor off
so they can just get down 
to the business at hand.

He's so exhausted from fighting
I scoop him up and hold him
in the hollow of my hand
giving him a "time out"
but as soon as I release him
he's back at the mirror
banging away in a frothy rage
at his doppelganger
his mate, a grass widow, waits
for a time that will never come.

3/6/15





Q is the loneliest letter


¿Quien sabe? Because Q, number 17 in the Latinate lineup, 
is one of the loneliest letters. Only Z is lonlier—so it picked up a French tail to compensate. Call it a Qu cluster. Blame the dangly bits.

Q rarely ventures out without its sidekick, U. It's a Geminid twinning. It's an Indo-European thing. But there's another IE pairing nobody ever wants to talk about. Q & P. Yep. Qoppa and Phi Φ are deep-throated soulmates. Fraternal twins, I think. Or maybe it was the milkman. Certainly Indo-European.

There's a reason why Q and P are 16 and 17, roommates in the Latinate lineup. Joined at the hip, or maybe at the back of the throat and lips. It was a weird palatovelar land grab. But then they split up, both keeping their dangly bits. They were both a bit queer. Or maybe Q just had a digraph breakdown constantly switching between languages like that (or bad scribes), and lost its courage or its dangly bits. Or both.

Then Q expanded its horizons, it became Latinate triplets: C, K and Q were all one sound. One thing. But Q had this thing for  voluptuous rounded vowels. Why, you might ask? Ask Verisimilitude. Or Carol Doda. She knows. UU.

See, K had this exclusive thing going on with pointy A, it only had eyes for A. Especially two AAs in a row. K also coveted its neighbors cows. Forget about wives. No one had the heart to tell K the As were olly-olly oxen bhoys. Good for a ploughman's lunch. We all have been known to revise history to suit our needs.

And so, C, an omniglot at heart, took all other juicy vowels hostage. Especially E. But I'm off task. We were discussing (or maybe cussing) Q and U. Always parters in crime. perhaps a little QU-QU. Say it isn't so! It was U too. QU and double U! (2Us). Out, out damned digraph!

Rules are rules. But Q had a bad gamma cough, (Qôp), it peed its pants in church (remember the dangly bits?) and ran off with U. Forever partners. Except for the Etruscans, they used QV, but hey, there was no V yet. Let's not quibble. Once F carded wool. But F was a rake. F was a cad. (Forget about carding wool. Sheep lie.) 

Why? Por quoi?  See, F had other plans. F was raking chaff from straw, and busy sowing wild oats. The problem was that U was a bit of a johnny-come-lately to the literacy scene. F was U and V's father. So the Etruscans should've used QF. I dare you to say it three times out loud on a crowded train.

And, there you have it. U was the progeny of F, yes, F. That's faw, or waw, if you insist (mind your Ws and Vs). F was a bit of a rake. F got around, F begat almost as many children as Robbie Burns or Niall of the Nine Hostages (and none of them kids in the feckin Irish alphabet, I might add). F was ancestor of UVW and Y. Don't ask me why. F needed a lot of progeny to tend the fields.

A deep throated sound: uvula vulvula. Yeah, when the soft C crept into Church Latin, it was hell inniu, I mean in a handbasket for those hard Cs expectorating on the church floors throughout the liturgy. No more Celts but selts. Ask the cwen. Incunabula quern, quunt. The quack in the cosmic egg.


Because gimel was once a camel, a ship of the desert, and kappa was the hollows of the hands, as if scooping water from the stream, it held an offering of water. I heard that BUT! We're not discussing Arabic here. Besides, there's no one sound to which that Arabic sound corresponds, we get Qoran, or Koran.

And the poor monkeys of Gibralter were so lonesome for the wine-dark sea, that one skull turned up in someone's crannóg hillfort in Navan. An archaeological mystery, or mishap by sea. Blame the Phoenicians. Quoph = monkey. That poor monkey must've froze his brass baa's off In Ireland, in winter, like that. Did they make him a little fur coat? Did he pick up Irish? Meanwhile the Irish scribes were busy inserting blank spaces between all the words. The Oirish also invented lower case letters and paragraphs too. Probably invented punctuation too. OTHERWISEWEDSTILLBEREADINGTEXTSLIKETHISNOWONDEREVERYBODYWASILLITERATETHETEXTSWERESHOUTING.

And what about Hannibal's elephants queueing up to cross the alps, did the Cisalpine Celts knit them tall sweaters amid the snow flurries? Ah, snow.

It all comes back to those white maidens of Delphi, the flurrying snow, Brennius's downfall, and CuChullainn, himself, fighting the waves with his sword, after he slew his only son in battle. Prophecy biting the ass it begets.

I don't think the Etruscans had any say in the matter. QV That's a bit of a red herring. There was no V yet. Blame the Phoenicians, maybe. All on the QT, of course. But they discovered all that tin at the end of the world, nuggets of tin in the riverbeds of Wales, to make faence and blue glass to ward off the evil eye. There was a great need to ward off the evil eye. So Q got around. Flip sides of the same coin, heads or tails?




¿Quien sabe? Because Q is the loneliest letter, and picked up a French tail to prove it. A geminid twinning, fraternal, I think. Because it had a bad gamma (cough, (kof), because it peed its pants in church and ran off with U. And U, a johnny-come-lately, raking the chaff from the straw, faw, that garden rake, ancestor to UVW and WHY? got around, begat almost as many children as Niall of the Nine Hostages (and none of them in the Irish alphabet, I might add). A deep thhroated sound: uvula vulvula. Yeah, when the soft c crept into church Latin, it was hell inna handbasket for those hard Cs expectorating on the church floors throughout the liturgy. Ask the cwen. Incanabula quern, quunt. The crack in the cosmic egg. Because gimel was once a camel, a ship of the desert, and kappa was the hollows of the hands, as if scooping water from the stream, and the poor monkeys of Gibralter were so lonesome for the wine-dark sea, that one skull turned up in someone's crannóg or hillfort in Navan. An archaeological mystery or mishap. quoph = monkey. That monkey must've froze his brass baa's off In Ireland in winter, like that. Did they make him a little fur coat? And what about Hannibal's elephants queueing up to cross the alps, did the Celts knit them tall sweaters amid the snow flurries? It all comes back to those white maidens of Delphi, the flurrying snow, and CuChullainn, himself, fighting the waves with his sword, after he slew his only son in battle. Prophecy biting the ass it begets. I don't think the Etruscans had any say in the matter. That's a bit of a red herring. Phoenicians, maybe. All that tin at the end of the world, nuggets in the riverbeds of Wales, to make faence and blue glass to ward off the evil eye. There are both sides of the coin, heads or tails?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Old Photo Found in the Woodrat Nest



Found in our basement last weekend, among the rubble and woodrats' nest made of twigs and shingle scraps, some old photographs. The woodrats also hauled up all the old plastic Christmas ornaments too. Shiny! Must've been the braces on my teeth that attracted them to this picture. Grandma, my cousins David, Sinead and me sporting a tin-grin in Forest Knolls ca. 1971-72. Photo says August, but it's clearly not, the grass is too green, so that must be when the roll was developed. But I do know it was late afternoon, the shadow of the bishop pine. Grandma's Manhattan in hand, nearly drained. Sinead's elbow is freshly skinned, she must've been crying, so I picked her up. but somehow, she'd gotten too big for me to hold. Why the woodrats wanted a family photo to add to their treasure trove of beer caps and church keys is a mystery.  They also stole a few of our Holy Family lithographs too. Perhaps they found religion as well.



Lost Car Keys

 

first draft

Found in our basement last weekend, among the rubble and woodrats' shingle scrap nest. They also hauled up all the old plastic Christmas ornaments too. Shiny! Must've been the braces on my teeth that attracted them to this picture. Grandma, (Jennie Walsh Reilly from Bantry) my cousins David, Sinead Dinsmore, and me sporting a tin-grin in Forest Knolls ca. 1971-72. Photo says August, but it's clearly not, so that must be when the roll was developed. But I do know it was late afternoon, Grandma's Manhattan in hand, nearly drained. Sinead's elbow is freshly skinned, she must've been crying, so I picked her up.