Monday, December 20, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
"Until we stop ourselves or, more often, have been stopped, we hope to put certain of life's events 'behind us' and get on with our living. After we stop we see that certain of life's issues will be with us for as long as we live. We will pass through them again and again, each time with a new story, each time with a greater understanding, until they become indistinguishable from our blessings and our wisdom. It's the way life teaches us to live."
Rachel Naomi Remen
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
she undoes her hands shows him how
tendrils of corn hair lie plaited in her palm
it’s angel hair she says in a cool
cool voice but her heart is telltale beating
her cheek slips into shadow no one looks
as her hand closes back in the fold of the other
at night when he is asleep she opens
her eyes and waits for the wing to descend
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
WORD HAS IT
Word has it that she’s 70
But the woman on my left
Is bah phooey
The way she lives it
We’re starting out
So we go for topics
That sit safely
I say: this bag
Is a cow’s stomach
And I open 1,2,3,4 soft black
Openings in evidence
I am elbow deep
Foraging for glasses
She says: look
It’s like a vulva
Glee takes hold
flickers without a sound
(It is a poetry reading after all)
Our mouths ripple
My complicit arm comes out
From the dark folds
There in hand is a
Firm ripe tomato
The G spot! we splutter
There's no holding back
We are simply delicious
Decorum is undone.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I’m finding it a challenge to modulate my voice. Is this too loud … too soft…? I’m speaking again into this place after a time of absence. Life’s gone on of course, in all its hurly-burly, but part of me has been very quiet.
Research shows that the longer a person holds back from speaking in a group, the less likely they are to begin. Yep. So here I am, tumbling back into my blog, needing to start again this …logue. Suddenly wanting, really wanting, to overcome this curious sense of shyness, this inhibition that feels like it could grow big, and cause me to shut shop here at cadence.
Silence has been a theme for me for a while. I’ve had a love affair with it in recent months. Recently, I’ve been up against its other face. No longer the lush darkly folded place of presence (the fur coat route to narnia), but a place that seemed thin, reedy. I remembered a poem that I wrote a few years ago. Then too, I’d become aware that my own inner sound had altered - a sense that somehow my internal orchestra had gone quiet. It made me wonder – where did all the instruments go?
A piccolo is playing in the hollow of my neck
The orchestra has vamoosed
The performance pit is empty
The piccolo is upstairs, playing on alone
The cello spat the dummy
Is sulking in the corner
Fretting on some score
The double bass has lost heart
It knows by holding still and turning to wood
It can pull off a vanishing trick
The trumpet has given up on noise
And is napping with the mute
On a bed of black velvet.
The violins are awol
Cavorting in a field
They may not be back
The piccolo is not holding its breath
Monday, June 14, 2010
I am afraid
That the act of writing a poem
Might force me to take a position
Or make a confession
I know that I should avoid
Adopting a stance
I may regret later
In a world transformed
By the scurrilous germination
Of early spring
Or some new fashion
How I wish
We could simply go there together
Without all this language and paper
And geographical space
Forget poetry altogether
And take our clothes off
I don’t want to write a poem
To avoid having to make a decision
There is a time for writing a poem
And a time for mowing the lawn
I don’t want to write a petition
Or to pamphleteer on the pavement
Like one of those earnest, hard-working
That nobody likes
No unnecessary paperwork, please!
I must confess
I am afraid
To be here in my poem
All I have to offer
Are some minor details of August:
The huddled masses in retreat
Songbirds celebrating the concrete-coloured sky
(Another poem by my son - thanks cam.)
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The ceiling is libidinous
It curls and swells
lightly to decorum
The floor is knotty
But sound and square
to keep behaving
49 chairs are in position
They were prised open
An hour ago
They are not comfortable
Under a man’s arm
A bag is filling up with air
Pipes hang over his knee
Skinny and awkward
His fingers cradle a hollow bone
The bellow is breathing
Dust molecules, huddled in corners
Turn to face the music
The ceiling cups her breast
The floor forgets his promise.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Imagine saying it over again,
This time against a backdrop of lush orchestration,
A swollen reservoir of strings
And the twittering of flutes overhead.
Imagine saying it over again,
This time with an open hand.
I realize the trapdoor is about to open beneath me
When the sky begins to resonate with canned laughter.
Imagine saying it over again.
I could have just told her the true things,
Aubergine clocks and double-breasted werewolf suits and so forth,
All the while gnawing a dinosaur bone,
And still she would have dispatched me
With those baffled refugee eyes.
Cameron Morrison Birnie
Monday, May 24, 2010
Fat as a roll of pork
mother is prone
cupped in canvas
and perfectly pitched to 30 degrees
She wears a wig
She is clad in black
Her jovial mourning frock
is laughing from hip to hip
That belly's a rotunda
The band's packed up, gone home
Hands splay across the roof
Fingers, soft as savs
tap to the off-beat
of a remembered saucy song
Out from the swollen folds of skirt
calf nestles up to calf
calm as lovers
after a tempest of love or hate
Small feet, moored at the ankles
have lost their mast and rigging
But see - their prows are at the ready
set to sail to different countries
somewhere east and west.
I wrote this poem at a time when being mother was a defining role in my life. I wondered about other shapes 'motherness' might take.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
My recent experience reminds me, well … no. A traveller who is multi-lingual has been staying for the past fortnight on a helpex scheme where guests help out in exchange for board. One of her gifts to our household was to talk to my partner, daughter and myself in either Spanish or French. I watched my daughter enter the dance of conversation. She was ‘capable of flowing’ with accompanying gestures and laughter – the hard-won fruit of her solo stint in Central America. Partner JB also, after months of regular propping of self with Spanish text books, also did the biz, but with perhaps more perspiration. I entered my child self, wobbling on one foot - able to stammer a simple sentence en Francais, but lost in the response.
I’m not that interested in languages I tell myself, and it’s true. I am interested (deeply) in developing fluency in music, but hold that at bay for reasons I’ve not yet plumbed. But here I am, on my blog, in the medium of English. I have fluency here, as do all who happen to be reading this. We do have language. We can speak, and we can choose not to speak. Is this a case of love the one you’re with? All I need was laid down when I was a toddler. Here I am with an ocean to play in. I can decide what words in what order. I can choose when and to whom. Seven years ago I ditched journalism as a career, and told myself I would never again write to someone else’s deadline. This blog is my own; my one (kind of) public container for my thoughts to take expression through writing. I’ve been away from it for two weeks; wondered if, and when and how I would return. And here I am back again. Fluency in this medium of English: a constant, whether my words are in ebb or in flow.
p.s. I have learnt that affluent is also a noun, meaning a tributary into a main river source. It seems to me that affluents are riches indeed. May there be many for me and thee.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The other story was one that I heard recently. It went like this: God was in heaven with the angels. God was badgered day and night by prayers from humans, always asking for this or that. The angels noticed how tired God looked, and said they would find a hiding place so God could have some peace. They took God into the heart of a forest, to find a place to rest in the soft dark undergrowth. But soon the clamour returned. The prayers had found God, and they were as noisy and demanding as ever. Then the angels said: "We'll try another hiding place. We'll take you to a cave. It's high in the mountains; its opening is hard to find. The humans will never find you there." But the same thing happened. No sooner had God arrived, than the prayers and petitions came pouring through the gap in the rockface and into the cave. The angels thought and thought, then one of them spoke up. "I have an idea: we'll hide you in the human heart. Hardly anyone will find you there."
Banished in one, scuttling for cover in the other, god is present in both stories in fascinating roles. Where does god reside? Can we find him/her - catch god even? Do we want to? Over the years my theology, once reasonably sturdy, has fallen away. Now, with a sweet pile of twigs remaining, I am standing in the open, feeling curious and responsive. I hear about, am drawn to the idea of divine encounter, espoused by those who have embraced spiritual exercise such as silence and meditation, and by those who are impelled into creative expression (surely branches of the same tree.) Yesterday I posted a ted talk on youtube where author Elizabeth Gilbert invites us to loosen up and cock our ear/heart to the divine muse - the genie that lives outside of ego. She relates the story of a poet, now in her 90s, whose divine daimon would come at full throttle - an earth shuddering, thundering horse-like creature. My son likens his poetry writing to vomiting; the creative impulse a spasming affair, where the body pitches and the formed poem is expelled - sometimes at astonishing speed. I loved reading vespersparrow's experience as described on her blog - an intensely delicate, heightened sense of encounter, that indicates she is about to write.
As for me - who knows, but I will keep faith. After all, I have carried god between my palms. In the meantime, as Elizabeth Gilbert so beautifully puts it: just keep showing up and get on with the job. Ole.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Heaven is other people.
Hallelujah. See them strewn about the earth,
Their stony cities lit by dim electric light and furtive love.
I am at the doorway of the world,
Pushing poem after poem through the crack.
And I know that they are read,
For whenever I arrive,
The garden path has been dutifully swept,
The unruly roses trimmed,
And footsteps murmur in the dark house as I leave.
If I reach inside you, all the way,
I cannot bridge the gap between us.
I cannot offer final proof.
And when my scouts retreat from the
Terra incognita of your flesh,
They bring me wild reports of wonders perceived,
But scarcely understood.
Hush. This imperfect knowledge
We share in the silence after.
Heaven is other people.
Hallelujah and Hosanna. See them
Cradled by a vastness of raging debris,
Boldly going about the business of
Rewriting the story from scratch.
It makes me want to never leave.
But when leave I must,
I am left with a solitary consolation,
That I must leave it all to you,
To you and to you and to you.
Cameron Morrison Birnie
This poem was written by my son. (Thanks cam for letting me post it.)
Monday, April 12, 2010
Roam around the skin before starting to ghazal.
Loosen it from the bone. Let it spill.
The lap is hollow and shrouded in dark silk.
It aches for its losses and so it is never empty.
There's one on whom the eye can never rest.
The arms are still and well behaved, but the pulse is racing.
In hot weather blood grows thinner than water.
Magpies beat their wings in your hair to keep you from their young.
I remember the day my palm was plump with love.
I stroked the locks your hair and found them wet with dew.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I've often said this place called me to herself. I used to walk the long straight valley at the base of my hill, and would invariably look up into the no-exit street, densely bushed and seemingly untouched by the taming hand of suburbia. If I could choose, this is the street where I would live, cash-strapped pm would whisper on her way past. I walked to the top on occasion, and remember my breath catching, the first time I peered through the vista of native bush to a small wooden bridge leading to a barely visible ramshackle two-storied house.
Eight years ago through a series of unexpected openings, that house became home. It has been a love affair that continues to this day. The garden is beautiful, never quite tidy; the multiple rooms are happy, the rough corners content to wait the year or three it might take for the flick of the paint brush to finish them off. I am softened by our relationship - made beautiful even. I told a friend I would bleed to death if I had to leave this place. It seemed an appropriate metaphor. An artery had opened up, and lifeblood flowed through it. For the first time ever, I spoke the truth when I said: I am home.
Late last year I did what I had been intending to do for some years. I attended a quaker meeting, an hour long gathering where people meet to be, to settle in the quiet, to open in their own way to worship, largely in silence. I keep returning, and over easter I travelled to the quaker settlement to learn more of the quaker traditions and to enter again that shared experience. In a different way, in a distinct way, once again I sensed myself coming 'home'.
Right now I am on a path that will teach me - please pam, learn well - more about home. By the end of this year, due to circumstances yes, but also a call to simplicity, this physical dearly loved home will be passed across, entrusted to others. It will no longer be my home.
It has taken me years - a lifetime - to begin to learn to receive. Now I am beginning to learn how to leave. I have been given a new metaphor. I see an organ, laden with capillaries, and one by one, with pain-staking and tender care, each tiny capillary is being cut and seared. There are many of them, and it will take the full nine months. Sometimes I wince, and already I find myself weeping easily. Yet even now, I have begun to dream. There is room in me for that little place down the bottom of the hill. I will move on, and I trust my heart will travel with me.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Can you write a poem
When you’re slumped in a chair
And your fingers are soiled
And the brown shirt is
The only one that
Suits you today
And even though
You’re just home
From a retreat where
Deep silence and
Thoughts of light
And the stuff
All you know
Is your nails
And the cat
Well can you?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
(Forgive me if I sound like I have life wrapped up. I don't.)
Monday, February 8, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Recently I have been reading about the ancient Greeks who not only named kairos but gave it form. This given shape is intriguing: a winged male with a forelock hanging over his forehead and a bald skull at the back. The hank of hair, according to early writings, is an invitation - a lure to take action. To seize Kairos in our fist. The lack of hair at the back - a bald reminder that the opportunity can be lost. This odd and ungodlike figure, and the ungainly action he invites from us mortals, has given me pause. Rather than letting kairos descend (or ascend) like a divine grace, maybe I (we) can practice the art of getting out of step with chronos. Is it as simple as a reaching out, a grabbing, a resolute holding on? If this man has wings, I'll certainly lose my footing. Perhaps I'll give it a try.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
What I have since discovered is the smooth slide back to what I now like to think of as the fulcrum of the inertia/momentum seesaw. There is little to boast about here in this straddled position, but there is a certain peace about not getting too surrendered to momentum, nor too stilled by that other force, unleashed by inactivity. The year has begun and so I give myself to what I must: my work; my hosting. I breathe deeply. I forgive myself for what I'm not achieving. I exercise heart and brain to remember what will really count this (and every) year: relationships. And ... bushy haired and creaky ... I still (20 days in) do my first-thing five minute Doug Sellman routine.