… used to write observational ditties.
Sunrise anecdotes, as they rose to view.
High-rise moments that could tickle and tease.
Bric-a-brac messages from me to you.
Kept them in a folder, tattered and torn:
My Complete Book of Unfinished Works.
A mixed anthology of statements, sworn
to the master of truth; where danger lurks.
It’s a people watcher’s compendium,
an unbound collection of clever quips:
“slivers of silver – soft as cerium.”
“the tighter one grips – the faster one slips.”
. Life is just a series of thoughts condensed,
. cryptic adages, over days dispensed.
To the reader: Snapshots of life in passing are soon lost to memory. Short-term moments that catch your interest but quickly fade from view. These are the ingredients of doodles and ditties. My notebooks are full of sketchy lines and idle jots; half capturing a fleeting thought. And there’s the problem; at some point, do these bits and pieces make collective sense? Unlike entries in a diary or journal these snippets have a weak relationship with a string of time.
To the poet: Side-by-side two poems will often reflect a shared relationship with the poet’s current experience. As often as not they might also reflect the poet’s quick shift of focus. Some poems make reference to past or recurring interests and therefore resemble poems written in a distant period. In poetry chronology and sequence are quite separate issues… two threads; one rope.
Their grip on life was tenuous at best;
they faced disease, disaster, distortions
of human spirit. They’re laid to rest
in shallow graves – in short-cut proportions.
They were denied the surety of time,
that through age would deliver them their dreams
and wishes. They are the unfinished rhyme,
left to hang – dangling threads and broken seams.
Their length of stay and early departure
leaves a host of unscheduled vacancies
with ‘rooms to let’ but no room to barter
any further bids or contingencies.
. Their absence leaves an emptiness – a void;
. despondency of destiny deployed.
To the reader: In 1976, the first case of Ebola (a viral-hemorrhagic disease of five known types) occurred in Yambuku, a small village of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). To date the largest outbreak of Ebola occurred in 2014; affecting multiple countries throughout West Africa; infecting over 27,000 people and killing more than 11,000. Ebola is a primates’ disease spread by contact with infected carriers; a very effective and efficient killer that consumes the body with rapacious zeal.
To the poet: The size of the 2014 Ebola outbreak took the world by surprise. Consequently, the death toll rose to epidemic proportions. Through the safe lens of a documentary I watched the healthy take care of the sick; and all too often attend to the dead with body bags and shallow graves. The ‘safe lens’ should not provide comfort, it should stir emotions, raise consciousness and press the poet’s pen to paper.
Do not give that poet licence to print.
Trust him with nothing more than a bent quill.
Give him no room to manoeuvre, no hint
of suggestion; no modicum of thrill;
nothing to spill upon a naked page.
Just for his own amusement, he’ll distort
an innocent phrase; blatantly upstage
the messenger with elevated haught.
He’ll brazenly award himself credit
beyond his due; without hesitation,
he’ll tag himself as first to have said it…
Man of Words … with big imagination.
. This ‘Man of Words’ is just a dictionary,
. just a parrot, well-skilled at mimicry.
To the reader: It’s not words that commit the crime; it’s the choice of those words in combination with intent to harm or damage reputation. And so, the shady area of exploitation is encircled by interpretation. The cunning ‘poet’ will cleverly disguise his ambiguous message with layers of obfuscated connotation. Using every trick in the book, he’ll burden the reader with responsibility for word association.
To the poet: The parrot might be able to argue his words should not be taken literally. But, as a poet, you do have to take responsibility for the syntax and semantics of your artistic expression. Your deliberate acts of subtle word-play can cause a mischief that requires remediation; or at least, explanation. Blaming the reader for his/her sensitive interpretation is hardly the act of a chivalrous sonneteer.
Made in his likeness. More true than correct.
A permanent resemblance, confirming
his rigidity. In every respect
a replica; and in that sense, a thing
to be admired. As would justify
impressive compliment: so highly classed,
so desirable to this maiden’s eye.
Thus, besotted by his enduring cast,
she would praise upon him commendation.
Wonder at the depth of his conviction.
Absorb his strength, ride his motivation;
’til resolved of Cupid’s contradiction.
. Conviction is not a measure of length,
. without substance we have no strength.
To the reader: Stature has less to do with shape and form; more to do with conviction and substance. While the proportion of a figure provides insight into its mechanical advantages, the nature of its pose and posture suggest its depth of character. Poise and style are features of an impressive presence; something to be admired.
To the poet: Shakespeare enjoyed a little naughtiness. Sprinkled throughout his sonnets are references to all manner of subtle titillations. His last two sonnets (153 and 154) provide the most obvious examples of his brand of bawdiness. Never salacious or explicit just suggestive of something a little spicy. Could that be … surely not?
Do we discover purpose, or is that
a given; that through life, we must fulfil?
To what extent are we determined, at
what point do we grip that moment still?
Is life just another conversation,
a string of thoughts? Ruminated verbiage
that connects two points upon occasion.
A life-span, that builds a virtual bridge
from here to eternity; quite a stretch.
A void, can’t be leapt in a single bound;
can’t be fathomed; a forward passing fetch,
caught on the fly – wrestled and brought to ground.
. Life’s narrative is given spin and span,
. just enough to scuttle the ‘best of’ plan.
To the reader: The ‘universal givens’ are built into the fabric of our design. Therefore, our solutions to some extent conform to a pre-determined brief. Within bounds there’s plenty of room to be creative but as nature so regularly displays, there are some basic patterns that warrant repeat: the beautiful helix, the golden ratio and fibonacci’s spiral; to name a few.
To the poet: Our purpose; a universal mystery, that asks: “Why are we here?”. Without certainty of purpose we have no option but to explore the potential of an uncertain existence. To chronicle that collective journey, the Arts provide an open ended narrative. Without apology, the Arts interpret uncertainty using imagination as its tool of choice. To search is our purpose… the mission is unclear.
There’ll be ample time to talk of wonders;
but for now, you have the gift of eyes and ears.
Silence speaks as loud as lightning thunders.
Save those unspoken thoughts for coming years.
As for now, take note: watch the world unfold,
watch the patterns change and the colours dance;
watch the hand shake, the foot step, the toe hold.
Recognise yourself in a friendly glance.
As for now, listen: hear the change of tone;
hear the rhythm, the pitch, the count of three;
hear the heart beat, the ear drum, the jaw bone.
Make yourself ready for the change of key.
. Two eyes, two ears, but just one mouth for each.
. There’s much to be said for the gift of …
To the reader: It’s not that babies can’t vocalise; it’s more the point, they can’t speak. And all for good reason. The receptive senses of hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling need time to grasp the rituals of living. In this sensory world, babies communicate reactively; using spontaneous gestures that display their simple understandings of the comfort continuum. Our physical glossary precedes our emotional vocabulary.
To the poet: Our first language belongs to the body. And I suppose through body-language we can express the sentiments of any poetic theme or form. Words are just subsequent translations of abstracted notions the brain has previously rehearsed; remnants of an internal theatre. Before speech performs its reductive act, let the first scene be one of mental gymnastics … creatively dance within …hold that thought.