Ladies who write

The phrases that start these walking poems sometimes well up from unexpected sources. I was buttoning my coat as I crossed a plaza and recalled my mother teaching me to count the buttons on my shirt with the verse “Tinker, taylor, soldier, sailor….” and somehow that segued into the image of a Victorian parent planning her children’s future. I guess I was having a Jane Austen moment.

Women’s lives were restricted but their minds were not.


Unlaced

One son to the army
and one son to the church.
Three daughters to be married off,
or else left in the lurch
of spinsterhood
where they will turn
a ghostly shade of gray.

Caring for the elderly,
looking forward to the day
the Vicar comes to bide awhile,
for then, … they’ll have a drink!
It’s only sherry, but it will serve
to turn their gray cheeks pink.

Because their corsets are so tight
convention’s laws will not be torn,
but in the attic, late at night,
what novels may be born!

novel

Breakfast

Barcelona has an active and abundant bird population. Birds are important in an urban environment. They add to the soundtrack of the city. And as often happens, a moment on my walk to work brought me to a standstill. Magpies are so loud!


Breakfast

The birds dispute their breakfast
in the bare December trees.
One worm between the two of them,
and both of them are thieves.

The magpie is a foulmouthed sort,
be glad you don’t speak Bird!
For I hesitate to translate
the things I overheard.

Poor Mr. Worm, in politics,
leans neither left nor right.
Unfortunately, the magpies do.
It was a gruesome sight.

Starry night

On a trip this summer, I had the chance to admire a collection of quilts. The technique of quilting actually requires a lot of pre-planning, design and calculation – very rational stuff. But the visual result can be wild and dizzying, as the colors play off each other and invariably the whole is somehow greater than its parts, something that the quilter must see before the quilt exists. Back home, I began a series of quilt designs on my iPad, and walking to work one morning, the first two lines of this poem came to me.

vincent quilt_shape

Starry, starry night

We love the works of madmen
for saying what we don’t dare:
that Life’s a swollen yellow room,
with a pair of crooked chairs,
a narrow bed where restless dreams
have led our hearts astray.

How brave! The man who looked outside
before the break of day
and saw the quilted sky of stars
turned into ferris wheels!
He gave such beauty through his pain.
The art of madmen heals.

Hush

There’s more to life than the city. I also enjoy walking through mountains, villages, and I have a special fondness for old stone architecture. Catalunya has monasteries, churches, walls, roads, and prehistoric dolmens, all made of stone. I never tire of it. It’s a beautiful natural material.

This poem was inspired by a visit to the Cistercian monastery of Santes Creus en Poblet. I’ve been there several times and I always enjoy the silence. On this specific visit, however, something about the bars on the windows disturbed me.

 

theway the truth andthelight_pl

 

A window, barred.
 

keepsake_pl

 

Lace made of stone.
 

bridge_pl

 

Rejection of the world.
 

cloister_pl

 

A silent Order lives within.
Their daily walk is curled
around the cloister square.
 

dark domaine_pl

 

Don't bother knocking,
no one comes.
You are not welcome there.

Legend

The patron saint of Catalunya is Sant Jordi (Saint George), the dragon-slayer. His day is celebrated throughout Catalunya every year on April 23rd in a festival of books and roses.  I had a whimsy of George/ Jordi, riding home from work, tired after a hard day of jousting, or killing barbarians, or whatever, and when he gets to the village, he finds everbody’s yelling about the Princess being held captive by a dragon, and he knows his day isn’t over yet.

LEGEND

It wasn’t a good day he’d had.
In fact, he was tired and sad.
When he saw that dragon,
his spirits were flaggin’.
That reptile looked so very BAD!

But his Princess was caught in a tower
instead of their honeymoon bower.
So he hefted his lance,
and he took his best chance.
A legend was born in that hour!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for the bad guy, the dragon.

About the previous post

About the previous poem…

Walking home from work the other day, I really did count 16 taxis lined up waiting at a taxi stand where the usual number is 2 or 3. As I walked past the taxis, I noticed that all the people in the driver’s seats were men. A lot of people are out of work, and it seems that a popular alternative to unemployment is to become a taxi driver. I love taxis! They are a great service to the city resident. But the number of taxis in circulation has bloated far beyond rider demand, and they spend a lot of time driving around empty, or idling at taxi stands waiting for a fare.

In the USA, in the 1930s many families from Oklahoma and other states migrated westward in search of new opportunities and new livelihoods after their farms had failed. I was amazed to read a “documentary” about their lives that said “the women took in laundry, sewing, cooked for boarders, cared for the sick, but the men couldn’t find work”. I ask my readers, what is wrong with this sentence? And why are so many men sitting around in idling taxis?

Current statistics reported in newspapers (NY Times, Financial Times,…) show that women are faring better than men in terms of economic recovery in the current crisis.

Enough said.

The words he sang to me

I saw a banner on the street advertising a concert by a well-know Valencian singer-songwriter, Raimon. Every time I see his face or hear his name, I remember the first time I heard a beautiful song that he wrote using the words of the poet Ausiàs March. It’s called “Veles e Vents” (sails and winds). There is also a beautiful folk song in English “Four Strong Winds“. In Catalan, they divide the wind into 8, each direction with its own resonant name. I recommend listening to both these songs.

So on the day I saw this banner hanging above me, the first line for this poem began to roll through my head. Eventually, this is where it led…

The Words He Sang to Me

"Veles e vents", the words he sang to me. Words of a man long-married to the sea.

He tried to love me, but no chance of that. His foreign heart could not speak anything but praise of Her. Her scent, her taste, the way she caught the light.

He loved the rasp of coarse rope nets. "Her braids," he said, and smiled. "Some days she's angry, others calm, and someday I will lie so deep within her arms I'll not come back."

And that's the way it's always been with men who work the sea. They'll love you for a little while, but she gets Eternity.

His song had names for all the winds that blow across her face, and I have learned them all by heart. That much she can't erase.