When first married, we purchased a piano,
before bed, table or chair. Songs
were better than sex, sleep, or even a good meal.
Now, we have a new Kawai grand.
Curved ebony body, smooth to the touch,
responsive to each finger's caress.
Felt hammers on taut steel bring to climax
the tension of unresolved striving,
followed by sweet conclusion.
The other day, I brought Mr. Debussy home
for a visit.
His conversation was stimulating as always.
With flourish and even abandon,
hands crossing, reaching for their limit,
he described his Children's Corner,
where daughter Chouchou had played.
Abruptly, so hushed I leaned forward to hear,
he spoke of her tiny feet and how she ran up and down
their Paris apartment hallway
until she was tired and she slept.
To hear him speak of this one he had lost when just fourteen...
Indeed I could not stop him from thrashing through his grief,
until he shouted, no roared like Elijah, "It is enough."
I play our new piano and I also remember.
I play for the one who nourished life among us,
but who sits in stupor, oblivious to pianosongs
that hovered, like angels on her fingers,
until memory hidden in her fingers, withered.
Pianosongs sing with authority
over her slow passage.
NO ONE EVER STOPPED THE
Rain comes, and then keeps coming.
People on the Lemonweir River
watch it like their favorite tv show.
Tree clogged, little green river
becomes a brown torrent,
clogged no more.
Ugly water washes their front yards.
Horror tears their eyes
like rain pelting Lemonweir Lake.
People, never god-fearing before,
plead, "God help us."
But the rain, the rain keeps coming.
The sun shows itself for a teasing moment.
They stare at the wonder
of the absent light.
People like to say,
"God helps those who help themselves."
but when it comes to rain,
neither people nor God know what to do.
CASTLES? CASTLES IN WALES?
A curious thing to
think about castles,
especially castles in Wales.
Walls five feet thick. Think
dark and damp. Think
monstrous. Think dirty latrines,
Think stone cold.
Think military bases: seventeen,
by order of thirteenth century king,
Edward the Second, to watch
a country the size of New Jersey.
are ruins now, some not five feet tall.
There’s Caernarfon, where
Prince Charlie was crowned.
Caerphilly of tilted tower fame,
in the town that gave that cheese
its name. Harlech’s built grey on
grey hills, presiding over town of grey
slate roofs; built by the Welsh to watch
the English watch the Welsh.
Nice people of Wales like to sing a song
about keeping a Welcome.
Y Cymro sing it facing west;
not meant for the English.
No. Wales is not for everyone.
First they speak a tongue called
Cymraeg. How dare they use words
unrelated to the ‘thin language’.**
Secondly, the annual national festival
of Wales, called an eisteddfod,
with the chairing of the bard.
Ydy, Yes. The prize is a chair,
made of wood,
carved by hand.
Wales is not for everyone.
Thirdly, and this might seem obvious
to some, and a new thought to the rest:
people who are controlled
by other people, tend not
to like their controllers.
Finally, you must be brave about water.
It either comes down on you,
or you are stepping over it,
or you can’t get around it, because
the ocean is on three sides.
And England is on the other.
You could say something similar
about mountains which keep people
clinging to the coast, lest
they fall off Precipice Walk, which
is right outside Dolgellau.
So. Can we put the subject of Welsh castles
in perspective? The Welsh
hardly ever notice their castles, except
when tourists need directions.
(“Turn right at the castle.”)
There is one castle battle song in the Welsh
repertoire: “Men of Harlech”. Other songs
of dear old Cymru are mostly about “hiraeth”-
longing, - longing for home and love,
longing, especially for the land,
but never, ever, for castles.
St. David built churches;
churches built towns;
towns built history.
Edward the Second
built the castles.
End of story.
** Welsh speakers known as Y Cymro,
refer to the English Language (Seisneg)
as the thin language,
because of its preference
for words of one or two
***”Hwyl” is loosely translated as
“Have a good time.”
Originally, the term
referred to the presence of spirit in the heat of
a gymanfa ganu(hymn sing) or revival. It is akin
to the words of one of our black spirituals,
“My soul’s so happy I can’t sit down.”.
A KNIFE IN MY POCKET
Boys carry knives
in their pockets
if their mothers
My mother didn’t.
To this day
this boy carries
a knife in his pocket.
Except of course
in air ports, where
a knife in your pocket
will give you the gate.
I wonder. Does
President Bush carry
a knife in his pocket?
Or is it just
the steely glint
in his eyes?
I am Lincoln
not Link or Linky, or ever Abe
born small town, retired to the country
you'd think I'd not been far
I am a follower of Jesus
who loves God talk
is suspicious of religion
a believer in poetry
uninterested in heaven
I am a song catcher
give me a spiritual and I turn black
give me a hymn and I sing bass
whatever you believe
I¹ll believe it too
if it sings
I am not so interested in me
unless it includes thee
I wait to dance