Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thoughts from an Inner Garden

It felt rather brazen but I did it anyway. After all, I had nothing to lose.

The story starts long ago. Paul has been dead 25 years, and the hole in the centre of me has not diminished. In fact, in recent years, it has got bigger. All my friends are acquiring grandchildren to dote on. I wouldn't want them not to share their pride in their grandchildren as it would make my life even more marginalised. But I cannot help feeling wistful. I have no talisman to throw into the future. I identify with Yeats' "I have no child, only a book". I have several books, but poetry is anti-social; I try to tell, even if in black humour mode, the truth of my situation. It's not a truth for everyone.

So I had a dream, a dream I nourished for a year or more that I would like to hear some of my poems set to music. In the end, I got brave enough to write an explain the dilemma to the eminent NZ composer, Anthony Ritchie. He was willing to undertake the task, selected 7 poems and we have agreed work will be piano, violin but are still deciding on the register of the voice.

The work will be launched for the first time in my living room before it goes public (wow!).

He was up in Christchurch a fortnight ago and played and sang sketches of all 7 songs, which will have the name, 'Thoughts from an inner garden'. Of course, the piano part included the violin part, but even so, to me it sounded lovely and all together is very exciting.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Aeolian Harps

I now have two Aeolian harps;
Their presence in my garden
is like the echo of distant church bells.
I have had to change my way of listening
and focus my mind away
from outside noise and inner turbulence.
But the wind is neither consistent
nor a conscientious player.
When it blows fiercely,
my harps are enrolled on the spot
for my garden’s orchestra.
But other days, gust follows gust
and there is silence; only, once in a while,
amidst a rustle of leaves and swishing
of branches, I catch one solitary note.
But again there are days when the wind
seems to hover above the tree
calling forth a silver ripple of sound.
But this is high summer
with the trees in full foliage;
I do not know what the winter will bring.
It’s all in the gift of the wind.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Compare and Contrast

Three centuries apart,
two paintings of a woman
totally preoccupied.
The first is pregnant,
standing absorbed in a letter,
she is lit from an invisible
window to her right; the room is
sparsely furnished, a table,
two high-backed chairs, a scrolled parchment;
she is composed; we do not know
whether the letter contains
joy or sorrow, astonishment
or consolation.
We have been invited
into the middle of her story;
there has been a beginning, a marriage;
there will be, we hope, a healthy birth.

The second painting has
no source of light and no story;
to emphasise pattern and colour,
the painter has eliminated
spaces around objects;
we could not walk around the room.
The anonymous woman,
sitting at a table,
is a silhouette defining a shape
which is repeated on the tablecloth
and again on the wallpaper.
But there still has to be space
between me and the painting;
I could not appreciate
its swirling arabesques
and vibrancy of colour
with my nose pressed against it.
If perception requires
between figure and ground,
in the first painting
the woman is the figure
and the ground is the room
which surrounds her;
in the second, the painting itself
is the figure and the ground
is how I have displayed it,
in this case, on an old wooden door.

Two different styles of painting,
two different ways of seeing.

But this morning I gazed at the park;
the trees on my boundary
have become so lush they merged
with the park trees. It was only
when a car drove past that I could see
the distance between them.
There, was a Matisse.
On the other hand, if you had looked
into my solitary room
where I sat absorbed in thought,
you would have had a Vermeer.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Elsewhere, that’s the place for disasters;
elsewhere, preferably
north of the equator,
even Australia
is too close for comfort.
Although we knew we lived in a country
susceptible to earthquakes,
they were long ago
and wouldn’t affect our generation.
But 4000 after-shocks later
we are singing a different tune.

It appears our city
is built on a fault line;
a line sounds mathematical
with a beginning and an end.
It would be truer to say
our city is built on
a lattice-work of faults,
with earthquakes popping up
here, there and everywhere.

For the most unfortunate
it is a question of survival
with homes and businesses written off;
the rest of us are distracted
from the eternal questions
by chimneys, insurance
and cracks in the ceiling.

But the eternal questions remain:
each and everyone of us
shares our world
with billions of others,
a world that existed
aeons of time before people,
in a universe so large
it stretches almost to infinity.
And now even the stable earth,
the earth where I thought
to lay my final bones
is writhing and coiling
like a wounded snake.

But incessantly the questions
hammer at us to be answered.
“Who are we?” “What do we count for?”

The universe remains silent.