leaving all behind
except the footprints following me
In soot-stained towns, full of those with soot-caked lungs eating bacon and grime 'n' mug of tea every morning before t' sunrise. That's our ancestors where I hail from, the ones that lived through the glorious Industrial Revolution, and thank god for the tea, because when people started gathering in the rat-infested growing cities to supply themselves as labour, it was the boiling of water to make tea, and the antiseptic tea leaves themselves that stopped much disease, killing off the bacteria - of course beer shares the same ability, among others.
The Industrial Revolution that kept many in the mines and the factories and then killed them. Glorious years, which we look back at through romantisised lens of period dramas full of white frilly petticoats and la di dah voices and intermittent heroes returning from wars, with waxed moustaches, sipping that tea out of fine china on verandahs, because it was always sunny then. Apart from those soaking in the damp mines and cold factories. And people condemned the rise of Communism? What planet were they living on.
the crack of ball
hitting against cricket bat
while down across the town
no apple again this week
And you ask me why I love forests so? Have some imagination, my dear, have some imagination...
the deep and dark woods
home of brigands and poets
of lovers and fighters
of Tarzan, Santa and Robin Hood-
where Che Guevara met his fate
The late 1930s/early 1940s and late 1950s/early 1960s were heady years for the invention of the superhero, who surely represented unease with the tangled and burgeoning conglomerates that citylife was becoming.
But there was much more in this reaction to the dark forces of modernity: both superman and The Incredible Hulk had a connection with radioactive elements, and all superheros led normal lives and only changed into disguises when needed, with the exception of The Incredible Hulk, who if course transformed when angered, into a green presumably radioactive and muscly version of himself, who somehow did the right thing even when throwing cars about.
Both Batman and Spiderman were bizzare portrayals of dark heros out on the edge of society, living mundane existences that were so straightlaced they almost seemed eerie, an unhealthy image that the appearance of Catwoman did something to mitigate, and Wonderwoman further so.
Yet the two that have endured long in our imaginations remain the Kafkaesque Batman and Spiderman, these dark angels that may represent superheros of our future selves in a vision of a post-apocalyptic world, a one we may be veering towards again.
how are you able to attract so
when I know my fate
charmed in your spinning web
a fool still smiling to the end
a beautiful time to blossom
among the raindropped pines
just as squirrels collect winter nuts
you collect my love and admiration
Ah, Kiku, that quietly evocative name for a geisha in days gone by, and name, also of chrysanthemums in Japanese, a flower that indeed does blossom colourfully in autumn.
I first saw a picture of you wearing a red and white flowery dress, taking in the fragrance of flowers nearly as tall as you were, reaching between the petals.
Just as flowers, we blossom many times.
near the monastery
smell of chrysanthemum tea
wafts through the trees
I hope I am mistaken
and beer is brewing
In Belgium, particularly, monasteries have become famous for brewing and selling beer. The flavour of beers is directly connected to monks and religion in Europe, as for years beers were brewed without hops, causing too much festivity and a lack of interest in productivity. The church introduced hops into beer, which renders a drinker sleepy, in an effort to get all and sundry to bed, and away from the kind of bed that the nascent pagans had in mind after some of their drinking sessions. Hops remains an ingredient of many good beers, especially IPA beers, with their highly-drinkable bitter taste, notably among the new Craft Beers.
I had plans
among the blossoms fireflies danced
and then they too fell, mere embers
before the snow
the forest stands empty
devoid even of spirits
why do I walk this path
where silence can be weighed
where there is silence
is where my garden is
even for a short pause
when no weeds are pulled
and my tanka starts to grow
The snow crunches underfoot, and the customary small clouds of vapour escape at every breath. The forest is still, silent.
echoes of the owl
in the hoot of the moon-
All the books that used to cover my floor and walls in my salad days were about climbing. I knew the stories of nearly every expedition to the Himalayas, the Andes. and the Alps, and lived them.
I loved the mountains, and still do. I loved trekking, but was a terrible climber. Ice was always the hardest, and the easiest: hardest physically but easiest in technique. And frozen waterfalls were always a dramatic challenge. A frozen waterfall represents a mountain in winter, and aside from the physical effort, one had to make sure the ice was not all going to come tumbling down. Thrilling.
is best not done crosslegged
on a carpet
step upwards on frozen time
until you no longer feel gravity
The advertisement for KLM fit the side of the building to the inch. A picture of a swan landing with grace, looking all the more incongruous, though, in this coastal town bordering on the Empty Quarter, the large desert where I worked among tall sand dunes that moved slowly through the years
Muslims these days continue to be vilified, and yet the poetry of Islamic culture is unsurpassable, the hospitality exemplary and the appreciation of beauty without parallel: stand in any number of the gardens of Esferhan in Iran, as colourful and impeccably designed as peacocks, and you will see exactly what I mean.
Iranians are the most courteous and friendly people I know. The tarof system is a cultural delight that most North Americans and Europeans find difficult - and easy to take advantage of, much to their shame. Tarof generally involves refusing to accept money, those goes deeper.
Iran and other countries of the region have been so vilified for cheap political gain. I remember when the Berlin Wall was up and every East European and Russian was supposed to be a deadly communist. Same cheap game.
In those days swans drawn on walls were symbols of the desire for freedom. There are no such needs anymore, but the cheap politics of ignorance and hate are still the same.
the airplane's shadow
passing briefly through the barbed wire
she gazes upwards
one step left in freedom's walk
do the western feminists care?
When I lived in Saudi Arabia travel agents advertised destinations where it rained. Monsoons had an enduring appeal, and as I wrote in Winner Takes Nothing (yes available free in eBook version, top left), raindrops were like diamonds when they landed on car windshields. And when it rained streets of desert towns without drains quickly filled with water.
in the monsoon
the present cleanses the past
splashes of happiness
some embrace what nature offers
and deserve the love within us all
after the snow storm
empty benches and empty tables
even the squirrels have fled
yet one swipe with simple brush
is enough to wipe away the wrath
in the evening blizzard
a set of footprints to each house
one love letter
one gift, one birth announcement
the last letter, his dismissal notice
The pleasure of the forest is intensified by the thought of the warm fireplace waiting when homeward bound.
The snow is what makes winter here, even if it means getting more food from animals: it is easier to eat vegetables throughout the rest of the year.
Luckily, there is cheese to go with the wine and fish frozen in the snow - perhaps a bit rash but bears should be asleep and I have not seen any lynx or foxes.
And the cheese melts nicely in a pot over the fire, as the fish does wrapped in tinfoil. Both go well with beer, and beer goes well with Latvian women, well-used to long winters, wrapped in rugs in front of the fireplace. I mean one only of course, and well -wrapped after her nude sprint from the sauna through the snow to the front room, well, only room.
without the cold
the fire does not warm
and coffee loses taste
slowly you unwrap your rug
outside the trees stand firm