Apothecaries and the arbiters of memories

Your commute these days
is from the bedchamber
or the boudoir if you will,
to the study.

Immersed in such elegant
habitation, is it
as far fetched as the perfume
you wore to just get downstairs,
to your next online meeting?

And you sauntered over
offered me your cheek and brow,
so I could plant a kiss on each
and smell you … was that the plan?

It made my thoughts
sparkle in smiles,
Light reminding me
of my father,
my uncles, my brother,
while I was a little girl,
and the smells of sweaty men
in tropical churches,
masked then with the musk
of apothecaries.

A montage of childhood homes,
a deluge of conversations
of all people beloved,
those long gone,
and I wanted to cry,
at the craftiness of scent makers,
who wish to be
the arbiters of memories and
for the time travel they spin
with their liquid concoctions.

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The smell of perfumes in my home when there is no place to go, ah the irony !

Requiem for a tree

Splitting trunk, splitting ranks

Leafless veins in the overstory/ fracturing a grey mirror of sky/ courted by the god of tempests/ An aeolian serenade he etches on hard slate of mossy rooftops/ but saves a harsh caress for the Cedar siding in the east/ loose wind chimes outside a kitchen, west/ Umbrellas on a porch, raised without ceremony/ forgotten doors, slammed// His searing rage, through needling rain/ amused at displays of renegade branches splitting trunk/ breaking ranks/ at his contemptuous affections the size of an angry gale//

Her tears are snowmelt, where she digs her heels into sodden earth/ Lay encrusted there large flakes/ coalesced into the solidity of a winter left too long/ retreating now in warm injury to encircle her, contemplate/ pain of wood and dead hurt from a distance// An observant arena, watching her bleed like only a tree can/ knowing little of the understory/ sisterly tales of root seeking root/ sparing commiserations to salve the wound/ whispering healing prayers through single cells of contact//

Enzymes that signal your human hurts are not hers/ synapses of your human grief are foreign too/ and unrelated, the mechanics of your psychosomatic afflictions/ but you can imagine it like thjs/ in the simple way your science defines it/ A symphony of molecules and atoms, laid like lamentations/ sheet music in papery tomes, made strangely from the carcasses of such like her/ singing of pain of heart wood, amid frosty gales//

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Notes:
We lost a tree in the wind gusts on Christmas Eve, which were at 65 mph. One of the heavy branches split the trunk in a strange fashion to reveal heart wood. It made me sad because I find it difficult to face the loss of trees as something that takes years in the making. This is my tribute to the fall of a beautiful giant.

I have used male gender for the wind or Aeolus, inspired that I am by the Greek pantheon these wintry days, where the war between the Titans and the Olympians makes for warm viewing. It is also noteworthy, the tree nymphs, (Dryads or Oak spirits) cited in the Greek mythologies, but I would like to consider the tree as the universal feminine in this poem.

If you have a penchant for the botanical, you may find this study on the communication of trees in the understory, quite interesting.

Elhakeem et al (2018); Above ground mechanical stimuli affect below ground plant-plant communication.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0195646

For those familiar with the book, Overstory, by Richard Powers, he writes in one story of a fictional botanist, Dr. Patricia Westerford, based on perhaps the real life Ecologist Suzanne W. Simard, whose work involved studying how trees communicate with one another using the Mycorrhizal network. Trees are also known to reach out to each other and form a supportive network underground.

Bruise like raisins, cut like marzipan, yield like cake

Waking up to a wilderness of thought/ where golden raisins painted the years fleeting memories/ the soft citrine of sunlight that fades at wintry noon/ while feeling the garnet of buried hurts and regrets/ like cranberries seeking to be lost in the depths of sweet confections/ but it was the obsidian of a dark year that was counted in currants/ and the days numbered for words spoken, unspoken, friendships made, unmade// Egg whites were beaten and frothed as the wintry chill of life/ fine sugar sufficed for the cloying Spring of ephemeral intentions/ butter, heavy, greasy with misplaced expectations, curdled now/ imagining a different summer in a warm baked transcendence//

365 days worth of candied ginger and orange peel glittering on granite /waiting to be embedded in the soul of the season/ to be resigned to the slash of a knife in future sacrifice/ and in such a cut to reveal at core, precious many, those amber raisins, earthy walnuts/ like the Pleiades that escaped Poseidon/ where they, held in crumb, weep for time lost in the fold of a year// Medusa turned Algol, blinking in gorgon apricot, threatening to turn the confection tart/ for her righteous rage embeds now in molten batter/ and here, even Perseus cannot hurt her //

It is the spice of life, when cloves and cinnamon embalm you into sweet transformations/ to fold into the alchemy of flour/ to another year, to another time, to another place/ filled with friendships, intricate as a Gordian knot, not a tug of war seeking simple resolution/ breathing in a love that asks for the yielding of cake, not the armour of battle/secure in the sweetness of coalesced assemblage baked to perfection, not the self centred phalanx of soldiering ingredients//

Am I and are you, ready to submit to a new year, to cut like marzipan/ for the merging of our egos, like when brandy gets personal with cake/ for fresh outpourings of love and bartering of affections/ that aren’t silent but rooted in flavour, in sharing, in soul// Are we ready to reach out in thought or deed/ Or are we still looking for the world to hand us loose change in coin as lifeless as that silver platter //

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I baked a fresh batch of Christmas cake, having shared the previous ones I made. The baking process provided some insight into formulating my resolution for the new year: “to be yielding like cake.”

I believe life is not a battle to be won, in armour, but something to be yielded to, in gratitude while fluidly seeking, reaching, merging, creating, giving, coalescing into a collective flood. I know it is difficult, easier said than done and cake has a way of showing you the path ☺️

Real friendships I believe are personal and allow a space for vulnerability. To write poetry is an act of vulnerability too. To live life is an act of vulnerability unless one wants to hide under a rock in silence or battle life as a wilderness of thorny experiences in isolation. This year has become one of opportunity to embrace vulnerability.

I am amazed by the number of people in the poetic community who give voice to spirit and passion, whether for the singular or for the collective. This never ceases to inspire me.

Sending everyone the best of wishes for the new year and a lot of strength for sticking with your resolutions and your intentions.

Floating or grounded ~ by Jove, Cronus in the mix !

Saturn conjunct Jupiter. Maji star,
the herald of prophets, perceptions
of astronomical proportions.
Were you firmly entrenched in
your reality on blue planet or floating
on space debris or orbiting on Pluto that day.

Amid all kinds of grounded and the myriad
ways to float: the rooted tree is hitched
to Earth or the last man to jump ship is
affixed to deck while the vessel founders
until he lands in frigid waters to attach
to liquid and then he floats …

Or arms exhausted, heart frozen, he
drowns, to fester at the bottomless sea
floor, stably locked in with Davy Jones
forever. Helium too, escaping core and crust,
tarries awhile in the clouds unhindered until
if imprisoned through misguided science
in an inflammable blimp waiting
for ignoble disasters.

Gravity on gaseous Jupiter would feel
like a leaden heart of regrets, resentments,
renunciations, the three R’s, but the God
of Rome, meant to etch jovial in your spirit,
with thunderbolt and lightening,
very very frightening ! Now we intend to
sully Mars, dead as a door nail , and we,
an amalgam of floating heads giddy with
life support, stuck sensibly under a dome

The Moon reflects much lighter
the hurt of a conflictual shame, until
it pulls back the ocean on cue,
like liquid tresses trailing sand
or foists water upon the land
in a sullen rage with seismic shifts
that spirits civilizations entrenched
in settled science or firm philosophy
into Atlantean oblivion.
There aren’t enough Cedars of Lebanon
left to make an ark and buoy away
to safety, to float to ground, on land, to live.

It is the tethering of our dreams,
sensibly balanced, that confounds,
grounded that we are on roads
paved with good intentions, although
floating away with hopes in abstractions;
Why can’t we be like the planets and
the stars, orbiting around, each sensing
the other, accommodating, adjusting until
we form systems and galaxies, the forge
of invisible connections, rounding off
our rough edges, floating through
the universe, grounded in the interstellar.

What this, if not sublime !

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This poem was inspired by the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, a celestial event that hasn’t happened since 1623 and will happen on the 21st of December, 2020. Planets coming in the way of each other in relation to the Earth brings me to note perceptions on feeling grounded, rooted (being balanced, sensible, reasonable, stable) or even the idea of floating through life’s experiences in an exact opposition. Jupiter is known as the planet of expansion in astrology just as Saturn, is one that strikes fear in many as the planet of limitations and restrictions. As a Roman god (in Greek ~ Cronus), the festival of Saturn or Saturnalia is connected to the month of December, the winter solstice,  Christmas and harvests too. Jupiter is meant to enliven you and float you to seventh heaven while Saturn, to ground you in discipline and moral code. It is so interesting that these ideas are centred around two gaseous  planets orbiting ours that have influenced religion, astrology, astronomy, our calendars, our cultures, our agricultural practices.

Subterranean

The woods are pensive, dark and deep
coursing like subterranean whispers
for miles; seeking, reaching, grasping
root chasing root, entwined, twisted,
contorted, conflicted, or spread eagle.


Have you noticed: the sun,
remains but a distant memory
and the murmur of the core is what
she seeks, the tree you hold clasped
to your heart, distracted as you are
by crimson temptations of Spring.


Is that the rising affluence of sultry
summer heat, that colours you green
like the leaves, or the tempestuous
Autumn with her hurricane winds which
float you away on sensate empiricisms.


Finally, when in true Frostian fashion,
the Overstory retreats in icy chill
to the bowels of the Earth,
then, in that moment we find her
upside down or maybe right side in,
for the forest lies beneath,
a singular organism …


…pulsing, dreaming, biding time
as she slumbers, knowing well,
that one day the globe
would be engulfed in a root ball
and all the pebbles and the mud
would be but memories in space
like it does in over watered flower
pots licking window ledges,
surviving potted prisons.


What will we say then?
That we knew it all along.

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Notes:

The Overstory, a book by Richard Powers features the story of a fictional botanist, Dr. Patricia Westerford, based on perhaps the real life Ecologist Suzanne W. Simard whose work involved studying how trees communicate with one another using the Mycorrhizal network. It is the story that drew me to the book and perhaps the only story that struck me as poignant.

Trees in temperate regions retreat within themselves in fall towards winter. Trees are also known to reach out to each other and form a supportive network underground. The forest network pulses in a singularly strange fashion, we try to emulate these traits in our primitive human ways, perhaps anthropomorphise the trees sometimes to imagine ourselves being superlatively exemplary in our feelings and emotions. I do not know how else to explain this.

Here’s to trees and hoping that we all aim to be like them ~ complex, complicatedly intuitive, harbouring a sensate and fluid intelligence, adaptable, resilient, beautiful in every way. The understory seems to hold the key to the forest, something about what lies beneath, like in an iceberg.

As we chase incessant production and consumption above ground, let us spare some thought to what really makes our planet habitable, our emotions colourful, the sentience in our being and our lives worth living. I am not sure it would be okay to live outside the world of life giving plants.

On the Road with Giants

It’s an overhand knot; looping concrete,
splices through marshland, adding length
to road, shaving minutes off time. An empty
toll booth spills me onto the Turnpike and I
am coursing through a grey morning.

Out now in the open spaces, tall chimneys,
are feeding clouds to a colourless sky.
December here looks like dirty snow.
The radio pines in monochromatic blue
and a jug handle pours me onto the highway where my peers race at 82
keeping social distance in miles

And then, on a sweeping turn of boulevard
for a few brief moments, dwelling long enough to conjure memory, I find myself flanked by a red trucker hammering to the left, hemmed in to the right by black and 18, up front, the moon itself.

Is this what they feel, bikers that move on
like a singular organism for here I am, apace with giants, a crushable speck at mashable speed, but the moon ahead is pondering I think if he is on the road to Damascus, cruising at 65 now thinking if it is too early to die.

But Black on five axles, spread like coal tar
in balanced perfection, the bitumen exhales
in relief and as we breathe in the fumes of asphalt, he indulges my 4. He knows and I know in this fleeting moment, there is road for us both, each to our own Brobdingnag.

Red semi, in wakeful slumber is one with the road, for there will be showers tonight. His dispatcher called him Pablo or Peter, man of flesh and blood, he smiled for his was a happy journey, society seemed social at last. And I, exult in Gulliver to the west , Goliath to the east, Dante pensive up North, no one a roller skate, no one a gear jammer , affixed to the road, coexistng at par, giants all !

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This post is for truckers


The morning welcomed a brief moment with giants. I take a pause to appreciate those that spend their time and life on the road with no one for community except others like them. Trucking is a backbreaking job, one which requires effort not to fall asleep, keeps one from family and also puts one at tremendous risk in terms of health and safety. I hadn’t fully understood the implications of road pollution to those that spend countless hours on it, at long stretches of time.

Quoting from the article (1) linked below:
More than 3.5 million people work as truck drivers, an occupation dominated by men who hold more than 90% of truck driving jobs. Driving large tractor-trailers or delivery trucks is one of the largest occupations in the United States.

Let’s raise a toast to truckers and to agreeing to coexist on the road to Brobdingnag. Gulliver has always been a source of delight since childhood 🙂

(1)-https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/06/america-keeps-on-trucking.html#:~:text=More%20than%203.5%20million%20people,occupations%20in%20the%20United%20States.