Yours, for Hallowe’en

Le Revenant

Appropriately, this piece was published on the Full Moon of October 5, 2017. Editor Aurora Stewart de Pena.

http://towncrier.puritan-magazine.com/ephemera/revenant

And I’m posting Le Revenant here on Friday, the 13th of October:)

Jake bike Island 2017 SUN

Le Revenant

“During a Lunar Eclipse conscious concerns overcome unconscious drives and the 3-D overrides the Dream Time. Of course, it’s not really possible to stifle, squelch, hold back, deny, or suppress the unconscious for very long without experiencing a psychosis of some kind.”

October 28th, late. Tonight there is a total eclipse of the moon. It is not at first visible. But as the night progresses, overcast clouds scatter, scudding across the mackerel sky, blown by a strong westerly. In a long cotton nightdress, I lie back for the spectacle on a long white deckchair. The full moon is revealed momentarily just at the height of the eclipse. A silver rim, a palimpsest of its usual silver dish. At first I think it is covered by cloud, but the earth shadow remains on the moon face like a bruise that won’t go away. Earth hides reflected light. I too am without reflection down below. No mirror but immersed, watching my own silvered, slivered shadow cast on the lawn chair. The eyes play tricks.

The full moon seemed to be oblique. The colours astonish: red swirls on the bottom and complementary green on top, curving round. Rose-red flashes along the rim of the moon. Brightness edges away the shadow, gently persistently pushing it back to the right. The clouds disperse; a planet appears in the sky just above the moon. We are edging toward Halloween and I drift into preparatory dream…

My academic cousins have invited us over for a seminar on ghosts. We crowd into the cramped living room of a cabin. They tell me in hushed tones that their mother has just died. I hadn’t known my aunt was ill but she’s a great age. Is that her, stretched out the draped kitchen table they’ve fixed up as her bier? Her face is hidden by the grey cobweb of shroud but I recognize the sharp outline of her nose. I choose a seat on the sofa where I can observe the corpse opposite. Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier grin at me from couches across the room. They are both making notes on poetics for the occasion. At the podium, the professors take turns in an animated, pedantic discussion that focuses more on city waterfront than on the ghosts that were supposed to be their subject.

Scanning the cabin, I spot only one ghost on site, and he’s a desiccated old mummy hanging in a wall cabinet like a worn, discarded suit. There’s no time for any other speeches but the ongoing drone of professors when the service is abruptly over. Even now, as we walk past the zoo to our cars, my relations are still vying for our attention, boasting with civic pride about the proposed new developments in their city. Lorna waves goodbye as we head off in different directions to our respective towns.

In the dream, I’m disappointed because I’d come prepared to talk about my encounter with ghosts. After reading Bram Stoker when ill at fourteen with a high fever, I’d hallucinated. For three days running, at 4 pm, when my temperature was highest, a black cloud would roll out from the electrical outlet outside my bedroom. The cloud would rise and condense into a tall figure in evening dress, riding on a wave of blood that threatened to engulf me. Impervious to the scarlet roll of the breaker, Dracula rode toward me, intent, his imperious eyebrows furrowed. No gentleman, he. But before he got to me, I’d fainted.

By morning, the October yard is golden with teardrop birch leaves and the heart-shaped redbud. The unknown yellow flowers, something between a sunflower and a bolted lettuce flower, continue to bud and blossom. The bees are encouraged, returning for more and more, but slowing under the weight of pollen and the cold. Goldfinches sway on the forlorn and desiccated stalks, seeking the last black seeds from sunflower heads. Late goldenrod rise determined to flower in this unprecedented warmth. Even the surprised forsythia blossoms along the new branches, fooled by the slight frost a few weeks back into thinking this is spring. As does the careless primrose, with its circlet of magenta around a golden centre. And the last daisy, day’s eye. Give me your answer, do.

We have shifted along the spectrum toward light, despite the darkening days. September was the entire spread of red, with its roses, fuchsia, chenille plant and morning glories. A generosity of geraniums. Tomatoes and peppers began to blush. Firm tomatillos burst their lantern skin alongside a passion mix of osteospermum. And early Christmas cactus bursts against the deep splendid coleus, the extravagance of hibiscus. Now is the yellow season. Mists and mellow fruitfulness, vibrant against the persistent green.

*

My first-born was conceived at midnight on another Halloween, after a party in1969. The first month I was off the pill. As sperm trickled into my womb, I lay in the darkness and in that haze of sleepy satiety saw. A cloud descended, a cloud of children’s voices, milling, excited, clambering. A cumulus of little faces, inchoate, coming into form, coming into perspective, children appearing suddenly after a great treat. One little being was the most persistent, determined to present himself first. The others dropped back, lost their form, slipped, returned to cloud. Triumphantly, the winner declared himself, named himself, chose me as his home. Flushed with victory, his cherubic cheeks reddening. I saw this boy again, two years later, incarnated as my son. He realized himself as a toddler just as he had appeared at his conception, as form took hold.

This tadpole swam in me, nothing but a black dot. The tadpole flourished, developed limbs. A small toad explored my innards as its own private pond. I watched from up in my head, fascinated and somewhat horrified at this invasion. The toad stopped wandering, settled into my womb, curved into a ball and concentrated on growing. Would I never know privacy again? During the day, I taught rock music lyrics to bemused Tech kids who until then had no interest in English. Night was given over to swelling. Growth comes at night, and I grew; the foetus grew. Swelling with pride, I became belly. Belly became me. Two heartbeats in me now. And then, as we watched Woodstock, the kick. Not just a kick, a drumbeat rocking to the percussion of Country Joe and the Fish.

Because of the size of the foetus, the doctor proclaimed it would be due the first of July. I waited throughout the summer, our first in the suburbs. Steam lifting off the balcony railing. Our first summer off the ground, in a high rise. In those innocent days, a high-rise was an eyrie, the height of sophistication. We settled into domesticity. I wore a loose Moroccan djellaba and wallowed like a whale. My belly continued to expand in the heat like an over-ripe tomato. Thirty pounds of belly, and my arms and legs still skinny. We painted the spare bedroom for the baby. We painted my academic cousin’s wicker basinet. We entertained bachelor friends, who stayed too long,

I was twenty-five. I thought I was ready. Married, educated, well-travelled. Ready for the next stage. And the urge was in me. My husband accommodated. Neither of us had any conception of parenthood. There were few books on the topic in 1970, aside from my mother’s Dr. Spock. None of our friends had children. But we nested. My belly pulled my intellect into its own wisdom, its will more focussed than mine, which seemed to have melted in the heat. I waited placidly. Hormones suffused my mind. I dreamed of toadlets, amphibian babies swimming through my veins, through ‘hysteria’, the original wandering womb. Wondering when, wondering if and how.

In hospital, I rode out the contracting waves for thirty-six hours. When the contractions were so close they were one crest and trough, ongoing, I left my body to float out the top of my perspiring head. Hovering on the ceiling, I watched with mild compassion the woman below writhe in a white hospital gown, her sheet twisted. Not waving but drowning. It was a long weekend and my doctor was away playing golf. When he returned, I was induced. My son was reluctantly induced into the world.

I recognize him, this revenant. A summer baby, born in Leo, ‘way past due, but once out, bursting to engage us with outstretched arms. Plump and bursting, baby Joy, baby Life, firstborn. My Syrian friend Hassan tells me that if I were Moslem, I would now be called by my son’s name. My honorific would be my role: Mother of the First-born. Out of respect, because I have delivered the son, the centre of the world. Holding this child, I believe it.

He drains my milk, sucks so eagerly that my nipples are raw and bleeding. Blood and milk trickle down from the corner of his mouth, separately, red and white. He sleeps in the cradle of my arms, satiated. The world is his womb these August days so hot neither of us can tell inside from out. We are outside in. I have known him beyond time. And I watch with the decades as he unfolds.

Penn Kemp

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Poem for Solstice Night

All Things Considered

On the shelf inside the storm, an empty
pitcher of light awaits sage and summer
savory.  All puns are planted to present
these things as if saying were enough
to conjure the perfect illusion illuminated.
Now.  At the turning of the year after
nadir of deepest darkness, the small
Moon of Long Night turns to beam
over the orchard above the frozen lake.
The sun stands Solstice still, holding
its breath, biding its time until released
to start once more in utter clarity of cold.

 

In that perilous moment before cycles
start up again, we all can fall through
cracks.  Interstices of ice drag us down.

We grope from dusk to dark to light.
We slip between stars, drawn out
beyond what we know, considering,
considere, to be with the luminary.

Night rustles outside our window, murmurs
and squeaks.  Whimpers follow outraged
raccoon yowl.  Orange and black streak

across the dark pane I can’t see through
conjuring night creatures’ obscured world,

Scent leads a trail to territorial war, deep
enmities nurtured throughout the long wee

hours before dawn lifts that velvet cloth to
reveal grey, seeping shade back to clarity.

Penn Kemp

*

The last lines of this poem were first published in from Dream Sequins, Lyrical Myrical Press, with drawings by the brilliant Steven McCabe. See his gorgeous https://poemimage.wordpress.com/.

Poetry and Jazz on a midSummer Night

Penn Kemp and Bill Gilliam with Daniel Kolos

Saturday, August 6, 7 pm. StoryRoomToronto, 48 Dalton Road, Toronto M5R 2Y7.

Helwa! Experiencing Ancient Egypt. Egypt is a land of the heart, and the heart of earth’s land mass. Travel with us to timeless realms.  Sample a piece from HELWA! here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM2Jg1Xf39g….

We will also be performing poems from Penn’s forthcoming book, Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books). These pieces are on the CD, From the Lunar Plexus, which will be available for sale along with Bill’s CDs. Seating is limited. Please note that all spaces are now filled.
Contact Penn@pennkemp.ca or Bill, 416 904 2157.

Daniel Kolos and Penn will be performing “Poem for Peace in Two Voices” in English and in Daniel’s translation into Egyptian hieroglyphs!  You can hear us reading “Night Orchestra” on http://www.mytown.ca/pennkemp.

“What happens when the lyric power of a highly experienced and galvanically charged poet dances in the electron stream? Barbaric Cultural Practice collects a decade’s poetic exploration of digital world absurdities, of the vitality of the earth and its grave needs, and of community. Penn never just reads: she performs, even on the page, and we can’t help but listen. Connect with the surging circuit of her energetic and eclectic words, connect and recharge.” – Susan McMaster

Admission is free with the purchase of the chapbook, Helwa! ($6) or a CD ($20) or by donation.

Bill Gilliam is a Toronto based composer / pianist who improvises new music compositions. blending influences of contemporary harmony & jazz idioms into his unique style of playing. His recordings include Ensorcell for solo piano; Signposts with piano, percussion & spoken word; & Memory Vision, a DVD with electro-acoustic music & two poems by Penn. www.bill-gilliam.com

Performance poet and playwright Penn Kemp is the League of Canadian Poets 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the Year. She has created several CD’s of sound opera with Bill, including Night Vision. Her latest works are two anthologies: Performing Women and Women and Multimedia. Her new book of poetry, Barbaric Cultural Practice, will be out October 1.

Bill and Penn are next performing September 3 @ 2p.m, Words and Music Salon, Vino Rosso Bar & Restaurant. 995 Bay St., Toronto M5S 3C4. Free.

Helwa cover

Penn’s readings are sponsored by the League of Poets, Metro Readings in Public Places.

Helwa Nut Circle

Cat a Gory by Penn Kemp

My very strange tale is up today, featuring pumas, Ronald Wright and Ira Glass among family members and lions!  From ongoing DREAM SEQUINS, of course.
Catch the visual of tiger cubs on https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/cat-a-gory-by-penn-kemp/

Thanks, ed. Christopher James!

.JellyfishReview.

Cat a Gory

November-27-15: I come upon mom and dad in the living room of my childhood home, sharing something private. Dad’s chest is bare, revealing two huge breasts. I don’t know how to respond, so I joke: “Lucky you. Now you have your own breasts to play with.” Neither parent replies.

My baby sister is just a few months old, but she is precocious. “Hi, Jenny,” she greets me in a high treble. When I correct her, she points to herself and says another coherent phrase. She has been lying alone in her bassinet all night, so she must be wet, cold and hungry. I bring her in to mom, who’s lying in her bedroom, sleeping off labour by herself. The poor baby seems to dissolve into a puddle in the bed, with swirls of scarlet in a viscous liquid.

Though it’s night, I lead mom by the hand to the swamp outside our door. We traipse through…

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Celebrating Brighid

Celebrating Imbolc in Brighid‘s three day festival at the end of January!
This year, it’s a time of quiet incubation, retreat, reflection.
But here’s my interview of celebrations past at The Circle:
http://news.chrwradio.com/2011/02/gathering-voices-mary-condren.html

and an invitation for Jan. 31, 7 pm :https://www.facebook.com/events/549510778558508/ “An Inclusive, Participatory & Accessible Ritual of Transformation & Celebration of Brighid in the Time of Imbolc. Free Will Offering. Fragrance Free Event. Everyone Welcome.” Unitarian Fellowship of London 557 Clarke Road, London, Ontario N5V 2E1

Brighid_in_Red_Cloak_by_James_Kemp

Painting by my father, James Kemp

Brighid, the ancient Celtic goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft… and transformation:

JimkempMoth1967

Moth by Jim Kemp

 

From http://www.danfurst.com/prelude—january-2016.html  Jan. 23, Saturday:

First day of the Goddess month of Bridhe, sacred to the Celtic and Britannic Goddess variously called Brigit, Bridhe, Brigantia and later, St. Bridget. As shown here, she is also called the Triple Brighids, and is one of the most widely-revered manifestations of the Triple Goddess. She is the protector of the eternal creative flame that maintains the vitality of the natural world, and is the patron of warriors and of all practitioners of feminine arts and crafts, most notably the occult disciplines of divination, witchcraft, herb and star lore, and prophecy. She is also represented by the spirals that appear constantly in Celtic art. Her totemic animals are the ram and the ox, her sacred plant the blackberry.

Poem for Solstice Night

All Things Considered

 
On the shelf inside the storm, an empty
pitcher of light awaits sage and summer
savory.  All puns are planted to present

these things as if saying were enough
to conjure the perfect illusion illuminated.

Now.  At the turning of the year after
nadir of deepest darkness, the small
Moon of Long Night turns to beam
over the orchard above the frozen lake.

The sun stands Solstice still, holding
its breath, biding its time until released
to start once more in utter clarity of cold.

In that perilous moment before cycles
start up again, we all can fall through
cracks.  Interstices of ice drag us down.

We grope from dusk to dark to light.
We slip between stars, drawn out
beyond what we know, considering,
considere, to be with the luminary.

Night rustles outside our window, murmurs
and squeaks.  Whimpers follow outraged
raccoon yowl.  Orange and black streak

across the dark pane I can’t see through
conjuring night creatures’ obscured world,

Scent leads a trail to territorial war, deep
enmities nurtured throughout the long wee

hours before dawn lifts that velvet cloth to
reveal grey, seeping shade back to clarity.

Penn Kemp

*

The last lines of this poem were first published in “from Dream Sequins” with drawings by the brilliant Steven McCabe. See his gorgeous https://poemimage.wordpress.com/.

Bound by Water: A short story

Bound by Water

Kindly, Phil whisks the kids away for an hour’s bike ride, away from the Mariposa Festival. I’m free to wander through the music. Though a multitude surround, this is the first time I’ve been alone in months. Forty minutes in the desert. Forty minutes alone; for the first time since Lila was born.

A pair of navy blue clad cops plod by on huge Percherons. Their faces masked by dark glasses, these Centaurs are above our little protest. Nightsticks slung tight along indigo thighs impede my vision. I stare down at feathered white legs and gigantic hooves, at my shawl, its blue fringe draped to bare toes.

Gleaming pop bottles dropped empty on the trodden grass refract the light of the sun, a light that glints off the steel green netting of garbage bins. Alarmed, I fade away through the chimerical carnival. At every step, changing shapes and features call up hobgoblins, dancing and clapping, yipping and singing. Swirling dresses, stomping boots, silver chains on ankles: I don’t want to carry the visual totality around. Awkwardly, I weave past intertwined couples spread out on blankets, the oblivious embrace of limbs, who knows whose. A snake rears its head.

What is this yearning for artistic expression? What am I trying to articulate? I don’t know what I want or how I am going to get it. My music is too connected to my life; it argues for an interior rather than political world. Nothing validates my life as a songwriter. Since Lila’s birth, I’ve been too shy to show my songs to anyone. Maybe I never will. I’ll write and not record. That would be a nice counterpart to all this male bombast.

My life will be the art. What’s greater than creating and nurturing babies? Them, I can hang on to. The children are my art; they are Phil’s. They are the Island’s. Everyone forms them. “The living proof”, indeed. So what if my voice goes unknown? It’s good but not great. I can never be The Voice. As a Catholic, how can I want recognition? I want to be humble. I should want to be humble. I edge through discarded candy wrappers, over cartons of soggy chips bleeding ketchup. Constantly walking on eggshells; that sucks.

On the next stage, a family of chansoniers is harmonizing. A pretty young girl in a pleated skirt jigs her way to the front and twirls while her brothers pick and fiddle. Wouldn’t that be the ticket. I can just imagine Phil up there playing the spoons. The dancer plays out my fantasy. But I’m not up there singing. Mesmerized, I can hardly make her out through the haze. A strange hand reaches over my shoulder and offers me a pipe. “Wanna a toke? This is good shit.” With a sharp intake of breath, I realize the nature of the fog.

Fair game, fair ground. The landscape of appearances is at the centre of perception, as if all here just for my amusement. Forms mill in and out of focus; dots on a flat plane interest me. Arms waving, legs stomping, step-dancing, clogging. A troupe of minstrels, Morris dancers with green and white streamers flying, draw me on into the centre of the labyrinth like Pied Pipers, churning out melodies on their hurdy-gurdies. High-pitched madrigals weave Renaissance airs into the already layered atmosphere. A soprano flaunts her voice to a hammered dulcimer and no one can tell the instruments apart. Oh, it would be foolish not to be happy resting in this total beauty and forget the rest. I can see things as a whole.

Captivated, I pack away my glasses and step into a larger awakening. My mind has left; I can no longer depend on the integrity of articulation. The contract of sympathetic connection with my dead father unravels into peripheral vision. Embodied, I feel the warmth of belly pull intellect down to intuition, consciousness down to pulse. I watch my body swell with rhythm; my stomach undulate, free to move in its own way. Waves start to undulate up my spine like a little dragon come to life. Writhing, the body contorts to the polyphonic strains across the strand. The realm that entices is magic, not history.

Pennants strung from the white tents of Mariposa curve and stream to the same intricate current. The Island dances through me, real and not real, who can differentiate. My feet caper on this frail crust of sand over water, alive to the sphere rolling underfoot, in synch with the seasonal round. Churning white cumuli teach me how to surrender; these shape shifters accept the new configuration of every breeze. Floating, I am transported.

In a swirl of idyllic impression perceived, the carnival becomes a mediaeval pageant. What magic is to be enacted? I think I’m living the dream, time and again. The motley crowd dissolves in a plume of smoke. I am listing from one timeless reality to another through a synaesthesia of music with sweet scent. The indolent air carries more of that redolent balm, wafting over from the cottonwood or the crowd.

Sluggish, somnolent, I spread my shawl under the poplar tree and lean my back against its wide, smooth trunk. Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess opens before me. I’m happy just to be breathing in this lovely, aromatic breeze. Ah Balm of Gilead, be my ambrosia. My nostrils expand. I could live on this sweet, herbal fragrance, like sticky buds at the back of throat. Hands embracing the knobs of root feel what eyes can not see. I turn my head to the tree trunk.

Energy shoots through the crown of my head to the tree. Sap stirs through the green heartwood. I become the rind that wraps it round. My arms wind into branches. Not a cottonwood but a White Pine. I am a cluster of five soft needles, the long green nails of a fairy hand. No longer on Olympia but across the lagoon on Snake Island. No longer here.

But the blue green world is real; the senses are alight and lighting. They multiply into mediaeval tapestry. Figure and ground play against each other, against a complementarity of red, a reversal of the senses. Out of ten thousand potential shapes, one eidolon emerges to swallow the rest of the landscape. Like a blue spark from fire, it burns through all the other potentialities. An ellipsis of light rent from the annunciation of noon, it manifests as a blue-green island of peace, suspended before me, sparkling with flowers. On the oval of island, a unicorn stands dazed, feathered white legs and gigantic hooves almost solid.

Which details are salient among so much information? Blurring at the edges, a corresponding image reaches up and claims me, willing its way to mind, the mind that is now swimming, sinking into green. Out of the wood steps the unicorn.

“La Dame Aux Unicornes” presents a mirror for the beast to see itself. Her hair twists into a kind of complement to his horn. Behind her, roses climb a fence. With her left hand, the lady strokes the horn of the unicorn. She plays a harp-like organ while the unicorn listens with a yearning expression, as if in love. Her companion, perhaps her daughter, offers her candy and then a sparkling necklace from a coffer. A heron floats above her head in a circle of Joy.

The unicorn is forever paired with a lion; they hold their standards high on each side of the lady. The lion and the unicorn each hold open a flap of the blue canopy, an invitation to sacred space. A mon seul désir is embroidered on the banner behind the lady.

And what is my one desire? Plainly, to be present in the moment as counterpoint to mythology. To be with Phil, safely domiciled. The savage beast tamed but no knight in shining armour; steel is hard to breach.

When Sir Nicholas Goldenhead carried off the Lady of the Unicorn, the Knight of the Lion killed Sir Goldenhead’s white dragon and then broke down the bars of her prison to set his true love free and whisk her away.

A wave ripples across the lake, across the air bearing something in its wake like a sea monster. A tree trunk, no doubt, surfacing on the slow, underwater wave of late spring seiches. But in another tale, a white dragon is supposed to emerge out of the lake at the time of a great festival, when all the people are collected on the shore, waiting.

Such confusion of legends cancels out magic like opposing sine waves. I can no longer breathe this rarefied air. Light glints off an ivory horn as it assumes the spiral of pine cone. The unicorn dissolves back into the flickering white bark, into the green pine branches.

The light shivers, slices. The air waits.

The vision coalesces, condensed into a crimson circle like blood before my eyes. It emanates the sweet smell of something past its prime, a pomegranate, a rose?

A sound, untranslatable but familiar, travels into my ear, quivering, from somewhere far away. Astute, not dependable, magic is been my security, lulling me out of reality with its bright illusions. I cannot dwell in that sumptuous beauty. How do I bring the fantasy, which I need to create and then abandon, back to my world? How can I embody direct perception without filter? As insights to acknowledge and move on.

“Mommm!” Josh peers over the rim of my dream and squeals.

“Hiding out, hon?” Phil has returned with the children, creamy rose cherubs sticky with candy.

“Have a toffee apple.”

Out of this vision, I bring one love token. He holds before my blurred eyes the red round I mistake for another order of sweetness.

“What a buzz kill, eh?” He tweaks my long nose. “Pucker up, sweet heart. And Lila climbs into my lap, laying her head against my chest.

Penn Kemp

Penn horse by Anne

Anne Anglin did this painting of me. I love it!

The story was first published on http://www.ascentaspirations.ca/boundbywater.htm.