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/.

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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.

Poems: “Wild Crafting”

 

Wild Crafting

by Penn Kemp

Kore, Ostara, Flora, sing slight intimacy
of air, flights imagination will lilt with.

Goldfinches float above the daffodils,
hang upside-down on the stalk of old
sunflower to catch last fall’s last seed.

*

A flash of cardinal lilts down
to settle in a cloud of Creeping
Charlie, Gill-over-the-Ground
and sky-blue Forget-Me-Knot.

*

My daily bouquet of dandelion
satisfies the neighbour’s need

for desert of green grass and mine
for wild.

The yellow vibrant heads last
just a day, and then plunge sodden
into compost, to rot and feed more

flowers, not to go to seed and
propagate as they are raised to do.

Daily, the flowers bloom closer
and closer to the ground, as if
to speed the cycle, to seed before

the lawn mower lops off their
vibrant unmistakeable heads.

In thwarting their will to reproduce,
I celebrate their evanescent charm
and serve their leaves for lunch.

penn %22For Me it was Foxes%22small(1)Photo by Dennis Siren

Stirring Not Stirring

Honey drips from my nose, coats
my hair in blond stiff strands.

I am standing very still calling
bees by scent.  Pheromones draw

them to collect on me, hiving off
to a giant new temporary queen,

spun down from my chin in a grand
pharaoh’s beard.  My eyes, my ears

are bee-shut, open only to their buzz.

*

What I don’t know is that I’m here
in front of a bear’s cave on the first
warm day of summer, attending

emergence, as the swarm births
from entrails of bull and bear.

Bee goddess, bear goddess, mid-
wife, be with us mid-life and beyond.

Homing to the Given

I am moving into old time
Fire embraces my shadow,
absorbs darkness into heat.

Friends linger, huddle under
our circular warmth.  10,000
years melt away in the current

climate shift.  There goes snow.
Too late for comfort, too late to
reverse trends toward entropy.

Decades, centuries speed past
future possibles into the past as
currencies of passable presents.

How to turn this tendency around.
Rapidly, rapidly.  Restraint is not
enough.  Constraint does not serve.

That’s not the story.  I’m drifting.
The ceremony commenced while
attention was off in is own helium.

I am standing before the entrance
of deep cave, a cave I recognize
only by the dark its shadow casts.

Fire gleams.  Fire climbs the walls.
Shapes dance into consistent form.
The sense of bear emerges into three

dimensions.  Someone from behind
must be holding up the bearskin for
Orsel, Artemis, Bear Woman, shape

shifter.  There is no one there but
this bear shape is now my contour.
Bear shape becomes me.  Becomes

my own, new comfort large enough
to roam back, large enough to call home.

Culture Shock and Smooth Return

The mothers are washing their babies
in municipal tanks that reek of slime
and brackish river water.  “All water’s
holy,” you proclaim, “in Mother India,”

and I regard again the women flailing
laundry white against broad river stone.
Sun glints gold threads in scarlet saris.

I step into the current till cotton wraps
wet around my knees, willing to float
and submerge, until from the shore you
wave me back for the next shift of scene.

Now
we’re swimming our lake toward the city.

Water falls off us like liquid wings of teal,
murky and lukewarm that should feel frigid
given the lacy fronds of ice creeping from
shore.  Are we drifting into hypothermia?

Not in this dream dimension where elements
mingle.  Joy beyond perception propels our
arms’ strong crawl toward Lakshmi, Devi Ma,
and the Kali who changes us all.

Last August Light

Wasps and bumblebees scheming for nectar
dip and swim through the haze, yellow and
black, carrying home their burden of pollen.

Seasons have their hues: ours is sun-steeped
translucence lit from within till it brims over.

Females dun beside their bolder mates, gold-
finch cross the sky in graceful loops of liquid

flight and song, sway on green fronds that bow
under light weight to the doctrine of signatures.

River carp leap and fall, rippling circles the stream.
Like calls to like through bright air before sunset.

Celebrating Ceres, celebrating Demeter, goldenrod
scimitars flash solid arabesques of late summer, late

afternoon, late in our lives for such luminous entrance.

Brooding Night Mares

A family of Clove horses roams through
nightfall.  Spice of life, ground but not blown

on turbulent winds.  Settled in green paddock,
grazing the surface, content to browse.

Not Clydesdale but Clove.  Feathered
but flightless, smaller than Percheron.

Coralled there to breed
more handsome foals

that will pepper fine
familiar pastures
of the past

their gorgeous black sheen.  None
of those cloven hooves
cleft in
summers gone

disturb the dust as they
wing their way through dream
dimensions toward
now at nightfall

toward the feast of Epona,
the stables of Rhiannon.

Tall Poppies 481948_10151091650089402_1953963330_nPainting by Jim Kemp

Recurring Dream Theme

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
into night creatures’ world, conjuring
interlaced smells of skunk, mouse, bat

disturbing our neighbour hound’s nose.
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.
Daylight cicada notions begin threading a

brightening air.  Dragonflies wing-web
the pond.  Inside I still dream of prowling
tigress, White Goddess stalking the dark.

Dream Sequins Cover

 “Wild Crafting”, Goddess Pages, Issue 8, http://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/wild-crafting/,.
Some of the poems were published in Dream Sequins CoverFrom Dream Sequins, with Steven McCabe

All above ©Penn Kemp