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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Fare Trade

Sustenance cover 2017

Sustenance: Writers from BC and Beyond on the Subject of Food. Rachel Rose, editor. Anvil Press Publishers, October, 2017. https://alllitup.ca/books/S/Sustenance#overview,

The anthology is launching October 22 in Vancouver! Wish I could be there but my poem will have to sustain:) http://writersfest.bc.ca/festival-events/sustenance-a-feast-of-voices/

Sustenance anthology 2017

Here’s my contribution to the feast:

“Fare Trade”

I would eat local food only were it not for temptation.
A green invitation of open avocado in emerald halves.
An alluring variety of mango hot to eye, cool to tongue.

The seduction of dark chocolate.
The slurped fulfilment in oyster.
The simple necessity of rice.

Otherwise, I would be content with my yard’s fall produce.
But having tasted the world’s fare, how to return unjaded
to simple pleasures that this ground offers?  Beans.

Corn.  Squash.  Corn.  Beans.  The three sisters thrive.

Yes, I will eat local food mostly.  Except for.   Except for…
Accept.  Chocolate.  No chicory compares to caf頡u lait.
Ole!  Import coffee; import tea!  Import taunt.

On to political rant: our food too cheap, our farmers ruined.

Our eyes closed, we rest easy, spoiled ripe fruit in the docks,
turning sleepy to sun-rotten.  Given so much, we reach for more

even when over full.  And poems break off as the lunch bell rings.

Penn Kemp
from Luminous Entrance: a sound opera for climate change action

“Fare Trade” is published in Barbaric Cultural Practice, Quattro Books.
http://quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/

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Elegy for John Ashberry

For the Rowan Bard

 

Words in proximity to one another

take on another meaning…What you

hear at a given moment is a refraction

of what’s gone before or after.

 

Glorious clumps of crimson berries,

brilliant in long September light.

Sorbus domestica, mountain ash from

the prolific rose family.

 

Rowan is the tree of power, causing

life and magic to flower. Not to be

forgotten, set aside, or ignored.”

 

The Celtic Tree calendar’s second

month. His jewel a garnet and flower

cottage pink dianthus or carnation.

 

Quicken Tree, the high-strung race

horse called after a folk name for Rowan.

Along with Delight of the Eye, Quickbane,

 

Ran Tree, Sorb Apple, Thor’s Helper,

Whitty, Wicken-Tree, Wiggin, Wiggy,

Wiky, Wild Ash, Witchbane, Witchwood.

 

Ogham alphabet’s second consonant, Luis.

His planet Mercury, his element Fire,

clearing the mind to open inspiration.

 

John Ashbery, dead at ninety:

July 28, 1927— September 3, 2017.

Language the legacy he left.

 

Reading is a pleasure, but to finish reading,

to come to that blank space at the end,

is also a pleasure.

 

May his death have been such an ease

 

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and

cannot be.

 

By

Penn Kemp

 

Lines in italic by John Ashbery.

cf: http://www.thegoddesstree.com/trees/Rowan.htm

Published on http://tuckmagazine.com/2017/09/05/poetry-991/.

More of my poems are up on http://tuckmagazine.com/tag/penn-kemp/.

I’m so impressed at how quickly & professionally publishes topical poems! Thank you

 

Penn Kemp

Penn Kemp is an activist Canadian poet, playwright and editor.  Her latest works are two plays celebrating local hero and explorer, Teresa Harris, produced in 2017 and published by Playwrights Guild of Canada. Recent books include Barbaric Cultural Practice (quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/) and two anthologies edited, Women and Multimedia and Performing Women (http://poets.ca/feministcaucus/livingarchives/). See www.pennkemp.weebly.com.

 

Poem for the partial eclipse of the sun

At the partial eclipse of the sun

for Ula

We looked down, put on the eclipse glasses and gazed

up at the fiery crescent behind an almost round of moon.

The air imperceptively less bright but imperturbable.

 

By interlacing both hands, you could see five crescents

between your fingers as well as in the shadows of trees.

I showed a woman in a burka the crescents: her symbol.

 

What dragon has nipped a mouthful of sun? What king

must fall? If only, Trump, if only, when shadows differ.

Penn Kemp

Eclipse crescents by Amanda

Partial Eclipse Crescents by Amanda Chalmers

August 21, 2017

http://tuckmagazine.com/2017/08/23/poetry-976/

Poem for the Magdalene

Recall

Purple spikes rampant now. Cliché bounds
garden gnomes. We drink somewhat musty

ginger tea. Second cups await, red roobos
with mint and lemon balm I’ve just plucked.

Magdalene might know this tonic, or others
similar. Her purple turban that paintings so

proudly display as her nearly royal emblem
might bob through the fields as she gathers.

Though she would have servants harvesting,
that fine curved hand not browned by sun.

Her name day conjures presence on waves
of prayer, an iconography of purple and red.

Similars, signature. Like calls to like out
of time. Speaking harmonies. Chords lift.

A decorum wealth bestows, lush richness
suggesting florid abundance, jars of unguent.

She is always depicted wrapped, self-contained

and rapt. Cups of tea cool by her side, steam
rising like plumage, like the coils of her turban.

Twenty-two is the master number in Hebrew,
a vibration that opens time with broad strokes

beyond the moment to more universal scope.
But butterfly bush flowers in her honour now.

Echinacea flourishes, blossom and root, for her
medicinal. Wise woman of herbs, of mystery.

Sing your secret through us, Lady. We are
listening. Then and now. Now and then when

we remember. When your name day reminds.

Penn Kemp
http://hammeredoutlitzine.blogspot.ca/2007/10/penn-kemp.html
Photo: Allan Briesmaster

Penn and Tree 1

The Call of the Forest

Here’s to the Creative Aging Festival!  I’m delighted to be opening this showcase tonight with a paean of praise to an elder who most exemplifies creative aging!

Diana Beresford Krueger lives on a farm near Lanark, Ontario, but she grew up in Ireland. Diana is a seventy-two year old Leo, appropriately born in the Year of the Wood Monkey, and a proponent/gardener of native species par excellence. Her film, The Call of the Forest, exudes an astute vitality and a whole-hearted commitment to environmental activism. The glory of the film is its in-depth appreciation of trees: a documentary “driven by beauty”*! It is showing at The Hyland Cinema till June 1, and I truly recommend it.

In this film, The Call of the Forest, and in her books like The Global Forest, Diana interprets the nature of trees from both profoundly scientific and spiritual perspectives. Certainly, she emphasizes the healing benefits of specific trees as well as the forest as a whole. Care to go forest bathing to enhance your immune system? Try wandering among the deodar pines of Elsie Perrin Williams estate. Open your lungs and breathe in the powerful antioxidants that will lift your spirits for days.

How to articulate the invisible, the spirit of tree, for example… why, that’s my aim as a poet.  My childhood desire was to understand the language of trees, plants and birds. Diana translates for me, even in this dream poem:

Visit In Tune, In Time

Diana Beresford Kroeger benignly surveys my wild garden.
As I explain that I like to let things grow naturally, to pop up
where they will, she sniffs. “This garden needs more tending,”

she proclaims. Singing along, I set to work weeding. Waving
a hand, she encourages my rhythm to tune in with the plants’
own. So the cardinal colours deepen, burnished lilies bronze

exuberant in sunlight. Impossible Echinacea record no clash
of purple/orange but blare triumph. Songbirds gather, a lilt of
goldfinch, a trill of Carolina wren. Cardinals respond in chords.

Brilliance resounds all around. Redbud, mock-orange boughs
bow in the heightened breeze. Resonance ripples and whirls
to restore, re-story this walled garden, her flowers telling, told.

How do plants communicate to each other… and to us? As botanist and biochemist raised in Ireland’s woodland lore, Diana bridges the false gap between science and the arts, between science and spirituality. Her roots are manifold, both as botanical researcher with a doctorate in medical biochemistry, and as hereditary lineage-holder, steeped in the Celtic tradition that has revered woodlands for centuries. Diana vividly and empathetically expresses the urgency in protecting the forest, especially our northern boreal forest that is so essential for global carbon storage.

She continues to beam a sense of wonder, joy and curiosity grounded in intellectual acuity. And in those traits alone, Diana Beresford Krueger is a triumphantly engaged guide to very creative aging. We can only aspire to learn from such an inspirational mentor. Her message is simple: go plant a native tree every year, and watch it grow! Let’s create our Forest City in reality as well as name!

*A quote in a email from the film’s director, Jeff McKay. Thanks to him for exquisite photography, editing and commentary.
Diana 2017

Hear Diana’s CBC interview about the benefits of forest bathing!

Call of the Forest
248 Princess Street, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Winnipeg, MB R3B Canada

CalloftheForest.ca
Twitter @DBKTrees
Facebook.com/CallOfTheForest/

Creative Aging Wolf Hall 2017

 

A poem for Vimy

“In the slow dream of trees may the men awake / who died here”

This is a line from my poem, ‘The Stand of Oak”,
http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/vimy-100/vimy-oaks-poetry/the-stand-of-oak/.
The poem will be read at Vimy on the Centenary, April 9, 2017.

I am so touched that the line has been carved on the Vimy Flute: read its amazing story on http://vimyflute.blogspot.ca/2017/03/introducing-vimy-flute.html.  The flute will be played at Vimy Ridge April 9 and on the battlefields of France throughout April.  What an honour.

The Stand of Oak

Battle’s devastation cut down men and oaks,
leaving Vimy Ridge bare from ’16 till now.
But one veteran sent a few acorns to Canada

and raised a grove memento. Now these trees
will stand as metaphor for endurance, mingled
roots living on in lieu of the soldiers who fell.

Now our Canadian branches will be returning
home to be grafted on European oak saplings.
They’ll respond to wind in the crackling Fall.

These oaks will listen through trembling roots
to news that travels in the near neighbourwood:
subtle climate shiftings from drought to deluge.

The lobed leaves that open to embrace sun, to
soak in rain: they will know a longer time we
can only imagine, knowing history’s record.

This copse you plant now may not remember
a war a century past though it could realize its
own long span to last the whole millennium.

The oaks you plant on Vimy Ridge will not be
thinking of men today or ever: their work is in
attending to the rise from heartwood out to leaf.

These oaks may not thank you personally but
their presence is gratitude enough, is witness.
Thriving, they will return life to Vimy Ridge.

In the slow dream of trees may the men awake
who died here. May they be recalled by name
in their prime, rising as hope from desolation.

Vimy flute 2017

@vimyfoundation @pennkemp Fantastic!

Stephen Rensink has carved the Vimy Flute and Ryan Mullens will play it at Vimy Ridge and on the battlefields of France.

Sir Arthur Currie was my great-uncle: I grew up hearing stories of #Vimy100
An honour to have a poem read @1917Vimy, http://www.vimyfoundation.ca.

On my BC tour for my new book from Quattro Books, Barbaric Cultural Practice, I’ll be reading this poem.  https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/heres-to-spring-and-the-spring-tour/.

You can see the video of my reading on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWNwTXr1FMM&index=3&list=PLlK1FubxTgqpR9NBS_rtPz865021PC2fD.

From the London Free Press: “Verse and sound stir Vimy salute“:

http://www.lfpress.com/2017/04/07/verse-and-sound-stir-vimy-salute

London poet Penn Kemp won’t be at Vimy Ridge Sunday when the 100th anniversary of the historic battle won by Canadian soldiers in 1917 is commemorated.

But she’ll be there in words, music and spirit on the battlefield where her great uncle Sir Arthur Currie led one of the four Canadian divisions to what historians say was a nation-building victory.

A poem by Kemp, A Stand of Oak, will be read at Vimy. Also, retired Canadian army reservist Ryan Mullens will play Amazing Grace at the ridge on a two-pronged drone flute made of Vimy oak with a line from Kemp’s poem — “In the slow dream of trees may the men awake who died here” — engraved on it.

“I was truly, truly honoured,” said Kemp about her poem and the line written on the flute.

“(Mullens) will be playing the flute at all the battlefields this week. I was really moved when they asked me if they could use the line.”


An excerpt from Penn Kemp’s poem A Stand of Oaks is engraved on the flute that will be played on Vimy Ridge on Sunday. (MORRIS LAMONT, The London Free Press)

The “Vimy oak” of the flute comes from a stand of trees grown from acorns collected by Canadian solider Leslie Miller at the end of the battle that he sent home and were planted in Scarborough.

Today, the stand of trees is called Vimy Oaks. Since there are no longer oak trees on the ridge where a memorial was built to commemorate the battle, a group of Canadians, in partnership with the Vimy Foundation, is making plans to plant descendants of the original trees as a memorial to the Canadian soldiers who died there.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9-12, 1917, involved four Canadian divisions victorious against three German divisions and is considered by historians as a major symbol of nationhood.

The Canadian force of 97,000 men suffered casualties of 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded, with four men later awarded the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross.

Kemp, London’s first poet laureate, is touring Western Canada promoting her new book of poems, Barbaric Cultural Practice.

But Kemp will read A Stand of Oak at each stop, including Sunday in New Westminster.

“It’s very stirring to me, the music of the two-pronged flute because it has a very mournful sound with the melody played on one side and a drone on the other like a bagpipe,” Kemp said. “But also because I have Celtic heritage.”

The flute was crafted by retired teacher Stephen Rensink, who lives in the tiny hamlet of Greenbank, north of Oshawa.

“It was Ryan’s idea to make the flute and we originally thought of using maple,” said Rensink, who carved three flutes from the oak, a hobby that’s produced more than 600 instruments over the years.

“But then Ryan came across this story about the Vimy Oaks, a woodlot I’d driven by many times.

“Then we started talking about putting some kind of symbol on the flute, something like Lest We Forget, and I started researching and came across this poem by Penn on the Vimy Foundation website.

“When I read that line, I thought, ‘Holy cow, this is it. This is the one.’ It just hit me. It was so crystal clear to me.”

Wrote Mullens in an email: “It’s a very beautiful sentence and a beautiful poem, which I fall in love with more and more every time I read it. It will add a lot to the Vimy flute.”

Joe Belanger, jbelanger@postmedia.com

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