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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“’Sunlit Might Seem Forever”

Tuck Magazine, http://tuckmagazine.com/2017/09/27/poetry-1023/

Last week’s poem published today: how relevant is that!
I’m grateful to @Tuck Magazine for keeping poetry current!  Here it is:

64e1cabd6e643366bb13cdaa59a7fee7_970x[1]“’Sunlit Might Seem Forever”

Earth (quake)

Air (borne)

Water (high)

Fire (wild)

All at Once

Commiserate

Compassion

Condolence

Console

Days of Awe and Hurricane

and the Season’s just begun.

*

The autumn equinox falls this year mid-
afternoon in golden light, light suspended

over the bowl of time, suspended as mind
opens to a possibility of expanse, of hope

thought stupid— hope beyond thought, held
in the frame of wider events set spinning.

A momentary equilibrium held like breath
in the balance. A turning point we hold as

we careen toward winter, a turning point to
recall while Trump and cohorts bluster on.

Stillness does not last beyond a moment.
The radio calls for a Humidex over Forty.

Our family of goldfinch flock to goldenrod,
twittering, tweeting, chittering at their feast.

Prince Harry breezes through Toronto traffic,
to celebrate Invictus, all winners out of hiding.

Canada’s “a work in progress,” claims the PM.
Words do not replace realities. Mind the gap.

Mistaken identity and charges dropped but now
a bewildered refugee requires protective custody.

What we know we cannot say. What we don’t
know fills the airwaves, as news ongoing, old.

September 22, 2017

Penn Kemp

 

Sitting Pretty: 9/11/2017

I love how Tuck Magazine publishes topical new political and occasional poems!
News that stays news. Now I can share this piece with you.

AFP photo

September 11, 2017

By

Penn Kemp

So Far Sitting Pretty

 

While Hurricane Harvey harasses Houston

While Earthquake 8.1 devastates Oaxaca

 

While Irma’s Eye widens over Florida Keys

and Trump remarks, “Just get out of its way”

 

While wildfires torch pine forests whole and

crossing continental divide, evacuate towns

 

While Trump’s toddler tantrums go nuclear

to defy Kim Jong-un’s asinine missile taunt

 

While race hatred rages in white supremacists

and America turns her tough back on Dreamers

 

While refugees capsize in unforgiving, fraught seas

While Britain’s Brexit divides ancient allegiances

 

While Buddhists slaughter Muslims in Myanmar

While women are executed in dishonorable killings

 

While nightmares confront war game apocalypse

and brinksmanship totters on the edge of Equinox…

*

Then tomatoes gleam scarlet in the green of harvest

and hummingbirds linger in sun before migrating

 

Caterpillar chrysalis becomes bright new Monarch,

folding and unfolding stiff wet wings for first flight

 

While September long shadows our yard in semi-annual

balance between light and dark. What can we maintain?

 

We have read about that perfect summer of 1914

before the dam burst in bloody floods of war

 

We recall an azure morning behind twin towers,

scorching flame brilliant on vertical pure white

 

We do not know recompense. We prepare equanimity

In a world out of control we are not without hope

 

Hope is left for last after all evils flee Pandora’s box

In calm arising before catastrophe, we sit and wait

 

Sitting ducks, perhaps, yet ducks with luck, imminent

ingenuity, feathers still unruffled by storm impending

 

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.

 

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

 

London, Ontario

Thinking of this poem on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, April 26, 1986.
Painting by Jim Kemp.

Smog Alert

Throughout our listening areajimkemppaintingfigureblueskirtseatedbraque
light pollution. Evening haze

drifts down from some secret smelter
depending on which wind blows. Small

particulate matter fills the air, fills our lungs
with tiny lumps that hang there undetected
except we can no longer fully breathe.

Cosmic clouds descend upon us. Below
breath. Below thought. Below bellow.

Probability of precipitation. Mixed rain
and thunder showers. Severe weather

warning. War in heaven, warming
torrents into twisters. Forecast unforeseen.

The radio calls for showers.  Fog patches.
Clouds clog the mind, crowding thought.

Now calm come… clear of cloud…
I’m thinking stars. Or stars are thinking me.

Where are they? Beyond the veil, still
twinkling, emitting their own dust trails.

Sound/performance poet Penn Kemp lives in London, Ontario.  UWO has asked her to be writer-in-residence for 2009-2010.  Among her publications are more than twenty-five books of poetry and drama, ten CDs of Sound Opera and…

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Kate Roger’s Book Review: Barbaric Cultural Practice by Penn Kemp

Penn Poetry New West Barbaric

Reading Barbaric Cultural Practice at Poetry New West, BC

Book Review: Barbaric Cultural Practice by Penn Kemp

Quattro Books 2016; ISBN 978-1-988254-38-8

The title of Penn Kemp’s most recent poetry collection reflects her urgent activist response to government announcements she thought could undermine Canadian diversity.  As they campaigned to hold onto power in 2015, the Harper Conservatives vowed to create an RCMP tip line where Canadians could report suspected “barbaric cultural practices” such as honour killings and female genital mutilation. Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch said the hotline would allow “citizens and victims” to directly reach out to authorities because such, “practices have no place in Canadian society”[i]— but the effect was to demonize new Canadians and polarize society around identity politics.

In this latest collection, peripatetic poet, and author of more than 25 books, Penn Kemp, points out the “barbaric cultural practices” of Canada and the West:  proxy wars, poverty and pollution. Her poetic critiques engage the reader with wit and word play. As an ex-patriot Canadian poet based in Hong Kong where freedom is under threat, I could relate to Penn Kemp’s broad, ironic perspective in Barbaric Cultural Practice.

In “Arms and the Boy” (p.30),  the narrator watching war coverage falls  “through the scream as if to land/among proud and elegant peoples/divided by civil, uncivil arms.//Women and men cleaving, cleft, bereft./ Dispossessed of a West they thought they knew./Dis/oriented, where do they turn?”

The boy who survives the onslaught of smart bombs, “…cannot speak–/language lost though lies thrive.”

In ”Smog Alert” (p.26),  the air is gritty—chewable: “Clouds crowd the mind,  clogging thought.”

The city often “fills/our lungs with tiny lumps that hang there/”.

No matter the seriousness of their subject matter, the poems in this collection avoid despair. A poet’s sense of wonder is never far off. Penn Kemp plays with how the poem can come to us as reluctant visitation. In “Cogito Ergo Sum” (p.15),  Kemp jokes, “This is the poem and I/take no hand in it. I/want to write a comedy.//That’s rich. That’s fun/ny laughs the voice in/my head that keeps/right on talking the poem/down the tree and onto//the screen. “

In “Paraclete down the Street” (p.65) a “sudden poem lights/on (her) shoulder, a tameable parakeet…”.

Kemp is a jazz poet who often riffs on her subject with internal rhyme and alliteration. Reading this collection has made me want to pun! Even when she protests how computers distance us from poetry Penn Kemp is a-mused. In “Mind the Game” (p.19), she pauses and reflects that, “We are beyond the mouse.// My Spell Checker would change Cogito to Caught./For someone’s  Suggest salmon’s.”

In the poignant poem “Struck by Stroke” (p.58) the poet shows her emotional range. The narrator is gentle on the topic of love and ageing: “Those who give the brain a rest recover/quicker…His mind is air-brushed/to a whiter, more spacious landscape/reflected in such snowy waste outside.//So we sink into sweet reverie fireside,/unthinking, unburdened…”.

In “For the Trip” (p.82), the narrator offers her ageing mother, who is searching for a butterfly, a “beaded purse with its butterfly motif as substitute/more lasting than real…”.

As a lover of birds and wilderness I especially appreciate Kemp’s poems penned in praise of nature. They are as ominous as they are playful about the consequences of the Anthropocene. In “Bass on the Grass” (p.95) the narrator warns that “We have been fluid mercury/in a mess of water weed/swimming cross-current.//We know to elude the net, a web’s small intricacy.”

The narrator concludes, “We scry so little, under water or on this/unnatural resting place where up and down/dissolves. Long lines no longer connect us.”

In “Grazing the Face of Climate Change” (p.97), birds migrate and “Envy emulates flight,/lights desire, douses/doubt in fiercer certainty.”

Icarus is evoked in the same poem as warning about global warming, “Bright implausible wings dim/before a brighter sun, too close.” The narrator warns, “Reflect, refract, reflect/again and loss a gain.//Free to fail only/once and then no/longer. He arrives//dead last. Death lasts/for/ever.//No longer/boy but/myth.”

In Barbaric Cultural Practice Penn Kemp challenges us to reflect the way only she can. Trudeau may be at the helm, but Canada’s own Trump, henchmen and women are waiting in the wings. This collection remains relevant. In the final poem of the book, “Ongoing Cultural Practice” (p.108), Kemp advises those of us who love humanity and the natural world to “Bear down hard./The time is come.”

[i] http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-barbaric-cultural-practices-law-1.3254118

Reviewed by Kate Rogers