Tuesday, August 11, 2015

One reminds me of the other

and it's not the lyrics.

Just a few bars, some similar-sounding notes, that when I was humming the melody to "Elle" the other day, trying to remember the singer's name, my mate thought I was humming a BeeGees tune.

Kind of like the time I went to a family picnic here a few years back and heard what I immediately recognized as "City of New Orleans", except it was a French song sung to the same melody. I wrote about it here.
It's less clear with the two songs presented below, but whenever I hear one, it reminds me of the other. Anyway, for anyone interested - Enjoy.

"It's only words," they say.
They're different notes, I'm told.
Both songs speak of love -
a universal language, understood
even if you don't know the words
or remember what notes,
or hum it imperfectly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bark Art

In its natural state - a piece of bark
blown off a tree out back
during a hail-spitting thunderstorm today

Same piece of bark -
reverse side, watercolored

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Terms of Endearment

The first line of this poem is true.
The rest is made up.


He called her chou

which in French means cabbage.
A term of endearment, mon petit chou
my little cabbage -
only she wasn't little
and she wasn't his.

He darlinged and sweetied his wife
the way one says "It's raining" or
"Pour me a coffee."
His wife was not darlingable
and the sweetness in her heart
had long soured.

He wondered how it had come to this -
how strange is life, how
"Darling, turn out the light please,"
he said, inviting sleep
so he could be,
      at least in dreams,
with Chou.


I once knew a couple named Jim and Jinx. Nelda was Jinx's birth name but everybody called her Jinx.
The first time I'd met them, at the dinner table, Jim addressed, or referred to Jinx alternately as "Ace", "Meister", and "Fred".
               "Remember that time we went there, Ace?"
               "You'd better go check on the chicken, Meister."
               "Fred here, was a sociology major."
It was a bit confusing, because Jinx also called Jim "Ace".  So they were both, somehow, "Ace.".

Names we call one another. "Il m'appelle mon ange.   He calls me "my angel", someone wrote once, overwhelmed, because she was anything but.  But repeat a thing long enough and the person will come to believe it. In essence he was just saying "You are loved. You are loved. You are loved." And that is enough to drive away any lingering demons of disbelief.  Google Translate translates mon ange as "Sweetie". I prefer the literal translation.  Sweetie seems so . . . common. Nothing nearly as lofty or endearing as "angel". (As if we could really become angels, but it's the thought that counts, right?)

My mate just informed me that chou can mean more than just cabbage. It could refer to a sort of cream cake.  (Another type of 'sweetie').  Which answered my initial question as to why would someone refer endearingly to a loved one as a cabbage.  Then I remembered George.  George was a dear family friend and elderly suitor of my widowed mother and he used to call her "Peanut"--probably because she was so much shorter than him.   Tall people and short people, big people and little people. In Greece, I once heard a child being addressed as πουλάκι μου, "my little bird".  In French Canada, puppies are sometimes named 'ti-loup (a contraction of petit loup, meaning "little wolf").  Someone I know here refers to his cat as ma petite fille  (lit.: my little girl/daughter). Terms of endearment. 

The adjective "little" applied to another may have nothing to do with age or size.  It could signify an acknowledged innocence, fragility, or specialness.  Something precious that one recognizes the value of, that one wishes to watch out for and protect.   The "my" prefacing it, while it could indicate a perceived claim to ownership, also could merely be acknowledgment of one's involvement on a slightly higher level, than if, for example, one were to phrase it merely "you little" whatever.  (MY little cabbage, MY little wolf, MY little bird.) Not that Honey, Sweetie, Darling, even Babe, because of their commonness, don't signify endearment.    But it's interesting to hear creative alternatives and wonder as to their origins.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beach Stick Gallery

May I present
a single piece of driftwood
from the shore along Lake Champlain, Vermont

 one of those random objects we keep -
just because

Same stick,
separate views, from
different angles

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Last Visit

We're off to Q. City Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday,
Nathalie and I, to say goodbye to Oncle Jean,
who got a tummy ache awhile back
that turned out to be terminal cancer.
We're going for one last visit
to this gentle old man, who in his 94th year
is being called home,
as some would put it.

I must speak with him in French, because he
can't converse in English.
I could say, when it's time to leave, "Sois bien",
which doesn't apply,
for to wish someone to "be well"
implies that it's is still possible.

I'm tempted to say what I always say
in situations such as this, the simple, but illogical
"See ya".
Illogical because I won't ... see him again,
except at the funeral parlor.
In French that would be "a la prochaine"  (till next time),
though we both know there'll be no next time.
But it sounds better than the sad-filled "So long"
or  finality-laden "Goodbye".
See ya on the other side
(if there is another side).
(If only they could find a way to
tell us.)

Of course, one could say nothing at all -
pretend it's just another visit.
I did that when I crossed four states
to say goodbye to Bini.
We both said "See ya",
continuing the pretence
(or was it veiled hope?)
Like a shared secret,
we didn't even let on to
each other.
Humans are funny that way.
We cope how we can.

Oncle Jean, who always sat and talked to me,
despite my poor French
and his limited vocabulary of English.
He'd grasp my hand and smile,
give you his undivided attention,
never once corrected me for my grammar,

always rose from his chair to greet you,
this thin, frail, elegant old man,
genuinely interested to listen
even if there was no news to tell.

A lifetime of prayer, and teaching,
his family mostly gone;
now all those descendants,
sprung from that ever-diminishing older generation,
their spouses, children, children's children ...
we make our last visits, not unaware that for some of us,
yes, we're next,
(we laugh) - knowing
this scene will just repeat.

I will miss the carefully fashioned annual Christmas card
which  in this age of duplicatability,
means everyone got to get one.
Everyone, down to the last little cousin.
While the rest of us mainly use email now
(saves so much postage, 'tis true),
Oncle Jean's greetings still come hand-delivered by post -
(I mentally correct that to "came')
in which he always writes -
(I mentally correct that to "wrote"),
that we'd always be in his prayers.
There will be no such cards this year.

I'm thinking, it is a good thing sometimes
to always be in somebody's prayers, that
if you're told by some serious-looking white-coated physician
that you'll soon no longer "be",
as you slowly drift further toward the "going"
(to wherever it is we all go
when we croak) - there's comfort in believing
that some of those that are left behind
still remember.

I suspect, Oncle Jean will still say
he's keeping on praying for us -
a praying man to the very end.
I see those bright, eager eyes,
     that warm, friendly smile,
         that kind, ageless old face -
for I have only known him as old.

I don't know about you
but I tire when reading long poems,
especially such line-chopped prose as this
pretending to be a poem,
but it seemed a fitting format 
for this spontaneous tribute
to the kind old man I know as Oncle Jean  -
who is not really my uncle at all
but family nonetheless.

I wanted just to thank him
for those few brief conversations,
for all those heartfelt intercessions on my behalf
to the mysterious Whatever,

Merci encore, Oncle Jean.

See ya.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hot Day, Cool Cars, Berries

We trekked off to Nicolet this afternoon, to check out some old cars.  Unlike the car expo in 2012 in Trois-Rivières (about which I wrote here), I took fewer pictures this time.  My favorites: 

I only noticed later that from the middle of the bumper,
over the hood, up through the window, to the roof of the building behind,
is one long, continuous vertical line.


1934 Ford coupe

Down along the St. François river,
a woman sitting under a tree, reading

This morning at Marché Godefoy,
baskets and baskets of fresh

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Imagine us all, he said


        ...    ...    ...    ...

If we do not see each other again
in this life or any other, let’s agree
to each take the time,
whenever we can,
to imagine us all standing at the rail
confused but delighted at the endless,
deathless sea before us
with no need to speak of desperation
for once.  Imagine us all
in sunset, in sunrise, under a laughing moon.
Imagine a shared moment
where it didn’t need to make sense
that there was no sense to the voyage.

~~ Excerpt from "This Ship", by Tony Brown.

Thanks to permission from Tony Brown, who several years ago told me I could share any of his poems, and will do so again in an upcoming issue of too-long dormant Salamander Cove in July/August.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


Grande vente de garage at Parc Ile Saint Quentin yesterday.

 What I found:


a leather-boot keychain, for 25 cents

A lovely green stone necklace, 50 cents

   Two pen holders and 6 drawing nibs (new!!), $1

A black and gold-colored metal wildcat pin, $2

Artwork made from pressed flowers, herbs and seeds
from Quebec artist/botanist Julie Corbeil,
signed and framed,  $4

(This photo doesn't do it justice.)

A little hand-carved wooden figure by
sculptor Robert Jean, of Saint-Jean-Port-Jolie, $1

When I brought him home, I put him next to another carved wooden figure
that I got some years ago that's actually an incense holder.
They seem to be getting along just fine together.

I was not so sure, however, about Francis and François.
Francis is a wooden deer with broken antlers, carved from driftwood, gotten in Vermont.


This carved horse, now called  François, was sitting on a table
 at the garage sale,  ignored by all the passersby.
He reminded me a bit of Francis.  I, too, passed him by -
but then went back.  Something about those eyes. 

His backside includes this gaping hole
that resembles a mouth, howling.

Here's an imaginary (photographic) intro between the two sculptures
as they size each other up.

"Hello, who's this you've brought home with you?"

May I present François, I said,
emphasizing his finer-sculpted points.

Francis checks him out.

No comment.

 François waits.

I'm taller than you, Francis thinks.

You can join me in sentinel duty at the window,
he says, authoritatively.

Because photographers can manipulate perception,
here it would seem they are the same height
and Francis appears more friendly.

As in all contrived, anthropomorphic stories,
a happy ending trumps a not so happy one.

 I truly do not know if Francis and François will get along,
or if the perpetually smiling wooden man won't occasionally
feel like frowning --  but in our world, inanimate objects
don't speak or feel, and so can't really tell us.

And yet they do, when imagination takes over,
giving a tiny, decorative clunk of metal
one pins on a garment, to "accessorize",
the ability to leap, to dream.

"Can I go now?"

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tree Talk

Good morning, Maurice
you show-off, you,
conspiring with the sun to make
your limb-shadows dance on my curtains
just so

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

27 years ago

It's like you're on this long, long journey that never ends, and the
voices in the back keep asking:

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Frag Jots


Hanging up clothes in the back yard yesterday
a wave across to neighbor Clement
and his dog Charlotte
who then walk on over and
Clement tells me the tests are back, he has
cancer of the blood and that
despite eating six pieces of toast every morning,
he's still losing weight.  
The neighbor on the other side is moving out
for lack of sleep, on account of her downstairs neighbor who 
despite several visits from the police
(and eviction notice from the landlord)
rampages on.
This morning we'll have rain,
(so the weather people say).
The community garden folks want us there at 9:00
to stake and rope the plots.
A second cup of jumpstart dark-roasted Trader Joe coffee
and I'm off.  Should I or should I not take
an umbrella?

Friday, May 8, 2015

mini rescue

On the way to work this morning, a bee
in the visitor cat's water bucket.
Lacking a twig or spoon to extract it,
he used his car key - bee stopped
flailing, struggled aboard, got a
short ride, then wobbled off
into the grass. Recovery imminent.

Had he left bee in the carport,
the cat who'd come soon would get curious,
probably get stung - doesn't
need another wound as badge of survival -
like its frost-chewed half
ear, compliments of one more winter
worse than the two last.

Creature headcount stats so far this year -
less bees
   more stray cats
Life coming life going, now
spring, and revival -
until the wind changes
and the drinkwater in the bucket freezes

Whispers from the not-yet garden:
Be back, bee

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Welcome back

The snow geese in autumn honk and fly by on their way south, but seldom stop.  During spring, however, as many as 500,000, on their way to Baffin Island (Nunavut territory)  descend en masse on  Baie-du-Febvre, on the shores of Lac Saint-Pierre, Quebec.  Why here?

The 5,000-kilometre journey requires a lot of energy. Prime sources of energy are the residues of maize crops left on the fields from the previous autumn, and they are safe here in the Biosphere Reserve, from natural predators.  They will spend several days in these staging areas, then continue on to the Canadian Arctic, arriving there in June.

Some snippits from a local spring geese migration report

April 12 - Sunday - "Respect"
Observers are urged not to cross the fences or approach the winged visitors in the field, to let them feed and rest. This is a crucial step in their migration where they will accumulate the energy they need to continue their journey.

April 13 - Monday - "Against All Odds"
10:30 a.m. An estimated 200,000 snow geese suddenly arrive in Baie-du-Febvre sector.

April 14 - Tuesday - "Migration Stable"
An estimated 175,000 to 200,000 geese in Baie-du-Febvre sector today. No less than 40 varieties of birds including a golden eagle and two eagles in our area spotted. Also several varieties of ducks.

Spring is really here.  The geese have come back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


spring rains
warm winds
snow gone!

muddied boots in the hall
Maurice our tree
breaks out in buds

saved seeds dehibernate,
clothesline gets re-strung -
which perennial will be first
to wiggle through, reborn?

Friday, April 10, 2015

River Watch

Last week, along the St. Lawrence,
near the port


 Early this week,
along the St. Maurice

Foggy morning walk across the old railroad bridge

Winter hanging on


  Let the melting begin!

One bent and grasping
toward the snow-dented tracks -
these bare-limbed trees the sentinels, its watchful companions,
each rooted but vulnerable
to  nature, to man.