Infinity:is skin and bone an illusion? by Helen McKinlay

(i)

My friend says

her inner walls grow thinner as she ages.

‘It’s because you’re more connected

more open to the world’

I reply.

I know she means the walls of her heart, her emotions.

(ii)

My grandchild is 18 months old

when I show her the night sky.

We brave the winter’s chill

gaze up at the Southern Cross.

‘Wow’ I cry.

‘Wow’ she calls.

(iii)

Later, I find her, arms stretched skywards

to the moon shaped light in my ceiling.

‘Higher higher’ she shouts

head tipped back in ecstasy

willing her body upwards.

I feel an ancient frisson of cold night air

Selene, the lunar goddess?

I think “You too are thin walled

not long conceived from stardust.

So open to the universe

so close to miracles.”

(iv)

In future weeks we speak at deeper level.

‘Moonstar moonstar Grammy.’

‘Moonstar moonstar,’ I reply.

Older and wiser at two

Thea packs her owl bag

pulls on her jacket.

‘I’m going to the moon,’ she says.

‘Are you ready?’

(v)

There is a new grandchild.

At four months old

she grabs my hair and pulls me close.

We are eyeball to eyeball.

I see into her soul –

into infinitude.

(vi)

Every day at the beach now

there are jellyfish

left behind as the tide rushes back.

I gaze into their thin walled bodies

pulsating feebly

transparent in their dying –

and ponder.

Did you know infinity increases exponentially

in smaller entities?

This poem is from my book People of the Water published in early 2020.

 Since the pandemic began, more and more of us have found comfort in nature…from one pot plant in a small flat to a bird at the window,  a small garden, or a view of a tree. Somehow for me the smaller my surrounds, the more and more I see…and thus infinity. There is a lot to ponder in this word.Be safe and well look for the detail in your view.

PS. I had forgotten when posting above, that within hours the moon was to eclipse, A friend’s reminder had me wandering around under the stars…what a glorious bright night it was …and then to see the moon half golden half red and the stars of Matariki. Apparently we have to wait another 650 years to see it like that again.

Arohanui  Helen

 

The Man From in the Moon and The Peace of Wild Things

The Man From in the Moon by Helen McKinlay

There’s a rat-tat on my door.

It’s the man from in the moon.

He’s dropped his woolly socks

and he needs to find them soon.

 

He’s as worried as can be

cos he’s only got one pair

and his feet get cold and stiff

in the chilly moonlight air.

 

So I turn on all the lights

and look out all around

and I find them where they landed

in a puddle on the ground.

 

We put them through the wash

and dry them by the stove

and Mum gives him some spare pairs

from her woolly treasure trove.

 

And the next full moon he’s home

away up in the sky

with a smile upon his face

and a twinkle in his eye.

 

His toes are nice and warm

and he’s happy as can be

because he’s got his socks back

and that’s all thanks to me.

This poem, is for my granddaughter Thea who turns seven today, Friday 27th August. Thank you Thea for being a kind and bubbly granddaughter. Your enthusiasm for life is inspiring. As is your focus on whatever project you are working on. The moon and the stars have always been an important topic of conversation between us and so I hope you enjoy this poem.  And as I know you like to share I have put it up here so other children big and small can do so. Happy Birthday Thea. xxxx0000 Grammy. PS I hope you like his socks!

Today is  National Poetry Day in Aotearoa New Zealand. And I have added this link to a wonderful poem by Wendell BerryThe Peace of Wild Things, a very present poem for these times. I first came across it on The Poetry Pharmacy and if you go here you can listen to it as read by  the Poetry Pharmacy’s originator, William Sieghart, on the BBC .

Arohanui Helen

From The Inside by Helen McKinlay

I remember my mother’s womb

my first real home.

The pat and prod

of our communication

banal but clear.

The babble of her bowels

a lullaby.

Things were different on the outside.

Oh don’t get me wrong.

She was free with her milk

but not on demand.

The Plunket* nurse decreed

four hourly. ‘Let the baby cry.’

Brought up a lady

in the Taranaki back blocks*

her father an English gent

her mother the real farmer

my mum sewed ‘depression’* undies

out of flour bags

bowed to institutionalised authority.

Anyway the inside

it was great.

The kickoff from the side of my own pool

the peace of bloodlight’s glow through amnion

and the warm beat beating

of her body.

But I have relocated

many times since then

and now my home

is deep within myself

accessible through mind’s pellucid layers.

I wrote this poem a number of years back. I am a long term practitioner of meditation. And so it was a natural progression to switch from the home within my mother to the one within myself; that place of peace and safety common to us all.

I have placed asterisks next to some of the terms for those of you who aren’t familiar with language use in Aotearoa New Zealand. Refer to those meanings below.

*Plunket Nurse -the nurse who visited young mums and advised on feeding. In my baby days they were very keen on four hourly feeding. And mothers were not encouraged to breast feed for a long time.

*’depression undies’ My mum was a young girl when the great depression hit NZ. Because they lived a long way from the shops and there wasn’t much ready cash they used the old flour bags to make undies with.

*The Taranaki back blocks refers to  isolated country in the upper part of the lower North Island where there were few roads,which made it a tough place for farmers to carve out a living, even though there was good grazing for animals.

I have not posted for a few months. My blog space was full of grief for India and the many other nations who were and are suffering new waves of covid 19. At that time I felt for India in particular because of the huge numbers but in truth the suffering of one person , one small nation, is one too many.

Never in my lifetime have we all been so close and yet so far; so separate and yet so much a part of each other.

I wanted to post a poem from India. There are so many…More than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues, according to the latest analysis of a census released recently. I wanted to pick one that had been written in an Indian language rather than in English although there is no greater mastery of English than in India. In this land of such diversity of multiple beliefs and cultures, of many many languages it was a huge task.

In the end I chose two links at random. https://projectindianpoetry.wordpress.com/mip/

https://knowindia.gov.in/my-india-my-pride/poems-on-india.php

I hope these are a good choice.

Helen

Thank You Mother Earth

for reminding us

that we are based

on vibrant living matter.

For causing us

to leap and dance

and also dancing with us.

Often we have curled

into your body

sucking on your milk

pinching you with fingers nails and toes.

And when the blanket shifted

as you stretched

we perched upon your knees

or grabbed your hair.

But then when your stiff limbs

cracked

we slithered in your tears

and lost hold.

Thank you Mother Earth

for teaching us resilience

and fragility.

Did you feel the pain of it?

We do.

Christchurch 22.O2.2011

Today seemed a good day to come back after a long break. I have been off the page for a while all sorts of things and then an accident which gave me an enforced break. All on the mend now thanks to all the wonderful care and help I received. Felt very sad reliving this event today…sad for the people who were lost most of all and their loved ones; sad for the problems people have had since getting houses repaired etc. We are so vulnerable living here on Mother Earth, Papatūānuku, as we call her in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are all so dependent on nature and nature is all powerful. We tend to forget that. I personally am in awe of the power of nature, and also grateful to be a survivor of such an unforgettable event,which is why I wrote the above as a thank you poem, because mostly the natural world puts up with a great deal from us humans.  And meanwhile although I no longer live in Christchurch this beautiful city and its people are in my heart and thoughts today.

 

 

 

 

 

Enlightenment is like the moon – Dogen

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

– Dogen 1200-1253

Dogen was a Japanese Zen master. You can read more about him here

Greetings to you all. There is a world of meaning in this short verse.

I hope those of you around the world in lockdown can either go outside, or look out of your window and see the moon. And  for all of you, I wish that you stay well, be safe, and be happy. Arohanui from Aotearoa New Zealand. May we not become complacent.

Afro American jazz poetry: The Weary Blues

It’s seven years since I first posted this poem in relation to a discussion on rhythm. Today I am reposting it as a thank you and a tribute to the African Americans for the wonderful heritage they have given us all. It feels like an appropriate time to do this.

So many names come to my mind ….from singers such as Paul Robeson (watch this live clip of Old Man River here) and  Billy Holiday, to poets such as Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes.  There are so many!

If you want to get with the feel of the blues try listening to this you tube clip first or as you read the poem below.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway…
He did a lazy sway…
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
And put ma troubles on the shelf.”

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

1936 photo by Carl van VechtenJames Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an African/American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry.  For a much extended biography see here.  The Weary Blues is one of only a small number of Langston Hugh’s poems available in the public domain.To hear Langston himself reading The Weary Blues click here.

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Tuesday Poem-Lake Isle of Innisfree-WB Yeats

Was checking back to see what I posted eight years ago in August 2012 and found this poem with its wonderfully peaceful images. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

To hear the author himself click on the video below. I left it until last as it is  not  good quality and I wanted you to get a better idea of the words before you hear it but it is marvellous to hear Yeat’s own  lilting Irish voice.

The following note on this poem is courtesy of Wikipedia.

“When Yeats was a child, his father had read to him from Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and Yeats described his inspiration for the poem by saying that while he was a teenager, he wished to imitate Thoreau by living on Innisfree, an uninhabited island in Lough Gill.He suggests that when he was living in London, he would walk down Fleet Street and long for the seclusion of a pastoral setting such as the isle. The sound of water coming from a fountain in a shop window reminded Yeats of the lake that he had previously seen, and it is this inspiration that Yeats credits for the creation of the poem.”

For more information about WB Yeats click here.