Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Waiting for an Epiphany

He comes to me often, these days – a portly, Friar Tuck of a man, draped in a charcoal gray suit speckled in chalk dust.  He comes to me in recollection and day dream.  He is gone from this earth.  He has passed.  I wonder what he would make of these upside-down times … though he grew up, a child in Germany during the Second World War … and he had seen darkness.  What did he do with that experience, I wonder?  Did he carry the scars of it deep inside?  Or was that the catalyst that made him the Seeker of Knowledge, that he was. 
Early days of History 101, he gifted me with an epiphany – one of the most powerful epiphanies of my life.  Perhaps, that is why I think of him now.  I long for an epiphany … for an impactful moment of clarity, to shine a beacon of direction into the muddled black … as that Teacher – that Learned Scholar – had done for me, so many years ago …  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Question:  Miss Shaw” – his base voice boomed, from the front of the class – rousting me from my less-than-cerebral contemplation on whether I should get my hair cut – or not. 
“What concerns you the most:  socialism or communism.”  Picking up on my, no doubt, clueless visage – he quickly added: “For the purposes of this class:  pick one and tell us your reasons why.”

“Well, um – communism … I guess … because, of ya-know … stuff I’ve heard, ya-know … about it being … um … bad.”

“Stuff you’ve heard.  H-m-m-m … Well, of course, there are many adherents of the stuff-they’ve-heard school of learning … indeed, I’ve no doubt, that their numbers are legion.  I suppose, your plan is, then, to continue to gather more information in this manner, until you arrive at firm, intractable opinions on any number of issues, such as this … I’m referring to issues that shape our lives and our world.  Perhaps you’ll get lucky and run into someone, who has all the answers.”

By this point, I was feeling extremely foolish – and rightly so.  I felt my face turning bright red, as I, straightened my shoulders and sputtered.  “I could read books.”

He smiled – kindly – though I sensed I was about to discover I had just taken-the-bait.  "Your thinking being:  that if it says so, in a book, or maybe two or three, or even a library of books, then it must be so.”

“Well,” I hastened to add: “there is film on actual events, and reporters who investigate and documentaries, interviews with people who have studied the various issues, the opinions of other students …” my voice trailed off, in the awareness, that I had not – yet – hit the History 101 nail-on-the-head.

“So, you’re off down the path to enlightenment:  reading and watching and listening … anything else?” he queried with a fixed straight-in-the-eye stare that dissolved into a cliff hanger pause.

“I could think about what I’ve learned and  …” (like a chorus of muses swinging open the gates of Macedonia … my ‘ah-ha moment’ – my  great epiphany – crescendoed like an ‘Eureka’ on loudspeakers) …  “I  COULD  QUESTION ! ! !”

He beamed with pleasure, then.  “Another one …. off to the library stacks.  Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring”, he chortled.

“Pardon,” I interjected – my expression:  likely a study in unmitigated bewilderment.

“Look it up, Miss Shaw,” as he began writing on the blackboard, in capital letters:

notes:  In Greek mythology, the Pierian Spring of Macedonia was sacred to the Muses, as the metaphorical source of knowledge.  In the 1709 poem ‘An Essay on Criticism’ by Alexander Pope, he wrote:  "A little learning is a dang'rous thing;  Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."

I am calling this a flash fiction piece, rather than a prose poem, as I gather (hopefully correctly – and please don’t hesitate to set me straight) that while virtually identical in structure, prose poems are image driven, whereas flash fiction is character driven.

graphic:  through the maze – W. Bourke (I’m pretty sure the maze graphic offers a path from the question marks into the light.  Though – as it was driving me half blind trying to prove it to myself – I gave up on that particular quest for an answer. ~lol~)

© 2017 Wendy Bourke

Friday, 21 July 2017

summer turns to winter

This is my last ‘on holiday’ repost of a previously posted piece.  As I mentioned earlier, in this instalment, I am revealing my most popular poem.  Posted to my blog in September of 2014, it has slowly – but steadily – gathered 15,176 hits (as of today) from all over the world.  Its nearest competitor comes in at a measly 234 hits, by comparison, so I’m quite blown away by the life-of-its-own this little poem has taken on.  I have no idea, to whom I should express my appreciation, for this bounty.  Clearly, someone, did something to gift this piece with ‘wings’.  Whoever you are:  Thank you.

By way of a brief history:  Every-other-year, our family rents a cabin for a week.  There are ten of us now … kids, partners and grandchildren (and of course, a dog) and it is an enormous undertaking, accommodating a myriad of schedules, budgets, special diets and wish-lists for a gang this large.  Hence, we only take it on, every-other-year.  In July of 2014 we rented a large cabin at a private lake near Whistler, BC.  One afternoon, while we were there, my daughter took my 5 year old grandson (her nephew) for a walk and they returned with a bouquet of wild flowers that he had picked.  There is something enchanting about a wee nosegay picked by a child, that tugs at the heart – and so, I told him that I wanted to capture the moment for all time by taking a picture of his little present.  That gave me the idea that – although a picture can freeze a moment in time – time, itself, cannot be frozen and hence the inspiration behind: “summer turns to winter”.

It has been a real treat to watch the progress of this poem and, from time to time, I update my grandson on the continuing journey of his gift to me.  We both take a lot of pleasure in that.  So, once again, whoever put this lovely gesture in motion:  Thank you so much!

after what was sown 
had been reaped

hot bustling days, 
began to fade away

and in the season’s amber 
late evening shade 
and crisp, tattered 
harvest breezes

the grinning pumpkin moon
signalled the coming 
cold winter nights:

when the last vestiges
of bountiful summer 
would be peacefully 
laid to rest

wrapped in white linen

photos:  summer turns to winter – W. Bourke

© 2014 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 13 July 2017

between the busy spaces

The final poem that I am dusting off and resurrecting from deep within my blog vault is, I think, my favorite and, once again, comes out of an experience that I had.  Mike and I had gone on one of our epic marathon walks (alas, becoming shorter and shorter with the passing years) and had arrived at that state of blissful exhaustion that one comes to after a long and strenuous physical effort.   Our rambles had brought us to a lovely little park in downtown Vancouver.  It was the time of day when rush hour traffic settles quickly – almost abruptly – from what it was a half hour earlier.  And as we stepped out of the city and into the green, a quietude fell upon us that was profound … mystical.  I sat down on a park bench as Mike slowly strolled by the flower beds, taking in the flora.  And then it happened … 

I was a tourist 
in the twilight 
when the quiet fell 
transcendent as a prayer
and, I thought, 
I should like to live there 
for a bit 
and sit staring
down into pansy faces 
poking comical, buoyant nods
from behind the closing evening curtain
or rest my head back 
and look up at the spirit clouds 
drifting in ghostly light ethereal 
white streaks and scurries
across the abiding, deepening blue –  
deeper, deeper – dusk 
to darkest night time sky
and just
let the astonishment fall 
like a ragged breathy sigh: 

like a mystery 
that unfolds
between the busy spaces 

note: published in EnCompass V (Beret Days Press) ISBN 978-1-926495-20-0, 2015. 

photos:  Sanctuary – W. Bourke (these photos were taken in a little sanctuary – tucked away off of Hornby, next to the Bill Reid Gallery featuring contemporary Aboriginal art of the Northwest Coast.  In the top photo, the oxidized copper roof of the Hotel Vancouver can be seen through the grid of a sunroof overhang.) 

© 2014 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 6 July 2017

gods and roses

The second piece that I have selected to (re)post, during my little summer hiatus, is another poem, which holds a lot of memories for me.  (I’m starting to realize that my favorite poems are about times that I actually lived through … h-m-m … interesting.)   Like most folks, I love summer.  But summer hours spent cooped up in an office can really drag.  And so, when his schedule permitted, Michael would make a picnic lunch and carry me away to Burnaby Mountain for a interlude in the middle of my day.  I discovered, though, that even the sunniest of interludes come to an end, and  I always felt so sad and lonely going back to work – often wondering, if it would be better to not interrupt my day with something so lovely and happy and free.  Those times are gone now and, in their place, wonderful idyllic memories of that time.  So yes, it is always better to stop … and smell the roses. 
he picks me up,
at the strike of noon,
and carries me away

from the office jumbled
politics and jungle of machines

and we drive
to the mountain park
and eat avocado sandwiches


amongst the totems
and the green
in the playground of the gods

we talk
and munch on kalamata olives
and walk
and smell the blooms
in the rose garden

then as the minutes fall away
we pack up
and say good-bye
to the gods and the flowers and the feast

and drive, silently, back and sit
quietly in the car,
with my head on his shoulder

until just before the hour is up
and then, I tell him that I love him
and walk back into the concrete box:

feeling as lonely as a wet stare

note:  published in Firefly Magazine Issue Nine, Jan. 2017.

photos:  All 3 of these photos were taken at Burnaby Mountain Park.  The Totems of Burnaby Mountain Park were envisioned by Toko Nuburi, an Ainu woodcarver.  The Ainu are an indigenous people native to northern Japan.  The heart of traditional Ainu territory is the Japanese island of Hokkaido.  The city of Kushiro, on that island, is a sister city to the City of Burnaby, British Columbia and the Totems were a gift from that City to Burnaby.  The pieces are erected in an area of The Park known as "Playground of the Gods".  Overlooking the Burrard Inlet, The Park is within walking distance of Simon Fraser University and – and with its panoramic views and beautiful rose garden – is a favorite picnic spot for University employees – W. Bourke

© 2012 Wendy Bourke