Autumn

🍃🍂🍁

Autumn steals in like a quiet

cat, looking for a warm place

to settle. On the mountains

in the copses and through the forests, the trees rustle

amongst themselves, and blush

at her touch. Do the beetles know

of this? I do not know, they talk

to their gods in tongues.

©2019 K Price

Vale Cynthia Jobin

Sunflowers

On my return to blogging in April, I was deeply saddened to discover that one of my favourite poets of all time had died in December 2016.

Cynthia Jobin was a blogging friend and a masterful poet, whose art was superior in form, structure and rhythm. But what I love most in her work is the way she infused it with mischief. Her intellect and humour shines through her poetry.

Sadly, Cynthia’s WordPress site is no longer up. I hope her unpublished work will not be lost.

I will miss you, Little Old Lady. You were a beautiful light in the darkness.

https://uspandey.com/2016/12/25/goodbye-cynthia-jobin/

Cherry on the top

My work meeting finished at 4pm. I still had minutes to type but was also due to meet a friend for dinner and the theatre at 6:30pm on the other side of The Bridge.

Anybody who lives in Sydney knows that trying to get across the Sydney Harbour Bridge by car into the city from 5pm onwards gobbles time. So I made the journey at 4 and typed the minutes here. A lovely way to end the work day.

Look Up

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Concealed in the sameness
the faded blue suit
Clark Kent by day
Who cares, who cares to look?

But out there
when darkness falls
it’s kite-flying breathtaking riddles
out of dayshadows, an infinite teasing
of zetetic minds
unphysics exploding:

The Universe –
ultimate mystery man.

Opposites

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Ugg Boot Face-off

To find oneself, at 50-something, studying astrobiology (under duress) as a subject in a Bachelor of Arts (Linguistics) degree is a little discombobulating, to say the least. Particularly if your last contact with the fields of chemistry, mathematics and physics was some 30-odd years ago (and geology, never). But the university at which I’m studying crawling through my degree has a rule (which only came into effect after I started) that every undergraduate student must complete a Planet unit and a People unit outside of their stream in order to complete said degree.

So, every week this semester just past, a very grumpy band of Arts students, including me, would huddle together in the prac room, muttering furiously over concepts such as chirality; and biomarker composition; and whether the lump of rock before us was sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous; and whether another lump of rock before us was a stony, iron, or stony-iron, meteorite; and whether the earth was oxic or anoxic when another lump of rock before us was formed.

On the opposite side of the room, sat a bunch of engaged, aspiring astrobiologists, scientists and geologists, who spoke in a language even the polyglot Arts student doesn’t care much for. We were strange bedfellows; almost different species. 😀

What a discomfiting experience.

But, it blew my mind!

I learnt so much. About how far (and not) scientific knowledge has come since I was at school; why the exploration of our solar system (so what’s the big deal about a bunch of dead rocks and gassy balls in the sky?) is deeply interesting; the mysteries of the vast and strange universe that we find ourselves in; and, most fascinating of all, the extent of the microbial and extremophile world around, beneath, on, and in us. I even had a bit of fun with the Design-a-Lander-for-Titan assignment (the tutors mentioned that they were looking forward to the Arts students’ designs. Yeah, I thought, some comic relief).

There is much value in seeking out our opposites and differences in knowledge, beliefs, philosophies and interests.

What have you learnt recently that has broadened your mind?

Shanghai

Tonight

I’m in a city of 14.50 million

(give or take a few, including me)

souls. I know no-one

here. I’m a nano-human, a speck

in the smog. I make myself big

riding the subways with no-one

with light-coloured hair. No-one notices

the gweilo; the ghost-person, I think,

until I step into the deluge at Shanghai

Library, and a dark-haired

girl steps in time beside me,  her umbrella

banishing the rain, her words, my ghostliness

“Where are you going?

Can I take you there?”

image

 

 

 

The Unanswerable Question

Cynthia Jobin, over at  littleoldladywho.net, is one of the finest poets I’ve read. Her poems are exquisitely crafted, evocative, and at times wonderfully mischievous.

A recent poem of Cynthia’s – The Palpable Obscure – is a spine-tingling evocation of the ongoing mystification endured by those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one.  In it, she writes:

Once a day, at least, I stop to wonder
where you are.

Is this puzzlement not at the very heart of the Human Condition?

If my father were alive today, the 27th November 2015, he would be 83. I started this blog mainly as a response to the lingering grief I felt about his dying. And this poem, which I first posted on the 27th November 2010, is about the day he died.

Like Cynthia, I still wonder…

Eternal Mysteries ( a repost)

With the ring back on your finger
you sighed and slipped away
but forever it’s a mystery
where you went that day

Did you see them watching you
and whispering in your ear?
When you took your final journey,
did you know that they were there?

Did you sense that we were not?
No-one can ever know,
yet child-like we still ask ourselves –
that day, where did you go?

————————–

Change

Change (sometimes welcome, sometimes not) is an inevitable part of life and is etched in our histories.

I live in Australia and have extended family on four continents. We were all born and raised in Africa and in our lives there, as well as in our migrant lives, have experienced our fair share of change.

My husband and his siblings grew up in Africa, too, but his maternal grandparents, mother, and uncle were migrants from Sweden, where they had previously landed as refugees after fleeing from their homeland of Estonia (Australia would refer to them as boat people), when the Russians invaded Estonia in the 1940s. In their family, migration and change is epigenetic: my husband now lives in Australia, his middle sister in Sweden.

We have long wanted to visit the birthplace of their mother and maternal grandfather—the island of Hiiumaa off the coast of Estonia—and finally got to do so recently. Change is not always as good as a holiday, but a holiday often brings a welcome change of focus and pace, and we had wonderful trip.

Our journey first took us to Copenhagen, where we spent a convivial weekend catching up with dear cousins of mine over delicious home-cooked meals and copious amounts of wine.  bb-ch01

And then we had a wonderful two weeks with my husband’s sister and her husband (a Swede, who she met when he lived and worked for a time in Africa) in their beautiful home in semi-rural Sweden, an idyllic place.

Viking Rune Stones

Viking Rune Stones

Stockholm was next for a few days, where we experienced the charm of the cobbled streets of Gamla stan, the marvel that is the Vasa Museum, and the strange art in the Stockholm subways.

Ship Detail - Vasa Museum

Ship Detail – Vasa Museum

We caught the overnight ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn, worth it alone to experience the beauty and vastness of the Stockholm archipelago. bb-ch03

Our few days in Tallinn left an impression of an aesthetic mix of the medieval, the modern, and the Soviet Brutalist. And the memory of the best coffee we had on our entire trip.

Old Town Tallinn

Old Town Tallinn

And, finally, we reached Hiiumaa – a place of wild beauty, ancient history, and, currently, peace.

Orjaku Harbour - Hiiumaa

Orjaku Harbour – Hiiumaa

Long may it remain unchanged.

Hiiumaa

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When the sun turns
away to southern lands
we find ourselves awake
on a strange, familiar shore
where t
hose who’ve gone
before sleep beneath moss
in forest
graves, and wild apples
jump the fences

Across the Baltic Sea
history comes full circle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol

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Bob—my minion, courtesy of my husband—is a symbol of my excesses:

Too much chocolate and champagne: I, like Bob, am a candidate for the cakewalk rather than the catwalk.

Too much grieving: my father, who was affectionately called Bob (not his real name) by our extended family, died 13 years ago, but his ghost still looms at dawn.

Too strange a sense of humour: dark, subversive, and sometimes toilet.

And now I’m laughing too long and too loud.

Have a silly weekend.

😀

For more entries to this week’s WPC, see The Daily Post.

 

 

Secrets from the Crime Scene – Unsavoury Delights

This year, I avoided the poetry bashing workshops at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and attended a couple of interesting panel talks, one of which—Secrets from the Crime Scene—I reviewed, and I thought I’d share it here.

Crime, it seems, pays handsomely for crime writers, not necessarily in hard cash but in endless material on the peculiar machinations of the criminal psyche. And mid-morning on this glare-bright winter’s day at the 2015 Sydney Writers’ Festival, The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf is packed to the raw, high rafters with an eclectic audience, from school-goers to retirees, dying to know more about what the panel facilitator, Tom Wright, refers to as “life as they imagine it might actually be led away from their fairly safe existences”.

Competing with the hiss of the venue’s overworked espresso machine, the conversation nevertheless flows easily amongst the Secrets from the Crime Scene panel: Kate McClymont, Fairfax investigative journalist, known most recently for He Who Must Be Obeid, an exposĂ© on Sydney businessman Eddie Obeid’s corrupt dealings; Sarah Hopkins, criminal lawyer and fiction-crime author, her most recent novel being This Picture of You; and Michael Robotham, Australian journalist turned successful international crime writer, his latest book being Life or Death.

Kate, with her permanently quizzical left eyebrow, is an expert on the depths of Sydney’s criminal undercurrents, from the murderous mentality of organised crime and bikie gangs to the sociopathic undertow of white-collar crime. The audience roars when she says, “One of the things I really love about Sydney’s criminals is they are so stupid”. And vain: one of her regular informants, who was jailed for abducting Terry Falconer (subsequently murdered), whined to her that the actor portraying him in TV’s Underbelly: Badness “makes me look like a gay porn star”.

Michael says his books “tap into everyday fears” and that he often has to tone “down the truth to make it palatable, because people will not believe it in a book of fiction”, even though “truth always, always proves to be stranger”. Tom remarks on the frequent prescience in Michael’s novels as is exemplified by the story Michael tells of The Wreckage, a novel that was based on the idea “that $250billion of drug cartel money was laundered through major western banks, because during the Global Financial Crisis, banks were so short of funds, they waived all money-laundering laws simply to stay afloat”. The novel was reviewed by an incredulous Joe Nocera, financial writer for The New York Times, who said that no major Western bank would launder money for a drug cartel; it simply wouldn’t happen. With a larrikin air of perpetual amusement, Michael says that now every time there’s a factual report of such events, he sends Joe a tweet: “Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so”.

Sarah, who has the demeanour of a meditating monk, rather than someone professionally mired in the mess of criminality and the constipated bureaucracy of social institutions, is more serious than the other panellists, but no less interesting. Through her creative writing, she questions who in our society gets to define what a crime is and the fact that, until recently, “criminal law wouldn’t reach its arm into the home” because “a crime, traditionally, has been about transgressions in the public realm”.  As Tom notes, her books are now very much focused on the notion that “the place where your body and mental health is most likely to be at risk is in the home”, an unsettling thought.

In response to a question from the audience, Sarah says she’s never been threatened by a reader, but Michael’s tells of his stalker and many “angry emails” from Americans who objected to this line in an early novel: “something didn’t quite look right, like seeing Bill Gates in board-shorts or George W. Bush in the White House”. And then there is the intrepid Kate, who has had her fair share of legal action and life-threatening phone calls in the middle of the night.

Crime writing—it’s a dangerous but thrilling life.

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Tom Wright, Michael Robotham, Kate McClymont, Sarah Hopkins

Back from Behind

I like to do things backwards, don’t ask me why.

When I read a print newspaper (yes, some of us still do), I often start at the back page and work my way forward. Same with magazines. I can’t help it. (Although, I haven’t yet acquired that peculiar habit of reading the end of a book first. Horrors!).

Anyhow, I don’t like the thought of taking a blog break without announcing it upfront, but, somehow, my unintended break got away with me. So I should have told you that I was taking a blog break. But I didn’t. So now you know.

I’m back from behind.

As if you’ve noticed.

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Remembering 3/11

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End of a Dream

C-sharp minor
plays through the eaves
of this house
wind-cold emptiness, the ambient noise
of destruction
where laughter once lived.

Shoji, last opened
to plum-blossom whispers
now lachrymose with silent
half-life

a bird singing
for no-one.

xxx

Act of God

Power of Poetry

3/11 – The Japan Times

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

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Red Bishop – Kwazulu – Natal, South Africa

 Microcosmos

Beauty at scale rarely seen
by human eye, but inbetween
lush blades of grass daily spy
a microworld of strange small fry

As this mini-jungle wakes
from dark of night, a lone ant slakes
his thirst from fresh dewdrops bright
reflecting snails in love’s delight

Airfields of apian craft at ready
take flight from rouged poppies, heady
with blue jewels sparkling far and wide
on backs of bees on buzzing ride

A mighty dung beetle battles
sticks arresting rolling chattels
from onward journey, this daily testing
to construct his place of resting

Inkblot-eyes of springtails watch
(in somersault) nymphs slowly hatch
themselves from deep and watery vault
and caterpillars as they moult

A miniverse that’s quite astounding,
with creatures, strange and weird, abounding.

—————————————————————————————————————-bb

For more entries to last week’s WPC, see The Daily Post.

A Blank Page

What is one thing nobody knows about you?

This question is posed for the 27th January by my 3-year sentence-a-day diary, a gift from a dear friend. Since I started the diary 5 months ago, it’s the only page that remains blank.

And it’s not because the answer is something I wish not to put on paper so that no-one can ever find out; it’s because I don’t have an answer! What a strange thing to realize. Perhaps I need to get a secret life. 😀

Would you have an answer?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle

Often
in the crowd
a ghost flies by
in a smile, in a walk
in the twinkle of an eye.

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A Wild Night in Tokyo

For more entries to this week’s photo challenge, see The Daily Post. (Although, when I last looked, their pingbacks weren’t working.)