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Category: from my diary

“Daffodils” – William Wordsworth (an epitaph)

wild-poppies-near-argenteuil-1873.jpg!Blog

     “Wild Poppies, Near Argenteuil” (1873) 

             Claude Monet

                  ________

                                                  for Pat

a dear friend passed away recently, 
Pat, the mother of my partner, who
passed away himself nearly 30 years 
ago, was already of a certain age at
which death follows closely tripping 
us up with itches and cramps and 
dire debilities as we walk along the 
winding road that isn’t that long any 
longer 

she’d already acquired Alzheimer’s 
though she read stillunderstood, 
even poetry, though she could not 
remember what had happened 
yesterday even, however traumatic, 
that she’d fallen the day before, for 
instance, and bore still corroborative 
angry scratches escaped her, left 
her puzzled, though never rattled,
ever compliant

you can forget all you want, Pat, I’d
said to her earlier in her prognosis,
but don’t ever forget I love you

since, during our regular Internet
encounters, along with her husband
on her end, she’s left the conversation
to him, but wraps her arms around 
herself and tells me she wants to hug
me, we always end our visit with I love 
you’s

when I went to visit her in hospital, 
where she’d ended up following more 
falls, which indicated eventually dire
complications, I brought her a teddy 
bear

here, Pat, I said, I can’t be here always 
to hug you, but you can think of me 
when you hug this bear

she died a few days later, the last 
words we said were, I love you, I
love you, before I flew back home 
to Vancouver from Victoria

I was sad, I lit candles, then a day 
later I thought, how do I get out from
under this somber cloud, I should  
listen for her, I remembered

talk to me, Pat, I’ll hear, I entreated

when my dad died, I’d said, talk to 
me, Dad, I’m your son, I’ll hear, and 
I did

when his sister died, a beloved aunt, 
I’d lit a scented candle inadvertently
in commemoration, when the air 
suddenly filled with the aroma of 
rosemary, which had wafted in on the 
exhalations of the candle to fuse with 
my own reveries in epiphanic, verily 
transcendental, conversation 

adagios, also, always remind me of 
John, Pat’s son

talk to me, Pat, say something, I 
said to the ether, and listened

last Thursday, at the service, turning
to the last page of the programme
which had been provided, I began to
read her favourite poem

I wandered lonely as a cloud, I read
but couldn’t make it through the next
line, tears welling up in my eyes, my 
mom, who was with me, holding my 
hand

thank you, Pat, I said, overcome with 
emotion, this poem would be her 
teddy bear to me

Richard

         ________________

Daffodils

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

                         William Wordsworth

Munich, the application‏

default

after a period of some indecision – 
the state of my health, an abysmally
low iron count that left me 
uncharacteristically unsteady, near
fainting, which I’d considered to be 
old age instead of something more
chemical, clinical, the distance to 
where we’d be going, time zones, 
jet lag, the difficulty of finding 
appropriate accommodations for 
the one month we’d be there, and 
at a reasonable price, none of which 
was a problem for my mother, 
incidentally, but which rattled only 
myself – it looks like the holiday 
we’ve envisioned will come to pass, 
my mom and I ‘ll be going to Munich 
for both the C***mas and the New 
Year’s holidays, with at least ten 
days on either end 
 
what clinched it was that not only
had my iron leaped from abysmal
to completely ordinary, though my 
thyroid is now acting up, you plug 
one hole, another one pops up, I 
told my doctor, one day the tide 
will roll in, inexorably, I proclaimed
 
showed up, we got for a song, 
something out of Hansel and Gretel, 
which, with the invaluable help of a 
dear friend in Germany, who was born 
in Munich, apparently we’ve managed
 
I am so happy for you, “Ich freue mich 
ja so sehr auf Euch, dass ich gerne helfe, 
damit der Traum wahr wird“, I’d be
happy to help make your dream come 
true, she said, like a very fairy 
godmother
 
we’re waiting on a response to our 
application
 
 
the house is of stone and wood, 
it has a wooden staircase along 
a wall of the living room going
up to a bedroom there under an 
attic roof, where the whole aerie 
is covered in red carpet, just, it 
would seem, what a poet ‘d be 
looking for, I think, take a look
 
downstairs has all the appliances
we’d want, including a wifi
connection, so I can write my stories 
about the art galleries and churches 
and operas and Bavarian dinners out 
we’ll delight in, the epiphanies we’ll 
cross in all that enchantment
 
a very fairy tale, I project, though for 
me it already is one, with me as 
Prince Charming, why not, and my 
mom as Queen of the Magical Realm,
why neither – your dream is what you 
make it
 
 
Richard
 
 
 

 

dinner out – Francesco’s Ristorante

self-portrait-with-wine-glass-gluttony-2000

 
                              Kent Bellows
 
                                  _______
 
 
my mom and I discovered a new 
restaurant, an old institution, in fact,
Francesco’s, opened in 1975
 
it was superb 
 
after our having been seated 
perfectly in an airy room, with 
windows all around looking onto 
an adjacent courtyard and the 
street, Grant introduced himself 
as our waiter, we tendered our 
names back, he was about 50, 
just my type
 
he was jaunty, full of good cheer, 
and was, despite a rapid fire 
delivery, utterly helpful
 
the bread came, hot, with a saucer
of butter in oil
 
I’d come back here just for the bread,
my mom said, I never have bread, but 
the prognostications were good 
 
my beef carpaccio, clung to my fork
like love, the thinnest slices dipped
in a caper and truffle oil vinaigrette,
with shaved Parmesan and an 
asparagus spear proud as a ***mas
nutcracker, and a mustard coulis
like hieroglyphs illuminating the 
artful concoction, went down like 
honey
 
I’m going to have dessert, I said, on 
the strength of just that appetizer,
she would too, she countered
 
my mom had the lobster bisque,
which despite her enjoying it she 
put aside to make room for her 
pesto pasta, she said, and which I 
refrained from finishing for her to 
leave room for my own main plate
 
rather than my usual pasta, I went 
for the veal piccata, this time, meat 
that brings back Vienna and Austrian 
fine dining, that’s what I’m having next 
time, my mom said, maybe I will again 
too, I thought, though her pasta looked 
delicious, the rest of which she took 
home in a designer doggie bag they 
send you home with, another touch 
of class, so she could enjoy it later 
 
for dessert I had crème brûlée, she 
had cheesecake, I also had three
limoncellos
 
by that time I can’t remember if she 
had coffee or not, I paid, I however
remember, it was Mother’s Day, and
every penny was entirely worth it
 
to excess, I toasted, and mothers
 
 
Richard
 
 
 
 

 

walking in beauty – January 9, 2015‏

Vincent van Gogh - "Orchard in Blossom (Plum Trees)"

Orchard in Blossom (Plum Trees) (1888)

Vincent van Gogh

__________

walking in beauty must be a conscious
thing, you don’t wake up doing it in the
morning unless you train yourself to

for the past few days I’ve incorporated
the prayer, am intending to learn it
through, not just its kernel, however
itself highly inspirational

In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me I walk.
With beauty behind me I walk.
With beauty around me I walk
With beauty above me I walk.
With beauty below me I walk
In beauty all is made whole.
In beauty all is restored.
In my youth I am aware of it, and
In old age I shall walk quietly the beautiful trail.
In beauty it is begun.
In beauty it is ended.

during the past several days the weather
has been grey, bleak, uninviting, there
was beauty only in the candles I lit, the
pyjamas I never took off, and, truth be
told, the chicken I broiled with soya
sauce, lemon juice and honey, with
baby carrots to dip, and carrot cake to
top it all off, with lots of icing

nor do I ever run out of wine

what’s not beautiful about that, I needed
to conclude after all those days moping,
feeling sorry for myself

I said the same to a friend today over
lunch, at presently the best restaurant
in Vancouver
, there she sat poised,
dripping in grace, a tailored olive
jacket, an ochre pendant with a light
brown scarf wrapped loosely around
her neck, stretched towards me with
just the right amount of both discretion
and attention, presenting her Mona Lisa
smile
, as she’d herself called it

she had crossed her defunct great love
inadvertently somewhere, his jaw had
dropped, she had smiled that mysterious
smile, she told me, and slipped beyond
his ken

should I go to Australia, she asked,
where her nephew’s daughter is
getting married, it’s hot, it’s humid,
it’s a long trip, I could die on the
way

every time I go downtown, I think I
might not make it, I retorted, but I do,
and I don’t

when was the last time you saw your
nephew, I asked

four or five years ago, she replied

you love him, he loves you, he would
be so honoured, I said, and if you die
on the way he’ll still be honoured,
they all will

this is how you walk in beauty, I said,
you latch onto the poem as it passes,
they’re fleeting, be they ever so many,
we let them go by, they would’ve been
our memories, instead of our default
position, where you could die anyway

today I left home, I said, saw my first
cherry blossoms of the season, midst
the gnarled van Gogh branches of the
other trees lining both sides of the
street, emerald moss growing already
along their trunks

a woman selling wares mouthing the
words to Billy Holiday’s “God Bless
the Child”
so that I thought she’d
been the one singing

beside her someone selling wooden
marionettes he was dangling, grinning,
trying to look enchanting in his Charlie
Chaplin clothes, looking more like
Ebenezer Scrooge, a wolf in sheep’s
clothing

but a cover of You, You’re Driving
Me Crazy
I sent Apollo, my Sun God,
for ukulele, megaphone, and of course
voice, inspired me more than anything
else today, I continued, turned my
frustration into poetry, how not to
mope, he’s been gone since before
C***mas, much too long

beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in
beauty all is made whole

to walking in beauty, we toasted

Richard

“Tonight You Belong to Me”

Antoine Pesne - "Self-portrait with Daughters" (1754

Self-portrait with Daughters (1754)

Antoine Pesne

______

for fathers, especially, and daughters

and all those who love them

just click

Richard

psst: in the spirit of Brain,
worthy contenders from

before my time

after

“Adam and Eve” – Lucas Cranach the Elder

Cranach Adam Eve

Adam and Eve (1596)

Lucas Cranach the Elder

____________

from The New Yorker, January 27, 2014

Adam and Eve” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526

She seems a mere girl really,
small-breasted and slim,
her body luminescent
next to Adam, who scratches
his head in mild perplexity,
So many baubles hang
from the tree
it didn’t hurt to pick one.
The snake is a quicksilver curve
on a branch she is almost
young enough to swing from.

The garden bores her anyway:
no weedy chaos among
the flowers and vegetables;
the animals so tame
you can hardly tell the lamb
from the lion, the doe from the stag
whose antlers outline Adam’s modesty.
She is like that teen-age girl
who wandered from the mall last week
not to be seen again, the world before her
glittering and perilous.

Linda Pastan

______________

yesterday on a mission to buy socks,
finally – I had only a pair left and one
of those with a hole in it – I wondered
about clothes, why hadn’t we evolved
fur or feathers or, heaven forbid,
scales, like all other creatures,
without exception

cherry trees were in blossom, birds
sang along my path, despite an
inoffensive drizzle as I went along

perhaps, I thought, by standing erect
our private parts were too much in
evidence for even indiscriminate
Nature to bear, though apes in all
their varieties walk on two legs and
seem to cavort happily, indeed
lasciviously, though ever
unsheathed, I objected, everywhere

the only difference I could muster
between us and them was that we’d
eaten from the Tree of Knowledge,
the fruit, apparently, of our
apocalyptic decadence, while they’d
never had ever an Eve, nor, for that
matter, an, equally complicit, note,
Adam, no matter what the, mostly
male, elders might say

therefore apes gambol in their
Garden of Eden still, as you can
see in the Cranach above, serenely
uncontrite, while we buy socks in
the jungle next door, and berate,
burdened, our bedevilled lubricities,
what’s under those strategically
positioned, and obliterating, leaves

Tree of Knowledge indeed

Richard

psst: from the Courtauld Gallery in
London, more on Cranach’s
painting
, just click

“Lohengrin”, Act 1‏

"Lohengrin" - Ernst Fuchs

Lohengrin (1977)

Ernst Fuchs

_______

this morning, requiring especially strong
medicine to get me through my day, I put
on Lohengrin, Wagner’s masterpiece,
directed by the thorny and unpredictable
Werner Herzog, from Bayreuth, the high
temple of that music, its very Acropolis,
1990, to lighten my load, to give me
mythic, maybe even Sisyphean,
perseverance, it didn’t disappoint

Elsa of Brabant is accused by Friedrich
of Telramund of having killed her brother,
who stood before both of them in line to
the throne, Ortrud, Friedrich’s wife, stands
silent throughout the first act looking
positively Machiavellian, Lady,
incontrovertibly, Macbeth

Elsa, summoned to plead her corner, tells
of a shining knight who appears to her in
her dreams, calls upon him to defend her
honour, he shows up at the very last
moment, on no less than a swan

he’ll only fight for her, he says, after she’s
offered him her anticipated kingdom, her
throne, her very honour and chastity, to
do with what he will, should he win for
her her cause, if she’ll pledge to never
ever ask about his origins, despite his
extraordinary entrance

she accedes, of course, though no other
knight, critically, has shown up to redeem
her

the shining knight conquers, of course,
but Ortrud, during the celebrations,
lurking ominously nearby, doesn’t give
the impression that anyone’s going to
live happily ever after, so long as
she can help it

it was the end of Act 1, I got up, made
a sandwich, I’d watch the following act
tomorrow, and so on, until the distant
end of that four-hour saga, to which
the epithet “Wagnerian”, for “epic”,
also, manifestly, belongs

wistfully I wondered about my own
knights in shining armour, who might
be my own guardian angels, entering
on fabled, maybe, even, swans,
concluded one of them had just been
Wagner, who’d turned, from heavy to
at the very least wistful, my day
around

wishing you Wagners

Richard

my Amsterdam, January 12, 2013‏

Rusland and the Kloveniersburgwal

“right across from those two bridges”

Amsterdam, Holland

________

upon reaching our rented apartment after
our cab crawl through the Friday night
streets of bustling Amsterdam, hemmed
in and harried wherever we went by its
canals, bikes and rickety cobblestones,
all festooned in the neon glitter of, at
seven already of a November evening,
its multicolour nightlife, I looked around
to get my bearings, we found ourselves
on a little lost street standing on uneven
ground in the darkness between a row
of doors and some water

up the short street, as I looked around,
a bridge crossed from our street over
the stream that passed before our
lodgings, and on the other side of that
bridge another crossed another canal
that ran perpendicular

in my mind cobblestones, canals and
bridges incontrovertibly led to fairy
tales, around me I foresaw, in the
pregnant darkness of our secluded
street, adventure, and I would be
its Alice in Wonderland

and verily there appeared, as though
like magic, right across from those
two bridges, two coffee shops and a
restaurant, my two essentials, nothing
else but moonlit buildings, otherwise
only bicycles loomed, and the
occasional pedestrian

of the two coffee shops I chose the
one that was the least pretentious,
seemed to me the least a nightspot,
though it had its own smoky den at
the back, as it turned out, where they
did indeed serve coffee, made friends
with Francesco and Danielo the first
night, who were easy and engaging,
as they rolled me some take-out coffee,
little trumpets of the best, of course,
Columbian, or something, enough for
a couple of days

further up the further street a neon
sign read “Radisson“, which was
perfect, we wouldn’t have to look
for dinner, a noted hotel is always
an excellent place to find fine fare

and that night that’s all we wanted

we weren’t disappointed, the room
was nigh empty, the service right, and
the delicacies good enough to come
back for seconds, which we did

later as we walked home churchbells
rang the late hour, soon, they tolled, Read the rest of this entry »

my Amsterdam, December 29, 2013‏

Amsterdam 071

The Amsterdam Canal Apartments

___________________

our trip from Bruges to Amsterdam was
circuitous, instead of a direct, unimpeded
journey, something that, incredibly I
thought, wasn’t even up for sale between
these two significant cities, we were made
to change trains in both Antwerp and
Rotterdam, with too long a wait at one,
and too short at the other, too brief to
tote comfortably our luggage there
such an inconvenient distance

I perspired, Mom worried about my heart,
not to mention my irascible impatience

Amsterdam Centraal was a replay of the
fall of Saigon, but with just a little bit more
order, a cab driver took our bags and crept
along the overflowing Friday night streets
and their contiguous, oddly moderating
canals, placid, constant, immutable, to
our, as they say in Europe, pied-à-terre

only a walk away from the train station,
I gathered, not carrying our luggage of
course, about the spot where the driver
dropped us off, the rest of the pertinent
city must be consequently nearby, I
supposed, as indeed it was

the driver put our bags on the
cobblestones, he’d driven up one
side of the canal, crossed a bridge
and returned along the one way
other, and stopped before our
own gingerbread house
, scrunched
up between several others, our host,
the owner’s representative, who’d
been waiting on the stoop later than
our proposed arrival hour was gentle,
gracious, efficient and helpful, but
spoke essentially maybe seven words
of English, just Spanish, being from
Venezuela, and Dutch

could we blame him

would we expect our host to speak
Dutch in Canada if we couldn’t speak
its English, I asked Mom, who’d, out
of surely the day’s distress, I decried,
was resorting to peevish indignation

I enunciated all of my concerns
throughout to our ever attentive squire,
repeated my words carefully, spoke
them ever louder, one by ardent one,
pointed, spread out my arms, became
a back-up act performing grandly my
own instructions

all, I commend, were met eventually
unimpeachably

let me help change the beds, I offered,
he’d had to set up for a mother and son
rather than the more connubial pair he’d
expected, no, he replied, or something
similar that I could comprehend, and
wouldn’t hear of it in any language

he gave us the keys, after which we
could rest, and did, until two days later,
not including nearby dinners, of course,
out

the place was what you would expect
of a gingerbread house, beams, uneven
corners, but spotless and ready to take
on our colours, long instead of wide, a
Dutch particularity, with all the up to the
minute conveniences

there was however no bath, but a
generous shower stall I could easily live
with, and gloriously did for that month

outside a few cars were parked by the
barges, homes some of them, along the
canal, another canal ran perpendicular
to it away from us between two rows of
houses lined each with their tree, also,
incidentally, their garbage, but that’s
another story

it was night already, everywhere street
lights twinkled, as did their glistening
reflections on the onyx water

on the quarter hour church bells rang

dreams, they tolled, and told over and
over again, were possible

Richard

my Bruges, December 24, 2013‏ (the Groeningemuseum)

Pieter Pourbus - Portrait of Jan Lopez Gallo and His Three Sons (1568)

“Portrait of Jan Lopez Gallo and His Three Sons” (1568)

Pieter Pourbus

________

if Proust had his little patch of yellow wall
from Vermeer’s “View of Delft” to enchant
him, I’ve succumbed rather to blues that
I’ve found now in three paintings, van Eyck’s
Madonna and Child with Canon Joris van
der Paele
“, both of them, years ago at
London’s National Gallery the ultramarine
of the extraordinary Wilton Diptych, just
click, then again just click for a wonderful
presentation of it
, then the steel blue of the
one above, the “Portrait of Jan Lopez Gallo
and His Three Sons
” by Pieter Pourbus,
also like the van Eyck at the
Groeningemuseum in Bruges, a bargain
there therefore in unforgettable blues

the Groeningemuseum is Bruges’ most
impressive museum, despite both the
Picasso and the Dali nearby, though
nothing is very far in Bruges, except,
of course, the outskirts

we had wandered across the wrong
bridge our final day, confusing our
canals, and diligently marched forward
along a street perpendicular to our
purpose, heading out into what appeared
to be only countryside, though not
especially unduly cause we’d been
looking for Bruges’ famous windmills

but there were no windmills at all in
the distance, only open fields, and the
unending length of the wrong canal, it
transpired, had it been ever so
nevertheless idyllic

about a mile out a young man on a bike
passed us by with his dog and replied
when we asked that the windmills had
been all the time behind us, directly
to the left of our original bridge,
right there behind a tree which had
obstructed our view of the first of
them

that’s what you get maybe, I guessed,
for chasing, even famous, windmills

meanwhile back at the
Groeningemuseum, set along a path
along other medieval buildings, stone
instead of brick as later, then over a
bridge and beyond a small garden,
the door opens to especially early
Flemish art of very transcendental
qualifications, see again, for instance,
above, more profound than either the
brash Picasso, his fine though not
essential museum there, and the
flamboyant Dali, great fun however
ubiquitous ever, his museums seem
to pop up in countless cities

later, up the street, we ate at the
Maria van Bourgondië again, cause
nowhere could we find for Mom some
pasta, and where I could still savour
their Stroganoff sauce from the
previous night, and where, last but
not least, we could rest after a long
day our tired, tried indeed, feet

the Stroganoff was again sublime

so was their fireplace

Richard