Monthly Archives: April 2014

Paper Moon


A late winter morning
of pristine beauty;
winter on the cusp
of spring.

A clear blue sky, festooned
with white clouds.
Denuded trees shake
in the breeze.
And a small white moon
hangs on bare branches.

Not the true, majestic moon;
a flimsy, white paper bag,
saturated by sun,
blown onto the trees,
by some whimsical breeze.

Its frantic movements,
its tenuous, clinging hold
on the branches;
how it is buffeted,
relentlessly, remorselessly,
by the breeze . . .

I think of how
we, too, are thrown
into the world; impaled
on the harsh, bare branches
of circumstance,
buffeted by the breezes
of Fate . . .

Then I smile, and think:
don’t be so absurd!
For it is, after all,
just a paper bag,
blown onto a tree.
Contingent, accidental.

I was a teenager in the 60’s, fortunate enough to be growing up at a time of wild excitement in pop culture and the arts.  I remember that even the arid field of Philosophy had modish figures at the time, with the French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus.  “Existentialism” became a trendy topic of conversation, although nobody seemed to understand exactly what it meant.  Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” was a sensational theatrical success, and everyone was talking about “The Theatre of the Absurd”.  In my local public library, I happened to come across a book called “The Outsider” by Colin Wilson, and I was enthralled by his account of visionary artists and  philosophers, and their struggle to find meaning in an absurd universe.

The reason I mention all this is as a contextual background, or partial explanation, of why I wrote the poem “Paper Moon”.  I began the poem simply as a description of the paper bag I saw caught on a tree; then a whole stream of high-flown images started suggesting themselves.  By the time I finished, I was more or less poking ridicule at myself for having written it in the first place; but I’d like to think there is a bit more to the poem than just a simple description.  I don’t expect readers of the poem to be inspired into deep philosophical thoughts, but, in writing it, some of the Existentialist ideas of how we create “meaning” for ourselves did begin to stir at the back of my mind.


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The Garden (2)



In the beginning were stones, clay, weeds;
unforgiving materials, unlikely seeds.
Then, transformation; beginning to mould
form and function. Her vision took hold.
Grass planted, soil smoothed, first sprouting of lawn.
Then a cricket pitch, a tennis court; her sons were born.
Later, rockery, bushes, flowers, trees.
Hours spent digging, churning earth, on her knees.
Pouring devotion, her love, in diverse ways;
as fervent, here, as at church on Sundays.
Feeding the garden, as she did her family,
instinctively, tirelessly, selflessly.
Plants rotated, recycled, instilled with life anew.
Meanwhile, the Giant Redwood just grew and grew . . .


. . . the Giant Redwood just grew and grew.
A pure force of nature, it did not ask why,
for it to continue its surge to the sky,
its neighbouring plants must dwindle and die.
All around her, too, people she knew
and loved were dwindling; once many, now few.
She continued to grapple with stone, with mud.
A pitiless fight; she did what she could.
Her days wore down, still so much to be done;
relying more, now, on her faithful son.
Did she ever wonder; ever question the worth
of what she’d achieved, with this plot of earth?
If she did, the answer came with the sight
of a crimson-leafed bush, aglow in sunlight.
A beauty so fragile, it transfixed her heart.
Unheralded bounty; Nature as Art.

It was “Mother’s Day” last Sunday, and, for me, memories of my mother – who died a few years ago – inevitably impinge.  Gardening was a pivotal passion for her; I wrote about it in an earlier post in this blog, which contained a verse entitled “The Garden”.  I always intended to complete the poem by adding a second verse, and managed to finish it a few weeks ago.  The line mentioning “. . . her faithful son” is not a reference to me, but to my brother, who was a great help to her in her final years.  The fact that I lived a long distance away, and never got to see enough of her, is one that I still regret.

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