Thirteen new poems for November

Link to the index of the Poetry Blog:

Illios: Illustrated Poetry of Love and Other Afflictions

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If you know someone who might like this stuff send them a link to the site

Link to the index of the Poetry Blog:

Poems of Love and Other Afflictions

In November I started publishing a new series of poems. There are 13. 

Each poem is meant to be enjoyed individually and independently. What the words and illustration means to me is not as important as what they might mean to you. However for the people who have asked for another layer I thought I would try this approach. At the beginning of each poem I write a paragraph or so to try and explain my thought process or what the verse means to me then I follow with the poem. 

The logical presentation is a video of the photo with the audio part me saying this stuff then reading the poem. I try and say something about the photo or the spark that lead me there. Sometimes the reasons are unexpected and surprising.

My poetry reading would be, well me, reading the things as I think they ought to be spoken. So eventually this will probably mutate into the spoken word together with the illustrations but for now it is Discipline #1 "To Speak Without Words".

Here goes! If you click on the photo you get the original version as it was first published along with the date the photo first appeared in Mikesjournal. Some of the poetry has been edited.

1.    The first, Happy Birthday Marisol is of course a birthday poem. It contains a link back to the poem "Dominicana" which was written for Mikesjournal Magazine The Dominican Republic issue. A love poem dedicated to Dominican women. I enjoyed playing with the words as I love to have fun with words and fun with Marisol as well however the message of discord and misunderstanding might be seen to be the emerging as a theme here. It also refers to the way your children ("innocent daughter") at first believe everything you tell them then later when they get older seem to believe nothing. Thus the separation - a loss of trust begins.

Happy Birthday Marisol

Happy 29th

Or was that thirty?

Just like that

With lies like that

Innocent daughter

At first we believe everything

And one day we learn

To believe nothing

Yet the truth remains

"Dominicana" was written for you

Written in blood

Ah there I go again....

Not in blood perhaps

But a with really nice pen and exclusive paper as well.

2.    Last Leaf of Summer was first published November 4, 2008. Captured at the backyard Koi pond in early twilight. The dim light required a long exposure that created the water effect. The theme of ending continues I guess.

Last Leaf of Summer

Rusty red in the fast fading light

Comes to rest against

The Blue.

Last Leaf of Summer

So tired

Unaware this rest is not a rest

It is the end of the journey.

3.    I stole the first two lines of the next one, "Your Fall is the Heart of our Winter" from my co-author on the magazine, my son Elliott. He was referring to the winters in Houston as compared with those in Toronto but the lines resonated so strongly in me. I saw them as a powerful metaphor for the freeze that enters the hearts of lovers sometimes.

Your Fall is the Heart of Our Winter

Your fall

Is the heart of our winter

Your fall from grace

Put us in this place


I look west to the sun

It darkens

You look east to the moon

It hearkens

Tears have turned to ice.

4.    On November 6 I published Discipline 1 to 3. It is another love poem but about separation or perhaps a hidden love that cannot be made public. The first three lines refer to discipline exercises I imagined in the Eastern tradition. I don't know if they are true, probably not as I just made them up.  The Eastern tradition resulted in the dedication of the poem to Asian love Mai Song. The name itself a play on words, close to the real name of someone I met but the first name changed to sound like: "My Song" in English.

Such a song is one you hold in your heart but cannot share with the world. It goes out to all secret or separated loves.

The three exercises:

Line 1 refers to the exercise where you must not speak in the presence of your love. This is not the painful "silent treatment" where lovers withdraw it is the opposite where the communication is to explore with eyes, touch and taste but no words.

Line 2 involves the use of silk scarves covering the eyes, a discovery of your partner as above but without eyes, you can talk here but interestingly most people just whisper.

Line 3 "The weight of nothing" You spend at least a day or longer apart. This is until the realization not having is a great burden. Think of the parents who have lost a child and enter the child's empty room at night. So too it is with lovers forced apart through circumstances or custom. The weight of nothing is something.

The weight of nothing can be so heavy it might break your heart. This is the hook line for the pain of love that cannot be shared with the world. The point of the three part exercise is to awaken discovery and find that by removing one sense you sharpen others. Participants report an awakening of emotion, spirituality and an intensification of lovely feelings.

The photo "IN" points to a closed door if you would like to explore further meaning.

Discipline One to Three (for Mai Song)

To speak without words

To see without looking

The weight of nothing

Grows difficult to be

In waking dream burdened by joyful melody

This song shared with none.

5.    On November 10 came "The Danger of Falling in Love #12". I supposed there might be many dangers of falling in love. I thought of starting at number 1 and working up the list some day but the idea of finding a whole lot of other dangers of falling in love seemed too daunting so I started somewhere in the middle like George Lucas did with Star Wars. This is a theme I will probably return to. No doubt the first 11 dangers of falling in love are scattered throughout the earlier images found in Mikesjournal. It goes back to January 1, 2006

The idea is that when you fall in love you never want it to end. A careful thought and you realize that no matter what, one day it must end...or is that really true?

The illustration is a rose well past its prime in the November cold again from my back yard.

The Danger of Falling in Love No. 12

It is not that we grow old and beauty's frail fleeting form

Shall leave us,

The beauty of your love has no ending.

It is love, immortal love in this unworthy aging shell,

Love's endless radiance and now a desire to live.

A desire to live to see two hundred.

More than that,

Two hundred is nothing compared to love.

Love's sad gift, mortality.

Before love I was immortal

Your love makes me realize I am not.

6.    November 11 being Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the United States I decided to do a war poem my focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The leaves and the flowers looked like blood to me after I increased the saturation a notch. I imagined the recollection of the horrors of war returning to the soldier long after the battles. I made reference to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on the original November 11 posting but only referred to this by hiding the initials in the title and the description of some symptoms of the condition in the verse. P.T.S.D. became Pray The Silent Dead that haunts this soldier's waking life.


Pray the silent dead

Disarm these troubled dreams

That disquiet

This waking life.

May peace come

And none may hear

The noise, the shake, the breaking hearts of babes.

The blood will not go.

It comes again and again

In sudden shards of shock and surprise,

In unexpected moments I quake.

Pray the silent dead

Embrace me in forgiveness

Give me rest.

7.    "Souls Rising Up to Heaven" came out the next day and is based on a photograph taken at the cemetery where I got the shot of the war memorial above. It was getting quite late and the photographs were taking 1/3 of a second shutter speed. The magnificent oak provided the opportunity to play with a motion blur of the light coming through the leaves. I had an impression of many angels and spirit-like figures in the light which looked like souls rising up to heaven and thus the poem.

They are like stars

Like angels too

The souls

Rising up to heaven.

8.  Strange Cat is an odd little poem inspired by someone who I asked if she was married. She told me she has many friends who love her very much but she will not choose one partner. Potential mates court her and bring gifts but she will not leave her home. She will not join them.

She meowed and said that a cat is attracted to "any face in a window" and will go to wherever it is most comfortable. She said a cat will leave when the windows darken. The words resonated so I used them to build the poem.

Bible scholars might also recognize the reference to "those who look out of windows and windows be darkened" as inspired also from a verse in Ecclesiastes Chapter XII. In keeping with the theme for this month this is also a bible verse about death and spiritual awakening.

The photograph is a very fine replica of an antique paper weight.

Strange Cat

Comfortable kitties

Attracted to any face in a window

Make their homes where the light shines best.

Comfortable kitties go when

Windows darken.

My strange cat

Has one home

They come to her home

Bring her flowers and

Promises of luck with affection

But strange cat

She stays.

9.    The next poem "Boy on a Hand" came November 20 after the first significant snowfall of the season. In the morning I had a meeting at Scarborough Town Centre. I went a little early so I could shoot in the park near the office tower.

This astounding sculpture caught my eye. I deliberately off-centered the sculpture and tried to balance it with the empty park bench. I do not think I was really successful in capturing the feeling but I tried to create a sensation of off balance and fear. The poem refers to the realization that love raises you but without love you might crash back down to the ground. After having experienced a summer of love ending the place seems a whole lot colder that it once was. I suppose this could be another of those dangers of falling in love. I'll have to give it a number some day...

Boy on a Hand

I was lifted by your love,

At first dazzled now frightened by the heights.

The world without you turned cold,


I pray you remain always gentle

With my soul.

10.    Done for the Season came out of a photo taken near the beginning of the month and plugged in on November 22 because I forgot to get out to shoot a new photo for the daily photo blog. (It happens sometimes). The poem is experimental, like the photograph, an exercise of three six syllable lines.

When all this memory

Is blurred and forgotten,

I will remember you.

11.     A drawing done by my son Joel illustrates My Loving Parents. I would like to be a perfect father. My experience with parents when I was a child was not good. Sundays particularly were the days when the anger and tension built up during the week would usually erupt into grand shouting matches mostly as to the sins of the Catholics and the Godlessness of the Protestants.  I remember Christmases when I was the victim of vicious whippings that stripped my backside of flesh until I wet myself and my stepfather stopped only because he was too tired to continue. I remember the fights between my loving parents, me hiding under the bed or in a closet too frightened to cry but certain that when my stepfather killed my Mother he would come after me. This is not a good way for a child to live.

        On November 1st I went to visit the grave of my Mother and it was the first return to her husband's grave for me since he died many years ago. I pictured them laying together and wondered when they would start fighting. There was no earthquake so I suppose it is time to begin the process of forgiveness. Even if I am not successful I know that my children will not have live this. I made a promise to myself as a child that no child of mine would ever have to face the terrors of parental hate. So far it has generally been a delightfully easy promise to keep although it meant cutting short the first lifetime commitment when we could no longer understand each other and at times forgot how to talk in gentle voices.

It was for the child I left that place. This image stirred up a memory. Perhaps it was the grave on November 1st or perhaps it was the war memorial. Perhaps they are attached this somber month of November.

Loving Parents

Do not shout

Hit and clout

Smack and shove

Take and take

Refuse to give

Refuse to live in love.

Loving parents

Do not scream with rage

The right their name for God

While children shake with fear.

Loving parents love.

12.    Child Soldiers came out of a portrait of Joel's friend who is in the Air Cadets. Eric took the picture. It is dark but I like it dark. He looked like a little boy soldier in his uniform. I recalled a documentary about the wars in Africa we saw the other evening and instantly the thought about military  recruitment of child soldiers flashed in my head.

Child Soldiers

After the men were gone

They began recruiting children

For the war.

To get volunteers was easy.

All was needed were uniforms

And promises of free jumps from the plane.

Generalissimo said

If he knew it was that easy

They would have started with kids

In the first place.

13.    Weeping Wall - November in Mumbai follows the attacks in Mumbai that claimed many lives this week. Coordinated attacks by religious fanatics targeting foreigners in the name of God. I shot the rust stained wall in the morning and read the news in the afternoon. Thought of the poem the next morning. It is angry as I was at the time. The cry "What have we done?" that is repeated in the verse may be a cry of remorse from the killers or perhaps a plea from the innocent victims. I wrote it with both those points of view in mind.

Again the poem hearkens back to the theme of war, death and separation I have been focusing on this month.

The Walls are Weeping - November in Mumbai

The walls are bleeding

What have we done?

The walls are weeping

Where have they gone?

Hate noise broken promises

Kill the infidel

Destroy my brother

The walls are bleeding

Weeping and the moan of Mother

Where is my son?

Kill the Mother

Where is my Mother?

Kill the son.

Make God happy

Insanity rains

Follow the commandment

Kill everyone

Madness reigns

Infant cries

Kill the child.

What have we done?

The walls are weeping

The tears are blood.

Tear down the walls

Destroy everything

God commands this

What have we done?

Link to the index of the Poetry Blog:

Illios: Illustrated Poetry of Love and Other Afflictions

psst...pass it on

If you know someone who might like this stuff send them a link to the site

Mikesjournal Home Page    Index to many of the poems