Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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18

Feb

2020

Fragile composure

Author: Jim Taylor

My wife Joan has been handling the gradual decline of her life with astonishing composure. But occasionally, the veneer cracks, and I realize how fragile she is, physically and emotionally. I try to imagine myself into her experience, and can’t – inevitably, I drift off into my story, not hers.

            So as once before, I’ve chosen the ruthless structure of classical haiku – three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables – to enforce some discipline on my monkey mind. 

 

 

Walking on water

ice fractures under my feet

fall into nothing


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: dying, death, unknown

18

Jan

2020

Midwinter

Author: Jim Taylor

 Here in the Okanagan we had nothing like the storms that have hit Newfoundland, or the American Midwest. But temperatures down to -20C, and snow that has fallen every day for more than a week, propelled my creative juices a little. 

            This is what musicians call “variations on the theme by…” Chopin or Mozart or…. In this case, the familiar Christmas carol by Christina Rossetti. 


 In the bleak midwinter

grey snow shrouds the ground

bare branches claw the sky while

overcast clouds crush spirits

 

Frosty wind made moan

arctic vortex strikes 

a coiled serpent sinks 

icy fangs into bare flesh....

 


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4

Jan

2020

haiku

Author: Jim Taylor

n these months, as 12 years of Joan’s chronic leukemia move towards their inevitable conclusion, I have found it – as you may imagine – difficult to write poetry of any kind. And yet I feel that it is somehow important for me to try. 

            Something about the sheer sparseness of the haiku formula appealed to me: three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. The format leaves no room for maudlin meandering. I wrote about a dozen of them; after consulting with a pair of friends, four remain. 

 

 

tides suck life away

anemones scrunch in pain

rocks rise wet with tears

 


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17

Sep

2019

flipped images

Author: Jim Taylor

I don’t write poems in a flush of enthusiasm. I start writing because there’s something in my gut that I want to express, but I don’t know how. So I write, and I set aside, and some day months along I come back to those inarticulate gropings and see something in them, and start rewriting, amending, polishing. 

            This is one of those long-buried beginnings, resurrected. 

flipped images

 

my printer went to sleep

it dozes off, when it’s not

making black marks on white paper

it has to keep itself busy

when it’s not, it turns its neurons off

grabs a nap, goes dormant

puts its digital processes on hold

to save energy

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22

Aug

2019

The invitation

Author: Jim Taylor

Hear the sad story of Johnathan Fewless

who knew that at sex he was hopelessly clewless.

He admits that without a specific instruction

he won’t recognize an attempt at seduction.

Coy hints are too easily misconstrued;

they don’t always mean someone wants to get scrued....

 

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: sex, seduction, humour

3

Aug

2019

Brain fog

Author: Jim Taylor

I watch as friends struggle to find words, to follow instructions, to grasp concepts. Some call it dementia; some call it cognitive impairment; some call it “chemo-brain.” And some simply wear a bewildered look. 

            I realize this is dangerous ground – I haven’t been there myself, yet. But by the time I get there, I won’t be able to put the experience into words. I also realize that the people who could tell me if I got it right – or badly wrong – probably can’t respond. My hope, however, is that this poem may help some of you, who have friends or relatives with some form of ongoing dementia, appreciate what they may be feeling. 

 

 

Brain fog

 

The fog creeps in

on little dendrites and axons, 

It short-circuits the fungal filaments 

that feed the chemistry of communication

from gray cell to… oh, what were the numbers

for the combination lock

on my memory locker?

Clarity scampers like a squirrel,

always just out of reach. 

I grasp at dust motes dancing in a sunbeam....

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: Dementia, aging, fog

19

Jul

2019

West of Winnipeg

Author: Jim Taylor

--

Prairie

Flatlined horizon

Flax fields, canola fields

Patchworked blue and yellow

Swedish flag quilted on rich brown loam

Telephone poles poke out of the future, one by one,

Pass by, get sucked back down on the far side of yesterday...


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: Winnipeg, prairie

21

Jun

2019

Everything

Author: Jim Taylor

Diana Butler-Bass’s book Groundedcontinues to set my creative juices surging. Here’s another poem, this time based on a lyrical description on pages 28-29 of the paperback edition. 

 

Sky

sea

sand

hills ripple along the horizon

sunrise softly suffuses pearl

the glow of awe

paint palettes merge and blend

watercolour on wet paper


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1

Jun

2019

Earth and water

Author: Jim Taylor

This poem was deeply influenced by Chapters 1 and 2 in Diana Butler-Bass’s latest book, Grounded (HarperOne, HarperCollilns, New York 2015). I recommend it. 

 

Dig your hands into the dirt.

Crumble its fibres in your fingers. 

Let the grains of humble humus 

sift down to holy earth. 

The soil is all your relations,

decomposed and recomposed,

the dust and ashes, the legacy

 of everything that ever lived.....


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: water, Communion, Mass, earth

17

May

2019

Unrequited

Author: Jim Taylor

I offered you a lake of love

Clear, deep, sun-dancing,

Refreshed by mountain streams. 

 

You waded in up to your ankles, 

Then you shook the water off your feet

And dried between your toes.


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