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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Bedtime Stories

'Henrik's Pillar of Fire' from John Fowles' Novel "The Magus"

‘Beyond them there ran out a beach. Some thirty or forty yards of shingle. The river narrowed a little and the point took the force of what current there was. Even on a night as calm as that there was a murmur over the shallow stones. Henrik was standing at the very tip of the shingle spit, in about a foot of water. He was facing out to the north-east, where the river widened. The moonlight covered it in a grey satin sheen. Out in midstream there were long low banks of mist. As we watched, he called. “Hører du mig?” With great force. As if to someone several miles away, on the invisible far bank. A long pause. Then, “Jeg er her.” I trained my glasses on him. He was standing, legs astride, his staff in his hand, biblically. There was silence. A black silhouette in the glittering current.

   ‘Then we heard Henrik say one word. Much more quietly. It was “Takk.” The Norwegian for “thanks”. I watched him. He stepped back a pace or two out of the water, and knelt on the shingle. We heard the sound of the stones as he moved. He still faced the same way. His hands by his side. It was not an attitude of prayer, but a watching on his knees. Something was very close to him. As visible to him as Gustav’s dark head, the trees, the moonlight on the leaves around us, was to me. I would have given ten years of my life to have been able to look out there to the north, from inside his mind. I did not know what he was seeing, but I knew it was something of such power, such mystery, that it explained all. And of course Henrik’s secret dawned on me, almost like some reflection of the illumination that shone over him. He was not waiting to meet God. He was meeting God; and had been meeting him probably for many years. He was not waiting for some certainty. He lived in it.

   ‘Up to this point in my life you will have realized that my whole approach was scientific, medical, classifying. I was conditioned by a kind of ornithological approach to man. I thought in terms of species, behaviours, observations. Here for the first time in my life, I was unsure of my standards, my beliefs, my prejudices. I knew the man out there on the point was having an experience beyond the scope of all my science and all my reason, and I knew that my science and reason would always be defective until they could comprehend what was happening in Henrik’s mind. I knew that Henrik was seeing a pillar of fire out there over the water, I knew that there was no pillar of fire there, that it could be demonstrated that the only pillar of fire was in Henrik’s mind.

   ‘But in a flash, as of lighting, all our explanations, all our classifications and derivations, our aetiologies, suddenly appeared to me like a thin net. That great passive monster, reality, was no longer dead, easy to handle. It was full of a mysterious vigour, new forms, new possibilities. The net was nothing, reality burst through it. Perhaps something telepathic passed between Henrik and myself. I do not know.

   ‘That simple phrase, I do not know, was my own pillar of fire. For me, too, it brought a new humility akin to fierceness. For me too a profound mystery. For me too a sense of the vanity of so many things our age considers important. I do not say I should not have arrived at such an insight one day. But in that night I bridged a dozen years. Whatever else, I know that.

   ‘In a short time we saw Henrik walk back into the trees. I could not see his face. But I think the fierceness it wore in daylight was the fierceness that came from his contact with the pillar of fire. Perhaps for him the pillar of fire was no longer enough, and in that sense he was still waiting to meet God. Living is an eternal wanting more, in the coarsest grocer and in the sublimest mystic. But of one thing I am certain. If he still lacked God, he had the Holy Spirit.

   ‘The next day I left. I said goodbye to Ragna. There was no lessening of her hostility. I think that unlike Gustav she had divined her husband’s secret, that any attempt to cure him would kill him. Gustav and his nephew rowed me the twenty miles north to the next farm. We shook hands, we promised to write. I could offer no consolation and I do not think he wanted any. There are situations in which consolation only threatens the equilibrium that time has instituted. And so I returned to France.’

"I just look at these people.  I look at myself too and I think: "You're not from here.  You're not staying here.  You're visiting."   Ryan Adams (From a 2017 Interview in Studio Q)

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Seventh Wave

The Seventh Wave

The first wave 


swallowed me whole,

pulling me under.

But the third wave,

white comber of tides,

reversed whipping wind and spray,

took me down to stay,


to bottom.

Changing me forever.

Place of paradox,

nothing undone,

there in blackness,

with finny fishes,

sea of questions,

ocean of answers.

Longing blue skies above

fractal's golden shift,

infinities' reflection.



seventh wave in sight.

One breath,

new descent,

day to darkness

into night.

Wind and water's children,


Barren limbs,

silver rattling leaves

black tree,


on the high shore

of the beach.

Long shadows


white whirls,

of light.

At 2:00 AM

I woke.

Shirt, underwear,



Head swimming,





Beneath black water,

among nightmares that haunt,

chatting up a storm in sleep,

Longing arms of women,


none to keep.

Chanting unending

koans in blue spectrum,

that catch the blue eye,

caress blue waves,

transcending body,

mind to save.

I can neither understand,

nor explain.

Mark F. Elderkin - January 2015

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Pablo de Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen" - Poetry of Hope & Love in a Pandemic


Mottainai  もったいない (Waste Nothing)

Downy white, 
in blackness 
moulting birds,

Mark F. Elderkin (2021)

Who Among Them?

You radiate - glow,
your face so fair.
Lips on an angel
caressing night's summer air;
satin skin
begs touch to care.
Who among them,
Could ever really feel you?

Your rainbow dances
Round sunlight's lace.
Mirrored in your eyes,
a crescent moon's embrace;
the mystery of it all,
the Madonna's gaze.
Who among them,
Has eyes to really see you?

The sage and charlatan,
came to visit you at home.
To steal your face,
but discovered their own;
photogenic dreams
in pastel gypsy tones.
Who among them,
could ever hang a frame around you?

Your shadow's dancing,
dogs around the moon.
Power in passion's,
haunting wailing tunes;
your liquid hands speak
mysteries known only to loons.
Who among them,
could ever deceive you?

You defy prisons,
sanity enthrones.
Enchanting saints and sinners
to mingle with your bones;
With your monotonic functions,
the rosined bow's cadenza poems.
Who among them,
has ears to really hear you?

Mark F. Elderkin (1989)


Eight Eyes of Spring

Spider's shadow
in spring sunshine,
Eight eyes dancing
on the wall
through cobwebs'
dust of winter.
my cornered
our journeys'
this moment,
in one breath.

Mark F. Elderkin (2021)

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Old Man and The Blue Budgie

Years ago, I lived in a second floor apartment (Circa 1977) in Wolfville on Main Street. At the top of the stairs, there was this huge empty grand sized hallway with a door on each side to an apartment.  Door #1, door#2, door#3, door #4.  Door #1 was at the top of the stairs and in daylight hours it was always open and a radio playing.  As you passed by, there sat an old man in a white wife beater T-shirt, at a small old 1960's stainless steel table with a 'formica' silver fleck, formaldehyde based top, the material that once graced the front of some electric guitars and picks, matching stainless chairs with red plastic seats, a small electric fan sat on an open window, white transparent curtains moving in the breeze.

On top of the table was a small steel cage and in it was a blue budgie on his perch beside a big ashtray.  The budgie and the old man were there every day looking out the window, rain or shine, door wide open as he chain smoked Player's cigarettes, that hung from his mouth with a long ash dangling that could be blown away if you breathed or walked too fast when you passed by.  Smoke wafted into the hallway - blue smoke, blue man in the window's sunshine, blue caged bird.  That image has hung in my mind for decades, like a framed "keyhole" painting by a Dutch master.  He was frozen.  A powerless observer of the world, of people below, vehicles comings and goings in the street's parking lot, marked in time, once having had a busy prosperous life working as a green grocer!

Anyway, I was going to write a little story about that old man and his blue budgie, but first typed into google search engine, "Old man and blue budgie" and this was what I got.  These New Zealanders had already nailed 'my' story in a movie short about an old man and his yellow budgie named "Freddie".  Don't miss it!  Life is very strange and very beautiful.  Click on the bold blue title below to watch this wonderful movie short!

In the movie, Perry Smyth the lead character, plays a male version of Hagar Currie Shipley, the leading female character of Margaret Laurence's novel, who in a final act of frantic solitary desperation makes her last great escape in a bid to claim dignity in "The Stone Angel".

Monday, January 4, 2021

2020's Bonfire of the Vanities

Parting Shot

Don't let anyone tell you poverty
            makes you beautiful. And yet,

your poverty of landscape — horizon
            bristling with claw-and-hammer

volunteers, and folds of crust
            that interrupt a fledgling

constellation — is just that,
            hangdog and precious in a haze

of pallid moonlight: chapped eyelid
            closing on an era when nothing

would make us stay our hands. Adios
            to Earth, preteen debutante

sitting out the last dance.
            Here, feel yourself the child

who teeters on the fulcrum
            of her pelvis, stretch marks

spidering outward. Rest assured
            you will be beautiful to me

in your poverty, cooling in space,
            less compromising day by day.

When I say potential,
            I mean your inner resources,

the unschooled mind upriver
            of the falls we can hear, but can't

yet see, which might, against
            all odds, make something of itself.

Brendan O'Connor - 2005 (from 32 Poems)

"If someone asks me if my work has economic benefit I say absolutely none. And then they ask 'well why are you doing it' and I say that we need to understand the world we live in. It enriches our lives."

Charles Krebs, Q&A: Dr. Charles Krebs on a lifetime of science, Canadian Geographic

“Hardly a pure science, history is closer to animal husbandry than it is to mathematics in that it involves selective breeding. The principal difference between the husbandryman and the historian is that the former breeds sheep or cows or such and the latter breeds (assumed) facts. The husbandryman uses his skills to enrich the future, the historian uses his to enrich the past. Both are usually up to their ankles in bullshit.”
Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction