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Monday, 12 February 2007

It's What Trees Do

Daily Blogging

Now that I’m not working it is going to be too easy to blog - every day.

Emerging Artist Son and Son in Japan

Son M has been commissioned to do another cd cover. I wish I could post images from the cd cover he has already completed for a friend in Wellington, but I fear that it would be breaching copyright. His art is awesome. But then I am biased. He is gearing up for an exhibition somewhere in this city (or country) sometime soon. What you say is what you get. I believe this implicitly. That is why I’m saying he will get his exhibition. And that ABM and I will get to visit Son S in Japan before he leaves there, in around a year’s time. A quiet, underground determination is always the most successful. Ask a tree.


Trees are amazing. The way they silently, powerfully, slowly grow - sometimes shaped by the elements or conditions, but still they grow. It’s what they do. We’ve all heard of the axe left behind, forgotten , leaning against the trunk of a tree and the tree growing around it, assimilating it; the axe swallowed up by the tree. Once I saw an old plough that was slowly becoming embedded into the trunk of a willow.
My favourite trees are the ones at Orepuki where I was brought up. Trees that have been twisted into knotted shapes by salt-laden winds. I’ve written about them many times. I have a picture of them on my website. To me they are toughness exemplified.


Sparrows are ubiquitous birds - or so I thought. On my sister’s first visit back home to NZ after 24 years living in Australia, she saw a sparrow and said - Look! A starling! I was astounded. She’d forgotten what a sparrow was. Apparantly it’s too hot for them in Perth. That‘s when I realised that sparrows aren’t everywhere. Like when people realise not every country has crows - we don’t in New Zealand. (Unless they are in some tucked away place at the top of the North Island where I’ve never been.) And we don’t have snakes either.
ABM’s father has made pets of some sparrows at his place that come to call for a crumb every day - sometimes they hop right inside the house and peck a crumb from his hand. He is able to identify them and has named some of them. (They all look the same to me.)


I am banking on the idea that if I shift my poems out from where I hoard them, it will be an incentive to write more to replace the gap.
(I used the words ‘black wings’ from a Joni Mitchell song as inspiration for this poem. It turned into a poem about memories of times when I wore black, or was surrounded by people who did. Unlike Johnny Cash, I haven’t worn black - next to my face anyway - for a very long time ... maybe this poem explains why.)

black wings

A black sleeve lofts like the blade
of a windmill. “In the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Ghost,”
is pronounced slowly and with care
as if the words might suddenly burst
open. Black cowl, black tunic, black
rosary, the nuns ram down the air
caught inside wooden-floored corridors,
with the noise of a blind
suddenly released.
With the sound of black wings.

My high school uniform was black;
black gymfrock, black tights,
black shoes,black jersey, black hat,
black gloves. Dad said, “You look
like you’re going to a funeral.”
Not long after that, again I wore black
to his.
And two years later a short, black dress
to a party memorable
for its brutal revelations.


The dust of the country road
paints my black, school shoes
grey as I trudge back home
from the bus-stop,
cocksfoot borders performing
empty handed dances
with a low skyline. No cars.
But if one ever does slowly nudge
it never fails to stop, the driver,
always a stranger,
winding down the window
to ask, “What place is this?”

Kay McKenzie Cooke


Jan said...

Thankyou for this wonderful posting. I have enjoyed it all. And your lovely, so much I felt agreement with, understood..the dust on shoes, the schoolgirl, the party of revelations ( I remember one such party....)
I think its great that you will have more time now. ( But glad you will keep in touch with Baby H)
Good News, all this.
I can see your work is valuable.

Jan said...

Thankyou for this wonderful posting. I have enjoyed it all. And your lovely, so much I felt agreement with, understood..the dust on shoes, the schoolgirl, the party of revelations ( I remember one such party....)
I think its great that you will have more time now. ( But glad you will keep in touch with Baby H)
Good News, all this.
I can see your work is valuable.

Kamsin said...

Great poem. And don't apologise for the self-promotion, it's your blog after all! And I love the artwork on the cover of your book, did your son do that?

chiefbiscuit said...

jan - Thanks for the boost! I value your confirmations - always. Thanks again.

kamsin - Thanks Kam. Blame my self-effacement on an inborn apologetic streak! Yes, that is M's artwork. Well spotted!

Carole said...

I'm so glad you decided to share your identity and your poetry with us. How I envy you the time to do the things you really want to do.
We have few sparrows in England these days due to the decline of hedgerows. It was lovely to see large numbers of them by Lake Geneva when I visited my eldest son last October. Having visited Japan,I do hope that you get there or I should say, 'Enjoy your visit!'

Clare said...

Glad you've come out as Kay, CB - but I think you're always going to be Chief Biscuit to me.

Been catching up a bit since I have been submerged in research and not letting myself come out until I deserve it.

Excellent imagery in this poem - and I much appreciate the twists that snag at the ends - the brutal revelations, and that evocative question...but the bit I like the most, I think, is where the black becomes painted with grey. The black is still there, maybe, but for now it is covered and unseen. Ha, but maybe I am reading far too much into this...

Is it in your forthcoming volume?

chiefbiscuit said...

clare - I value your insight - it's funny how when you write (and I think this is true of anything creative) you don't really know what you're doing to a certain extent. You just trust your instinct. Then once the work is finished, you can stand back and appreciate what your instinct and intuition has offered up - how it all works, despite any bewildered fumbling above the surface.

Dana said...

Well, hello Kay. I do love your book, and I am so happy you've decided to share it with the world ~ the blog world anyway. I'm sad that you all don't have crows. I could never feel quite at home in a place that doesn't have them.

Kake said...

Wow, I love this poem. The black oozes over everything like an oil spill.

mcdinzie said...

*gasp* you names Kay!!! then you can't really be my sister as her name is kaybelle!!!!

I do apologise in noting you in the past with such familiarity!!

However since I seem to know you so well now after reading your blog tell M that I admire his talent and also I hope that trip to Japan comes off soon.

PS do you have another sister by any chance by the name S who might be with a sister called L????? I've lost one and would like to find her again :)and know when I have to have the house spic and span

chiefbiscuit said...

mcd - And is this where I reveal your family name? ;) I've texted L and no reply as yet re S! May have to (horrors) actually phone her!

chiefbiscuit said...

kake - Sorry I missed your comment 'til now ... thank you! I like that analogy.

Jules said...

More free time to blog and write poetry - I'm excited for you (and that I get to benefit from your free time!)

I love your black wings poem, the Joni reference, the meloncholy mood set. I think I can understand a bit why you haven't worn black for a while.

Tammy said...

Beautiful work and your son did a great job with the cover! Baby H was lucky to have had you in his life. Free to be! Hugs

Becky said...

You are so talented, CB. I am honored to have you in my life.


Cam said...

Really like the poem CB.

chiefbiscuit said...

Hey Jules - How the heck are you?!! (That's a good kiwi greeting there for ya!) :) Have been wondering how u are ... Thanks for the comment. Yep I've been off black for a while - but do like to see it on people who suit it (lucky things!)

tammy - Yep - free to be - I like that a lot ;)

becky - Well the feeling's definitely mutual!!!

cam - Thanks Cam.

Remiman said...

Thanks for introducing me to Kay, and her book. i know I'll get around to reading it (if it's available) some time in the days to come. Because I enjoy your way of turning words. Your poem like your prose flows easily and is soothing as well as informative.
And if Kay turns out to be Kaybelle, well so be it. I'll tuck that away for reference, but for now your still CB to me.

chiefbiscuit said...

Ha! Thanks Rel. The family name was really Kaybells - little sisters sometimes get things slightly wrong ;) My Uncle called me that after my Dad (his brother) had called his firstborn daughter Joy, Joybells! So it was kind of a revenge naming.

wendy said...

Well hello Kay. Very beautiful name. I love the stanza with your father and the funeral, and transitions.

I went on amazon..and couldn't pull up the book . I'll try again.
I really would like to have a copy.

wendy said...

never mind...went back and found it...and click, whiz bang....It's on it's way!!!! yipee!

GeL(Emerald Eyes) said...

Oh Kay,
Wonderful treat to see your poetry book available and the eye-catching cover illustration by your son! Self-promotion is a necssity, as hard as it is for some of us. (I can identify with your comment.) You write well.
This "black" poem is chock full of imagery astutely drawing us into more than a shadow of your past. (I,too, enjoy the music reference to Joni.)

I'm an artist/writer as my career. It's necessary for folks to know what we do, instead of assuming it's merely a hobby. I've been slowly introducing my artwork (painting, photography and the most recent post features several jewelry designs, for some time in blogland.)Click here to see Gel's jewelry.

Ironically, trees are among my favorite subject to paint, but I need to tear myself away from my art studio long enough to post those paintings online in this blog. (They are on my professional website already.)

I relish your prose,so rich with information, yet conversational and personal. I look forward to reading more of your poetry. I'm salivating thinking of owning a copy of your book! Okay,I can easily call you Kay. *Grin*

chiefbiscuit said...

wendy - That's great! Thank you - hope you enjoy.
I have made a link to Amazon now in the sidebar so thanks for the alert anyway.

gel- Thanks for the copious comment - all of it appreciated - good luck with your art etc. Creativity is pouring out of your fingertips, I can see!

paris parfait said...

Oh, thanks for posting your beautiful poem and for letting us know about your book! I shall order a copy straight away. Am so glad you'll be blogging more now. I find your story about the trees fascinating. A huge flowering one (don't know the name) in our courtyard has died and this morning they're planted another. As it's branches are bare, can't tell yet what kind it is.

apprentice said...

Yes a thoughtful post, and a poem brimming with life and meaning.

The book looks grea and the artwork is interesting.

Good luck to all of your family's creations. I hope you get to Japan. I just watched Geisha again, and I would really love to go.

chiefbiscuit said...

pp - Hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for your support.
I'd like to hear more about the tree!

apprentice - Thanks. I hope to get a link to our son's art up soon as I'd love to show more of it on my blog.

Cailleach said...

I am glad to see you coming out about your book - I've read it from cover to cover and I find it very haunting and yet very grounded too.

I like this poem. Having been to a convent school myself, I know a little about nuns and the whole thing. Our uniform was navy though. I'm still not mad about it as a colour, but it could have been worse, our rival school's uniform was bottle green!

I like the way you used the black colour to tie together all the disparate strands, drawing them together and that last line "What place is this?" sounds like its referring more to a state of mind than a place. I really enjoyed it! More, more!

Avus said...

Great Poem Chief!
And now I can see how you constructed that Blog Name too!

ecm said...

I really, really like this poem, I love the way you use black throughout it. It makes me want to write a poem with a color. And I will have to check out your book!

chiefbiscuit said...

cailleach - Thanks so much for your support and positive comments re my poetry and my book, Barbara.
I'm so glad you liked the last line as you're right - to me it was kind of a summing up of the doubt at that stage of my life - as well as symbolic of the whole dubious world ... or something!

avus - Ah yes, ABM and my sons all get called Cookie because of the surname - and I figured that I was the Chief Cooke and Bottle Washer - but more a biscuit than a cookie :<

chiefbiscuit said...

ecm - Thanks. Using a colour throughout the poem was fun. Yes you should definitely try it.

chiefbiscuit said...

ecm Oops - writing a poem with colour as a theme I mean - not that you should try my book! (but of course it'd be nice if you do anyway ... )

Catherine said...

This is a lovely post - I'm a bit late catching up this week. Have you noticed there aren't nearly as many sparrows in New Zealand as there used to be? Certainly not around here - apparently a few years back a lot died off due to an epidemic of salmonella.
Just when you have more free time it looks as if I will have less :(

Buffy said...

I've found so many 'writerly' sites today...I'm so pleased.

Anonymous said...

Hola pasoa dejar saludos de Chile....Un abrazo..

Lee said...

I'm so glad to learn about your book and to read your poetry.


'how this all harbours light'