Barbara Chase

Angels     

Once there were fairies where the old people live now.  Fairies are for children, angels are for grownups.

Angels live in the branches,  greeting the early sun, warming the early risers, brightening the morning.  They light the wet grass, making it gleam as though recently washed.  Angels walk on the paths between the cottages, bringing compassion, bringing companionship, even if only briefly.

I see angels among the old people as they walk in the gardens, stretching their fading limbs, being together, ready to smile, ready to laugh, hiding their irritations, hiding their disappointments, hiding the things they cant do.  The old people walk slowly with those who stumble, fast to catch up with the ones who have no friends, no one to walk with.  They pick the few flowers in their gardens for someone who has only a room.

Angels live in the gardens and the buildings.  Sometimes they inhabit the people, sometimes they leave them alone to be human.

Barbara Chase

Midnight  rain 

Midnight rain is bitter as loneliness, waking the sleeping, stirring the ears of those trying to ward off interruptions.  Midnight rain cleanses the pavements, cleanses the dust from the leaves, invades the calmness, starting the new day before it is wanted.

Midnight rain breaks the stillness,  moves the silence, destroys dreams, brings a new element of action.  Get  up, push yourself into tomorrow!  Remember the loneliness, remember problems not yet faced, actions unstarted, situations waiting to be dealt with.

Midnight rain hammering on the roof outside, startles the sleeping.  Then flows quickly to fill the dams.

Barbara Chase

Silence

Silence is being a listener,
otherwise how will I know?
How will I hear your unsayable thoughts,
finding the spaces below?

Silence is being a listener,
Otherwise how will I see
what lurks behind in the rain and the mist?
Where are the views
that are hidden from me?

Silence will search out the wisdom
of joy in the troubles ahead.

Then I will sound with
the voice of a leader,
the sight of an eagle,
the breath of the wind,
as an elephant hears.

And as I listen in silence
I watch how you’ve aged through the years.
I don’t need to listen to hear what you say.
I don’t need to speak when I hear what you say.
The silence between us is all that we need.
The feel of your hand will be all I can have,
When the sound of your voices has faded away.

Barbara Chase

Barely disturbing the watery skin
a well into which I can sink
undiluted by fear
dragging emotions in the undertow.
by Janet Jadrijewich

 

Writing below the surface – a Glosa

Below the surface
fishes swim
eggs are laid
snails move
plants are growing
branches sway.
On the surface
a leaf falls,
barely disturbing the watery skin.

I watch the water,
long to be there
immerse myself.
The sun on the water
glistens, shines, blinds me,
sends my desire
back to me.
I long to break the surface
and find
a well into which I can sink.

I could jump in,
but fear the unknown there,
the murky dark
the moving things
the active lives I do not know.
I must go in
and know this place,
encounter what is hidden now
undiluted by fear.

I’m under now
and feel the turmoil here.
But I feel strong.
The freedom grows.
I go in deeper,
further in.
Excited now I take control.
The moving water surges round,
dragging emotions in the undertow.

Barbara Chase

  Elusive  writing  voice  

We will travel places             Unafraid of finding nothing
all unknowns                     always looking further further
other directions                                 seeking strangeness 
unafraid.                                                      taking chances.
Taking chances                                                      Unafraid
seeking  strangeness                                 other directions
always looking further, further                    all unknowns                    
unafraid of finding nothing               we will travel places.

Barbara Chase

Evening sail 

      
A brown hulled boat moves fast through gentle swells. White water splashes against the hull. Far out, small waves break on themselves.

White sails, reefed for control, shift briefly against strong winds. Two men, the crew, watch the sails, watch the wind on the water, alert for change. Red jackets, wet from spray, gleam in the evening sun.

Across the bay, the hills are dark. In places, the sea is almost purple.

Barbara Chase

Choices 

      
We are standing on the pavement outside our small family hotel on Twenty-third street, Manhattan, New York, waiting for friends to fetch us for dinner. Parking is difficult, so they have asked us to wait on the kerb.

We can wait under the awning if we wish. It covers a section from the hotel door to the kerb, but we stand slightly to one side, because a small white bus has taken the parking place at the end of the awning. The bus is empty except for the driver.

“Decisions, decisions”, we have said with mock weariness, as we decided what to do each day of our short holiday.

That morning we had taken the bus to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After looking at French Impressionist paintings we selected the Egyptian temple, donated to the U.S. by a grateful Egyptian government, and transported to the Museum, stone by stone.

We had lunch in the Museum Café near a window, where we could watch the activity in Central Park.

When the mood took us we caught a bus back to the hotel. Doing everything when and how we wished. Now we are waiting for our lift.

There is an alleyway separating our hotel from an old church. From it a shabby bunch of men of varying ages emerges, shuffling a little, shoulders rounded, speaking quietly, looking at the white bus, and then away from it.

We think the men have spent the day in the old church, been given something to do, and a meal. Perhaps the white bus is waiting to take them to a night shelter. The driver ignores them. The mean wait patiently.

After about five minutes the driver gets out of the bus, opens the passenger door, and the men get in. All aboard, the driver closes the door, and drives off.

Have the men surrendered their ability to make choices in an effort to survive? Have they given up their freedom because they cannot see any way of keeping it? Is it humiliating for them to have to wait until the driver tells them they can board the bus?

Barbara Chase

Depresssion  lifting – a Villanelle
            

The dark envelops me, the endless night.
Fog  settles in, cold, thick and grey. 
I need to keep on searching for the light.

I know the end is there, in sight.
The trough I’m in will not be here to stay.
The dark envelops me, the endless night. 

The walls are steep.  I fear their brooding height,
 and look for other ways to see the day.
I need to keep on searching for the light.

The sun illuminates the clouds, and bright
 with hope, I look, and see a way.
The dark envelops me, the endless night.

I pull my thoughts and images to  birds in flight,
to flowers fresh and fragrant, childrens’ play.
I need to keep on searching for the light,

to widen cracks and push with all my might,
discover concrete walls were sand and clay.
The dark  envelops me, the endless night.
I need to keep on searching for the light.

Barbara Chase

My father’s  house  

     
I could see more clearly as I got nearer, though it was barely light.  The lane leading to the house was long and winding, but I took it slowly, in no hurry to arrive.  It had the same feel it always had, silent, strange, intimate.

There was a privet hedge lining the lane.  As children we used to drive our bikes into it, for fun.

Later we all agreed it was a silly game.

It was getting lighter as I walked.  I went slowly so I could watch the sun coming through the branches of the trees behind the hedge.  I took the long way round to the back door.

I had a key, but the door was not locked and opened easily.  The kitchen was warm, I felt welcomed.  It was still dark inside, and I opened the curtains to let in what light there was, and walked to the front of the house.  I wanted to see the view out to the sea, the lights on across the bay.  I needed to look through the house, but not yet.  First I wanted to remember things, how it was when Dad was alive, the last time I saw him.

On the veranda the dew had been wiped off the chairs.  Maurice was up.  He had left the curtains for me to open.  ‘I like to be the first to look out of this window on the new day, ‘I used to say.

He never commented on this, but left them closed for me to open.  For a while I sat watching the sea and listening to the birds.  Then I came back inside to start looking at the rest of the house.

All my furniture was there.  I had taken it there when I married Jeremy.  He was much older than I was and already had a house fully furnished.  There was no need for me to take the bits and pieces from my student pad.  I asked Dad to keep them for me and they’d been there ever since. 

I was surprised Maurice wasn’t there.  He was always such an early riser.  The early mornings were our most intimate time together, before Dad got up.  After the stroke, Dad stayed in bed until after nine.  In the army Maurice had trained as a nurse.  There had not been enough money for him to become a doctor as he had wanted.  He could easily have managed the course.  He has managed his small business in the town, been Dad’s manager, housekeeper and nurse, as well as helping Dad with his business affairs.  Dad wanted to stay in the family house although he was away a lot when he was well. 

I heard the side door open.

‘Hullo,’ Maurice said, ‘I did not want to disturb you.  I heard you come in.’

He hugged me for a long time.  I wondered if it was a sort of bereavement hug, because Dad and Jeremy had died.

‘It’s so good to have you here again,’ he said.  He looked just the same, fit, athletic, the same casual jeans and pullover, but there was much more grey in his hair. ‘It’s been a long, long year.  Too long.’

‘Yes, it has.  I wanted to come.  You did understand, didn’t you, that I could not leave Jeremy.  The pain was dreadful.  He wanted me with him all the time.  He was a good man, a good husband.’

‘Of course I understood,’ he said.

The study door was open and we went in.  All of my father’s things were there, his paintings, his rugs, his desk, his walking stick, a few photographs and ornaments, all the things he liked to have around him.  I was astonished at how little had changed, how little had been moved.

Maurice was watching me, waiting. 

‘Come Anna,’ he said, ‘I would like to go round the house with you.  After that we will have breakfast on the veranda, and then you can decide what you want to do today.  If you agree I would like to take you out to dinner tonight.’

The day passed quickly.  After the initial excitement of being together, we settled down to talking about the house, the garden, the town, and our lives the past year.  In the early evening we sat on the veranda sipping our drinks.

After a while I said, ‘I am so very glad that Dad left you the house.  It was good that he did that.
It must be twenty years that you have looked after it, and it is all in perfect condition.  Dad never even had to learn how to change a light bulb.’

‘Would you have liked to have the house?’ he said.

‘No, not at all.  I have plenty of money.  I inherited from Dad, and my business has done well.’

‘But I could see,’ he said, ‘when you visited your father that you love this house.’

‘I do like it, but I’m glad it’s yours now.  But don’t you think it’s strange that Dad left the contents to me?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘your father was a wise and perceptive man and always schemed for your welfare. You will have to spend some time here with me while you sort out your things.  But now we will go and enjoy ourselves.  Our table is booked for seven o’clock.

He had already taken his car from the garage and parked it in the driveway.  He opened the car door for me, and when we were sitting in the car together I said,  ‘’There will probably be people we know in the restaurant, they can get used to seeing us together.’

And then we both started to laugh, because although we had wanted to live together for so long we had never before spoken about it.

Barbara Chase

The  carving knife  incident

 

Eighty-year-old Maggie swept the veranda without the usual vigour with which she attacked most of her household chores.  She stopped to look across the small garden, past a few roofs, and out to the bay.  The mist was clearing, a thick mist, unusual, but the sign of a windless day.

It was 11 a.m.  Sylvie called from across the low hedge separating their gardens.  “Can I come for tea or are you busy?”

“I’m always busy and always delighted to be interrupted, as you know.”

Maggie went to let her in.  The double storied cottages stood adjacent but not attached.

Sylvie hugged her friend.  “You alright?” she said.

She took in the small athletic figure in the jeans and navy pullover that Maggie wore most days.   The old shoes were worn from gardening and scrambling over coastal rocks.  Thick socks kept the old feet comfortable.  Maggie’s curly white hair looked as usual as though a storm had raged through it.  She noticed the small thin hands that closed the door behind her, the nails damaged from years of gardening and neglect.  She was taking a good look at Maggie today.

“Bill has gone shopping,” Maggie said. “We won’t wait for him.

They made the tea and took it onto the veranda.

“We had a traumatic night,” Maggie said.

“I know, the police sirens woke us.  The whole street watched from their windows.  We came over to see if you were all right. You must have been too shocked to notice us.  Tell me what happened.”

“I woke up and there was someone in the room.  He had a balaclava over his face.  So I screamed.

He ran down the stairs into the kitchen, and I went down after him.  I could see quite well in the kitchen because the streetlight is outside the window and I don’t draw the curtains.  I saw he had a knife.  I was standing right next to the cutlery drawer, so I opened it and took out the carving knife.  It’s huge.  Then I pointed it at him and shouted something like, “Look at THIS knife!”  He fled through the back door, which we must have forgotten to lock.

 Bill was grappling with another man at the bottom of the stairs, a miserable, thin youngster, who was trying to get away.  Bill opened the front door and pushed him out.  Then the police arrived.”

They sat for a while, drinking their tea.

“Maggie,” Sylvie said, “that was a very stupid thing to do, brave and stupid. It must be all that early morning swimming you do, up every morning and into that icy water. In a way, I suppose it’s as if you’ve been facing adversity every morning for years and years.  After all it’s only a few years since you stopped swimming in the winter, but I still see you out on the beach at daybreak whatever the weather.”

Bill came in with the shopping, dumped it in the kitchen and brought his cup out to join them.

They sat in silence, resting after the night’s activity and enjoying the scene before them.  Seagulls circled over the rocks and two small fishing boats were returning to harbour.

“When I was sweeping the veranda I was thinking,” Maggie said.

Bill looked at her. Maggie’s ‘thinking’ could bring good or bad news.

“So?” he said.

“You know how scared I’ve always been of flying, afraid the plane would come down in the sea and trap all the passengers inside until they drowned one by one?”

Bill had heard this story over and over through the years.  “Yes?” he said.

“It would be fun to visit Mark and Lucy and the boys.  They’ve asked us so often to come over and stay with them in London.  We could see where they live, and the boys could show us their bikes and their toys and their room, and where they go to school.  Flying isn’t all that dangerous. People do it all the time.  Thousands of people are in the air right now on their way to London.”

“It sounds safe enough to me,” Sylvie said, “and when you book tell them you are booking for the pensioner who drew a carving knife on the burglar.  They may give you a discount, or even a free flight, as a special passenger capable of handling troublemakers.”

Barbara Chase.

Ambition               

Reaching upward, don’t forget
it’s hotter at the  top.
The candle’s light can burn you yet.
Reaching upwards, don’t forget
ambition’s downside is a threat
to scorch if you don’t stop.
Reaching upward, don’t forget
it’s hotter at the top.

Barbara Chase

Discarding Restrictions

Their house was a modest suburban villa with a livingroom, three bedrooms, a garage and a small garden.

Each room had two or three paintings inherited from Tim’s mother. She had also left him some fine silver, glassware and crockery, most of which lived on the upper shelves of the kitchen cupboard, and was never taken out except for cleaning.

Jane was moving from room to room, opening cupboard doors, surveying furniture, pictures and ornaments.

Tim, recently retired, sat comfortably in his armchair, enjoying his book. He was aware of something unusual happening as she reached the livingroom, opened the doors of the cupboard where he stored his favorite family heirlooms, said “ah”, and looked round the room, and at him.

“We have too many possessions”, she said, “too much furniture, clothes, books, crockery, glasses, silver. I have to look after all of them.”

Tim looked up from his book. “I can’t see they need any looking after. What do you do, open the cupboard door and say “Hi cups and saucers do you need any looking after today?”

She sat down next to him. “I don’t think that’s funny. I’m serious.”

“So am I,” he said. “I enjoy our furniture, our crockery and our paintings. They are part of my background, my history.”

She moved away from him to an easy chair. “I never see you looking at the paintings. Once I asked you to take them down and check the backs for fishmoths. You took them down, stacked them against the walls and wandered off. After two days I rehung them. You might like to help by cleaning the silver?”

Unable to think of a satisfactory reply, Tim decided to say nothing. He watched his wife get up to look out of the window at the neglected garden. “Before I married you,” he said, “ I looked after my little garden myself. I was often complimented on it.”

“You’ve had a long break since then, thirty years! You could have forgotten how to garden in that time. We should move to a smaller house.”

“Where would we put our things?” He grinned at his joke.

“It would be helpful if you stopped reading while I am trying to put my problem to you, and if you made some positive suggestions.”

He put his book on the table.

“Right,” he said, “I suggest we each discard one item every week. I will start with the chipped wineglass.”

“Good. I’ll discard the cracked breadboard. After a year we will have got rid of l04 items. Our cupboards will be half empty and I will be enjoying life. I will learn to play bridge and I will go to the movies once a week. We’ll take weekends away because I will have so much time to plan them.
After two years we will have discarded 208 items. Then think of the interesting things I’ll be able to do!”

“Chuck out the stove,” he said, “I’ll take you out to dinner.”

Barbara Chase

Scattering the ashes

We are all here with you
we spoke about who you were
 who will scatter the ashes
James will be head of the household

we spoke about who you were
     the sun is rising towards us
       James will be head of the household
   I am touching the earth where you’ll be

the sun is rising towards us
through the dark branches
I am touching the earth where you’ll be
today is coming

through the dark branches  
     who will scatter the ashes
       today is coming
   we are all here with you