Tag Archives: fire

Fire Over Foreign Water

7 May

My wonderful husband took me to see my absolute favourite Shakespeare play (EVER) a few weeks ago which is… (drum roll please and thank you):

The Tempest

SPOILER ALERT (Follow my blog to read the next work of poetry if you don’t want to know the ending!)

If you have not seen this play performed, watched the major motion picture released last year, or were forced to read the play by an inspiring high school teacher, I am sorry. This is a great comedy and one the last plays ever written (possible THE last, one may never know) by Shakespeare. Not only is there comedy, there is romance, magic, loss, the struggle for power, even murderous plots! The best part, though, and by far why I dearly love this play, is in the ending which defies the normal revenge and need for justice: forgiveness (sigh).

As one of those aforementioned inspiring teachers myself, I have taught the play four times and each time I build up to the confrontation scene where Prospero, our protagonist, rounds up his evil brother, Antonio; the unwitting king, Alonso; the king’s gullible brother, Sebastian; and Prospero’s old friend and lifeline, Gonzalo. I ask my students what they think Prospero will do since we know he has not appeared so innocent and merciful in the preceding acts. Usually they all say surely he will banish them, leave them behind, perhaps kill them. Occasionally I get one or two who suggest the actual response. I love the unexpected kindness and mercy Prospero shows them though they do not deserve it. Such a great ending!

Fire Over Foreign Water

Here is the poem, an example of concrete poetry which forms a picture:

The text version:

An orchestrated shipwreck,

fire over foreign water,

flamed amazement;

brought sorrow and greed to a magical isle.


A crowned king, displaced by thrown swells

to the island inhabited, enchanted

and apart from kind kin, deaf to the past evils,

with wisdom from only an aged advisor

the rest of the entourage, alas, a loss.


Budding romance at first sight on another shore,

a young prince and a duchess, who saw only things

divine and brought together two families of royal blood.

First to a father’s test who watches with many eyes

over the isle: the water, the shores.


And frozen moments reveal the masked deceivers

parading round, of their fears, and steadfast hunger.

Sword drawn, a plea of roaring lions bellowing out,

fools the few. They wonder while the islander hides

from the storm and worships ambitious fools

inebriated and swaddled in charmed robes.


The king, desperate now affright with a raven’s warning;

the advisor jaded; the lovers enthralled by Ceres, Iris and Juno.

Plot foiled for the creature ever lurking is shamed

while all are taken to Prospero by the Lord’s lion and servant spirit.


Our magician ruler who – twelve years asunder –

instead of righteous revenge pardons them,

lavishing forgiveness: true justice for every last one.


Let us all set free and pardon.


The 29th

29 Mar

In the news this week Jamphel Yeshi became the 29th person to self-immolate (set himself alight) in protest regarding the Tibetan conflict.

I have no political stance on the conflict as I do not know enough to form an opinion but seeing the disturbing photos of Jamphel ablaze was disturbing and shocking to the core: a man intentionally burning up his young 27 years, skin not yet peeling but blackening, yet his face appears to be almost smiling… and another photo of him collapsed and engulfed in flame. There were more photos of him burned and, yesterday, when the news came through that he had died I could not help myself but to imagine what may have gone through his mind. I’m trying to understand that total resolve he had chosen that day to so sway his conscious decisions for such a fate. And for what? Are these ultimate sacrifices worth the cost? A question I can only begin to contemplate. 

I have titled the poem “The 29th”  because it sounds unfinished (the 29th what?). There are two reasons for this. Firstly, what word fits? Immolator? Too harsh and I don’t think it’s a word anyway. Sacrifice? Implies political stance. It goes unsaid so you can fill in the blank. Secondly, it is unfinished because… how many more will there be?

The 29th

You were living in exile somewhere
You fiercely did not call home.
You prepared, naming the thing;
Consumed by conviction. That morning
You woke up determined. Buttoning
Up your best, eyes cauterized to the goal.
Rolled up your sleeves, ready, for the final
Ceremony: careful anointing
And for a fleeting
moment you ran and
ran, fast, flew
through the streets:
a smiling pyre
(with smoke and
fire your tail) and
in that untouchable
time you were a flashover
combusting between one
world and the next:
a dancing angel,
fervour’s flame
Then faces blurred. Your clamour
Collapsed. Living ashes.
Your unspoken letter is now a cinder
Riding along the cuff of the wind.

The Fires of Baalbek

19 Feb

My first post! But first, a story:
This poem was requested by Lebanese poet, Hani Ali Awada, just this last week. I was travelling through Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley and spent the afternoon in awe of the enormous and stunning Roman ruins in Baalbek. My three friends and I stayed at the Jupiter Hotel and met Hani, the owner. I was absolutely delighted to find out that he was a poet (first) and hotel owner (second). A surprising treat that Hani showed us the memorial room he had set up for a late Lebanese poet, Khalil Mutran, and another room dedicated to monthly poetry readings (hot tourist tip). As the evening ensued my friends and I spent three hours being entertained by Hani and and another artist (Tamer Chreif) around a much appreciated wood fire in Hani’s lobby (one of my friends was a fireman so no worries there) sipping Lebanese coffee (think cinnamony sugared espresso). Hani was persuaded to give a dramatic reading of a recent poem in Arabic – and it was beautifully moving. In exchange, he requested that I write one for him – which I did.

He gave me the title of the American Poet.

Therefore, a blog was necessary.

Here is the poem:

The Fires of Baalbek

How little has changed
For the Lebanese of Sun City:
Millennia may pass
But intricacies remain.

I don’t just mean the ruins.
The smiling eyes,
The jovial, amicable welcoming in,
And the fire, the fire, the fire.

There is nothing like huddling
Round a wood-burning stove.
Our poet host, Hani, feeding the flames
Log after laugh after story after log.

Even when the electricity cuts out.
But remains are not ruins;
What remains, stays, endures.
Another log.

The people I have met
Are these beautiful pillars:
Weathering the dearest storms
And standing.

What we have come to learn:
We are intricately connected.
How little things have changed.
And the fire is still young.