Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance

It's almost 11:11 of 11-11-11
But this isn't about numbers…
A simple row of ones.
Or maybe it is.

It's about the number 1
Already being too many.

It's about forcing
Sweet innocent children
To become trained killers.
It's about sending them out
To kill and be killed.

The number 1 Is already too many.

I met Arthur Charles VanTowsey
In Sydney. He was already 60.
He told of his youth in Auckland.
House filled with musicians
And singers from afar...
Guests of his
Pianist and organist father Arthur Cyril
And his
Opera singer mother Mamie.
There was always noise
In that home...
Noise of rehearsals,
Noise of friendships,
Noise of children.

In his early work
Van delivered telegrams
First on his push bike
And later on a motorbike.
He carried little tree seedlings
And planted them along is routes.
Go to Auckland and look for them.

It was a time and place
Of quiet confidence 
That each person
Could (and would)
Make a difference
For the benefit of all.

Van and his mates
Felt the distant sting
Of England's raging
Push against the Nazis.
They tried to understand
Why the US was not part.

But knowing their part,
This band of friends
Rushed to join the fight.

They trained together.
They became defenders
Of the just
And killers
Of the unjust.
They eagerly awaited
Their time to get
Over there.
Units trained and were sent out.
Units trained and were sent out.
Units trained and were sent out.
And Van noticed that
Training periods were being
Shortened and each battalion
Was sent out sooner and sooner
Than the one before,
Each training always less.

Van wrote to the prime minister
Protesting that the jewels of
New Zealand's future
Were being sent to certain
Slaughter.
The prime minister
Did not respond.

Van and his mates
Were sent to England,
Then onward to Egypt,
And finally to Greece.
They fought.
They died.
In the midst of one battle
Van watched as his best friend
Pushed a trolley of supplies:
A sudden blast
Blew off his head.
His hands remained on the trolley
And his body continued
To walk forward headless...
Before finally collapsing.
At the end of that day
Arthur Charles VanTowsey lived,
Wounded but alive,
One of only five left
Of the original 21st Battalion
Out of Wellington.
The last of the band.
The last of the hope.

I remember Van's tears
Each Remembrance Day
I spent with him in Oz.

It wasn't abstract for him.
The number 1
IS
Already too many.

Bette Forester
Toronto
about 10:15 am 11 Nov 11

Sunday, October 2, 2011

As I Relinquish...

As I relinquish myself to this night's sleep,
My rabbit ears bring me TVO images
Of Rushdie speaking of his books.
And of his drive to write them.
He says, after all, the human is
The only animal that is Storyteller.

I muse on this in dreams and awake
To read Gaiman's American Gods,
A story of humans and their gods
And their mutual need to believe
In each other...
In each others' story...
To be associated with story...
To be Story.
All the while L. Cohen
Sings via iTunes and
Brings tears...
Hallelujah! in the Tower of Song.

I pause and remember
Tiff's Not Wanted on the Voyage:
The old god who invokes
Noah's participation
In extending His story.
How in the stage version
Noah's family search each other's
Faces for understanding...
Then nod in confused acceptance
Of Noah's story.

Leonard says the Light is coming
From a crack in the wall.
Of course his story's about democracy
Coming to the USA...
Now a national story of debt
That grips us all in it's spiritual despair.

I can hear it about other cracks in other walls.
The Light is always the same.

It is the Light of Recognition
Of human spirit... it is the Light of Knowing
Our part.... it is the Light of Acceptance
Of life... and its cycle with death.

Leonard, as well as Salman, Neil, Timothy et al
Shine Light on snippets of my own story.
That Light exposes myself to myself.
I guess we each choose storytellers to call our own.
Some write, some sing, some tap dance,
Some seek directly the hearts of others.
After all, we need each other to sense...
To discover...
To find The Story...

Bette Forester
Toronto
30 July 11

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Altar Stands

My altar stands
Directly in front
Of me.
I kneel…
Feel wool harsh
Beneath bare knees.
...I k-neel…
...Feel wool harsh
...Beneath bare k-nees.
...I k-notice Ks
...Like Bill K-near:
...He too
...Is silent k-now.

I take up sandlewood beads,

Still pungent after
All these years…
Rub them together
Between prayerful palms…
...As I've been admonished
...K-not ever to do.
The sound comforts
And focusses
Mind to heart
And back again.
Slow intake of breath, now.
Steadies.
Makes foundation
For what's to come.

Finally…

With eyes searching…
Finding,
Pin-point in heart
I chant.
And chant and chant.

At first

There is intention.
Then only chanting.
...Again, I k-notice
...Bill's Kin-ear.
...EAR.
The SOUND of chanting
Becomes link to
Wayward thoughts
And returns
Me to myself.

Other links vie

Like forks in roads.
The many giving way
To the chosen…
Obvious in tone
And time.
...Time beckons.
...Chants want haste.
I rub beads again…
Let sound gently
Waft me back to
Vibration of chanting
In my chest.
Breath remains constant,
Deep.
Flow of chant
Belies movement
Within my soul.
I chant and chant
More.
Confidence
Envelops.
...Confidence…
...Confidence.
...ConfidencES
...Told and guarded
...Give credence
...To trust-
...Worthiness.
Here lies truth
For the taking.

Bette
Toronto
2003

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Forest Primeval

Great orb of sun makes
Dapple green and yellow.
Sweet fruit swells
To unrelenting ripeness.
Pungent perfumes mix with
Rich humus odors,
Permeate air that
Hangs so heavy as to be
Almost visible.
Velvet leaves rustle
Against each other
In endless breeze-dance.
Day again becomes night
In rhythm
Of action and sleep.
Spend and renew.

This night
Relinquishes its rest
To clamour of thunder
And piercing of lightening.
This massive tree snaps
As world’s first intimation
Of matchstick.
Quick. Brittle.
Mighty tree cracks.
Crashes to ground.
Smolders with internal smoke.
This one may flame into fire.
Or it may not.
Acrid smell does not predict.

Time and time again.
Before Adam.
No ears... no sound.
No eyes... no light.
No nose... no perfume.
No hand... no touch.
No mouth... no taste.
No existence without witness.

Adam brings
Five brand new senses.
All in perfect working order.
Now all forest performs
For an audience
In celebration of its
Own existence.
But Adam is lonely.
How does he know?
Alone he does not speak.
No voice... no record.
No words... no subtleties.
No language... no connection.

Eve's arrival gives
Voice to existence.
Fusion with Life.
Two.
Observers connect, define,
Enlarge universe.
Sentient beings together
Simply
Share
Moment.

Bette
Toronto

1997

Caledon Reflections

I find myself here today
As if by chance:
Circumstances have conspired
Over the past twenty-or-so years
To bring me here to Caledon.

The first evidence
Of this conspiracy of chance:
An ad for a job.
I applied.
I got the job and
There I met Jennifer in the early months
Of her Buddhist practice.
Her chanting filled her with confidence.
Some days her not-chanting
Filled her face with tension.
As if by chance, I noticed.

The conspiracy continued with
A chance meeting
Of Mrs. Izumi on Bloor Street.
Her radiant life filled
An aura for a mile around.
As if by chance, I noticed.

I heard Jennifer chant for the
First time

On a shared trip to New York.
We wanted tickets for a play
That night.

As if by chance, we got our
First choice:

A Chorus Line.
I later learned

As if by chance, it was written
By a Buddhist
Based on district meetings
Among members
Who were young performers.

The next step
In this chance-full conspiracy
Came from my own inner longings:
A series of repetitive dreams.
In each dream I chanted
And I felt a beautiful contentment…
Only to awake to disappointment
Because I didn’t know
How to chant
In my real life.
Oh, I noticed that!
So, I asked Jennifer to teach
Me to chant.
As if by chance, we both had time
On our hands.
I practised with her each day
And, as if by chance,
My relationship with my mother
Got back on track
After years of estrangement.
Yes… I noticed.

Oh, my!
Twenty years of this conspiracy
Of chance
Have wrought great changes in my life.
Nurtured and protected by the warmth
Of my Soka friends I have stretched:

I sang for President Ikeda in Japan

And he did magic tricks
For us.

Because Veronica asked,

I wrote plays for the
Junior Pioneers
And they, grown up now,
Greet me with hugs.

At the WG General Meeting

I tap-danced for the first time
In 35 years.

Now, I’ve played drums

At Caledon
To find a renewed
Spirit of unity.
And Mrs. Izumi
Played the piano
For us.

All by chance… I know.
But now I understand
The spelling is C-H-A-N-T-S.

By chants I now know
I am Soka Gakkai.
I am kosen-rufu.

What a truly remarkable
and fortunate
Bunch of people we are!

Bette
Caledon

29 June 2003

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kindness of Strangers

As I move around this city every day, whether walking or riding the TTC, I frequently encounter glorious evidence that we're all happy being human together. On Monday I saw two such instances and decided to start a new blog to mark these warm happenings.

Kindness of Strangers

This city is Toronto.
TTC is the Toronto pub trans, aka Toronto Transit Commission.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Designer Bees

In my dream...
.....Lone, luminous
.....Honey-toned stepping stone.
.....Around it buzz bees,
.....Many together as near a hive,
.....Each a different designer bee.
.....Some alight on glowing stone.
.....Others hover low and near-by
.....Buzzing a dance with purpose
.....I want to join.

Bees defy aerodynamic design
And fly fat bodies in face of
Scientifically declared impossibility,
Joyously confident of thin air's
Support for their dance.

Bee business is this buzzing dance.
A buzzing map
That points to fields filled with sweet flowers.
Movements say what buzz alone cannot:
.....I've found flowers.
.....Go this way, this far,
.....And you can find them too.

Bees, like ants, share
Loot and tell each other
Where to find it.
.....I’ve been here.
.....Where have you been?
But bees…

Bees take sweet nectar
Without disturbing flower
And manage in their process
To ensure flower’s rebirth.
Then they create
Not just fodder for their own rebirth
But ambrosia for the gods.
Ancients make mead
Imitating gods
And know they are as blessed…
By the bees.
__________

The dream I describe has given me the metaphor for my work. Indeed, before that dream my two perfect grandsons called me Nana B. After the dream, I became Nana Bee—the change in spelling giving voice to my purpose.

My purpose is always sharing my ideas. My background includes a BA in Art and a career in graphic design that has spanned the US, Australia and Canada. My own buzzing dance involves design, poetry and even tap dancing. This is the stuff of my creative life. I offer it as mead. Let's drink together!

Poem:
Excerpt from Designer Bees, Toronto, 2001