Archive for June, 2012

The Aegean

Its briny emanation has a key
to every seaside cottage.
At will, it comes or departs.
No bed is sacrosanct;
all bear a whiff of its imprint.
Some nights, it is
a subtle perfume and alluring.
Other visits, more
like cologne splashed on by
a teenage boy,
its cloying scent overpowers.
Even the mighty
Aeolus, son of Hellen, seems
to be in its thrall.
But whether the wind blows
or not, it is present,
embedded in gathering waves.
Its salty tang a silent
siren’s call no nose can resist.
So pervasive, it colors
the taste of every sailor’s kiss.

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Stepping Out

How dreary
this City of Lights looked in
February’s shadow.
Like some aging housewife
caught walking
at dawn without makeup on.
But April’s
sunshine has unbuckled her
shapeless overcoat.
Now streaks of sunlight filter
through the canopy.
Accordion music and laughter
waft upon a
gentle Mediterranean breeze.
Stepping out
in a dress pulled from last
summer’s closet,
with just a touch of blush,
Paris again wins
the approval of every stare.

I Am Legend / Richard Matheson

This edition of I Am Legend features the complete novel plus ten additional stories by the author.  The novel and stories were written during the 1950s and they certainly have the feel of the horror/science fiction genres of that time period.  The short stories are loud and brassy in tone and could have used the services of a good editor.  I Am Legend is better written and it has a fascinating premise.  Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth…but he is not alone.  Following a mysterious plague, the remaining survivors have become vampires.  By day, Neville stalks the undead through the ruins of civilization, and when he finds where they are hidden, he kills them and sends them back to the grave for good.  But at night he has to barricade himself into his home as the vampires gather outside in hopes of hunting him.  Matheson has fun playing with the possibilities of this premise, and for the first half of the story he keeps things fresh and interesting.  Unfortunately, he runs out of steam towards the novel’s end and seems to be uncertain on how to conclude the tale.  If I had read this novel and included stories as a teenager, I’m sure I would have been wowed.  As an older man, they struck me as a bit silly and overwrought.

Out Stealing Horses / Per Petterson

Trond Sander is sixty-seven years old and he has recently moved to a small rundown house in a rural region of Norway.  His only companion is his dog Lyra.  With winter closing in, he recalls his childhood, specifically a summer spent with his father at a remote cabin bordering Sweden in the aftermath of World War II.  It will be the last time in his life that he sees his father, who shortly afterward disappears and abandons his family.  Clearly a life-defining experience, the reader slowly begins to understand why this summer holds the key to why Sander is living alone as an older man.  The delight of this novel is its leisurely pace as his latticework of remembrance comes together to provide the book’s epiphany.  Through young Sander’s innocent eyes, Petterson shows him trying to solve the puzzle of the adult world around him, and decades later the older man is still grappling to understand the events that took place so many summers ago.  Some will find this book too slow moving, with not enough action to sustain their interest.  But from the first I took pleasure in Petterson’s carefully crafted prose as he presented the mysteries and subplots of the story.  In the end, when the pieces do come together, I was rewarded with a strong emotional jolt.  It is a novel that sinks deep and lingers after the last page is turned.

Freedom At Midnight / Larry Collins and Dominque Lapierre

Freedom at Midnight, published in 1975, describes the key events in the Indian independence movement during the years 1947-1948.  I picked up this book because in 2011 I had read another book, Indian Summer : the Secret History of the End of an Empire, which covered the same subject and time period.  While Indian Summer focuses primarily on Nehru, the Mountbattens, and Jinnah, Freedom is a more comprehensive history of all the major players involved in India’s gaining independence from Great Britain in 1947.   In Indian Summer, Mahatma Gandhi’s importance is given short shrift.  In this book, his actions and motivations are highlighted and take center stage.  Collins and Lapierre also excel in their coverage of the Hindu-Muslim conflict following Partition.  Ethnic cleansing would be a better term for it.  Of the two books, Freedom would be the one I recommend for anyone wanting to get an overall picture of what took place in India during this time period and why.  If you want to know more about the private lives of Nehru, the Mountbattens, and Jinnah, including their sexual inclinations, Indian Summer is the one to pick up.  In either case, the reader is guaranteed an eye opening account of the events surrounding the creation of India and Pakistan.  Sadly, the seeds of enmity and discord sown during Partition sixty-five years ago are still bearing bitter fruit today.

Island View

Mostly blue
It is gloriously fused
Punctuated by
Distant jutting crests
Wreathed
With a halo of clouds

One light shade
Atop a darker hue
The synergy
Of that delicate sky
Coupled with
An indefatigable sea

A deceptive surface
Thick enough for eyes
To skate across
Yet ambition drowns
Should you dare
Get lost in the view