Saturday, April 23, 2016

No Feet of Clay

In the crowded subway train filled with commuters heading home from a hard day's work he finds the most comfortable seat - on his dad's feet, that familiar place where he is assured contact, that place on which on many occasions past he sat, clinging to dad's leg as dad walked back and forth with him while he screamed in delight. On dad's feet he is assured comfort. The hard surface of the subway seat loses out in that competition. At dad's feet there is certainty and confidence. His safety is assured. The tenuous surrounding is no cause for worry. Dad's feet provides the stability the swaying train cannot guarantee. There is no other place on that train he would rather be than on dad's feet.

[photo art by Ric Couchman]

Friday, April 22, 2016

That Most Ordinary and Natural Thing

Have You Heard...?
Ric Couchman

And why do I marvel
That as the shadows flee
The oak leaf fades
Then falls to ground
And am uneasy 
That it is so soon
Nothing but dust

And why do some use
Its sudden passing
As sermonic homily
About our future habitation
Either in some sultry place
Or in some dreary land
Of milk and honey

And do you hear the sages
Warning of life's brevity
The need to live well
Suddenly philosophical
In the face of the inscrutable
Taking life seriously
Until forgotten again in living

And will we not marvel again
When another leaf fades
And then falls to the ground
Becoming uneasy
That it is so soon but dust
Forgetting that such is our path
A thing ordinary and natural

[photo art by Ric Couchman]

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Freedom is the Essence of Beauty

Ephemerality and Impermanence 
Ric Couchman

Do I dare destroy
The Art I create?
Would I consider
Ceding ownership
And not hold on to it?
Am I willing
To set it free?

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Shadowy Figure Behind Brazil's "Coup"

The coup is on the way in Brazil. It looks like Brazil's traditional elite will eventually be able to acquire the power that eluded them for the past twelve years. And behind it all looms that silent, shadowy figure just as it loomed large behind all the other coups in this hemisphere, unleashing its own brand of imperialism and bent on its geopolitical  designs of dominance and global hegemony.

[photo art by Ric Couchman]

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Landing (of an Aircraft) as Performance

Picture the scene if you will. Tension replaces the subdued and relaxed feeling that previously filled the atmosphere for the past four or five hours. A cacophony of clicking sounds follow as the intercom announces the aircraft's impending touchdown. Flight attendants scurry back and forth as seat-belts are fastened. Strange sounds emanate from the aircraft, definitely more amplified and more noticeable than previously. The amplified droning of the aircraft as it steadily decreases altitude, cannot drown out the silence emanating from the passengers, some of whom cast nervous glances outside the side windows. The cockpit gives the attendants final instructions to be seated. The silence in the aircraft intensifies. Silent thoughts occupy the mind of each passenger. None voices her thoughts in those moments; she thinks them. And one can only imagine what those thoughts might be. 

The speed of descent increases. Objects outside, which barely moved before, now rush by (No time to reflect on the theory of relativity here. Who cares about E = MC squared at this moment?). A few hands are joined, perhaps (Who can tell? No one is looking.). Prayers are whispered (perhaps). Breaths are held (perhaps). Muscles are stiffened (perhaps). An eternity later, the sudden thud of the landing gear making contact with the runway causes the release of those breaths, the relaxing of those muscles, and the uplifting of thankful hearts as the aircraft rolls powerfully along before its arrest by the application of reverse thrust, culminating in a thunderous applause by the passengers who are either impressed by the efficient landing skills of the pilot or simply relieved. But that is not what is important here. It is the sudden sound of that applause post "performance", that release of contracted tension that occupies my thoughts, reminding me that almost all my fellow passengers on the aircraft are from the English-speaking Caribbean and that such is customarily their combined response to the landing of an aircraft. And despite the sonorous plaudits I doubt whether an encore would have been desired.

[photo art by Angela Pereira]

Friday, April 8, 2016

Company in My Bed

I woke up this morning to find that I had company in my bed. Julius, I know what you are thinking. It is not the kind of company you are thinking of (I can see your imagination going into overdrive, you opposite-of-clean old man 😀), though I would certainly welcome such company with warmth and open arms. The company of which I speak is that most detestable of creatures - the cockroach. My mattress was on the veranda of the second floor of the two-family house in which I am staying. I had chosen to sleep on the veranda at nights so that I could enjoy the cool Bahia air. Beats being in New York at this time with a weather that cannot seem to make up its mind whether to be cold, wet, or just right. The temperature in Bahia (guess where in South America it is 😊) is just right (at least for me) at this time of the year. Anyway, back to that cockroach. 

I grew up with cockroaches. If you are from the so-called third world, cockroaches are an accepted reality; they live with you. I have images of my father pouncing on them and dispatching them with a shoe or flip-flop. I dispatched my unwelcome and loathsome visitor with the same efficiency as that of my father. Learned behavior obviously, except that my summary execution of the abominable pest was combined with a palpable disdain and disgust - quite a contrast to the fortitude I remember seeing my father display. The fellow was similar to the ones with which I grew up in my homeland, Guyana. It was huge and of a light brown color. 

The cockroaches in New York City are bearably smaller though still capable of generating similar loathing and disgust in me. But guess what? Neither the ones with which I grew up nor the smaller New York variety can come close to the ones I experienced in my second homeland, Jamaica. In my beautiful Jamdown the cockroaches there are slightly bigger than the one I drone struck this morning (got the little "f-word" on the first strike too.). But what I find most incredible is that the Jamaican roaches seem to possess an exterior made of metal. A truck could run over one of those guys, and it would still live. Anyway, I digress; please pardon the slight detour. It has been several hours since the ill-fated invasion (reminds me of the Bay of Pigs) and since the attempted occupation of my bed, but my skin still "crawls" from thinking of the experience. Ugh!!! Looks like it's back to the status quo - no sleeping on the veranda for me tonight.

[photo art by Ric Couchman]

Thursday, April 7, 2016

And the credit goes to...

A dear Facebook friend recently lauded my writing, observing that I write with passion and in a manner that grips the reader's attention. But what really struck me was when that friend said, "Keep writing. You are blessed to be a writer." I immediately found a quiet space and with tears welling up in my eyes, gave thanks to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts, asking that most powerful of being for the humility and grace to continue to do that with which I have been blessed. The truth is...throughout my high school and college years I was intimidated by the writing process. I hated writing. I still do to some extent, for I find it enervating and consuming. My skill as a writer developed on account of my insatiable appetite for reading, which habit exposed me to a variety of writing styles. What was also critical was that I had a professor who did not simply point out errors in my writing; he also offered suggestions as to what the actual correction should be. This approach certainly made me more open to feedback and less afraid to make mistakes. The study of Classical Greek during my college years also helped to solidify my deeper understanding, appreciation, and application of English grammar, but the acknowledgement for my development in mechanics, style, and usage (as these relate to writing) goes to Joseph M. Williams, E.B. White, and William Strunk, Jr., whose advice I highly recommend to those who are interested in becoming better writers. I myself am not quite there yet, but I am getting there.