G. W. Down

Elegance, Rhythm and Layers

 



The Poet

The rocking of a mother in her chair – soothing the newborn with gentle tempo while softly murmuring simple rhymes – was the catalyst for what became that newborn's lifelong passion for rhythmic poetry. A delight in word games evolved into a determined effort to make their syllables ring with new depth for familiar images.

Some might call it obsession to pursue a craft not widely regarded as having value (at least, not in North America). If it be obsession, so be it. Why do it? I see no need for explanation. Most persons would agree that life has value. Poetry is how we live.

A good poem should work at multiple levels. Meaning should unfold for the reader or hearer gradually, layer by layer. This is why I strive for metaphors with dual and triple tiers.

The writing of my first poem was finished more than half a century ago. I have written a few more since then, and some people have graciously told me that some of those poems resonate with them, speak to them in a way that grips their senses or brings them fresh angles of perception. I hope to write a few more poems in the coming years that will do the same for a few more people.

 


G. W. Down presents a selection of his poetry
at a reading in Kelowna, BC

Biography of G.W. Down





FLIGHT TO NOWHERE

She wore the suit of vaunted nothingness,
With blank face and hypodermic-pocked arm.
Ringed by thrall and bloused in self-absorption
She glazed through halls she thought she danced, 'til a
Door slammed and terror crept through the keyhole
To jacket her world with shapeless colour.
Nameless tones collided with her hearing;
She swirled in the skirt of brimming floodlight,
Drummed by a distant moaning, emptily
Indiscernible from her surroundings,
Cast among the spirit fragments, senses
Fugitive and screaming for the return.

 

 

 

MAN OF THE CITY

An ancient tribal instinct gnaws his nerves
Reminding him he has an open flank;
The home he left this morning still preserves
Its quiet calm, its honest face so frank,
That speaks of labour earning comfort there,
Where no degree of lock or theft alarm
Is adequate to make one less the ware
Of threat of vandals, thugs and other harm.
And when his woman goes about the streets
Will she be safe from greedy piercing eyes?
Must she mistrust each stranger that she meets,
Examine every phrase for covert lies?
The city gathers in its troubled clay
And struggles through another frightened day.

 

OF THIS NIGHT

There are no moon and stars tonight,
Some lover gave them all away;
His lady owns them and his life —
Once more the sky's in disarray.

There have been many darkened nights
When trysts have beckoned trusting gifts;
Generous souls have braved their scope
And opened astronomic rifts.

On this and every black-crowned night
Old promises are framed anew,
And sometimes darkness has prevailed
For not all pledges stand when due.

Celestial vows are smothered up
In jars of earth with lids of rue;
Though these absorb and douse the light,
A worthy heart knows what to do:

It grasps the proffered sparkling dream,
And then a larger version makes,
Restores the product to its source;
So love redeems what first it takes.

 

LIFESCAPE

Let me return
To the art studio of my youth,
And be again fresh canvas
Waiting for the play of colours,
Free from the frames
That pronounce completion,
Ready for tinges and splashes
to enrich the pattern.

This visit may provide time
To erase errant strokes,
To change dark shades
That point to darker corners,
To brighten hues
That heighten understanding,
To alter the elements
Being gathered for the gallery,
To deny the inevitability
Of the collection's final composition.

 

 

THE WATERFALL

Your love is like a waterfall,
It pours forth constantly;
It tumbles down on scenes around,
And fills them gracefully;
It keeps its flow unceasing
As it brings its force to bear,
Ever to another whirlpool moving
To sooth away all care.
Deep feelings of peace
Swim softly to me,
For you have eased
The ripples on my sea.



 

 


photo courtesy of Stella Mazur Preda

 

IN THE GUM-WOOD FOREST

At fireside in the gum-wood forest
With its leather-bound leaves on oaken shelves
Bearing the fruit of countless minds gathered,
We clasp and share stories of ourselves.

You curl your fingers against the phrases;
I read flourishing passion and joy by
Scanning your laughter, light as the crack of
The stone-fringed flame beside your blazing eyes.

In solitude we wrap hearts together,
The timbre of voices softens and dips;
Tender low tones dance back from the shadows,
Bathed in the breath from your nourishing lips.




SPEAK TO ME, BELOVED

Spin out your thoughts in streaming rhythmic beats;
To emotions give elaboration,
Gilt tones to the pounding from your soul.

Suspend your clipped speach.

I will have none of your sparse fragments;
I want to hear your mind exhaled
And etched in wondrous rounded musings.

 

 

 

 

 


photo courtesy of Stella Mazur Preda



IF NOT FOR A SUMMER'S DAY

If not for a summer's day
One would think all time had ceased,
Since the fall winter spring are
An endless procession of grief;
And the light in her eyes was
A rainbow; a mischievous thief
Was her smile, stealing my sight
And my mind — not my heart, which
Always belonged in summer
With you. Now the fall winter spring
Grow a grey garden round me,
For time is a pitiless thing.

 


AFTER THE TEN O'CLOCK NEWS

Spare us, Uncle,
Not another tiresome tirade
On the great eternal mystery
Of men not learning
Anything from history.

We too well know the past mistakes
Of our fellow human souls,
And we could counsel them, we know,
Were they now here,
Not six below.

There is not one of us, who from the shore,
Could not dam a river's course,
Yet the swimmer caught by undertow
Can but strive against the current,
Cannot stop the flow.

No, not one here who cannot solve
The maze and find
The riddle's gate
For all events
Save those in which we now participate.

 


 






TO GO AGAIN TO SALISBURY

Dry wine when we meet,
From an empty automatic press,
An embrace of ice,
Cold as the nave of that ancient cathedral
Where the Great Charter
Of our shared life was sealed long ago
When I did not dream
Love could be entombed.

Is it light or lack
Thereof that tints your eyes to such dull grey?
Oh, that I could draw
The blue back into your eyes by deft brush-strokes,
And caress your brow
To its erstwhile shimmering lustre
That lifted spirits
As the floodlights lift and float that tall church-spire.

It was our church-spire
When we strolled through its grounds in our honeyed month,
Before stone silent
Barriers obtruded in our midst,
Origin unknown,
To preside over love's slow decay
Like the towering
Sentinel rocks on Salisbury's plain.

We owned all the world
When we had nothing but ourselves
And the face of hope
For long bright years together.
Perhaps cathedrals
Resurrection-sites may be; if we return
Love may rise once more —
Can we go there again?

 


Biography

G. W. Down was educated at Hillfield College and McMaster University (Bachelor of Science degree). He spent many years assessing risks and devising terms and conditions for protection against them. Later he became involved in marketing and promotion of the works of Canadian publishers and lesser-known writers through The Book Band, a venture in which he is a partner. He has also done volunteer work for several decades.

The year 2011 marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Tower Poetry Society. G. W. Down has been a member for the past 30 years.

He wrote his autobiography, condensed into eight lines, and called it

"Melted Dreams":

The melted dreams of yesterday
Are fuel for the fire
That burns with flame so strong to form
The next day’s proud desire;
Thus, deep within the crucible
Of time, life, age and youth,
The old wants with the new will fuse,
Still searching for the truth.

 


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