Brian Bilston got famous through writing cleverly rhyming, socially relevant and witty poems on Twitter. Then he published his first collection, You Took the Last Bus Home. Bilston writes poetry…just ‘cause. (He has a day job.) He just does. Sometimes they rhyme, sometimes they don’t. Other times they are long, sometimes a mere few words. Poetry, he feels, is still the medium that connects the poet with other people, and vice versa.
I also write poetry, sometimes serious stuff, which I fiddle with for days. Other times just doggerel – I think that’s what people would call it. I used to be embarrassed by my attempts, but having rediscovered the joys of writing poetry through Bilston’s work, I am now officially unashamed. I used to scribble them all over the place, Facebook, iPad Notes, etc. So I’m gathering all the loose rhymes here. They are the random thoughts of me, a Middle-aged Bear of Little Brain.
Just click on the link to read the poem.
20. Summer Meltdown
July 17, 2018 – When I wrote this, I was feeling seriously overheated. So it’s a bit rude. Summer is not my favourite time of the year. I wish it would get over so that I can stop feeling like a boiled-in-the-bag bear.
19. Cyber Pet
17 May 2018 – Watching the vacuum cleaner do its thing this morning, I thought to myself, I’m talking to this thing like he’s a pet. Uh-oh, I said “he”…I’m losing it.
Mother’s Day, 2018 – My mother is one of the smartest women I know. She made me a reader. In this photo my twin brother and I, in matching tops, are listening with complete attention to her reading a story in the public library. We were not yet six. This one is for her.
May 2018 – Sung to the tune of “Yesterday”, by the Beatles. This is how I feel about this particular (very darn tricky) part of my current job.
May 2018 – I like words, all sorts of words. But sometimes people just use BIG words to impress others, and actually use them wrongly. Grrrr….
April 2018 – Suddenly, the days went from snowy winter to blazing summer. The kids come out of hibernation and take to the streets, screaming with pent-up energy. Clothes come off, exposing bodies best left to the darkness of indoors. The houses here are built to retain heat and are like large ovens, boiling the occupants in baths of sweat. Remember Goldilocks? She said the bears’ porridge was either too hot or too cold. I’m Goldilocks. I moan about shovelling snow and I moan when it’s hot. But I do love the snow.
14. Do not go gently
March 2018 – English poet Jenny Joseph wrote the poem “Warning”. It is known for the opening lines: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.” She died at 85 years old on Jan. 8, 2018. I borrowed the opening lines for this poem, since some days I feel I don’t want to be a nice, invisible middle-aged person any more. Though honestly, Jenny Joseph said it just perfectly.
March 2018 – These verses were written in a flurry of relief for having finished the arduous process of citizenship. When I handed back my Permanent Resident card and got the fancy citizenship certificate instead, I wonder – how is it different now? What is new about being Canadian? I call it an ode-let, because it might be an ode, a lyric poem, but it isn’t grand. Was darn difficult to work in the French, but I had to, Canada being mostly bilingual.The rhyme scheme is ABCB DDEEB/FGHG IIJJG/HIJI KKLLI/ and so on. Note the repetition of the end rhymes in lines 2, 4 and 9 of each verse. When I wrote it, I was actually singing “A Bicycle Made for Two” (a.k.a. “Daisy, Daisy”) to myself, and, at a pinch, you could do that too…
My poem in English and Afrikaans
Here is my attempt to write a poem in English with a few Afrikaans words and phrases thrown in. This is because my Grandmother, whom the poem is about and whom I definitely resemble, would never ever have spoken to me, her “Little Martha”, in English, and I had to keep her words like I remember them. The poem is in rhyming couplets, AA, BB, CC, etc., including the lines ending in Afrikaans words. In this one, I think – for once in my life – I got some lines just right. Every time I read them, I get the same sad feeling of lives and places disappearing: “And see in her face, so like my own, the sober stare, the heavy bone, the bloodline that forever ties us with looks and places, times and vistas.”
Translation: “Gee dan vir Ouma die skottel, Marthatjie” – “Please give Grandma the basin, Little Martha”
“Stoep” – porch
11. Love soup
Just a love poem…
10. Laid off
You’d think that getting laid off means that you’d have all that time to do the things you really enjoy. Nope. that’s not how it works. You end up waiting and waiting. Here the idea was to match the few words with the empty feeling inside me. Every three lines have 5, 2 and 2 syllables.
This was my fan mail to Berke Breathed, the author of the Bloom County comic strips. I am such a devotee! B.t.w. “Milquetoast” is a cockroach who wears a top-hat and whispers his requests for food into people’s ears as they sleep.
This is a complicated rhyme scheme – heaven knows why I even started it. Basically it is AAAB and the final line in every verse rhymes with B, except for the last couplet. Of course, the thing about the Canadian pronunciation of “out” like “oot” and “about” like “aboot” is a bit of a dig by yours truly – no-one I know ever says that. It’s a Canadian archetype that doesn’t exist. Nor do they use “hey” or “eh” a lot – some of them do use “right” as an interjection quite frequently. But that might be like the proliferation of “like”.
6. Winter Chore
I suspect I had a song’s refrain in my head when I wrote this – “Hit the Road Jack”?
I wake up every morning to see the chair with the seat embroidered by the person who would have been my sister-in-law, had she lived. The chair was inherited from the person who would have been my mother-in-law, had she lived. So, this is for Pat Kavanagh, and Olive O’Brien. The rhyme scheme is the most difficult ever – all the end word rhyme with “white”, except for the final lines of each verse that rhyme with each other – “chair” and “declare”. This AAAA scheme is a monorhyme, common in Latin and Arabic. Leonard Cohen was a genius at this rhyme scheme. I thought the austerity and formalism of the rhyme schemes suited the formal, sad emotion I feel when I look at that chair.
Note: “Azulite” is a mineral consisting of translucent pale blue smithsonite – looks like moonstone.
“Braai” is the South African word for “barbecue”. South Africans love a braai – it’s a meal as well as a ritual. But someone has to deal with the leftovers, and leftovers are particularly gruesome if they are of a barbecued duck.
3. Winter comforts❤️
A long time ago, no-one knows when, someone, no-one knows who (but it wasn’t Ogden Nash), wrote a little rhyme which is now a classic meme. It goes like this: “The spring is sprung, the grass is riz./ I wonder where the boidie is./They say the boidie’s on the wing./But that’s absoid. The wing is on the boid.” So this is my variation. “Ris’” would be “risen”.
Back to the list of books of poetry by a Bear of Little Brain.