Today on the Scribbler we're excited to be trying a new format. There is a wonderful short story followed up by a 4Q Interview with Professor Emeritus Roger Moore who is an award-winning academic, poet, short story writer, novelist, film maker and visual artist. You can discover more about this talented gentleman by visiting his links below. Remembrance Day has been featured on commuterlit.com. Copyright is held by the author. Used by permission.
The old man watched a drop of red wine slide slowly down the side of the bottle.
It was November 11, his birthday.
Seventy-three years ago, Father John had taken the boy's ear lobe between thumb and forefinger and pinched the nail deep into the flesh until the blood ran.
"This afternoon you will go down to the bamboo grove and cut a cane. Bring that cane to me and I will bless it."
That night, the boy woke up. Snuffles, snores, and an occasional sob broke the dormitory's silence. The bamboo was a long, cold serpent drawn up in bed beside him.
The next day he awoke to his seventh birthday.
Father John beckoned and the boy followed him to his cell and knelt with his hands stretched out like those of Christ on the Cross. The priest struck him with the bamboo cane six times on each hand.
" Your Savior, blessed be His name, suffered more, much more for you," the priest sighed. "Examine your soul. Find fault with each flaw, for you are unworthy."
The boy spent his birthday kneeling in prayer. He contemplated the wounds of Christ. He imagined each blow of the hammer and imagined the pain of cold nails biting into his warm flesh. He tasted bitter vinegar as it dripped off the sponge, gasped at the thrusting spear, felt the lash's sting as it fell across his flesh. He became the flagellated Christ and knelt before the crucifix, staring at himself eyeball to eyeball in the same way he looked at himself in the morning mirror.
The crucified Christ gazed back at him, his brother, his soul mate, his double.
"The eye you see is not an eye because you see it," Father John droned on. "It is an eye because it sees you. Christ sees you as you kneel there. He sees. He knows. He judges. Examine your soul with care," the priest raised his right hand and made the sign of the cross in the empty air. "Stay there until I return."
After an hour, a red drop of paint slipped slowly from the nail hole in Christ's right hand. The boy blinked. The red drop trembled then fell.
After two hours, Christ opened his eyes and smiled at the boy.
After three hours, salt-water formed at the corner of Christ's eye. It glistened in a sunbeam that entered through the cell's narrow window.
After four hours, tears began to flow down flesh and painted wooden face.
It was Remembrance Day, the boy's birthday. He was seven years old.
Seventy-three years later, the old man sat at the table. He watched the red wine trickle down the bottle. He remembered it all and his tears flowed again.
4Q: When did you start writing?
RM I was sent to a boarding school at an early age, when I was six or seven years old. I don't remember when exactly, and I don't remember much about the first two boarding schools I attended. What I do remember is being sat down every Sunday morning at a desk in a classroom along with all the other boys and being told to write a letter home to my parents. Those letters were censored and the resultant mild-as-milk prose was mailed home once a week. The reality of what I went through at my first two boarding schools and the wonderful words of the weekly letter praising the virtues of the boarding school life remain in my mind as a constant reminder of the ability of words to contrast the world that is with the world as it ought to be. I continued the habit of the weekly letter home until I left school at eighteen years old. Letter writing has continued as a constant in my life, reinforced now by the wonder of e-mail. Another constant is the real journal that I kept, written under the bedclothes by flashlight and telling a different story from the official one, yet just as false as the weekly letter. The third school I was sent to, age eleven, was very different and much less oppressive; it allowed more freedom, encouraged a certain amount of autonomy and creativity: the content of my letters surely changed as a result. Certainly my out-of-class writing did, and one of the first poems that I remember writing imitated the style of the Villon ballades that we were studying in French class. This poem of which I can still remember the refrain dates back to when I was fourteen years old.
4Q: How and when did you become interested in multi-media?
RM In 1995 I was invited by members of the Faculty of Education at the University of New Brunswick to become involved in the Oaxaca Project, a Faculty Exchange Program with the Escuela de Idiomas in the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca, in Mexico. When I arrived in Oaxaca, I presented four traditional seminars on teaching second languages to a faculty group that was computer literate. Even the students knew more about computers than I did. I found this lack of knowledge on my part to be a source of much embarrassment and I swore to take steps to improve my knowledge of the uses of technology. The next year, 1996, I won two university awards, one for teaching and one for research. While the teaching award offered no financial reward, the research award did and I invested my winnings in the first phase of a Certificate of Multi-Media Studies at the University of New Brunswick. I started the certificate in 1996 and finished it in 1999. I began the Certificate with a phobia for computers, but by the time I finished the certificate, my wife and I had built a webpage and had posted the first Ongoing Online Quevedo Bibliography, Francisco de Quevedo being the seventeenth-century Spanish poet on whose works I did my doctoral studies at the University of Toronto. Clare and I have always been interested in photography and we soon built web pages that showed aspects of the archaeological sites in the Oaxaca Valley. I was very interested in the possibilities of online teaching and several of my own courses soon involved having the students build their own webpages onto which they posted their essays. The traditional essay thus morphed into the web page creation. In 2002 I was granted a half-sabbatical and I enrolled in the Digital Film and Video Course run by Tony Merzetti at UNB. This allowed me to develop an interest in both film and video and my short film Birthday Suit, adapted from one of my own short stories of the same name, won second place in the Rogers Viewers Prize in the NB Silver Screen Film Festival of 2004. I wrote, directed, edited, and produced Birthday Suit, under the guidance of Tony Merzetti, my NB Film Co-op mentor, and participated in one way or another, both in front of and behind the camera, with another dozen New Brunswick short films. My webpage contains a description of the making of this movie. In 2007, I was invited to deliver the Sixteenth Milham Lecture at UNB and the making of this movie was the subject of that lecture.
Other aspects of my adventures in multi-media can be found on my website.
As an introduction, I would suggest viewing the readings of my Welsh poems
Waterfall is a nice introduction to my video poems.
4Q: Tell us something about your childhood.
RM My childhood was, in many ways, lost. I was (and still am) an only child and I scarcely remember my parents. They both worked and I only ever saw them on the evenings and weekends during school holidays. Looking back, I realize how little I knew and know about them. My own reality was a life at boarding school that was remarkably unpleasant in the first two schools, but not too bad in the third school, the one I attended from age 11 until age 18. My childhood at home was a shuffling from grandparent to grandparent and from aunt to aunt, interspersed with summer holidays on the continent with one or both of my parents. My life in school was the usual one of the only child separated from his parents and family. This separation was intensified when I went to school in England and the differences between my Welsh family and my new English self were augmented. This "difference" was accentuated by my ability to speak foreign languages. I was banned from speaking Welsh, though I did pick up little bits here and there from my maternal grandfather who was the last person in the family to speak any Welsh, but I made up for this by speaking French, Spanish, a little bit of Basque, and smatterings of language from whatever country we visited during the summer holidays abroad. This childhood of loneliness in a world of adults gave me one enormous blessing: the ability to entertain myself by creating a wonderful world filled with chessmen, puzzles, toy soldiers, a model railway, and an avid interest in books. This creativity remained with me throughout my life and has been a source of great comfort in my coaching, teaching, research, and creative careers.
Q4: What are you working on right now?
RM I have several projects on the go, as always. In 2010, my novel, People of the Mist, won an honorable mention in the David Adams Richards Award of the WFNB. I took it to the Humber School of Creative Writing in 2012 and completed a creative writing certificate with them, using the novel as a focus. I am still working on the novel. While at Humber, I met a group of wonderful people who wrote mainly in prose and I have remained in touch with them via an online writing group that we constructed together and still maintain online. I have written short stories for some time and have had
some good fortune with them recently. One story was short-listed by the CBC short story competition (2010), another won the WFNB that same year, and two more received honorable mentions in the WFNS Atlantic Competition and in the WFNB Creative Non-Fiction competition in later years. In addition, I won the WFNB short story competition (2015) with a fifth story. It is time now for me to gather these stories together and publish them in a single integrated volume. I am working on this and, at the same time, since I have about fifty stories written, I am also thinking of a second, and possibly a third, collection. Meanwhile, I have gathered my best poems into a Selected, and I will be sending this off to various publishers in the course of this year. In 2014 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and my fight against this awful disease lasted right through until 2015. I am cancer free right now, for which I would like to thank all those people who worked on and with me to bring about my cure. I kept a journal throughout the diagnosis / treatment / cure period and I have written a book of poems that I have also condensed into a chapbook. Both sets of poems are out at poetry competitions right now and I will be publishing them sometime during the course of 2016. I will self-publish and give copies to my friends if there is no interest from the commercial presses to which I intend to submit them.
More details about my career in various forms of creativity can be found on the following sites:
Thank you Roger for participating on the Scribbler.
Next week please visit again and read an excerpt from returning author Katrina Cope of Australia.
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