A Pool of Light

This Sunday is the second week of Advent. We are two weeks away from winter solstice, the darkest part of the year in the Northern hemisphere. The Sunday Weekly poem is definitely conditioned partly by the weather. Even with the moon approaching full this week, the weather has been stormy and cloudy. The nights only reveal the odd glimmer of moonlight. The skies are low and grey and twilight seems to draw in earlier than what the almanac’s say is technically sunset. Despite the bugs going around, we humans seem to want to huddle together. It was a far more social week than most for me, with us out for two very, very late nights into the wee hours, singing in a pub ceilidh. The night outside was stormy and foul, but inside we were all snug, singing our hearts out, bantering, laughing, making music with each other, applauding each other, appreciating every contribution to the night’s entertainment.

McHugh’s Pub is tiny even by Irish standards. It has a narrow bar for regulars and a larger, but not large l-shaped room where we crammed in with guitars, bazooki, mandolins and djembe drum. Twice a year, three travelling troubadours from Dublin pitch up in Glenfarne and lead this old-style session. Pat Trimble amiably draws people out to contribute a song or recite a poem. In between, Pat, Terry, and Vince play (along with my husband Tony) any number of tunes from any amount of styles – folk, rock, Irish trad, country, with a few rousing sing-alongs thrown in- throughout the evening. Yes, there is drink, but the high spirits are really music inspired. The publican’s daughter brings out her concertina and gives us a few tunes inbetween helping at the bar and getting the midnight supper sorted. It’s that kind of hospitable place.

McHughs Pub Glenfarne
Ben McHugh’s Pub, Glenfarne, Co. Leitrim
A Pool of Light

A splash in this December night, the motley
assembly of voices raised in chorus,
virtual strangers picking out harmonies,
humming along when words fail, beating
time to the tunes , clapping, snugged up
in this small country pub, turf fire warming
the crowd of bodies at the bar and we are

singing, singing, carried along by
melody, cameraderie, joy's memory.
Hope sounds like our rowdy laughter,
applause, the respectful murmur of 'good man' ,
the parting glass wishing all a 'Good night!'
as Ben holds open the door, formally shaking our hands
as we leave that pool of light and walk out
into winter's dark night.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured photo Photo by Ryk Naves on Unsplash

Some Sunday Joy

It has been a fruitful week. The Sunday Weekly Poem reflects a moment in a week that is known for Thanksgiving, even if you don’t live in a country where it is a national holiday. It is also the first Sunday of Advent even if you are not Christian. Last year I wrote a sequence of Advent poems for each Sunday for those who perform this mindful ritual, whether they are Christians who light the Advent wreath candles or pagans observing the Sunwheel each Sunday before Winter Solstice. This is what my 2018 Advent wreath looked like https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/01/advent/.

The first Sunday of Advent’s candle is for hope. But I was so startled by a quiet flush of joy this week that it is my theme for the weekly poem. Gratitude, hope, joy…we need to celebrate these in the dark days of winter. Even if they only appear as glimpses.

The Morning After Thanksgiving

Staring out my window I am stabbed by
a joy in the smallest of things:
how the stars wink in those minutes before dawn
begins to pink the horizon,
how when winter's brilliant sun breaks
and shines it outlines the intricate delicacy
of the hoar frost mantilla yarrow and hogweed wear,
how light stretches itself lazily in a slow promenade
in soft soled slippers across the field, melting
the frost very, very slowly and, also,
how it persists all day on the lane's edges
all crisp and starched as an altar boy's surplice.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

This Sunday’s Weekly Poem

Meanwhile…I continue to revise like a demon as well as churning out new poems. I have been working on a sequence of poems inspired by the full moon, though we are actually coursing towards the dark moon as I write this weekly chronicle of my writing life. Let me just say this. Revision is far harder than the initial phases of producing drafts of a poem. I can chaw over two lines for days, change a word of two only, and then worry some more as I walk the Little Dog down the lane. On the other hand, I find that I slash lines without any emotion at all. Some lines just don’t pay the rent on their tenacy ; you just have to be a heartless landlord and evict them. Many poems that originally appeared in the 365 Poem A Day Project now look quite different. There are new ones too that I am holding back from sharing in the blog. You need surprises in a solo collection.

The thing to take in consideration is that when writers are not writing, often they are writing. The dog walking is not just exercise, it is mulling over those lumpy lines. Housework, too, can allow your mind to free float on titles and phrases. The late Dermot Healy was absolutely right when he said that reading counted as writing. Writers are like magpies. We spy nice shiny ideas and we horde them for when we can take them out and upcycle them.

Switching off is important for the writing life, too. The textile art class I take in our village plays a big part in flipping the brain hemisphere emphasis. A movie marathon with friends this week was also pure indulgence. A technical hitch with one of my devices has basically unplugged me from social media while the iPad mini is in the repair shop. (I keep the laptop for email and writing work and then plug into social media on another device. It helps with the focus is you don’t have messages pinging at you. I have just decided I will not freak about lower stats. Who needs to find me will find me and my work.)

The point is just to keep at it… And I have, diligently, often for hours on end, kept at it these past few weeks, writing, walking away from the draft, reviewing it a couple days later, tweaking some more. Repeat.

This Sunday’s poem is still fairly fresh, with the ink committed to page just yesterday morning, though the idea had been rolling around in my head from the day before that. So it is still technically a work in progress. Inspiration came from just looking out my windows.

  Blackbird and Hawk

High up, they spy,
looking out from their tree tops,
and catch my eye,
facing me as if to speak.
 
Blackbird’s beak blazes bright
in early morning’s gloaming.
Then, in afternoon’s dying light
Hawk surveys, appraising me.
 
These are the day’s gatekeepers.
the swinging open, the shutting close.
One sings. One is poised to leap and dive.
I do not begrudge Hawk the mouse,
 
or its race against hare.
We feed Blackbird’s fellows well.
Hawk needs other fare,
its fiercesome eye, chilling blood.
 
Both see from on high.
Blackbird sings us stories.
With Hawk, all is nigh,
saying it straight, without the fable.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Milind Ruparel on Unsplash

Hibernation Moon

The Sunday Weekly poem looks back a few days to the full moon on 12th November. Without outdoor light polution, the full moon is particular noticable where we live in rural Ireland. Even the waning moon last night cast a luminous glow down our uncurtained corridor. It’s unavoidable when it is cloudless. And if it is cloudness in an Irish November then it is cold.

Indigenous peoples had names for each full moon. Some work with the climate in Ireland, other’s less so. Sturgeon is not part of our culture. But Grain works for what is happening in our August Irish climate. While there may be no beavers in Ireland,we certainly have known frost some mornings this week here in Corrogue.

Somewhere it is snowing already and some mornings we could characterise it as a Frosty Moon. However, we have had a day of literal deluge at the full moon this week. Others have experienced flooding as the high tide went higher and broke records. Another of the November full moon’s names seemed appropriate for this week’s poem – Hibernation Moon.

 Hibernation Moon
 
That day it poured enough to warrant both paddle
and ark-sized boat. All domestic livestock gathered,
hunkered in, lying close to their humans.
Sleet spattered windowpanes. Thunder folderolled. 
Knuckledusting cold had to be taken on the chin
if you opened wide the door of your winter cabin.
 
We are all become bears in our day dark dens,
listening to snores, counting out the number of naps
(though who drowsily keeps score when to sleep
is to invite dreams to shake you awake moonstruck
in pre-dawn gloom?)  Only the cold, cold moon penetrates
the seamless dark of our hibernation’s nest,
the still, stark truth of our dream-filled designs.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

A Season of Remembrance

The Sunday Weekly poem arrives after a remarkably hectic week given the time of the year. I am not even sure why or how to describe such a procession of pleasant happenings as hectic. Perhaps I still have an extended post-birthday giddiness from my mock Mojito last Sunday. Yet, here we are descending into the dark pit of the year and I am feeling as frisky as Tigger. I love the alternating low sky with heavy rain, the astonishing sunsets and brief minutes of brilliant sunshine that are like the embers of a low fire.

Sundown over Paps of the Morrigan

No wonder the ancestors designated this the time of year to share memories and stories. It is averred that the Milesians, one of the early invaders of the island that we know as Ireland, said that ‘poetry is all memory.’ In an oral tradition that would be in a literal sense, but I am sure there are more metaphysical and metaphorical meanings to tease from that rubric.

In the twilight our group lit 350 candles in jam jars and placed them around the paths in the labyrinth to light our meditative walk around after sunset. John also lit a fire in the seating area in centre of the labyrinth for comfort. It was a night when you needed to wrap up well and wear a hat and gloves.

.

Labyrinth

Surrender to amazement. Be found
in the lantern lit labyrinth surrounded
by velvet darkness. Above,a cloud scudded sky
is blanched by a pregnant moon. Remember.
Once again, you may find who you truly
are. Bewilderment may find you a miracle
so fervently beseeched it was forgotten.
You may breach the maze in your mind
in the night's blooming darkness, its welcome
silence, in the scrying for your future,
reading the embers in the need fire.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved
Sundown at our home Friday night.

The Republic of Crochet

This is a re-blog while I am hard at the revision process. And many of the poems that have appeared in second or third draft here are getting remade and reshaped, some with subtle tinkering and some with complete repurposing. And some off cuts are getting a new life of their own in another poem. Even this poem has been re-jigged. The August 12th version is slightly different if you are interested in that sort thing – process – and want to take a look.

I especially wanted to re-blog this particular poem as a tribute to my Friday morning textile art teacher, Morag Donald, and the women who I am getting to know in my community as we needle felt, weave, and collaborate in creating art work, relaxation and connection. We meet in Dowra Courthouse from 10am until noon. We have tea, biscuits and a talking stick. Come on down!

This was originally written #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge. It was Day12 and the prompt was ‘Cruel Summer.’ I did write a tanka(ish) five liner on the theme. But what really was itching to flow from my pen came when the phrase “the Republic of Crochet” popped into my head. Our niece, an ardent crochet practitioner, had been here over the weekend pet sitting. But we had also had conversations about a community art projects and some of her own envisioning that would use crochet as its medium.

Textile art rocks!

The Republic of Crochet
For Hannah Daisy

Flowerchild conceived long after The Summer of Love,
your flower power blankets us with
'Chain Stitch One,Chain Two, Chain Three,' linking
us softly in wool.

Everyone loves a flower. Who can resist them?
Petal confetti love bombs us.
But in crochet. Single
stitches mend us one at a time -

the lonely, the odd,
the angry for lack of some love -
with a flower, or a blanket,
some soft wooly love.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Shreena Bindra on Unsplash

Spooked?

Samhain, or Halloween, ’tis the spooky season, of ghosties and ghoulies and unexplained stuff that goes bump in the night. So it makes sense for this Sunday’s Weekly Poem to take inspiration from that wavey pavey line that divides our world from whatever is next. (If you believe in that kind of thing.) There is plenty of debate about that. If you watch The Good Place on Netflix you might play around with ideas that the otherworld is a kind of Medium Place where souls are stuck. As my young friend with a psychology Ph.D. observed, ‘being stuck’ is the flag that says you need therapy. If souls or spirits or ghosts are stuck, it would seem that even the dead can be in need of therapy!

Yesterday was the Day of the Dead, aka All Souls Day. It’s also my birthday, so the ancestors were much on mind even as I was savouring a pumpkin cheesecake made for my birthday tea. Halloween, or Samhain, was a three day feast back in the day when the pagan Celtic kind of people lived on this island. When Patrick Christianised Ireland the old customs would not completely die. So now we have the three day feast of Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Both traditions acknowledge, to a greater or lesser extent, that that the line between the world of the living and the dead is particularly permeable at this time of year. Some cultures celebrate the beloved dead, like the great Day of the Dead festivals in Latin America. In our more northern climes we are a bit more nervous of perhaps too close an encounter with the skeletons in the family closets. In Ireland the fairies were said to be particular active and might take a fancy to steal your child. Hence, dressing up and pretending to be dead, or something particularly unattractive for fairy snatchers. (NB: Fairies, we apologise for this libel on your character. This is a public service announcement.)

But the dressing up also allows us, whatever age, to explore being someone else, to live out some unlived life – the accountant masquerading as a pirate, the assertive woman fainting into one of Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Women in Peril,’ the sexually shy woman vamping it as Morgan le Fay. You can be an angel or a devil. You can flirt with The Good Place, the Bad Place and even the The Medium Place for what it is on The Other Side of that permeable curtain. (If you believe in that kind of thing…which I guess a lot of us do, because it can’t all just be a Hallmark plot to sell more cards.)

‘Tis the season after all.

Sinning Sainthood

All hail the saints!
All hail the souls
who missed the mark
but were beloved still.

We do the best we can
with the arrows of our intention
aimed at impossible targets,
that fail to launch
or fall wide of the bulls-eye.

Some saints tried to do their best,
slipped, missed,
but eventually
did better.
They improved their eye.

All hail the saints!
All hail the souls
who miss the mark,
but vow to do better
with their hands and eyes.

Our beloved dead
did the best they could
even when it should
have been better.

But then,
we who live
are not always
so well understood.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved