Borders

While the deadline approaches at Halloween, we still don’t know exactly what the daily reality of what Brexit will be for those of us living on the EU frontier with Northern Ireland. This was written nearly a year ago. And still…we don’t exactly know…

Sojourning Smith

I am sometimes asked where all the ideas come from that inspire a new poem. Well, I range around. Today’s poem’s train of thought was provoked by a tweet. I am not a frequenter tweeter, but I do follow a few who are only on Twitter. And my current favourite is The Irish Border (@BorderIrish) who is wittily discoursing on the Brexit crisis about what to do with the problem of it. A lot hangs upon the Good Friday Treaty (aka the Belfast Treaty of 1998), which spelled out the end of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We live in border country. For instance, today we went to the launderette in Fermanagh, which is eight miles away. If we opted for ones in Leitrim, we would have had to travel around sixteen miles to do the dirty washing. We fill our prescriptions in Fermanagh…

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Stuck or Chuck?

Two poems for your this Sunday Weekly Poem edition. It’s been an interesting week to say in the least. The first poem was actually written in the aftermath of the full moon last Sunday. Because we have had a relatively clear sky at night, even the waning moon’s light has been filtering through the bedroom curtains. The second poem is really a meditation on a few telephone conversations and a social media comment. Once you do the whole feng shui, clearing out and giving away thing, why do you not feel better? What do you do with that void? Which really was a good question, an existential one that has universal application even. Off and on during the week I was in bed batting back a virus, sleeping and dreaming, and sweating physically and metaphorically. Also watching the breakneck speed of breaking news.

Sandwiched in between was a day spent in the prison’s Education Centre with a few heroes who do not recognise their own heroic status, but who did ponder, discuss, and explore in writing these heroic attributes: integrity, humanity, individuality, dedication, selflessness, freedom, happiness, companionship, loyalty, as well as the distinction between bravery and courage. It can be lonely being a hero, but they know that heroes need allies.

First, the October moon, aka The Hunter’s Moon or The Dying Moon. A quotation was another seed.

Birth and death are the most surreal events in life, and everything in between is collage, too.

Lucy Ellman
The Dying Moon

Her rays blaze out,
permeating the curtains drawn
to shut in the dark.

This is when the year dies,
when the year is at its most surreal.

She's going out
in Grandstand style
any old hunter could
pick off so
easily.

Flaunting Her light
before she wanes into
"Good Night"
"Farewell"
pondering
Her right

to be reborn
every month
but
as this year dies

at some point
on another
surreal axis

the hinges will again
creak and moan
give out a wail

it begins
as it ends
foliage bursting forth,
then falling, falling...
naked at each pole point

but inbetween
the foliage
where everything
is collage,
nothing decided,
just patched,
and pieced.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

A telephone conversation early this week led to my characterising 2019 as the year of ‘Stuck or Chuck”, which may account for the popularity of the Marie Kondo Netflix series. If we can just get organised, if we can achieve some order, if we can just be tidy…perhaps we can stem the tide of insanity of anxiety…maybe. But what happens if none of that happens?

Empty

All year
the paper mounted up and up
beseeching action...except... the final piece..
or maybe two or three...but not many..

left it languishing in paper prison,
incarcerated with no fixed term date
to look forwards towards. Or...

THE DEADLINE!

though this, too, can alter...those sticking points...

When you clean house, just try to chuck the box
propping the bed's leg up. You're in for a
collapse of more than dreams.

Is it a trap?

Chucking the baby, bassinette, water,
carving out a void, a hollow hiding
in wide open, inviting existence to
swallow.

To feel full on air instead of
stuffing, stuffing, stuffing mouths and houses,
filling, filling, filling the empty space.

And we watch Marie Kondo looking for
how to fold our fitted bed sheets on faith.
That the planet will not go down under
landfill or rising water or plastic

along with the bed and its wobbly leg,
the box holding it all up exploding
random contents, thoughts, our own nostalgia.
Our dreams.

Empty feels uncomfortable.
It is weightless. The moorings have slipped off.

Drifting in an expanse . Which may kill you.
Don't just tread water. Go learn how to swim.
Don't just space walk. Become an astronaut.

It's not good enough
a life staying stuck.
It's not good enough
to give everything
the chuck.

Or to predicate happiness
on satisfaction with your brimming plate,
a life full of love, with no tastes to hate,
guzzling fossil fuel, put our guts on fire
But still we want more
even if we all expire.

The empty space. Where once a box was placed.
It is white noise in symphany.
(Clap! Clap!)

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image  Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash 

Drawer

In a chat with someone this week I characterised 2019 as the ‘Stuck or Chuck’ year. Many complain of feeling stuck and not achieving lift off. Meanwhile, others, including ourselves, have had a huge over haul of ‘stuff’. And while it has been hard to get things to completion on some tasks, or a real struggle to, on balance I would say this is the year of ‘chuck’. We have been through so many drawers and cupboards. Yes, there are some boxes remaining. Yes, the kitchen cupboards need their annual overhaul still.

How would you characterise 2019?

Sojourning Smith

No subject is too mundane to not be potentially transcendental. At least in the early hours of the day, when you really are a night owl. But it was still dark when poetry practice called.

Drawer

Everyone has got one.
That drawer full
of catchall, untamed, uncategorised
bits, bobby pins, bats, half-chewed rubber balls.

Once
I heard a psychiatrist on the radio recount
strategy with a a suicidal patient’s call
during another client’s fifty minutes.
She said just go an tidy a drawer until
She’d ring back in twenty.
He was calmer on the call back.
He had dispensed with death
as a persuasive option
when appraising the matched and folded array
of an ordered sock drawer.

We all have that drawer.
Sometimes we empty the contents
into a box
and slide it under the bed,
or to the back of a closet,
out into the shed,
or the far cobwebbed…

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The Whooper Swans Arrived this Week

The Sunday Weekly Poem turns out to be a series of poems in this edition. While I may not write a poem a day these days, I find that I feel better if I do write something fairly often. I have drafts of three poems and a haiku from this week, which also included leading an outdoor walk and writing workshop with some Reluctant Writers from Loughan House Open Prison. It involved walking around a blustery Cavan Burren from just before 10AM until nearly 3PM, a picnic lunch, and then some writing. The outing began with a brief shower. The heavy shower mercifully held off until 2pm (thank you, weather gods!) by which time we were hunkered down in the Visitor Centre with notebooks out and writing exercises underway. We wrote to the patter of rainfall on the shelter of the plastic roof, on picnic tables on the side of the centre avoiding the prevailing wind. We were out in open air, but writing in a building with only gable ends for walls. That in itself must have been a bit of a culture shock for some guys who until recently will have spent time in cells for twenty-three hours of every twenty-four.

Nature can be a great inspiration, even a healer. Those half dozen workshop participants can wander an open prison’s campus, itself a bit of an adjustment initially I am told. Some find it difficult to walk outside their rooms when they first arrive. One past resident confided in my husband that the sight of a full moon after five years made him weep. To then look down upon that very campus from a height, surrounded by mountains and loughs on all sides, has to shift perspective on some level. To walk in the woods and smell spruce, lichen and moss is to breathe a new kind of clean air. To walk among dolmens and wonder at how on earth they shifted those rocks to build them sparks questions, as well as the imagination. A walk in the woods among megaliths really can take you out of yourself. The ancestors are very palpable on the Cavan Burren and that did not go unnoticed by some. One participant said he had not realised how close to wilderness they were here in West Cavan and you could see the awe.

One thing these guys teach us is never to take this glorious landscape for granted. It’s a privelege to see it with fresh eyes again and again.

Cavan Burren
Cuilcagh Mountain viewed from Cavan Burren Park

It’s autumn for sure now. Our Virginia Creeper has gone crimson. On Monday there was some sunshine between showers and it was warm enough to sit outside. At least for a bit.

And Just Like That

As if
in response
to my own despondency

the clouds rolled in
blotting out
the sun
breezing in a spit spot
of rain
on my writing thumb

driving me
and semi-dry laundry
indoors again.

That may have been
the last blink of sun
for sitting out
now autumn
has truly begun.

I chide myself
not to take nature
so personally

but somedays I feel
we are one
body.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Then on Tuesday, as if to underline the official arrival of the season, I heard the whooper swans return to Lough Moneen where they overwinter from Iceland. The Whoopers have yellow bills instead of the orange ones. They also have a honk that some mistake for geese. Their winter sojourn in Ireland lasts between October to March. They are earlier than usual this year, with some friends reckoning they don’t usually turn up locally until near Halloween. On Wednesday, I saw a formation flypast. They often return to the same loughs each winter. One New Year’s Day I opened our front door and the first sight of the New Year was a flight of swans. Which certainly counts as a very special omen. But that was before I knew about the Omen Day tradition. (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/26/the-omen-days/)

whooper swan
Whooper swan in Kileforna from Wikipedia
Yesterday
I heard the whooper swans
trumpet song

Arriving
in an elegant slide
on water

Neighbour's lough
their winter home,
they honk 'Halló'

A long trip,
eight hundred miles or more
for six months

That's their flight
back and forth from Iceland.
'Bless, bless' Bye!

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

The days shortening light is inexorable and noticable now. Dawn is nearly 8AM. Darkness descends before 7pm.

Then the Half-Light

Then the half-light
either morning, at first
or early evening's
gloaming

Before dazzle
of full light
or confusion
of deepest darkness

We either
flinch or squint
shielding our sight
blink, blink

the shading hand
turns grasping
in our night
blindness

Then the half-light
delicate shadows
some light
some dark

We never fully see
We hark what we want to hark.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

I spotted pumpkins on sale in the supermarket this week. Halloween will be here soon. The clock’s will go back and we will be plunged into the darkest part of the year.

Sunday Poem and Pondering

It’s been a noisy week. Hasn’t everyone experienced some kind of sound and fury? It’s been inescapable one way or the other. I had a poem written and ready to go last evening, but I decided to honour the original rhythm of writing the poem a day over 365 consecutive days. I set the alarm to make sure I would rise early. I didn’t need its pinging in the end, for my sleep cycle this week has been as erratic as those geological glacial remains that rocked and rolled over the landscape that I call home. I was up early and saw the dawn.

So, in the spirit of Samuel Becket’s saying that poems are prayers, I offer this little poem from my journal penned on rising today. It was how I declared the day ‘sabbath’, a day of rest.

Morning Prayer

Let there be one morning
without rush,
that the dawn is bejewelled
in its hush.
Let the sun rise golden
and bleeding
on Playbank's horizon,
day seeding
as rain drips from the eaves
land all lush.

Let there be one morning
without rush.
Let there be one morning
celebrating this hush.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

The Playbank
The Playbank

Then…some pondering from a news story that actually appeared last March, but only just captured my imagination. A 40,000 year old log was unearthed in New Zealand, the relict of an ancient kauri tree hauled from a swamp. Itself, part of the fossil record, it is thought to have lived for nearly two millenia, and charts the geological period when the earth’s magnetic field shifted. For fuller details check out https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6836883/40-000-year-old-log-underneath-New-Zealand-swamp-explain-Earths-climate-mystery.html.

But…the poem from the pondering.

Homeostasis

The kauri tree
it saw it all
left the tale
in arborial braille.

Will the meek ever
inherit the earth?
Just once.
Who speaks for those species?

Those not quite
fittest
being extinguished
each year...

The bonobo,
the Bengal tiger,
even
the nerdy caterpillar.

Two hundred
creatures
great and small
are gone

every day
times 365
with an extra
on leap year.

Who gets saved?
Recycled? Culled?
The kauri tree
saw it all.

It wrote that epic shift
on its body
the needle shifting
round the dial.

What is unequal
balances.
Some will be saved,
some culled.

For the rest,
they go back to the earth
for what will be
their next cycle.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

What will this week bring? What will be culled?

Venus Dives Deep

Trawling through the archive it is interesting to see how the news cycle may have gone around and around, but that still certain reactions to past news can feel current. We had the new moon this weekend and this was my response to the 2018 Libra New Moon

Sojourning Smith

There was a fashion in creating ‘found poems’ or ‘cut-outs’ from sometime back in the mists of poetry time. Probably the late 60s when those who were there can’t remember. Today I decided to create a chorus of women’s voices, taking direct quotes from articles or newsletters I have read this morning. It is a New Moon today in Libra, ruled by that most feminine of goddesses, Venus. Sky and astrology watchers will have noted that Venus is currently retrograde, seemingly stationary, or moving backwards (rapidly towards the Dark Ages.) Today’s poetry practice, or journalling as I am coming to think of it, is playing with a different kind of cut and paste. Also, I want to celebrate women’s voices. We want to be heard.

I won’t keep my chorus Greek, masked and anonymous. The quotes are not in order, but feature the words of Barbara Kingsolver, Jude Lally,Chani Noble…

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A Clearing

Some people do Spring cleaning. But the autumn equinox is a similar good time to clean up and clear out. In our household we have been in a process of turning out cupboards, emptying boxes, donating to textile banks and charity shops, and generally reorganising everything. And soon enough we will be attending to the outdoors, clearing the gutters and putting the garden to bed for the winter. We have a lot of green tomatoes and these will have to be turned into pie and chutney.

All this clearing is really about trying to achieve some symmetry, a pleasing harmony out of what is often unruly and messy. Therefore, human. We strive for balance. But will settle, quite happily, for tidier.

Others refer to this week of equal day and equal night as one of the two hinges of the year. Some years you barely hear a creak. But this year it must have been rusty for all the groaning. I am writing this in the evening of the new moon in Libra, that sign of harmony and balance. This is what we all say we want, but gosh the world is awfully addicted to drama! Nor am I immune, given that I was having vulnerability melt downs over the writing on and off all week.

The Sunday Weekly Poem considers this time of year, the clearing, the exertion for balance.

How was your Equinox week?

A Clearing

She died Monday
just after the sidereal clock
said equinox.
Equal light.
Equal night.

Though this year
there were a few more days
before it was truly
equal light and night

and they laid her down
with her final rites
on that day that was
equally day and night

This is balance.

A beloved, ancient lady
surrounded by
five generations
descending

as she was put into
the ground
that day when hours
were equal day and night.

This is balance.

This is balance.

Though
difficult to negotiate
those clefts
in the heart

where the love's let in
and the artery
flushes
sorrow out.

Like the eye
in the sharp needle
where the angels dance
en pointe.

Or the loom's shuttle,
the warp and weft
its in and out
back and forth

the thread,
the sharpened scissors cutting off
and the darning back in
of that loose tail end.

This is balance.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash