Keep the Music Playing

Five months have passed since I started to write a poem a day and posting it on this blog. It started as poetry practice, the etudes of my youthful piano playing. It’s Saturday. When I was ten or so that would have found me in Miss Mildred’s upstairs room for a piano lesson. She was the one who gave me the etude sheet music. I was an indifferent piano scholar and intermittant with half-hour daily piano practice. Here I am fifty years on, finally getting the hang of it. Kind of…

In truth, my mother later confessed that I really ought to have had singing lessons with Miss Laura, the downstairs sister who taught voice. But she was a termigant, or reputedly so. My mother didn’t feel that talent should be an excuse for volunteering her sensitive child for trauma. But Mom came from a musical family and wanted to pass on that lore to her youngest child; Miss Mildred seemed the lesser evil. Both sisters had been Juilliard trained and promised more value for money than the nun who taught piano at our school at the time.

But I digress…. the five months of faithful daily poetry etude-making. But I did wonder this morning…how much longer can I keep this up? It is forty-five days until NaPoWriMo in April, when there will be poetry prompts for the daily taking. I woke up in a bit of a funk. Perhaps my bowels are disordered. Perhaps not. And yet, I picked up the pen…eventually, if a bit reluctantly.

Open Window

There are some mornings
where I would rather
listen to the birds sing
than pay attention to
my off-key musings.
Their notes need no lyrics.
Polyphony rings
round the townland, no words
to their offerings
heard through open window.
I can't stop looking.
There's two magpies. What joy
there is some mornings
where I would rather
listen to the birds sing.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Dolo Iglesias on Unsplash


Spring Flow

Irrefutably, it is springtime. At least in our far corner of West Cavan Spring has arrived. The narcissi Tete a tete have flowered, not just in the pots, but out in sheltered parts of the garden. The first croci and hydrangea are starting to bloom. Of the wild flowers, the bold aconite has been out for a couple of weeks, outfacing the snow and frost at Brigid’s Day. The hellebores are in flower. The first of the primroses are flowering, too, again in a sheltered corner of the garden.

Yesterday was the first of what my husband terms ‘laundry days!’ Mostly sunny, mild,and with a breeze that promises it will dry your washing if you hang it on the line outdoors. Given the humidity in Ireland, outdoor drying is something of an art and whim of nature. Yesterday was the first time in many months that I chanced pegging out washing on the line.

We have now had the official opening of spring in my part of Ireland. Which happens to be a stunningly beautiful area. So much so that UNESCO recognises its significant natural and built heritage by naming it as a geopark. I live in a geopark community on the first village on the River Shannon after it pokes its head out from underground caverns and begins to flow towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Poetry practice may have an element of spring fever to it today. But indulge me a little as I have been up since dawn’s earliest suggestion of light. The dawn over the Playbank was a full on kiss this morning.


Peachy rose gold threads
brocading the light
coming up over the Playbank.

The throated notes of waking up song
Is it a robin?
I do not know for sure.

The trickle of the flow-
ditch, spring, stream to out from, feed in
the River Shannon down below.

A clear light. A song's note.
A rise in bloodheat.

The snow on the Playbank
melted ages ago,
a cataract tear

flowing down the drumlins
sculpting  the karst below over ages
with the seasons' flow.

For Those Who Won’t Get A Valentine Today

Once upon a time I was the young woman who did not get a Valentine on That Day. And I might have told myself I didn’t care. But I lied. Because there are some people who genuinely prefer being single and/or celibate. But, dear Reader, I was not one of those. I was born with Venus in Libra and we have a strong urge to merge. Those arid Valentine’s Days were purgatorial.

So if you are happy to have dodged the Valentine bullet or Cupid’s arrow, today’s Poetry Daily may not speak to your condition. Today I am writing a Valentine to that twenty-something me who wanted to meet, and mate with, The One. And if any of you are living my past persona’s condition, this is for you, too.

When there is no Valentine

For those of you who do not expect to get
a Valentine's Day card today, let me just say
"I love you!" And I'm sorry I sound like your Mom.
It's a bit rich,  I know, for one of a pair to say
that it's okay, it's fine, really, being alone
on this one day when the whole effing
planet parades like they are going on Noah's Ark,
being saved from The Great Deluge.
And there's you left behind to drown.
I hated  the day once upon a time.
I thought I would never be loved. Be a beloved.
And it mattered to me that day, when it itched,
was a scab to get scratched and bleed,
when for all the rest of the 364 I was fine.
Most of the time.

My desire is not necessarily everyone's.
But if you, like me, are hanging in there
for The One, it can come.  I used discernment,
some discretion. I took a few risks.
Had the grit to have
the courage of love's convictions.
And here I am today. And I can tell you
even once you have got The One,
it's not easy, 481 lunations on. There's no trick.
But before you get stuck with the
wrong arrow in your butt, or your heart,
or your head, remember this:

You are loved.
You are already loveable.
With some fortune and fortitude
you will one day sign a card,
send the satin padded box of chocolates.
You will have the golden opportunity
to love.
And with fortune and fortitude
you will be loved
in return,
even when they want to yank on their pants
and run.
(The process is not all roses, you will discern.)

In the meantime,
you are a Valentine,
a great beating heart muscle
full of loveability
that one day some 'One'
will have the great good sense
to snap right up,
or court you with mannerly,
tender persuasion,
and then soul mate.

Until then, or even despite,
"I love you"
and this is your valentine
even though you weren't
expecting to get one
any day soon.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image by Hannah Dugan “Sketches by Hannah” on Facebook, from an original card.

Crossword and (Cat) Cross Words

This is not how poetry practice should go. Poetry practice time should be a time of silence and reflection, with the rest of the household snoozing amicably and peacefully. It ideally begins with Earl Grey tea with a slice of lemon. But here I am playing cat monitor and chief peacekeeper as the fourth member of the pride of small lions gradually ventures out his isolation post-op and vaccinated.

The oldest cat, who is fifteen if she is a day and crotchety, is growling menacingly without moving a muscle. None of them mess with the matriarch. The second in succession tries to speak sense to the formerly feral street fighter and is biffed in return for her efforts. She slides under the sofa and yowls pathetically. I scoop up the glowering third in line of feline succession and am lacerated for my trouble. And not for the first time today. There was a 3am interaction when I took a toilet break and No 4 escaped. No. 3 let out a cry like some ancient Celtic warrior prior to battle. In the end, it was my pygammaed leg that was caught in the line of fire.

So as I type this there is the rhythmic rise and fall to cat yowls in various volume. A little night music it is not.

I only got around to doing the Saturday newspaper crossword last night. Figured I would do a bit of a crossword inspired acrostic poem this morning, taking two clues that intersect and write something. That’s been a challenge this morning. I may need a dose of valerian tincture before this is over.

fCrossword Crosswords

22 Across

To mop up...
Reducing to a used nose wipe,
Or limp tulip,
Useless for all of its hype.
Never go
Courting being cavalier
Ere you get left on your rear.

16 Down

Sea bourn duck,
Common also
On freshwater loughs,
Trounce a few
Eiders with luck.
Rebuked retinue.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Imagine me as the cat in the

Featured Photo by Andrew Umansky on Unsplash

This is Just Life

It’s not pitch dark at 7am now. Sunrise is technically 7:50am this morning, but it was already a sort of twilight prelude to sunrise when I let Ellie out this morning. The Poetry Daily poetry practice happened. The first effort was discarded as having no “real toads in imaginary gardens” as Marianne Moore describes poetry making. Posting the second effort was delayed because we needed to head out early to get the foster cat to the vet. (The vet cooed at him ‘Oh what a handsome boy!”; which seemed just a bit rich given that he’s in to be castrated today).

But I realise not posting straight off from the handwritten page puts me off my rhythm. All of a sudden those urgent life laundry missions take you over. And the clock is ticking. Lunch passes. And here I am, slightly dazed, snatching a semi-hour in the day before I ring the vet to see if the foster cat is fit for collection this evening and we do the second forty mile round trip of the day.

This is Just Life

Like toast and tea in bed.
Or the cat looking outside
from inside
at the birds flocking
to their feeding station.

I made this bread
for my buttered toast,
slapped the dough
with my own hands.
This is just life.

What grows in the garden
gets pulled. It comes away
with its peck of dirt.
The celery leaf, washed,
goes into the pot.

This is just life,
a round of meals,
a slow cooking butter chicken
and the blessing said
before it lost its head.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash

Extraordinary Lives

I happened upon an episode on Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, a BBC Channel 5 broadcast. It happened that the episode in Ireland visits with an extraordinary woman, Judith Hoad, a woman who completely walks her talk – and does so directly. Check it out here Hoad lives completely off grid, up a hill not far from the Wild Atlantic Way, down a track in a remote part of County Donegal in the northwest corner of the Republic Ireland. She has lived there since 1981, and alone since 1999 when her husband died. She has supported herself teaching medical herbalism and traditional handcrafts.

I’ve met her through Leitrim’s Organic Centre and Wise Woman Weekend, which she co-founded with a number of women in Northwest Ireland back in 2004. I posted about the final Wise Woman Weekend back in 2017 What you see in the documentary is completely unvarnished Judith. I once met her at a horticulture fair. Spotting that I was having a menopausal hot flush she very simply barked, “Cold sage tea!” And left me to fan myself slightly helplessly. Hoad is a force of nature.

Today’s Poetry Daily trigger comes from the documentary. Living alone at age 80, Judith practically leaves an envelope with instructions to whomever discovers her body after her death. It reminded me of my late sister-in-law, too, who was terminally ill, and left her instructions in a red box file boldly emblazoned with My Kick the Bucket Box.

Ordinary Extraordinary Life

Let's be matter of fact about it.
One day I will be dead
and why leave behind a mess
for whomever should find me stiff
in a chair, on the floor, in bed?

Rest what is left of my
meat and bones buried in my own
ground. Plant a tree. I fancy one.
An oak. But, of course, I will not
be around if you plant
a hazel or rowan instead.

Let's be matter of fact about it.
It's never easy not
to have what is beloved around.

Less haste. Less waste.
                       It's not  magic.
In mortality we are all bound.
Let's be matter of fact about it.

Live lightly on the land because
at the end, in earth
we are all homebound.
Dust back to dust
                        someone else will
sweep at the last.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Michael Shannon on Unsplash

An Etude…one more time!

It was like pulling teeth to get down to poetry this morning. Partly it was distraction. We are introducing a new cat into what must now be a pride of little lions…a fourth cat in the household, in addition to one large, old dog who behaves like a cat. But then Ellie was born under the sign of Leo…

I thought if I fed myself a grand cooked Sunday breakfast inspiration would arrive with digestion. But no. I looked at the usual blogs (Brain Pickings is a favourite), but the poem on that post just made me feel haggard and not up to the stuff. (Auden will do that to you.) Nothing much was triggering much of anything…

Finally, finally, finally…a word posted in a comment by Patsy a couple days back. A lovely word. But one I had to go look up! (Well played, Patsy!) This is more a five finger exercise, the etude stuff my piano teacher would have me at to warm up. That’s what started at the beginning of this writing a poem a day lark back in September 2018. Apologies to Daphne du Maurier fans. But I simply couldn’t help my self!


Last night I dreamt of Eidelon
its misty drive,
shady demesne,

dreaming that it was whole again,
not burnt out shell,
bricks loose, gap toothed.

I dreamt I was its chatelain,
or some fresher

loose tressed, a little bit wanton-
not Guinevere
or Isolda -

more Beltane belle in Avalon-
without dire

Last night I dreamt of Eidelon
rising above
oh so perfect.

Not wraith or spectre - an engine-
memory of

a mechanism long past sprung
with its pity,
and terror, too.

I once thought its acres heaven,
but its sad form
has gone rotten.

Though not in dreams of Eidelon.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.