Day 25 NaPoWriMo2019- Bealtaine

Wakening to bright sunshine and blue sky after a nighttime that brought welcome showers on our acre plot. NaPoWriMo’s last Thursday prompt is:

I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that:

  • Is specific to a season
  • Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
  • Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)

So the season I am writing about is just around the corner. In Ireland we call May Bealtaine. It is pronounced Be-ahl-ta-nah round where I live. Or you can have it as Beltaine in English. It’s also the name for one of the four cross quarter days of the pagan wheel of the year. It marks the six weeks up until midsummer . Or, the three month period up until harvest, or Lunasagh, at 1st August. Seasons are a bit flexible like that in Ireland. Call it late spring. Call it the official opening of summer. Beataine is the most sensual time of year. Living as I do in the West Cavan part of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, nature is providing plenty of sensory inspiration.

Bealtaine Galore

I heard the cuckoo calling
its plaint for a mate quite faint
last Easter Sunday,
but full throated and hearty
the evening of Tuesday.
It will carol the uplands until
the longest day when nights
are shortest and dawn does not delay.

But today...well the bluebells are still out
in the shade, mingling in with
the aromatic of wild garlic,
(which sharpens the appetite.)
its star white flower crowding into
the bluebell dell on the forest floor
along with the white bells of wood sorrel,
that  not-shamrock tasting of lemon spinach.
A munch quenches thirst on walks
through this wooded glen,
the river in full conversation
rolling over the rocks from another epoch,
the fallen trees downed

or bent like the crick in my back
from sowing beans and carrots.
I have an ache in muscles unused
to industry, gone slack
during the dark months.
We mimick all these nesting birds
who already have some hatchlings,
or the energy of gamboling lambs
ridiculous and bucking up their heels.
Calves are appearing in neighbours' pastures
sporting their new eartags.
And the weeds!
Everything is rushing towards being.
The bees are at the nectar.
The butterflies have been released
from self-made cocoons.
The blackthorn blossom is floating down
butterfly kissing our foreheads.
It's a benediction. It's a glory.

Bealtaine Go leor!
Is everything not plenty?
Is everything not enough?
Everything
is in a rush
towards its blooming and being.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.



Beataine Galore
My townland, bog cotton blooming in pasture

Bealtaine Galore
Bluebells

Bealtaine galore
Wood sorrel in flower

Bealtaine galore
The Playbank. The sight that always means I am getting close to home.
Bealtaine is the Irish for the season of early summer. NaPowriMo's daily prompt allows me to riff on the the sensory pleasures of living within Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
Bee Smith is participating in GloPoWriMo2019
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NaPoWriMo2019 Day10

I am playing fast and loose with the NaPoWriMo2019 prompt for today. “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that starts from a regional phrase, particularly one to describe a weather phenomenon.” I have a cracker of a regional phrase, one from County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Which makes this very GloPoWriMo2019 and gives me a chance to vent about Brexit.

“Shar me hay-ed” is what it sounds like. This translates as “shower my head”. Or could even be used as “go shower your head.” It’s more to do with internal weather than external low and high pressure systems. My late sister-in-law came over to us in England from Armagh back in the late 1990s for her fiftieth birthday to “shar me hay-ed.” With a hard Brexit looming and living in border lands we may all be needing to go shower our heads more frequently. In a little over a week I will be escorting a group of school childrenthrough a sliver of territory that will cross international boundaries twice. This is just to take them for a guided walk in Cavan Burren Park, which is part of a cross-border global geopark. It’s supposed to be a fun day out during a Easter Holiday School doing arts and crafts.

I just realised I may have to pack my passport since I don’t have a photo ID driver’s licence. I have to ride on the bus to fulfill the mandatory number of adults for Child Protection Policy.

The point is that nobody knows what all the implications will be. To have called a referendum without a plan was just plain wicked and so disruptive of millions of lives. Blast Brexit! We all need to go shower our heads over this.

Go Shower Your Head 

"I need to shar me hay-ed,"
she said.
Not the power shower sort
of head.
A break from all the stress
forcefed
living with an army of occupation and
hotheads
A soft day cannot wash away
bloodshed.

So go shower your head
in a cascade.
Change your weather channel
in glen and glade.
We all need to shower our heads
 to biodegrade our dismay.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.




GloPoWriMo2019
Bee Smith is participating in GloPoWriMo2019

The Sacred Centre

I needed a few days to let all the mythology and mystical feeling of Uisneach to settle and process. It was only just Saturday when I was travelling with many of my Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guide colleagues to Ireland’s Heartland to visit what is considered Ireland’s sacred centre, a nexis of mythology and ancient cosmology.

Just to prove how we are never more than three degrees separated from anyone in Ireland, we had no sooner disembarked when I met an acquaintance who introduced me as “The Poet.” (That was very edifying Kathleen!) By the time our tour had concluded ninety minutes later I saw more familiar faces and found that they were gathered for a memorial service for Kevin Hayes whom I had not met, but perhaps only my an accident given the number of common acquaintances.

The south processional road to the King's Palace at UIsneach
The southern processional route to the King’s Palace at Uisneach. The mountains in the background are those of the southern kingdom of Munster

Uisneach is a natural gathering point since it is near as damn all the geographical centre of this island. If you imagine Ireland as a shallow bowl, Uisneach rises out of the flatland to have a 360 degree view of Ireland on a clear day. You can see all the mountain ranges east, south, west and north. There were processional roads from each direction for the gathering each Bealtaine when the sacred flame was relit in a pit as large as a footbal field. And as soon as those not present saw Uisneach’s flame, they ignited their own mountain top pyres in a unique ceremony of call and response involving and uniting four kingdoms at the central place of the High King. Last May at Bealtaine, President Higgins took the place of the High King and lit the Bealtaine fire.

The Sun God Lugh, a sculpture at Uisneach

What is remarkable is that Uisneach’s mythology and cosmology is united in celebrating both the sacred masculine and sacred feminine. Lugh is the primal sacred masculine presence at Uisneach, a solar god upon which the agricultural calendar relied. The souterain beneath the High King’s Palace, may have been practically used for food storage. But it also symbolised the womb of the earth as life giver. With the invention of agriculture there was a secure food supply and that was symbolised in the fecunditty of Mother Earth. What is now called the Cat Stone is also known as Hiberniae Umbilicus, the umbilical cord of Eriu, Ireland.

THe Cat Stone, or Hiberniae Umbilicus at Uisneach is the presence of the sacred feminine Eriu
Eriu is the sacred feminine presence at Uisneach and this is the Hiberniae Umbilicus

And so now to the poem about Uisneach from the so kindly named ‘the Poet.’ The Poetry Daily:

The Sacred Centre

If you follow the sun and stars
you will have plenty
and peace.
The earth's belly is full
so feast.

Our King Lugh and Queen Eriu
are the royal road
to the sacred centre.
Just follow the sun and stars and
keep walking towards
the centre. And do not
make of it a mere altarpiece.
You know that you owe
this peace to the plenty.

You must follow the sun and stars
sow in time, and hoe,
reap and feast - an unmarred
life follows sun, stars, royal code.
Our King Lugh relies
upon Queen Eriu.
If you follow the sun and stars,
give back to the earth
as Eriu gives all
fruit for the feast under sun, stars,
you shall have great peace
following the plenty

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Thanks goes to Marty Mulligan, our guide and storyteller, who brought Uisneach’s ancient landscape alive. He pointed out that the original inhabitants were not a war like people. It was only with the incursion of the people we now call the Celts around 500BCE that warfare became the stuff of bardic lore. Uisneach was the seat of abiding peace and mediation of disputes at a time when under Brehon law men and women had equal rights.

Marty Mulligan tour guide and storyteller at Uisneach
Marty Mulligan, tour guide at Uisneach

Thanks also to Nuala McCann, the Cavan County Council employee for Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark programmes. She is an excellent event organiser! It was great to get an insight into how other Hidden Gems in Ireland are allowing sustainable tourism to evolve. Uisneach is a shining example.

Off to Tir na nÓg

It never fails to surprise the process as I keep this daily poetry practice to create the published Poetry Daily. I arrived home from a more than twelve hour long day trip with my fellow Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guides at 9:30 last night. Meanwhile, I am due to begin teaching a poetry workshop in just over an hour and a half. (Cue my routine anxiety thinking “whatever can I teach about poetry except to just keep at it?!”) When I began my morning writing I was sure I was going to write about THIS, but what emerged on the blank page was THAT. THIS will probably come along over the next week as the trip to Uisneach was rich in inspiration and imagery. Uisneach is the the mythic and mystical centre of Ireland from the Neolithic age. We are talking pre-history here, when the oral tradition ruled and the ogham alphabet would not emerge until the early medieval period.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of Tir na nÓg, this was the land of the forever young of the mythic race of early Irish inhabitants, the Tuatha dé Danaan. Some said it was beyond the ninth wave of the ocean.

Beyond the Ninth Wave

I am always the foreignor
on the bus, no matter what country,
rolling around the sound
of the syllables I am hearing
from snatched conversations,
handling them like a found
pebble on the ocean's strand,
or the shell put to hear
sing the ninth wave's eternal echo.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

World Poetry Day

March 21st is UNESCO World Poetry Day. Unsually, I try and guide a walk in the weekend closest to this day at one of the Marble Arch Geopark sites, since geoparks are also a UNESCO designation. This year is beginning to have lots of projects crammed into a finite diary. The closest I wll get to this is leading a workshop on poetry at the Dowra Courthouse Creative space this Sunday. We will meet from 11am to 2p, 24th March, in the restored courthouse that has become a creative space with workshops that includes a pottery kiln and jewelery making workshop. Dowra is a Geopark Community that straddles the Cavan and Leitrim county boundaries.

There are still a couple spaces available. All you need do is bring a lunchtime snack, a comfortable pen, and a notebook. Be open to experimentation, to writing truly appalling first drafts, and moving on to feeling the joy of the creative sap rising with springtime.

Meanwhile, here is a World Poetry Day bonus poem…on the state of poetry.

Poetry

It sits like the elephant
in the corner of the living room,
treated as irrelevant,
a difficult to quantify
its quantity or quality
as economic unit.

Tell me the weight and rate
of soul? If you feel that one exists
inside darkest nights, within great joy?
Then everyone wants to reach
for a poem.Or to grasp a pen
to pioneer that frontier
of their understanding
of what costs nothing
and contains a world.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image
Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash



Spring Haiku

Sorry, but out where I live nature and the seasons are really in your face. Some days, the poetry practice just defaults to haiku and senryu. It comes with the territory when you live in a geopark I suppose. Haiku, senryu and micropoems certainly work as a poetry etude for me this morning.

Earth incubates
Her womb warm
Even when its cold
outside-
Still growth
Every spring
Nature's in your face
Surprise!
Tweet, caw, coo-woo, chuckle
Neighbour's conversation
Early morning
Catkins
Caterpillar fuzzy
Sun bright
This misty morning

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Brexit: A Breach in the Peace

Reading the papers this past few days, two things have been on my mind. First, the Irish Tanaíste, or deputy PM, has been rushing through legislation in advance of a No-Deal Brexit. Which will almost inevitably mean a hard border close to where I live. Then, reading on what the implications are on certain details of life in post-Brexit Britain, I read that the EU pet passport will not longer apply to holidaymakers who want to take their pets on European vacations. Now that doesn’t sound terrible, but it did make me wonder about people round where I live who take their pets to the vet in Enniskillen. That would be taking a pet out of the EU into a non-EU state. So where does that leave doting pet owners. Moreover, where does that leave the vet with a sizeable cross-border clientele? And if more had been made of not being able to take your hound on holiday, maybe the Brits would have voted Remain.

But what makes me really sad is that for me the EU was always about trying to create some justice, peace and reconciliation on a continent shriven by terrible, terrible wars. There was sectarian and ethnic strife, but for the most part, they were contained and were addressed. For the past twenty years the EU has funded four different phases of the Peace and Reconciliation process in Ireland.It’s not perfect, but it has made a huge difference. Who would have thought you could create the first cross-border Geopark on the planet in a place that had previously hosted army patrols not ten years earlier? Or, when fracking was threatened that all communities cross border united to see off the companies who wanted to drill. Frackers have a modus operandi of divide and conquer. In this cross-border area they cemented are sense of common cause.

A Breach of the Peace

It was not for cheap olive oil
or surplus sugar beet.
It was never the point
to build a butter mountain
even if that was the byproduct.
It was to stop making killing fields
generation upon generation.

Kids now having kids
in Northern Ireland today
can barely remember the army patrols
marching in full battle dress
past Boots the Chemists,
the bakers, the butchers.
Their ears don't pop to bomb blasts.

Lest we forget,
it was never about
oceans of surplus dairy fat.
It was to level the playing fields
built over a continent pitted
with century old bomb sites.
To stop the blood shed.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.