Weekly Poem – We Need the Eggs

How are you doing? There are solar flares and who knows what else out there wrecking havoc. It has been a week of multiple frustrations. One step forward and two, sometimes three or more steps back This week the car battery became as extinct as the dodo. The oven door fell off and smashed to smithereens. It felt like a good metaphor for my state of being. My nervous system feels hyperstimulated; to ground myself I am doing hand work. I darned my husband’s gardening jumper. I ordered more wool for a knitting project. An Post virtually teleported it to me so I began last night. Pity the courier has lost my new boots into some black hole somewhere in Ireland since 25th October.

Enough of my kvetching! I also started some deep breathing exercises and saying my gratitudes out loud. Gratitude is not just about being thankful that bad things have not befallen you by comparing yourself to others’ troubles. (Although that may be gratitude’s warm up act some weeks.) It is about the basic wonderful things. My husband is often vocally grateful for his electric tooth brush.

One of the wonderful things this week was appearing on John Wilmott’s Nature Folklore channel. I read the poem that appeared in last week’s blog. I also got to see my friend Suzy Venuta, who was coming into the studio from British Columbia. If you would like to listen in here is the link:

In which I read the poem Silence and Juice

If you listen in you will get a snippet of update on the Geopark Poetry Map project and a Zoom online writing workshop I am leading each Sunday from 28th November to 21st December, “Writing the Light in a Time of Darkness.” Message me your email address if you are interested.(DM on Twitter @irishblessingst). Also (Spoiler Alert!) Suzy aced the audition for TedX Surrey! YAY! Watch this space. She has amazing stage presence and authenticity. Shout out for her blog https://www.suzannevenuta.com/

Part of our conversation on the show was ‘where do you get your inspiration for a poem?’ I partially answered that question, but I can speak directly here to what sparked this week’s poem. It is related to the hand work I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Somehow, I fell heiress to my mother’s wooden darning egg. She showed me how to use it once, but I grew up during the peak polyester decades, so did not have much opportunity to practice. But the darning egg as an objet d’art appealed to me as a thing of beauty. With a move to Britain and Ireland where woolen sweaters are very useful garments, the darning lesson came in handy.

My Mother’s Darning Egg

Here is the hole that made a moth’s feast.
Here is the tear from some careless wear.

Here is the needle trailing its tail.
Take the darning egg. Tackle the beast.

Here. In. Out. And over. And under.
Here. Trace your way back home again.

Here’s where the heart is frazzled and frayed.
Here’s where rent garments are cherished, saved.

Here is the way to weave in and out.
Here is the hole we mend, in and out.

Here’s where we hide what's been torn open.
Secrets escaping, into the open.

Here is the egg that once hatched a moth.
Here is the needle that pieces wrath.

Here is the old that looks lightly new.
Here’s the pattern in fabric renewed.

Here is the egg that opens the hole.
Here is the egg that mends and makes whole.

When I Am Not Writing I Am Writing

Samhain season is here. The clocks have fallen back in Europe and North America. This is the season of the Cailleach (sounds like call-yuck). She is the Old ‘Un, considered the creatrix of the island of Ireland. The myth says that this Mother Winter piled stone upon stone to create this island in the North Atlantic. While autumn temperatures are still nmild here, and the Virginia creeper was slow to turn crimson, the darkness has crept in. I want to be a bear and sleep in my den. Maybe that has to do with solar flares, or the clock time shifting around, or the darkness that requires artificial light in at least some corners of the house all day. How did they cope before electrification? Most any time of the day requires some extra light for reading or writing or any close work…

While not ascribing to writer’s block, I do believe there are creative lulls. Sometimes it just needs to be pen down. Meanwhile, I have hoked out bag after bag of comfrey root before dibbing in many kilos of narcissus bulbs to naturalise. I also felt an urge to make an effigy of the Cailleach. Tis her season after all! And then I still had some wool and made her a Wyrd Little Sister. Or Maid. Or Assistant in the creation of the world. While the Wyrd Sister has the button face that many folk Bridéogs have had, I really felt that the Cailleach needed a blank face…sort of like Original Face, since she is Origin. I also found a piece of felled tree branch that works as a stick for her to lean on and into the winter gales. She is a giantess and the Wryd Little Sister is considerably smaller even with her bending into the wind. They have stones in their aprons in accordance with some legends and stones at their feet as they empty load upon load. Creation begins…over and over.

Which really does prove that putting tools down and getting away from the screen or the page can fuel your creativity. Sometimes, some other creative activity will fill your well. I play with wool, collage, cook, bake; I specialise in garden demolition work! The words will come eventually, but first I need to shush the mind chatter and emotional whirlwinds. I need the silence. Perhaps silence is the writer’s equivalent tool to an artist using chiaroscuro in a painting. Silence helps delineate the light and shadow.

Onward to the Weekly Poem in its infant form… It arises from a interrogating myself on what do I want and need to myself at this Samhain time.

Silence and Juice

I want more...
silence to quell the deep uncertainty out there beyond
our small sanctuary of green beginning to sleep,
beds caped against frost, for the frost will come,
it will bite, it will bleed the juice from the comfrey
that will wilt and blacken and lie flat
down on the ground, macerating.

I want
some of that juice. Let it flow.
Let it allow something new to grow.
Let it be strong and useful and somehow
even a little bit beautiful.

I need some of that juice from the get go.
Also
deep sleep, like some bear in its winter lair.
I need this darkness
though some may feel despair...

There is the soft heart beat
of seeds waiting for more light, 
for more warmth,
for some water and some wind,
some thing...

I need to just put my ear to the ground
counting earth's twenty-three beats per minute
even in the winter,
even in the dark,
even in the cold.

I want silence for myself, but I need the beat.
I want the beat for myself in the silence.
I need the silence to hear the beat.
I need the beat to soften the silence.

I need to trust the unexpected.
I want to pay the price of all with my all.

If you need a little light in the season of darkness I am going to be conducting some Sunday Zoom reflective writing sessions from the first night of the Festival of Light, Hanukah, until Winter Solstice on 21st December. Because this is a spendy time of year I am only requesting a donation, pay what you are able. Sometimes you just need to have a lighthouse in your living/dining room and beam it out so others don’t run aground. Message me if you are interested in joining.

Weekly Poem – Pivot

pivot hinge doorway samhain

There is a hard rain pelting on our roof this morning. Outside it felt way too dark to actually be close to 9am. But then again, we are that point of the year when the clocks go back. In Ireland this Sunday the clocks ‘fall back’ and we will be plunged into the darkness of Samhain time. This is one of the main pivot points in the Irish year. Traditionally, Samhain, or Halloween as it is known elsewhere, is the Celtic New Year. We are entering the season of endings and beginnings. Winter is a time where the earth is sleeping and, in our high northern latitudes, the light is too feeble for any growth. But the legends say that this is a time when Mother Earth is gestating. We must be patient, wait, and let the darkness do its own essential work.

Over in my Word Alchemy group we have been working on the theme of Light considering that what we see more of reflected in the outer world of media is deep shadow. This led on to the topic of joy. The prompt for one of our in-Zoom writing sessions was “What Brings You Your Greatest Moments of Joy?” Our further discussion touched on joy as a consciousness…and a conscious decision, one that does not refute the sadness or pain, but can be one where you can lace your fingers around a cup of hot chocolate and sip of something other for a moment.

Here is an excerpt from my own musings.

Sunset on the beach, the light slipping below the horizon, sending a burst of magenta, marigold and blue ink across an oceanic slate… the splash and plash of low tide rolling across sand and pebbles, sweeping up shells, sandblasted glass, cork, seaweed…watching the tideline rise and recede and my ankles sinking deeper and deeper into the sand…seeing fossils etched in ancient rock, the stars and spirals from which we all come from there to remind us of the spiral waltz of stardust that comes down to find a body who can stand at the tideline, ankles lapped by salty seawater that sink lower and lower into the silty sand, making a pearl inside of an oyster shell of a human body…

Moments of Joy, Bee Smith, 2021

Nature, the people and pets in our lives, our five senses, memories from the past, the now of the present, the hopes and plans for the future all weave a tapestry of joyfulness.

So many times over these anxious weeks, I stop myself and breath and pay especial attention to giving gratitude for the everyday…the roof over my head sheltering us from the pounding rain, the neighbours up and down the lane, the technology that helps us reach out and connect with those physically far from us, the cup of hot chocolate that does not deny the trouble and strife, but lifts us in a moment. And I give thanks for the cocao farmer and I hope that their family is well and free from suffering, too, and getting a fair exchange for their skill and labour. Little may they know or imagine what joy they are bringing in higher latitudes as rain pelts down and the year winds down to one of its pivot points.

Pivot

It's just the hinge needs grease
to ease its creak.

Just get at that rusting point.
Anoint the joints.

Just move back and forth,
back and forth. Do it smooth.

It's just metal won't give or grow.
A hinge opens. And it will close.

It's 180 degrees, you know? You're thinking 360.
That kind of swing sheers off everything

To a point that the point can
lose all its meaning.

You've only so much room
for manoevering.

A door remains two-faced. Replace grace for grease.
Then. Pivot.

Copyright Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

I invite you to recount your own moments of joy this week like you might say your prayers on rosary beads. Write it, paint it, crochet it – choose whatever creative activity gives you pleasure and joy. As another student commented in our Zoom Room last Saturday…creativity is an act of self-actualisation. Yet while we are actively shaping ourselves, we are also shaping and becoming the world we live in. We can take a conscious act to shape it and make it one of joy.

As we approach Samhain’s hinge of the year’s seasons, may your own pivot points be joyful.

Featured image Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Weekly Poem – Sunday Morning Meditation

This is the mystery of writing. While you may practice it sitting on your arse staring at the blank page or screen, it happens in other ways, too. The late Dermot Healy once said in a master class I attended that all reading is writing. Even when you are slogging in a very muddy garden performing the autumn clear up tasks, writing is happening on some back burner in the brain. We sleep and dream and wake wanting to write it down and unriddle those images that stir us and make us confront the secret anxieties of our waking life. The longer I am at this writing lark I realise that wielding the written word is a coping mechanism for life. Or perhaps, it is more accurate to say that the creative process is what configures hope, peace, faith and love. It’s just that writing is my preferred creative vehicle driven in this life time. Next one, can I please be a visual artist?

We are living in anxious times. It’s difficult to ignore even if you strictly ration the gloomy news. If you duck the gunk going on the macro, the micro news carried by friends, acquaintances and colleagues cannot be given the blind eye. In my Zoom creative writing class this past weekend I used a quotation from a Leonard Cohen song as the spark for our in-class writing.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Goosebumps! This guy is just so good! Bravo maestro!

So the spark for part of the session was about cracks and where the light can get in or out. That is going to be an ongoing exercise over the next few weeks. Even though 92% of the Irish population over the age of 12 is vaccinated, the HSE is still prepping for a “difficult winter.” Medical staff are exhausted, between Covid and the cyber hack of the HSE computer system. Most everyone is flagging emotionally, mentally or physically. Who does not know someone who is down with the ‘cold that is not Covid?’ Resiliance is feeling a bit threadbare. A friend’s 95 year old mother said she felt this past 18 months had been more difficult in many ways than World War II. People may have been dying left and right then, but you could have a cup of tea with a neighbour if you felt down. Or go dancing, while not dodging bombs.

Sunday morning, even though for the first time in a week it was not raining, I woke early and grabbed my notebook. I had a very leisurely few hours of writing ‘downtime.’ The Weekly Poem is the result. It is an abecedarian. It is similar to the acrostic, with lines beginning with a word in alphabetical order over the course of the poem. It was a new form for me to experiment with.

BTW, I recommend finding one day a week for dedicating a morning to just mooch, or lie abed late, or stare out the window for a full hour. It can help steady the centre of world that is fizzing, fizzling, and sending up frantic distress signals.

Sunday Morning Meditation

A milky mist obscures next door’s field, and out
beyond I hear geese honking, a wailing a long way from home. Can it be
Canada is just their summer 'vacance'? Or is Lough Moneen 
   their winter palace?  What is home? I guess it

depends upon how you look at it. I watch them fly
east towards the mountain most days going
forwards and back from the lough, a noisy
gaggle in tight formation, expostulating.

How can we transliterate their soundings?

I look out as the morning gradually takes shape, mist receding over 
    the murky horizon. 
Jays have not visited the garden of late. Are they seasonal, too? 
    How is it that I do not
know my year round neighbours and which are the blow ins 
    from the Arctic?

Listen. Even in October there is some birdsong playlist, several species
making conversation. Or concert? Con-something or other.  Together,
notes make chilled jazz for a Sunday brunch ambience.

Onyx-eyed magpie stares straight at me as I write behind the window’s glass, bemused 
    or beseeching
perhaps. What can a bird want of me? One  likes to 
quantify symbolisms, let the bird’s shape signify, elevate it to messenger from
realms beyond the mist, but by nine o’clock

sunshine breaches this early autumn cloud. The world comes into sharp definition, the day’s light no longer
totally eclipsed. But do you feel the chill
underlying the light? Take the pulse of the unseen, the unheard, untold
verities, a
world of meaning craving anyone’s ear. Or eye. Or heart, offering itself up to be as revealing as the

X-ray that lights up the shadows, showing everything in photographic negative 
     when really what is needed is a very positive
'Yes!' To life. And yes to mourning. And yes to the lost,  and the already gone missing. 
     They are missed. Why did we never notice that once there
     was an ark, but now a

Zoo is an asylum for very nearly, almost, listed, life extinct.

Featured image Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

Weekly Poem – A Clearing

I hope you had a good equinox last week. Activity is very much horticultural in our townland. A neighbour has found us a bargain potting shed and my husband has been busy clearing and leveling the space where they will erect it. Not quite a Pennsylvania Amish barn raising, but an Irish example of meitheal – that Irish word describing neighbours pitching in to help with harvest or other tasks. Meitheal is alive and well in our townland where we share seed and recycle handy items. The shed will rest on pallets that another neighbour had just put into a skip after clearing out one of their own sheds. What may no longer be useful to one may just be the solution for someone else’s project. And none of us want to add to landfill unneccessarily.

The week was spent tatie hoking – potato digging in Ulster parlance – and being the Lady of the Shallot’s bed. Also wrapping apples in newspaper from a friend’s tree. Everyone is spreading things around; my apple tree friend had been given crates full of windfall of second hand fiction. That has been parcelled out around the county.

The forecast of showers has proved wrong. I came in from clearing up hedge clippings and weed piles for lunch and after eating my sandwich sat down with my pen and found a sonnet forming.

A Clearing

Season's slide of diminishing daylight-
sudden slant of gold that parts pewter cloud
to stop your breath and break your heart before
the darkening scrolls across from the west.
These days  are spent digging and  lifting spuds
between showers, sweat streaming, a chill wind
plastering damp hair to skull, shivering,
judging Setanta gave a decent yield.

Now a clearing of each bed, laying bare
weed root and lingering fruit, reckoning
what counts as success in a year, whether
by wit, crazy chance or lazy practice.
Rake it level. Crumble it fine. Sow now
something hardy to bear the coming frost.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2021. All rights reserved.
Some of the spuds

I hope your own writing practice is going well. Last week marked the reconvening of many of my Zoom creative writing colleagues for our Saturday virtual gathering. That was cause for great joy. We look forward to dedicating ourselves to projects over the coming weeks as the days shorten and darken.

Back in the (Writing Practice) Saddle Again

The new fountain pen arrived on Saturday. A pristine notebook was beckoning. There was no excuse but for a daily writing practice to resume. On 15th September 2018 I began to post a poem each day. After three months I wondered if I could keep it up for a whole 365 days. I did it! Which is to say that the month of July was actually brutal and at times felt like forty days in a desert. So close to the end, but that last lap was really tough. I signed onto Angela T. Carr’s 30 Days of Summer poetry prompt e-course which got me through the writing dog days of August. (She is doing a similar course for Samhain this year. Check it out here: https://www.adreamingskin.com/spellbound-30-days-samhain-writing-challenge if your writing practice needs a nudge.)

I actually have been toiling for the past couple of weeks on a piece of creative non-fiction to submit for competition. Inthe early Noughties I wrote a regular column and contributed features fairly frequently to Sagewoman magazine. So I was used to churning out 2,500 words of prose on at least a quarterly basis and could knock things off in a pretty business-like manner. But I shifted more towards poetry in the past ten years and I have to say, composing what turns out to be something like 2,200 words has felt like a bloodletting.

They do say writers open a vein and bleed ink. Rather melodramatic and also a bit like P T Barnum doing your promotion. But still…writing is not easy. Trying my hand at a formal piece of creative non-fiction after such a long interval has been a real challenge. Writing can be hard work.

What writers don’t often mention is the amount of time you are thinking about the piece when you are not actually sitting in front of your laptop or doodling in your notebook. You read things…you see things… you stare out the window at the bird feeder and think idly of something, nothing, then another thing and then THE thing. And you walk the dog and think some more about THE thing and wonder to the aloud to the deaf dog if it fits into the heart of the piece. And then determine, as Maggie Hannon said to me during the poetry mentoring of 2019, if it a Siammese twin that needs surgical separation and to be put into its own cot!

I can offer some first drafts of poems from this morning’s writing practice this week.

We are the Mycelium Field

An underground life 
can be just as -
or more -
widereaching than
the width and breadth
of forest floor.

Airborne
fungi send their spores
below goes
above
and over
and down
and round again

Just watch a puff ball go
POOF!

An underground life
dreams
what we will see
not just the trees
not just the forest

Underground breeds
whole federations of trees and
above ground their leaves
rustle in the late summer afternoon breeze.

They do their alchemy
so we all can breathe

Some fungi I photographed on our Sunday walk in the woods. The air was heavily scented with ‘shroom!

The Townhall Cavan had a exhibition last month created by artist Jane McCormick divertingly called The Museum of Broken Things. Read more about it here: https://www.anglocelt.ie/2021/07/09/the-museum-of-broken-things/. I was so beguiled by the title I wrote a little fragment of a poem on objets cassé.

A Bunch of  Broken Things

The bust watch face
for which time never stopped

The chipped mug
that cuts your lip with every sip

The ragged wedding veil
that moths made into a sieve for your vows

The tarnished cigarette lighter
its flint rusted stuck

You
Me
the severed limb of a tree

Have a good week. I hope you have a creative practice each day. The world needs us to be creative. Find a sliver of each day to dedicate to your creativity. Even if it is during your lunch hour. I wrote a lot of haiku and micropoems over the years during lunch hours.

Writing Practice

I last posted a blog 17th of August. While I did post some old posts via social media, I have needed down time from writing. After the great black mould battle, redecoration, entertaining house guests and reconvening a social life within current Covid guidelines, three weeks have slipped by. Since Monday I have considered writing. I have drafted some lame poems. Finally, I admitted how out of practice I am with writing. Yes, I had been on a kind of vacation. But do you ever really take a vacation from writing practice? I haven’t for….a really long time. Probably not since August 2018 actually.

Just as out of practice I was with socialising. I am only talking five people max for tea (or lunch or supper) on the terrace, but gosh it is Exhausting with a capital E. Don’t get me wrong. It’s lovely to see people and especially to exchange ideas. We have had two visits with some Cavan Artists in Residence for the River Residency. Vicki and Paul from Boredom Research really charged me up with an exchange of artistic ideas and concepts; they are a tonic!

You can get plenty of inspiration online. Zoom has been an outlet for creative writing class exchanges. But to have a small group outdoors in sunshine where we can talk, sing, read out poems and excerpts from books grabbed from shelves, tell stories – in person – well, mind blowing!

I have just spent a few hours creakily resuming some form of writing practice. Normally, I write a first draft by hand with my trusty fountain pen. But tragedy struck and the nib that sketched out all those Poem a Day first drafts gave out two days ago. Which left me feeling very sad. Writers are strange beings. We get attached to certain rituals and the demise of that fountain pen left me feeling bereft. It, together with the Quink black ink cartridge refills have given service for at least the past four years.

The new moon was on the 7th and it felt like I needed to start with a fresh pen, a fresh notebook and not a thought or note to sing in my head.

Maybe I was ‘written out.’

Maybe there was nothing left to say…

Which really scared me…

I went on Amazon and ordered the pen on the 8th.

This morning looked at the rough out of an idea for a nature essay and opened the laptop. I aimed to put the meraki into that piece. Meraki is more often used when talking about pouring your soul into your cooking. Given all the entertaining that has happened this past fortnight my kitchen has been the heart centre of much outpouring of love.

Meraki also speaks of pouring something of yourself into your creative efforts and that led me to some autobiographical musing. The writing I have done this morning touches on the major ‘inner happening’ of my adult life. It was twenty-five years ago now, more even. Twenty-five years marks the line before and after neatly. From a distance now I can write without the attachment to the subject I had even twenty years ago.

It’s good to return to a theme or subject when you have made peace with it, with yourself and it.

And I am not sure what will become of what I wrote this morning. Something. Nothing. But I resumed some form of writing practice after nearly a month of pouring my meraki into redecorating my living room and preparing for visitors, cooking and baking and sharing all manner of things – elbow bumps, masked pandemic hugs, coffee, tea, cake, poems, songs, ideas, queries and advice, laughter and sober consideration – at a beach, beside a lough, in the woods and overlooking our garden.

My new pen may arrive as early as tomorrow..In the meantime, I sit at my trusty old ‘steam powered’ laptop. I tap, tap, tap, stop, revise, delete, tap, tap, tap, read. check for verb agreement, spell check, go drink tea, have a sandwich, and come back to it again after an hour.

There is plenty of space for meraki , to leave pieces of myself and my love over the next few months. The garden is beckoning. There are still home improvement projects that should keep me out of trouble over the winter. Some of my students are requesting that I resume the Zoom creative writing this autumn. I am thinking that the theme for this autumn will be “Write from the Heart.” Which is also very meraki!

In a time where the outer world can feel pretty bleak, creative expression – no matter what your medium – done with love offers a shaft of light in the darkness. Art done with love, in love, elevates the creator as much as those who receive that creation as a gift freely given.

Which is a lofty idea that brings me back to writing practice, the craft, oiling those creaking gears of creativity when my new pen arrives soon and the ink can freely flow again.

PS. I also played a LOT of scrabble with my friend Pen who was staying with us. To her

for all the great words!

Featured image Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Weekly Poem – Lúnasa Harvest

If you were paying attention then you may have noticed that I missed posting a new poem last Tuesday. What with the blistering heat finally abating there was enough energy to actually do some garden harvesting and outdoor work without melting. Lúnasa is the Celtic festival that begins on 31st July. We have had a bank holiday weekend just as we do at Samhain. Lúnasa is the Irish name for the month of August. What with one thing and another my week looked a bit like this…

Garden harvest of peas, broad beans, courgette and lettuce with one of the Lúnasa or Lammas loaves I baked this weekend

I recited some Lúnasa poems on my friend John Wilmott’s Nature Folklore Sunday Sessions this past Sunday. You can find him every Sunday on YouTube or Facebook Live. You can ferret through the archive by connecting on his Facebook Page Carrowcrorry Cottage and Labyrinth Gardens. If you peruse his channel you will learn a great deal about the Irish folklore surrounding Bilberry Sunday and Lúnasa and Crom Cruich.

I cannot do the live with him next Sunday so I made a wee video of one of the poems I am posting for you today. He will be looking at the old god Crom Cruich or Crom Dubh next Sunday. This god of the underworld was much celebrated in this region where I live, Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark. (YES! Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has a new name to more accurately reflect it’s crossborder identity!) The Blacklion-Belcoo region about eight miles from where I live was a great centre for worship of Crom Cruich. The text for one of the poems is below. A video reading this poem and another is uploaded on YouTube. I recorded it in my garden this past Sunday.

Bilberry Sunday

Hurry to cut the hay! Foot the turf!
The blazing sun plays beat the clock
waltz time to tractor engine tune.

The Council officials scythe the long grass
around graves in the old cemetery
dressing them up to be blessed once again.

Sunday is meant to be for rest.
In this most strenuous season
long days of sweat bear first harvest.

Even so, we take the time to climb up
holy heights or circle the holy well
repeating ancient patterns, saying prayers.

Bilberry’s tight fruit, slightly sour,
are offered up on walks taken
in high summer’s brief leisure hours.

Bog myrtle too sprouts from peat rich high ground,
exposed to sun and scorched dry by recent heat, 
splintering like bog oak exhumed, risen.

up from damp ancient underworld,
Auld Crom Cruich’s proper domain,
along with Belcoo’s freezing spring.

The pilgrims visit, praying the pattern,
An elegy, requiem for dying
Summer and all being gathered.

But just now we are too busy.
We must save the seed and preserve
fruits of harvest we don’t consume.

We are too busy to mourn what’s cut down.
It’s enough to know the year is waning.
That seed saved is hope of new beginnings.



Since I missed last week, I will add a wee haiku as a bonus.

Lazy orbiting
Thistle's downy seed head drifts
Summer's surrender
Thistle down

When the Ancestors Whisper…

Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up! I was at my first (outdoor) gathering with more than five people last night. Droímín Creatives Cavan has been having a literature and arts celebratory weekend. My creative colleague and I were invited to the Saturday evening event. It was outdoors; tables and seats were socially distanced, dotted around the grounds of Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff. Droímín Creatives is an intiative to create literature and arts experiences inspired by the Cavan landscape. You can find out more and see my profile on https://droimincreative.ie/

It was a bit freaky to be in a large group of unmasked people for the first time in seventeen months. I have been bubbled with my creative colleague, being one of the handful of folks that we have seen at various socially distanced meet ups in between lockdowns. There was live music, albeit in a slimmed down group – a trio that included The Cavan Man Martin Donohoe himself, Philip Clarke and Hannah O’Reilly, an All Ireland Fleadh Singer Winner. It was The Cavan Man’ssecond gig in sixteen months. We sat at picnic tables with cloths made of a collage of artwork and quotes from Cavan writers.

I sat down at the picnic table to eat the delicious light supper provided ; Cavan County events have the best hospitality on principle. I moved my paper plate aside to see a quote of one of my poems published on this website. You can see the quote here

An Accidental Place Card at the Picnic Table

Over supper I struck up a conversation with a woman who was puzzling over my accent. The answer to the question, “Where do you come from? ” and my answer “Dowra, in the far west of Cavan” didn’t entirely satisfy. We unwound my complicated accent history – an Northern Irish husband, time in London and Leeds, all the way back to my birthplace in New York City. It turned out that she had spent twenty-four years in Queens. “Where?” I queried. “Elmhurst,” she answered. I replied that many of my father’s family lived around 82nd Street in St. Adalbert’s parish. It turns out that that was HER neighbourhood for many years. She even used the term “going up the hill”, which is what my father’s mother said when she set out to visit her parents and sisters who lived near St. Adalbert’s Church. I mentally dropped my jaw. In Ireland there never seems to be even three degrees of separation between us.

Later on I was chatting with poet Rita Kelly and the Cavan Arts Officer, Catriona O’Reilly. We paused our conversation politely while Hannah O’Reilly gave us a song that had the rather jocular refrain that went something like…”sure we’re all related by marriage or birth…” I broke into a grin. I was suddenly reminded that both my sister’s Ancestry DNA reports and my own My Heritage DNA reports had noted that we share DNA with people who emigrated from Cavan and North Leitrim. Indeed, according to Ancestry we had a couple fourth or fifth cousins knocking around North Leitrim now.

We do not know my paternal grandfather’s paternity. My surname Smith is a bit of a fiction, which many other unrelated Smiths share across the world where registrars note that ‘John Smith’ was the father in cases where the mother was unmarried to the biological father.

As of Autumn Equinox this year I will have lived in County Cavan for twenty years. That is the longest consecutive residence I have any anywhere in my nearly 65 years. If you had suggested this to me as a teen that this would be the place I felt most as home I probably would not have known where to place it on the map of Ireland. When we decided to come to Ireland in 2000 I dowsed the map of Ireland and the pendulum swung over Cavan and North Leitrim. As far as I was concerned we were heading to Clare. Yet, by another series of synchronicities here we are and here we stayed. Even when you do not trust them, sometimes they have a way of over-riding the best laid plans and scripts.

You really can’t make this stuff up. The synchronities that cropped up – first mention of my father, then the locality where the family lived for decades and the song lyrics – all seemed to point to a nod from the ancestors. We may never know Joe Smith’s dad’s name, but the ancestors seem to have pulled at some of the threads of his back story and may have brought me back to the landscape that spawned his own paternal lineage.

Joseph Smith with his fiancée Barbara Muller in 1910

Weekly Poem -In the Grip of

It is very hot for Ireland this week. Which accounts for my later posting of the weekly poem . While our temperatures are in the 25-27C range, (which sounds laughably cool to many people) with the humidity in the 80 percentile it is not comfortable for folks used to summers where a few days at 21C is a cause for rejoicing and the populus turning lobster pink as we boil in the unusually relentless sunshine.

Consequently, I am rising early and doing activities that are…well, active before noontime. Air conditioning is unheard of in Ireland except in public buildings. The supermarket was cool, but my ice cream cone (that I ate outside where I could take off my mask) was a bit melty by the time I finished it. The lane’s tarmac weeps once we go over 25C. So I am walking our little dog between 7am and 8am each morning to preserve his wee paw pads. Even by 8am the exertion makes me sweat. There is a race to water, weed and harvest in the garden before I swoon from the sun. Also, to do any cooking since putting on the oven or using the gas stove only adds to the heat. So, I only settled down (wearing my bou-bou from Mogodishu, a gift from a South African friend) to write the weekly poem well after lunchtime. It is, in part, inspired by a stray fact gleaned from the Long Read in today’s Guardian by Zarlasht Halaimzai. I commend it to you.

In the Grip of a Death Cult, we

bomb the Kabul maternity home
making it a grave for so many newborns;
exhume the septic system of Tuam’s
Mother & Baby Home. 
Count out the tiny remains-
the hundreds and hundreds not unlike
those found out the back of the Kamloops Institute 
(except they were not white)
buried toe to toe. Who knows

who actually loves children?
We would like to think the future.
Certainly not the past. Or even  the now.
We prefer to love them in utero
where so many hearts bleed over
embryonic potential, adoringly viewing
the ET finger waving home from behind
the scan’s screen. Who knows why

we treat them so differently once they
cross the line into actuality, handing them
a fate where they starve, are bombed out,
hounded, tortured, caged for the audacity
of birth that so many swear is their greater good.

Over and over we lay this Isaac on that altar 
to a god hungry for blood, 
one who does not stay Abraham’s hand. 
Nor do we question said authority
demanding that the little children shall suffer
even as we sentimentally mourn the many lost
in their potentiality. 
Even in the face of their brutal actual 
brief lives – short of breath, snuggle, succour and love.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash