When I am not writing…

I am popping peas from their pods

Plucking carrots I sowed last May in nice, neat rows

Snapping the necks of courgettes

Pulling lettuce for supper, washing it, gussying it up like its a gala instead of Wednesday night

I am eating ice cream everyday because it is sultry

Or to cool off after savage Scrabble games

Or inventing cozy mystery titles over dinner, like

“The Last Scrabble Match” (where the victim has a U shoved down the throat)

I continue to cheat at crossword puzzles

The pets pant and lie on tiles

And shed like they want me to spin thread from their coats

I could knit into shawls for wintertime

I  chase animal hair down the corridor

Like they are ghost town tumbleweeds

At the launderette I watch God go around with the wash

It’s spin cycle time

But the rains come and give the laundry on the line

Three heavy showers so it takes five days to dry

I still have to iron dry the cuffs and waistlines

I Hate ironing

I mention my not writing to my bestie who asks carefully if anything

is festering

I embark on a long

Extended metaphor about how it is more like compost building

And I have been doing that, too

Wet stuff, then the green matter scrunched up from the recycling bin

Then some chopped comfrey as an activator

But you need heat to make the good crumbly fertile stuff

That is perfection

And I am not sad. Or anxious.  Really.

I remember the profound silence at the solar eclipse a month ago

When the whole world was holding its breath

It was that still, palpable

I held it like it was a touchstone or talisman

The blank page isn’t really scary

It is just waiting patiently for that moment

When the cloud formation speaks

And it is time to transcribe
Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

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Catching Fire

High temperatures in summer is no news most places. Except in Ireland, where if it gets much above 20C/65F, we swelter, broil, boil and fry. Partly, it has to do with living in northwest Ireland without a cloud of pollution overhead. The sun is particularly intense here. I have had more sunburns since moving here than anywhere else I have lived. That includes beach time at the Jersey shore in childhood. So it has been an interesting June watching our south-facing field fry in relentless sunshine, seeing the thermometer register 45C at 5pm one day.

So fire and dry heat has been a theme. We are now back to normal ‘good Irish summer’ temperatures in the low twenties, with humidity. I strongly suspect a poem on the theme of steam may emerge over this coming week.

Catching Fire

 

The earth under my feet

is mostly made of peat.

 

We have been a month without rain,

since Whitsuntide at least.

 

The earth under my feet is cracking.

I could flake it.  Snap off a chunk.

 

Set it alight. If anyone wanted to bother

burning some in the grate.

 

This summer’s sun is intense enough

to take a match to the bog.

 

The earth under my feet,

this rich, black gold,

 

is not yet smouldering, but

may burst into flame

 

any moment now.

Just exhaling could fan a flame.

 

Tongues of fire

will speak their pure language,

 

purgation.

It’s a gift.

 

Later, many months later,

the birch will begin.

 

First one, then a sister sprouting

a twin, triplets,

 

a family of trees telling

the whole story, chapter by chapter.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

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Sometimes Only a Poem Will Do

When a photo cannot do justice only a poem will do

You may not see these midsummer nights

the long twilight stretching pink fingers

out from the palm of midnight

across the western horizon.

But I can.

Furthermore,

a plumping moon eight months gone

glows

Her soft satisfied light bluing the night,

the trees, their leaves.

Venus sparkles stage right.

The Fat Lady and her twinkling diminutive friend

pierce the gathering dark

with their different brightness.

Elated, I run down the lane in my pyjamas,

greeting both like long lost women friends

ones unmet since we shared our youth,

our brightness lighting up the dark.

What Remains

In Ireland, death is highly ritualised. Wherever a person dies, almost invariably ‘the remains’ are brought home. There is the wake with neighbours, friends, and extended family visiting the deceased, who is usually laid out in the best room, all coming to say goodbye, praying the rosary, drinking tea, eating sandwiches. Then the house may go private to family only before ‘the removal.’ The remains are removed from home to the church the night before the funeral and a service is held to welcome the coffin.  There are forms of words and people who may  not have visited the funeral house line up to sympathise with the family, shake hands, say “I am sorry for your loss.” Then the funeral, the commital for burial or cremation. Over three days, the bereaved waver on that liminal place of letting go. Each sympathiser dins the reality home. You have lost a loved one.  That is a sorry thing.

This poem circles around that certain funereal terminology – the remains.

Remains

1.

The remains.

Not corpse.

Not carcasse.

Not cadaver.

The sinew

the beloved bones

the convex and concave planes

of beloved face.

 

2.

A wood coffin.

A casket full of a once bejewelled life.

A willow woven basket

its warp and weft a living thing.

The stone sarcophagus.

A memorial cold as

the cold, cold ground.

Catacombs.

A city  of the dead

skulls and crossed bones huddled together.

Balm for those extrovert spirits.

Purgatory for solitary souls.

The Crem.

Burning what remains to ash.

Remembering how we began as dust

and to dust we shall return.

 

3.

When the dust settles.

When the motes no longer dance.

Those atoms waltzing in a certain slant of light.

What remains of settled dust?

The light. The light.

That remains.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Hold the Space

I was travelling between 24th April and 6th May, which made the last leg of NaPoWriMo2018 a bit frantic and hectic. Travel is a bit of a brutality. Home is the reverse. Travel, however, does instruct. I was surprised by an attack of homesickness and nostalgia for Ireland that seems best expressed by the Irish word cumha. Yes, I missed my man, my very own Green Man, my Joyful Giver; but I also missed the land itself, the Celtic knottedness of home and belonging. It has happened before, but I rather discounted it. It is an identifiable pattern now.

Home is not birthplace or even where I hang my coat. It is the moss and tree limbs, stone, peat and clay of West Cavan. And as I was mentioning visiting Stonehenge and Avebury to a friend who has walked with me on the rocky Cavan Burren, he exclaimed, “What it is about you and stones?!” Cannot quite articulate a rational explanation just yet, Mick. But I have always slipped a pebble into my pocket, left them at graves even though I am not Jewish, gloried in fossils witnesed on beaches, threw an Irish pebble  into my parents’ Pennylvania grave. But wherever I go I play with stone. I found a sort of stone quern overlooking Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel. Someone had placed a shard of slate in it. I built a wee prayer cairn.

Hold the space
Travel breaks all habits. Home is the ritual space. Which includes getting back into writing routine, attending to the work diary, household chores. One can love one’s life. Being away and returning is a bit like falling in love all over again with everything that is beloved.


Hold the Space

On the page

In the room

With the body

Wholly present

Hold out your hands

Feel the atoms on your palms

Like dust motes

Dancing

What is their rhythm?

Slow your heart

To beat

With them

In time

In that space

Hearts

Beating in sync

The moment is the magic

Hold it, then

Release that fledgling

Into the wild

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Trophic Cascade

Day 30 of NaPoWriMo2018/GloPoWriMo and I am crossing the finishing line of the April Poem A Day Marathon. I may have dodgy knees, metal in my ankle and aching hips, but by golly I can poetry-thlete! I did all the suggested prompts this year, which I didn’t do in NaPoWriMo2017. This was my personal challenge. Not being a game kind of gal and one who views rules as guidance only, this was the way I could get out of my comfort zone.

Today’s prompt is supposed to be fact based. Here is the final prompt of NaPoWriMo2018. “And for our final (optional) prompt, I’d like you to take your cue from Borges, and write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.”

I didn’t opt for history or art trivia (kind of did that with Folded Cross). It isn’t ‘plain weird’ to use a science-based fact as my inspiration for today’s poem. Except, for people who know me outside of the realm of cyber space, that is plain weird! If you have not heard of this, Wikipedia will enlighten. I first heard about it surrounding Cristina Eisenburg’s wolf studies. (The people you encounter through Sagewoman magazine!)

Trophic Cascade

No one wants to love the wolf.

Nor do they want to be the deer,

the sacrificial victim that

maintains the entire ecosphere.

You need very few alphas,

But an awful lot of bottom feeders.

It’s really a case of trickle up,

the massed power of all those omegas.

So it goes:

Wolf downs deer.

Less deer, more trees.

More trees, less erosion.

Less erosion, more beaver.

More beaver, less flood.

Less flood, more everything happy

for everyone downstream,

the solid ballast  supporting

the pyramid of eco-hierarchy.

I love the wolf’s topaz eye, how alone

thinks of the welfare of the pack.

I love the deer, who could

and would say good-bye

all for the love of those further downstream.

I love the pact that these two make

knowing  what they must know.

Which one is prey?

Which one is on the take?

Yet, we rely upon the who and what they are,

the violence of their loving,

the rough and tough meeting smooth.

One has a topaz eye on fire.

The other a velvet soft, melting soothe.

That is the imperative design in nature.

The fountain overflows,

gives  no oxygen to any lie.

It loves what it loves.

So some may live and eat,

so others must die.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Little Fugue in Glastonbury

Day 29 NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo finds me on Day 5 of my sojourn in southwest England. We are in Glastonbury with the festival of Beltane  imminent. The prompt for today asks us to play with the Plath Poetry Project. Choose one of that site’s posted Sylvia Plath poems and respond.  After a quick perusal I opted for Little Fugue.


Little Fugue at Glastonbury Abbey


The fallen magnolia blossom

Blistered by beastly north wind

Flesh shrivelled in infancy



This changeling season

It should be hirsute Green Man

And nude bathing at the well



I could thwack, thwack, thwack

At Old Frosty myself

With my old lady walking stick



For all the white vapour

Exuding from my breath

The cloud overhead



Nearly May and this is it

Woolen mittens a long stretch from

The white cotton of ladies summer gloves



Really more the season to huddle

Over in the hive of the Abbot’s kitchen

Warming at all four fires



And Brigid! You there on the white walls

In St. Patrick’s Chapel,

Why are you hanging on here?



The white of your snowdrops

Long since gone, but winter

Its’ prison pallour clinging on, clinging on



Beyond the time for cream to adorn the thorn

It’s barely flaunting a petticoat’s hem

To tempt any virile Green Men



Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

For my fellow sojourners Pat, Dawn and Anthony