In Transit

The theme for #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘At the Station.’ Regular readers of Sojourning Smith will be familiar with my distaste for airport departure lounges. I have taken trains and buses a fair amount over a lifetime, and become infatuated with ferry terminals at times. There were vivid memories of getting trapped in an Amtrak bathroom before the train had even set off for my transcontinental trek back in 1978. (I did eventually release myself.) But in the end the title demanded its hearing, as did the journey remembered from early childhood. I may get back to stations at some later date though.

In Transit

" Are we there yet?"
We clop lopped over concrete slabs
of the northeastern extension
of the PA turnpike.
We were a long way
from there yet.

So we made up games,
listing each new state's
car license plate.
I learned how to rhyme
in a Studebaker backseat,
defeated by orange.
Determined to make
a new word up.

Pitstop Neshaminny Howard Johnson's.
Prepare to hold your nose in Bristol
going past rotten egg Rohm & Haas.
Cross the Delaware River
to Grandmother's house we go.
View the ships in bottles,
great-uncle corraling clippers
in glass. But we're not there yet.

Pass the Chinese supermarket
in Brown's Mills before skirting
forlorn Pine Barrens
more Brother's Grimm
than sylvan

"Are we there yet?"
said somewhere near Lakewood
when nose began to sniff and give
a feral quiver, an atavistic
sense of subtle shifts

in ozone, air recalibrating.
Then the definite tang of salt,
rotting seaweed, crossing
Barnegat Bay's old metal bridge
rattling over onto the barrier island's sandy spit.

Roll down Ocean Avenue,
hang a left at the Catholic Church.
Stop, pile out of station wagon
to peels of aunt's laughter
as it goes up and down the scale,
our cousins' clammer.

Later, after a noisier than usual dinner
we go down to the street
to see the Atlantic Ocean.
Walking the beach, getting feet wet,
we face the edge of earth
to look out at the mystery.
We are not nearly there yet.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image of ‘Old Barney’ from sandcastlelbi.com

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Into the Wild Wood

I am writing in haste this morning before I depart to learn how to identify butterflies, their habitat and how to survey them here in wildish West Cavan. The topic for the Poetry Daily comes from the #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge – the wild wood. Immediately, images of my beloved local Cavan Burren Forest, with its trees, mushrooms, bilberries and glacial erratics came to mind.

Into the Wild Wood

I go out to meet all the tree people
to commune with god in their upturned limbs,
the canopy the greatest cathedral.

I go out to meet all the tree people
who are congregation, altar and pew,
their stillness reaching towards the eternal.

I go out to meet them to be prayerful,
the trees breathing both below and above,
the one organism, earthly, celestial.

I go out to meet my wild angel,
to explore its paradigm and its whim,
to go out and greet this old tribe, my people.

I go out to greet my ancient people
that die and live and grow for clues
how we wander borders of the eternal.

I go out to greet my fellow people
where wildness and peace are hand in glove
as one organism, one world, eternal.



 Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
Cavan Burren woods rock art
Rock Art Cavan Burren Forest Park, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark
Wild Wood Cavan Burren dorest park
Into the wild wood, Cavan Burren Forest Park
Beech tree Cavan Burren Forest park
Fairy Beech Tree in Cavan Burren Forest

Sunflower Moon

Native Americans and First Nations Peoples give each full moon a descriptive name. It is what is supposed to be happening in the natural world during that lunation and the full moon spotlights it. Some call this the Barley Moon since that grain harvest coincides with the August full moon. Sturgeon Moon is appropriate for the Pacific Northwest, but here in my corner of Ireland Sunflower Moon is more appropriate. The prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Lion’s Den’, but all the various solar associations came tumbling out. The astrological sign of Leo is ruled by the sun. So the zodiac’s Lion recalls all manner of potential subjects- royality, gold, drama , lion heart and Cowardly Lion. Since the full moon was only yesterday and is still bright, I decided that the Poetry Daily needed to celebrate the Sunflower Moon.

As a side note. this month has had loads of solar flares. Apparently, at least according to astrologer Pam Gregory, these can either knock you out or make you buzzy. I am on the knocked out end of the spectrum. But my dreams are more vivid than usual. So I kept the writing practice short and sweet this morning.

Sunflower Moon

The blackberries aren't ripe yet,
the bilberries nearly all gone.
This full moon the sunflowers stand erect,
even as the rain pounds down.
The meteor showers have shot past.
The solar flares wear me out.
The sunflowers still stand proud,
their spiral smiles encourage us
to be of stout heart.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Mountains High

Mountain High and River Deep is the theme for Day 15 of the #30DaysOf SummerWritingChallenge, the writing prompts that are helping me get over the 365 day marathon of the Poetry Daily. The finish line is September 14th, 2019. August 15th is also the Catholic feast of Maria Assunta, when Mother Mary is believed to have ascended bodily into heaven. Coincidentally, it is also the third anniversary of our cat Zymina crossing Pet Rainbow Bridge. She is buried under a little cairn in the garden she loved.

The mountain prompt and the pet cairn reminded how we have a rank of mountains (well glorified hills, but they are OUR mountains) that have cairns on top of them. Knockninny in Fermanagh is farthest east. Then there is my local Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the Cavan-Fermanagh border. Travelling west, Benbo in Leitrim has a cairn, too. Then as you reach the Atlantic coast in Sligo, the cairn or all cairns, Queen Maeve’s tomb on Knocknarea.

Cairns, while looking like a just another pile of stones, were the earliest tombs (along with modified glacial erratics that stored cremated remains. In Cavan Burren Forest there is, deep in the woods, a Cairn Dolmen. Layer upon layer of archaelogy and pre-history is literally present. Dolmens, the first of the megalithic tombs, succeeded the cairns and modified glacial erratic as sacred places associated with death rites.

So the Poetry Daily is just concentrating on mountains today. The highest one locally is Cuilcagh, at 666 metres. It has a cairn on top, which can be reached by the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ that helps very sturdy tourists mount to its summitr from the Fermanagh side. But please, leave no trace! Would you leave a plastic bottle at your granny’s grave?

Cuilcagh Cairn

Nipple on the mountain tip
offers itself to suckle the moon.
Tickled by the wind, it is erect.
What secret, ancient queen sleeps
beneath your pile of stones that
were scraped and shaped by Ice Age
freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw?
What do the tourist hordes understand
as they puff and pant
up the Stairway to Heaven?
This is the Queen of Heaven's last throne,
Her inauguration seat
built over her body and bones.
Leave each sacred stone in place.
There is no earthly blessing
She can impart who is the one
that intimately knows Sky's heart.


 Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved
Cuilcagh cairn
Cuilcagh cairn

Hurricane Season

The prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is to write about rain. Now the Irish have as many words to express the quality and character of rainfall, just as Inuits are alleged to have about snow. Yet again I am being tossed back into memory of my youth. I experienced one of those batten down the hatches Northeasters when visiting with my aunt at the shore. When we get storms in from the southwest I have a flicker of recognition. And those kinds of storms, dramatic as they are on the outside, can be quite cozy when you are safe indoors by a fire. But it was the one genuine hurricane I can say I experienced that became the subject for the Poetry Daily. Hurricane Agnes was the first storm of the hurricane season in June 1972. It was more savage than usual for that early in the summer. It was even more brutal once it moved inland from the Chesapeake Bay and whirled its way up the path of the the Susquehanna River.

Agnes, 1972

It's not all palm trees bent double.
A hurricane can move inland
and make for plenty more trouble.
All night we slept on the 'Y' floor,
waiting to see if the dam would hold.
The river rose and rose.
Every road, in and out, was closed,
bridges washed out.
So we waited. I was young enough
to sleep through that night.
The older ones sat up, drinking coffee,
without much talk.

Next day it turns out our town fared
better than most, was mostly okay.
The rain stopped. The dam held,
but it was cut pretty fine.
Some cellars filled.
The bridge was still pretty sound.

A few days later some of us teens
helped scrape up the mud
that reeked of rot and sewer in the heat
off someone's dining room floor
upriver in Shickshinny.
The whole town looked condemned.
We skipped and leaped over
the jagged teeth of the remains
of bridge over still angry,
churning water from a creek.
But then again maybe it was rail ties
crossing a street.
The Susquehanna stayed high
for weeks and weeks.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by John Middelkoop on Unsplash

Stranger

The prompt today from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Speak the Lingo.’ Now the prompt’s line of thinking was about foreign holidays where you don’t ‘speak the lingo’ in the locale where you vacation, but I went a bit off-piste with the prompt. Being a professional foreigner, so to speak.

Stranger

Once upon a time when I was young
I was foreign
in an era of the portable typewriter,
the phrasebook, paperback editions
of dual language dictionaries.
Maps were paper. Street almanacs
were called A to Zeds.
Even the last letter
of my mother tongue had
a different pronunciation.

My grandmother translated
for her immigrant mother and father.
I am the third generation
of women to bear the name
of stranger.

Home is never quite home.
Living in a body, on a planet,
is a confusion
never quite deciphered.

I am the vanguard
of the breathing barbarian horde
seething at the gates
of your museums and cathedrals,
eating your local food,
liking its taste
in the absence
of a common language.

Having just the silence in my head,
my mother tongue
encrypted in a notebook
that travels with me everywhere
as I translate.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Jonas Lee on Unsplash

The Republic of Crochet

The prompt for day 12 of #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Cruel Summer.’ I did write a tanka(ish) five liner on the theme. But what really was itching to flow from my pen came when the phrase “the Republic of Crochet” popped into my head. Our niece has been here over the weekend pet sitting. But we have also had conversations about a community art project she is envisioning that would use crochet as its medium.

The Republic of Crochet
For Hannah Daisy

Flowerchild conceived long after
The Summer of Love,
your flower power
blankets us with 'Chain Stitch One,
Chain Two, Chain Three'. It links us all,
but softly, in wool.

Everyone loves a flower.
Who can resist them?
Petal confetti love bombs us
in crochet. Single
stitches mend us one at a time -
the lonely, the odd, the angry
for lack of some love -
with a flower, or a blanket,
some soft wooly love.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Shreena Bindra on Unsplash