Corleck Head

Everything before written records is mystery and speculation. That makes it a writer’s imagination’s playground. Even archaeologists speculate and best guess on the assembled evidence. But it is palimpsest, the layers of our own conditioning and experience inform the guess. Back at the Cavan County Museum another artefact grabbed me. The Corleck Head was found near Kilbride, Brigid’s Church. From that I infer that the cult of the goddess Brighid was important here before the Christian St. Brigid took over all Her associations and pre-occupations (fertility, poetry, healing, smithcraft). It is supposed that the Celts thought the human soul resided in the head, although I am unclear of the provenance of that belief. Brighid was a triple goddess – the triune maiden, mother, crone – and the Corleck Head with it’s three-way visage does echo that, although the faces look quite masculine to me. 

At any rate this Sunday you can have fun making up your own story!

Corleck Head

Back to back

Facing out three ways

Who know what might

Be met at the crossroads?

One to watch. One to fight.

One to sound alarm and live

To tell the tale.

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Walls

In my recent sojourns I visited stoney landscapes. When I was musing over the subject for the Poetry Daily I flicked through past snaps. The stone walls of various destinations I’ve visited are frequent subject matter. Orkney has a distinctive style of stonewall building that is quite different from the way they erect field walls near where I live close to the Cavan Burren (burren meaning a stony place). Last year I was in the southwest of England and in Cornwall they built their own distinctive ones of slate.

Clockwise from far left, stone walls from Avebury, Wiltshire, Orkney, Scotland, Tintagel, Cornwall and the Cavan Burren, Ireland

Of course, walls have been historical boundary markers. Living as I do close to the Brexit contentious Irish border we have lived for the past twenty years with a ‘soft border’, an invisible line that exists on a map and in some people’s state of mind. But I was brought up short in a Easter workshop when an eleven year old talked about the “Teresa May’s Wall”. In the child’s mind the talk of a ‘hard border’ had been conjured as a wall, rather like the one Donald Trump wants to build.

Given that I grew up during the Cold War with an Iron Curtain and a Berlin Wall, I am not a fan of walls. Like the so-called ‘Peace Walls’ built in Belfast and Jerusalem I view walls as a failure of imagination and negotiation.I understand the practicality of being able to keep your cattle corralled. After all, I do live in the country and know the hazards of cattle wandering the long mile of a country road, blocking the rare motorised traffic. It’s not easy to coax a ton weight of cow to move when it is happily grazing on the verge’s cow parsley. Truly, I appreciate the validity of psychological boundaries. I simply object to humans trying to categorise other humans as cattle that need to be penned and kept out of particular territories whose ownership or stewardship is always a matter for debate. That is, in nugget form, history, which is often a continuing saga of ownership as theft and grievance. And grief.

However, I do appreciate the skill and aesthetic of a finely crafted stone wall.

This morning I was a bit stumped for poetry practice subject matter. You can probably gather that I had a long rumination on walls before I plumped for the more medival subject of anchorites. If this is an alien word to you, an anchorite was a Christian ascetic (often also a mystic) who chose to be walled into a small cell, usually adjoining a church. There was a narrow opening where food and communion wafers could be passed. St. Julian of Norwich is probably the most famous example in the English-speaking world.

Anchorite

Fill it in
stone by stone
with me sitting
within
silent
as the mortar sets
the mason's scrape
the only sound
bar the faint
hiss of prayers breathed
incessantly
from my lips.

The fasting
is a way to become
light in a dense world
of sin and shame.
I do not do this
in the name of self.
One day I could no longer
remain
without stain or blame.

I could live
however
without
touch or small talk
within
this small space and
the love of these walls
their relentless matter
containing
my very
hollowed out
heart
which some call
the chaos of
my soul.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Wanderer’s Return

I am home. Having slept long in my own bed, I am feeling that poetry practice should be a bit frivolous. There is a dream I need to unpick and hold like a talisman. It is not for sharing. At least not yet. Scotland was epic. But I do feel a loyalty to my mountains that are technically not  mountains, not on the same scale as the Cairngorms or Glencoe at least. But they are my  mountains, the ones I see and know that I am close to home. Scotland also has a great sense of humour and the absurd. It is also a land of makers, which was generous enough to fill my own creative well during my sojourn. Today’s poetry practice takes imspiration from a witty customer ‘polite notice’ in P&O’s toilets. My own verse version is more preachy. But any opportunity for climate change PR! 

PLEASE DON’T FLUSH



Your iFone or your maxed out credit card.

There’s a fleet of tech and plastic floating

In the sea already. It can be hard

Not to flush down your sick fears and spite.

Stow ’em! Go lash them to the for’ard spar!

Just consider the first rule of boating:

This recepticle was made just for shite.

The ocean’s not your personal junkyard.


DOWN THIS TOILET

Prime the Poetry Pump

The road trip ends today as we ferry over to Northern Ireland this lunchtime. The final day before we journey home found me wandering happily in a museum and a creative gallery space in Glasgow. (After beaches, my second most happy place.) I wish I were gifted with the talent to make beautiful things with my hands. I am in awe of visual artists and crafts persons. Wandering around exhibitions primes my poetry pump.  One medium meets another. Today’s poem takes its starting point from work in the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art. The provenance will be revealed at the end of the blog post. The poem acts as a response to the call made by another artist working in another medium who was responding to her reading of an author. That all were women and creative artists was apt. The actual exhibit was placed in a slightly lower gallery on the fringes of larger exhibition entitled Domestic Bliss. That creative artist’s work and living space often overlap, especially for women, made its placement within the wider context especially clever.


Studio Echoes


Study me this list:

Trophy             Treason       Traitor

Friend          Acquaintance         Manipulation

Defunct

Then this:

Prize      Priceless      Imprison

Mate    Pal     Twist

Defeat

Take the salt down from the cupboard.

Cast your circle.

Step into your space.

Learn to forget dirty plates.

They are outside the magic circle,

The frenemy of creativity

Study this:

the twist

of the steak knife

in the cutlery

drawn against

blank canvas

the skin of your memory.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

Last Leg of the Scotland Road Trip

We’ve travelled down from the tip of Caithness from Scrabster and overnighted at Helmsdale in Sutherland (a town torally swaddled in the aroma of gorse this tome of year.) then was the long drive day, working our way southwards. There was snow flurries coming through the Cairngorms; thendash told us it was 4C. By the time we lunched in Pitlochrie it was sunny and a balmy 14C. Pitlochrie is a spa town,  a kind of Gaelic Harrogate, all weighty stone buildings, purveyos of old-fashioned sweets in jars- violet creams, Berwick cockles, Irn-Bru balls. Also an especially short, shortbread in very generous rounds. On this trip I have had haggis, Orkney ice cream, shortbread. I am going off to seek the experience of square sausage in Glasgow shortly.

But first poetry practice. We are just outside Glasgow, just past the Trossachs, but close to the base of Loch Lomond, which my travel companion tells me is the gateway to the Highlands. We are staying with her 83 year old widowed father in the house he built with his own hands. An engineer by trade he also has mad mandolins. I woke to his own music practice. He was also an avid hillwalker back in the day.

Hillwalker’s Lament



When old and sight faded,

No longer seeing hazards, crags and skree,

Unable to meet the heady heights anymore,

In morning time a tune emits

From the whistle’s lips-

A lilt, a lament, a memory

When sturdy legs reeled around dance floors

With his bonnie lassie in his arms.

But she has gone before.

The high and low notes

Tenderly render the spread and breadth

Of a life knowing love

Being loved in return 

In a tune on a sunny

Scotland Saturday morning.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

Road Trip Skara Brae

The point of this trip, for me at least, was to visit Skara Brae. It had been on my bucket list ever since I saw the pictures my brother-in-law took on their  trip over nearly twenty years ago. (My brother wanted to mve into Skael House, which is an impressive sight to be sure.  But the main attraction is the neolithic village that was revealed after a fierce storm, the sands swirling and parting to give us a glimpse of communal life 5,000 years ago. They reckon the village was inhabited for over half a millenium before it was abandoned. 

Perhaps one reason I find neolithic sites so appealing is tht offer themselves to our imagination. There is no one pat version of their story. History is famously described as the victor’s version of the truth. This is pre-history. They may well have had a phonetic alphabet (there were other places), but they did not leave us any examples of graffitti until the Vikings swanned in on their longboats and left runes recording their bragging rights inside Maes Howe. 


Skara Brae

When we lived

Inside a honeycomb

One cell built on

To another

The whole more important

Than the individual

Component

It hummed that tune

Making sweet honeyed tones

For nearly a millenium

From the we

Instead of the me

For some honey leaves

An indifferent aftertaste

On the palate.

Who does not want to be queen

In their own space

Or in their very soul?

To not have to bend to enter

One’s own homeplace.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

 

Road Trip Day 3 Orkney

It was a day to pay respects to the really ancient ancestors yesterday. Orkney is somewhere I could happily spend a week. But we have two days. Poetry practice this morning… I ❤️ rock. Especially the megalithic kind. We don’t know pre-historic motivation. So dream….

Making Megaliths


Stones

Stand you up against that tall one

In  firelight’s shadow

Lift your leg over

Stones

Grab tight, woman!

Squat and push

A world into the old wife’s hands

Stones

Carry the ancestor’s 

whitened bones

Tuck them up tight

Let in the midwinter light

To rebirth us

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith