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

Highlands and Island Road Trip

No more NaPoWriMo. Have to make my own poetry prompts. So a poem inspired by one site we visited on Day 2 of our Highlands and Island road trip in Scotland. If you are not familiar with the story of the Highland clearances the Badbea Clearance Village is a stark image of why migration, going away from all they knew was the only option for survival. The landlords wanted good grazing for more profitable sheep. Tenants were shunted off to marginal land. Literally marginal land as Barbea clearly illustrates.


Badbea  Clearance Village

Their new place

was made of sandstone and mica chist

Heather and ling, sphagnum moss,

barely a blaeberry.

Gorse, of course.

The sea below offered 

herring scholls, gulls eggs

to be picked from cliff nests.

But it was a sheer drop

150 feet or more.

They were made to build

their own boundary wall.

Paid to pen themselves off.

Scoured by North Sea winds

they tethered their beasts

and children, too.

Everything else

had already been snatched away.

They’d been pushed far enough.

Clear off.

Copyright Bee Smith 2019

Last of NaPoWriMo 2019

…and the beginning of Road Trip Day 2. We have the hostel to ourselves. I crept out to the common area at 5:45, all keen to crack on with the poetry practice. The final day of availing of prompts, I will have to wing it from tomorrow. Today’s prompt is all about compression – haiku, senryu or just plain micropoem. I’ve written several! Which one is your favourite?

Glencoe

Once

Where folk dwelled

Now

Only clouds

Cast shadows

Helmsdale, Scotland 

May Day Eve

Sea salt, seagull squawk

Furze clad hills smelling of tropics

46 degrees

That’s 8C for those of you who realfeel in Celsius!

Roundabout

Circling

Turns to take

Choose

And, the last one is really showing my age. Youngsters will need to Google this, but I believe in advancing education.

The TV Test Pattern

Static pattern

Single  note sound over

No transmission

We are on the ferry to Orkney Island this evening, arriving just before sunset. I have packed plenty of scarves, gloves, and fleeces. 

The Jealousy  Wall

Today’s Poetry Daily takes inspiration from another site visited with the Marble Arch Caves Global  Geopark guides on out familiarisation trip with Ireland’s Heartland in Westmeath. We lunched and had a guided tour of Belvedere House and Gardens. Originally what was called a gentleman’s shooting box or hunting lodge, the Palladian House sits in splendour overlooking Ennels Lake. One of its claims to fame is having Euope’s largest folly in the grounds, built when one brother’s next door pile gave the heir a view of the back door and servants going to and fro. He built a wall to look like a monastic  ruin, which is known as The Jealousy Wall. The period seems to lend itself to rhyming couplets. The House and family seemed to have little talent for happiness, although the nobleman who held the title during  The Great Hunger kept all his tenants in employment and was respected locally.


The Jealousy Wall


Such Palladian mansion’s grace

Disguises an evil misplaced.

No Jealousy Wall will exclude

The bitterness a heart exudes.

A mean will set out to destroy

Any trace of a wife’s small joys.

For jealousy is great folly

Landmarked with faux ruined abbey.

Especially so. Damaged souls

Not saved by wealth, unholy

Monument to misery.

A wall of less sense, more money.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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.