Praying in Random Places

I have written elsewhere in this blog that writing poetry, especially when I was writing a poem a day for 365 consecutive days from September 2018 until September 2019, is a spiritual practice. So it seems appropriate to write about prayer in the Sunday Weekly poem. As Samuel Becket said:

Samuel Beckett meme
Sam Beckett looking all prayerful

Samuel Beckett spent a portion of his youth at the Royal Portora School in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, which is not a million miles away from where we live. We live in this edgy part of Ireland where Cavan meets Fermanagh meets Leitrim. Last Sunday found us doing some life laundry (and literal laundry, too) in the nearby town of Manorhamilton, about sixteen miles from us. (NB: we live an average of twenty miles from anywhere in three directions that is a recognisable centre of population, with a number of commercial outlets and services.)

So this is what I do when I have a spare hour and a half when I can multi-task with a domestic task.

In the Mace in Manorhamilton I Sit Down And
 
It strikes me that, sitting
at a laminate table, on a banquette,
drinking my coffee, and imitation
pain au chocolat, that
 
this is a good place to pray
while my laundry cycles,
getting all sweet-smelling and
washed. It’s all auto here,
 
not just the petrol pumps, but
what dispenses coffee,
the washing machines, the drier,
the factory’s template exact
 
cut of tabletop after tabletop,
like an assembly line cookie cutter
(they sell good cookies here, too)
where I sit eating my machined pastry.
 
This is a good place to pray.
Where everyone is just doing their best,
Bless them!
Wiping tables, swabbing the deli counter,
 
totting at the till, making change,
nodding, and being pleasant.
But then, this is Leitrim after all,
and people tend to be.
 
So this is a good place to pray,
because praying is not automatic,
with the distant hum of the radio chat
behind the rumble of the chill cabinet.
 
Copyright © 2020 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Noodling

It’s been quite the week. And I might have taken the Wolf Moon eclipse as my Sunday Weekly poem’s subject matter. But then we had an eclipse at Wolf Moon 2019 and I wrote one then. And I did write a draft of 2020 version, but I figured we might need to mix things up a bit this week.

Or nature might have been my muse. We have had some spectacular skies here this week as a parenthesis to the full moon’s eclipse.

sunrise
sunset

But nah! When you have houseguests you tend to think a lot about menus. So food has been my muse. Also, there is a lot of music being played in the house.

 Noodle
  
 I want to stretch that infinite string
 of dried dough that has become 
 an elastic grace note pulled
  
 from the magic pot of water 
 at a rolling boil that’s be-bop
 and it soars round in its steam
  
 and you can keep it plain or do it
 fried, or meaty, or saucy or so
 spicy it feels kind of naughty,
  
 its cayenne kick that turns 
 to a croon till that bit of old dough
 is swooning onto your plate and it all
  
 started with a migrate out of the east
 on a camel’s back west, travelling
 the old Silk Road route and all along
  
 the people named it their way –
 gnudel or nouille or the even faster
 pasta.  Noodles are the original jazz.
  
 Each place would sing its song
 on a plate no matter what its name,
 served up the sauce wherever it came.
  
 We kind of like this noodling
 with flour, water and the odd spare egg.
 It’s poor people’s princely fare
  
 that can sing a mean hymn of praise
 and swoop into some melancholy longing
 for your baby who just stayed
  
 and never followed your string, 
 just sucked it all up with your silky voice.
 It’s all jazz and the world is just
  
 a pea served with your noodles.
 And all of us are just following
 that elastic note on its last string.
  
 Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved. 

Featured image Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

The Day the World Ends

I have been on a bit of a digital break over the holidays, but here we are with the first Sunday Weekly poem of a new year and a new decade. I fully intended to do a 2019 reflection on 30th December, but as it happens I became fully engaged in baking for an alcohol-free New Year’s gathering with friends instead. The days slipped by and then Sunday morning rolled around and I needed to write the weekly poem. This is not to say that I did not write over that week, because I did, but that is material that has been submitted to an anthology of women’s writing with the working title Bloody Amazing!

No sooner than the New Year’s decorations were taken down, I looked onto social media and I find words like Armageddon and apocolypse being bandied about. Immediately, (I am not lying) Archbald MacLeish’s sonnet The End of the World came to mind. Macleish lived through World War I, served with the precursor of the CIA in World War II, saw the Cold War and atomic bomb threat, and wound up his days in the Library of Congress. According to the text book anthology I used in college, The End of the World was published in 1926.

While perusing some the the decade reflections in print media I noticed that 2016 is considered the worst year in the 2010-2019 decade. Yet, it was the happiest for me as I married my long-time love that year. (Though at the time some friends did say it was the anticipated happy moment that was keeping them going and reason to get out of bed in the morning.) Anne Lamott echoes this observation in a book I got for Christmas, Almost Everything. (Canongate, 2019). This quotation in the Prelude inspired today’s Sunday Weekly poem. As did Dickens in Tale of Two Cities when he observes that it was both the best and worst of times.

Love is why we have hope.

Anne Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

 
 The Day the World Ends
 
 Love is what opens eyes to a new day
 even by lunchtime you will metaphorically and
 literally be standing in a pile of poop and
 are cursing the thoughtless owner
 of some beloved dog who eyes that human
 with unconditional regard.
  
 Who is pawing and cajoling the beloved
 to just get up one more day. Even if 
 it may be the End of the World today.
 Have you seen that internet meme
 of the rescued kangaroo hugging and clinging
 to its human saviour? Love, it seems,
  
 will always be there in the fray.
 Remember that couple leaping from 
 the inferno tower, hand in hand, on 9/11?
 Or all those last phone messages left , every one
 saying I love you and Hug the kids.
  
 Hold each other on days when you are not
 beloved. When the one you loved is lost forever,
 has turned its back or gone on without you.
 On that bleakest of death knell days,
 go! Reach past the fire and flood threatening
 to engulf and obliterate, because
  
 even on the day that is the day that is
 the End of the World, you will open your eyes,
 stretch your hands and  arms and arise
 the miracle of yourself who loves and
 can be loved in return and today may be that day.
  
 And that shall never be obliterated by
 false moves, mistakes, flood or wildfire burn.
  
 Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved. 

Featured image Photo by Dan DeAlmeida on Unsplash

The Shortest Day

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere the shortest day, winter solstice, will arrive around 2am this Sunday, the final Sunday of Advent. Moreover, the moon is in its balsamic, or darkest phase. On Christmas Day (or the early hours of the 26th where I live that we call Stephen’s Day) the moon will be reborn. In fact, there will be a lunar eclipse. So we arrive this midwinter with a dark night sky and a daytime light that is scanty, especially if there is any cloud. The Sunday Weekly poem takes some of its tune from our natural world this winter solstice.

While there is lots of merriment abounding at this time of year, there is also a sense of melancholy. I think of holiday films like The Holly and the Ivy or,one of my all-time favourites, It’s a Wonderful Life. (It wasn’t an immediate box office hit. Hollywood thought it was a bit of a bummer for a holiday film. But it’s tale of suicide prevented turned out to be a slow-burn classic. ) Families come together and it can be stressful as unhealed issues resurface. The dark days of this season can trigger depression in some people. So some of the seasonal cheerfulness can feel both a bit forced and enforced as well. For those who have loved ones who have passed away at this time of year, that anniversary cannot but help colour the collective festivities. I had a college friend whose father had fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, which was marked by an especially bloody Christmas Day; he could never be cheery on that anniversary.

 

The Shortest Day

There are absences. There are the closed doors

that make surreal all this talk of salvation lore.

But, resolute, we face the openings in store,

even if we cannot quite be merry or

sing a halleluiah chorale. Our more frivolous

wishes might have resurrected that once

 

innocent wonder in lights and sparkling colour,

the delights in delicious smells – eggnog’s liqueur,

the shiver of nutmeg on the lip of its stirrup cup,

evergreen’s resin, ginger, cinnamon. Sip its over-sweet up

as the electric fairy light strandis slipped over

and wound around the live tree’s indoor bower.

 

It’s a day dawning late after a no moon night.

It’s a day that rapidly resigns its pale light.

May it be a portal to our safer future, bright

and warm as the Yule log’s blaze. We dig down deep

into the Santa stocking’s far toe, the gift it keeps –

chocolate as dark as midwinter’s day and just as semi-sweet.

 

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights

Featured image Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Advent Joy Sunday

Next Sunday is Winter Solstice and the fourth Sunday of Advent. The theme for the third Sunday, when you light the single pink candle, is joy. Yet I am aware of many souls who are feeling less than joyful just now. There are those on the edge of tears for reasons they cannot even fathom. There are the harried and harassed. There are the children imprisoned whom Santa Claus will forget.

The first Advent candle is for hope. The second candle is for love. These are two of the three principle virtues. (And isn’t it interesting that faith doesn’t get a look in?) Then comes joy and peace. The final, central, candle is lit on Christmas Eve. It made me ponder and it seems that joy is almost a sacred duty. It is an especial reminder at the darkest time of year that joy must always be found. It paves the way for peace.

Take joy in simple things. Sunrises and sunsets. A cat’s purring. The words on a page that comfort or lift and convey you into a new day or new life. Give presents. Be present. Feed loved ones. Make art.

We are not enjoined to be happy. We are enjoined to find joy even in the darkest of places and times. To do that takes courage.

Our Lives Are Speaking

Our lives are always speaking,
so much so, that every atom of me,
my story, becomes part of you,
your story. Speak to me.

You live, a husband and wife,
in a place where courage
smells of stew and hand-made bread,
where the local water tastes
of iron from the hills all around.
They echo with thunder rolls
and then the rain comes pattering down
like a heart’s steady beat.
The kiss hello is the same
as the one for farewell.   And few
will ever be able to tell

the differance between my life
and yours, how they belong
to each other and speak
of our small joys and great peace.

 Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

A Pool of Light

This Sunday is the second week of Advent. We are two weeks away from winter solstice, the darkest part of the year in the Northern hemisphere. The Sunday Weekly poem is definitely conditioned partly by the weather. Even with the moon approaching full this week, the weather has been stormy and cloudy. The nights only reveal the odd glimmer of moonlight. The skies are low and grey and twilight seems to draw in earlier than what the almanac’s say is technically sunset. Despite the bugs going around, we humans seem to want to huddle together. It was a far more social week than most for me, with us out for two very, very late nights into the wee hours, singing in a pub ceilidh. The night outside was stormy and foul, but inside we were all snug, singing our hearts out, bantering, laughing, making music with each other, applauding each other, appreciating every contribution to the night’s entertainment.

McHugh’s Pub is tiny even by Irish standards. It has a narrow bar for regulars and a larger, but not large l-shaped room where we crammed in with guitars, bazooki, mandolins and djembe drum. Twice a year, three travelling troubadours from Dublin pitch up in Glenfarne and lead this old-style session. Pat Trimble amiably draws people out to contribute a song or recite a poem. In between, Pat, Terry, and Vince play (along with my husband Tony) any number of tunes from any amount of styles – folk, rock, Irish trad, country, with a few rousing sing-alongs thrown in- throughout the evening. Yes, there is drink, but the high spirits are really music inspired. The publican’s daughter brings out her concertina and gives us a few tunes inbetween helping at the bar and getting the midnight supper sorted. It’s that kind of hospitable place.

McHughs Pub Glenfarne
Ben McHugh’s Pub, Glenfarne, Co. Leitrim
A Pool of Light

A splash in this December night, the motley
assembly of voices raised in chorus,
virtual strangers picking out harmonies,
humming along when words fail, beating
time to the tunes , clapping, snugged up
in this small country pub, turf fire warming
the crowd of bodies at the bar and we are

singing, singing, carried along by
melody, cameraderie, joy's memory.
Hope sounds like our rowdy laughter,
applause, the respectful murmur of 'good man' ,
the parting glass wishing all a 'Good night!'
as Ben holds open the door, formally shaking our hands
as we leave that pool of light and walk out
into winter's dark night.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured photo Photo by Ryk Naves on Unsplash

Some Sunday Joy

It has been a fruitful week. The Sunday Weekly Poem reflects a moment in a week that is known for Thanksgiving, even if you don’t live in a country where it is a national holiday. It is also the first Sunday of Advent even if you are not Christian. Last year I wrote a sequence of Advent poems for each Sunday for those who perform this mindful ritual, whether they are Christians who light the Advent wreath candles or pagans observing the Sunwheel each Sunday before Winter Solstice. This is what my 2018 Advent wreath looked like https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/01/advent/.

The first Sunday of Advent’s candle is for hope. But I was so startled by a quiet flush of joy this week that it is my theme for the weekly poem. Gratitude, hope, joy…we need to celebrate these in the dark days of winter. Even if they only appear as glimpses.

The Morning After Thanksgiving

Staring out my window I am stabbed by
a joy in the smallest of things:
how the stars wink in those minutes before dawn
begins to pink the horizon,
how when winter's brilliant sun breaks
and shines it outlines the intricate delicacy
of the hoar frost mantilla yarrow and hogweed wear,
how light stretches itself lazily in a slow promenade
in soft soled slippers across the field, melting
the frost very, very slowly and, also,
how it persists all day on the lane's edges
all crisp and starched as an altar boy's surplice.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash