Equinox Eve

Poetry practice was delayed until evening today. But I have kept up with a poem a day now for a week. Wouldn’t Miss Mildred be impressed if I had been as diligent with my piano etudes as I have been with pounding out words.

The sunset last night was inspiration for today’s offering. Yesterday was very rich in countless ways. Wholly, a gift. The Haiku PoeTree Walk on the Cavan Burren had a relaxed group. A frog hopped out at us at the Calf Hut Dolmen, which felt like I little benediction from the haiku master Basho. (Who was a cat man if his haiku on Love and Barley is to be believed. Given that that this week a certain cat has often hovered close by during poetry practice. I suspect he is auditioning for the position as muse.)

But it isn’t haiku, but a kind of elation that came upon me as I walked our little dog Obe back home down our lane.

At 7pm on Equinox Eve

I want to go out like September
in the bonfire blaze before sunset
such that all will remember
its juice and its shine and jewelled light.

I want to go out and bathe in its truly blue sky,
all crisp and cool, with wisps of cottonwool cloud
writing omens that scud by.

I want to go out like this September night
with its equal light and shade
where nothing at all is vague
in its angle of light.

I want to go out like September
that wears it heart on its shirtsleeve
when it comes time to take my leave.

For a life to sink gloriously down
just as this September sun shows me how.
I want go out as elated
as this evening’s last light.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

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In the Multiverse where the Fairies Live

In the Multiverse where the Fairies Live 

There is no argument
About God or No-God
Mortality or intimations of eternity

It is this

Now
The literal moment
Wherein
One

Treads
(Yes! Can.)
(Yes! Does.)
Across

That stray sod
Of this earth
Into a world
Both

More generous
And slight
And is
Slant

Where everything dances
Like dust motes in air
Illuminated by late autumn afternoon sunlight
Shafting through a window slit

Where all the worlds waltz together
No argument between
Or betwixt
Possibility and probability

We can but dream.

Copyright Bee Smith 2018

Some Poetry Making Etudes

Mostly I have been filling the creativity well this month. Sometimes you know something is not ready. You need time to pray at holy wells. Or stare at the birds perching in the sunflowers outside your window. To ponder locked room mysteries and the people inside them. To watch and gather one’s strength for a renewal, or a beginning.

As a child I was a piano scholar, and not a terribly gifted one. Essential piano practice came in the form of a book titled Etudes. They were five finger exercises to limber up the fingers, to get you stoked for the ivory so to speak.

I welcome autumn, the nights drawing in, the soulful click of knitting needles in the evening. It heralds the richest vein for writing. Like mushrooms that have had to follow the long, underground tracks before they can emerge, finally the words begin to pop up and patterns discerned. But start the practice, as Miss Mildred instructed, with the etudes.

 

Out on our lane one September morning

 

Approaching

A humming in the distance

Coming from the south – probably

(But sound carries in odd ways in the country

The wind can play hard and fast)

 

A bee swarm

Of human speech

Rising and falling

Babel bearing down

Upon us

 

All at once

A sound not unlike

Once heard outside a Stamford Hill Hassidic synagogue

Where inside the men

Daven at their prayers

 

Then

Inexorably moving towards me

Coming down the lane

Shaded by its shaggy hedges

The trees

 

A huddle of helmets

A lycra clad choir

Bent double

Constantly chattering

As pedals creaked, gears moaned

 

An all male

Tenor Baritone Bass

Fortissimo

Words spilling

Over each other

 

Then

One broke ranks vocally

Acknowledging me

In passing

Not missing a beat

 

(Also, the day –

How it was good

For drying the washing -)

A throw away line

Fluttering to my feet

 

The peloton rolled past

Pedalling north

Uphill and not so fast

Becoming echoes

Pegged to the washing line

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

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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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

On Being a Bad Woman

Shame is a feminist issue. Brené Brown, the social worker academic who researches shame, has said in various written and video sources, that shame does seem to narrow down to certain gender categories. With men it seems to centre around being seen to be not in control. With women, the shame is about imperfections. And let’s face it, the multitude of mixed messages about womanhood and femininity are land mines we step on daily. It is exhausting trying to uphold perfection when the goal posts are constantly moving and competing on both sides at times!

As I prepare for guests to arrive I am walking the Slut Walk of House Beautiful & Hygiene Shame. Most of my friends accept that country living, two dogs, three cats and a husband whose mother preferred to read than clean house (bless her!) and therefore is blind to dustbunnies, is just how it is in our home. There are many more exciting, life enhancing things to do than wash the cobwebs from the kitchen cupboards.

But let the prospect of ‘company’ be on the horizon and I am crippled with shame over my the general level of slovenlyness. We are not rich enough to outsource cleaning. Also, some vestigial German hausfrau DNA is horrified at that prospect. I tell myself I should do better. The feminist in me tells myself not to care. Then I feel guilty for caring. Or ashamed, if I allow my mind to make it toxic, for both caring and being a House Slut.

Fortunately, these attacks pass and I just nibble away at the tasks, often a shelf and drawer at a time. And, let’s face it, if I am going to obey some rubric of femininity I will obviously opt to bake a cake, rather than sweep the floor daily.  Because, you know, the byproduct is CAKE! I can enjoy it and also watch others enjoy eating it. There is a higher ratio of satisfaction even when you have a day of bad cake karma.

Women are hard on themselves. And, as Elena Ferrante pointed out in last Saturday’s Guardian, women can be hard on each other. “Not only is female power suffocated, but also, for the sake of peace and quiet, we suffocate ourselves.” Which may have been at the root of my wanting to photograph the interior of my newly resplendent, sparkling and hygienic fridge to have my friend Jo show her 91 year old mother.  I quelled that impulse. But just note that I am still preening myself publicly.

So, after throwing in a load of laundry, I penned this as my weekly poem exercise.

Being a Bad Woman

Undoubtably, she will come to a bad end

Desperado housewife, bandit, the less loved

Desperation being the operative word

For the one with nerve

For the one who got her maths wrong

In so many ways over so many months and days

 

She is the one with the gimlet eye

Peering over her vodka stinger

Stink eye glare, the shoulder shrug devil may care

The one with the iron jaw

Who won’t take it on the chin

The one who relaxes the rictus grin

 

She is the one

Who can’t do the dance on stilts

She is the one

Who can’t paint on a face anymore

She is the one

Who is all  “too much”

 

Once, she was the leggy little girl

Who saw nudity

And has since dispensed

With clothing

And power dressing

Entirely

 

She is hairy and fanged

The bitch on heat and permanent virgin

The handmaid, the house angel

She is Mary

She is Lilith

She is mitochondrial Eve

 

She is this everything and all

Or nothing. But now

She is done with being

Woman – Professional Version point

An infinity of naughts since

In this world, goodness has no just desserts

 

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

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