NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 6

fate destiny breathing

I seem to be waking earlier than usual, which is allowing for poetry writing in the morning. Which has a knock on effect of allowing some posting time in the day. So I decided to do NaPoWriMo Day 6’s prompt while I am awake and rarin’ to go. (Which dear friends will tell you is not really me. I am usually an object of amusement in the morning.) Here is today’s prompt.

Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

Holly Lyn Walrath, NaPoWriMo.net, Day 6, 2021

As it happens I generally grab a poetry anthology first thing. Today it was Clive James’ The Fire of Joy. Since Walrath reckons really good poems need a killer first line I picked this from my random opening of the book.

I know that I shall meet my fate

W. B. Yeats, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
Breathing 

With each breath that takes me nearer death
curiosity and courage
carry me through climate both clement
and complex.  On a chart's vertex
you find your fate is awaiting you.
It crouches like the sleeping cat
alert to its moment with one eye
half-open, half-shut. What stranger
will walk in? What global happening
will call and you can answer, "Yes!"
With that affirmative breath you step
to the edge. Fly? Die? Who knows?
But in that moment's embrace you meet
all three Fates. What we spin and weave
is complete. The thread is cut. Fini!
Yet what could be worse than forever
waiting just for the deciding time.
To never arrive.  For each breath
simply to carry you nearer death.
To have failed the moment. Walked passed
the person, the place of destiny.
Know that you shall go and meet fate.
That you and that moment suspended
in time are one, in harmony.
You are history, not just your fate.

I usually publish my weekly poem on a Tuesday these days. Though Sunday may sometimes offer a bonus poem. So this counts as this week’s poem. Though there may be more if I keep waking early.

Featured image is a Photo by Keith Hardy on Unsplash

Lockdown Fatigue

8 of swords

It’s a real thing, a recognised phenomenum. We are so over the restrictions of staying in our 5km zone and here in Ireland we are waiting, waiting and waiting for our vaccination notification. But, even those who have been vaccinated have few places to go; only essential travel – work (which has been mostly at home for a year), medical, pharmacy and grocery. That’s it! I live in a very beautiful place and have a garden. I feel a bit ashamed to make this admission given that I am privileged to have pretty fine technology -phone, internet, devices – and natural beauty. But we want to reach out and actually touch the far flung loved ones. We keep hoping to see one another and the dates recede and recede. Maybe summer. Maybe in late summer, outdoors, we will be able to give a masked pandemic hug.

Also, I am fortunate in having Zoom students where we can air our experiences and compare how things are being handled in Canada as opposed to Ireland. It is thanks to one of those students that I have taken up the challenge to build a poem around some quotes from our conversation last Saturday. The second poem also reflects a telephone conversation with another friend. She cares for her 94 year old mother who has pronounced that this pandemic is worse than World War 2. Sure, they faced death. But living didn’t threaten your life. “We could go to dances. If we were down in the dumps we went next door and had a cuppa tea with a neighbour and had a moan.” Peggy fell in love and married 75 years ago at the end of the war. She has a point. The Guardian newspaper writes articles with headlines such as “How the Whole World Lost Its Libido.”

We compare anecdotes from England and the USA , where the vaccine roll out has been gaining traction, and feel like we are living in corsets. They hope to have all the kids back into in-person schooling by 12th April, but…the numbers of infection dictate everything. The week after Mother’s Day weekend and St. Patrick’s Day saw a jump in reported cases. Easter weekend, four days of no where to go, will be the final temptation.

Safe to say that the phrase ‘stir crazy’ has taken on layers and layers of texture. It’s more a cri de cœur.

Thanks to Susan for stating this challenge.

We are so over Covid

"We are so over Covid". "But it's not over us!"
Life is slow as treacle in a January
freeze. Framed in a five kilometre square. It's messed
up. In my head it's a convention of fairies'
wishes washed up ashore after a hurricane.
How is it that days inch by at warp speed? Because
I'm taking my reality cues, hemmed by routine.
But everything is always strange. It's collaged.
We have taken scissors to what used to pass as
society. Some days I feel as if I hold
a beating heart, lifted up, out, by blood soaked hands
during transplant surgery. I want to be told
"It's time. It's done. Close her up. Let her live again."
However we repair, or process, will we transcend
what is lost? We count the cost, regretting offence.
But have we built a world with more walls and fences?

Telephone conversations that crossed oceans, seas or just down the road a piece inspired the next poem.

Truly

Truly, I am glad that my sister can drive out
to a mountain cabin in another state now.
But here, we dream more modestly.
My friend, connected by telephone, and I
we dream of when we might venture forth, ranging
into the county, say.  Or maybe even ten kilometres wide.
That would take us both to separate forest parks, larger sky.
My friend's 94-year old mother, now fully vaccinated, perked up
after twelve weeks (more!) feeling incarcerated.
"I can go out in two weeks!" Said triumphantly.
"But where?" countered her carer.
The fleshpots of Tesco beckon, her prospect
of living the high life now.
In England, my friend reports they can sedately
cluster in groups of six outdoors
in the fresh air from this week. Where
we remain locked up and downcast within
our prescribed five kilometre zone.
Even a trip to the dentist is welcome excuse
to travel passed scenery not seen for months past.

So I am feeling a little bit green, in all its varying shades
from this Emerald Isle, from nausea to envy,
and dream of Blue Ridge hills or the ocean waves that break
upon a shimmering sandy strand , 
but not viewed in video clip.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021, All rights reserved.

The featured image comes from Biddy Tarot. https://www.biddytarot.com.

It’s the 8 of swords and that pretty much sums it up!

Lockdown St. Patrick’s Day

Greetings from Ireland where we are still in Level 5 Lockdown. So…not a traditional St. Patrick’s Day of parades, silly lepruchaun hats, or costumes of fake butt cheeks sporting ‘Pogue Mahone’ (that translates as kiss my you know what), or children playing tin whistle and showing off what they have learned in Irish dance classes the past year on a temporary stage in the middle of the town. There are no wailing accordians or jiggy fiddles playing. I didn’t even see shamrocks for sale in my local supermarket this year. The closest I come to any of these in these lockdown days is my cat Felix doing what I call the Pogue Mahone during Zoom sessions. I gather from online posts that some people are celebrating by baking Guinness cake. Which is fitting since baking has practically become a competitive sport online since Lockdown 1. BTW, in Ireland it is not a corned beef and cabbage menu day, because that it Irish American. We tend towards boiled gammon and colcannon traditionally. Also, corned beef is called salt beef here. Besides, we have gone very foodie here this past decade. I add seaweed to my vegetable soup these days and all manner of ‘exotic’ vegetables are available even in my village’s Spar grocery store.

St. Patrick’s Day has always been a bit bittersweet for me. Once we moved to Ireland it had its festive years or was a good day to start planting the spuds since we had the day off work. The first time I encountered a shamrock was in 1962 when Leona Doyle pinned an emerald green pipecleaner shamrock on my dress. She was one of the choir ladies who were busy setting up the lunch for the mourners returning from my father’s funeral.

From the beginning of this month I returned to hosting poetry writing classes on Zoom. We are fiddling about with the sonnet form at the moment. There were two of us in the group who wrote lamens to Lockdown. It has been a long winter and even with the daffodils blooming we still have an indeterminate time in full Lockdown unless you are a primary school child or taking your Leaving Certificate exams this year.

When Will It Be Over?

Annie, I am beginning to feel as if that henna
which you lavished on my locks last January before last
and  held fast, fading but still lingering at the ends  -
that it's a sign, one that's occurred arbitrarily.
 I long for my hairdresser's business to come back
so she can hack off those ends, make it all be over.
My magical thinking releases all of us from this train wreck
year, that the ordeal is shed with my hair on Nuala's floor.

My fevered imagination has me growing out the plague.
I care not one whit for the regrowth that is silver and grey.
In this eternal meanwhile I am growing more awake.
I have grown a new measure for all our long, long days -
on rosary beads, going 'Click, Click, Click,' in collecting groceries,
masking, unmasking, washing, growing, writing poetry.

Copyright 2021, Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

This photo is one of my own of the high cross and round tower on Devenish Island in Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. Those medieval strongholds were the legacy of St. Patrick’s mission to Ireland.

Devenish Island high cross roundtower
The high cross and roundtower on Devenish Island in Lough Erne

The featured photo is of St. Patrick’s Holy Well in Belcoo, Fermanagh.

Both places visited in pre-pandemic times when we were not confined to 5 kms from home except for essential journeys of the medical or grocery kind.

Mothering Sunday

While in North America this Sunday is the day when the clocks ‘spring forward’, in Ireland and the UK it is Mother’s Day, also called Mothering Sunday. The latter name came from the era of armies of domestic servants who were allowed home, brandishing Simnel cake, on that Sunday in March, often close to Lady Day. For many in domestic service this was the only day off a year. (Simnel cake is also a British Easter cake and is topped by little marzipan balls, which might also double as eggs.) Lady Day falls on March 25th, the old Gregorian calendar New Year’s Day. Coincidentally, it was also the date when tenant farmers needed to pay their landlords the annual rent.

I missed out last Sunday to mark International Women’s Day with a poem since I was busy with a Zoom workshop. So I decided to write a bonus poem this week.

Mothering Sunday

It is pouring outside.
Like that milk that pours
from that bottomless urn in the night sky.
We are millenia
and thousands of miles away
from Hathor pouring from her night sky jug.
She is up there, invisible
this rainy Mothering Sunday in Ireland.

We complain of the rain,
but never the constant flowing milk of mother love,
that distinctive kindness continually raining down-
meal after meal,
the relentless tide of washing,
the wiped snot, the iodined hurts,
the tears wiped,
the home work, hand-made and patch-worked,
the loneliness

that is only told to the Milky Way
some nights reserved just for mothers
when Hathor rains down from her realm
that mother love
for the tired, tried, and tested
mothers' whose udders ache
from their continurally lactating love,
milking the final drop left
on this parched planet
as they ceaselessly hold up the sky.

Copyright Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.
 

Featured image Photo by Christopher Martyn on Unsplash

Dragon, Damsel, Dance and Fly!

I love how synchronicities work. This week’s poem began as a creative writing warm up exercise with my fellow Word Alchemists last Saturday. In an exercise called “Word Salad” I haul out my mammoth Oxford English Dictionary and randomly pick six words I literarily close my eyes, open a page, twirl my finger in the air and then light down onto the page. Once we have six words, I challenge us to use all of them in a quick piece of timed writing. It is fun. It can be ridiculous. It can also be quite illuminating as you make formerly unseen connections.

One of those random words was Odonata, which refers to that order of flying insect life that includes the example of dragon and damsel flies. I am very fond of both who zip in and out of our lives. One dragonfly once buzz bombed me down our lane while walking the dogs. Another hummed around the polyutunnel one day as I was tending the tomato plants. In my more fey moments I think of them as the way fairies morph for transport in a way that won’t startle the humans, kind of like a Fairy Aeroflot.

So I had reworked the Saturday effort for this week’s poem when in walks my husband to present me with an aromatherapy necklace with a dragonfly on it!

Dragonfly Aromatherapy Necklace

Tony was completely unaware of what was emerging from my notebook’s scribblings and crossings out. He chose it principally because I like purple and it amuses him to think he is living with a dangerous (b)older woman who wears a lot of purple. Please do check out the Jenny Joseph poem that he is alluding to….https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/warning/

BTW, I also like its complimentary colour of yellow and have added a rather fetching mustard boyfriend cardigan to my 2021 wardrobe. Sometimes you just to have to stop living and go online shopping instead, to paraphrase the BB King song.

In any context, I always feel that dragonflies and damselflies bring some magic into life. What one of us could not do with a sprinkling of magic into our days these days? For (b)older people like myself who will have to wait a while for our Covid vaccination, we have a fairly long stretch in Lockdown Land for the foreseeable future.

The Dragons and Damsels Dance and Fly

The cranes are dancing in Japan...

Where would they deign to create a folkdance
to celebrate the order Odonata?
Where would we see them zip and pond dip
in costumes of emerald and peacock blue?
See the damsels curtsey to brother dragon.
They do not jeté or  or swank about 
in Swan Lake chorus line. They still  dance and fly.

When summer feels a one ten thousandths
polar distance away...
Oh, when will we meet again at crossroads
to sing and dance on St. John's Eve?
When shall we see familiar faces flickering
on  that midsummer Bonfire Night?
For now, we remain horror-struck
in a wind chill factor wintertime.

The cranes are dancing in Japan
in the snow, where they bow and bow
their necks, issuing the invite
to their fellows to do-si-do.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Erik Karits on Unsplash

March Gambols In

The energy has shifted. Apart from dwarf narcissi blooming, I have sourced and received seed potatoes delivered to my doorstep. Onion bulbs still are hard to find between Brexit and the pandemic. Peas have finally been sourced. Sometimes in the oddest places, like the petrol station in Manorhamilton! This week I sowed garlic and broad beans, which is a profound gesture of hope against potential frosts. Fortunately, they are made of fairly stern stuff and like cold conditions. March arrived sunny and warm after some early morning mist and an overnight ground frost; which may not be a good sign for the rest of the month. I will take my weather auguries with a pinch of salt. As one old neighbour, long past his passing, once said, ” A fair February crushes the rest of the year.” And as another colleague once noted, “The old signs no longer hold…” Which pretty much sums up climate change. Nothing is normal these days, so we may as well take each day at a time as it comes and deal with it accordingly.

I am treating my body like the temple I never before worshipped at these days. Full disclosure: I am from the most unathletic family. The rules of ball games confuse me into brain freeze. As a teenager I fretted that my gym grades would pull my grade point average down to a point that I would not get the scholarships I desperately needed to get me to a college out of state. As the youngest of four whose mother had already been a widow for thirteen years by the time I was due to enter college, it was imperative that I get that financial aid. I was never built to be a jock and I was enough of an in intellectual snob to eschew all things athletic.

Yet, here I am approaching sixty-five taking my first fitness class ever by Zoom. And, truthfully, the only reason I am there is because we can turn off the video. There are no judging eyes there to body shame me. Because my weight has always been a bone of contention and smoking is really not a healthy way of weight control. (Tried that. Loved it. Gave it up after ten years.) But now that I am needing to mind my blood sugar levels (my sister is a a Type 1 diabetic) and my BMI is out of control, I am finally stepping up and putting on a pedometer every day. I loved baking too much in Lockdown 1 and I loved eating the cookies I baked even more. Being both a greedy eater and a good cook is not a helpful combination.

(As a digression intrepid readers… I speak to my bestie in England each evening and we often talk recipes and culinary methodology. Well, I am only going to food shops for the past year after all! And the pandemic has meant a certain inventiveness is required to avoid too much menu repetition. I was complaining about how Yotam Ottolenghi is always lacing his recipes with sumac and what the heck was that anyway?! And where on earth would I find it in rural Ireland? Pen sent some as Christmas present because you can get it in the shop attached to her local post office in England. And…yes it is a useful addition to flavouring soups and stews.)

However…that kind of radical self-care takes a lot of energy when you are unfit and over sixty. But I am gradually creating a new life balance. I am teaching poetry to a small group, which fits perfectly in terms of creating conditions of creative colleaguality. I am also facilitating a short class in spiritual autobiography, again to a small group. I have shifted the time to suit me and my energy levels rather than consider participants’ needs over mine. So, no weekday evening class this season, while I build myself up after the New Year injury.

Putting my own needs first was a huge challenge. Probably because women of my generation were conditioned to think that is selfish. Even those identifying as feminist are not immune to those subtle socially pervasive messages.

And so to the weekly poem, which has emerged out from under the gardening, the household maintenance, the supply chain fulfillment, and exercise regimes. It was a comfort to read in the Guardian Review the weekend before last that many writers have experienced writer’s block during this pandemic. All this time and yet so little output!

Look Up!

Look up! A cloudless blue sky bright
as the Crayola ™ Crayon of that name.
For months I've had the ground in sight,
the endless go round of the same old same.
I measured our days making meals,
planning menus, the thirty minute slot
for exercise. Evening's newsreels
unspool while stirring tomorrow's soup pot.
Will the weather forecast ever
cut us a break from dark, overcast days?

March arrives lamblike, outward favour.
Some daffodils are out, small bouquets.
I sowed some seeds out yesterday.
Look up! Hope and pray for fairer weather.
Grow broad beans and garlic, stout and pungent.
This year, bring us savour and abundance!

 
 Copyright  © Bee Smith 2021. All rights reserved 

Featured image Photo by Andréas BRUN on Unsplash

Resurgence

I know from friends or the news that many are knee deep in snow and ice. Or dealing with burst pipes or swelling rivers. Many were without heat, light or power. Or…well, fill in your own personal catastrophe. But to begin this Weekly Poem’s blog I offer you some thoughts of the resurgence of spring. Because our own snow fall melted away and now we see the first flowers. I took my daily exercise down a lane known locally as the Relic Road and marvelled at how the moss and ferns have taken on that psychedelic green that is the sure harbinger of spring. Even though we had a big wind storm blow through last night, there was just a breeze. And I listened to all the birds. I wish I could identify species from their vocalisations. One was doing a cheet-cheet-cheet-cheet-cheet on repeat with a milliseconds pause for breath before starting again!

Here is a little resurgence of green for your week in the event that your Spring lags behind Ireland’s by several weeks.

As to the weekly poem for this Tuesday. the inspiration is twofold. Last week saw the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, which brought to mind “Ashes to ashes. Dust to Dust.” Also, pandemic life in lockdown means that being constantly at home that we are constantly cleaning something. If it isn’t doing a 60 degree laundry load, then it is some surface or other crying out for attention because our world has shrunk down to our dwelling place

    

 Dust to Dust
  
 Everyday a bit of me dies.
 I am a walking CSI crime scene,
 shedding skin cells like dandruff.
 Dust. Like motes in the eye.
 Dust that stopped waltzing
 in the sun streaming through
 the fanlight over the front door.
  
 I am the accretion of fluff
 I just swept from under the bed,
 along with contributions from some others -
 human, feline, canine .
 Here lies a crescent moon paring
 of a fingernail, a tiny tip of cat's claw,
 fine trackings in from the outdoors.
  
 All our daily mortal remains lay 
 not as full exoskeleton, like the snake
 leaving behind whole seven years growth.
 No,  we remake ourselves day by day
 leaving some behind as no single entity,
 making an entire renewed me or you. 
 When in that cycle are all our cells spanking new?
  
 Meanwhile, we keep on making  dust
 and sweep, wipe, mop ourselves up.
 Until we become one with the dancing motes
 only seen when the sun shines brightly through
 the great fanlight above the front door.
 Though never settling down upon the surface
 to be swept, wiped and mopped up.
  
 Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All Rights Reserved. 




What Water Remembers

This poem, probably the first properly new one of 2021, was a long time stewing on the back burner. I am still not sure if it is done or that it needs more time. But it is a gesture (Blast! Belay!) at the creative torpor that has descended this year. But, I am reassured by my friend Morag and from an article in the Huffington Post, that I am not alone in experiencing pandemic funk.

Spring is back. The snow melted away by Sunday and we have had days that are practically balmy at 10C. There have been little intervals of sunshine most days. The daffodils are pushing there way out. Soon we will be out tidying up the garden and sowing some of the first seeds. The birds seem fairly merry.

The weekly poem took root on 7th February when I appeared on my friend John Wilmott’s Carrowcrory Cottage Sunday Sessions , which you can find on Facebook or YouTube (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Carrowcrorysessions). The Q&A discussion brought up the topic of the Memory of Water. I am afraid I went away with the faeries for a bit and then my mind floated on the the topic of water as purifier. Fire is also considered a purifier. And Brigid has both fire and water as elemental symbols associated with her cult.

Eventually, my wayward imagination came to play with the purification symbolism of water…and memory.

 What Water Remembers
  
 In a lough pooling, river flowing, 
 a sea boiling, a cascade weeping  tears
 on stone as it is tripping down the mountain,
 the village pump, the kitchen tap dripping,
 atoms dancing in liquid form.
  
 Is forgetfulness an act of will
 or a wilful washing, a rubbing and scrubbing
 at the stubborn stains of memory? 
  
 Bit by bit the stain lifts.
 It shifts its patterns, the parts
 that fade leave rumours
 of grease, old grime, and whispers
 For shame
  
 What tried, tested and true failed to keep
 that memory sharp as the day it marked
 with a blood red letter?
  
 When does the memory stored
 spool out like old cine film getting
 plunged in its silver nitrate bath?
 And rinsed and rinsed and rinsed
 until the shadow show
  
 is in reverse
 What is memory? What is water?
 Quencher, purifier, a  drowning, a drunkard.
 What is washed away?
 What stays?
  
 The memory of water
 is not forgetfulness.
 It is forgiveness.
  
 Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.
   

Spring Really is Coming…at least in Ireland

Belated greetings for the feast of Brigid, goddess and matron saint of Ireland. Her feast runs from the eve (31st January) to 2nd February. Celtic festivals generally run three days. But feasts are flexible things – if you go by the lunar calculations it was just past 10pm last night in my time zone. Spring comes slowly. Just as healing often does. Brigid, both as a goddess and saint, is associated with healing. Which I have – impatiently – been doing.

Keyboard typing still tires and feels sore if I overuse it. But I did not want to miss out on sending out harbingings of renewal. I picked green rushes on Monday in the rain and wove a few St. Brigid’s crosses to give to friends and family. I also hung out my Brat Bríde on Sunday night to collect St. Brigid’s blessings and healing energy. It has been suggested on Brigid’s Way’s website that we should hang out our face masks. Good idea. Last year I used mine as the inner layer of my first handsewn face masks during Lockdown 1. This year I sent some to people I know recovering from Covid19.

Brigid’s Day is ideal for a celebration in isolation. It was, until recent years, a home made celebration of hearth and farmyard. Its myths tell of the Winter Hag, the cailleach, who tries to hang on to her season. Yet, the maiden, the new life, will have its season. She is coming, inexorably, inevitably. Even the frosted snowdrops know this. They can feel the earth beneath us warming. The hibernating animals known their drowsy days are numbered.

I spent Monday writing poems, too. Because Brigid is the matron of poetry, too. She also is the Skill Woman, the smithy at the forge, creating by changing. She encompasses all the elements – water of the holy healing wells, the forge’s fire, the whisper of balmy air some days, the earth that is silently greening even under the frost or snow.

Imbolc is considered a threshold time of year. St. Brigid is said to have been born on a threshold. The folklore is that her dairy maid mother was taken in labour while she was milking. The legend says that she grasped the doorframe to support her as her daugher slid to earth just as dawn broke. Sort of a double liminality – dawn and doorway.

St. Brigid's Day

The hinge creaks, stiff with winter's ice and cold,
wind battered, rain rusted. The door's swollen.
It needs elbow grease to give. Go Heave-ho!
The door's wood's expanded, shut tight, chosen
to block out winter's worst. But now it's time
to open the door, welcome this season.
There's still snow on the mountain if you climb
but down low the pasture is beginning to green.
The birds have changed their polyphany, too.
This morning the blackbird turned, stared me down,
daring winter to stay. We have got through.
Light after darkness. The wheel circles round.
The door opens. So it creaks. May it sing!
The blackbird knows that it is time for spring.

Elementary

Just this...that all we have is each other.

This earth I stand upon and walk
is my spine and skeleton bone.
Water that runs through us, underneath.
surrounding, was amniotic ocean,
arterial flow, a body glowing,
sap in each limb rising, reaching
to sun and air. Oh breathe, Tree! Inhale!
Exhale your sweet self so I may inhale.

Lightening was fire's first spark, electrified.
Thunder rolled off the mountain,then came rain,
wind swept and angled, falling fast and hard.
Huddled in caves with each other we yearned
until flint on flint sparked, lighting dry twig.

May you feel the blessings of increasing light and warmth this Imbolc season.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Hibernation Recuperation

I last posted twenty days ago. That was probably the last time I put my fingers to the laptop keyboard. In the interval I have made do with the the finger stabbing at the tablet’s keyboard. I briefly flirted with the dictation facility, but that was just annoying. For this past twenty days I have been in both hiberation and recuperation. I am only just emerging from my bear’s cave.

On 5th January I made the very bad decision of trying to preempt a fight between the two warring tom cats in our household. For my trouble I had over twenty pounds of angry cat hurl himself at me. My forearm was badly bruised, the wrist sprained and there were a number of scratches. Over the night of 6th/7th January as I watched the storming of Capital Hill my right hand swelled to double of the left. By dawn my husband was driving me to Sligo General A&E.

No one wants to go to a hospital in the middle of a pandemic, especially when your country has suddenly ranked first in the world for the number of infections per capita. Also, no one wants to be Cat Scratch Woman on a snowy day when A&E is suddenly flooded with falls, fractures and heart attacks who all are definitely higher in the triage pecking order. By the time Cat Scratch Woman got seen I needed IV antibiotics. There were mutterings about sending me to Galway, three hours away, to see the plastic surgery team there. There were dire mutterings of losing some of the hand’s use. In the end, eight hours after I registered at reception, it was decided I needed to be admitted to hospital for regular antibiotic infusions. They thought I would be there for three days. In the end it was overnight and then home with antiobiotics the size of horse pills.

I am now home fifteen days and do not seem to have have any symptoms of hospital acquired plague. My Covid test at the hospital was negative (Of course! I have been no where and only seen my husband and grocery store staff and had shouted conversations with neighbours from sixty paces away for the past three months!)

A&E Departments are their own little universes at the best of times. In a pandemic they take on a certain surreality. No one spoke to each other. We were all hunched into ourselves, masked behind our masks. The hospital porters seem congenitally, relentlessly cheerful and postive. The hospital cleaning staff toss their banter about like it is street theatre. But those of us waiting were as silent as a church before a funeral Mass.

Once I finally was seen and could find a sandwich to buy I did not want to eat it in A&E. I paused on a bench outside it in the foyer that was the pre-Covid19 entrance to the hospital. A&E is to the right. To the left was once upon a time the Oncology Ward and is now the Covid19 ward. As I chomped on my egg and mayo sandwich a small woman in full protective gear, looking like a back to front elephant, trundled past on her way into that ward. Or was she more like the Caterpillar in the Tenniel drawings of Alice in Wonderland and the hose not an elephant’s trunk, but the Caterpillar’s hookah. Her locomotion was more caterpillar than elephant. Or, as my brother said to me a couple days later, perhaps I was a tad feverish at that point.

They made me Bed 7 in a six bed ward and they kept pumping me full of antiobiotics. My husband had sent out a Facebook request for prayers on my behalf. Between them, and the IV antibiotics, the Orthopoedic bods were happy to send me home by 2pm the next day. Besides, there is pressure for beds. I was released home on the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death.

Compounding that sense of not quite reality were some synchronicities. First, the Malaysian A&E doctor shared my father’s forename. On the ward, one of the nurses was Julian; I say the Julian of Norwich mantra daily. Then came the challenge to get blood from my deep veins. They called in their own Sure Shot, a Polish man originally from the hometown of the Black Madonna, who had a ‘shaman trick’ to finding the vein for the required sample. I wasn’t aware of my small army of well-wishers since I keep social media off my mobile phone, but I felt very ‘held’ all the while nonetheless.

Home has been a slow process of medication and gradual rehabilitation of the hand and wrist. I have managed to keep up the haiku/senryu/tanka a day journal. Though I did have to compose 7th January’s in my head while I was sitting in A&E. My handwriting was very shaky those first days back, but you try writing with your hand in splint!

It has also meant that I have had to let go of certain January projects. There are limits and I have had to humbly accept them. Though I did have a real bargaining phase where I thought I might adapt things. So no 30 day e-course is available for the Season of Imbolc. It was a worthy project, but it will have to be for another year. I especially wanted to do it as this is the tenth anniversary of my leading a Brigid Pilgrimage in Ireland for Celtic Women International. The blandishments of many loving friends, as well as the dearly beloved husband, talked me down from those overzealous ambitions…eventually. I am truly indebted to one of my students for helping me see clearly and to let go of any lingering guilt about not trying to do it all. Once I stopped trying to push the river, the healing began to flow.

I have also had to delay plans to get back to my Zoom classes. This is because I do have a very large project, Mapping the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poem by Poem, in the works. That is going to need a lot of energy, which I do not have an infinite supply of at the moment. More about that in another post.

My fingers may be dancing over the keyboard, but the wrist tires out far sooner than I would like. Domestic chores are my physio therapy and each day I do a little bit more. I am having to treat my body like a temple.

Here are a couple haiku/senryu/micropoems from my journal while I have been in hibernation/recuperation mode.

7th January 2021, Sligo General A&E

Stolid faces gaze
Waiting for their name to be called
Quiet stoicism
21st January 2021

Remorseless toil
Perpetual do over
Sisyphus' housework
23 January 2021

Outside my window
Icing sugar coated world
Birds' chirruping spring

It is good to be back at the keyboard again.