Weekly Poem – Magpie

While there was a little lull in the Geopark Poetry Map proceedings I have been catching up with some house and garden tasks put on the (very) long finger. But now I am again reading submissions, this time from the school children of Curravagh National School and Florencecourt Primary School. With both groups I had introduced the haiku on previous visits pre-Covid 19 and as a preparation lesson before my school visit. In the session I also introduced the poetry form of the cinquain. It is a five liner, but unlike a five line form like the tanka you do have license to rhyme if that is how the muse leads you. In addition, we had to talk about the geoheritage and Geopark site element that was an important component to the poems, too.

While only two children had never visited a Geopark site before, many had visited a wide range of sites across the Geopark – Castle Archdale, Ely Park Lodge, Devenish Island, White Father’s Cave, Pollnagollam Waterfall, as well as sites closer to home like Marble Arch Caves, Claddagh Glen, Shannon Pot and Cavan Burren Park.

However, I was really struck by a poem written by a child who is considered educationally ‘challenged.’ While he did not write a poem about a Geopark site, his poem about the den in his garden was a standout. It had vivid images. His simple language conveyed a contentment and feeling of security and serenity that is marked in these uncertain times. I wish I could include it, but sadly it does not fulfill the geoheritage criteria. But I made sure to write his principal to ensure that he gets some praise heaped upon his head for his very well conceived and executed poem.

It really is both a pleasure and a privilege to be reading all these submissions.

For the weekly poem this week I decided to write a cinquain, too. The five liner runs 2-4-6-8-2 syllables per line. The subject has been haunting me these past few weeks, sometimes, rather unnervingly, peering straight at me through my bedroom window in the morning. Yesterday on my dog walk up to the holy well I happened upon a found object.

Magpie

Feather
edge cobalt blue bleeds
to coal black, finally
transitioning to bottle green:
magpie


Meanwhile, it is back to the house and garden tasks. I have a half-finished bedroom that needs the final wall painted. The (fully vaccinated) niece is calling next week and wants to have a peek at all the do it yourself rehab going on. There is also a lot of bindweek and cleavers that needs to be weeded out and burned at the stake!

I hope that you are finding some summertime joy safely, in uncrowded places.

Featured image by Natasha Miller on Unsplash.

Weekly Poem- Longest Day

We have passed the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. We have had not just long days and short nights. Even the nearly full moon was blasting away at 2am when the cat that was the muse of last Tuesday’s weekly poem scratched at the window to be let indoors. I only opened one eye, but I did sense a very pink moon. I know that last full moon was technically the Blood Moon, but this upcoming Strawberry Moon was just as pink!

We are having cool temperatures and not a great deal of rain. Mercifully, as I type this we are having a good shower. Everyday brings gardening tasks of one sort or another. Always some weeding. We do not use artifical weed killer, so it is done by hand, with burning or drowning the most pernicious ones. Some are just wild plants and if they are not interfering with the vegetables then they are left in peace. Unless they are bind weed or cleavers, locally known as ‘Sticky Willy.’ weeding them is the Sisyphus task of my life, plucking and burning almost daily this month.

After a very, very cold spring and late frosts, things are beginning to green and grow. While I understand that the USA is having a plague year of cicadas, this year the midges are having a rave up in my part of West Cavan. They love me too much. When there is no breeze I am essentially under house arrest. Which brings me to the Summer Solstice on Sunday when I was forced to stay indoors to avoid being midge meal on a banquet scale. I stayed insided composing the Weekly Poem.

When you live in the country and have such an abundance of nature, it often leads to wild crafting remedies. My friend Morag plucked some bog myrtle from a nearby bog for me. Half of it is mascerating in a jar of almond oil to make midge repellant. So far, it has been the most effective prophylactic from the bites that I react to so badly. The other half is still in its bunch for me to keep beside me. I do actually see midges flying indoors – impossible to keep them out in a land that does not believe in screen windows – do a ninety degree turn around when they come close to me and I have it on me!

Of, course, now that we have had a good rain shower, the slugs will be patrolling. The vegetables most tasty them them (and us) are in raised beds with copper tape stuck on the perimeter.

There is a great satisfaction in growing some of your own food. It also cuts down on food miles and is better for the climate. It’s an activity I can see myself dedicating a great deal of energy to in the years to come. It is also an exercise in learning how to cut your losses. It humbles any notions of being in control right out of you.

Also there is still poetry… here is this week’s offering

Longest Day

A stillness where nothing stirs –
not leaf or blade of grass,
no bird song or bee hum –
agitates.

One yearns to break the stalemate
silence.
Its’ haunting absence makes me
walk round and round the rooms
picking up objects. Then putting them down
again.

Cats’ whiskers quiver so they say
with foresight, feeling
earthquake,
or the tsunami about to break making
land fall.

I feel like those cats.

Yet without their Cassandra instincts
complete.
Unlike them, I do not just make myself scarce.
Instead

I sit with this stillness where nothing stirs.
Except
every fibre in me.
I hold its eerie.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Weekly Poem – What the Cat

It has been a hectic few days. Today is the closing date for the Geopark Poetry Map. Which is why the Weekly Poem is published a bit later in the day than normal. The rest of the week will also be busy reading the submissions and liaising with Geopark staff via Zoom.

It was also a day that began early with a school workshop on the Geopark Poetry Map in a Fermanagh school. While the rest of the world seems to be getting broiled, steamed or stewed in summer heat, here day broke with a temperature of 12C/54F. And there was no promise of it nosing much farther than that until much later in the day. The workshop had to be outdoors, but we had a bell tent for shelter and rough hewn ‘desks’ from reclaimed cable reel wheels and stools from tree stumps. The children sat on tarps spread over the bark ‘floor’. The rain held off, but the midges, as we say here in this part of the world, were mighty! This particular primary school is interested in the whole concept of Forest Schools. Given the pandemic, this is their moment! Covid Regulations do not allow visitors inside schools at all (except for repair and maintenance workers.) For freelancers like me, our only way of interacting with school children is outdoors and in a mask or face shield. For teachers who can squeeze us into their programme, they are grateful for the children getting some outside influence. A new face, even if it is behind a plastic face shield.

More than ever before I feel strongly that poetry writing needs to be part of the core curriculum.” Poetry makes you feel calm.” So said an 11 year old today. It has been far from calm these last two years, which make up about a fifth of their lifetime already. Poetry writing can help children process all the emotional challenges of this pandemic and what it has meant for them personally and for their families. Nature can be healing, too.

The school we visited today is very lucky in having over an acre of land that they can use for playing fields and outdoor activities. They plan on erecting another tent ‘classroom.’ But most schools do not have that option. In Brooklyn, where my brother lives, they closed his street so the public school on the corner could have recess space. The playground itself was transformed into an outdoor classroom last fall.

It was an early rising. Not quite amrit vela as it was already light. I dashed off a poem for today and began noodling with another. While one of our other cats has often been the featured hero of poems published in this blog, we have a new entry today. The ginger ‘legacy’ cat. Basically, we have an inexhautable supply of feline muses in this household.

What the Cat Brought In

through the bathroom window last night
would upset you.
A fledgling, some feathers more fluff
than sleek wings.
Maybe it had already tumbled down.
Maybe Toff
did not hunt it down, but either way
it's been left
outside the bedroom door, a trophy of his
devotion.
Even though birdie carcasses give me the
willikers
I get out the dust pan and brush,
removing
what would make you sad at start of
a new day,
the trophy of my own devotion.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.


Weekly Poem- When Spring

The bank holiday yesterday brought me up short when I suddenly realised that yes, today is Tuesday! Time to post the Weekly Poem. There has been little poetry writing time in recent months, given the attention that the Geopark Poetry Map has needed. Also, the garden suddenly needs an extra pair of hands. I am better at the destruction aspects – weeding, burning my mortal enemies ‘Sticky Willy’ (cleavers) and Bindweed. We don’t use chemical fertilizer or pest pest control. Our garden may not have official certification, but we use organic principles on our acre. So it wildish and has a carpet of buttercups where the daffodils were in March.

With the Summer solstice and the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere rapidly approaching, we are seeing the last of Spring…and also some signs which would normally have appeared over a month ago.

When Spring

When Spring comes late and cold and the hawthorn
blossoms in June instead of its month's name,
the potatoes are barely up before 
blight beckons on Weather Watch and the country
shudders.
                     Now the old signs no longer hold
say the old who watched them through a lifetime
studying the sky both day and at night.

The wild slowly died to be reborn
in every season's storm, shaking us all
until our teeth chatter. Our speech is robbed.
Too soon the hawthorn's petals pink and fall.
Did we ever see them at all? The signs.
What use is Cassandra locked and in thrall
to toxic vapours? We all know that Spring
came late. Was cold. It raged just like Winter.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Paul Morley on Unsplash

The Weekly Poem – Birch

This post is written in haste. The poem was written in advance because today we will travel north of the border and meet much loved relatives after the long Lockdown separation. Our nephew has not been seen since Christmas 2019. Our niece did visit briefly last September, but it was a sad sojourn of making end-of-life decisions and saying goodbye to the dog of her childhood; Ellie came to live with us when her Mum was hospitalised and it became clear that the dogs should stay with us. (Ellie has been immortalised in some poems on this blog; https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/01/30/cailleach-conditions/.) So this is the prospect of a joyful reunion, released as we are from Lockdown, into a post-vaccination world of pandemic hugs. I am so over-excited I cannot say if I am beside myself or over and above myself!

So…without further ado…on to the weekly poem! Which was generated from the Personal Universal Deck that NaPoWriMo 2021 suggested on Day 3. It has actually turned out to be a very fun poetry tool. And the birch tree feels like a worthy totem for our brave, slightly tentative, pandemic new world.

Birch

Whether white, silver or gold...
I have sipped your sap,
chawed on a peeled strip of bark
that is your fat, your taste
unmistakeable, both fresh
and keen as new beginnings
that you know will somehow
turn out sweet as the hull
of the canoe transporting you
on that next adventure.   

I have seen seven birch trees
dancing in a huddle together
on a bog in Fermanagh
under their sister Pleides
that small gourd offering all
refreshment after a long, long
drought, Drink a long draught.
Stand tall once again.
Listen to the rustle of the catkins
early in the season, itching
to dance with spring's fair wind
even when it still feels cold.

Tree of second chances...
starting up and over, one that knows
joy even in the coldest, the darkest
of places on earth. It knows it is
truly a good earth for all, even
for the mistaken and the misguided,
that the lost need their chance to be found
once again, at the last, which is at
the very optimistic heart of 
this tree's very hard wood.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

The Weekly Poem – The Do Over

Bearing in mind that Mercury goes retrograde on May 29th, the poem for this week contemplates all the ‘re’ words. For the non-astrologically minded reader of this blog, Mercury going retrograde is associated with all kind of technological snarls, travel delays and episodes of “What on earth were you thinking?!” Some astrologers say that it can last longer than the irksome three weeks with a shadow period. In which case, the complete fiasco with my Zoom Soul Journeys and Maps group this past Sunday was right on cue. So I am backing up all my Geopark Poetry Map files for sure!

Those words beginning with the prefix re are said to be well-starred during Mercury Retrograde periods, while we are gnawing our elbows over technical snafus and equipment collapses.

Speaking of the Geopark Poetry Map project, each day this week and next I am posting a daily poetry prompt based on one of the sites featured in a marvelous document compiled by Martina O’Neill, Development Officer for Partnerships and Engagement. at Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. So check out the blog each day if you want a bit of poetry prompting and motivation. Anyone anywhere in the world is welcome to submit a poem, though only people in Ireland can visit the sites in person . And that is only fairly recently when travel restrictions were eased.

One of the things we are doing again now is taking walks in local forest parks like Cavan Burren and Glenfarne Demesne just over the county line in Leitrim. I like my lane for walks, but a change of scenery is very welcome. Some snaps from Sunday’s walk. The internet may have let me down, but nature never fails to uplift.

The Do Over

Rewind and now resurrect.
Go back and now retrace steps.
Review all of one's options.
Reconsider a career-
perhaps as Mary Poppins.

What life could have been like
if one had only veered left...
Review every little thing,
done or left undone, incomplete -
like that long abandoned college
course credit just short of a degree.

Slip off the snakeskin of failure.
Throw away that winding sheet.
I  t is only made of paper.
Remove to Boston, fly away
to Australia if only
in your imagination.

Reconsider your options.
What is done? What is do over?

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

What is Geoheritage?

The poems for the Geopark Poetry Map are beginning to drop into the GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com inbox. We have twenty more days for poem submissions and I thought a timely reminder on the theme of geoheritage might be in order. Now this is how scientists view the matter. Geoheritage is defined by Geological Survey Ireland as: 

‘encompassing features of geology that are intrinsically important sites or culturally important sites offering information or insights into the evolution of the Earth; or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference.’

What could this mean as the subject of a poem? Think long time and slow time, what ice ages have written in the land and how that has affected those who have lived on it. In that respect you might want to write a poem about the lime kilns, sweat houses, the dolmens and wedge tombs that were created from the glacial eratics that can be found across the landscape. This is one I see virtually everyday when I walk my dog down our lane, sitting in the middle of a field.

Hag Stone Corrogue

It is also the way water, wind and the earth interact with one another and how they slowly change over time. When I walk around Cavan Burren Park the limestone pavement was once subtropical sea floor.

If you look at our townlands’ names in the Irish you see the literal landscape painted in language. Down the lane from us is a little lough called Corrakeeldrum. In Irish it is Corr an Chaoldroma. This translates as the round hill in the narrow ridge. Those rounded hills are drumlins and drumlins are what is very distinctive about our Geopark landscape. Have a look at this photo and see for yourself.

Corrakeeldrum

Whether you choose rock art or fossils wrought in rock we see the long stretch of eons in the making. Poetry is about both connecting and making with language. The glacial eratics on the landscape and the waterways have been immortalised in myth. A rock is Fionn McCool’s fist. A pool springing from underground caves becomes the source of the River Shannon that will run all the way down the length of the land. Two wedgetombs mark the place where two Giants would leap across a dry river valley. Story helps us connect the long time in our own immediate time. The bards, Ireland’s original poets, did just that.

You can play at being an archaelogist with language and imagination instead of a trowel and soft brush when you write poems on the theme of geoheritage. For the weekly poem I have chosen an older poem that has been tinkered with over years. Poems, too, evolve over long time. This one I worked and reworked until I got sick of the sight of it. But today I pulled it out and the tinkering was a pleasure. And it still may not be ‘done!’ done. Sometimes the re-drafting process is a bit like chipping an image into rock like those cup and ring marks of old.

Except in our own age we have deadlines to attend to. The deadline for submitting poems to the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poetry Map is 31st May 2021.

Layers

As a marriage can be happy,
fruitful as a tree –bud, blossom, 
to ripe berry.

Another layer of being,
many and one, but never
one and the same.

The land is layer on layer-
mud, grit, sandstone, granite, and lime, 
veined with iron.

Once, land was the word for people-
springing up to bud to blossom
to ripe berry.

Once, land  also meant belonging.
Just as a forest is a tree’s
one family.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved

The Weekly Poem – The Long Division

Tentative re-opening here in Ireland. We had a shared outdoor coffee with friends last week and had a laugh. Isn’t it great to hear a company of people laughing at some shared joke? It feels quite intimate. Especially as we have probably just been laughing on our own to episodes of comedies on Netflix for the past fourteen months. I discovered the charming ridiculousness of Brooklyn 99 over the winter and I did do the literal LOL sometimes. But to laugh in company feels liberating after the long winter and the cold spring. I may yet regret sending all those sofa throws to recycling. We may need them for outdoor physically distanced tea on the terrace!

I saw my hairdresser drive down my lane and if there wasn’t a pandemic on (and her vehicle shielding her) I would have hugged her I am so happy to have a hair appointment on May 13th. I last saw her nine months ago. She has a salon in the village so would have seen her frequently in pre-pandemic times. Nuala, I am so happy to have you back! She has been working in care homes during Lockdown so got her vaccination three months ago. Also, she gets Covid tested every Tuesday. How is that for a confidence booster?!

Our own second vaccination is on 14th May. From 24th May, we have 94% immunity. But that doesn’t mean that I am going to madly go out and see lots of people. I have marked it on the calendar though as ‘Immunity Day.’ (Well, 94% Immunity Day anyway!)

I do have to carefully consider going in to schools for sessions though and I am still weighing that up. Where I have been in schools before and they know what I look like without a mask it feels sort of okay. But to go in where my face is unknown feels kind of weird. Also, in conjunction with the Geopark Poetry Map project, it would involve schools cross-border and each jurisdiction will have differing guidance. Meanwhile, thank heavens for Zoom. I have an ergonomic seat cushion now to help with the sciatica from long sessions. Not perfect, but it helps.

The theme of Division has been in mind. One You Tuber I watched this week says that the collective energy at the moment is Division. And surely we have got plenty of anecdotal and empirical evidence to back that claim. Some don’t ‘believe’ in the illness, while others trust the science. Some don’t want to mask while others (like myself) have been double masking since this time last year when I could obtain mask filters on Amazon. Some will vaccinate and others will not. We live in a global society of haves and have-nots. We do live in the most divided of times it would seem.

Hence, the title of this week’s Weekly Poem, which also harkens to my slight discalculia, only discovered once I was an adult.

But before I get to that, just a reminder that I am curating the #MACGeopark #Poetry #Map and we need contributions. The deadline for submissions is 31st May 2021. You don’t have to be local either. I have already had one submission from Michigan, USA and another from Singapore. Research is often a good start for a poem and the Geopark staff have provided a great document to help submitters. Email me at GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for full details.

Mapping Marble Arch Caves Geopark Poem by Poem in a digital Poetry Map
The Long Division

Long division, the fraction represented by
the decimal point, not a chunk of pumpkin pie
on a virtual plate. What a confounded headache
for my young brain, fumbling, making countless mistakes.
I failed at dividing - wandering cloudlike past
boundary walls, crossing borders quite unabashed.
I preferred the geometry of the circle -
the line drawn together, sewn into a portal.
Everything is connected neatly. And equal
in how one stands for everyone. It's peaceful,
not lonely, all chipped off into fractious factions,
crouched behind that decimal...fatal abstractions.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Vic on Unsplash

Poetry Month Legacy

It has been a busy week. I have had Zoom meetings or classes that averaged two hours every day for eight days straight. That was quite the marathon! Is it just me or do video meetings take a lot of energy? Or perhaps, I am just out of practice with that much interaction with someone other than my husband?! Meanwhile, work on the Geopark Poetry Map is hotting up, too. Check out this blog on Thursday, 29th April for a special geoheritage poem to celebrate Poetry Day Ireland. This year’s theme for Poetry Day Ireland is “New Directions: Maps and Journeys.” Very appropriate as we await submissions for the Geopark Poetry Map

Spring is exerting its force here in West Cavan. My husband is an ardent gardener and has been planting bulbs around our acre and in pots and containers and down along the lane over the years. With the mandate to take outdoor exercise we have more walkers down our (generally) quiet lane. When we were in the local Spar on a Monday for the weekly supermarket grocery swoop, his flowers were complimented. This may spur him on to more bulb planting this autumn.

The Weekly poem grew out of an exercise with my Saturday Poets. Poems and gardens…what better legacy to leave to posterity.

Legacy
For Tony

They walk past the garden admiring
the croci, then daffodils, then
tulips lining our lane where walkers
take their mandated exercise.
Bulbs keep giving, multiplying
year on year. They shall outlast us
more than likely.And long after we
are in the ground they shall cheer up
the walkers and drive bys with trumpets
blaring gold. Cups of pink and red,
purple, white and orange will open
each Spring for someone to admire
their riot of colour. Planted out
just for some future strangers' pleasure.

See you on Thursday for the whole hoopla of Poetry Day Ireland!

Featured image Photo by Yoksel 🌿 Zok on Unsplash

Contrast, But Don’t Compare

Many of the most recent NaPoWriMo prompts have left me cold, but I have been busy. At the very least I jot a haiku or senryu in my journal everyday. Today, I heard the cuckoo’s call. On Saturday, I saw the cuckoo flower blooming. So something in the world is going right!

The weekend was busy with two Zoom classes. The poetry class is always rewarding. And they keep me on my toes. And we laugh a lot, too. On Sunday, the Soul Journey group had its monthly meet up. I absolutely love this group. It is all women and they are brave, often funny, always insightful and offer their truth and vulnerability. When I listen to what they write I agree with the conclusion that Katherine Heiny came to when she proposed a new syllogism.

Storytelling is an act of love.

Katherine Heiny, Guardian Weekend, 17 April 2021

This weekend was also a friend’s birthday. Her birthday gift was a request for her very own poem. So…I may not have been doing NaPoWriMo prompts, but I have been hard at the poetry coal face! Also, in the works is a geoheritage themed poem for Poetry Day Ireland on 29th April, 2021. So…the pressure is on there, too!

On to the Weekly Poem…which may subliminally be prompted by what is going on around the globe. But who knows where poems actually spring from? Sometimes it is just a mystery.

Contrast

Contrast...
but hold the compare!
We need
the yin to the yang,
the both,
not just for balance.

Contrast...
illumination
via
light and shadow.
The sun.
The moon's no better
or worse
than the other one.

Wholeness
requires contrast,
instructs
that diversity
creates
a truly round world.

Just be,
embracing the both.
Contrast...
but hold the compare!

I hope everyone is staying well. My husband and I had our first Pfizer vaccination this past Friday. Come 24th May we shoul be experiencing a bit more freedom – at least the anxiety will be ratcheted down because we will have 94% protection from infection.

BUT, I will still be seeing people outdoors and will mask when in public places even if restrictions are relaxed. The variants are brutal. We have seen this in the after effects on young members of our extended family. So vigilance will still be part of our daily lives.

Featured image Photo by Greg Jeanneau on Unsplash