Cat’s Paw

cats paw

In truth it was a dream that had me going down a rabbit hole following references to symbols and meanings. I won’t bore you with details. Only those who truly love you are interested enough to listen to the the odd content of one’s night time dream life.  Suffice to say, that it provided fodder for this morning’s dawn poetry practice.  What I will add is that I was surprised to awaken and feel the heft of a cat sleeping in my lap. The surprise was that it was the Daddy’s Girl cat and not the Mummy’s Boy cat snuggling up. What have I done to deserve that honour and acclaim?



Cat’s Paw

The path ahead may have dangers,
but a black cat wears camouflage.
A cat is a walking night scope,
golden eyes a beacon in the night.
 
CV reads:

·        elegant grace of night time burglar

·        schooled in dark arts of sabotage

·        willing to push the envelope

·        handy enough in a fistfight
 
All skills for outweighing danger
and headhunted for espionage.
A cat’s paw is someone else’s hope
who hasn’t got the moxy or might.
 
Every cat has its nine lives -
facing anything  will survive.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018
cat poem
Daddy’s Girl Cat has a name – Sparkle – by the way

Mapping the Heart

Some of my readership are interested in an individual’s creative process. In terms of the process that gets a daily poem posted, it begins with longhand poetry practice. Today, for instance, that happened during the thirty-five minute washing cycle for an eight kilo laundry load. I filled roughly three A4 sheets of notebook in spidery handwriting,which included some crossings out.

But that is really already the second stage. The late Dermot Healey said, in a masterclass I attended many years ago, that all reading is writing, too. It is research and inspiration’s spark. So today’s poem started with a train of thought sparked from reading an article in an old Guardian Saturday Review.

The third stage is when I get to a keyboard, either on my iPad or laptop. Then I edit,  amend, and add. Some days any three stages can be hurried due to outward events and demands on one who has given up on plans. Life laundry, literal laundry, fun stuff coming up can compress and dictate how much time is actually dedicated to the writing process. But, since I began this poem a day lark, I reckon between one and two hours daily is a conservative estimate.

Now, to today. The article, on maps, caught my attention because I love them as things of both beauty and utility. I am of the generation who were good scouts who worked on badges. This was way before GPS, SatNav, and smartphones in a pocketbook. (Even choosing to use the word pocketbook, instead of purse, dates me.) I learned how to navigate foreign cities by reading publications called A-Z(ed)s. I mangled the spines of many editions in more than one city.

Once, a few years back, I was facilitating a workshop in the local prison. It was a very deeply held space, a small group. After lunch I intuited it was worth a risk to ask each of them to draw and write a map of their heart. Now prisons are never hospitable towards vulnerability, so at the end of the session I had them place their maps in large sealed envelopes. I took them home with me until our next session. And when our work was done I gave them the choice of how they could safely be disposed – cast onto water, put on the compost heap, burned in our hearth, flung to the wind.

I grew up Catholic, with all the attendant iconography of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary’s Immaculate Heart. So what then would a map of my heart look like now? As I approach my sixty-second birthday in less than a month, this is what appeared in the notebook in draft form.

Mapping My Heart

Not immaculate exactly,
but neither is it pocked with conspiracy theory.
I am sure it is furred up with plaque.
Everyone develops some armour.
I am afraid that that is just a sad fact.
There’s some scar tissue from sword play.
En garde! As they will say
in oh so many, many ways.

But there is still a flicker and a flame
that burned through to guilt,
incinerating any shame.
Let’s be honest here and speak plain.
There are always scores to settle
if you manage to live so many years.
If not for one’s self, then your allies,
the ones you love regardless and full of regard.
Yes, loyalty is fully incised
right up to the very hilt.
Which can be as bad as it can be good.
One person’s virtue becomes a sin.
It all depends on how it is understood.
A heart can beat glad or sad.
It can be both. Everything else is hiss and hum.

But surely how does it become sacred?
Is it because of the fissure here? And here. And here.
Through the cracks its glimmer beats sear
the sanctuary lamp, its ruby blood glow.
The censor has swung fumigatory.
The heart is, as always, its own offertory.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith
.

The Cat Who Came in from the Cold

Day 4 of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo dawned shortly past 7am. And I was awake! I am not a morning lark by nature. It wasn’t as if I went to sleep particularly early either. (Although I am a bit tired from March’s Mad Haring around from event to workshop to event to workshop to evening committment.) But the prospect of a fresh poetry prompt has me itching to get at it. Although I did need two massive cups of lemon tea to fuel the creativity.

Today’s prompt is about fleshing out an abstract. The idea (should you detect it) is one that I mull over often given where I live here in West Cavan.  Dogs make a cameo appearance. So I tick that box.

Our craft resource today focuses on the use of concrete nouns and specific details, using the idea of “putting a dog in it.” Today, we challenge you to write a poem that is about something abstract – perhaps an ideal like “beauty” or “justice,” but which discusses or describes that abstraction in the form of relentlessly concrete nouns. Adjectives are fine too! For example, you could have a poem about sadness that describes that emotion as “a rowboat tethered with fishing line to a willow that leans over a pond. Rainwater collects in the bottom, and mosquito eggs.” Concrete details like those can draw the reader in and let them imagine the real world where your abstract ideal or feeling happens.

The Cat Who Came in from the Cold

 

In the country we live

In parallel, if not side by side

With the badger RTA on the verge

The fox corpse draped over a fence post

A caution against stealing lambs

Same as the pine martin nailed

On the Hen House door

Life with teeth, claws, other priorities

They have theirs. We have ours

And it’s fine most of the time

 

In the country we live

Sometimes with boundaries blurred

The feral cat, tick ridden mangey coat

Stilty legged, more bone than skin

After eighteen months

Reconnaissance and indecision

Came in from the cold

Who learned not to claw the hand

That fed and wanted to pet him

To play nicely with the dogs

Had manners put on him by the other cats

And sure there were some scuffles and squabbles

But what family hasn’t those?

 

In the country cottage where we live

He swapped one stress for another kind

Learning the customs of our dark continent

All for a stable food supply, warmth and vet’s visits

He will always be a bit of a foreign import

Slightly other, with his swagger and quick glare

Whiff of leaf mould, bonfire and barn mouse hunt

Closer kin to the badger and fox

Or even the model for the stuffed red squirrel

In his basket

That he savages

Before falling into his dreams and sleep

 

© 2018 Bee Smith

 

On the Threshold Hovering

You heard of the Lost Weekend? Well, how about a mislaid month? We supposedly cross the threshold of the New Year on 1st January, but it feels like 2018 has been stalled from the start. Being post-flu, post-viral has sapped most of January of any juice; my concentration was blown and needing ten hours sleep a day can put a crimp in one’s productivity. Anything done this month feels an achievement. But it also contributes to the feeling that the threshold of 2018 has not been crossed. Anecdotal evidence collected from friends suggests I am not alone  in this observation. One friend said it felt like the old business 2017 hung over this January making it seem like a thirteen month year.

Fortunately, in Ireland we have the festival of incoming Springtime on 1st February, le Féile Bríd – Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day, the old feast of the fertility goddess Brighid vanquishing her crone/Cailleach aspect and arising reborn as the youthful Maiden. Imbolc then is a liminal time, another threshold to cross and begin 2018 in earnest.

Also most fortunate, Brigid/Brighid, whether as saint or goddess, is matron to poets and other ‘makers’. So her feast is special to bards and poets, songwriters and artisans, craftspeople of every ilk or silk, and to healers. For in making and creating, we manifest cures, too.

But, back to thresholds. The cover boy for this blog is a wild cat that I have been taming this since autumn 2016 when he began to attach himself to our property. First, we gave him a kennel. Now he has a basket beside a radiator.  Building trust has been slow and painstaking – and I have the scabs from claw marks to prove it! Being formerly feral, he may never completely let go of fear. He may accept our food, love, comfort and care enough to come in from the cold. But will he be able to cast out fear enough to love us in return? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, he and The Old Dog have formed an alliance of aloofness. All they require of one another is that they share oxygen proximally. Another brick in Felix’ House of Belonging, as poet David Whyte styles it.

We all have fears, large and small, that hold us hand on door lintel, immobile. Fear separates us for love, connection and a sense of belonging. The message of St. Brigid and the Celtic goddess before her is in the English cognate within her name – a bridge. And bridges are very special liminal, threshold places. They can be windy places, vertigo inducing spaces. But they take us across to a shore, a beginning or new phase. Liminal places are ‘edgy’ in every sense of the word.

How might 1st February be a threshold place where you overcome some fear in favour of love?  Which,  it has to said, is a large part of the recipe for what Brené Brown calls ‘wholehearted living.’  How might wholehearted living feel or look in 2018? How might an early Christian abbess and proto-femininist and an ancient goddess lead you to have the courage to cross a threshold?

If you would like to learn more about some of the legends surrounding miraculous Brigid, Goddess and Saint, you can read my poems inspired by Her in my ebook  Brigid’s Way: Reflections on the Celtic Divine Feminine.

No matter how you spell her name, Brigid is the well of inspiration and the flame of purification. May it be so!

Brigit of Kildare

Here is one of my poems included in the collection, which also appears in the anthology edited by Patricia Monaghan and Michael McDermott., Brigit: Sun of Womanhood

Brigit’s Mantle

Lay me down upon your cloak –

Swaddle me. Sing to me

your secrets of always enough.

 

Lay me down upon your cloak –

Wrap me snug.  Tell me a story.

The miracle of always enough

 

Lay me down upon your cloak-

Rock me. Gently now lay me

down in the source of always enough

 

© Bee Smith, 2009. All rights reserved.

NatPoWriMo2017 Day 30

The final day of Poetry Writing Month. I have thirty-two poems down for this April, most have been sparked by the prompt, even if they went a bit tangential.  I quelled at the diplodic verse and the ghazal, didn’t really get the clerihew or noctourne, but fell as much in love with the elevenie as I am with haiku. The final prompt for NaPoWriMo2017 is to write about something that is repetitive. Which is a good topic to return to again and again (!)

Ingress

 

Cat’s paw patting

At the windowpane

Hovering on the sill

Neither in nor out

 

Let me in!

Again and again

Prove to me

My liberty

 

Admit nothing

Not appetite, nor love

Plush pelt,

Purr or head bump

 

Stretch seductively

As an Ingres’

Odalisque

With her slave

 

Always to hand

To come hither

Again and again

To open

 

Admit

Enter the point where

Stars and planets

Will not collide

 

They revolve

As thresholds can

In sleep

In dreams

 

Watch how they

Admit you

Enter, then freefall

Elegantly onto cat’s paws

 

Day 7 NatPoWriMo2017

felix headshot

Today’s challenge asked us to list three random objects, three random locations, two items lost and two found AND THEN to choose from the lists and find a link. Just as I settled down to write there was a growl in the corridor outside. Well, that was random! Upon investigation, the rear view of the somewhat feral feline who is auditioning to be third housecat. We call him Felix. Because he looks like the fellow on the tin.

Wildcat

One somewhat feral cat

Found prowling the corridor

Definitely not the blue lane

Head House Cat growls, Passport!

You are not in the correct zone!

The customs of this home require

Certain decorum, but

Who can resist a wildish kind of guy

Without papers

Looking for something more

Than a dinner dole

A scratch on the head

He wants to cross the frontier of love

To sing his song

To belong despite his fears

The dogs, the other cats

The two-legged with the beard

Incarceration

But the naturalisation

Process has begun

We are, so to speak,

Affianced. At least

I have pledged my troth

The family will come around

Eventually

Meanwhile he camps outside our door

We agreed upon this experiment

In mutual trust

Finding refuge

In my heart