Best of Times,Worst of Times

Who, in the English speaking world, has not read Charles Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities at some point during their teens? It was a set text when I was in 10th grade in the early 1970s. But that was a world ago. Do teenagers know Sidney Carton’s heroic speech these days? At any rate, those opening sentences resonate with this year. Well, some may not be feeling it for the former, but the tale of those two cities does illustrate how that sentence can be true.

We are not quite a week into Ireland’s second lockdown, which we are told will last until 1st December. In truth, I barely registered that it was a bank holiday in the Republic yesterday and it almost escaped me that today is Tuesday. I nearly forgot that today is the day I post a weekly blog. And ideally, a new poem.

What emerged is very rough and raw. It is a monument only to my commitment to keep up the practice. It is not for want of idleness. I have a couple projects in train with only twelve days off between the end of my Zoom Short Fiction workshop in October and the Poetry one that starts the first week in November. I am currently writing a e-course provisionally titled A Light in the Window: A 21 Day Journey Through December’s Dark Days. The plan is for participants who register to get a daily reflection and journal prompt in their email inbox for twenty-one days. As a bonus, there is a Sunday Zoom ‘Virtual Fireside’ where participants can check in, share and companion one another as we journal and journey our way to winter solstice. Watch this space for full details to get released early in November.

I also have a grant proposal to write before 6th November, as well as prep for the Poetry workshops in November. So I may be living in splendid isolation, but I am far from idle. The side of my brain that engages with prose is more active at the moment. It felt like I had to wrench it bit to get it into gear for the draft of poem that follows. Or there may be two poems inside this particular draft. I have not got the bandwidth to decide today! Only some revision time will allow for me to decide. But that may not be until Yuletide!

  The Best of Times, The Worst of Times
 
 Which, in truth, tremulously hover 
 between terror and hope.
 Just this year we said goodbye
 to the Indian cheetah
 the Sumatran rhino,
 turtles, paddlefish, macaws.
  
 Perhaps we only truly feel grateful
 once we have destroyed, 
 then indulge in nostalgia. We mourn
 with crocodile tears from a croc
 with a ticking clock inside.
  
 We will only know them as figures
 in the illustrated guide to ecocide,
 or as shadows behind the rice paper
 sliding door separating us 
 from our own transmutation
  
 into hungry ghosts wandering,
 not knowing that our life – the old life-
 with its morning rites like
 tea and toast or coffee and brioche
 has gone. 
We can only watch it, 
looking from outside in
through the steamed up glass of a transport caff.
  
Once there was a child who dimpled
as it smiled for no particular reason,
flexing its thigh muscles as it got used
to the their power as they bounced 
up and down for the admiration
of a doting giant.
  
 Once that child twirled itself round and round
 before hurling itself onto the grassy ground
 to feel the pull of the world as it revolved
 on its skewed axis. And it knew happiness
 as it watched cloud and sky fly past.
  
 Perhaps it was always thus.
 That only when we sacrifice for the sake of love
 do we know the best in the worst
 and time stops
 being relevant. 
That then there is only
 
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
 And
 We miss you. 
 We miss you. 
 We miss you.
 
 Copyright ©Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved. 

Featured image Photo by Daniel Joshua on Unsplash

Stuck or Chuck?

Two poems for your this Sunday Weekly Poem edition. It’s been an interesting week to say in the least. The first poem was actually written in the aftermath of the full moon last Sunday. Because we have had a relatively clear sky at night, even the waning moon’s light has been filtering through the bedroom curtains. The second poem is really a meditation on a few telephone conversations and a social media comment. Once you do the whole feng shui, clearing out and giving away thing, why do you not feel better? What do you do with that void? Which really was a good question, an existential one that has universal application even. Off and on during the week I was in bed batting back a virus, sleeping and dreaming, and sweating physically and metaphorically. Also watching the breakneck speed of breaking news.

Sandwiched in between was a day spent in the prison’s Education Centre with a few heroes who do not recognise their own heroic status, but who did ponder, discuss, and explore in writing these heroic attributes: integrity, humanity, individuality, dedication, selflessness, freedom, happiness, companionship, loyalty, as well as the distinction between bravery and courage. It can be lonely being a hero, but they know that heroes need allies.

First, the October moon, aka The Hunter’s Moon or The Dying Moon. A quotation was another seed.

Birth and death are the most surreal events in life, and everything in between is collage, too.

Lucy Ellman
The Dying Moon

Her rays blaze out,
permeating the curtains drawn
to shut in the dark.

This is when the year dies,
when the year is at its most surreal.

She's going out
in Grandstand style
any old hunter could
pick off so
easily.

Flaunting Her light
before she wanes into
"Good Night"
"Farewell"
pondering
Her right

to be reborn
every month
but
as this year dies

at some point
on another
surreal axis

the hinges will again
creak and moan
give out a wail

it begins
as it ends
foliage bursting forth,
then falling, falling...
naked at each pole point

but inbetween
the foliage
where everything
is collage,
nothing decided,
just patched,
and pieced.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

A telephone conversation early this week led to my characterising 2019 as the year of ‘Stuck or Chuck”, which may account for the popularity of the Marie Kondo Netflix series. If we can just get organised, if we can achieve some order, if we can just be tidy…perhaps we can stem the tide of insanity of anxiety…maybe. But what happens if none of that happens?

Empty

All year
the paper mounted up and up
beseeching action...except... the final piece..
or maybe two or three...but not many..

left it languishing in paper prison,
incarcerated with no fixed term date
to look forwards towards. Or...

THE DEADLINE!

though this, too, can alter...those sticking points...

When you clean house, just try to chuck the box
propping the bed's leg up. You're in for a
collapse of more than dreams.

Is it a trap?

Chucking the baby, bassinette, water,
carving out a void, a hollow hiding
in wide open, inviting existence to
swallow.

To feel full on air instead of
stuffing, stuffing, stuffing mouths and houses,
filling, filling, filling the empty space.

And we watch Marie Kondo looking for
how to fold our fitted bed sheets on faith.
That the planet will not go down under
landfill or rising water or plastic

along with the bed and its wobbly leg,
the box holding it all up exploding
random contents, thoughts, our own nostalgia.
Our dreams.

Empty feels uncomfortable.
It is weightless. The moorings have slipped off.

Drifting in an expanse . Which may kill you.
Don't just tread water. Go learn how to swim.
Don't just space walk. Become an astronaut.

It's not good enough
a life staying stuck.
It's not good enough
to give everything
the chuck.

Or to predicate happiness
on satisfaction with your brimming plate,
a life full of love, with no tastes to hate,
guzzling fossil fuel, put our guts on fire
But still we want more
even if we all expire.

The empty space. Where once a box was placed.
It is white noise in symphany.
(Clap! Clap!)

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image  Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash 

Spirited Sunday Poems

I offer you two little spirited poems this Sunday morning in the Poetry Daily. One I wrote yesterday after seeing an item about how fireflies are in danger of going extinct. Now, I realise that species are falling like dominoes leaving holes in the trophic cascade, but this one speaks of one of the innocent delights of my childhood. In late August as the nights drew in and bedtime was still a half hour away, I ran around our yard with a jelly jar trying to capture those phosporescing flies. They were magical. I would watch them glow as I fell asleep. Of course, they never survived the night. On one hand I know that those jam jar chases after them are a thing of the past,one more pastime that is relegated to history. On the other hand I know we must compassionately offer a species some future. But gosh, kids today are missing out on so much fun that was available freely in the outdoors in the childhoods of the 1950s.

goodnight fireflies
Goodnight Fireflies!

As I was waking I seemed to have the words purpose, intent and fingerprints rolling around like pingballs in my consciousness. I wanted to find a quotation that might start a five liner. Justine Willis Toms provides the quotation line that begins the poem that I hope offers a bit more uplift after the elegy for the firefly.

heart fingerprints purpose call
The call

I hope you have a Sunday that nurtures your soul and prepares you to answer the call to your Spirit’s purpose in the week to come.