It’s About Time

Our clocks went back to universal time at 2am this morning. I woke up just after 6am in the chilly twilight and felt immeasurably better.I burrowed back under the heft of the duvet and extra blanket. But even with the lie in, I was up early penning the Sunday Weekly poem. This is the time of year to make like the bear or small furry animals who disappear down tunnels into their dens. To parlay a Mary Oliver quotation differently… my “soft animal body” loves this time of year. Which does coincide with my birthday at the week’s end, so perhaps not quite so surprising. I revel in this dark part of the year, called Samhain in Ireland, and unlike many folk, feel quite energised by it. I am digging into the darkness.

We are not only setting the clocks back and diving into the darkness of Samhain, as we call Halloween and the month of November here in Ireland. (We even get a bank holiday for Halloween! It’s the ancient Celtic New Year. Yet another example of how we ‘do the double’ with two celebrations for New Year.) . It is also a New Moon in Scorpio. Those who live in environments with a lot of artificial light will never fully appreciate just how dark a dark moon can be at the darkest part of the year. You can understand why they thought the ancestors and other spirits roamed the countryside. It feels like the point just before the bang went off and the cosmos was born.

The early hours also had me looking at the etymological roots of the English words burrow (since I was so enjoying my snuggle in) and barrow. The latter can be a handcart and essential gardening tool in one sense. But the sense I was seeking was its life as an ancient burial mound. Long, long ago we put the ancestors to bed in what was not unlike an animal’s den. My favourite ancient monument on the Cavan Burren is called the Cairn Dolmen. First they buried their beloveds under a pile of stones. Later, the neolithic people plopped a dolmen on top of the pile of stones. Now, time is making it subside into the mound. It begins to look like a barrow.

My own personal name for this is The Fairy Cairn.

The Cairn Dolmen, Cavan Burren, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

I will only be giving you one poem this Sunday. Which is not to say that I have not been scribbling other drafts. But they were really only fragments.

I did have my first meeting with my mentor/ editor this week, beginning the revision process that will eventuate in a solo collection of poetry that began life in the 365 consecutive poem a day project that ended in September 2019. What you see in this blog is basically a second draft, occasionally a third tweaking. I am now beginning the slash and burn process. A friend of a friend calls this the ‘Kill Your Babies’ stage. My wise editor reframed this as…”think of it as separating conjoined Siamese twins and putting them in their own cots.”

This is how one unconjoined Siamese twin breaths in this new micropoem.

Her reading glasses
folded
lie on the bedside cabinet
with the paperback,
it's bookmark
three-quarters the way through
forever.

My etymological survey this morning ended up at a website on Paracelsus who had some very esoteric terminology used by theosophists. But it became my word play sandbox for the Weekly Poem. The title, Yliaster, is defined as the primordial matter out of which the universe has been formed in the beginning of time.

Time is very much on my mind this morning.

Yliaster

First
there was brine
so much
it sank into the earth.
It fell from the sky.
Those salty tears
became
the scaffolding of the cosmos.

Next
came brimstone,
the noxious engine,
the truth that no light
comes without
a spark
and a parp
keeps things moving.

Last,
quicksilver,
scattershot,
inspired,
all too, too
self-aware,
a realisation,
a dashing away -
flighty, fickle, unfair.

All so like us.

Chaos begat Chronos
from salt, sulphur, mercury.

We got
Time.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Sunday Poem and Pondering

It’s been a noisy week. Hasn’t everyone experienced some kind of sound and fury? It’s been inescapable one way or the other. I had a poem written and ready to go last evening, but I decided to honour the original rhythm of writing the poem a day over 365 consecutive days. I set the alarm to make sure I would rise early. I didn’t need its pinging in the end, for my sleep cycle this week has been as erratic as those geological glacial remains that rocked and rolled over the landscape that I call home. I was up early and saw the dawn.

So, in the spirit of Samuel Becket’s saying that poems are prayers, I offer this little poem from my journal penned on rising today. It was how I declared the day ‘sabbath’, a day of rest.

Morning Prayer

Let there be one morning
without rush,
that the dawn is bejewelled
in its hush.
Let the sun rise golden
and bleeding
on Playbank's horizon,
day seeding
as rain drips from the eaves
land all lush.

Let there be one morning
without rush.
Let there be one morning
celebrating this hush.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

The Playbank
The Playbank

Then…some pondering from a news story that actually appeared last March, but only just captured my imagination. A 40,000 year old log was unearthed in New Zealand, the relict of an ancient kauri tree hauled from a swamp. Itself, part of the fossil record, it is thought to have lived for nearly two millenia, and charts the geological period when the earth’s magnetic field shifted. For fuller details check out https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6836883/40-000-year-old-log-underneath-New-Zealand-swamp-explain-Earths-climate-mystery.html.

But…the poem from the pondering.

Homeostasis

The kauri tree
it saw it all
left the tale
in arborial braille.

Will the meek ever
inherit the earth?
Just once.
Who speaks for those species?

Those not quite
fittest
being extinguished
each year...

The bonobo,
the Bengal tiger,
even
the nerdy caterpillar.

Two hundred
creatures
great and small
are gone

every day
times 365
with an extra
on leap year.

Who gets saved?
Recycled? Culled?
The kauri tree
saw it all.

It wrote that epic shift
on its body
the needle shifting
round the dial.

What is unequal
balances.
Some will be saved,
some culled.

For the rest,
they go back to the earth
for what will be
their next cycle.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

What will this week bring? What will be culled?

Cursing Stone

There is, on private land adjacent to the ruined St. Brigid’s Chapel in the townland of Kilinagh, a glacial erratic with nine bullaun stones placed in its hollows. We live in a geopark that is littered with these large rocks that the ice age slid down off Cuilcagh Mountain back in the mists of eons bygone. They were both first tools and material, as well as a part of nascent cosmology. This particular rock formation is called St. Brigid’s Cursing and Blessing Stone, the new Christian religion taking over a site dedicated to the old god Crom Cruach. The tradition is to turn the stone the the left and leave a coin under the bullaun stone for a curse. Turn the stone sunwise and you bless.

Curses are all about deep time. They reverberate for generations. In the heroic tales of Ireland this might be for five, seven or even nine generations. A story never ends where you think it ends. The plot is thicker than any witch’s concoction and many of the characters who think they have starring roles only have cameos in the grander scheme of things.

And why should I be thinking of this as I contemplate the Poetry Daily on this morning where the sun is trying to chase the rain and keep it at bay? Maybe because we need to widen the viewfinder on our ideas of story, how it chases our tails and becomes what we know as history. That the long ago then is also are ninety-minute now.

Cursing Stone

Sometimes you know a story is not done.,
but the climax doesn't satisfy.
The lovers don't walk hand in hand toward sunset.
The mean foment more mean, no justice done.
Oh, but what if we could just simplify
life to a made for TV version?
Ninety minutes of conflict to conclusion.

In reality, bitter people
who take their ball of no hope, feuds and grudges,
go seek their redress at a cursing stone.
They leave at this altar their gall, bile's brew.
Although there is another ritual that blesses
by reversing the turn of bullaun stones.
Forgiveness remedies what needs atoned.

No story's compiled in a single tome.
It's eons of layers, all known in stone.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved




St. Brigid's Cursing and Blessing Stone
St. Brigid’s Cursing and Blessings Stone

Deep Time

Poetry practice today is informed by some wildlife – a moth- found on our front door yesterday. Also the walking workshop I delivered to 50+ school kids yesterday up on the Cavan Burren. In a landscape with million year old furniture I was trying to explain when their first ancestors -these were local kids- turned up in Ireland mere thousands of years ago, when sea levels were lower before the last of the big Ice Age melt off. This is background information before these kids make pottery with local ceramic artist Jim Fee.  Humans have been making pots for tens of thousands of years. Writing is a bit of an afterthought – after farming, domestication of animals, megalith making. It was a Bronze Age development. Although perhaps poetry existed in oral form or in singing before that. But the writing down – into stone, onto bark or papyrus- that came fairly late in the day as an art form. The first poetry was recorded by a woman – a princess and priestess- in 3,500BCE in Babylon. Art making was the hand work  that filled the glove of the spiritual and sacred in the ancient world. It was deeper in our DNA even then the urge for food security. As was our human capacity for awe at the workings and movement in nature. We were still part of nature then.

It is one of the great pleasures and privileges of living within Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark that this sense of deep time and survival. Much will pass away, but the art will remain, and the rocks. 

 

So, to the daily poem. I am keeping it short to allow contemplation to be long. A tanka today. A haiku capped with a seven syllable couplet. Which brings me back to that moth. Which my Collins’ “Complete Irish Wildlife” suggests is called the Angle Shade

Angle Shade

Before you are lost

Let me know, name, record you

Survive in deep time

It is just a slip between

A different angle shade