Spooked?

Samhain, or Halloween, ’tis the spooky season, of ghosties and ghoulies and unexplained stuff that goes bump in the night. So it makes sense for this Sunday’s Weekly Poem to take inspiration from that wavey pavey line that divides our world from whatever is next. (If you believe in that kind of thing.) There is plenty of debate about that. If you watch The Good Place on Netflix you might play around with ideas that the otherworld is a kind of Medium Place where souls are stuck. As my young friend with a psychology Ph.D. observed, ‘being stuck’ is the flag that says you need therapy. If souls or spirits or ghosts are stuck, it would seem that even the dead can be in need of therapy!

Yesterday was the Day of the Dead, aka All Souls Day. It’s also my birthday, so the ancestors were much on mind even as I was savouring a pumpkin cheesecake made for my birthday tea. Halloween, or Samhain, was a three day feast back in the day when the pagan Celtic kind of people lived on this island. When Patrick Christianised Ireland the old customs would not completely die. So now we have the three day feast of Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Both traditions acknowledge, to a greater or lesser extent, that that the line between the world of the living and the dead is particularly permeable at this time of year. Some cultures celebrate the beloved dead, like the great Day of the Dead festivals in Latin America. In our more northern climes we are a bit more nervous of perhaps too close an encounter with the skeletons in the family closets. In Ireland the fairies were said to be particular active and might take a fancy to steal your child. Hence, dressing up and pretending to be dead, or something particularly unattractive for fairy snatchers. (NB: Fairies, we apologise for this libel on your character. This is a public service announcement.)

But the dressing up also allows us, whatever age, to explore being someone else, to live out some unlived life – the accountant masquerading as a pirate, the assertive woman fainting into one of Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Women in Peril,’ the sexually shy woman vamping it as Morgan le Fay. You can be an angel or a devil. You can flirt with The Good Place, the Bad Place and even the The Medium Place for what it is on The Other Side of that permeable curtain. (If you believe in that kind of thing…which I guess a lot of us do, because it can’t all just be a Hallmark plot to sell more cards.)

‘Tis the season after all.

Sinning Sainthood

All hail the saints!
All hail the souls
who missed the mark
but were beloved still.

We do the best we can
with the arrows of our intention
aimed at impossible targets,
that fail to launch
or fall wide of the bulls-eye.

Some saints tried to do their best,
slipped, missed,
but eventually
did better.
They improved their eye.

All hail the saints!
All hail the souls
who miss the mark,
but vow to do better
with their hands and eyes.

Our beloved dead
did the best they could
even when it should
have been better.

But then,
we who live
are not always
so well understood.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Ghosting

For reasons I cannot quite fathom I have been feeling really tired this past week. Maybe the juggling of three and more projects is catching up with me. I have a list of things I need to attend to today, but I kept slapping the ‘Snooze’ on the alarm. I felt completely flat and out of inspiration for poetry practice. So I was lazily looking at my email, Facebook and finally Twitter. I generally just check in once daily there, but as soon as I opened it there was a post in the feed with a poetry prompt from @UrbanWordNYC…”write a poem addressing how death is the original form of ghosting.” So okay. I have my assignment for the Poetry Daily! Serendipity saves the day! I may have more personal experience of ghosts than social media ghosting, but I can work the metaphor…

Ghosting

Everyone leaves.
At some point I will, too.
I am of an age now -
the autumn of life -
when friends are dropping
from their perches in the trees.

Long dead friends resurrect
in Facebook memories,
speaking from some separate realm,
saying how much they are looking forward
to seeing me soon.

I have no such plans.
Shudder just thinking it.
I ignore them! She is safely dead.
I am alive and reasonably fit.
Getting on with my life
just fine without her presence.

Except absence never grows old,
or disappears. Death has its own half-life
radiating from some pit
just above your diaphragm.
Damn!

Everyone leaves!
Consider this just a dress rehearsal
in your role of ghost.
It's a practice run
for the really big griefs.

Face it. Every life is lived
by losers.
First its a phone, then house keys.
The BFF. A spouse or three.
Mum. Dad.
They just pile up, those losses,
littering the back of the closet.

It's a regular Halloween party in there.
The great celebration
of all us losers of loves bygone
sipping the juju juice,
making fun of all our ghosts
let out for a day.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

All Hallows

Isn’t She amazing? That is one of the Macnas puppet sculptures made for the Samhain parade this year in Galway that was published on Facebook.  Julia Dinen captured this amazing moment where the two worlds are side by side. Just as we are this Halloween.  Which is a big enough holiday to warrant a bank holiday weekend each year. It is Celtic New Year’s Eve tonight.The Irish for this celebration in Samhain. (Say it Sow -like the female pig – in). This is the night when our world is separated from ‘the other’ with a tissue thin veil between us. We can see things we would ordinarily not be able to discern.

To me that puppet in the photograph is the Cailleach, the oldest female ancestor. She is said to have created the world – or at least the Irish part of it – by emptying her apron of stones to pile into a cairn that became Eireann.  This is the night for connecting with the ancestors beyond the veil. And while some are spooked out by that thought – hence disguising your pretty children so they will not be spirited off stage left behind that curtain veil, – others know this is the best night of the year to do any form of divination. It is a time to both let go of an old year, as well as look to the future and what it holds. And it is well to leave an offering out – for the ancestors or the fairies – to garner blessings of good luck in the year ahead. A tot of whiskey or poitín (or tea if you have taken The Pledge), some honey and cream or milk are good to leave on your doorstep. Make sure that the birds and other critters have something, too. They are all part of the ancestral tapestry.

So it seems appropriate for today’s poetry practice to take a kind of incantory feeling.

 

All Hallows

 

Tossing the ancestral bones.

See how they fall.

Inscribe a rune on a stone.

See how they fall.

 

Speak to us from the beyond.

Watch how they fall.

Speak in the flick of a flame.

Seek direction.

 

Night has fallen upon earth.

Watch how it falls.

The dead feel close this dark night.

Speak from beyond.

 

Tossing the ancestral bones.

Inscribing runes on a stone.

Scrying from our hearthside flames.

Seeking tarot to declaim.

 

See how they fall.

Watch how they fall.

Part the night’s veil.

Beloved dead we hale.

Speak from beyond

before the next dawn.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

 

Featured image by Julia Dinen at Galway’s Macnas Samhain Parade 2018.

Joy

I am minded today of the Arundrati Roy quote to seek joy in the saddest places. We need to be reminded of joy and a prison qualifies as a sad place, but my husband and I and about fifty souls witnessed it yesterday in our local low security prison. I feel it warrants memorialising in my poetry journal. As backstory for you to understand the context of how it came about, I need to explain that they run a coffee shop that is open to the public, as well as having a car wash and polytunnels where you can buy plants. This is a bank holiday weekend in Ireland so there were a lot of visitors about the campus on a Sunday. The barristas in the coffee shop had been chatting to some of the regulars who work with a group of disabled young adults locally.  They cooked up the idea of throwing a bit of a Halloween party for them, got the chief’s blessing and threw themselves into having a wee kareoke yesterday afternoon.

Since I am both an adult and and American born, they had no problem in getting me to dust off my witch’s costume (complete with cauldron as purse and besom – oops, forgot the flying ointment!). My husband has a wizard’s cape and another member of the public dressed up as Queen of the Night to add to the atmosphere. One of the guys bought decorations while out on temporary release. Paid from his own pocket I may add, from his €2.20 an hour wages as barrista.

We need to spread the joy. No photographs since that is an Irish Prison Service no-no. The jackolantern has to speak for us all.

Joy

 

You wouldn’t have believed it

to know that years ago

Steven had seized and seized and seized,

a ceaseless neurological event

that nearly extinguished him,

that left him in hospital a full year.

But here he is growling out Breakfast Roll,

stamping his feet, knowing all the words,

giving it as much soul

as any Motown microphone ever heard.

He didn’t bring the prison down – quite.

He raised its roof though. I saw so many doors

swing wide open and so many smiles that

went right straight to the eyes for the first time

in too long. We all grinned so much our jaws ached.

And then Steven switched it up,

crooning a song. Megan and Mary mimed to the words.

Heart for love, empty arms as language for lonely.

Fifty pairs of eyes beheld them mistily.

And clapped and applauded. And still everyone smiled.

No matter they sang a bit off key. So don’t all of we.

But heart and soul and being inside the song.

You don’t see that so very often.

Later, when the bus had taken them all home,

the barristas mopped the counter, did  the washing up.

One of the guys, a lifer, gave out a little sigh,

said, Today was a good day, smiling again at the memory.

Steven and Megan and Mary and Michael,

naked of your medical labels

are the joy givers.

We bow to you,

those who show us all how to.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

The Woo

Okay, I realise that I need to explain the title. You know when you have odd, random experiences, that are not necessarily readily explained by the physical laws of the universe? They feel laden with portent, but not in a meaningful coincidence kind of way. That’s WooWoo. Or for short, The Woo. It can feel a bit spooky or actually leave you feeling a tad spooked. So with Halloween not a week away, I thought I would poetry journal today’s random weird experiences. (No! Don’t judge them weird! They are just woowoo!) They tend to come in threes (like clichéd buses), so I promise I will report back if there is a further instance of The Woo. And if I ever figure out what I am supposed to be looking at, or figuring out. Still at the head scratching stage in this household.

‘Tis the season for the veil between the worlds to be mesh thin. It is definitely permeable. And out where I live this feels like Planet Normal.

In the interests of full disclosure I will confess that I was the child who was declared to have worryingly fey tendencies. Or putting a positive spin on it – was imaginative.

The Woo

 

Setting off the smoke alarm

at 1:50 AM-

but no smoke, no fire,

new batteries in just this week,

everything switched off,

(including the alarm doing it for itself!)

not before waking the whole house up…

 

Then this morning the pebble dashed itself

against the windscreen

on smooth highway

with no oncoming traffic

to kick up any loose chippings…

 

So you definitely have got our attention now

(Whoever you are) playing at being the Great Oz

speaking from behind the curtain

only without using words.

Will a winged monkey swoop in next?

Does my poppy seed cake have an opioid kick?

 

You riddle and simile it.

Jeese Louise! What is the metaphor for?

It’s not even Hallowe’en – yet.

But the clocks are winding back this weekend

and we’ll soon be pitched into the dark.

Which no one likes to navigate alone.

Just please don’t leave any ambiguous messages

on the answer phone.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

 

Featured Image:

Photo by Maud CORREA on Unsplash