Penultimate Poem

Day 364 of 365 days of writing and posting a poem a day. Except for the blip on 30th November when the internet went down. There were two posts on 1st December. When I considered what might be a fitting subject as I have the finish line of this poetry writing marathon in sight, I thought I have not, directly at least, written a love poem for Ireland. I also am very fond of old style maps. You know, the paper kind, rather than the interactive, digital sort. Months and months ago I found this wonderful image of an old map of Ireland that has been on my desktop teasing me. It’s a map of Ireland from circa 1808. It delinates the four ancient kingdoms of Ireland- Ulster in the north, Leinster in the east, Munster south and Connaught in the west. I live in a village on the Black Pig’s Dyke, which was an ancient earthwork system to discourage cattle raids from over yon border. (These schemes for walls never work. Why do we never learn, but just keep repeating the same old same old?) Half of my village is on the Ulster side of the River Shannon, where I live. Cross the bridge and you are in Leitrim and Connaught.

There was a rosy glow of dawn’s early light over the Playbank as I let Ellie out to answer her call of nature this morning. It never fails to take make me feel blessed to call this place home. So, a love poem for Ireland…

Éireann

Island or land mass
aorta?
Every chamber
has its particular
function.
Everyone
of its four fields,
their rivers,
arteries of love
running through.
Their oxygen, too.

It may only be
the size
of a human fist,
yet everything
depends
upon this:
the morning mist,
its mythic hints,
the river gods
serving
the seat of awe.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Borders

Brexit

I am sometimes asked where all the ideas come from that inspire a new poem. Well, I range around. Today’s poem’s train of thought was provoked  by a tweet. I am not a frequenter tweeter, but I do follow a few who are only on Twitter. And my current favourite is The Irish Border (@BorderIrish) who is wittily discoursing on the Brexit crisis about what to do with the problem of it. A lot hangs upon the Good Friday Treaty (aka the Belfast Treaty of 1998), which spelled out the end of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We live in border country. For instance, today we went to the launderette in Fermanagh, which is eight miles away. If we opted for ones in Leitrim, we would have had to travel around sixteen miles to do the dirty washing. We fill our prescriptions in Fermanagh, because our doctor’s surgery is just over the bridge from  it on the Cavan side of Lough MacNean. It is often cheaper too, but if it isn’t they send us to our nearest Leitrim pharmacy which is (yes) sixteen miles in the other direction.

Today’s featured image is a photo of an art project at that bridge point that marks an international boundary. The 2017 project was ‘Soften the Border’, a peaceful way of voicing what locals want for their future. And it was done in knitting and crochet!

art installation 2

Read more here We Need to Talk About Symbols

The poem opens with a reference to the Black Pig’s Dyke, an ancient earthwork fortification (a bit like a neolithic Trump wall) to keep out invading incursions between Ulster and Connaught. More here Pigs Can’t Fly?

And today’s inspiration comes from the Yellow Manifesto. Which was the spark that lit the metaphorical match today.

 

Borderland

 

“A border is where realities co-exist” – The Yellow Manifesto

 

We know this well, those of us who

ride the Black Pig’s back here.

We remember its day of rampant tusk and harsh bristle

over thirty years and more.

We unwound a lot over the past twenty years,

got past the gore; uncombed some knots and tats.

We like the one we have right now,

and would very much  like it remaining invisible.

Except perhaps on bureaucrats’ maps.

We have done the hard work to make visible

more than any political magical thinking.

(Much of it paid for by the EU, thank you!)

 

We cannot go back to the hot-cold war ways

of Checkpoint Charlie rifling for contraband bacon.

Besides of course of which, it’s probably already

being stuffed down the granny’s corset and brolly.

We long ago learned the math of two currencies,

but newly know the true value of peace.

It’s just another way of doing the double,

understanding how the other side thinks.

We can tell you the exact cost and

count it in epigenetics because

PTSD still holds a lingering legacy.

 

Land is porous. Just like our meadows and bogs.

You would think after two millennium

we’d get the hang of forgiving trespassers,

the being kind to our neighbours.

Maps are for magical thinking that

set traps for the less canny and unwary.

Borderlanders know the true juju

of negotiating their lives betwixt and between.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

 

Yellow Manifesto