A River Runs Through

We are no clearer as to what will happen to our border come 29th March, 2019, the Brexit deadline. Teresa May was hoarse and shouted down in Parliament the other day. Still the only movement seems that the penny dropped that No Deal is really a very bad deal for all concerned. Four centuries of British invasion and colonialism have come home to roost. It’s a knot they made for themselves. Well, their ancestors made for them. For those who feel no ancestral connection, who believe that post-moderns are beyond history, this is where history, ancestral decisions and actions brings us. Victors may get to write the official history. The land and the ancestors know the whole story.

As an aside, today marks six months since starting to write a poem a day and posting it on this blog. I had done the month long NaPoWriMo in April 2017 and 2018, but I felt the itch to challenge myself. I had no idea that I would still be here. You can see my flops and the successes. But at least I am having the courage to write on a daily basis.

I am really grateful for my faithful readership (you know who you are. And so do I!) and my faithful Twittership Traci York (check out her blog http://www.traciyork.com). The blog has evolved with poetry writing as a spiritual practice and as a journal. Not so much of outward happenings – there have been momentous occurances – but of my inward response to them, or even my deflection of them.) I do at regular intervals wonder how long I can keep this up, especially as I start juggling teaching and three different projects over the next three months. That will be a real test of the practice.

A River Runs Through

Borders may shift
but the land stays still.
Rivers demarcate
the only sure
lines you can cross
on maps.
                   No matter
the tribe you subscribe,
they can deny
you, throw you to
hell or Connaught, out
beyond the Pale,
into schtetl,
township bulldozered.
you can become
a Them, a Not-Us
so easily.

do you love?
they love you at
your last moment?
the earth reject
your lifeless form?

The land knows you, that
you are their own.
Where your bones rest
it calls you its own.
No maps or border,
no tribe ever
will describe all
the story the land
tells us.
                 Listen. Here.
A river runs
through like blood.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

Good Grief!

I began the day pondering the nature of grief. Being a words person, I started by looking up the etymology of the word grief. It is handed to the English via 12th century Old French apparently. The translation is ‘to burden.’  From the 13th century it  came to be synonymous with ‘to oppress’ and ‘to enrage’ But the original burden implied the burden was from a wrong, an injustice.

That is not necessarily the context that 21st century readers would take for the meaning. We are well primed with the texts on the stages of grief elucidated by Elizabeth  Kuebler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying.  Perhaps we apply it too much to personal mourning. Mourning has a different texture and tenor to grief, although the two can be linked.  A personal loss of a loved one can be a literal burden – to become an orphan, say, or sole carer for a large family.  But more often we speak of grief about the space that the bereaved feel at the sight of the empty chair or place at the table. We miss someone who is irrevocably gone.

However, today’s poetry practice tackles collective grief and explores the most ancient roots of the word. Because certainly what the world is experiencing every shade and stage of grief in its most ancient and modern senses. The poem borrows its structure from Kuebler-Ross the ways we navigate grief in our contemporary world.


Good Grief


It’s normal for there to be denial,

to tsunami kind of cry,

to not believe you own eyes,

that it cannot be happening.

Not to us. We are good people.

It’s normal to want to flannel.


It’s normal to feel angry,

to want to punch at walls a lot,

to hurt yourself when powerless,

because you want to hurt someone else so much.

To kill the messenger maybe, you want to raise an army,

or go postal a bit like Carrie off on her arson spree.

That’s how it feels when all comes to naught.


It’s normal to think you can bargain,

to be able to wheedle and haggle it out.

You’d do anything to spare a loved one, right?

Surely we must have left a little bit of clout?

So you go and try to make the best deal this side of heaven.

But doesn’t that sometimes feel like a bit like theft?

I’m telling you. It’s normal to feel sold out at auction.


It’s normal to feel kind of depressed,

to feel all the consequent emptiness.

Loss is loss. Gone is gone.

You ache. You yearn. You feel distressed,

you veer between enlightening moments when

you feel like both a con and a pawn.

It’s normal to feel like that when depressed.


It’s normal to grieve what is bygone, but

acceptance becomes your new normal.

You may model yourself on Teflon, yet

everything absolutely still sticks. Okay? Probably not.

We could look to the classics for lessons – for instance,

Agamemnon murdering his daughter for fair wind and favour.

Today our new normal is to feel not just cursed, but  dishonoured.


Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith


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