Some Sunday Joy

It has been a fruitful week. The Sunday Weekly Poem reflects a moment in a week that is known for Thanksgiving, even if you don’t live in a country where it is a national holiday. It is also the first Sunday of Advent even if you are not Christian. Last year I wrote a sequence of Advent poems for each Sunday for those who perform this mindful ritual, whether they are Christians who light the Advent wreath candles or pagans observing the Sunwheel each Sunday before Winter Solstice. This is what my 2018 Advent wreath looked like https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/01/advent/.

The first Sunday of Advent’s candle is for hope. But I was so startled by a quiet flush of joy this week that it is my theme for the weekly poem. Gratitude, hope, joy…we need to celebrate these in the dark days of winter. Even if they only appear as glimpses.

The Morning After Thanksgiving

Staring out my window I am stabbed by
a joy in the smallest of things:
how the stars wink in those minutes before dawn
begins to pink the horizon,
how when winter's brilliant sun breaks
and shines it outlines the intricate delicacy
of the hoar frost mantilla yarrow and hogweed wear,
how light stretches itself lazily in a slow promenade
in soft soled slippers across the field, melting
the frost very, very slowly and, also,
how it persists all day on the lane's edges
all crisp and starched as an altar boy's surplice.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

Poetry Daily Joy

Another very late edition of the Poetry Daily. This week my writing routine has been severely taxed. And inside I am not so much Mrs. Cranky as Mrs. Discombulated. I love have early morning writing time. With the expected Second Coming of the Septic Tank Man I set my alarm. But apparently not early enough! I had some very desultory writing practice done when his truck roared up in front of the house. From then on there was no peace until I met my lift into the new Weaving/Textile Art class run by my creative colleague Morag in Dowra Courthouse this morning. Two hours of getting to grips with warp, weft, hard and handy chased all thoughts literary out of my head. (Which I do reckon to Be A Good Thing for me. Get out of my head. Do something that does not come easily so I really focus. Which is effected with much muttering to self. Sorry, fellow weavers!)

But it did make me realise how wedded I have become to this routine. It has not always panned out that I could post early, but a good solid chunk of time first thing in the morning was devoted to becoming awake (always a very tender time for me) and then writing. I need a very gentle entry time to the day to remain centred. Or so it has become abundantly apparent. And what will happen in a little over a week’s time when I will have completed the 365 days of the Poetry Daily? I experienced…not quite panic. But certainly a wobble. Which then became more real when a friend messaged with a query as to how I plan to celebrate the completion of the 365 days of Poem a Day? Not a clue…Which is denial of the real winds of change.

Not the least of which is that my husband has been on a concerted campaign of clean up, sort out and get rid of. He has been orbitting the Flat Pack universe these past two weeks constructing new wardrobes, chest of drawers and storage schemes. Like many old Irish homes there are no closets. Storage is always an issue. Our home was constructed in times when people had a lot less stuff. And that was probably a really good thing. A faithful reader, Sherri, has a very good Four Point Plan for ‘stuff.’ Can I eat it? Can I wear it? Can I read it? Can I make art from it? If not, please do not give it to me!

And even with those categories we can have too much of a good thing. These are rather narrow wardrobes to fit the dimensions of the bedrooms. The extra tall bookcase has filled up fast despite two big bags of give aways to the charity shop. So I reverted to Marie Kendo’s ‘does it spark joy?’ query for should anything stay. Has to be done to make room for more book joy and art joy. We have already had one trip to the recycling centre and charity shop. It will probably be the first of many as we methodically tidy up our act.

And as another friend observed today, when they chopped down the second half of the spruce plantation in front of our house last winter, a lot more light flooded into our living space. That certainly inspired Tony to do major reconfiguring in the garden in the spring and summer. Now with the autumn and winter he has unleashed that focus onto the house interior.

And I have not been idle either as Her Indoors has re-read the poems written over the past twelve months and more. I have put together a longlist of poems in a document for second reading and some tweaking, spell checking (blush!) and editting. There is a working title for a solo collection. The next step is to hand it over to a mentor and editor for their housekeeping on the project to pull it together for submitting to publishers.

So after lunch I had another bash at the poetry practice with results that were a bit more satisfying. (I have had enough caffeine by now. I realise that writers have a reputation – mostly fostered by Hemingway and Co. – of being hard drinkers, but the truth of the matter is that we are more probably caffeine junkies.)

Poetry Sparks Joy

Sweeping debris that is overburdensome
we slimline house and home and our routines.
We have too much stuff and too little space
to live our out lives with some simple grace.
The letting go is never easy doing,
nor the establishment of a New Regime
when burrowing up and out from beneath
my heaps and piles. Never very Zen.
What routines to keep? What ones to renew?
What sparks joy? Writing poetry. That's true.
Better go give Marie Kendo her due.
Let go with thanks. Time to feng shui it, too.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

What Gives You Joy?

Hello Darkness, my morning friend. I’m up with you again…listening to the rain and the wind and contemplating the blank page. My poetry creative colleague and collaborator, Helen Shay, sent me a meme in an email yesterday. It was jolly and very funny and was a riff on Netflix’ feng-shui evangelist Marie Kondo. Her tagline, for those who have dodged that pop culture meme, is Does it spark joy? Well, my plastic lemon squeezer does the job, but would a wood or glass one spark more joy? I ask you? I like lemon, so I guess it does spark joy…kind of. Although a wood or glass one would be more aesthetically pleasing.

But my contemplations became more existential as I listened to the rain. I can live with my heaps and piles. And her edict about only owning thirty (30!) books still has me reeling back with disbelief and distaste with such a noisome notion. I’d rather be untidy.

Nearly thirty years ago I was listening to Irish poet Eavan Boland on a BBC Radio 4 programme. She had been ranging around Ireland teaching women poetry writing in the community. She asked one group if they would now go back home to their villages and townlands and proclaim themselves poets. And one woman piped up, “Sure, they would think I was the kind of woman who didn’t wash her curtains!”

Dear Reader, I have aspired to and now achieved that status. I cannot remember when I last washed my curtains!

But back to the more existential concerns for the Poetry Daily.

What Gives You Joy?

Let's not pretend
that this isn't the hot button
question of the day.

How all our stuff,
this accumulated junk
is no more than
unwelcome toys
of mass distraction,
barricading us off from more
existential annoyances.

None of it
we'll be able to keep.
It's just leftovers of life
that executors will have to unheap.
A coffin can only hold
so many grave goods.

Pack me off with
a conch shell I have hauled around
three countries
along with
a lump of Marcellus rock.

I kept them with me
this long lifetime.
I know where I come from.
I know where I'll go to.

As for joy...

it is the plinking of rain on a tin roof,
the sea sighing as the tide recedes,
the chuffing of wind as it meets
the resistance of trees.

Joy is nothing
one can ever keep.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

Advent Wreath Weekly Poem

advent wreath

Two weeks ago I began lighting a Sunwheel wreath, which is a pagan version of the Advent Wreath where we light the final candle on Winter Solstice (this year 21st/22nd depending on your location on the planet) instead of Christmas Day. Beth Owl Daughter popularised this custom. This is the season of darkness no matter what your spiritual persuasion or religious affiliation. Jews will be coming to the end of the eight day celebration of Hanukkah, lighting the final candle on the menorah tomorrow, 10th December. It is a human impulse to light a match to a candle wick or an oil lamp in the dark time of year.

Christians will light the second candle  for Love this week. You can find that poem in last week’s post (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/01/advent/) Meanwhile, pagans will be lighting the solitary pink candle for joy at sundown tonight. When these Sunwheel/Advent wreath poems came to me I heard them with a wee tune in my ‘inner ear.’ Last week I posted a video just in case you feel like singing the poem as you light your wreath. You can find the video and tune  at this link. on my YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/Df3J08djsYg.

So here’s to you…some Joy.

Joy

I light a candle for joy
to celebrate with glee.
I light a candle for joy
for all the states of ecstasy.

I light a candle for joy
praying that all shall be happy.
I light a candle for joy
so elation may shine brightly.

I light a candle for joy
though the world can make you weary.
I light a candle for joy
that we may be less proud and haughty.

Light a candle for joy!
Light a candle for joy!
Light a candle for joy
to bless the dark.
Light a candle for joy
to bless its spark.
Light a candle for joy
so we all may hark.

Let the candle flames blaze with our good intentions this sundown.



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