Trophic Cascade

Day 30 of NaPoWriMo2018/GloPoWriMo and I am crossing the finishing line of the April Poem A Day Marathon. I may have dodgy knees, metal in my ankle and aching hips, but by golly I can poetry-thlete! I did all the suggested prompts this year, which I didn’t do in NaPoWriMo2017. This was my personal challenge. Not being a game kind of gal and one who views rules as guidance only, this was the way I could get out of my comfort zone.

Today’s prompt is supposed to be fact based. Here is the final prompt of NaPoWriMo2018. “And for our final (optional) prompt, I’d like you to take your cue from Borges, and write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.”

I didn’t opt for history or art trivia (kind of did that with Folded Cross). It isn’t ‘plain weird’ to use a science-based fact as my inspiration for today’s poem. Except, for people who know me outside of the realm of cyber space, that is plain weird! If you have not heard of this, Wikipedia will enlighten. I first heard about it surrounding Cristina Eisenburg’s wolf studies. (The people you encounter through Sagewoman magazine!)

Trophic Cascade

No one wants to love the wolf.

Nor do they want to be the deer,

the sacrificial victim that

maintains the entire ecosphere.

You need very few alphas,

But an awful lot of bottom feeders.

It’s really a case of trickle up,

the massed power of all those omegas.

So it goes:

Wolf downs deer.

Less deer, more trees.

More trees, less erosion.

Less erosion, more beaver.

More beaver, less flood.

Less flood, more everything happy

for everyone downstream,

the solid ballast  supporting

the pyramid of eco-hierarchy.

I love the wolf’s topaz eye, how alone

thinks of the welfare of the pack.

I love the deer, who could

and would say good-bye

all for the love of those further downstream.

I love the pact that these two make

knowing  what they must know.

Which one is prey?

Which one is on the take?

Yet, we rely upon the who and what they are,

the violence of their loving,

the rough and tough meeting smooth.

One has a topaz eye on fire.

The other a velvet soft, melting soothe.

That is the imperative design in nature.

The fountain overflows,

gives  no oxygen to any lie.

It loves what it loves.

So some may live and eat,

so others must die.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Little Fugue in Glastonbury

Day 29 NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo finds me on Day 5 of my sojourn in southwest England. We are in Glastonbury with the festival of Beltane  imminent. The prompt for today asks us to play with the Plath Poetry Project. Choose one of that site’s posted Sylvia Plath poems and respond.  After a quick perusal I opted for Little Fugue.


Little Fugue at Glastonbury Abbey


The fallen magnolia blossom

Blistered by beastly north wind

Flesh shrivelled in infancy



This changeling season

It should be hirsute Green Man

And nude bathing at the well



I could thwack, thwack, thwack

At Old Frosty myself

With my old lady walking stick



For all the white vapour

Exuding from my breath

The cloud overhead



Nearly May and this is it

Woolen mittens a long stretch from

The white cotton of ladies summer gloves



Really more the season to huddle

Over in the hive of the Abbot’s kitchen

Warming at all four fires



And Brigid! You there on the white walls

In St. Patrick’s Chapel,

Why are you hanging on here?



The white of your snowdrops

Long since gone, but winter

Its’ prison pallour clinging on, clinging on



Beyond the time for cream to adorn the thorn

It’s barely flaunting a petticoat’s hem

To tempt any virile Green Men



Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

For my fellow sojourners Pat, Dawn and Anthony



The Folded Cross

Day28 of NaPoWriMo2018/ GloPoWriMo dawns and our prompt involves a prose poem and a postcard. Fortunately, when you are on holiday you collect postcards. Or at least if you are me, who is especialy fond  of haunting art galleries. That is one lack in my country mouse life – large civic collections of art. Today’s offering is inspired by my reaction when seeing the  Staffordshire Hoard, an Anglo- Saxon find in a field near Lichfield (been there, but didn’t pick up any postcsrds.)



The Folded Cross

You wouldn’t believe what happened to me

while I was wandering this museum gallery. It was

like I plumbed the secret depths of the Hoard’s mystery.

One thing I could pretty much guarantee to you. It was

a woman who hid the Hoard. And she was very angry

with the clergy.


Copyright 2018 Bee Smith








Postcard – The Staffordshire Hoard – gold pectoral cross -Birmingham Museums Trust




Wheel of Fortune

The prompt for Day 27 of NaPoWriMo2018 gives us the option of picking a random card from a trot deck. I didn’t use the one they linked in their blog. I happen to have not just one, but two tarot deck,apps on my iPad. I used Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot for my random and Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s Dark Goddess image for the poem’s raw material. I encourage you to look online at both artistic renderings. The images are in copyright, so no featured inage today. Today’s random pick from the app is Wheel of Fortune. It is Number 10. Being one of those divisible by a 5 is generally bodes…well, let’s just say the most positive spin is turbulence.

I am ready to roll.
Wheel of Fortune

Fortuna favours the ready

to roll with whatever change.

Do not weep. Or cry  It’s not fair!

Gnash teeth, or fall into despair.

Fortuna is fate. Also, the law of gravity.

She is the millstone grit grinding

us all to fine meal.

Even the mighty

shall become again just dust.

The kind we were at the beginning.

The kind to which we all return,

the mystical sort of stuff.

In the interim though, keep your hand

to the helm, thinking you steer the journey.

And some seem to keep their boat afloat.

Some run aground. Some drown.

It is all chance. In a way.

So spend your last pence on a beggar.

Give her a lift up

as your ship goes down.

Fortuna holds us all

In the palms of her hands.

Sometimes Her palm is soft.

Sometimes calloused from the hourglass sand.

Either way, She wears gold wings

to carry us away in the end.

What goes up comes down.

It also comes around.

Which won’t make a story bland.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Happy Poetry Day Ireland!

Day 26 NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo finds me writing while looking out into mymfriend’s inner city secret garden. Her camellia is in full flower. Yet my mind is still in West Cavan when it comes to inspiration in response to today’s prompt. And, in one of those weird turn-ups, we may well be entertaining a West Cavan neighbour for a coffee today here in Birmingham. We are enjoined to engage all five senses on this Poetry Day Ireland. And I have sen to write a tanka this brilliantly sunshiny morning.

Upland

The cuckoo calling

Prickle of gorse blossom

Acid in the eye

Tropicana balm in the air

All in my neighbour’s honey

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Happy Poetry Day Ireland worldwide!

LabelLit for Poetry Day Ireland

Day 25NaPoWriMo dawns for me in a different land. But I am flying the tricolour for Poetry Day Ireland by participating in Maria McManus’s Label Lit project. (Sure she grew up only up the road from me inFermanagh). Poetry Day Ireland is technically tomorrow, 26tyh April. Yesterday I was handing out LabelLit poems to staff and patrons of Ireland West Airport.

Rx for National Poetry Day

It pays to read your lit’s label.

First, prepare to be surprised.

Take a poem a day each morning,

Preferably with a little food.

First, prepare to be surprised.

Poetry takes a strong stomach, hence

‘Preferably with a little food’.

Watch out for contraindications.

Poetry takes a strong stomach, hence

The warnings to the public.

Watch out for contraindications –

Elation, possible perturbation.

It pays to read your lit’s label.

Risk raising a hue and cry.

Take a poem a day each morning.

Start each day with a little surprise.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

#PoetryDayIRL @LabelLit

Asbestos Mouth

Day 23 NaPoWriMo and this is my second attempt at posting. Unfortunately, my ipad WordPress app didn’t save. It looked like it published, but it didn’t. On the one day when I composed straight onto the post. You see, I am going to be on the road for the rest of NaPoWriMo. I will be distributing little luggage labels with poems on them for Maria McManus’s Label Lit project for Ireland’s National Poetry Day on Thursday, the 26th. Even though I will be outside of the country I am still flying the poetry tricolour.  I have a certain amount of airport travel anxiety (Cue a big eyeroll from my big brother Steve who has wanted to stuff valium down my throat on occassion. Even my husband wanders away from me and mumbles he will  meet me at the gate.) Now I am going to miss my trusty laptop even more than I thought!

So – to reconstruct . This was the prompt.

And now for today’s (optional) prompt! Kate Greenstreet’s poetry is spare, but gives a very palpable sense of being spoken aloud – it reads like spoken language sounds. In our interview with her, she underscores this, stating that “when you hear it, you write it down.” Today, we challenge you to honor this idea with a poem based in sound. The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”

Now I used a phrase my mother would use in a conversation over a shared cup of tea with my neighbour. Winnie said, ‘Don’t let your tea grow old.” And I piped up that I didn’t have an asbestos mouth. Which I then had to explain wasn’t really a strange American phrase, probably only a Smith one and maybe only one my mother used with me who was waiting for her tea to cool or was blowing on her dinner before forking it into my mouth.

Asbestos Mouth

I guess you don’t have an asbestos mouth.

Let me eat and drink tepid,

have no need for a tin foil tongue.

Let me not sup on brimstone and fire

or inhale charcoal into my lungs.

It will not make my speech vapid

to not have to swaddle my mouth.

Let me taste the taste, savouring my own arpegio.

Let me know what I know.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Pigs Can’t Fly?

That is one of the prompts for Day 22 of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo. Yesterday’s balladeering has me careering off to the rhyming dictionary. I think I have swallowed it. But seriously, today’s prompt made me immediately think of the Dowra folklore about the relic of the Black Pig’s Dyke in the village. I even showed the alleged site (yet to be archaelogically sanctified or verified) to travel writer Paul Clements last summer. I was actually having a cuppa with my neighbour Winnie and her son yesterday and we were talking about it. Today’s poem is based on a tale I heard on Richard Morris tell onYou Tube. Pigs can’t fly? But I do promise that Pigs will fly!

The prompt will explain this.

And now for our daily prompt (optional as always). I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

On the Black Pig’s Back

 

I live in a landscape

of willow wand and hazel stick

when men and women could nimbly re-shape

a little girl to minute tick

or little boy into a Barbary Ape.

 

There once was a magician

who ran his own hedge school.

He had his pupils hard driven,

but at recess they could go out and play the fool.

However, this became cause of some local friction.

He changed his pupils into hares and hounds

so they could lose the run of themselves,

racing around the recess playground.

Their parents, those who paused to delve,

took exception, thought it way out of bounds.

Might he take to turning the children over to elves?

It was a wise woman to whom they turned

to figure out what would fix his trick.

So the children told Master that they all yearned

for him to given them some new antic.

Perhaps he could perform his own skinturn?

Well, of course, no magician could manage to resist

any opportunity for this sort of show and tell.

So, he said, mock-modest, If you insist.

What shall it be? What animal spell?

A PIG! they roared. So he made himself all contortionist

and became a great tusked black boar.

Delighted they all were that recess time

as he snuffled for truffles, acting all cocksure.

But he could not lift the bell and make it chime,.

With hooves instead of fingers he snorted and swore.

He could not lift his magic wand. He let out an enormous  roar!

Enraged, he rampaged up and down and all around,

children fleeing in every direction.

He tore up hedges, scarring great ditches into the ground.

Cussing and swearing and promising he’d fix ’em,

he pounded so fast they swear he left the ground.

True! They all will have Given their oath that day

that they’d seen that black pig fly,

so intent was he in hunting down his prey.

So hot was his rage, so impotent his cries

he dug the Black Pig’s Dyke right into folkloric way.

 

Eventually, the dyke was seen to be

useful for warding the cattle

from northern raiders and unscrupulous mart traders  to make free.

The shuck had them stuck for that boar had been artful

to furrow with both tusks in his fierce frenzy.

 

Now, magicians can, you see, skinturn

and be all interspecies.

They can also manage to craftily spurn

the logic of physics. Now this I will guarentee.

That old black boar quickly learned

how to get off the Black Pig’s Dyke.

He didn’t run with the hare or even the hound,

and would absolutely never mess with parents of tykes.

And one fine day he began to rise up off the ground

balloon like, with the wise woman flying him like a kite.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Featured image from en.wickipedia.org

Pirosmani._Boar

The World Outside My Window

NaPoWriMo2018 Day 19

NaPoWriMo Day 19 and today’s prompt is on a topic that I have addressed many other times, although not addressing it in the crafty way they suggest. ‘Erasure’ basically starts with prose and erases words back to some kind of poetry.  Although I am not sure that my own offering has achieved the intended repetitive effect.

I have been avidly watching what goes on outside my window now for nearly sixteen years. Only last week I was setting the table for supper when I spotted a stray sheep munching on the primrose flowers in the pots set outside the front door.  I ran out in my pinny doing my best imitation of one of those Dowra mart fellows to chase them down the lane. Except I didn’t have a stick. Only my hands.

To quote today’s prompt:

Our (optional) prompt for the day takes it cue from Brady’s suggestion that erasure/word banks can allow for compelling repetitive effects. Today we challenge you to write a paragraph that briefly recounts a story, describes the scene outside your window, or even gives directions from your house to the grocery store. Now try erasing words from this paragraph to create a poem or, alternatively, use the words of your paragraph to build a new poem.

Early Morning

 

The world outside my window

silent

except for birdsong

 

Overcast

but no mist to obscure

the wind turbines on Corry Mountain

 

I can see three counties

a streak of sunshine

lights up the willow and ash

 

Turning everything

Crayola crayon

spring green

 

Except the sky

a watered down ink

There shall probably be rain

 

But back to the now

the streak of sunlight

jewelling

 

tits and robins flit

a solitary blackbird

perches on the apple tree

 

that slants at

a forty-fve degree

from the wind blowing in through the gap

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Revisions

Shannon Pot GloPoWriMo

While April, as NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo, is the poetry writing month, May is often called the poetry revision month. All those drafts in the drawer need more work! But the prompt for today looks at revision slant.  I shall quote the prompt from Day 18 of NaPoWriMo as it best explains.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

My own critieria for today was that the poem be short as I am a bit time famished. I grabbed Bloodaxe’s anthology Staying Alive and kept flipping until a really short poem appeared.  A micro-poem was really what my schedule wanted. And then I lit on a Michael Longley.

My version:

At Legnashinna

Easter 1998 2018

 

Aconite putting on a brave face

Bright in the uncertain climate

Show me that crop of primrose in moss

To forget the threat of upland snow

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

I would not normally comment on process but this small poem could do with a bit of context that makes the micro more macro.  If you are not familiar with more recent Irish history the Easter 1998  might seem unimportant. But Irish poems that have dates often point to political landmarks. Easter 1998 will forever mean the Good Friday Agreement. This is Longley’s Good Friday Agreement poem, which I later found had been published the following day in The Irish Times.

The recent 20th anniversary  of the Good Friday Agreement has been overshadowed by the uncertainty of what havoc Brexit may wreck on the lives on those of us who live in the porous border counties with Northern Ireland. There is no international border frontier since the Good Friday Agreement, no check points or Customs Posts.

Longley titles his poem At Poll Salach. I am not an Irish scholar, but Google informs me that a poll translates as a pool, hole or tidal stream. Given my own border location this suggested to me Shannon Pot. My title uses the Irish townland name for Shannon Pot, albeit in its more Hiberno-English rendering rather than as Gaelige.