Day 21 NaPoWriMo 2017

This is today’s challenge:  “I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates overheard speech. It could be something you’ve heard on the radio, or a phrase you remember from your childhood, even something you overheard a coworker say in the break room! Use the overheard speech as a springboard from which to launch your poem. Your poem could comment directly on the overheard phrase or simply use it as illustration or tone-setting material.”

Which had me schussing back to childhood, down the pneumatic tube of memory.



Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys.


Such was the wisdom

of my four year old playmate

who, like Barbie™ Doll,

was born in 1958.


Which confused me

as he lorded over

our snack time choice

of plastic juice cups.


I wanted the blue.

It was my colour.

My mommy said so!

I argued vehemently.


It was the colour

of my eyes you see.

We loved blue

my Mommy and me.


Pink just was not

in our palette.

Just open the door.

Look inside our closets.


There was orange in

The bodice of my carrot dress,

seed pearls stitched on navy taffeta

1961’s Sunday Best.


There was peach  – once-

in organza

for a wedding.

Pink wasn’t even


Branded Barbie ™ yet

She and I, last progeny

of the Baby Boom years.

But even when Ken


Came on the scene

they shared blue.

Odd in pre-feminist 1950s

that, in future, pink


Would paint and dominate

all things Girl today.

Just like Richie Good

said before 1964.


But my mother and I

she with the royal blue

chiffon scarf in the drawer

she never wore,


her paste sapphire

lapel broach last worn

on utility grey

power suit post-war –


I lift  it from

The Pinkie and Blue Boy

Embossed jewellery box

I inherited from her.


Turn the broach

over in my hand

Will I wear it?

Do I dare yet?


We are not pink. Blue is for girls.



Day 20 NatPoWriMo2017

Games…sport. I cringed this morning. Smith’s are not known for their sporting prowess. My sister and I have had conversations about how rules of the game makes a part of our brain freeze. Somehow or other, we have still managed to navigate this world. Although I have no clue what I can use for a featured image today!

Play Up


I was never good at games

The rules numbed my brain

The part preventing own goals

Slipping on autmn wet playing fields

Getting tackled by Charlene Bjueno


The rules of flirtation:

The nod, the feint, the fumble.

Opaque, just as pointless.

Fool that I was, without hesitation

I homed in, disposing of the banal


Which worked out okay –eventually.

Disposing of talk of rules and balls

(except those of your anatomy)

Even without understanding the game

I was not without wherewithal


So why care that I was lousy at darts?

That cricket, golf and tennis were a snore

I was born with arms too short to box

That I would only ever be Olympian in metaphor

I  was fluent in reading the human heart


Which comes without instruction manual

Ignores all the collected works of rule books

The whistle  blown calling  whatever – time or time out

It defies all that gaming gobbledegook

With its definite tendency to play up

Day 19 NaPoWriMo2017

Today’s challenge is to write about a creation myth. As I live not  a couple country miles from the Shannon Pot, the source of the River Shannon, it felt only natural to take as my source the Source itself. The poem is based on folklore about how Ireland’s longest river came into being.

Log na Síonna – Síonnan’s Pot


It always begins with a woman

curious, brave

wanting to be wise


Síonnan, daughter of mortal

and shining immortal one is

pot-bellied full to the brim

being told ‘no’ – it can turn a soul



being considered other

outside the covenanters

with power.  Bold  Síonnan –

young, lithe, subject to no man

stirred the Pot, undoing any

druid spell, freeing those nuts


of wisdom to flow as the Pot

roiled and boiled and rose above

druid ire, chasing Síonnan

as hound after hare

down the country, mile upon mile

making loughs, flooding


meadowed plains. Síonnan

ran and ran with that wisdom

running towards her grandfather

Mannanán mac Lir’s embrace

in wild Atlantic wave

finding his loving face


It always begins with a woman

curious, brave

wanting to be wise


Shannon Pot About to OVerflow

Day 18 NaPoWriMo2017

Today’s poem prompt was to use neologisms, made up words like Lewis Carroll used in Jabberwocky. Well, I never much appreciated Jabberwocky anyway. The prospect of  making up compound words made me feel I was back in German class. Frankly, on less than one cup of tea it was a challenge too far. So, this is what I wrote instead.



If I could juju the world

I would give you all deep peace

of suffering survived –

that greening and leafing feeling

when the sap rises again

after leaf fall,

winter’s annual shut down,

the trees still as standing stones

all spine and spindle,

shorn like a convict’s bad haircut.

Well, we have all done

some time. But we are paroled –

a subtle pulse, birdsong,

the flutters of family making.


If I could juju the world

I would give you all the hope

each spring brings.  And then have you

not judge it false, foolhardy,

a sentimental sop,

yet another cruel mocking,

thwarting of you. Don’t take spring

quite so personally. The world

will go on in its suffering

with or without you. Just for this moment

look out your window. See

the luminous green in each new leaf.

That is food. Take it and eat.

Remember. And rise.


Day 17 NaPoWriMo2017

A riff on the nocturne, with reference to Chopin’s Opus 9 No. 2. But any reference Chopin takes me straight back to my childhood.



Summer nights long ago. I was five.

The day’s heat finally waning, moths thwacking

against the screen door. The lamplight

closing us in was low. You played on from memory.


It was the summer after dad died.

You practiced for hour upon hour upon hour.

You did the etudes, moved on to Rachmaninoff,

and always Chopin, the piano god.


You were trying to figure out your future

furiously – be it in science, concert hall

or literature. All were not an option.

You were only fourteen after all.


But you knew that life was short,

could and did end abruptly.

You did have strong hands,

strong enough to play Chopin


who must have had abnormally large hands

judging by the hand span needed

for his compositions, our mother commented.

You were stretching yourself.


You made it into your future,

now lead the family as is the wont

of elder sisters. This is

the ancient pattern and just.


So you are nearly halfway to one hundred and forty

(As we traditionally birthday greet

in our family.)  Still practicing,

playing the church organ. But I, as the baby


Halfway to one hundred and twenty

well aware our father only made it

only halfway to ninety, we all know

that it can be Good night, God bless


anytime now. The stats bat against us.

Given how endings can be abrupt,

how hollowing. And absence

the pervading music that plays on

Day 16 NaPoWriMo2017 with Bonus

It’s letter writing today in verse. This really hit a synchronous chord with me and also allowed me to express some inner anger.

An Open Letter to the Powers that Be


Dear Minister for Health, Simon Harris

Sligo-Leitrim TDs, and

Just for good measure

All the board members of the Sligo HSE


Because, you see, we are failing with our kids

And I really want this one I know to fail

Where she is trying to succeed, because

Suicide Awareness is all very well


But the rubber hits the road with resources.

And there is sweet eff-all psych  inpatient care

For our kids, and not a whole lot out in

The community either, given staff attrition


And I am not talking about locking them up

In the bin, just  having a safe bed, without

Her mum having to sit bolt upright all night on the ward

Because she needs to be watched round the clock


As much as she did when she was a toddler

With the knives, scissors, razors, stones thrown

Away, because you would be surprised

How inventive a cutter can be.


And her mum should not have to refuse to leave

Camp out on the A&E floor, because she can’t

Keep her daughter safe 24/7 and there is no one else

At home to watch over her baby girl


Who is teenage now and, like Persephone,

Gone down a great septic, psychiatric plughole.

If one day, she succeeds where we want her to fail,

To die by her own hand, instead to live her precious life


May I assure you, it is all on us

Who did not care enough to hire the staff,

To make the beds, to find the money

To find the heart and the will


For us and you, our government to stop

Treating kids as optional extras, left luggage,

Disposable as nappies bought in bulk

And left to non-biodegrade on landfill.


And the bonus poem…it has been that kind of day. Epistopilary poetry might be my thing.



This is a letter I will never send


That one March day your drama dazzled me…

Having cheated death, I felt more alive

with you than anyone before or since.

Which fact you profess something like shock

that I would/could/should love you of all

planetary people. If I tied you

to a chair and asked you repeatedly

it would be all name, rank and serial

memory denied.  Now there’s a mind fuck

for you, you son of a gun on the run.

It’s become your signature MO

a bit, this come and go, hasn’t it?


Except that day we faced off in rainbow’s glow

midst boneyard’s history. And family

seemed to give their blessing and nod assent

that we two, despite how seemingly oddly

paired, were meant. Some ancestral matchmaker

fitted us up. A celestial spit

and handshake to plight our troth. That’s how it felt,

being caught in a timeless claw, fairy

glamour, spun around, turned inside out, without

so much as a kiss. But that day you were

the anti-Scheherazade with Semtex

laying your life in my lap, where I hold


it, undetonated. If I licked your

heart, would it explode? Would I become some

more collateral damage? Are you the

hardman/softman gone all hardman again?

Is it guilt or shame? Or hideout from  blame?

Does everything now have to be denied?

Me, yourself, family – all for one

authorised version of your history?

If I tied you to that chair to make you

listen you would only say you never

lied.  I get it. I really, really do.

To survive you rationalised. It’s true.


This is a letter I will never send.


But that day, that glorious, pot of gold

in the graveyard day, best day of my life

it seemed to me that given your full

and frank confession, that the barred door swung

open. That with a newfound freedom

that comes with love, history would end.

This is a letter I will never send.

But I need to document it beyond

your flat denial, trapped in your very

own mesmerising story. So, carry on!

Go and feed the neighbour’s cat fully armed,

you son of gun always on the run.


Hope that works out for you! That you never

had the courage to pillow talk, caress,

kiss me. I am the woman you let get

away. And scarred my soul forever more.


This is the letter I will never send.

Day 15 NaPoWriMo2017

At the midpoint of the month, so follows the theme for todays poem.



The middle is always messy.


In negotiations, Mo Mowlam

Famously hurled down her chemo wig,

A gauntlet to any renegers

To get real, to stop flim-flamming,

Be mired. This was a fight for life

Not just history of empire.


The middle is always messy.


In every He Said and She Said

Fraught  in the trenches of domestic

Un-bliss, curdling into aspic –

The icy frontier carved down the bed.

This is a fight for life. Put barbwire

Round your heart if you must.  Bank your trust.


The middle is always messy.


Boundaries are good, necessary,

To broker a peace, play fair, straight bat.

A strategic withdrawal. Cutbacks.

Borders need invisibility

whether during child handover

Or hostage return. Fighting for life,


The middle is always messy.


The Middle Way is cast up to us

As an ideal path to tread in life.

Lao Tzu advised against storm and strife

As too extreme for happiness.

The aim’s to give the edges a blur.

In this precious life, feel only blessed.


Yet the middle can be messy.

Day 13 NaPoWriMo2017

Well, that was odd…not only did Mercury Retrograde delay the prompt in the morning, my designated poetry writing time, but I just discovered that my post didn’t post! (Sigh)

I decided to pen a memoriam having learned of the passing of New York Justice Sheila Abdas-Salamm.

Post Mortem


i.m. Justice Sheila Abdus-Salamm


In all this floating world

Today nothing feels to me sadder

Than this found floater

In the Hudson by Harlem


The Guardian posts a Suicide Hotline tip

At the end of the news clip


We shall have to wait for cause of death:

Being female, being black

Being brave, being Muslim

Being in court everyday with everything

Flying from Pandora’s box, shaking it

Finding it devoid of that final favour



There is only so much hate

A body and soul can take.

Be at peace, Justice.





Day 14 NaPoWriMo2017

Two full weeks and today a prompt for just four lines of biography. Instructions are to keep it silly and light. Well, mine has a slightly mordant cast to the snapshot biography of a childhood shero. I was fascinated by that entire Concord crowd, a nexus of creative thinking and activism.  Transcendentalism and its utopianism fascinated me.  I still hanker for the pet who will perfectly fit the name Zenobia, from a character in Blithedale Romance.

It tickled me no end when my cousin’s genealogy researches on revealed that I am an eighth cousin of the author of Eight Cousins.

Louisa May Alcott


Transcendental wild oats aside

Hard to fault a saintly Marmee

Write an absent father story

Keeping our Bronson well alibied.


Day 12 NaPoWriMo2017

Today’s theme is assonance and alliteration, larding “a poem that explicitly incorporates …the use of repeated consonant sounds and …the use of repeated vowel sounds.”


All the Beautiful Words


Conjure them into a list

Coaxing and crooning your wish

For serendipity, synergy, synchronicity


Treasure them like a new found horde

Peat-preserved, bronze cups and cauldrons,

Torcs and cloak broaches to hold

The cloth against a cold breeze


Box some. Archive others. Some set free

To live their wildish lives in poetry

Wandering moors, setting off on

Peregrinations out to sea in corracles


Commit them to memory

Seal it with a kiss. Learn them by heart

(which in Irish is crói)


Do not be slavish to language bigotry

Add ones picked up on your travels like

Seashells from the shore, necklaces found in the souk

Made from antler and bone


Like zeitgeist or milagro

The breath upon the matix of creation


Survival of the persistent


Or the spirals made by sunflower seed

Or the helix within a pine cone staircase

Lexical diversity aside


Let us not be dictionary driven

Let our ears hear and delight

In all the beautiful words

So many still to meet


Bounty, booty, bought

Some sold to the highest bidder

Boxed, archived

Some set free