Two Baldwins, One Poem

I woke in the dark, but there was such a cat-cophany early on what went on the page was a litany of cat complaints. It is never a good idea to try me first thing in the morning. It is never a good idea to try and make noise before I am two cups of caffeine into the day. House rules, guys! There was also the matter that I had a morning workshop at the open prison, based around Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It’s always kind of rock and roll, you never know who will show up, or how many, or what sort of writing experience they will have, if any. I generally have about three different plans in my head.

When I got home I took the Old Dog for a little dander down the lane, which meant it was more like taking a toddler for a walk. We had to stop a lot for Ellie to sniff and limp along and have a little rest. Christina Baldwin’s quote “Move at the pace of guidance” popped into my head. Once inside, that collided with one from James Baldwin: “Nothing is stable under heaven.”

And so, the poem for today.

Quest

Who am I?
Where am I?
and
What am I doing here?

I have been known to
ask these questions
while standing inert
in my kitchen
before the open door
of my fridge.

What is lost?
Where was it found?
Who is it standing
here on this ground?

"Nothing is stable..."
(especially this thing called 'I')
"under heaven" being where
if not the ultimate why.
Where is the here  I
lost track of myself?

So go tell it on the page.
Give it some answers.
Give it your rage.
Ask some more questions.

Trace a path, line upon line.
Let them roam open
in every direction.
Try east, west, north, south
by process of elimination.

At some stage "under heaven"
You'll find your internal compass.
Your heart knows its true north.
It bypasses every delusion.

"Move at the pace of guidance"
heart and hand moving as one
across the page, teaching a great patience.
The page will become your piece of heaven,
with  signposts,  a place of grace and balance.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Advertisements

How to Hold Quicksilver

It’s dawn. The dwarf narcissi and iris are out. The white crocus I planted last September is flowering. But I have such a sore throat this morning you would have thought I had been quaffing vitriol in my dreamtime. Meanwhile, the weather is blustery. There was rain overnight. I probably need to have a traditionally restful Sabbath. But, as my dear husband told a friend he bumped into in the supermarket yesterday morning, “Since she started writing a poem a day, nothing happens in our house until it gets written!”

May today prove restful for you, too! May we all be well! And may there be a bit of poetry.

In the meantime, poetry practice…

How to Hold Quicksilver

The thermometer glass
shattered
and its elemental being
scattered
like ball bearings
just not all one way.

They got away
everywhere all at once
a sunburst.

Hermes is truly god-like
in every sense
of the catechism's
definition
of God.


A solid enough
elemental presence,
but fleet as wings,
or hope, yet not
evanescent.
It's moodily
inscrutible,
a being completely
bewildering.

How can you hold
quicksilver?
How can you hold
that man-god
who made you
fall in love?


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by DAVIDCOHEN on Unsplash

An Etude…one more time!

It was like pulling teeth to get down to poetry this morning. Partly it was distraction. We are introducing a new cat into what must now be a pride of little lions…a fourth cat in the household, in addition to one large, old dog who behaves like a cat. But then Ellie was born under the sign of Leo…

I thought if I fed myself a grand cooked Sunday breakfast inspiration would arrive with digestion. But no. I looked at the usual blogs (Brain Pickings is a favourite), but the poem on that post just made me feel haggard and not up to the stuff. (Auden will do that to you.) Nothing much was triggering much of anything…

Finally, finally, finally…a word posted in a comment by Patsy a couple days back. A lovely word. But one I had to go look up! (Well played, Patsy!) This is more a five finger exercise, the etude stuff my piano teacher would have me at to warm up. That’s what started at the beginning of this writing a poem a day lark back in September 2018. Apologies to Daphne du Maurier fans. But I simply couldn’t help my self!

Eidelon

Last night I dreamt of Eidelon
its misty drive,
shady demesne,

dreaming that it was whole again,
not burnt out shell,
bricks loose, gap toothed.

I dreamt I was its chatelain,
or some fresher
version,

loose tressed, a little bit wanton-
not Guinevere
or Isolda -

more Beltane belle in Avalon-
without dire
consequences.

Last night I dreamt of Eidelon
rising above
oh so perfect.

Not wraith or spectre - an engine-
memory of
idolatry,

a mechanism long past sprung
with its pity,
and terror, too.

I once thought its acres heaven,
but its sad form
has gone rotten.

Though not in dreams of Eidelon.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Swan’s Down

I am still drafting the poem of the day in the darkness. By the time I pull out my laptop (because I always first draft poems in longhand), there is a rumour of brightness. I can see a patch of blue sky below a grey cloud that seems to be drifting north. Looking out into the garden, the bird neighbours are working their way through the suet balls. And waiting on a fence post is my favourite – a blackbird – its beak a real beacon, shining in the day as it slowly brightens.

I am so blessed to live in the most beautiful corner of the world, down the most beautiful lane in Europe (according to my friend Pen), close to two small magical loughs, and near the source of a mighty river, in a chunk of landscape that shows of its million year and more roots. It doesn’t boast. But it knows what it is, and that is a miracle in itself.

But…I digress from poetry practice. Somedays it can be a bit more difficult than others to light upon a subject. Today was such a day. And then I realised that there is that fund of random, weird images from dreams, ones that you can pull out of the furthermost file drawer of memory, but so potent they are never truly forgotten.

Swan's Down

Once
I dreamed of a swan's down hut,
a little haystack mound
of feathers
that I knew was our home.

Perhaps
it's where the soul goes to live
in that downy house on
the hillock
that I knew was our home.

Yet
we had to turn away, though
I wanted to linger.
How I longed
to stay at Swan's Down House.

But
it still will always be home,
that soulful, silent place
of beauty
that I just knew was home.

Some day
I'll hear the whooper cry
flying over the lough
one winter
and fly off with the flock.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Jan Genge on Unsplash

Fashion Advice

fashion advice

As I was surfacing into consciousness this morning I asked myself, What does my soul want to write this morning? And the true answer was, Something fluffy. Because into every dark season there must be some light relief. Mondays don’t always need a Ms. Motivator. Fashion qualifies for a more gentle theme to enter a new week.

It will come as a surprise to many (especially my brother) that I actually do scan the fashion columns. Okay, it is pretty much limited to Jess Cartner-Morley in the Guardian, but still…I maintain a social anthropological interest in clothing and fashion. And one of her columns is the direct source of inspiration I sipped at this morning when my Poetry Daily motor was idling.  In addition, along with some college buddies, I confess to maintaining an aesthetic interest in historical dress and costume. We salivate together via Facebook tags. I  will also admit that I harbour a deep appreciation of handbag design. Imelda Marcos can keep the shoes!

Anyway, I digress. Here is today’s Poetry Daily.


Fashion Advice
 
It’s got to be all colour.
Or it’s all black.
No half-measures.
 
Here’s where I pause to consider
how culture is
a mirroring
 
of what’s happening, what will
be history.
Trends are zeitgeist.
 
Time maybe to be getting
the real New Look –
a compliment.
 
We don’t have to be matchy-
matchy, maybe
just try for a
 
compromise. Bi-partisan
mix and match looks
that dialogue.
 
That look great on the many
shapes and sizes,
in-betweens, too.
 
Set a new trend that will not
divide wardrobes.
Resist advice.

Change the course of history.


 
Copyright© Bee Smith2018

Featured image Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash


 
 
 

Haiku Out November

haiku walk

Yesterday, despite gloomy weather forecasts, I led the final Creative Ireland Haiku Mindfulness workshop. Rain held off and we even saw a splash of sun and fluffy cloud. This workshop included the entire student body of Curravagh National School, Glangevlin, Co. Cavan. So, with two teachers, my beloved husband bringing up the rear herding stragglers, the seventeen pupils took a nature walk up Claddagh Glen in Florencecourt, Fermanagh.

Yes, that’s right! Seventeen bright sparks make up a school in the upland reaches of Co. Cavan. It is a two room, two teacher school and just pure pleasure to visit and work in. While the youngest pupils were not haiku writers, they were taking pleasure in the nature walk, learning names of tree species, and ferns, mosses and lichen. As I have heard others say, “Nature teaches stillness.” And stillness is key to mindfulness. We paused for some moments to listen to the river flow over its rocky bed and enjoyed that quality of silence when twenty pairs of ears listen to it. Or the roar of the Cascade Waterfall.

Footage of the Cascade Waterfall in Claddagh Glen, part of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

Haiku is often one of the first poetry forms introduced to school children, along with acrostics and list poems. Yet, it is a real challenge for children who are just learning to form sentences to start chucking out the definate and indefinate articles. However, what they have no problem with is letting their ‘imagination eye’ rove and see wonders.  One lad regaled me with how a bush could be a castle and a palisade of straight young ash trees became sentries. No goats or herons appeared but they were mesmerised by a spider’s web on a tree.

Back in the classroom, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand they told everyone what images had really impressed them – the hollowed holes at the base of a tree trunk, that spider’s web, tree rings on felled trunks, the big waterfall, and the much smaller one running down the rock face with the many kinds of fern.

I now have a wealth of haiku written from four differant groups – the general public, some residents of Loughan House,  and the children of St. Hugh’s National School, Dowra and Curravagh, National School in Glangevlin. Now I will sit down with artist Tamaris Taylor and we will select some for illustration that can be on permanent display in Dowra Courthouse Creative Space.

Not to forget my own poetry practice for today. Or my ‘poetry daily’ as one friend has styled it. (I like it. It’ll stick!)  Two haiku, one inspired by yesterday’s outing. And one about this morning. I really am getting up early. I replied to a friend’s message who found it patently weird to hear from me at dawn’s break. This morning lark turnabout is freaking my friend’s out!

Small cascade flowing
over rock face baby's tears
Water's power
The year winds down
Wind me up clockwork style
To power through December

Have a great weekend as we begin the final month of 2018.

Waking in Darkness

I wonder if I will be able to keep up this poem a day poetry writing practice through to the New Year? I would like to think so, but the pace is ratcheting up for holiday preparation. I have hand made Christmas presents on the go – one and a half done, one and a half to go, and no they are not poems! I have funded projects to finish and have two schools visits over the next two weeks. And like almost everything in 2018, schedules have been very changeable. There has been a lot of flux and flow under the bridge, perhaps mirroring a general instability or jitteriness. But this poem a day writing has become a still point in what often manifests as a Crazyville world. It’s very wearing. And though I am more often a night owl who cannot fall asleep, some evenings even I drop off early. Then, eight hours later I lie awake listening to how the house breathes.

Waking in the Darkness

Waking in the morning darkness

at a time beyond the hour

of fear and trembling, no

waking at the time of cat’s eye clarity

in a silence so profound

it is undisturbed by whirr

of owl wing or bat’s squeak.

The world is just breathing.

In night’s muffled velvet 

Venus sparkles large and cold and bright,

a maharajah’s giant jewel.

And she is not lonesome

in a suddenly crowded sky.

It is as if all the dying stars from

light years’ away have burst

their last glory to their final witness

one soul speaking to another.

Copyright Bee Smith 2018