Sentry on the Crossroad

Well, sometimes life comes along and shakes up the morning writing routine. I was up late knitting last night, so I was not writing my poem with the dawning day. I was hitting the snooze function on my phone alarm when the Septic Tank Man Cometh. The poetry writing was on hold until later. He was early. The Poetry Daily was going to be slightly delayed.

One of the realities of living in a rural setting is that every now and then you need to have your septic tank emptied of its earthy contents. It’s a big production because our percolation is around seventy metres from the house and it is a challenge to find a provider with a long enough hose.

Anyway, it was teeming rain and it was all hands to the pump. Well, not literally. That was just Frank. His truck was as wide as our lane. One of us had to remain at the house and another needed to walk down the lane to the crossroads to warn any oncoming traffic that the way was blocked.

I volunteered for that duty to be away from the noise and activity. Way too busy for me first thing. I stood sentry at the three-way cross that in Britain they call a T-junction, but in Ireland is still considered a cross. And why not? You can have three-armed Brigit’s crosses as well as the traditional four-armed one.

There were four cars in all who passed that way, which kind of counts as rush hour for us. Three wanted to turn off the lane on to what locals call the Relic Road, since it passes by the ruins of the old Protestant cemetary. I only had to turn one driver back and he didn’t entirely believe me and wound up having to reverse into the neighbour’s barn yard and come back on himself. Perhaps, with less than one cup of tea in me, I was not forceful or positive enough in my messaging. Or maybe he’s the kind of man that never trusts a woman’s judgement when it comes to driving down a road.

I was not over perturbed. I had me a nice beech tree to shelter under as the rain teamed down. Frank, the McBreen Environmental Man, sent my husband to fetch me back into the house out of the rain. Rain not being a fitting place for a wife I suppose. I held my ground under my beech tree. Damned if I was going to have my nice poetry forming thoughts interrupted by all that busy-ness.

And as it turns out I will be on sentry duty again tomorrow morning, because the hose wasn’t long enough to reach the final chamber of the percolation. Better get to bed early tonight! Or I shall be thinking poetic thoughts under dripping boughs again tomorrow morning.

Standing Sentry at the Relic Road

Standing under dripping tree limbs
with beech mast at my feet,
the nuts hanging above
clinging on with their velcro fuzz
and me considering seraphim.

Stop and stand in a single spot
you either notice everything,
or ignore the whole lot.
It's just your thoughts and leaves
becoming a green, blurred blot.

But then I began to name the neighbours
both the relics and the living, too -
hazel, birch, alder, beech
and the red squirrels that come
to this crossroad for nuts to eat.

The fireweed has taken up residence
where the ground has been disturbed.
We're both blow-ins, fireweed and me.
Or maybe we are all emigrants.
Even the seeds of these trees
deposited season's past by passing birds.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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Cursing Stone

There is, on private land adjacent to the ruined St. Brigid’s Chapel in the townland of Kilinagh, a glacial erratic with nine bullaun stones placed in its hollows. We live in a geopark that is littered with these large rocks that the ice age slid down off Cuilcagh Mountain back in the mists of eons bygone. They were both first tools and material, as well as a part of nascent cosmology. This particular rock formation is called St. Brigid’s Cursing and Blessing Stone, the new Christian religion taking over a site dedicated to the old god Crom Cruach. The tradition is to turn the stone the the left and leave a coin under the bullaun stone for a curse. Turn the stone sunwise and you bless.

Curses are all about deep time. They reverberate for generations. In the heroic tales of Ireland this might be for five, seven or even nine generations. A story never ends where you think it ends. The plot is thicker than any witch’s concoction and many of the characters who think they have starring roles only have cameos in the grander scheme of things.

And why should I be thinking of this as I contemplate the Poetry Daily on this morning where the sun is trying to chase the rain and keep it at bay? Maybe because we need to widen the viewfinder on our ideas of story, how it chases our tails and becomes what we know as history. That the long ago then is also are ninety-minute now.

Cursing Stone

Sometimes you know a story is not done.,
but the climax doesn't satisfy.
The lovers don't walk hand in hand toward sunset.
The mean foment more mean, no justice done.
Oh, but what if we could just simplify
life to a made for TV version?
Ninety minutes of conflict to conclusion.

In reality, bitter people
who take their ball of no hope, feuds and grudges,
go seek their redress at a cursing stone.
They leave at this altar their gall, bile's brew.
Although there is another ritual that blesses
by reversing the turn of bullaun stones.
Forgiveness remedies what needs atoned.

No story's compiled in a single tome.
It's eons of layers, all known in stone.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved




St. Brigid's Cursing and Blessing Stone
St. Brigid’s Cursing and Blessings Stone

Between Seasons

There is definitely a nip. The air has gone crisp. I needed to put on a pair of socks for my walk. I am shaking out sweaters and greet them as old friends. Yes! Autumn in on its way. September is one of my favourite months – along with May. They are Goldilocks months. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. Cool enough for porridge for breakfast. Warm enough that the rain doesn’t chill your marrow when you get drenched during a walk. It’s a season of rainbows and intense shots of light and then a lowering dark. It is a season to believe in miracles. The Poetry Daily began in this wonderful month and it will conclude the cycle of 365 days of a poem a day in September.

The nights are drawing in.There is a greater chance that I may wake in the amrit vela, the ambrosial hour, when the day is not yet born. It is a very special time, when you can feel the pulse of the earth. And while I was up, our internet had been knocked out, but was swiftly restored by our great local, rural internet provider Groupnet.


Between Seasons

It’s not full on
like midsummer's bright
clap at the crack of dawn.
No. It’s much more mellow.
The new day yawns.
It stretches. There is a chill
 
in the air. Time to pull on
a wooly or a fleece
to drink tea. To just sit
facing the blank day,
to see if my mind
can be empty
 
of the world’s cares,
its need for prayers.
It’s not half-light nor full dark.
Soon the days
and the nights, too
will know the perfect poise
 
the betwixt, the between,
have the equilibrium
and grace of ambling spider
pirouetting capers in its nets -
this time out of time,
the bliss of not yet.
 
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Walking to the Holy Well

If you don’t live in Ireland,or other parts of what we know call the Celtic world, you may not be familiar with the concept of holy wells or sacred springs. But these are very much a feature of the Irish landscape.They are, however, not exclusive to Ireland. In Derbyshire, in England, each June they dress their wells with elaborate floral artwork, usually depicting some Bible scene. Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury are in the older religious tradition. The reverance for holy water and sacred spring is much older than Christianity. Unbeknownst to us when we bought our house, there is a holy well in a townland called Tubber, which is the Hiberno-English variant on the Irish tobár, meaning well. It was in disrepair for many years until a farmer neighbour realised it was on land he owned. He took up the role of ancestral well keeper and renovated it and had it rededicated and a curse lifted from it. (It’s a long story for another time. Just take it as read that we take this kind of thing for granted here in rural Ireland. Stuff like this happens. You deal with it the best you can. Or not. Which then becomes a curse.Then you need to deal with that, too.)

There was a new moon on the 30th and they are always useful for setting fresh intentions. Writing as much as I have been doing this past year I am really not very physically fit. It has really become noticeable to me. While I do take short walks with the little dog most days (we take turns on the exercising front), I decided I needed to start taking the longer walk up to the well on a daily basis. Of course, then there was torrential rain on the day. But yesterday I went up to the well and said some prayers for the many who ail or in trouble. There is always someone in trouble. I have written about holy wells before (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/01/20/when-the-well-runs-dry/) if you are curious about them.

For a bit of soulfulness on a Sunday I share with you a walk that I have taken many times over the past two decades. And there is a little snippet of video of its sanctuary in wet ash woodland.

Walking to the Holy Well

Once it was for everyday and everyone,
but sacred still all the same. And I walk
like ordinary and everyday pilgrims
of old. Supplicants all, of miracles
and small favours, walking the pattern of prayers,
the round and round and round of intentions.

The gnarled hawthorn wears clooties and rosaries.
An old neighbour said that once Our Lady
appeared here, to long ago, before Fatima,
before the Great Hunger and The Flood dispersed
the village named after its well to all corners
of the earth. Still, we keep walking up the hill.

Walkers need small favours and miracles,
seeking the cure for the curse of caring,
for the knowing of despair, its powerlessness,
the grief for love lost, the howl for justice.
The Lady stands there in mercy and mother love.
We all walk to her with our secrets,
unburdening our pain, speaking our dreams, wishes,
which is what wells were forever more for...

washing the woe, the worries, bathing in wonder,
laying al faith and hope in loving heaps
at The Lady's feet, tying beads, headbands, hankies
in thanks. And hope. On that gnarled tree.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Harvest Horn of Plenty

The prompt from 30 Days of Summer Writing Challenge today is ‘Harvest Moon.’ That actually would be a full moon and today, as I write, we have a new moon, a super new moon, at that opening the season of harvest, foraging and preserving. I love the word cornucopia. (Is anyone actually still weaving those wicker horns of plenty do you think? It must be a very niche market or an artisanal practice.) I am a keen cook and greedy, grateful eater of delicious food. It has been noted that I have a tendency to want to feed others. I try new things and am never afraid of a recipe failure. It’s just an adventure. I fall in and out of love with particular tastes and foods. After about twenty years of spurning the aubergine/eggplant I am again wanting to cook recipes not brought out for thirty years. I am an omnivore with strong vegetarian leanings and no known food allergies. One thing we do try to do is eat organic and we source the majority of our food from a variety of sources that supply organic produce and products. We also grow some of our own food and plan to grow more in raised beds that my husband built this year.

 Cornucopia

The hazels in the hedges along our lane,
the heritage apple trees we planted -
both their fruits still green. But give them sunshine
and, like the blackberries, they will ripen.
Just hold your breath. It's time. Hold out your arms.
Watch the elderberry heads nod and fall

right into the jelly pan, with sugar
and pectin. A cookery chemistry
laboratory for glut. Recipes
invented for one last zucchini.
Squash the blackberries for jam. Wrap apples
in newspaper for winter use. Squirrel
chutney to give as midwinter presents.

It's all a gift this full horn of plenty:
mushrooms, berries, nuts and fruit all for free
to forage, for picking and preserving,
filling larders, cupboards, hungry bellies.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved
harvest horn of plenty
Three years ago, a glut of pumpkins came my way and ended up as delicious chutney.

Featured image Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Lead into Gold

The prompt from 30 Days of Summer Writing Challenge is ‘gold’. And while you might think of any sort of combination -both autumnal and metaphorical – that gold might inspire, what really was front and centre was the weather. The sky was low and very grey and the rain was persisting. It was fairly breezy, too. This happens sometimes, I have noticed, here in the west of Ireland. It may be entirely unconnected, but when a really forceful hurricane is bashing the Carribean, we get squally, drenchy days. The forecast seems set for the next four days.

So I thought of the alchemists of old instead. And just as I finished the draft, the cloud cleared momentarily and a very frail sunbeam lit up the monbretia just outside my window. Briefly. Very briefly.

 Alchemy

The morning sky is pewter.
The clouds are crying, the wind set to keen.
The bees do not hum, nor does
the day run with amber honey, or seem
auspicious of anything.

Outer and inner worlds chime.
There is weariness, the day full of lead.
What years of trial made chemists rhyme
base metal with glistening gold lumps,
experiments a dead loss?

They were considered clever,
though may have been quite literal boffins.
Some souls are a bit dimmer.
Where there is gold, they only see failed lead,
their experiments nothing.

Driven. Mad. Sad. A failure.
Everyday and hour full of lead,
a life obsessed with turning
base metal into something else instead
that might glisten as does gold.

To feel precious, worthy to behold,
to be as bright and shiny as that gold.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by MUILLU on Unsplash

In the Garden

Gardens are the theme for today’s 30 Days of Summer Writing Challenge prompt. Which is kind of appropriate since today is our wedding anniversary and I often refer to my husband as Gardener Cuckson. Certainly over the past three years he has developed a wonderful vision for our garden and has transformed it. We have an acre and a quarter and keep it wildish, which is much more environmentally sound. We are rewarded by the many wild bees, butterflies and dragonflies that stop by while we sit and take ‘tea on the terrace.’ Which sounds very grand. Imagine it as a much more rustic version. But with homemade cake on offer.

 In the Garden

Love's labour's never lost in the garden
with a spade and a fork, compost and blade,
Seeds that will fruit and seeds that will flower
into bumpers harvests to distribute.

In the garden, sweat and hard work are fun
(because amateurs never do get paid.)
Every gardener knows their blunders.
Humility wears big Wellington boots.

Even without a lot of sun the garden,
like a crayon box of a hundred shades,
broadcasts light's full spectrum, its augmenter
of dreams sleeping deep and digging in roots.

Those dreams are wild, to the hum of bees.
Like our home's garden, where we are trustees.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved