Certainty

Some days I just have to mix it up to get going at writing the Poetry Daily. So instead of picking up the pen immediately – well, after making a cup of tea, letting out the old dog, feeding the ravenous, demanding tribe of cats – I changed my routine today. So I read Saturday’s Guardian instead. I made sure my blood sugar levels were up by actually eating breakfast before writing. And it did provide inspiration when I woke up feeling a bit blank and post-nasal drippy.

What I got from the paper was all Brexit and uncertainty. Hadley Freeman was flagging how groups like Epilesy Action and diabetics are worried that necessary, life saving, drugs may go in short supply if there is a no-deal Brexit. The news was full of cataclysm, decline, crumbling institutions. Also, the obituary of Majenta Devine, who I found out was almost exactly a year younger than mean. That always brings one up short. But I digress from the Brexit hand wringing that is the main topic in the headlines.

Heck, when Leavers revel in the potential of a Blitz community spirit outcome, it has sent some friends to the supermarket to hoard toilet paper. (Shortages are always a gift to the criminally entrepreneurial types. See also US Prohibition.) However, hoarding items which may go short is just a way of handling the anxiety of the uncertain outcome. No one, even the negotiators, knows how this is all going to shake down. Since we live so close to the border, which may remain soft, or suddenly go cold and hard at month’s end, I am just keeping my ear to the ground.

It made me ponder how anxiety is fueled by uncertainty, which then made me contemplate certainty. What is absolutely certain? Other than the pathetic meows of hungry cats in the morning, what could I list? This then was how poetry practice turned out today.

Certainty
For H. S.

Sun rises,
the moon, too.
Each in their turn shall
set and rise
all over
again. This we trust.

In between,
in the gaps,
particles of dust
shall dance and
will be glimpsed
in a spot of sun.

Trust that we
are stardust
vaccuumed up in bags,
collecting
in pockets,
with our shed skin cells.

It's just that
this is it.
Inevitably,
there is sun.
There is moon.
There is dust - and us -

the wild cards
exerting
free will. Or is it
predestined
emotion
causing commotion?

Trust then in
sun and moon,
their rise and set. Also,
dust - always.
In between,
the uncertain us.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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Brexit: A Breach in the Peace

Reading the papers this past few days, two things have been on my mind. First, the Irish Tanaíste, or deputy PM, has been rushing through legislation in advance of a No-Deal Brexit. Which will almost inevitably mean a hard border close to where I live. Then, reading on what the implications are on certain details of life in post-Brexit Britain, I read that the EU pet passport will not longer apply to holidaymakers who want to take their pets on European vacations. Now that doesn’t sound terrible, but it did make me wonder about people round where I live who take their pets to the vet in Enniskillen. That would be taking a pet out of the EU into a non-EU state. So where does that leave doting pet owners. Moreover, where does that leave the vet with a sizeable cross-border clientele? And if more had been made of not being able to take your hound on holiday, maybe the Brits would have voted Remain.

But what makes me really sad is that for me the EU was always about trying to create some justice, peace and reconciliation on a continent shriven by terrible, terrible wars. There was sectarian and ethnic strife, but for the most part, they were contained and were addressed. For the past twenty years the EU has funded four different phases of the Peace and Reconciliation process in Ireland.It’s not perfect, but it has made a huge difference. Who would have thought you could create the first cross-border Geopark on the planet in a place that had previously hosted army patrols not ten years earlier? Or, when fracking was threatened that all communities cross border united to see off the companies who wanted to drill. Frackers have a modus operandi of divide and conquer. In this cross-border area they cemented are sense of common cause.

A Breach of the Peace

It was not for cheap olive oil
or surplus sugar beet.
It was never the point
to build a butter mountain
even if that was the byproduct.
It was to stop making killing fields
generation upon generation.

Kids now having kids
in Northern Ireland today
can barely remember the army patrols
marching in full battle dress
past Boots the Chemists,
the bakers, the butchers.
Their ears don't pop to bomb blasts.

Lest we forget,
it was never about
oceans of surplus dairy fat.
It was to level the playing fields
built over a continent pitted
with century old bomb sites.
To stop the blood shed.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

This is Just Life

It’s not pitch dark at 7am now. Sunrise is technically 7:50am this morning, but it was already a sort of twilight prelude to sunrise when I let Ellie out this morning. The Poetry Daily poetry practice happened. The first effort was discarded as having no “real toads in imaginary gardens” as Marianne Moore describes poetry making. Posting the second effort was delayed because we needed to head out early to get the foster cat to the vet. (The vet cooed at him ‘Oh what a handsome boy!”; which seemed just a bit rich given that he’s in to be castrated today).

But I realise not posting straight off from the handwritten page puts me off my rhythm. All of a sudden those urgent life laundry missions take you over. And the clock is ticking. Lunch passes. And here I am, slightly dazed, snatching a semi-hour in the day before I ring the vet to see if the foster cat is fit for collection this evening and we do the second forty mile round trip of the day.

This is Just Life

Like toast and tea in bed.
Or the cat looking outside
from inside
at the birds flocking
to their feeding station.

I made this bread
for my buttered toast,
slapped the dough
with my own hands.
This is just life.

What grows in the garden
gets pulled. It comes away
with its peck of dirt.
The celery leaf, washed,
goes into the pot.

This is just life,
a round of meals,
a slow cooking butter chicken
and the blessing said
before it lost its head.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash

Extraordinary Lives

I happened upon an episode on Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, a BBC Channel 5 broadcast. It happened that the episode in Ireland visits with an extraordinary woman, Judith Hoad, a woman who completely walks her talk – and does so directly. Check it out here https://www.my5.tv/ben-fogle-new-lives-in-the-wild/season-8/episode-7. Hoad lives completely off grid, up a hill not far from the Wild Atlantic Way, down a track in a remote part of County Donegal in the northwest corner of the Republic Ireland. She has lived there since 1981, and alone since 1999 when her husband died. She has supported herself teaching medical herbalism and traditional handcrafts.

I’ve met her through Leitrim’s Organic Centre and Wise Woman Weekend, which she co-founded with a number of women in Northwest Ireland back in 2004. I posted about the final Wise Woman Weekend back in 2017 https://sojourningsmith.blog/2017/05/09/its-a-wise-woman-that-knows-omens/. What you see in the documentary is completely unvarnished Judith. I once met her at a horticulture fair. Spotting that I was having a menopausal hot flush she very simply barked, “Cold sage tea!” And left me to fan myself slightly helplessly. Hoad is a force of nature.

Today’s Poetry Daily trigger comes from the documentary. Living alone at age 80, Judith practically leaves an envelope with instructions to whomever discovers her body after her death. It reminded me of my late sister-in-law, too, who was terminally ill, and left her instructions in a red box file boldly emblazoned with My Kick the Bucket Box.

Ordinary Extraordinary Life

Let's be matter of fact about it.
One day I will be dead
and why leave behind a mess
for whomever should find me stiff
in a chair, on the floor, in bed?

Rest what is left of my
meat and bones buried in my own
ground. Plant a tree. I fancy one.
An oak. But, of course, I will not
be around if you plant
a hazel or rowan instead.

Let's be matter of fact about it.
It's never easy not
to have what is beloved around.

Less haste. Less waste.
                       It's not  magic.
In mortality we are all bound.
Let's be matter of fact about it.

Live lightly on the land because
at the end, in earth
we are all homebound.
Dust back to dust
                        someone else will
sweep at the last.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Michael Shannon on Unsplash

Exit the Cailleach

I am well aware that parts of the earth are gripped in a polar vortex, but here in Ireland the old signs of season’s changes still seem to be holding. I woke before full daylight this morning to let the old dog out to find that all the Cailleach’s beautiful snow and ice had melted. It is Imbolc New Moon and this feels especially auspicious that the frost will now be over and the growing can begin to happen in earnest. Mary Pat Lynch in her WordPress blog I read this morning says this is a particularly good new moon for wishes ( http://www.risingmoonastrology.com/new-moon-in-aquarius-brave-new-world.)

But to poetry practice…oh, and Happy Chinese New Year of the Earth Pig! May all your wishes for new projects, beginnings, and prospects come true!

Imbolc New Moon

Overnight
the Cailleach gave up
Her fight.
The rain melted away
all her will for frost and ice.

Overnight
The maiden insinuated in
Her light.
She shakes her green skirts out
to dry on bare tree branches.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Nikolai Voelcker on Unsplash

A Storytold is a Story Kept

Storytold! I know. I Know! It’s is a completely made up word. I just invented it! But I like it. It is defined as a story kept. But its very old. It seems to want to be a noun as well as an adjective and adverb. A night could possibly be storytold. As a word, it seems to want to declare itself a republic! And it has a life independent of the storyteller. Humour my whimsy this Imbolc morning, please!

With the St. Brigid’s Day and Imbolc celebrations upon us, we are awash with folklore and stories this time of year. In Ireland, the storykeeper is the seanachaí (approximately pronounced shan-a-key). I have awakened this cross quarter day of Imbolc, when we are exactly halfway between winter solstice and vernal equinox to dreary sky, rain and a thaw. I hope the old wisdom that foretells a shortened winter is true. The Cailleach would certainly want to stay in on a morning like this and leave off collecting her firewood.

Incidentally, the Cailleach is completely storytold. As is myth and all tales that inspire wonder and awe. I doubt it will catch on and may appal grammarians, but it has a ring about it that tickles me.

So Poetry Daily celebrates story today. Which was, as likely as not, told by the hearth, with people warming themselves twice – with words and firelight.

Storytold

Never let the hearth
grow cold.
If you let the fire
go out
ye'll not make old bones.

Tend the flame inside.
Be bold.
Let it animate.
Go out.
Treasure its old soul.

Fire purifies.
It holds
power and insight.
Go out.
It's magic foretold.

Tend the flame inside.
It's cold.
Watch! Scry its stories.
Go out!
Leave no tales untold.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Fabian Grohs on Unsplash

St. Brigid’s Angels

St. Brigid’s Day is coming in a week’s time. Last night my Scotland born friend Morag sent me a message with John Duncan’s St. Bride Carried by Angels attached. Brigid is not just an Irish saint. She has a strong following in Scotland and the Welsh version of her name is Ffraid. As it happens, for the past twenty years (maybe more!) a framed print of that painting has hung in my bedroom. Poets have a long tradition of using artwork as a touchstone and starting point for poems. So today, it is this art work that inspires the Poetry Daily.

St. Brigid is borne to heaven

On angelic shoulders,
in angel's pale hands,
the maiden saint,
the strands of her bright hair,
cascading waves above the sea,
borne up into heaven,
escorted by those soulful dwellers of earth,
keened by cawing cries from the sky.

Even in death her stiff fingers
point heavenwards with prayerful hands.
The first miracle maybe.
Showing no need perhaps for any other
sort of transport to carry her
across that final, ninth, wave.

To where the old people call
the Summerlands
that perpetually golden place
where one will be maiden
once again
forever,
all gates and boundary walls
dissolving behind the wave.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.