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

Summertime

Cue up Ella and Louis and think of life as easy. Day 3 of the #30DaysofSummerWritingChallenge gave us this prompt “What does it mean to take your ease in summer?” But all you have to do is mention the first bars of the Gershwin classic and I am back in the summers of my salad days. I was in Washington, DC. and, to semi-quote Noel Coward, never is there a more tropical zone even in September. But what can you expect from a city built on reclaimed swamp? The Mall used to be a canal, but when Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie fell in and then died of malaria he order it to be filled in.

It has to be said that I was in DC at the height of the disco craze. And Saturday afternoon Soul Train was on tv. The title is also borrowed from the sound track of my youth.

Summer in the City

Summertime is all slow saxophone
or rocking up to the Soul Train beat,
hopping on to the swing of the song.
It's shimmy, shiver. You sweat your bones
in humidity and vapid heat.
But we danced, damn it! The whole night long.
We were young, single and feeling sexy.
Prowling. Not enough drink in the land
to quench a summertime thirst or lust.
The night cools. It gets loud and boozy.
Talk turns to beach drives, sun up on sand.
We dance out the dog days of August.
Summertime high on testosterone.
And its swan song on lone saxophone.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Apologies for late posting. My circadian rhymns are all over the shop at the moment. Antihistimenes may also have their part to play.

Featured image Photo by Meg Barnett on UnsplashFeatured image

Prayer For Detained Children

The story continues. The children in detention at Clint are being moved to tents. In the heat of a Texan summer. If they are not frozen into hypothermia by dialed up air-con, it’s fry them under the sky. Sleep deprivation, no medical attention. As one talking head said, “It was deemed that sleep deprivation was inhumane at Guantanamo for adults, but it’s okay for innocent little kids?” 


Prayer for Detained Children

How can your heart not break 

in half?

Now is the time when it needs to

be whole.

Let go of its armouring plaque.

Offer it, even with its wounds and scars.

It has no fatal lack.

It beats with the heat of sacred flame.

Let that inform your next act.

Oh, Sacred Heart!

Though blemished, unbound.

We hold your sanctuary space.

With all the love that can be found.

Deliver them to a safe place.

Let no one remain displaced.

Deliver into cherishing arms,

to familiar faces,

away from all harm.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

I found this image on Facebook posted by Dave Loudon Creativity. I can only suppose that with its public posting it is free to share. 

 

Take Five Senses

In a couple of hours I am going to be evangelising about using lots of detail to describe things in writing. The project I am engaged in involves heritage and last week I introduced the ogham tree alphabet. But in some interactions I realised that even these rural school children are less than fluent in naming tree species. We live in such a biodiverse setting, too, it seems a pity. But this is what comes of losing words like acorn and willow from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. (Please see my poem on the Lost Words in my post https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/02/18/lost-worlds/.) My creative writing facilitator/teacher and Marble Arch Caves Geopark guide roles overlap sometimes as I spread the word about our natural heritage.

Later this morning I am going to challenge some kids to get acquainted with a tree species by writing a five senses poem. This involves getting in words that describe your subject using all your senses: sight, smell, hearing, feeling and taste. Since trees are our subject the taste part may be difficult, but we’ll work on it. I figured I ought to do one in that kind of ‘here’s one I made earlier’ way, to illustrate how you might tackle it. I chose willow for my poem today. I can see one from my window. The Irish name for willow is sailleach. The Hiberno-English corruption of that is sally. Hence, the title of today’s Poetry Daily.

Sally 

There is a certain scent-
early morning raindrops on tender leaf-
that could be bottled and labeled
'Willow Water',
marketed as essence
of her special brand of dilute green.
.
Sally's fronds shiver against the wind.
Her shoulders shudder.
It's too early for such bluster.
She shooshes for quiet.
It's like the sough of waves
as the tide rushes over pebble beach.
But the sea is miles and miles away.
Besides, Sal prefers the peaty water
from the depths of ditches
that run straight in rows
along the sides of the road.

She's that slender you'd not know
how strong she really can be.
See how she turns her face
away from the wind.
She bends and blends.
I can hear her giggling glee
standing out there in a storm.
She's like one of those cheerleaders
who bobs and waves pompoms
when her team makes a score.

She can do the tumbling routines, too.
But if you bump and get bruised
Sal is the sort who would be
the first to aid.
She'd peel the shirt right off her back
to help any and all,
make some bark tea for you
to drink away every bitter ache.
That's just our Sally.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Humming

It is a blustery bank holiday Monday here in Ireland. After a long dry spell, we have had rain and periods of alternating chilliness and warm, sticky  intervals.  My husband was up early and out in the garden working before the first downpour. And really, all I want to write this morning is a little haiku. It is a new moon today in that most communicative of signs, Gemini. But somehow, this morning, less is more in the words department. 

What I heard through the window

A bee’s humming in the garden

No! My husband working

Blissed

I read it aloud to him when he came in and he is all smiley and pleased looking. He wants it as a meme. Or illustrated. Or hung up in a frame.

Make that your #MondayMotivation.

Dear John Ciardi

Today’s poetry practice is a new form to me. It is called the trenta sei- which bacically means thirty-six. It has thirty-six lines, six stanzas of six lines each.The first line begins the first stanza. then the second line of the first stanza is the first line of the second stanza. And then you take it from there. There is a a ababcc rhyme scheme. John Ciardi, the poem is based on a quote he is alleged to have said about women poets always wearing their ovaries on their sleeves. (Imagine steam emitting from my nostrils. Yep, that was my reaction.) Today’s poem takes his form and responds to the alleged commnet about women poets.

Dear Mister Ciardi,

I can admit to a certain prejudice
against a man who disparaged women,
for having the biological gaucheness,
not all to say, just those jumped up gibbons,
those poets who will go wear their ovaries
on their sleeves, writing brownies and babies.

Against a man who disparaged women
and that category viewed as 'poetess',
or applied arcane masculine doctrine
as to who is fit for poetry's practice,
that having a pair should disqualify
shirt sleeves unless they are styled for guys...

For having the biological gaucheness
of being the chicken with all the eggs,
it riles me up to make a fuss and cuss,
because women poets ought not have to beg
for a place in academe's pantheon
or be a glass ceiling phenomenum...

Not all to say,just those jumped up gibbons,
those who have the nerve to speak about blood,
other things all messy and feminine,
beat breasts, tear hair, wrend garments, defame studs.
That is what will become of poetry
written by people who have ovaries.

Those poets who will go wear their ovaries
spilling their ink on a monthly basis
can write, breastfeed, push the baby buggy
(sometimes with an intense, driving fierceness)
out from under the stairs, out through the door,
turning up on time, sign at the bookstore.

On their sleeves, writing brownies and babies,
the spit up and societal sickness,
is the red badge of all our popped cherries.
Women need the teeth and claws of tigress.
The gloves have come off, Mr. Ciardi.
I am out and proud of my ovaries.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image is from Andelino’s Weblog

Love and Work in Poetry

Another day and another poetry form in the Poetry Daily. Some mornings I am stuck. Then I refer to a wonder article that lists 100 Poetry Forms on http://writersdigest.com. At random I pick one I have never heard of before. I was feeling a bit jaded this morning so I plucked the Dodoitsu from the list. I have long played with haiku and senryu, so another Japanese form seemed perfect for a morning when I wanted to write in brief. With the dodoitsu you have the broad expanse of a further nine syllables to play around with! Yes, a rash ration of a whole twenty six syllables arranged in four lines. Like haiku and senryu, there is no rhyme. The first three lines have seven syllables each. The capping line has five syllables. The poetry form tends to take ‘love and work with a comical twist’ as its subject according to the website article.

So I flexed my fingers and finally got out my notebook and pen for poetry practice. I do find Japanese poetry forms kind of zen. Face the blank page, instead of a blank wall. But often poignant. Also often very funny.

Another Kind of Zen

First, the poet awakens
Pause for tea ceremony
Then takes up her fountain pen
Bows to the blank page

Creative Process

The creative process is
a building skip full of flops,
retakes, almost but not quites
But still. Keep trying!


Long Love

Well! we can still huff and puff
Argue the toss all bluster
Lower lip bound to quiver
Then kiss "Goodnight, Love!"


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

Gratitude

They say it is an attitude and I suppose they speak the truth. I woke this morning late, after a night of broken sleep. The phone rang, which interrupted my morning contemplations. Yet, these did not toss me off centre. What filled me with wonder amidst so much that is shadowy and just plain wrong in the world was a thankfulness . Perhaps I am just one of those glass half full kinds of people. Or, perhaps gratitude is the anchor that keeps me centred amidst small trials and gives courage in the face of major tribulation. Regardless, I woke up full of the amazement that is core of gratitude.


Gratitude


It’s a small cup

forever full,

an unseen hand

pouring from a teapot

that never needs

replenishing.

“Just like that!”

But it’s no

sleight of hand trick.

Though just as magic.

It makes us “Oh!” and “Ahhhh!”

We applaud.

Bravo! Brava!

We appreciate the show,

the ticket to ride

home to the small cup

of hot tea

at the ready

by our elbow.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All right reserved.

Senryu Saturday

Over the next two weeks I will be teaching three workshops each week. So I am relieved that NaPoWriMo will be providing daily poetry prompts from tomorrow. Because  this little engine that could is running our of steam. And I do seriously think that April will be the end of my Poem A Day writing. At some point I need to address editting…

However, the brief sweetness of senryu suggested itself for today as I prepare to deliver a workshop on creative non-fiction.

Today would have been my sister-in-law’s 65th birthday. She died just after last Christmas and her funeral was the day after New Year’s. My husband will be memorialising her today planting sunflower seeds, a flower they both favour and have adopted as a family symbol. Gardening, as his late mother knew, heals all.

The scent of hyacinth consoles

He knew to plant many last autumn

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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.