Spiritual Bouquet

NaPoWriMo Day 11 is playing with the language of flowers. This Victorian practice was not new to me. I had researched flower meanings when we were planning our wedding. At first, I thought to revisit that very happy day back in 2016 before the world began to darken. That first effort limped to a halt.

My second effort is a prayer really. I am not a religious person, but religious symbolism is not lost on those who have had a pious upbringing. This morning my thoughts turned to our lane’s Marian shrine and holy well, which I visit every day for mine and the dog’s daily exercise. (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2020/04/02/2500-steps-my-daily-walk/).

Marian Shrine Ireland
Tobar Mhuire in Co. Cavan, Ireland

Tonight, in Ireland, there is a movement to light a candle in solidarity for our health workers. This seems more urgent than ever in the Republic, where 26% of all Covid-19 infections are exposed health workers. This has been underlined with the news story that seventy doctors and nurses at Cavan General Hospital have tested positive. Four wards are closed. Essentially, the regional hospital is locked down to all but those with Covid-19.

Later today I will leave a battery powered candle and some flowers at the holy well. And some flowers. That’s the plan at least.

For those who are a bit resistant to the idea of a poem as a prayer, I refer you to Samuel Beckett. We may leave behind all ritual, but poetry writers never can completely leave behind the ritual words, the incantations, or sheer theatre of our soulful articulation.

All poetry is prayer
Spiritual Bouquet
 
Let the flowers signal my prayer,
my garden offering a spiritual bouquet
placed at the shrine beside our roadway.
 
Daffodils make a brighter resurrection
than pure lily, remote, but for its pollen
staining the unwary one’s  reputation.
 
Bolster them with fragrant hyacinth –
purple for these most earnest entreaties,
white to light this current labyrinth.
 
We have tulips! We can add those to the above.
Purple – again – brings abundant blessings.
Red signals Love’s divine perfection.
 
Grant us now – please – for I speak of
the sick, the scared, the lonely and lost
for want of care and kindness and love.
 
Grant us – please – a new beginning.
And comfort us as we grieve the losses
of all our world’s underpinnings.
 
Tulip, hyacinth, daffodil –
these are what I can offer now
while our world is at a standstill.
 
And thank you for your unwavering maternal love.
Here's a posy. A prayer. A spiritual bouquet.
At roadside shrine this Holy Saturday.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.
Marian shrine holywell Ireland
Tobar Mhuire, Mary’s Well, Dowra, Co. Cavan
Holy Well Ireland

Praying in Random Places

I have written elsewhere in this blog that writing poetry, especially when I was writing a poem a day for 365 consecutive days from September 2018 until September 2019, is a spiritual practice. So it seems appropriate to write about prayer in the Sunday Weekly poem. As Samuel Becket said:

Samuel Beckett meme
Sam Beckett looking all prayerful

Samuel Beckett spent a portion of his youth at the Royal Portora School in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, which is not a million miles away from where we live. We live in this edgy part of Ireland where Cavan meets Fermanagh meets Leitrim. Last Sunday found us doing some life laundry (and literal laundry, too) in the nearby town of Manorhamilton, about sixteen miles from us. (NB: we live an average of twenty miles from anywhere in three directions that is a recognisable centre of population, with a number of commercial outlets and services.)

So this is what I do when I have a spare hour and a half when I can multi-task with a domestic task.

In the Mace in Manorhamilton I Sit Down And
 
It strikes me that, sitting
at a laminate table, on a banquette,
drinking my coffee, and imitation
pain au chocolat, that
 
this is a good place to pray
while my laundry cycles,
getting all sweet-smelling and
washed. It’s all auto here,
 
not just the petrol pumps, but
what dispenses coffee,
the washing machines, the drier,
the factory’s template exact
 
cut of tabletop after tabletop,
like an assembly line cookie cutter
(they sell good cookies here, too)
where I sit eating my machined pastry.
 
This is a good place to pray.
Where everyone is just doing their best,
Bless them!
Wiping tables, swabbing the deli counter,
 
totting at the till, making change,
nodding, and being pleasant.
But then, this is Leitrim after all,
and people tend to be.
 
So this is a good place to pray,
because praying is not automatic,
with the distant hum of the radio chat
behind the rumble of the chill cabinet.
 
Copyright © 2020 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Sunday Poem and Pondering

It’s been a noisy week. Hasn’t everyone experienced some kind of sound and fury? It’s been inescapable one way or the other. I had a poem written and ready to go last evening, but I decided to honour the original rhythm of writing the poem a day over 365 consecutive days. I set the alarm to make sure I would rise early. I didn’t need its pinging in the end, for my sleep cycle this week has been as erratic as those geological glacial remains that rocked and rolled over the landscape that I call home. I was up early and saw the dawn.

So, in the spirit of Samuel Becket’s saying that poems are prayers, I offer this little poem from my journal penned on rising today. It was how I declared the day ‘sabbath’, a day of rest.

Morning Prayer

Let there be one morning
without rush,
that the dawn is bejewelled
in its hush.
Let the sun rise golden
and bleeding
on Playbank's horizon,
day seeding
as rain drips from the eaves
land all lush.

Let there be one morning
without rush.
Let there be one morning
celebrating this hush.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

The Playbank
The Playbank

Then…some pondering from a news story that actually appeared last March, but only just captured my imagination. A 40,000 year old log was unearthed in New Zealand, the relict of an ancient kauri tree hauled from a swamp. Itself, part of the fossil record, it is thought to have lived for nearly two millenia, and charts the geological period when the earth’s magnetic field shifted. For fuller details check out https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6836883/40-000-year-old-log-underneath-New-Zealand-swamp-explain-Earths-climate-mystery.html.

But…the poem from the pondering.

Homeostasis

The kauri tree
it saw it all
left the tale
in arborial braille.

Will the meek ever
inherit the earth?
Just once.
Who speaks for those species?

Those not quite
fittest
being extinguished
each year...

The bonobo,
the Bengal tiger,
even
the nerdy caterpillar.

Two hundred
creatures
great and small
are gone

every day
times 365
with an extra
on leap year.

Who gets saved?
Recycled? Culled?
The kauri tree
saw it all.

It wrote that epic shift
on its body
the needle shifting
round the dial.

What is unequal
balances.
Some will be saved,
some culled.

For the rest,
they go back to the earth
for what will be
their next cycle.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

What will this week bring? What will be culled?

Prayer for the Dog Days

Today’s prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWrtingChallenge is about the Dog Days of August. With the dog star, Sirius, high in the night sky, in many parts of the world (excepting Ireland) we swelter. The nights are too sticky to sleep with even a sheet. A torpor descends. I am old enough to remember these days before universal air conditioning came into play, both domestically and in work places. All that energy being expended may be cooling off the room temperature, but the planet is overheating. The globe’s green lung, the Amazon, is on fire.

Until I moved to these more temperate climes in Ireland, August was my least favourite month of the year. If you had said to me years ago that my wedding day would take place in August I would have thought you were 1) demented, and 2) did not know me at all! Yet here I am with a wedding anniversary at the tail end of the August. And, to be clear, after a very rainy, and overcast summer, the sun split the azure sky on the day.

Yet, I know too that Ireland is a bit of an anomoly. But even here we have had had record breaking high temperatures for part of the summer. Climate change is real. We can feel it.

 Prayer for the Dog Days

Now I lay me down
with the Old Dog at my feet.
We pray in these crazed days
that our souls will keep.
And if we should die
in this stifling heat,
bless the species
we shall not keep
as we lay ourselves down
to another night's restless sleep.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Why Poetry Writing is a Spiritual Practice

I call this poetry practice. I have likened the daily flexing of the poetry muscle to the etudes Miss Mildred, my childhood piano teacher, gave me. I was a poor piano scholar, but I have doggedly stuck to the daily practice of poetry now for nearly ten months. I know I will keep the posting for the full 365 days. But apart from becoming a more limber wordsmith, the daily poetry practice also has a spiritual element.

I have rarely kept up a meditation practice. I have tried prayer books and pulling a wisdom or oracle card. But I usually fall away from the routine in fairly short order. Being in semi-retirement helps. Having a flexible work routine and a fixed monthly income can accommodate a morning writing practice. But when I worked a normal job I never set the alarm early to make sure that I write something every morning. I did the three month “Artist’s Way” over twenty years ago, but after that initial period the morning pages routine was very off and on. (Mostly I complained about how my sinuses hurt first thing in the morning. Which is kind of boring.) I began this practice with a howl of outrage and in a pit of sorrow over current events. Those circumstances have not stopped happening. And I still keep feeling the feelings. But I have not been cast off-centre while it has been going down. And that, I think, is because of the daily practice of writing a poem – good, bad or indifferant.

Having the self-imposed discipline of posting the Poetry Daily has ensured that I keep at it. But I am beginning to wonder whether I might keep it up anyway because it is now set in my neural pathways. Perhaps after September 15th I can take down that guardrail and just post a weekly poem or compendium of weekly poems.

I am still entranced by quotations. Please indulge me. I am ferreting around to see what are the limitations and strengths of the form. As I am considering the spiritual value of the Poetry Daily as my practice, the Samuel Beckett quotation comes back to me. It is a favourite. Probably I should have a plaque made of it and hang it on a wall!

all poetry is prayer

And so today’s Poetry Daily is

All poetry is...prayer.
Time and trends change its rhythms and riffs.
Say it to a god or to yourself, it anchors.
We can be both defendant and plaintiff
petitioning for some kind of clemency.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
poetry is prayer

Prayer for a Writing Workshop

The Poetry Daily is short. I am hopping on the wifi  in the office of Willowbrook Glamping Ground. Tony and I will be workshopping in just under an hour. 


Prayer for A Writing Workshop

Let the words flow

As the river goes

Slow and deep

Fast and rapids’ leaping

Let the words flow

As the wind blows

Over quovering grass

Do not hold them fast

Let the words flow

Like seeds grow

Tend them like a crop

Choose strong and the ones to drop

Let the words flow

Let them go

Let them blaze and light

A world pitched into a

 perpetual night

Let the words flow

To quench, soar, sow and

 heal all blight.
Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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. 

 

Murdering People Who Pray

I am heart sick. Yet another shooting in a place of worship. Now each of the Judeo- Christian people of the Book have been picked off while they worshipped in their own way. Less than five months ago I was mourning the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue. Today, I have written a new poem, but I am also including other poems I have written in the last thirteen months about mass shootings. But its unique this Sunday, to contemplate that there has been a massacre of worshipers now in a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue and two Moslim mosques.

I’m opening with some older poems, just to remind you.

 
Tree of Life

When God was allowed a wife
her name was Asherah.
She was the sacred tree of life –
root, branch, bud, leaf, flower,
the berry that had the seed,
the source of nature’s power.
 
When God was allowed a wife,
(before she was veiled and put into purdah)
no one would have dared or dreamed to take a life,
to even strike a blow against the sacred tree.
For she is the one who holds up the sky.
For she is the one who holds back tsunami sea.
 
When God was allowed a wife
just like prophets, or Krishna, or Buddha,
did we live with less strife?
Did we need to burn a holocaust,
to join human blood with timber?
When will this urge in us be exhausted?
 
When God was allowed a wife –
Praise be her name Asherah!-
She was axis and afterlife
She demanded no blood sacrifice.
She was root, branch, bud, leaf, flower, berry.
She was the Garden of Paradise.
 
When God was allowed a wife –
She had a name, Asherah –
we walked in Beauty. We loved life.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

The classic response to each new fresh hell of a massacre has been ‘our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are mourning.’ It’s become such a cliché it almost sounds like an insult. In spite of my pacifist leanings, if I was one among those families, I would punch any politician in the face who had the gall to say this and then vote down stricter gun legislation.

So last February I was writing this.

 
Thoughts and Prayers

Enough of thoughts
Enough of prayers
Enough of tears
 
Banish the fear
May Love disarm you
 
Enough of being bought
Enough of anger
Enough conspiracy jeers

Banish the fear
May Love disarm you
 
Enough of siege and SWAT
Enough of all coming to naught
Enough of the primacy of crackpot
Enough of the always all too sure shot
 
Banish the fear
May Love disarm you
 
Enough of cowering in closets
Enough of bandoliered bigots
Enough of ideology driven budgets
Enough of guts and gore as year-round climate
 
Banish your fear
May Love disarm you

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Here I am again a little over a year later, on a Sunday, the Sabbath for Christians, the tradition I was reared in. And we are having to confront that yet another person reared in this religious tradition has taken guns and ammunition and mowed down people at prayer.

First, it was the congregation of the Emmanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina. back in 2015. Certainly synagues and mosques were targetted for arson and attack since then, but this past five months has had the massacres of worshipers, people at prayer, first in a synague and now two mosques.

I want to stop having to write these kinds of poems. But staying silent in the face of evil is not an option. I disavow violent direct action. All I can offer are poems with the hope that hearts and minds will have the kind of metanoia where love, the agape of the New Testiment blossoms, celebrates and protects diversity in our world. That will let people live and worship the God or no God they wish as they please.

Murdering People Who Pray

They kneel.
They bow.
They sit and daven.

Some sing.
Some are silent.
Some are led

to follow a Book.,
to have words
to be read,

as they kneel,
as they bow,
while they sit

listening to
exigesis
on texts
about a deity

who might say:
why do you murder
all My People
while they pray?

Do you seek
to obliterate Deity
in human form
today?

Emmanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina,  USA June 17, 2015
Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA October 27, 2018
Masjid Al-Noor Mosque, Linwood Mosque, Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019
For all those massacred while they prayed

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

I saw a clip on YouTube last night from a favourite comedy, Derry Girls, set in Northern Ireland during the bad old days before the peace accord of the Belfast Treaty of 1998. In the clip there were Catholic and Protestant high school kids in a joint session being asked to list similarities and differences between tribes. (These are Christian sects after all.) The gag was that the board was chock a bloc with differences. The board with similarities was empty.

We need to address that deficit. It’s no laughing matter. People die because of it.

Featured Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash