The prompt from 30 days of Summer Writing Challenge today is ‘Road Trip.’ Which brought back fond memories of my most recent week long one to Scotland this past spring. The Road Trip began at the tail end of NaPoWritMo2019. To see the road tripper’s log in full, dial into the archive starting here: https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/04/29/day-29-napowrimo-road-trip-day-1/. It seems appropriate to dedicate the Road Trip poem today to my fellow tripper, Morag. We were never Thelma and Louise, but we sure were good buddies on road and off.
Journeys take you where they will. Like Ireland.
Or India. Or a man. Or even woman.
Ideally, these ought to come full circle,
with stops that can have glee and be peaceful.
We resurrect the passenger pigeon
before its decline and ultimate extinction.
Clamped in a moving metal box, we talk.
Not just about the moving scenery, the hawk
overhead, its omniscient eyes' view,
not just of what we know but what we have been through.
It's important to take unscheduled lefts.
Whimsy will not leave itinerary 's bereft
of edge. Or serendipity. Spellbound
by surroundings, this being lost is being found.
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved
The road trip ends today as we ferry over to Northern Ireland this lunchtime. The final day before we journey home found me wandering happily in a museum and a creative gallery space in Glasgow. (After beaches, my second most happy place.) I wish I were gifted with the talent to make beautiful things with my hands. I am in awe of visual artists and crafts persons. Wandering around exhibitions primes my poetry pump. One medium meets another. Today’s poem takes its starting point from work in the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art. The provenance will be revealed at the end of the blog post. The poem acts as a response to the call made by another artist working in another medium who was responding to her reading of an author. That all were women and creative artists was apt. The actual exhibit was placed in a slightly lower gallery on the fringes of larger exhibition entitled Domestic Bliss. That creative artist’s work and living space often overlap, especially for women, made its placement within the wider context especially clever.
Study me this list:
Trophy Treason Traitor
Friend Acquaintance Manipulation
Prize Priceless Imprison
Mate Pal Twist
Take the salt down from the cupboard.
Cast your circle.
Step into your space.
Learn to forget dirty plates.
They are outside the magic circle,
The frenemy of creativity
of the steak knife
in the cutlery
the skin of your memory.
Copyright 2019 Bee Smith
We’ve travelled down from the tip of Caithness from Scrabster and overnighted at Helmsdale in Sutherland (a town torally swaddled in the aroma of gorse this tome of year.) then was the long drive day, working our way southwards. There was snow flurries coming through the Cairngorms; thendash told us it was 4C. By the time we lunched in Pitlochrie it was sunny and a balmy 14C. Pitlochrie is a spa town, a kind of Gaelic Harrogate, all weighty stone buildings, purveyos of old-fashioned sweets in jars- violet creams, Berwick cockles, Irn-Bru balls. Also an especially short, shortbread in very generous rounds. On this trip I have had haggis, Orkney ice cream, shortbread. I am going off to seek the experience of square sausage in Glasgow shortly.
But first poetry practice. We are just outside Glasgow, just past the Trossachs, but close to the base of Loch Lomond, which my travel companion tells me is the gateway to the Highlands. We are staying with her 83 year old widowed father in the house he built with his own hands. An engineer by trade he also has mad mandolins. I woke to his own music practice. He was also an avid hillwalker back in the day.
When old and sight faded,
No longer seeing hazards, crags and skree,
Unable to meet the heady heights anymore,
In morning time a tune emits
From the whistle’s lips-
A lilt, a lament, a memory
When sturdy legs reeled around dance floors
With his bonnie lassie in his arms.
But she has gone before.
The high and low notes
Tenderly render the spread and breadth
Of a life knowing love
Being loved in return
In a tune on a sunny
Scotland Saturday morning.
Copyright 2019 Bee Smith
The point of this trip, for me at least, was to visit Skara Brae. It had been on my bucket list ever since I saw the pictures my brother-in-law took on their trip over nearly twenty years ago. (My brother wanted to mve into Skael House, which is an impressive sight to be sure. But the main attraction is the neolithic village that was revealed after a fierce storm, the sands swirling and parting to give us a glimpse of communal life 5,000 years ago. They reckon the village was inhabited for over half a millenium before it was abandoned.
Perhaps one reason I find neolithic sites so appealing is tht offer themselves to our imagination. There is no one pat version of their story. History is famously described as the victor’s version of the truth. This is pre-history. They may well have had a phonetic alphabet (there were other places), but they did not leave us any examples of graffitti until the Vikings swanned in on their longboats and left runes recording their bragging rights inside Maes Howe.
When we lived
Inside a honeycomb
One cell built on
The whole more important
Than the individual
It hummed that tune
Making sweet honeyed tones
For nearly a millenium
From the we
Instead of the me
For some honey leaves
An indifferent aftertaste
On the palate.
Who does not want to be queen
In their own space
Or in their very soul?
To not have to bend to enter
One’s own homeplace.
Copyright 2019 Bee Smith
It was a day to pay respects to the really ancient ancestors yesterday. Orkney is somewhere I could happily spend a week. But we have two days. Poetry practice this morning… I ❤️ rock. Especially the megalithic kind. We don’t know pre-historic motivation. So dream….
Stand you up against that tall one
In firelight’s shadow
Lift your leg over
Grab tight, woman!
Squat and push
A world into the old wife’s hands
Carry the ancestor’s
Tuck them up tight
Let in the midwinter light
To rebirth us
Copyright 2019 Bee Smith
No more NaPoWriMo. Have to make my own poetry prompts. So a poem inspired by one site we visited on Day 2 of our Highlands and Island road trip in Scotland. If you are not familiar with the story of the Highland clearances the Badbea Clearance Village is a stark image of why migration, going away from all they knew was the only option for survival. The landlords wanted good grazing for more profitable sheep. Tenants were shunted off to marginal land. Literally marginal land as Barbea clearly illustrates.
Badbea Clearance Village
Their new place
was made of sandstone and mica chist
Heather and ling, sphagnum moss,
barely a blaeberry.
Gorse, of course.
The sea below offered
herring scholls, gulls eggs
to be picked from cliff nests.
But it was a sheer drop
150 feet or more.
They were made to build
their own boundary wall.
Paid to pen themselves off.
Scoured by North Sea winds
they tethered their beasts
and children, too.
had already been snatched away.
They’d been pushed far enough.
Copyright Bee Smith 2019
…and the beginning of Road Trip Day 2. We have the hostel to ourselves. I crept out to the common area at 5:45, all keen to crack on with the poetry practice. The final day of availing of prompts, I will have to wing it from tomorrow. Today’s prompt is all about compression – haiku, senryu or just plain micropoem. I’ve written several! Which one is your favourite?
Where folk dwelled
May Day Eve
Sea salt, seagull squawk
Furze clad hills smelling of tropics
That’s 8C for those of you who realfeel in Celsius!
Turns to take
And, the last one is really showing my age. Youngsters will need to Google this, but I believe in advancing education.
The TV Test Pattern
Single note sound over
We are on the ferry to Orkney Island this evening, arriving just before sunset. I have packed plenty of scarves, gloves, and fleeces.