In Transit

The theme for #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘At the Station.’ Regular readers of Sojourning Smith will be familiar with my distaste for airport departure lounges. I have taken trains and buses a fair amount over a lifetime, and become infatuated with ferry terminals at times. There were vivid memories of getting trapped in an Amtrak bathroom before the train had even set off for my transcontinental trek back in 1978. (I did eventually release myself.) But in the end the title demanded its hearing, as did the journey remembered from early childhood. I may get back to stations at some later date though.

In Transit

" Are we there yet?"
We clop lopped over concrete slabs
of the northeastern extension
of the PA turnpike.
We were a long way
from there yet.

So we made up games,
listing each new state's
car license plate.
I learned how to rhyme
in a Studebaker backseat,
defeated by orange.
Determined to make
a new word up.

Pitstop Neshaminny Howard Johnson's.
Prepare to hold your nose in Bristol
going past rotten egg Rohm & Haas.
Cross the Delaware River
to Grandmother's house we go.
View the ships in bottles,
great-uncle corraling clippers
in glass. But we're not there yet.

Pass the Chinese supermarket
in Brown's Mills before skirting
forlorn Pine Barrens
more Brother's Grimm
than sylvan

"Are we there yet?"
said somewhere near Lakewood
when nose began to sniff and give
a feral quiver, an atavistic
sense of subtle shifts

in ozone, air recalibrating.
Then the definite tang of salt,
rotting seaweed, crossing
Barnegat Bay's old metal bridge
rattling over onto the barrier island's sandy spit.

Roll down Ocean Avenue,
hang a left at the Catholic Church.
Stop, pile out of station wagon
to peels of aunt's laughter
as it goes up and down the scale,
our cousins' clammer.

Later, after a noisier than usual dinner
we go down to the street
to see the Atlantic Ocean.
Walking the beach, getting feet wet,
we face the edge of earth
to look out at the mystery.
We are not nearly there yet.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image of ‘Old Barney’ from sandcastlelbi.com

Journeying

We are all sojourners, temporarily resident on this precious planet. I woke early this Sunday morning and broke my usual writing routine. I played with the Saturday paper’s crossword first. Once I had tanked up with a second very large mug of tea I dipped into Ruth Padel’s The Poem and the Journey. Poems, as with journeys, are built on connections. As are all human relationships. Brené Brown has observed that we humans are hard-wired for connection Yet, any number of studies in any number of countries are warning that we are in an epidemic of loneliness, which will shorten a life span faster than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, over-eating, or not taking exercise. No wonder there is a demand for poetry anthologies that offer prescriptions like a literary rescue remedy.

Travellers are often those hungry for new connections. So, too, I believe is true for poets. There are many forms of journeying. But the prefered destination for all is genuine connection.

Two little poems this sunny Sunday morning. The first is for a writer friend who is wrestling with a manuscript while on a sojourn in a friend’s borrowed mountain cabin.. Retreats are often places where we best connect. It’s a quotation poem that takes its first line from Margaret Atwood on writing. The title is robbed from a line in an R.S. Thomas poem. Writers have a tendency for moods swinging between thinking that what they have written is the most wonderful arrangement of words ever and then that all they do is play with a pile of crap.

despair, writing, trail

And emerging from my early morning dreamland.

Night Passage

I sail , Chagall-like,
in inky illumination,
and colliding dimensions,
meeting those close to me
who are also far, far away

in a Dreamworld Departure Lounge
we will all soon fly from,
having checked in,
dropped our bags,
dutifully visited the shop's check out

where we greet each other
with delight, in surprise,
in confusion at our displacement,
this serendipitous meeting
and simultaneous leave taking.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Happy journeying through the next week.

Embarking

If you live in the shadow of the mythic embarking on any sojourn requires patience.dog  mt haiku

A car. A bus. A pause and another bus. A rainy night in a B&B in Cavan Town where the upstairs neighbours were an army rampaging in stiletto heels. Imperfect pillow with sleep interrupted at two hour internals. (Did they fall out of bed upstairs?) Gave up sleep at 5:15. Meanly contemplated turning TV on really loud as vengeance upon the heavy footed folk on the upper floor. Mastered self and let it go.

Pull the 12.5 kilo wheely suitcase down the Main Street, lugging 7.5 kilos on my shoulder. And an unestimated weight in the Tardis that masquerades as the handbag for this sojourn, hanging bandolier style across the rain coat that covers the sweater coat.  Layers being the the fashion solution for a sojourn in Britain in March when the  weather is decidedly bipolar.

A mini-bus with eleven virtual strangers with a seat mate gradually becoming less strange as we bond over dog adulation and the necessity of the Platonic ideal of a comfortable pillow for sleep.  Belfast International. Why does every airport in the world have a modernist metal gateway arch? Sort of brutalist in a Stalinist approved art form way.

Yet again set off the metal detector. Humiliation of assuming the position in stocking feet. The randomness of it. No, it is not the titanium in my ankle setting if off. If you say so.   Feeling tickled as I got frisked around my waist.

The passivity and quiet of the departure queues.  Airplane as sardine tin, packed in, knee joints locked as wing flaps up.

The brutalist metal gateway. Manchester Airport seems to have one, too. Or am I dreaming this in my weariness?

Medieval travel as Basho wrote of it in his haibun could not be more brutal than the purgatory of the Departure Lounge.

Tomorrow embarking further- a  tram, a train, a taxi, Arvon. Tonight another pause in the sojourn.  A new pillow to sample, to wrestle, to embrace  with/towards unconsciousness.

Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts Office.

Sojourning

staying temporarily

moving on and through

ever shifting viewpoints

what shall I take?

what shall I leave behind?

sojourning smith

 
     I embark 1st March on a two week sojourn to Yorkshire and Lancashire on a Life Long Learning course “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders”.  In this case I will be sojourning with ten others, mostly strangers to me, embarking on this creative writing fortnight practice.   This is a Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning experience facilitated by the Cavan Arts office, the EU and Leargas.
 
 
     What will happen to my writing without the daily distractions of virtual internet world,  my own context of jaw dropping scenic beauty and rural splendour, the domestic procrastinations that quell creative writing time. Once I get to the Arvon Centre in Yorkshire will I go on a book binge reading jag when I get an eyeful of their library?  Will I dry up before the blank page? Will I have the courage to write anything, even the really bad, poorly formed sentences that get past the internal censor?
 
 
     Once I get to Manchester will the country mouse go de-mob mad in the big city? Or will I hole up in the hotel room tapping away at the keyboard, once again hard wired into wifi?
 
 
     A sojourn is by definition temporary.  Some people go on creative writing retreats. Rather than going in I am venturing out from my rather splendid rural isolation. Let’s see what crossing some borders does to my consciousness and see what decides to communicate with the sojourning.