Weekly Poem- When Spring

The bank holiday yesterday brought me up short when I suddenly realised that yes, today is Tuesday! Time to post the Weekly Poem. There has been little poetry writing time in recent months, given the attention that the Geopark Poetry Map has needed. Also, the garden suddenly needs an extra pair of hands. I am better at the destruction aspects – weeding, burning my mortal enemies ‘Sticky Willy’ (cleavers) and Bindweed. We don’t use chemical fertilizer or pest pest control. Our garden may not have official certification, but we use organic principles on our acre. So it wildish and has a carpet of buttercups where the daffodils were in March.

With the Summer solstice and the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere rapidly approaching, we are seeing the last of Spring…and also some signs which would normally have appeared over a month ago.

When Spring

When Spring comes late and cold and the hawthorn
blossoms in June instead of its month's name,
the potatoes are barely up before 
blight beckons on Weather Watch and the country
shudders.
                     Now the old signs no longer hold
say the old who watched them through a lifetime
studying the sky both day and at night.

The wild slowly died to be reborn
in every season's storm, shaking us all
until our teeth chatter. Our speech is robbed.
Too soon the hawthorn's petals pink and fall.
Did we ever see them at all? The signs.
What use is Cassandra locked and in thrall
to toxic vapours? We all know that Spring
came late. Was cold. It raged just like Winter.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Paul Morley on Unsplash

March Gambols In

The energy has shifted. Apart from dwarf narcissi blooming, I have sourced and received seed potatoes delivered to my doorstep. Onion bulbs still are hard to find between Brexit and the pandemic. Peas have finally been sourced. Sometimes in the oddest places, like the petrol station in Manorhamilton! This week I sowed garlic and broad beans, which is a profound gesture of hope against potential frosts. Fortunately, they are made of fairly stern stuff and like cold conditions. March arrived sunny and warm after some early morning mist and an overnight ground frost; which may not be a good sign for the rest of the month. I will take my weather auguries with a pinch of salt. As one old neighbour, long past his passing, once said, ” A fair February crushes the rest of the year.” And as another colleague once noted, “The old signs no longer hold…” Which pretty much sums up climate change. Nothing is normal these days, so we may as well take each day at a time as it comes and deal with it accordingly.

I am treating my body like the temple I never before worshipped at these days. Full disclosure: I am from the most unathletic family. The rules of ball games confuse me into brain freeze. As a teenager I fretted that my gym grades would pull my grade point average down to a point that I would not get the scholarships I desperately needed to get me to a college out of state. As the youngest of four whose mother had already been a widow for thirteen years by the time I was due to enter college, it was imperative that I get that financial aid. I was never built to be a jock and I was enough of an in intellectual snob to eschew all things athletic.

Yet, here I am approaching sixty-five taking my first fitness class ever by Zoom. And, truthfully, the only reason I am there is because we can turn off the video. There are no judging eyes there to body shame me. Because my weight has always been a bone of contention and smoking is really not a healthy way of weight control. (Tried that. Loved it. Gave it up after ten years.) But now that I am needing to mind my blood sugar levels (my sister is a a Type 1 diabetic) and my BMI is out of control, I am finally stepping up and putting on a pedometer every day. I loved baking too much in Lockdown 1 and I loved eating the cookies I baked even more. Being both a greedy eater and a good cook is not a helpful combination.

(As a digression intrepid readers… I speak to my bestie in England each evening and we often talk recipes and culinary methodology. Well, I am only going to food shops for the past year after all! And the pandemic has meant a certain inventiveness is required to avoid too much menu repetition. I was complaining about how Yotam Ottolenghi is always lacing his recipes with sumac and what the heck was that anyway?! And where on earth would I find it in rural Ireland? Pen sent some as Christmas present because you can get it in the shop attached to her local post office in England. And…yes it is a useful addition to flavouring soups and stews.)

However…that kind of radical self-care takes a lot of energy when you are unfit and over sixty. But I am gradually creating a new life balance. I am teaching poetry to a small group, which fits perfectly in terms of creating conditions of creative colleaguality. I am also facilitating a short class in spiritual autobiography, again to a small group. I have shifted the time to suit me and my energy levels rather than consider participants’ needs over mine. So, no weekday evening class this season, while I build myself up after the New Year injury.

Putting my own needs first was a huge challenge. Probably because women of my generation were conditioned to think that is selfish. Even those identifying as feminist are not immune to those subtle socially pervasive messages.

And so to the weekly poem, which has emerged out from under the gardening, the household maintenance, the supply chain fulfillment, and exercise regimes. It was a comfort to read in the Guardian Review the weekend before last that many writers have experienced writer’s block during this pandemic. All this time and yet so little output!

Look Up!

Look up! A cloudless blue sky bright
as the Crayola ™ Crayon of that name.
For months I've had the ground in sight,
the endless go round of the same old same.
I measured our days making meals,
planning menus, the thirty minute slot
for exercise. Evening's newsreels
unspool while stirring tomorrow's soup pot.
Will the weather forecast ever
cut us a break from dark, overcast days?

March arrives lamblike, outward favour.
Some daffodils are out, small bouquets.
I sowed some seeds out yesterday.
Look up! Hope and pray for fairer weather.
Grow broad beans and garlic, stout and pungent.
This year, bring us savour and abundance!

 
 Copyright  © Bee Smith 2021. All rights reserved 

Featured image Photo by Andréas BRUN on Unsplash

Close the Door, Open the Window

The theme of doorways has been much in my mind these past weeks. Partly, this is because of the lunar eclipse on 30th November and yesterday’s solar eclipse. Astrologers view them as liminal events. When an eclipse encounters points on an individual’s birthchart they signal endings and beginnings. Or, as some might put it -a door closes, but a window opens.

My brother-in-law, Ford Rogers, is an artist. Each year he creates a calendar for family and friends based on his drawings. Last year’s was of the sun. A little bit spooky, given how the virus is depicted and the ‘corona’ element they share. 2021’s theme is doorways. Which also feels prescient to me given the eclipses and the Grand Conjunction of Saturn and Pluto on 21st December. The latter is considered an augury of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Then a student mentioned that doors were a recurring dream motif.

When things come in threes, like the proverbial, longed for No. 56 bus, then I pay attention. So doors had to feature in the weekly poem.

When it came to poetry practice today I have struck onto an unconventional rhyme scheme for a sonnet. You may see me wrestling with this poetry form a lot in the coming weeks.

Solar Eclipse

In the dark, not knowing, you inch towards
the door at the end of the unlit hall.
The door is closed. But a fall of light seeps
from underneath the crack. Wait. Creep closer.
Press your ear to it. Can you hear the voices?
Muffled. A muttering. No distinct words
can be heard. Slowly, test the door's handle.
Is the door locked? Have you the heart to knock?

A door closed always is waiting to be opened -
onto a room, a passage, a pasture,
the midnight sky full of stars and the moon,
shy with its light, eclipsed. Its hinges groan.
The door swings open. There is still shadow.
Wait. 
          Then all is revealed under the sun.

 
 Copyright  ©Bee Smith, 2020. 

Featured image Photo by Philip Wahl on Unsplash

Have Yourself A Happy Covid Christmas

As my brother in Brooklyn emailed in response to the featured photo, “Nothing says Happy Holidays like hand sanitizer!” But I implore everyone to stay put and mingle with no more than a handful, outdoors, over the upcoming holidays. The post-Thanksgiving statistics coming from the USA are terrifying. I know this enforced staying apart from people can be hard, especially for the extroverts among us. But with more than 100,000 new cases PER DAY in the USA, with a projection of 200,000+ by Christmas, the hospitals simply cannot cope. The explosion of cases is, in part, due to the one million who travelled to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday. According to data released by MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow a couple days ago, the White House Covid Taskforce reckons that if you travelled over the Thanksgiving holiday then assume you have been infected and are infectious right now, whether you feel fine or not.

Here is the link on YouTube of Maddow’s Report. Watch right to the end. https://youtu.be/VlWoEBpfGj0

A cautionary tale for Europeans where Christmas is the big family celebration of the year.

I have been practicing writing sonnets recently, so this Tuesday’s Weekly Poem is a sonnet. And given the news it has a distinctly Covid19 Christmas theme.

Covid Christmas

Tell me what says Christmas cinematically
to you?  Maybe "It's a Wonderful Life?" Or
"Die Hard?" Perhaps you crave  "Love, Actually?"
"Home Alone?" Given we have had much more
than a cameo from He Who Shall Not Be Named,
who can take credit for our solitary,
Covid Christmas scenario....Hmmm. An enraged
Grinch stole it, along with many thousands of souls.

Empty chairs. Even some empty tables.
Masked, visored, in full battledress PPE,
our medics cannot stem the tide of truth. Fables
are the stuff of children's bedtime fairy tales.
Those cautioning you not to let the wolf loose
in the chicken coop. Or becoming one yourself.

Take you joy safely this holiday season. Make your happy where you can, but with very few. Stock up on you favourite films. Buy a silly Christmas mask to match you silly Santa hat. Remember that all those hospital staff valiantly trying to save the lives of those who became infected will not be spending the day with their families. They might be trying to save a member of your family.

Which is love in action, actually.

Point of Contact

In the Republic of Ireland we have been released from our 5km exercise zone after six weeks of Lockdown 2. Now this household won’t be racing out to the shops, having carefully curated our personal safety zone over the past eight months – local Dowra Spar and post office, Manorhamilton Supervalu, Belcoo pharmacy and Spar, and Clancy’s of Glenfarne for post office and takeaways. We are basically staying within a self-imposed twenty mile radius from home for essentials. But we took the lifting of restrictions as an opportunity to go and ‘stare at lakes’ over a cup of tea and biscuit and take the dog for a walk in the Glenfarne Demesne. There is a Sculpture trail through the woods. And it is good to get an eyeful of some varied scenery. Of which we have in abundance in the West Cavan and North Leitrim border area.

Today’s blog takes its title from one of the sculptures, one funded in some of the original EU funded Peace and Reconciliation projects back in 2000 (known locally as Peace 1; we are on Peace 5 now. USA, please note that it takes 30 years to undo 30 years trauma.)

Glenfarne, Leitrim Sculpture Trail. This sculpture created by Derek Whitecasein, August 2000.

The sun was bathing country Fermanagh on the opposite shore of Lough MacNean in sunshine. And we were also getting a splendid light and shadow on our shores, too.

It’s 1st December and we are heading towards the shortest of days in our hemisphere, but the light playing with the shade and shadow was extraordinary today. And, thinking of last Thursday’s blog title on resilience, I spotted two spruce trees growing out of a rock surrounded by water. These two baby Christmas trees may never be papermill fodder, but they do speak of what can grow in even the most inhospitable conditions. Even nature is wanting to get the Christmas decor out early in 2020.

They are kind of like Charlie Brown Christmas Trees but even rocks will grow you one.

Today is the beginning of my email e-course 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days. Nature certainly showed us how we can have the most astonishing shots of light at this dark time of year. I kept asking my husband to stop the car so I could snap some photos of the rose gold light playing with the mountain and the light. And then, much to my joy, I spotted that hardy upland flowering shrub, gorse. It smells like a mixture of vanilla and coconut to me and it brightens our winter landscape here in Ireland.

At some point I probably will write a poem called “Point of Contact”, but for this week’s poem I have an attempt at a sonnet. My Zoom group was toiling at these this past weekend. And Ruth Padel is right. “Good pattern is hard work.” Maybe once I have written fifty of them I will finally have the hang of it.

The Earth's Heart

Listen...the earth is pulsing every
twenty-six seconds, a slow signal's beat.
A pause. A patient moment. Then. Breathe.
Less hurried than Morse code's dash dot repeats.
Desperation's staccato urgency
is counterpoint to the earth's slow
pulse. And pause. And pause on silent repeat...
its heartbeat a tap through air waves, radio
silence for a further twenty-six beats,
the space between...Can that silence echo?
Is that what I hear in my eardrum's beat,
the thrumming as I speed toward contingency?
Earth is slow. And patient. A lung and drum.
It needs just a tone, content to just hum.

May your dark December days be shot full of astonishing light.

Day 27 NaPoWriMo2019

Today’s prompt is to do a “remix” of a Shakespearean sonnet. Sonnets used to scare me, but since this poem a day lark started last September I have had a bash at them a few times. Some of my efforts I even like (especially the one where Brooklyn Bridge features). Today I chose Sonnet 116, the one that begins


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Riff on 116

Love does not rock and roll when the key shifts.
It's more like jazz - improvisational.
Love keeps making the music that lifts.
Phone home and they always will take your call.
It doesn't matter what dive you are in
some far flung corner of the unknown earth.
They love you famous or has been
or have had repossessed your house of mirth.
Yeah, they know your whole story, chapter, verse,
the back when, the first dance, all your bold hopes,
the down and dirty hours when you cursed
any and every person. But nope!
Love did not flinch. Even when called a fool.
Love knows its mind. And music has its rules.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.



Feature Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

NaPoWriMo2019 GloPoWriMo2019
Bee Smith is participating in GloPoWriMo2019

What If…NaPoWriMo2019’s Day 6

So this is where the NaPoWriMo2019 Day 6 prompt collides with some of my teaching. I am currently doing creative writing work with 10-12 year olds in the Cruinniú na nÓG programme sponsored by the Cavan Monaghan Training Board. We are working on story, in the first instance letting their imaginations roam free, then with story based in fact. I’ve started them in group work as a confidence booster and to just observe how they work. True to their age stereotypes, they divided along gender lines for the group work, as I gently nudge them towards skills for individual pieces.

What really has struck me was how the boy’s group immediately began to create a war story. The two girl’s groups could basically be classified as falling into crime/thriller and romance genres, although violence also permeates their stories, too. It’s as if the only narrative in town in destruction. I turned to the teacher at playtime and mused, “How can we change this narrative?” When I talked about this with my husband, saying my little boys were having a war between Cavan and Fermanagh (please no Brexit!), he responded that at that age, inspired by 1950s American telly, he and his friends in Armagh were playing cowboys and Indians. “Of course, we didn’t know then that Colonel Custer was the baddie.”

And, of course, changing the narrative is not exactly in my remit to fit into sixteen hours of classroom time. This is where NaPoWriMo2019’s Day 6 prompt enters my stream of consciousness. ” Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of the possible. What does that mean? Well, take a look at these poems by Raena Shirali and Rachel Mennies. Both poems are squarely focused not on what has happened, or what will happen, but on what might happen if the conditions are right. Today, write a poem that emphasizes the power of “if,” of the woulds and coulds and shoulds of the world.”

So here is a sonnet to possibility.

I was an anxious child with a mother who had many worries. On many a car journey I peppered her with so many “What If…” scenarios I probably fed her own anxieties.

What If

What if little boys did not toy
with the glamour of war,
the thrill of massive destruction?

What if boys did not deploy
into male avatars,
ComicCon  cut-outs of action?

What if they dreamed not of cowboys
as played by movie stars
gunning down Native Americans?

"What if..."  - asked by anxious boys,
ones already so scarred,
our small hostages to fortune.

What if we raised boys into men
where peace made them sovereign?


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

GloPoWriMo 2019
Bee Smith is particpating in Na/GloPoWriMo2019

NaPoWriMo2019 Day 4

I slept in this morning. Two workshops down. One more to go. Then repeat next week. Just another sprint and then it eases off a little. Except when I finally got around to looking at today’s prompt they want a poem on sad. They also suggest a sonnet. If you had asked me ten years ago to try writing a sonnet I would have have said ‘ no way!’ But since 15th September 2018 I have dipped my toes into sonnet seas a few times. But this is probably going to be my last jab at any official acts today. I need a day of rest. And some time with my head buried in a cozy mystery. And maybe happy weep over a few episodes of “Queer Eye.”

But what to title it?

Sonnet Spring 2019

It's the brittle smile, belladonna
bright eyes,that's the tell of denial.
Lids shut over eyes like tombstone magma.
What the eye doesn't see, truth cannot defile.
It's the breakdowns over crazy things.
The backed up sink. The cracked tea cup handle
unmooring you from the ballast one clings.
Lose a home, but weep  over lost baubles.
Which is easier than walking with ghosts,
feeling their hand grasp yours at the cross walk's
empty air. Most days it's just better to coast.
You are still shaken by the after shocks.
But try to gauge if your appropriate sad
has become a depression's Stalingrad.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
Sojourning Smith is participatingin GloPoWriMo2019.

Featured Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Ancestor Echoes

ancestor echoes

I woke up well pre-dawn today. So poetry practice in early darkness is back on track. And I had an inkling that I wanted to write about ancestral objects. I seem to collect objects that have family story attached. My walls are adorned with paintings by my father-in-law, brother-in-law, great uncle and niece. I have family tree photo montages. Yet there are plenty of blanks in the family history, as well as some secrets and probably a few lies, too.

After I wrote today’s poem – which is a curtal sonnet, a form invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins – I realised that today is my name day. In German tradition, you celebrate your patron saint’s feast day. Today is St. Barbara’s Day. I am Barbara the Third on the paternal line. So Happy Name Day Oma and Grandma!

The featured photo is of a portable writing desk that a cousin passed to me. When a friend refurbished it we realised that it had been an 1879 Christmas present from my maternal Great-great Grandmother Mary Ella to my Great-Grandmother Mary Ella (there are a lot of mother/daughter name repetitions on both sides of the family!). There was writing on the underside of the writing case in faded ink that said as much and recorded the date of the gifting. Helga reckoned it was handmade. There were a few signs of a shortcuts taken in its manufacture, probably as the deadline of the Great Day loomed.

In the days before laptop computers, these personal writing cases or lap desks were important personal objects. It felt fitting that a writer in the family became custodian.


Ancestor Echoes

We like to keep tokens to memory
Be it book or china jug or medal.
These solid things are both secrets and clues.
Ancestral objects of passed family,
Proof of links we cannot deny or annul.
They cannot speak. May not have wanted to.
The object remains of stories they leave –
A wedding ring, Will’s ruining fiddle -
What stories we tell are family’s glue.
Do they speak of love? Are we done with grief?
How true?
 
Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Love Sonnet

I woke early for me, before it was fully light, which allowed me to peacefully creep into the day once I had fed the cat collective. I read while I drink the first cup of tea of the day (green, with lemon, and a sugar/stevia sweetener to try and curb my sugar habit). I don’t know what I will write. But I am not an immediately wide awake riser. I slowly surface, like those divers who used to have to ascend metre by metre, so they didn’t get a bad case of the bends. I browse emails, social media, or a real book in hand. Whatever takes my fancy. What prompted today’s poem came from a stray line in a Brain Pickings email – no heart goes unplundered. That sentence was the trigger.

Surprising myself, I decided to bash away at another sonnet. Love and grief and sonnets cluster together nicely. There are so many kinds of love and loving, yet the essentials always remain true no matter what form it takes.

 

Love Sonnet

 

Love is not an object ordinary,

being subject to laws of physics.

Love is beyond chemistry, godlessly

opposed, lawless, crossing demographics,

moving nanoseconds faster than light.

Love has presence that will always pervade

absence. Grief will take us to darkest night.

Love will raise us upright and unbetrayed.

Even when we only have its perfume,

someone’s scent on sweater worn, though fading,

wraps its wooly memory, restoring bloom –

stem erect and poised for flower.

Resilience is love’s gift and power.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

 

Featured Image By Hu Totya – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1222063