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,

On Brooklyn Bridge

Last thing at night I made up my mind to write a sonnet. This was no easy option. I’ve tried and failed many times to write sonnets. I think I probably completed on for NaPoWriMo, just because I was bloody-minded and said I would complete each post’s challenge. But given the option of rhyming couplet or odes, it was looking more attractive.  This did not, however, stop me from indulging in lots of displacement activity this morning. I had a burning need to know whodunit and complete reading Sophie Hannah’s latest Hercule Poirot novel. (Incidentally, she began her writing career while still at Cambridge with a volume of villanelles.)  Then I also had errands to carry out., the compost bin to rearrange, the dog walked. THEN, I urgently needed to mop floors because we have guests arriving tomorrow evening.

But a sonnet it is for today’s poetry practice. It has been committed.

On Brooklyn Bridge


As I stand on Brookyn Bridge and looking

out to Lady Liberty beyond, and muse

to self how that sight felt to ancestors

who passed Her gaze and beheld this thing

arising so huge and full of portent,

which rhymed with heart and mind. That as may be.

That symbol would change their tongue and accent.

What losses paid for aspired to Beauty?

Those empty eyes. That light so high aloft

would only blink at passing ships at night.

Too feeble to make it safe to harbour,

to puncture venal desires, curing vices,

or elevate, or conform to higher choices.


Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

Day 11 NaPoWriMo2017

Today’s challenge – The Bop! ” the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition”

I actually wrote two poems. Up uncharacteristically early, my first effort was not really to my satisfaction. Then the internet went down. So I tried again. It may not really bop, but I think I may have managed to write my first sonnet!


The way we live now – obese, addicted

and over our collective sleepy heads,

in debt to octane, oligarchs and dead

from the eyes down.  Industry evicted.

The buckles rusted, belt redundant now.

Aground.  Or drowning . Not enough life boats

to go around.

Connection is the cure.


Despair has a terminal prognosis.

Connect. Try the trees before the woodland,

Or take up colour, bold instead of bland.

Persist.  Surprise yourself.  And focus.

Again I say, Focus! Be here and now.

There is plenty enough to keep afloat.

The scientific hope to share around:

Connection is the cure.