A Season of Remembrance

The Sunday Weekly poem arrives after a remarkably hectic week given the time of the year. I am not even sure why or how to describe such a procession of pleasant happenings as hectic. Perhaps I still have an extended post-birthday giddiness from my mock Mojito last Sunday. Yet, here we are descending into the dark pit of the year and I am feeling as frisky as Tigger. I love the alternating low sky with heavy rain, the astonishing sunsets and brief minutes of brilliant sunshine that are like the embers of a low fire.

Sundown over Paps of the Morrigan

No wonder the ancestors designated this the time of year to share memories and stories. It is averred that the Milesians, one of the early invaders of the island that we know as Ireland, said that ‘poetry is all memory.’ In an oral tradition that would be in a literal sense, but I am sure there are more metaphysical and metaphorical meanings to tease from that rubric.

In the twilight our group lit 350 candles in jam jars and placed them around the paths in the labyrinth to light our meditative walk around after sunset. John also lit a fire in the seating area in centre of the labyrinth for comfort. It was a night when you needed to wrap up well and wear a hat and gloves.

.

Labyrinth

Surrender to amazement. Be found
in the lantern lit labyrinth surrounded
by velvet darkness. Above,a cloud scudded sky
is blanched by a pregnant moon. Remember.
Once again, you may find who you truly
are. Bewilderment may find you a miracle
so fervently beseeched it was forgotten.
You may breach the maze in your mind
in the night's blooming darkness, its welcome
silence, in the scrying for your future,
reading the embers in the need fire.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved
Sundown at our home Friday night.
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Spooked?

Samhain, or Halloween, ’tis the spooky season, of ghosties and ghoulies and unexplained stuff that goes bump in the night. So it makes sense for this Sunday’s Weekly Poem to take inspiration from that wavey pavey line that divides our world from whatever is next. (If you believe in that kind of thing.) There is plenty of debate about that. If you watch The Good Place on Netflix you might play around with ideas that the otherworld is a kind of Medium Place where souls are stuck. As my young friend with a psychology Ph.D. observed, ‘being stuck’ is the flag that says you need therapy. If souls or spirits or ghosts are stuck, it would seem that even the dead can be in need of therapy!

Yesterday was the Day of the Dead, aka All Souls Day. It’s also my birthday, so the ancestors were much on mind even as I was savouring a pumpkin cheesecake made for my birthday tea. Halloween, or Samhain, was a three day feast back in the day when the pagan Celtic kind of people lived on this island. When Patrick Christianised Ireland the old customs would not completely die. So now we have the three day feast of Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Both traditions acknowledge, to a greater or lesser extent, that that the line between the world of the living and the dead is particularly permeable at this time of year. Some cultures celebrate the beloved dead, like the great Day of the Dead festivals in Latin America. In our more northern climes we are a bit more nervous of perhaps too close an encounter with the skeletons in the family closets. In Ireland the fairies were said to be particular active and might take a fancy to steal your child. Hence, dressing up and pretending to be dead, or something particularly unattractive for fairy snatchers. (NB: Fairies, we apologise for this libel on your character. This is a public service announcement.)

But the dressing up also allows us, whatever age, to explore being someone else, to live out some unlived life – the accountant masquerading as a pirate, the assertive woman fainting into one of Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Women in Peril,’ the sexually shy woman vamping it as Morgan le Fay. You can be an angel or a devil. You can flirt with The Good Place, the Bad Place and even the The Medium Place for what it is on The Other Side of that permeable curtain. (If you believe in that kind of thing…which I guess a lot of us do, because it can’t all just be a Hallmark plot to sell more cards.)

‘Tis the season after all.

Sinning Sainthood

All hail the saints!
All hail the souls
who missed the mark
but were beloved still.

We do the best we can
with the arrows of our intention
aimed at impossible targets,
that fail to launch
or fall wide of the bulls-eye.

Some saints tried to do their best,
slipped, missed,
but eventually
did better.
They improved their eye.

All hail the saints!
All hail the souls
who miss the mark,
but vow to do better
with their hands and eyes.

Our beloved dead
did the best they could
even when it should
have been better.

But then,
we who live
are not always
so well understood.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

It’s About Time

Our clocks went back to universal time at 2am this morning. I woke up just after 6am in the chilly twilight and felt immeasurably better.I burrowed back under the heft of the duvet and extra blanket. But even with the lie in, I was up early penning the Sunday Weekly poem. This is the time of year to make like the bear or small furry animals who disappear down tunnels into their dens. To parlay a Mary Oliver quotation differently… my “soft animal body” loves this time of year. Which does coincide with my birthday at the week’s end, so perhaps not quite so surprising. I revel in this dark part of the year, called Samhain in Ireland, and unlike many folk, feel quite energised by it. I am digging into the darkness.

We are not only setting the clocks back and diving into the darkness of Samhain, as we call Halloween and the month of November here in Ireland. (We even get a bank holiday for Halloween! It’s the ancient Celtic New Year. Yet another example of how we ‘do the double’ with two celebrations for New Year.) . It is also a New Moon in Scorpio. Those who live in environments with a lot of artificial light will never fully appreciate just how dark a dark moon can be at the darkest part of the year. You can understand why they thought the ancestors and other spirits roamed the countryside. It feels like the point just before the bang went off and the cosmos was born.

The early hours also had me looking at the etymological roots of the English words burrow (since I was so enjoying my snuggle in) and barrow. The latter can be a handcart and essential gardening tool in one sense. But the sense I was seeking was its life as an ancient burial mound. Long, long ago we put the ancestors to bed in what was not unlike an animal’s den. My favourite ancient monument on the Cavan Burren is called the Cairn Dolmen. First they buried their beloveds under a pile of stones. Later, the neolithic people plopped a dolmen on top of the pile of stones. Now, time is making it subside into the mound. It begins to look like a barrow.

My own personal name for this is The Fairy Cairn.

The Cairn Dolmen, Cavan Burren, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

I will only be giving you one poem this Sunday. Which is not to say that I have not been scribbling other drafts. But they were really only fragments.

I did have my first meeting with my mentor/ editor this week, beginning the revision process that will eventuate in a solo collection of poetry that began life in the 365 consecutive poem a day project that ended in September 2019. What you see in this blog is basically a second draft, occasionally a third tweaking. I am now beginning the slash and burn process. A friend of a friend calls this the ‘Kill Your Babies’ stage. My wise editor reframed this as…”think of it as separating conjoined Siamese twins and putting them in their own cots.”

This is how one unconjoined Siamese twin breaths in this new micropoem.

Her reading glasses
folded
lie on the bedside cabinet
with the paperback,
it's bookmark
three-quarters the way through
forever.

My etymological survey this morning ended up at a website on Paracelsus who had some very esoteric terminology used by theosophists. But it became my word play sandbox for the Weekly Poem. The title, Yliaster, is defined as the primordial matter out of which the universe has been formed in the beginning of time.

Time is very much on my mind this morning.

Yliaster

First
there was brine
so much
it sank into the earth.
It fell from the sky.
Those salty tears
became
the scaffolding of the cosmos.

Next
came brimstone,
the noxious engine,
the truth that no light
comes without
a spark
and a parp
keeps things moving.

Last,
quicksilver,
scattershot,
inspired,
all too, too
self-aware,
a realisation,
a dashing away -
flighty, fickle, unfair.

All so like us.

Chaos begat Chronos
from salt, sulphur, mercury.

We got
Time.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Stuck or Chuck?

Two poems for your this Sunday Weekly Poem edition. It’s been an interesting week to say in the least. The first poem was actually written in the aftermath of the full moon last Sunday. Because we have had a relatively clear sky at night, even the waning moon’s light has been filtering through the bedroom curtains. The second poem is really a meditation on a few telephone conversations and a social media comment. Once you do the whole feng shui, clearing out and giving away thing, why do you not feel better? What do you do with that void? Which really was a good question, an existential one that has universal application even. Off and on during the week I was in bed batting back a virus, sleeping and dreaming, and sweating physically and metaphorically. Also watching the breakneck speed of breaking news.

Sandwiched in between was a day spent in the prison’s Education Centre with a few heroes who do not recognise their own heroic status, but who did ponder, discuss, and explore in writing these heroic attributes: integrity, humanity, individuality, dedication, selflessness, freedom, happiness, companionship, loyalty, as well as the distinction between bravery and courage. It can be lonely being a hero, but they know that heroes need allies.

First, the October moon, aka The Hunter’s Moon or The Dying Moon. A quotation was another seed.

Birth and death are the most surreal events in life, and everything in between is collage, too.

Lucy Ellman
The Dying Moon

Her rays blaze out,
permeating the curtains drawn
to shut in the dark.

This is when the year dies,
when the year is at its most surreal.

She's going out
in Grandstand style
any old hunter could
pick off so
easily.

Flaunting Her light
before she wanes into
"Good Night"
"Farewell"
pondering
Her right

to be reborn
every month
but
as this year dies

at some point
on another
surreal axis

the hinges will again
creak and moan
give out a wail

it begins
as it ends
foliage bursting forth,
then falling, falling...
naked at each pole point

but inbetween
the foliage
where everything
is collage,
nothing decided,
just patched,
and pieced.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

A telephone conversation early this week led to my characterising 2019 as the year of ‘Stuck or Chuck”, which may account for the popularity of the Marie Kondo Netflix series. If we can just get organised, if we can achieve some order, if we can just be tidy…perhaps we can stem the tide of insanity of anxiety…maybe. But what happens if none of that happens?

Empty

All year
the paper mounted up and up
beseeching action...except... the final piece..
or maybe two or three...but not many..

left it languishing in paper prison,
incarcerated with no fixed term date
to look forwards towards. Or...

THE DEADLINE!

though this, too, can alter...those sticking points...

When you clean house, just try to chuck the box
propping the bed's leg up. You're in for a
collapse of more than dreams.

Is it a trap?

Chucking the baby, bassinette, water,
carving out a void, a hollow hiding
in wide open, inviting existence to
swallow.

To feel full on air instead of
stuffing, stuffing, stuffing mouths and houses,
filling, filling, filling the empty space.

And we watch Marie Kondo looking for
how to fold our fitted bed sheets on faith.
That the planet will not go down under
landfill or rising water or plastic

along with the bed and its wobbly leg,
the box holding it all up exploding
random contents, thoughts, our own nostalgia.
Our dreams.

Empty feels uncomfortable.
It is weightless. The moorings have slipped off.

Drifting in an expanse . Which may kill you.
Don't just tread water. Go learn how to swim.
Don't just space walk. Become an astronaut.

It's not good enough
a life staying stuck.
It's not good enough
to give everything
the chuck.

Or to predicate happiness
on satisfaction with your brimming plate,
a life full of love, with no tastes to hate,
guzzling fossil fuel, put our guts on fire
But still we want more
even if we all expire.

The empty space. Where once a box was placed.
It is white noise in symphany.
(Clap! Clap!)

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image  Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash 

The Whooper Swans Arrived this Week

The Sunday Weekly Poem turns out to be a series of poems in this edition. While I may not write a poem a day these days, I find that I feel better if I do write something fairly often. I have drafts of three poems and a haiku from this week, which also included leading an outdoor walk and writing workshop with some Reluctant Writers from Loughan House Open Prison. It involved walking around a blustery Cavan Burren from just before 10AM until nearly 3PM, a picnic lunch, and then some writing. The outing began with a brief shower. The heavy shower mercifully held off until 2pm (thank you, weather gods!) by which time we were hunkered down in the Visitor Centre with notebooks out and writing exercises underway. We wrote to the patter of rainfall on the shelter of the plastic roof, on picnic tables on the side of the centre avoiding the prevailing wind. We were out in open air, but writing in a building with only gable ends for walls. That in itself must have been a bit of a culture shock for some guys who until recently will have spent time in cells for twenty-three hours of every twenty-four.

Nature can be a great inspiration, even a healer. Those half dozen workshop participants can wander an open prison’s campus, itself a bit of an adjustment initially I am told. Some find it difficult to walk outside their rooms when they first arrive. One past resident confided in my husband that the sight of a full moon after five years made him weep. To then look down upon that very campus from a height, surrounded by mountains and loughs on all sides, has to shift perspective on some level. To walk in the woods and smell spruce, lichen and moss is to breathe a new kind of clean air. To walk among dolmens and wonder at how on earth they shifted those rocks to build them sparks questions, as well as the imagination. A walk in the woods among megaliths really can take you out of yourself. The ancestors are very palpable on the Cavan Burren and that did not go unnoticed by some. One participant said he had not realised how close to wilderness they were here in West Cavan and you could see the awe.

One thing these guys teach us is never to take this glorious landscape for granted. It’s a privelege to see it with fresh eyes again and again.

Cavan Burren
Cuilcagh Mountain viewed from Cavan Burren Park

It’s autumn for sure now. Our Virginia Creeper has gone crimson. On Monday there was some sunshine between showers and it was warm enough to sit outside. At least for a bit.

And Just Like That

As if
in response
to my own despondency

the clouds rolled in
blotting out
the sun
breezing in a spit spot
of rain
on my writing thumb

driving me
and semi-dry laundry
indoors again.

That may have been
the last blink of sun
for sitting out
now autumn
has truly begun.

I chide myself
not to take nature
so personally

but somedays I feel
we are one
body.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Then on Tuesday, as if to underline the official arrival of the season, I heard the whooper swans return to Lough Moneen where they overwinter from Iceland. The Whoopers have yellow bills instead of the orange ones. They also have a honk that some mistake for geese. Their winter sojourn in Ireland lasts between October to March. They are earlier than usual this year, with some friends reckoning they don’t usually turn up locally until near Halloween. On Wednesday, I saw a formation flypast. They often return to the same loughs each winter. One New Year’s Day I opened our front door and the first sight of the New Year was a flight of swans. Which certainly counts as a very special omen. But that was before I knew about the Omen Day tradition. (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/26/the-omen-days/)

whooper swan
Whooper swan in Kileforna from Wikipedia
Yesterday
I heard the whooper swans
trumpet song

Arriving
in an elegant slide
on water

Neighbour's lough
their winter home,
they honk 'Halló'

A long trip,
eight hundred miles or more
for six months

That's their flight
back and forth from Iceland.
'Bless, bless' Bye!

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

The days shortening light is inexorable and noticable now. Dawn is nearly 8AM. Darkness descends before 7pm.

Then the Half-Light

Then the half-light
either morning, at first
or early evening's
gloaming

Before dazzle
of full light
or confusion
of deepest darkness

We either
flinch or squint
shielding our sight
blink, blink

the shading hand
turns grasping
in our night
blindness

Then the half-light
delicate shadows
some light
some dark

We never fully see
We hark what we want to hark.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

I spotted pumpkins on sale in the supermarket this week. Halloween will be here soon. The clock’s will go back and we will be plunged into the darkest part of the year.

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?

A Clearing

Some people do Spring cleaning. But the autumn equinox is a similar good time to clean up and clear out. In our household we have been in a process of turning out cupboards, emptying boxes, donating to textile banks and charity shops, and generally reorganising everything. And soon enough we will be attending to the outdoors, clearing the gutters and putting the garden to bed for the winter. We have a lot of green tomatoes and these will have to be turned into pie and chutney.

All this clearing is really about trying to achieve some symmetry, a pleasing harmony out of what is often unruly and messy. Therefore, human. We strive for balance. But will settle, quite happily, for tidier.

Others refer to this week of equal day and equal night as one of the two hinges of the year. Some years you barely hear a creak. But this year it must have been rusty for all the groaning. I am writing this in the evening of the new moon in Libra, that sign of harmony and balance. This is what we all say we want, but gosh the world is awfully addicted to drama! Nor am I immune, given that I was having vulnerability melt downs over the writing on and off all week.

The Sunday Weekly Poem considers this time of year, the clearing, the exertion for balance.

How was your Equinox week?

A Clearing

She died Monday
just after the sidereal clock
said equinox.
Equal light.
Equal night.

Though this year
there were a few more days
before it was truly
equal light and night

and they laid her down
with her final rites
on that day that was
equally day and night

This is balance.

A beloved, ancient lady
surrounded by
five generations
descending

as she was put into
the ground
that day when hours
were equal day and night.

This is balance.

This is balance.

Though
difficult to negotiate
those clefts
in the heart

where the love's let in
and the artery
flushes
sorrow out.

Like the eye
in the sharp needle
where the angels dance
en pointe.

Or the loom's shuttle,
the warp and weft
its in and out
back and forth

the thread,
the sharpened scissors cutting off
and the darning back in
of that loose tail end.

This is balance.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash