What Water Remembers

This poem, probably the first properly new one of 2021, was a long time stewing on the back burner. I am still not sure if it is done or that it needs more time. But it is a gesture (Blast! Belay!) at the creative torpor that has descended this year. But, I am reassured by my friend Morag and from an article in the Huffington Post, that I am not alone in experiencing pandemic funk.

Spring is back. The snow melted away by Sunday and we have had days that are practically balmy at 10C. There have been little intervals of sunshine most days. The daffodils are pushing there way out. Soon we will be out tidying up the garden and sowing some of the first seeds. The birds seem fairly merry.

The weekly poem took root on 7th February when I appeared on my friend John Wilmott’s Carrowcrory Cottage Sunday Sessions , which you can find on Facebook or YouTube (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Carrowcrorysessions). The Q&A discussion brought up the topic of the Memory of Water. I am afraid I went away with the faeries for a bit and then my mind floated on the the topic of water as purifier. Fire is also considered a purifier. And Brigid has both fire and water as elemental symbols associated with her cult.

Eventually, my wayward imagination came to play with the purification symbolism of water…and memory.

 What Water Remembers
  
 In a lough pooling, river flowing, 
 a sea boiling, a cascade weeping  tears
 on stone as it is tripping down the mountain,
 the village pump, the kitchen tap dripping,
 atoms dancing in liquid form.
  
 Is forgetfulness an act of will
 or a wilful washing, a rubbing and scrubbing
 at the stubborn stains of memory? 
  
 Bit by bit the stain lifts.
 It shifts its patterns, the parts
 that fade leave rumours
 of grease, old grime, and whispers
 For shame
  
 What tried, tested and true failed to keep
 that memory sharp as the day it marked
 with a blood red letter?
  
 When does the memory stored
 spool out like old cine film getting
 plunged in its silver nitrate bath?
 And rinsed and rinsed and rinsed
 until the shadow show
  
 is in reverse
 What is memory? What is water?
 Quencher, purifier, a  drowning, a drunkard.
 What is washed away?
 What stays?
  
 The memory of water
 is not forgetfulness.
 It is forgiveness.
  
 Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.
   

Review the Language of Water

The challenge for Day 27 of NaPoWriMo would have us go at it slant. “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)” With only four months out on 2020 it might be a tad early to do the year in review despite Coronapocolypse. I have already written about my mother-in-law on her birthday earlier this month. We have had our first daytime rain shower in a a very long while, which is unusual for Ireland. So I took water as my subject for review. And again, there are reviews and there are revisions.

The Language of Water
 
Sometimes it’s easiest as mother tongue,
though after a drought you can stumble
with its declensions. You need to review its
vocabulary. Best not to take it for granted,
like the opposable thumb. Oftentimes, it can stun.
It can have all the mystery of the foreign.
 
In some lonely places off the track
there are springs whose water slips like silk
and softens your fingers.  Then at others,
if you pause to drink, you taste the iron or peat.
Locals search for the one that is sweet.
Soft or hard, icy or warm, contained in a cup
or in a stony wellhead, it can overrun.
It can drown. It can cure or quench. It can be
rampant as forest cataract in spate.
It can be fresh, or salty as our tears,
as regularly irregular as ocean tides.
 
We barely know ourselves well enough
to describe our elemental being. Fluency
does not come easily. It becomes life long
study, revise and review. It takes constant
speaking, writing, reading the sky,
its clouds, and watching how the rivers run.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.
 

And then, because for those who are in very strict lockdown who are confined to quarters, or even those of us who are a bit restless for different scenery and want to revisit places in memory…I offer you memories of water.

Motherland

In the land of my birth, today is Mother’s Day. Many years ago,as a Mother’s Day gift, I sent my own mother a poem written on a Donegal beach, contemplating the ocean between us that also was what bound us. Years later when we were putting items into her coffin that poem went with her into the ground. 

It is a Sunday and I am not a mother. But I do have a great deal of leisure time to spend with poetry practice. I birth other things. I actually wrote two poems this morning. Somedays it takes a while to get the poetry engine purring. And while we all have biological mothers, let us not forget the one who sustains us ultimately.

Motherland

Some mountains are mothers.

Others are the granny

Having her back while she’s

Labouring hard, panting

Into the birthing stone.

Remember the mother

Distraught, wasted away

When her daughter was snatched,

Held hostage, forced into

An unholy marriage.

There are consequences

Until you give something.

Reparation for wrongs

Done to the motherland.

For she will always

Prevail.

                 We though, may not.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith


Body of Water


A spring is the rising well in my heart

fed deep below or far above runoff,

the cascade roaring over the rock face.

Cataracts blinding as one’s salty tears,

create countless burns, brooks, becks streaming.

Rivers form and fork like two legs meeting.

I carry the ocean in my belly.

Even now the old tug and pull of tide

still presides through the moon’s wax and waning.

An ocean bed is still an ocean bed

even when the tide has carried water

far, far out,you still carry the vessel

holding the light in phosphorescent night.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

Motherland mothersday
Hoy, Orkney

Featured photo ‘the naval of earth’ at Uisneach, Ireland