Weekly Poem -In the Grip of

It is very hot for Ireland this week. Which accounts for my later posting of the weekly poem . While our temperatures are in the 25-27C range, (which sounds laughably cool to many people) with the humidity in the 80 percentile it is not comfortable for folks used to summers where a few days at 21C is a cause for rejoicing and the populus turning lobster pink as we boil in the unusually relentless sunshine.

Consequently, I am rising early and doing activities that are…well, active before noontime. Air conditioning is unheard of in Ireland except in public buildings. The supermarket was cool, but my ice cream cone (that I ate outside where I could take off my mask) was a bit melty by the time I finished it. The lane’s tarmac weeps once we go over 25C. So I am walking our little dog between 7am and 8am each morning to preserve his wee paw pads. Even by 8am the exertion makes me sweat. There is a race to water, weed and harvest in the garden before I swoon from the sun. Also, to do any cooking since putting on the oven or using the gas stove only adds to the heat. So, I only settled down (wearing my bou-bou from Mogodishu, a gift from a South African friend) to write the weekly poem well after lunchtime. It is, in part, inspired by a stray fact gleaned from the Long Read in today’s Guardian by Zarlasht Halaimzai. I commend it to you.

In the Grip of a Death Cult, we

bomb the Kabul maternity home
making it a grave for so many newborns;
exhume the septic system of Tuam’s
Mother & Baby Home. 
Count out the tiny remains-
the hundreds and hundreds not unlike
those found out the back of the Kamloops Institute 
(except they were not white)
buried toe to toe. Who knows

who actually loves children?
We would like to think the future.
Certainly not the past. Or even  the now.
We prefer to love them in utero
where so many hearts bleed over
embryonic potential, adoringly viewing
the ET finger waving home from behind
the scan’s screen. Who knows why

we treat them so differently once they
cross the line into actuality, handing them
a fate where they starve, are bombed out,
hounded, tortured, caged for the audacity
of birth that so many swear is their greater good.

Over and over we lay this Isaac on that altar 
to a god hungry for blood, 
one who does not stay Abraham’s hand. 
Nor do we question said authority
demanding that the little children shall suffer
even as we sentimentally mourn the many lost
in their potentiality. 
Even in the face of their brutal actual 
brief lives – short of breath, snuggle, succour and love.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash

Weekly Poem – Magpie

While there was a little lull in the Geopark Poetry Map proceedings I have been catching up with some house and garden tasks put on the (very) long finger. But now I am again reading submissions, this time from the school children of Curravagh National School and Florencecourt Primary School. With both groups I had introduced the haiku on previous visits pre-Covid 19 and as a preparation lesson before my school visit. In the session I also introduced the poetry form of the cinquain. It is a five liner, but unlike a five line form like the tanka you do have license to rhyme if that is how the muse leads you. In addition, we had to talk about the geoheritage and Geopark site element that was an important component to the poems, too.

While only two children had never visited a Geopark site before, many had visited a wide range of sites across the Geopark – Castle Archdale, Ely Park Lodge, Devenish Island, White Father’s Cave, Pollnagollam Waterfall, as well as sites closer to home like Marble Arch Caves, Claddagh Glen, Shannon Pot and Cavan Burren Park.

However, I was really struck by a poem written by a child who is considered educationally ‘challenged.’ While he did not write a poem about a Geopark site, his poem about the den in his garden was a standout. It had vivid images. His simple language conveyed a contentment and feeling of security and serenity that is marked in these uncertain times. I wish I could include it, but sadly it does not fulfill the geoheritage criteria. But I made sure to write his principal to ensure that he gets some praise heaped upon his head for his very well conceived and executed poem.

It really is both a pleasure and a privilege to be reading all these submissions.

For the weekly poem this week I decided to write a cinquain, too. The five liner runs 2-4-6-8-2 syllables per line. The subject has been haunting me these past few weeks, sometimes, rather unnervingly, peering straight at me through my bedroom window in the morning. Yesterday on my dog walk up to the holy well I happened upon a found object.

Magpie

Feather
edge cobalt blue bleeds
to coal black, finally
transitioning to bottle green:
magpie


Meanwhile, it is back to the house and garden tasks. I have a half-finished bedroom that needs the final wall painted. The (fully vaccinated) niece is calling next week and wants to have a peek at all the do it yourself rehab going on. There is also a lot of bindweek and cleavers that needs to be weeded out and burned at the stake!

I hope that you are finding some summertime joy safely, in uncrowded places.

Featured image by Natasha Miller on Unsplash.

Weekly Poem- Longest Day

We have passed the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. We have had not just long days and short nights. Even the nearly full moon was blasting away at 2am when the cat that was the muse of last Tuesday’s weekly poem scratched at the window to be let indoors. I only opened one eye, but I did sense a very pink moon. I know that last full moon was technically the Blood Moon, but this upcoming Strawberry Moon was just as pink!

We are having cool temperatures and not a great deal of rain. Mercifully, as I type this we are having a good shower. Everyday brings gardening tasks of one sort or another. Always some weeding. We do not use artifical weed killer, so it is done by hand, with burning or drowning the most pernicious ones. Some are just wild plants and if they are not interfering with the vegetables then they are left in peace. Unless they are bind weed or cleavers, locally known as ‘Sticky Willy.’ weeding them is the Sisyphus task of my life, plucking and burning almost daily this month.

After a very, very cold spring and late frosts, things are beginning to green and grow. While I understand that the USA is having a plague year of cicadas, this year the midges are having a rave up in my part of West Cavan. They love me too much. When there is no breeze I am essentially under house arrest. Which brings me to the Summer Solstice on Sunday when I was forced to stay indoors to avoid being midge meal on a banquet scale. I stayed insided composing the Weekly Poem.

When you live in the country and have such an abundance of nature, it often leads to wild crafting remedies. My friend Morag plucked some bog myrtle from a nearby bog for me. Half of it is mascerating in a jar of almond oil to make midge repellant. So far, it has been the most effective prophylactic from the bites that I react to so badly. The other half is still in its bunch for me to keep beside me. I do actually see midges flying indoors – impossible to keep them out in a land that does not believe in screen windows – do a ninety degree turn around when they come close to me and I have it on me!

Of, course, now that we have had a good rain shower, the slugs will be patrolling. The vegetables most tasty them them (and us) are in raised beds with copper tape stuck on the perimeter.

There is a great satisfaction in growing some of your own food. It also cuts down on food miles and is better for the climate. It’s an activity I can see myself dedicating a great deal of energy to in the years to come. It is also an exercise in learning how to cut your losses. It humbles any notions of being in control right out of you.

Also there is still poetry… here is this week’s offering

Longest Day

A stillness where nothing stirs –
not leaf or blade of grass,
no bird song or bee hum –
agitates.

One yearns to break the stalemate
silence.
Its’ haunting absence makes me
walk round and round the rooms
picking up objects. Then putting them down
again.

Cats’ whiskers quiver so they say
with foresight, feeling
earthquake,
or the tsunami about to break making
land fall.

I feel like those cats.

Yet without their Cassandra instincts
complete.
Unlike them, I do not just make myself scarce.
Instead

I sit with this stillness where nothing stirs.
Except
every fibre in me.
I hold its eerie.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

The Weekly Poem – Birch

This post is written in haste. The poem was written in advance because today we will travel north of the border and meet much loved relatives after the long Lockdown separation. Our nephew has not been seen since Christmas 2019. Our niece did visit briefly last September, but it was a sad sojourn of making end-of-life decisions and saying goodbye to the dog of her childhood; Ellie came to live with us when her Mum was hospitalised and it became clear that the dogs should stay with us. (Ellie has been immortalised in some poems on this blog; https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/01/30/cailleach-conditions/.) So this is the prospect of a joyful reunion, released as we are from Lockdown, into a post-vaccination world of pandemic hugs. I am so over-excited I cannot say if I am beside myself or over and above myself!

So…without further ado…on to the weekly poem! Which was generated from the Personal Universal Deck that NaPoWriMo 2021 suggested on Day 3. It has actually turned out to be a very fun poetry tool. And the birch tree feels like a worthy totem for our brave, slightly tentative, pandemic new world.

Birch

Whether white, silver or gold...
I have sipped your sap,
chawed on a peeled strip of bark
that is your fat, your taste
unmistakeable, both fresh
and keen as new beginnings
that you know will somehow
turn out sweet as the hull
of the canoe transporting you
on that next adventure.   

I have seen seven birch trees
dancing in a huddle together
on a bog in Fermanagh
under their sister Pleides
that small gourd offering all
refreshment after a long, long
drought, Drink a long draught.
Stand tall once again.
Listen to the rustle of the catkins
early in the season, itching
to dance with spring's fair wind
even when it still feels cold.

Tree of second chances...
starting up and over, one that knows
joy even in the coldest, the darkest
of places on earth. It knows it is
truly a good earth for all, even
for the mistaken and the misguided,
that the lost need their chance to be found
once again, at the last, which is at
the very optimistic heart of 
this tree's very hard wood.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

The Weekly Poem – Tuning Fork

During a pandemic is is nice to have a routine engagement in the diary. If it is Tuesday, then it is time to write and post the weekly poem, even though it be a first draft. I have been working hard on the MACGeopark Poetry Map project, so it was like rediscovering play this morning when I realised I could write anything at all that I wanted. The sheet was blank. So was my mind, too!

But I took up my Personal Universal Deck, a little activity set during NaPoWriMo2021 last month, and pulled some cards to see what sparked. If you want to create your own set of poetry prompt cards I refer you to that original NaPoWriMo post on Day 3. They post a link that tells you how to make your own. ttps://paulenelson.com/workshops/personal-universe-deck/. It’s quite a long process as my students and I found out. This was the first time I actually put them through their paces.

The benefits of word play…and I stress the play element, is not to be underestimated. It has been a cold, rainy Spring here in Ireland and some outdoor projects have been put on the long finger. Temperatures have been so low at night time we have delayed planting. So play has to devolve to indoor activities a good deal of time this past month. Anyway, a bit of whimsy and word play is a bit of fun on a damp Tuesday.

Tuning Fork

Strike it on my cast iron hearth.
It trembles, quivers as it vibrates, hums
just like my husband's, quiet breath
in tune with his internal beat and flow
(a great favourite word of his).
Even as the cats' whiskers twitch, as do
the little deaf dog's ears alert,
then subside back into slumber. Whose tune?
What melody line flirts around
the kitchen and the living room? Airwaves
stroke like long fingers in concert,
musician's hands working the afternoon
Palm Court crowd supping  fancy tea,
wiping melted butter oozing off crumpets.
All in time to the sweep and sway
of stringed instuments, sometimes lulled, sometimes
breathless with tension,  suppressing
excitement, the breath shallow, chest heaving.
What key do we play in today?
Can we learn to sight read the shivering
airwaves, divine the call for right
response? Or let them dance like dust motes play,
suspended in the late afternoon light.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.


If it is a dull day and you fancy trying your hand at writing a poem, you could do worse than peruse the poetry prompts I have been posting to inspire geoheritage poems to be submitted to our digital Geopark Poetry Map. I have been making daily posts the past ten days and will do a fortnight’s worth in all. Hope you can have some fun word play today, too. And if it is rainy this weekend you have some inspiration at hand.

Featured image Photo by Magic Bowls on Unsplash

The Weekly Poem – The Do Over

Bearing in mind that Mercury goes retrograde on May 29th, the poem for this week contemplates all the ‘re’ words. For the non-astrologically minded reader of this blog, Mercury going retrograde is associated with all kind of technological snarls, travel delays and episodes of “What on earth were you thinking?!” Some astrologers say that it can last longer than the irksome three weeks with a shadow period. In which case, the complete fiasco with my Zoom Soul Journeys and Maps group this past Sunday was right on cue. So I am backing up all my Geopark Poetry Map files for sure!

Those words beginning with the prefix re are said to be well-starred during Mercury Retrograde periods, while we are gnawing our elbows over technical snafus and equipment collapses.

Speaking of the Geopark Poetry Map project, each day this week and next I am posting a daily poetry prompt based on one of the sites featured in a marvelous document compiled by Martina O’Neill, Development Officer for Partnerships and Engagement. at Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. So check out the blog each day if you want a bit of poetry prompting and motivation. Anyone anywhere in the world is welcome to submit a poem, though only people in Ireland can visit the sites in person . And that is only fairly recently when travel restrictions were eased.

One of the things we are doing again now is taking walks in local forest parks like Cavan Burren and Glenfarne Demesne just over the county line in Leitrim. I like my lane for walks, but a change of scenery is very welcome. Some snaps from Sunday’s walk. The internet may have let me down, but nature never fails to uplift.

The Do Over

Rewind and now resurrect.
Go back and now retrace steps.
Review all of one's options.
Reconsider a career-
perhaps as Mary Poppins.

What life could have been like
if one had only veered left...
Review every little thing,
done or left undone, incomplete -
like that long abandoned college
course credit just short of a degree.

Slip off the snakeskin of failure.
Throw away that winding sheet.
I  t is only made of paper.
Remove to Boston, fly away
to Australia if only
in your imagination.

Reconsider your options.
What is done? What is do over?

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Weekly Poem and a Change of Scenery

I am treating this as an exercise separate to NaPoWriMo this year since I am juggling writing projects and teaching. For instance, today I completed the first draft of a poem for a friend’s birthday. Under Lockdown, it can be hard to source birthday presents. I asked her if she would like an audiobook. She went away to think about it and came back with the request for a poem just for her. Her wish is my command!

Likewise, on the teaching front we have been deep diving into form since March. The NaPoWriMo Day 3 prompt introduced the concept of the Personal Universal Deck, which is a really handy tool to get your poetry going. But it takes a long time, especially under Covid timelines. (Well, doesn’t everything take longer?!) We used some session time to work on it as all of us are juggling projects, jobs, and in some cases home schooling kids. Though we seemingly have all the time in the world under Lockdown, time still seems to be in short supply. I drive my husband mad with what he calls my ‘infinite to do list’ that is running through my mind. However, he benefits from that organizational mental gymnastics!

And yet, as of yesterday, our restrictions have loosened somewhat. We can move around our county and the kids are all back doing in-person schooling. My husband will get his first Covid-19 vaccination this Friday. We celebrated these milestones by going for a woodland walk about 8 miles from home. Glenfarne Demesne was carpeted with wood anemones. We stopped to pat the pillows of sphagnum moss on the rocks. The greenery in the woodland was positively psychedelic. A little shower did not deter us from wandering along a 2 kilometre trail and stopping to stare at Lough MacNean. We filled our hungry eyes with a change of scenery.

But to the weekly poem. As opposed to an occasional NaPoWriMo daily offering that I am tossing at the blog as time allows. After playing with our Universal Personal decks in Zoom class last Saturday we took a quotation from a Tom Paulin poem as a jumping off point.

In the meadows of the spirit

I kiss the word

Tom Paulin, The Other Voice
Kiss Each Word

I kiss each word that spells out
the magic in imagination.
I shut my eyes and I am there
in the meadow beside the Shannon Pot,
full of  as yet uncut cowslips,
pyramidal orchids, buttercups.
I am the child running waist deep
in grass and reeds
her yellow hair swishing left and right
in the late afternoon summer sunlight.
ViviLnk

Mothering Sunday

While in North America this Sunday is the day when the clocks ‘spring forward’, in Ireland and the UK it is Mother’s Day, also called Mothering Sunday. The latter name came from the era of armies of domestic servants who were allowed home, brandishing Simnel cake, on that Sunday in March, often close to Lady Day. For many in domestic service this was the only day off a year. (Simnel cake is also a British Easter cake and is topped by little marzipan balls, which might also double as eggs.) Lady Day falls on March 25th, the old Gregorian calendar New Year’s Day. Coincidentally, it was also the date when tenant farmers needed to pay their landlords the annual rent.

I missed out last Sunday to mark International Women’s Day with a poem since I was busy with a Zoom workshop. So I decided to write a bonus poem this week.

Mothering Sunday

It is pouring outside.
Like that milk that pours
from that bottomless urn in the night sky.
We are millenia
and thousands of miles away
from Hathor pouring from her night sky jug.
She is up there, invisible
this rainy Mothering Sunday in Ireland.

We complain of the rain,
but never the constant flowing milk of mother love,
that distinctive kindness continually raining down-
meal after meal,
the relentless tide of washing,
the wiped snot, the iodined hurts,
the tears wiped,
the home work, hand-made and patch-worked,
the loneliness

that is only told to the Milky Way
some nights reserved just for mothers
when Hathor rains down from her realm
that mother love
for the tired, tried, and tested
mothers' whose udders ache
from their continurally lactating love,
milking the final drop left
on this parched planet
as they ceaselessly hold up the sky.

Copyright Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.
 

Featured image Photo by Christopher Martyn on Unsplash

Dragon, Damsel, Dance and Fly!

I love how synchronicities work. This week’s poem began as a creative writing warm up exercise with my fellow Word Alchemists last Saturday. In an exercise called “Word Salad” I haul out my mammoth Oxford English Dictionary and randomly pick six words I literarily close my eyes, open a page, twirl my finger in the air and then light down onto the page. Once we have six words, I challenge us to use all of them in a quick piece of timed writing. It is fun. It can be ridiculous. It can also be quite illuminating as you make formerly unseen connections.

One of those random words was Odonata, which refers to that order of flying insect life that includes the example of dragon and damsel flies. I am very fond of both who zip in and out of our lives. One dragonfly once buzz bombed me down our lane while walking the dogs. Another hummed around the polyutunnel one day as I was tending the tomato plants. In my more fey moments I think of them as the way fairies morph for transport in a way that won’t startle the humans, kind of like a Fairy Aeroflot.

So I had reworked the Saturday effort for this week’s poem when in walks my husband to present me with an aromatherapy necklace with a dragonfly on it!

Dragonfly Aromatherapy Necklace

Tony was completely unaware of what was emerging from my notebook’s scribblings and crossings out. He chose it principally because I like purple and it amuses him to think he is living with a dangerous (b)older woman who wears a lot of purple. Please do check out the Jenny Joseph poem that he is alluding to….https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/warning/

BTW, I also like its complimentary colour of yellow and have added a rather fetching mustard boyfriend cardigan to my 2021 wardrobe. Sometimes you just to have to stop living and go online shopping instead, to paraphrase the BB King song.

In any context, I always feel that dragonflies and damselflies bring some magic into life. What one of us could not do with a sprinkling of magic into our days these days? For (b)older people like myself who will have to wait a while for our Covid vaccination, we have a fairly long stretch in Lockdown Land for the foreseeable future.

The Dragons and Damsels Dance and Fly

The cranes are dancing in Japan...

Where would they deign to create a folkdance
to celebrate the order Odonata?
Where would we see them zip and pond dip
in costumes of emerald and peacock blue?
See the damsels curtsey to brother dragon.
They do not jeté or  or swank about 
in Swan Lake chorus line. They still  dance and fly.

When summer feels a one ten thousandths
polar distance away...
Oh, when will we meet again at crossroads
to sing and dance on St. John's Eve?
When shall we see familiar faces flickering
on  that midsummer Bonfire Night?
For now, we remain horror-struck
in a wind chill factor wintertime.

The cranes are dancing in Japan
in the snow, where they bow and bow
their necks, issuing the invite
to their fellows to do-si-do.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Erik Karits 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