Weekly Poem – What Would I Give?

I took a break from the blog last week. It was a week of reuniting with members of my husband’s family who live over the border in Northern Ireland. On the 4th, his eldest brother celebrated his 80th birthday in the care home where he resides. We convened with his twin brother and took turns to visit as he can only have two at a time. It was a stormy drive with scattered deluges on the way there, but we made it there and back. The following day our much loved niece came for her week off from her hospital job. It was a laid back time- she crochetted, I knitted, we picked elderflowers and I initiated her into cordial making according to the Aunty B method. (Include lemon balm and rose petals in the mix.) We revelled in one another’s company. What we cherish after the many Lockdowns this past year is the face-to face meetings. We are all vaccinated and we still are not being wildly sociable.But we are prioritising seeing loved ones who have been scarce on the sofa these past eighteen months.

I only caught up later in the week with an article in the Weekend Guardian Review by Tishani Doshi. It is a dangerous job being a poet. (I know some will have cognitive dissonance over this. We are, as a tribe probably a majority of myopics with poor hand -eye coordination.It’s like imagining a librarian as a guerilla fighter…which, metaphorically speaking, they are actually.) Several years back I did some research for a Toastmasters speech. According to PEN International, oppressive governments have never liked writers in generally, but they disproportionately jail poets. Which is a surprise since being a poet earns you peanuts. We are hardly oligarchs bankrolling a coup. Yet apparently our economic disadvantage allows us a super-power for getting up the sensitivities of dictatorships. Poets are considered much more of a threat than even investigative reporters or editors of publications critical of a regime. Read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jul/05/flogged-imprisoned-murdered-today-being-a-poet-is-a-dangerous-job.

Perhaps poetry is the best way to authentically bear witness, not just to the facts of events or the sweep of history, but of the feelings invoked in an individual who is a particle of the zeitgeist. I think of the Cursing/Blessing Stone that is in a townland about seven miles from us. In the face of insurmountable injustice, when individuals and a population have no recourse to compassion or natural justice, why wouldn’t you lay a curse in the absence of any other personal power? But also, when things go right, why wouldn’t you bless the justice giver? Now many will tell you that an unjust curse will backfire on you and your descendents for many generations to come. But that stance lacks the point of view of a person whose only agency to to call down whatever supernatural power to deliver some accountability for evil done and cruel power exerted over others. We grow impatient for Nemesis to arrive. In bearing witness with language, both spoken and written, perhaps poets are invoking a similar curse or blessing for human accountability and hustle on the karma delivery. Perhaps, somewhere on the periphery of the collective unconscious dictators understand that poets will call down Nemesis on their heads.

The weekly poem grew out of our last monthly poetry session (July’s session is this Saturday where we will tackle the terror of the villanelle.) We met on Zoom on Juneteenth and we explored the theme of freedom, which offered me the opportunity to channel some empathy for social justice for others. I hark back to a quotation in an On Being email.

We all come into this world with a need for connection and protection AND with a need for freedom.

Esther Perel
What Would I Give?

What would I give for a life that meant I
had a full belly, a roof overhead,
a quiet night in with the telly
uninterrupted by shouts downstairs or
bangs on doors by a dealer or a loan shark
wanting 100,000%
compounding interest. Then, the bailiff
coming to pull you out with your mattress.
What would I give for a life with nothing
to lose- not a home thrown like an old bone
gnawed by rats who're at the Leccy metre. 
Just let the kids be okay. Let my mum
get her hip replaced without delay.
What would I give for a life? Everything...

Copyright © Bee Smith 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Weekly Poem – What the Cat

It has been a hectic few days. Today is the closing date for the Geopark Poetry Map. Which is why the Weekly Poem is published a bit later in the day than normal. The rest of the week will also be busy reading the submissions and liaising with Geopark staff via Zoom.

It was also a day that began early with a school workshop on the Geopark Poetry Map in a Fermanagh school. While the rest of the world seems to be getting broiled, steamed or stewed in summer heat, here day broke with a temperature of 12C/54F. And there was no promise of it nosing much farther than that until much later in the day. The workshop had to be outdoors, but we had a bell tent for shelter and rough hewn ‘desks’ from reclaimed cable reel wheels and stools from tree stumps. The children sat on tarps spread over the bark ‘floor’. The rain held off, but the midges, as we say here in this part of the world, were mighty! This particular primary school is interested in the whole concept of Forest Schools. Given the pandemic, this is their moment! Covid Regulations do not allow visitors inside schools at all (except for repair and maintenance workers.) For freelancers like me, our only way of interacting with school children is outdoors and in a mask or face shield. For teachers who can squeeze us into their programme, they are grateful for the children getting some outside influence. A new face, even if it is behind a plastic face shield.

More than ever before I feel strongly that poetry writing needs to be part of the core curriculum.” Poetry makes you feel calm.” So said an 11 year old today. It has been far from calm these last two years, which make up about a fifth of their lifetime already. Poetry writing can help children process all the emotional challenges of this pandemic and what it has meant for them personally and for their families. Nature can be healing, too.

The school we visited today is very lucky in having over an acre of land that they can use for playing fields and outdoor activities. They plan on erecting another tent ‘classroom.’ But most schools do not have that option. In Brooklyn, where my brother lives, they closed his street so the public school on the corner could have recess space. The playground itself was transformed into an outdoor classroom last fall.

It was an early rising. Not quite amrit vela as it was already light. I dashed off a poem for today and began noodling with another. While one of our other cats has often been the featured hero of poems published in this blog, we have a new entry today. The ginger ‘legacy’ cat. Basically, we have an inexhautable supply of feline muses in this household.

What the Cat Brought In

through the bathroom window last night
would upset you.
A fledgling, some feathers more fluff
than sleek wings.
Maybe it had already tumbled down.
Maybe Toff
did not hunt it down, but either way
it's been left
outside the bedroom door, a trophy of his
devotion.
Even though birdie carcasses give me the
willikers
I get out the dust pan and brush,
removing
what would make you sad at start of
a new day,
the trophy of my own devotion.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.


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

What is Geoheritage?

The poems for the Geopark Poetry Map are beginning to drop into the GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com inbox. We have twenty more days for poem submissions and I thought a timely reminder on the theme of geoheritage might be in order. Now this is how scientists view the matter. Geoheritage is defined by Geological Survey Ireland as: 

‘encompassing features of geology that are intrinsically important sites or culturally important sites offering information or insights into the evolution of the Earth; or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference.’

What could this mean as the subject of a poem? Think long time and slow time, what ice ages have written in the land and how that has affected those who have lived on it. In that respect you might want to write a poem about the lime kilns, sweat houses, the dolmens and wedge tombs that were created from the glacial eratics that can be found across the landscape. This is one I see virtually everyday when I walk my dog down our lane, sitting in the middle of a field.

Hag Stone Corrogue

It is also the way water, wind and the earth interact with one another and how they slowly change over time. When I walk around Cavan Burren Park the limestone pavement was once subtropical sea floor.

If you look at our townlands’ names in the Irish you see the literal landscape painted in language. Down the lane from us is a little lough called Corrakeeldrum. In Irish it is Corr an Chaoldroma. This translates as the round hill in the narrow ridge. Those rounded hills are drumlins and drumlins are what is very distinctive about our Geopark landscape. Have a look at this photo and see for yourself.

Corrakeeldrum

Whether you choose rock art or fossils wrought in rock we see the long stretch of eons in the making. Poetry is about both connecting and making with language. The glacial eratics on the landscape and the waterways have been immortalised in myth. A rock is Fionn McCool’s fist. A pool springing from underground caves becomes the source of the River Shannon that will run all the way down the length of the land. Two wedgetombs mark the place where two Giants would leap across a dry river valley. Story helps us connect the long time in our own immediate time. The bards, Ireland’s original poets, did just that.

You can play at being an archaelogist with language and imagination instead of a trowel and soft brush when you write poems on the theme of geoheritage. For the weekly poem I have chosen an older poem that has been tinkered with over years. Poems, too, evolve over long time. This one I worked and reworked until I got sick of the sight of it. But today I pulled it out and the tinkering was a pleasure. And it still may not be ‘done!’ done. Sometimes the re-drafting process is a bit like chipping an image into rock like those cup and ring marks of old.

Except in our own age we have deadlines to attend to. The deadline for submitting poems to the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poetry Map is 31st May 2021.

Layers

As a marriage can be happy,
fruitful as a tree –bud, blossom, 
to ripe berry.

Another layer of being,
many and one, but never
one and the same.

The land is layer on layer-
mud, grit, sandstone, granite, and lime, 
veined with iron.

Once, land was the word for people-
springing up to bud to blossom
to ripe berry.

Once, land  also meant belonging.
Just as a forest is a tree’s
one family.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved

The Weekly Poem – The Long Division

Tentative re-opening here in Ireland. We had a shared outdoor coffee with friends last week and had a laugh. Isn’t it great to hear a company of people laughing at some shared joke? It feels quite intimate. Especially as we have probably just been laughing on our own to episodes of comedies on Netflix for the past fourteen months. I discovered the charming ridiculousness of Brooklyn 99 over the winter and I did do the literal LOL sometimes. But to laugh in company feels liberating after the long winter and the cold spring. I may yet regret sending all those sofa throws to recycling. We may need them for outdoor physically distanced tea on the terrace!

I saw my hairdresser drive down my lane and if there wasn’t a pandemic on (and her vehicle shielding her) I would have hugged her I am so happy to have a hair appointment on May 13th. I last saw her nine months ago. She has a salon in the village so would have seen her frequently in pre-pandemic times. Nuala, I am so happy to have you back! She has been working in care homes during Lockdown so got her vaccination three months ago. Also, she gets Covid tested every Tuesday. How is that for a confidence booster?!

Our own second vaccination is on 14th May. From 24th May, we have 94% immunity. But that doesn’t mean that I am going to madly go out and see lots of people. I have marked it on the calendar though as ‘Immunity Day.’ (Well, 94% Immunity Day anyway!)

I do have to carefully consider going in to schools for sessions though and I am still weighing that up. Where I have been in schools before and they know what I look like without a mask it feels sort of okay. But to go in where my face is unknown feels kind of weird. Also, in conjunction with the Geopark Poetry Map project, it would involve schools cross-border and each jurisdiction will have differing guidance. Meanwhile, thank heavens for Zoom. I have an ergonomic seat cushion now to help with the sciatica from long sessions. Not perfect, but it helps.

The theme of Division has been in mind. One You Tuber I watched this week says that the collective energy at the moment is Division. And surely we have got plenty of anecdotal and empirical evidence to back that claim. Some don’t ‘believe’ in the illness, while others trust the science. Some don’t want to mask while others (like myself) have been double masking since this time last year when I could obtain mask filters on Amazon. Some will vaccinate and others will not. We live in a global society of haves and have-nots. We do live in the most divided of times it would seem.

Hence, the title of this week’s Weekly Poem, which also harkens to my slight discalculia, only discovered once I was an adult.

But before I get to that, just a reminder that I am curating the #MACGeopark #Poetry #Map and we need contributions. The deadline for submissions is 31st May 2021. You don’t have to be local either. I have already had one submission from Michigan, USA and another from Singapore. Research is often a good start for a poem and the Geopark staff have provided a great document to help submitters. Email me at GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for full details.

Mapping Marble Arch Caves Geopark Poem by Poem in a digital Poetry Map
The Long Division

Long division, the fraction represented by
the decimal point, not a chunk of pumpkin pie
on a virtual plate. What a confounded headache
for my young brain, fumbling, making countless mistakes.
I failed at dividing - wandering cloudlike past
boundary walls, crossing borders quite unabashed.
I preferred the geometry of the circle -
the line drawn together, sewn into a portal.
Everything is connected neatly. And equal
in how one stands for everyone. It's peaceful,
not lonely, all chipped off into fractious factions,
crouched behind that decimal...fatal abstractions.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Vic on Unsplash

Lockdown Fatigue

8 of swords

It’s a real thing, a recognised phenomenum. We are so over the restrictions of staying in our 5km zone and here in Ireland we are waiting, waiting and waiting for our vaccination notification. But, even those who have been vaccinated have few places to go; only essential travel – work (which has been mostly at home for a year), medical, pharmacy and grocery. That’s it! I live in a very beautiful place and have a garden. I feel a bit ashamed to make this admission given that I am privileged to have pretty fine technology -phone, internet, devices – and natural beauty. But we want to reach out and actually touch the far flung loved ones. We keep hoping to see one another and the dates recede and recede. Maybe summer. Maybe in late summer, outdoors, we will be able to give a masked pandemic hug.

Also, I am fortunate in having Zoom students where we can air our experiences and compare how things are being handled in Canada as opposed to Ireland. It is thanks to one of those students that I have taken up the challenge to build a poem around some quotes from our conversation last Saturday. The second poem also reflects a telephone conversation with another friend. She cares for her 94 year old mother who has pronounced that this pandemic is worse than World War 2. Sure, they faced death. But living didn’t threaten your life. “We could go to dances. If we were down in the dumps we went next door and had a cuppa tea with a neighbour and had a moan.” Peggy fell in love and married 75 years ago at the end of the war. She has a point. The Guardian newspaper writes articles with headlines such as “How the Whole World Lost Its Libido.”

We compare anecdotes from England and the USA , where the vaccine roll out has been gaining traction, and feel like we are living in corsets. They hope to have all the kids back into in-person schooling by 12th April, but…the numbers of infection dictate everything. The week after Mother’s Day weekend and St. Patrick’s Day saw a jump in reported cases. Easter weekend, four days of no where to go, will be the final temptation.

Safe to say that the phrase ‘stir crazy’ has taken on layers and layers of texture. It’s more a cri de cœur.

Thanks to Susan for stating this challenge.

We are so over Covid

"We are so over Covid". "But it's not over us!"
Life is slow as treacle in a January
freeze. Framed in a five kilometre square. It's messed
up. In my head it's a convention of fairies'
wishes washed up ashore after a hurricane.
How is it that days inch by at warp speed? Because
I'm taking my reality cues, hemmed by routine.
But everything is always strange. It's collaged.
We have taken scissors to what used to pass as
society. Some days I feel as if I hold
a beating heart, lifted up, out, by blood soaked hands
during transplant surgery. I want to be told
"It's time. It's done. Close her up. Let her live again."
However we repair, or process, will we transcend
what is lost? We count the cost, regretting offence.
But have we built a world with more walls and fences?

Telephone conversations that crossed oceans, seas or just down the road a piece inspired the next poem.

Truly

Truly, I am glad that my sister can drive out
to a mountain cabin in another state now.
But here, we dream more modestly.
My friend, connected by telephone, and I
we dream of when we might venture forth, ranging
into the county, say.  Or maybe even ten kilometres wide.
That would take us both to separate forest parks, larger sky.
My friend's 94-year old mother, now fully vaccinated, perked up
after twelve weeks (more!) feeling incarcerated.
"I can go out in two weeks!" Said triumphantly.
"But where?" countered her carer.
The fleshpots of Tesco beckon, her prospect
of living the high life now.
In England, my friend reports they can sedately
cluster in groups of six outdoors
in the fresh air from this week. Where
we remain locked up and downcast within
our prescribed five kilometre zone.
Even a trip to the dentist is welcome excuse
to travel passed scenery not seen for months past.

So I am feeling a little bit green, in all its varying shades
from this Emerald Isle, from nausea to envy,
and dream of Blue Ridge hills or the ocean waves that break
upon a shimmering sandy strand , 
but not viewed in video clip.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021, All rights reserved.

The featured image comes from Biddy Tarot. https://www.biddytarot.com.

It’s the 8 of swords and that pretty much sums it up!

Lockdown St. Patrick’s Day

Greetings from Ireland where we are still in Level 5 Lockdown. So…not a traditional St. Patrick’s Day of parades, silly lepruchaun hats, or costumes of fake butt cheeks sporting ‘Pogue Mahone’ (that translates as kiss my you know what), or children playing tin whistle and showing off what they have learned in Irish dance classes the past year on a temporary stage in the middle of the town. There are no wailing accordians or jiggy fiddles playing. I didn’t even see shamrocks for sale in my local supermarket this year. The closest I come to any of these in these lockdown days is my cat Felix doing what I call the Pogue Mahone during Zoom sessions. I gather from online posts that some people are celebrating by baking Guinness cake. Which is fitting since baking has practically become a competitive sport online since Lockdown 1. BTW, in Ireland it is not a corned beef and cabbage menu day, because that it Irish American. We tend towards boiled gammon and colcannon traditionally. Also, corned beef is called salt beef here. Besides, we have gone very foodie here this past decade. I add seaweed to my vegetable soup these days and all manner of ‘exotic’ vegetables are available even in my village’s Spar grocery store.

St. Patrick’s Day has always been a bit bittersweet for me. Once we moved to Ireland it had its festive years or was a good day to start planting the spuds since we had the day off work. The first time I encountered a shamrock was in 1962 when Leona Doyle pinned an emerald green pipecleaner shamrock on my dress. She was one of the choir ladies who were busy setting up the lunch for the mourners returning from my father’s funeral.

From the beginning of this month I returned to hosting poetry writing classes on Zoom. We are fiddling about with the sonnet form at the moment. There were two of us in the group who wrote lamens to Lockdown. It has been a long winter and even with the daffodils blooming we still have an indeterminate time in full Lockdown unless you are a primary school child or taking your Leaving Certificate exams this year.

When Will It Be Over?

Annie, I am beginning to feel as if that henna
which you lavished on my locks last January before last
and  held fast, fading but still lingering at the ends  -
that it's a sign, one that's occurred arbitrarily.
 I long for my hairdresser's business to come back
so she can hack off those ends, make it all be over.
My magical thinking releases all of us from this train wreck
year, that the ordeal is shed with my hair on Nuala's floor.

My fevered imagination has me growing out the plague.
I care not one whit for the regrowth that is silver and grey.
In this eternal meanwhile I am growing more awake.
I have grown a new measure for all our long, long days -
on rosary beads, going 'Click, Click, Click,' in collecting groceries,
masking, unmasking, washing, growing, writing poetry.

Copyright 2021, Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

This photo is one of my own of the high cross and round tower on Devenish Island in Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. Those medieval strongholds were the legacy of St. Patrick’s mission to Ireland.

Devenish Island high cross roundtower
The high cross and roundtower on Devenish Island in Lough Erne

The featured photo is of St. Patrick’s Holy Well in Belcoo, Fermanagh.

Both places visited in pre-pandemic times when we were not confined to 5 kms from home except for essential journeys of the medical or grocery kind.

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.
   

The Magical Light

be the light

Tomorrow will be the shortest day in our northern hemisphere – the winter solstice. It will also be the day when shortly after sunset, if we do not have heavy cloud cover, we should see the Grand Jupiter Saturn Conjunction. Although I have to say that cloud cover can be a fairly constant feature of an Irish December. So we shall see. On Christmas Eve, it is forecast to be dry and clear, so maybe we will glimpse the Bethlehem Star on that night.

Counterintuitively, I tend to wake early, before dawn in the winter months. (And lie abed in summer; go figure!) And when I do wake early, I write in the darkness, though I draw open the curtains to see the slow curling of twilight dissolve into a pinking sunrise around 9am.

I woke early this morning and did not turn over to drowse on. I took out my pen and notebook after reading a quotation of Audre Lorde in a Brain Pickings blog post. It spurred a fairly formal effort, though I know of no name for it – a regular rhyme scheme with a capping couplet. Perhaps it is a longtail sonnet?! It is what it is, I guess. Here is the quotation:

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realised.

Audre Lorde

She goes on to speak of poetry, but I stopped there and decided to take up writing a poem.

We Pursue Our Magic

We pursue our magic and make it so -
shake, rattle the kaleidoscopic light-
marvelling at patterns and the colours.
Sometimes incantations make the world glow
on days of this perpetual twilight,
which plunge us, forcing us to discover
the content of our character on show
(only to our most private self). Less bright,
perhaps, than we might like. Even dimmer
than this midnight of the heart and soul.

Delicate beauty may come to light,
nuanced, that peripherally hovers,
that uncovers truth by way of shadow,
overcoming the blinded, dazzled bright
of favoured, mythic, eternal summer.
We pursue our magic by our own light.
And make it so with all the words we write.
 
 Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved. 

This will be a holiday season like none we have known in our lifetime. Collectively, we are pausing in the dark of the year. Stay well, my friends. It may be a lonely time for many, but pause. Read some poetry. Poetry is our magical connection.

There may be another poem on Tuesday. Or, depending on how my baking and other preparations are going, I may post closer to Christmas.

Stay well. Stay connected. Good Yule. The light is returning.

In the Round

If Turning was last week’s post then Round and Round seemed logical for the title of this Sunday’s Weekly. Actually, the poem for this week is a rondeau, so you have been warned.

The earth energies – the weather that is not externally climactic, but inwardly true – have been stressful this week. The elderly dog, who has made guest appearances in past poems in this blog over the years, is declining. A new problem appeared this week. While she does not seem to be suffering she needs to be seen by the vet this week. In these days of Covid-19, the waiting time to be seen at the vets is much longer than usual. Normally, we might be seen in two days when ringing for an appointment. We had previously made a check-up appointment that involved a nine day wait. The sweet receptionist did some diary contortions to move Ellie’s appointment up from Friday to Tuesday. There is no avoiding the fact that she is a biggish medium-sized dog and she is past her 17th birthday.

If that wasn’t enough to surge the adrenaline in one week, I launched the Zoom workshops this week. Just to spite me, the cyber demons locked me out of my tablet two days before launch day. Thanks to our local Computer Guy – shout out to Charlie Connor of We Fix Computers in Belcoo – I had an unlocked tablet by 3pm Thursday. The laptop where I do my writing is ancient. I suspect computers age in dog years. This one – whom I love and treasure – is still Windows 7, but is over nearly eight years old, and well past menopause. The backup was a mini-Ipad. But I didn’t fancy having to host a group peering at a seven inch screen. It is difficult enough with an 11 inch tablet! The audio and video on the old laptop was poor and Zoom felt counterintuitive. Two hours before launch time, a friend was helping me do a dummy run to make sure everything was going to work. Shout out to Siobhán for being the friend in deed!

I disapprove of drama on the home front. Specifically, I disapprove of electronic devices throwing hissy fits in time sensitive situations.

But I have just named four instances of people being kind to me this week. And that does not even include those who belatedly delivered my husband’s 70th birthday present. Last February, I commissioned one of the lads at Loughan House to wood burn some lines from Tony’s favourite poems on signs to dot around the garden. Also, there was one adorned with a guitar and bees, saying “Tony’s Garden”, the design suggested by the Sign Maker. (I am incredibly indebted to the visual artists in my life who know what I want better than I do.) The signs were ready early, but I asked the Sign Maker to keep them until closer to Tony’s vernal equinox birthday. I wanted it to be a surprise.

Then, of course, the biggest surprise of them all – Lockdown. And even as restrictions eased the gates at the local open prison remained closed. Credit where credit is due, the Irish Prison Service has zero Covid-19 cases because of the protocols they put in place. Not all countries can claim to have cherished their incarcerated as well.

The very first day the Education Centre at Loughan re-opened the Sign Maker approached one of the teachers to help organise Tony getting his present. Later that day, five months after his birthday, one of the Education Centre teachers who lives locally delivered his present to our door.

Wasn’t that kind?

The cyber angels smiled on us Thursday night. The wifi fairies held the signals steady for both weekly sessions, barring a few moments of wobble from the eastern fringes of County Cavan Saturday. The transatlantic participant flashed a view of a Rhode Island harbour for her new mates to glimpse, much to delight all of us who are new scenery starved. The first unit of Pick n Mix is complete and we move on to Poetry in Week 2.

More reasons to be grateful.

One participant needed to drop out but didn’t want a refund. That made a scholarship place for someone who really appreciated the opportunity.

Wasn’t that kind? The scholar was incredibly thankful.

In a roundabout way this Sunday Weekly has come round to kindness and gratitude, even in a week that has been fraught. Life offers much to surprise. Much like a good poem.

With poetry next week in mind I shifted gears and decided to flex my lyrical muscles and practice a tight form this week in poetry practice. It has been a while since I concentrated on technicalities. A book opened onto a page outlining the rondeau. It has a refrain and my eye had picked up a phrase from a past notebook that was rattling around my imagination. .

A rondeau is usually thirteen lines, though the prompt I read suggested making one fifteen lines long, with each line is between eight and ten syllables. There are three stanzas: a quintet, a quatrain, and a sestet – five, four and six lines per stanza. There are only two rhymes in a rondeau. The first line becomes the final lines of the second and third stanzas. The repeated line is a well used device in the poetry tool kit.

Let Your Secrets Breathe

Let your secrets breathe. Let truth be set free.
If, as my friend says, the world is a pea
then the mote in the eye - no cause for tears.
Let no storm blight your sight or cause you fears
or leave you bereft, adrift, out at sea.

Yes. If the world is basically a pea,
tight in its pod, no thing is so weighty
an axis for shame to revolve this sphere.
Let your secrets breathe. Let truth be set free.

Though many might - and will - disagree,
preferring to keep the truth mystery.
Avoiding presence in atmospheres
gone silent. Ruminative. Insincere.
Blinded by eye mote that cannot foresee.
Let your secrets breath. Let truth set you free.

Featured image Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash