What If…NaPoWriMo2019’s Day 6

So this is where the NaPoWriMo2019 Day 6 prompt collides with some of my teaching. I am currently doing creative writing work with 10-12 year olds in the Cruinniú na nÓG programme sponsored by the Cavan Monaghan Training Board. We are working on story, in the first instance letting their imaginations roam free, then with story based in fact. I’ve started them in group work as a confidence booster and to just observe how they work. True to their age stereotypes, they divided along gender lines for the group work, as I gently nudge them towards skills for individual pieces.

What really has struck me was how the boy’s group immediately began to create a war story. The two girl’s groups could basically be classified as falling into crime/thriller and romance genres, although violence also permeates their stories, too. It’s as if the only narrative in town in destruction. I turned to the teacher at playtime and mused, “How can we change this narrative?” When I talked about this with my husband, saying my little boys were having a war between Cavan and Fermanagh (please no Brexit!), he responded that at that age, inspired by 1950s American telly, he and his friends in Armagh were playing cowboys and Indians. “Of course, we didn’t know then that Colonel Custer was the baddie.”

And, of course, changing the narrative is not exactly in my remit to fit into sixteen hours of classroom time. This is where NaPoWriMo2019’s Day 6 prompt enters my stream of consciousness. ” Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of the possible. What does that mean? Well, take a look at these poems by Raena Shirali and Rachel Mennies. Both poems are squarely focused not on what has happened, or what will happen, but on what might happen if the conditions are right. Today, write a poem that emphasizes the power of “if,” of the woulds and coulds and shoulds of the world.”

So here is a sonnet to possibility.

I was an anxious child with a mother who had many worries. On many a car journey I peppered her with so many “What If…” scenarios I probably fed her own anxieties.

What If

What if little boys did not toy
with the glamour of war,
the thrill of massive destruction?

What if boys did not deploy
into male avatars,
ComicCon  cut-outs of action?

What if they dreamed not of cowboys
as played by movie stars
gunning down Native Americans?

"What if..."  - asked by anxious boys,
ones already so scarred,
our small hostages to fortune.

What if we raised boys into men
where peace made them sovereign?


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

GloPoWriMo 2019
Bee Smith is particpating in Na/GloPoWriMo2019

One Life

A light dusting of snow this morning, which is rapidly melting off. The sky is brightening now, but it is cold. For whatever reason, when the mercury hovers around 0C, I think of the really cold winters of central Europe or New York City. A glance through the Guardian Review alerted me to the centenary of Rosa Luxemburg’s death. Feminist, pacifist, anti-dictator regardless of political affiliation, she was incredibly prescient of totalitarianism in Communist Russia and the nationalism that would sweep Germany. I imagine what a meeting between her and Emma Goldman might have been like. They were certainly aware of each other, but I have not come across any reference of them meeting. I hope Luxemburg would have agreed with my favourite Goldman quotation. Today’s poem is a feminist revolutionary mash-up of sorts.

emma goldman dance revolution
One Life

What if...
Rosa Luxemburg
was the Sumatran butterfly beating its wings
who if
she had not been made extinct
in 1919
that if
her wings had been allowed

some anarchy and chaos to fly-
pacificism, politics in the plural,
the pragmatism of being both global and local -

that if
that soldier had disobeyed the order
to assasinate
to silence
to immobilise

oh, if
she had been able to dance that revolution
if only...

would we now be standing again
in clay clagged boots
knee deep in mired past
with more weapons of destruction
than people on this planet

what if
we seanced her spirit back
so she could teach us
how to raise our arms
and poise our wings
to unleash a balletic
chaos cascade
to save this one world
the only one we have
to save


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.