National Poetry Days

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The UK usually celebrates a National Poetry Day the first Thursday in October. So I was caught off guard and the September 28th festivities completely passed me by.  Ireland used to join in with that but this year did a break away to April, which coincides with the USA’s National Poetry Month. At least World Poetry Day is set in stone on 21st March each year. But maybe even UNESCO will wobble on that date.

This basically makes me feel like a grumpy, grumbly old person. We like our routines, our schedules to rely upon and heaven help  you if you move the tinned baked beans to another aisle in the supermarket!

But I digress…

Belatedly, I note that the UK theme for Poetry Day is Freedom. Which is a big theme. So two poems,one based on Biblical story inspired by the plight of refugees. The other is practically a manifesto for social introversion.

Two ways to be free…in poetry

The Zamzam Well

Hagar, did you flee?

Or were you cast out,

left for dead in the desert

with your infant son Ismail

wailing and kicking in his swaddle clothes?

 

In a place where his mother’s milk

would soon dry, withering

like the thorn tree berries,

your inconvenient son Ismael

keening and kicking

 

at sand and stone, kicking, howling,

kicking, hollering until –

miracle of miracles! –

in answer to his mother’s prayers

her son, or some angel

 

directing his little heels

unearthing

the spring

the Zamzam

the well open to all.

 

They lived and made no one strange

where all were strangers.

 

They were blessed and praised

Hagar and her son Ismael.

They came like pilgrims

supplicants

making the Zamzam  holy

 

until even Abram came,

acknowledging his seed.

 

Hagar, did you flee the wife’s envy?

Did you fear the power to harm?

Were you cast out by weakness, or fear?

Were you left for dead for some

inconvenient truth?

 

Your son

the spring of surprise and salvation

a blessing

even as his mother was cursed

cast out, forced to flee

 

to make a new tribe

those who wander but are no strangers.


A Way to Be Free

 

getting the top deck

of a London bus, front seat, all to oneself,

soothed by intermittent ding-dings,

conveyed in stops and starts,

looking out the front window,

sulphur street light freckled with rain…

 

immersing

into the womb  of cheap stalls

a rainy Saturday afternoon

mesmerised by the actress singing

all for me down in the matinee dark

the sound of

the fourth wall falling…

 

browsing

an art gallery

especially those with portraits

with whom I can play talking heads

making imaginary friends with Francis Bacon

or  Gwen John’s

implacably impassive face

 

the bliss

of never ever to be at the beck and call

of flower arranging rotas

or deciding a room’s colour scheme

or the hell of formulating a policy

by committee

 

finding

a way to be free

to go about unmolested,

undeterred

uninterrupted

invisible

subversively

solitary

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NaPoWriMo2017 Day 29

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The penultimate morning of a month of writing a poem a day, NaPoWriMo2017.  Today, the prompt asks us to take our favourite poem (what, only one?) and pick a noun. Free write around for five minutes. Then, construct.

It had to be a Mary Oliver. But which one? In the end, I realised the one that sings in my heart most is The Journey. And the noun I chose is the title word, since I have always had a fondness for those words with that jour syllable within. And I have also always loved the Irish farewell of ‘Safe journey, safe home.’

Sojourning

 

Stillness within movement

Encased in the metal jacket

A bullet train, a jet plane

Propulsion towards barriers

Speed, customs, immigration

But now is the in between

Neither here nor there.

 

The day opens, a fresh page

The hand moves across it

In transit

As plodding as Shank’s pony, sometimes

Loud and crowded as the Port Authority

Everyone everywhere is making

Their connection, like poetry.

Safe journey. Safe home.

NaPoWriMo2017 Day 27

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It is ironic that on Poetry Day Ireland today’s prompt threw me right back to my origins. That Proustian madeleine for me is a Hershey’s Dark Special chocolate bar. You can take the girl out of PA, but apparently  the woman’s stomach is still ensconced there. Like many translocated people, what we miss is the food of our childhood. I have resided in three countries, so today’s prompt “to explore the sense of taste” was pure nostalgia.

Happy Poetry Day Ireland, from Ireland, even if my stomach is still in PA (that’s Pennsylvania for those of you not raised in state.)

Do You Miss It?

 

Do you miss it?

they ask. And I say, No!

 

Which is not entirely

a lie. Here’s why.

 

I may not be

a PA shoofly pie

 

kind of woman.

And please! Hold the scrapple!

 

But here’s the thing…

Streusel topping.

 

On apple pie.

Cinnamon. Butter. Sugar

 

It takes me home. Well,

no more. Maybe 40 years ago.

 

I don’t miss it.

Or birch beer. Or Rolling Rock.

 

But it lingers

On the palate.

 

Like the taste of chawed

curl of silver birch bark.

 

Penn’s Woods. And orchard

apple butter on toast.

 

When they have me

on the slab, opening me

 

they will find Marcellus

rock seam. It tastes

 

of green. Or did,

before they got a craving

 

for gas. Which spoils

the appetite for your supper.

 

So no. I don’t miss it.

Except, I guess, I do.

NaPoWriMo2017 Day 26

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Only a few more days left to NaPoWriMo2017.  I have written twenty-eight poems to date, having decided to dedicate April to etching a poetry writing groove in my neural network.  What I witnessed on the dog’s evening exercise was crying to be recorded.

Today’s prompt is to write about what might future archaeologist would make of our civilisation.  And although there is nod to the topic, I went off on a tangent, as is my wont. So this is sort of antidote to paleology.

Without Object

 

I did not lift my smartphone

capturing that twilit glimpse –

a cygnet pair honking

their elation. First flight:

wings’ strength, sinew testing

their new form, span and rhythm.

Flap and landing plunge. Then glide

across lough towards sunset.

 

If in future time they crack

the code of ancient silicon,

chip away all the data,

construct story around all

the photos, diary notes-

“Dentist, 3pm, Tony” –

excavating this midden

of the digital era,

what meaning will overlay

the absence of a record?

 

This maiden flight of two swans

still wearing sooty plumage:

sunset, shoreline, springtime, soul,

the sound of their wild joy.

The old dog’s response to their

call. Their lunge at lough water.

Moment without artefact.

Without object, what story?

NaPoWriMo2017 Day 24

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Day 22 NaPoWriMo2017

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Happy Earthday. Today’s challenge is to write a geordic. “The original georgic poem was written by Virgil, and while it was ostensibly a practical and instructional guide regarding agricultural concerns, it also offers political commentary on the use of land in the wake of war. “

 

 

Hymn to Gaia

 

What shall we say

to the dying bees?

What shall we say

to the rising seas?

 

What shall we say

to the mouths we feed?

What shall we say

as great Gaia bleeds?

 

Once, we, with our bodies,

did give you worship.

Now, we, with our bodies,

practice global smash up.

 

Go tell the bees, Gaia,

name each dying species.

Go tell the trees, Gaia,

shame greed and anarchy.

 

What shall we say, please

to change this story?

What shall we say, please

to ensure Your glory?

 

Go tell the bees, Gaia,

to not breathe the air.

Go tell the trees, Gaia,

to please hear our prayers.

 

What shall we say

to all our grandchildren?

What shall we say

of our love of Mammon?

 

How shall we say

we somehow lost their planet?

How shall we say

why its left so desolate?

 

Go tell the bees, Gaia,

while some few are left.

Go tell the trees, Gaia,

of fraud and grand theft.

 

Go tell the bees, Gaia,

That we are bereft.

Go tell the trees, Gaia,

of this rock and cleft.

 

Once, we, with our bodies,

did give you worship.

Now, we, with our bodies

practice global smash up.

 

What shall we do, please

to change this story?

What shall we do, please,

to celebrate your glory?

 

Day 21 NaPoWriMo 2017

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This is today’s challenge:  “I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates overheard speech. It could be something you’ve heard on the radio, or a phrase you remember from your childhood, even something you overheard a coworker say in the break room! Use the overheard speech as a springboard from which to launch your poem. Your poem could comment directly on the overheard phrase or simply use it as illustration or tone-setting material.”

Which had me schussing back to childhood, down the pneumatic tube of memory.

Pink

 

Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys.

 

Such was the wisdom

of my four year old playmate

who, like Barbie™ Doll,

was born in 1958.

 

Which confused me

as he lorded over

our snack time choice

of plastic juice cups.

 

I wanted the blue.

It was my colour.

My mommy said so!

I argued vehemently.

 

It was the colour

of my eyes you see.

We loved blue

my Mommy and me.

 

Pink just was not

in our palette.

Just open the door.

Look inside our closets.

 

There was orange in

The bodice of my carrot dress,

seed pearls stitched on navy taffeta

1961’s Sunday Best.

 

There was peach  – once-

in organza

for a wedding.

Pink wasn’t even

 

Branded Barbie ™ yet

She and I, last progeny

of the Baby Boom years.

But even when Ken

 

Came on the scene

they shared blue.

Odd in pre-feminist 1950s

that, in future, pink

 

Would paint and dominate

all things Girl today.

Just like Richie Good

said before 1964.

 

But my mother and I

she with the royal blue

chiffon scarf in the drawer

she never wore,

 

her paste sapphire

lapel broach last worn

on utility grey

power suit post-war –

 

I lift  it from

The Pinkie and Blue Boy

Embossed jewellery box

I inherited from her.

 

Turn the broach

over in my hand

Will I wear it?

Do I dare yet?

 

We are not pink. Blue is for girls.