As I headed out into the garden one sunny February afternoon a movement caught my eye; upon the decking the wooden swing seat was gently swaying and for a moment or two endless possibilities swarmed to my mind. A ghostly being seemed to have taken comfort upon the seat, enjoying the wintry sunlight. Alas, the reality is most likely far more mundane and the breeze caught the slats as if a sail.
However, the image would not go away. Luckily I’d taken a video and soon poems came unbidden to me. Here are a couple of them.
The first is in a traditional Haiku format composed of only three lines. The first line of Haiku has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third has 5 syllables.
Childhood memories Sway with mysterious ease Gentle cosseting.
My second poem is a form called Eyeverse and is a four-line poem based around an image. The name was coined by mslexia, a British magazine for women writers founded in 1999 which releases four editions a year.
Tea spilled on your torn jeans My curls tousled through your fingers Our first youthful kisses A mere ghostly presence.
I recall a time of hugs
Welcomes by a handshake,
Now young children dutifully step
From the ‘danger’ of me,
They only run towards their friends
Embarrassed glances at their shoes
Shy peeks at each other.
Laughter breaks the frightened spell.
Their magic world
by Annika Perry
Statistics. So cold and harsh. So black and white. Or so it seems for most of the time. Figures are just that, bland numbers that do not touch us directly, relating to the inanimate rather than the animate.
But statistics of deaths are another matter.
As day in, day out, the news networks report on the tally for today’s dead from the virus, we are in danger of becoming immune from what they really mean … each one a precious life.
The tragic daily role-call of death, captured in merely a couple of minutes, has shaken me to the core. It’s as if so many forget that behind each individual number is a person. No longer alive. Mourned by so many, loved ones who could not even be by their side in their last moments.
One lady sought refuge within her grief to pen a poem in memory of her beloved sister. A poem that speaks for all who have lost a family member these months, and alas the months ahead.
A poem that should survive and be a legacy of this cruel time.
Dorothy Duffy wrote the poem in honour of her sister Rose ‘Billy’ Mitchell who died alone in a nursing home in the UK as a result of the virus. Rose and Dorothy are both of Irish descent, living in England.
Below is Dorothy Duffy’s poem and beneath is a radio interview with her where she reads her work aloud. Do listen and follow the words of the poem for an unforgettable, heartfelt and moving anthem to loss and suffering.
My sister is not a statistic
Tomorrow, when the latest Deathometer of Covid is announced in sonorous tones, Whilst all the bodies still mount and curl towards the middle of the curve Heaped one atop and alongside the other My sister will be among those numbers, among the throwaway lines Among the platitudes and lowered eyes, an older person with underlying health conditions, A pitiful way to lay rest the bare bones of a life.
My sister is not a statistic
Her underlying conditions were Love Kindness Belief in the essential goodness of mankind Uproarious laughter Forgiveness Compassion A storyteller A survivor A comforter A force of nature And so much more
My sister is not a statistic
She died without the soft touch of a loved one’s hand Without the feathered kiss upon her forehead Without the muted murmur of familiar family voices gathered around her bed, Without the gentle roar of laughter that comes with memories recalled Evoked from a time that already seems distant, when we were connected by the simplicity of touch, of voice, of presence.
My sister is not a statistic
She was a woman who spanned the seven ages. A mother A grandmother A great grandmother A sister A Friend An aunt A carer A giver
My sister is not a statistic
And so, she joins the mounting thousands
They are not statistics on the Deathometer of Covid
They are the wives, mothers, children, fathers, sisters, brothers, The layers of all our loved ones If she could, believe me when I say, she would hold every last one of your loved ones, croon to and comfort them and say – you were loved. Whilst we who have been left behind mourn deep, keening the loss, the injustice, the rage. One day we will smile and laugh again, we will remember with joy that, once, we shared a life, we knew joy and survived sadness.
You are my sister…….. and I love you.
Copyright Dorothy Duffy 2020
Finally, although Dorothy has featured on numerous radio and television/youtube interviews and many of you might have already seen and heard her poem, I am grateful to Roy McCarthy for sharing a post about her poem on his blog Back on the Rock.
Spring’s breeze strokes my cheek Star flower heralds warm days Storm warning – keep safe!
These past few days have been the sunniest for months and numerous walks in woods, along the coast, inspired me to write the haiku above.
Spring is so close, almost tangible, yet the threat of the latest tempest this weekend returns us to the winter gloom. Before Storm Ciara, a severe gale, coursed its way across the UK we headed outside enjoying the glory of nature to the utmost. Soon enough we needed to retreat indoors to the cosiness of home.
Out on the daily meditations, I remember that not only Mother Nature can lift us high, music also has a sublime ability to reach our inner core.
One piece that recently touched me so is a piano cover by Sammy Perry of Odesza’s song ‘A Moment Apart’. It is one of Sammy’s favourite songs from their album.
Listening to this my spirits soar. I imagine spring, life itself, unfurling. It is peaceful, magical and inspirational. Enjoy!
Recently a dear friend who was moving house gave me four magnificent sailing ship prints and their majesty astounded me. The first of these is the Brig Fride of Göteborg seen above.
The sight of sailing ships is always awe-inspiring. This is true even of pictures featuring them and they evoke an uplifting sense of wonder and adventure.
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” — William Faulkner
As always, I wanted to know a bit of the story behind them? Who painted them? I headed to the trusty internet to learn about the artist behind paintings such as the Clipper Ship Challenger pictured above.
However, this time the web failed me and the mystery of sails began.
“Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.” — Kahlil Gibran
I could find the prints for auction at one auction house in Sweden. Two of the prints seems to be connected to two different artists: Peter Christian Holm (1823 – 1888) for the steamboat and Signe Marin for the Brig.
Here the trail went cold! I would be intrigued if anyone could shed anymore light on the history of these paintings.
Meanwhile, my mind wondered towards the pull of the ocean, its reverential hold upon us all. Writers not only find it a source of inspiration and rejuvenation but also cannot help but note down the power of this vast expanse. Perhaps even when aboard boats such as the Three-mast Barque Gefion pictured above.
“If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.” ― Rachel Carson
I decided to seek out ocean-related sayings and here the internet proved much more willing. I’ve chosen four from authors whose books are some of my favourites.
The last of the four ship prints is the Steamship Gustaf Adolf pictured here.
Finally, do you have any favourite quotations, poetry or songs related to the ocean? Please feel free to share here and if possible I look forward to collating these in a separate post. For all writers, if you have written a piece based around the seas please include it in the comments or link to your post! I look forward to a discussion all about the ocean!
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” — Louisa May Alcott
For many years I have been an avid reader of Maria Popova’s learned articles. She is a gifted writer and created Brain Pickings in 2006 to cover such diverse topics as literature, philosophy, science and art. Since 2012 Brain Pickings has had the honour of being included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive.
In one recent article readers were introduced to the wonderful poet Marie Howe and her poem ‘Singularity’. Inspired by Stephen Hawking’s work, the poem was written to a short deadline; a daunting undertaking for someone whose creations are often years in the making.
The incredible and striking poem would not leave me and I hope you find it equally as thought-provoking. Below the poem is a video with an explanation and reading of ‘Singularity’.
by Marie Howe
(after Stephen Hawking)
Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity we once were?
so compact nobody needed a bed, or food or money —
nobody hiding in the school bathroom or home alone
pulling open the drawer where the pills are kept. For every atom belonging to me as good Belongs to you. Remember?
There was no Nature. No them. No tests
to determine if the elephant grieves her calf or if
the coral reef feels pain. Trashed oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;
would that we could wake up to what we were — when we were ocean and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was liquid and stars were space and space was not
at all — nothing
before we came to believe humans were so important before this awful loneliness.
Can molecules recall it? what once was? before anything happened?
No I, no We, no one. No was No verb no noun only a tiny tiny dot brimming with
is is is is is
All everything home
Finally, I want to thank everyone for the beautiful and thoughtful comments on my previous post. Owing to a viral infection morphing into a nasty and debilitating chest infection I, along with the whole family, are unfortunately ill. I will reply when possible and return fully to blogging when better.
Rules and boundaries have a certain appeal to me and when I was recently challenged to try my hand at the unusual Etheree poetry format I accepted quickly!
Etheree follows a syllable count up (or down) by one syllable at a time. In other words, in the pattern of 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10 syllables. It does neither need to rhyme nor to hold to a particular metre.
My first poem follows the trauma of a recent flood, just days before a big birthday party. With the distance of time it’s been comforting to write about it here!
The following fictional poem takes up the eternal encompassing trauma of the breakdown of marriages witnessed around us on a daily basis.
Many thanks to Dr. Mary Ann Niemczura for asking to read my Etheree poems. She is a wonderful and supportive friend I made here on WordPress and it is always a delight to read her poetry. I encourage you to take a look at her blog by clicking here.
Titles are so important and this is true for poetry books as well. As soon as I saw the cover for Balroop Singh’s latest book I felt myself floating on its ethereal image and title – ‘Timeless Echoes’.
All through our lives we leave traces … echoes … of ourselves, our thoughts, emotions. In this poetry collection, her third book of poems, Balroop explores the ones that we cannot express, share openly with others.
‘Some secrets have to remain buried because they are ours
We do share them but only with the stars
The tears that guarded them were as precious as flowers
Soothing like balm on festering scars.’
The book description eloquently captures the premise for the collection as seen from this blurb extract:
‘Certain desires and thoughts remain within our heart, we can’t express them, we wait for the right time, which never comes till they make inroads out of our most guarded fortresses to spill on to the pages of our choice. Thiscollectionisanechoofthatlove,whichremainedobscure,thoseyearningsthatweresuppressed,theregretsthatwerefusetoacknowledge.’
A glowing Editor’s Review by Mahesh Nair describes Balroop’s book as ‘…a steadfast repudiation of those ills that we painfully hide under the covers of our flesh to present the polished exterior as truth. Thismagneticcollectionofpoemshighlightsourprecioushumanliveswithalltheirvariedemotionsandimposingrelations: the lives often blinded by the strictures of the self-made duplicity, an excessively common phenomenon. ‘Listen to your heart, my friend. It knows you well,’ she writes.’’
Balroop, I am listening to my heart … and to you. I am sure these poems, these thoughts and emotions will resonate with many of us.
No poetry book post would be complete without a poem and I am delighted to include an excerpt from one of Balroop’s poems found in ‘Timeless Echo’.