I recall a time of hugs Welcomes by a handshake, a kiss. Now young children dutifully step back From the ‘danger’ of me, others, all. They only run towards their friends Pull up Short! Stop! Embarrassed glances at their shoes Shy peeks at each other. Laughter breaks the frightened spell. Chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter. Their magic world Reactivated. 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
Belief in the essential goodness of mankind
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 great grandmother
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.
After hours, days, weeks,
My body and mind in constant turmoil,
I find myself enjoying the warmth of the sun.
Lunch time sandwiches finished, I sit back.
The silence deafening.
My ears ringing.
No cars, no voices
No planes, no lawnmowers.
The world stopped.
Only now are we learning to cease.
To recall that we can think, feel.
Be one with nature.
In the loudness of nothing
I hear the buzz of a dozy bee
Just waking to a world
It thinks is the same
A constant cracking noise has my head swivelling
Where is it coming from?
I notice a blue tit on the seeds
With infinite peace, nibbling the inner goodness,
Cracking, cracking them open
To reveal the heart.
I move my legs and startle the bird.
In this moment a whoosh of spirit overcomes me.
With intense clarity.
I hear the flap of the wings.
A light breeze wafts through the lilac tree
And in the process picks up my spirit
Sends it along the path of the departing bird.
A spirit that floats with oneness of the nature surrounding me.
A peace of such infinity overwhelms me,
I look back and see myself on the wooden chair.
Should I fly on, should I return?
The me looks a bit confused, lost, serene.
A bundle of emotions … I look forward,
Reminding myself never to forget
Reminding myself never to fear.
I drift back, re-joined, re-coupled.
An epic ephemeral epiphany.
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
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. This collection is an echo of that love, which remained obscure, those yearnings that were suppressed, the regrets that we refuse to acknowledge.’
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. This magnetic collection of poems highlights our precious human lives with all their varied emotions and imposing relations: 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’.
This is the second of three posts on Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit. Comments have been turned off for this post.
‘I am lying on a hammock, on the terrace of my room at the Hotel Mirador, the diary open on my knees, the sun shining on the diary, and I have no desire to write. The sun, the leaves, the shade, the warmth, are so alive that they lull the senses, calm the imagination. This is perfection. There is no need to portray, to preserve. It is eternal, it overwhelms you, it is complete.’ Anaïs Nin
‘It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.’ Mary Oliver
The plonk of a parcel landing on the hall floor startled me from my writing reverie and with the eagerness of a child I dashed downstairs and fetched the promised package – these wonderful Easter creations knitted by a dear friend. During the winter months she’s been beavering away in the evenings with family and two lively cats around her and finally her collection was complete! What a lovely and kind idea to share these chicks, bunnies and carrots with family and friends! What a beautiful way to spread Easter sunshine to us all!
For two weeks I’ll be enjoying the peace and beauty of our ‘retreat’ in Sweden, away from the busy bustling world, barely connected to its digital being.
I look forward to walking the land in the cold mornings, the freshness of the air biting my lungs – a sting I welcome as I inhale the crisp ozone air scented from the surrounding pine forests. The dew on the grass will be bathed in sheer white frost, crackling underfoot and dotted around I’ll spot tracks of nighttime visitors of rabbits, badgers, foxes and deer. This early communion with nature has been sorely missed!
Whilst on holiday I will heed the words of Thalia Gust’s latest poem, rejuvenating in the beauty of the natural world, bringing my full awareness to the sights and sounds…leaving those ‘Musts’ behind.
What is a Must
when Cherry blossoms shimmer,
What is a Must
when the skylark sings,
What is a Must
when garden turns
yellow, white and blue;
What is a Must
when the wind plays in the Willow
What is a Must
when I sit on favourite bench,
Wren and Robin nesting
in bushes that surround.
I left Musts behind today
threw them in the river.
© Thalia Gust
I hope to be on Twitter some, a little on WP but otherwise want to wish you all an enjoyable and peaceful Easter!