A worried daughter Woke at night Looked at her phone Waiting for a call
Wondering how her Mamma was faring, under the strains of the dreaded Covid.
She tries to still her mind With counting games Capital cities, memories of Warmth, love and holidays Abroad.
All to no avail.
It seems so long ago.
So now she sits in bed Snuggled up in a star red dressing gown Tapping away To her best friend and Mamma
Hoping the night has gone well for her There is some reprieve in the illness
Hoping she knows her worried daughter Is always there for her.
I wrote this little missive early this morning following my mother’s positive test for Covid yesterday. The illness has floored my husband and me earlier in the week although I feel a tinge of improvement.
I feel blessed with my family and my friends. Their love, concern and care keep me strong.
Wishing everyone good health and more luck than us at dodging this latest wave.
Grief Songs is a beautiful and haunting collection of poems that has left an indelible impression on my soul.
The book pays homage to the author’s parents, Elliot and Katherine as well as her brother, George. All deceased. The heart and essence are within the minutiae of the detail of each poem; where the everyday objects or events become increasingly poignant and resonate with vitality, a life lived, a life no longer except within memories of a few. Memories such as the crooked smile of her father, the perfect portrait of the siblings, ‘his (her father’s) precious angels’ who are immortalised in a click but belies the earlier unruly behaviour of the children when:
‘George had cried piteous tears while I railed against my bangs’
A doll during a seaside outing is recalled in the stark awareness that:
‘just Lulubelle and I now detritus of a beach day’
Each poem within Grief Songs is preceded by a photograph and coupled with the poem these become a powerful and emotional combination.
Grief Songs I, II & III consists of one striking poem each. The majority of the poems in the book are tankas within the Poems of Love and Remembrance section. Tankas are a Japanese form of poetry, a type of short song, over five lines with a 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count format.
The hypnotic poems take on a life of their own as familial love, warmth, kindness and care is recalled. Liz’s mother is described with the memorable and striking words of:
‘for a time she stood fearless my protector, my mother’
One of the later poems summarises her mother’s life in:
‘sixty years safe under glass minutes tucked into envelopes decades left in dresser drawers’
The book is a tribute to her parents, their early life, family trips, love for her brother. An early poem describes how the siblings are enjoying a day on the beach, ‘no diagnosis / his arm around her shoulders’. Another photo and poem describe ‘George Gauffreau enjoys a Coke/classmate, friend, brother deceased’.
I am deeply moved by the profound inner landscape captured within the ordinary days of family life. Remarkable moments mulled over time. In one poem, entitled ‘Time’, Liz fondly remembers her father’s story-time and her mother’s words of ‘wait till your father gets home / not a threat but a promise’. A father one senses is a hero for young Liz who, as a two-year-old, sits beside him, pen in hand as he writes his sermons. ‘oh the places she will go’. For now, she is happy to be close to her father and recalls on her confirmation day that there is ‘more time with Daddy for me’.
Liz Gauffreau’s book dares to directly approach an emotion that in modern society is often not acknowledged; the universal experience of loss is one of the rawest and most absolute of emotions and one that has become increasingly sidelined in search of ‘happiness’.
Not by Liz Gauffreau who in response to her own close personal losses in life decided to highlight the contradiction of grief. Where dark and light coexist on an existential level, where memories blend with the present, a buffer for living with intense and overwhelming grief. The transient nature of life is explored through these snapshot moments, caught in the black and white of photographs, in the black of the text, through colour images. The memories are retrieved, examined and shared in the most tender and thought-provoking poetry.
Ultimately the book becomes not only a study of Liz Gauffreau’s grief but also of one’s own as well as one’s identity upon losing those closest to us.
Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a B.A. in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Assessment for Champlain College Online, where she is an Associate Professor. Her fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines and several themed anthologies. Her debut novel, TELLING SONNY, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband.
Thank goodness for the blogging challenges that inspired Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words. An enriching and engaging collection of verse, micro fiction and short stories, her work is mesmerising, always uplifting and often humorous. Throughout humanity and the spirits of humans (and some animals) is a beacon of hope for us all.
Sally’s poetry is enticing, thoughtful and soothing; they are written tightly within the framework of syllables for various formats such as haikus and tankas yet explore a vast range of topics encompassing the wonder of the seasons, recognising human frailties and celebrating the warmth of togetherness. She manages to take us on a journey from cave drawings to digital code across the universe, from the mystical of the ugly troll with his bewitching music in The Moonlight Concerto to the enchantment of Fairies!
As a writer, one poem – an ode to writing – particularly struck a chord with me:
The Freedom to write
The freedom and time to create written words to be read by those open to our thoughts intoxicating.
by Sally Cronin
Sally Cronin is a master storyteller and I was immediately drawn into the lives of the characters in all her short stories. Her writing flows with ease and self-assurance within this diverse selection of short stories. I was moved by the reunion of siblings, impressed how a story told through the point of view of a polar bear both touched me and touched on environmental issues. The reason for a black sheep was raised in one story and had me smiling as did My Mouse, a clever play on words and a predicament experienced by most of us!
The superb stories in The Underdogs section had me in awe of the strength of the individual personalities of the dogs. Later, in For the Love of Lily, I was cheering on as eighty-year-old Millicent found her courage to stand up to her overbearing son with the help of her cat Lily and her kindly neighbour Eric. This was an excellent depiction of what I hope isn’t a scenario that takes place often.
The final longer pieces in the book are under the title of Speculative Fiction and these are all exceptional and shows Sally Cronin’s incredible imagination and ability in writing across all genres.
A moment of alignment is superlative and left me with goosebumps (of the happy variety!) as a child, following her death, manages to cross from the other world for the briefest of times on certain occasions to talk to her mother. Great Aunt Georgina left me tear-eyed and is a wonderful and powerful story partly told through the use of old letters; a deft use of an evocative writing technique. The Enhancement Project combines the tantalising hint of romance between a surgeon and her patient cyborg, all against the backdrop of the end of civilisation. It is a terrific blend of human and futuristic, of dark and light, love and destruction.
I can’t recommend Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven with Words highly enough and look forward to reading more of Sally Cronon’s books.
Sally Cronin is the author of fifteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fourteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.
As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.
Her podcast shares book reviews and short stories Soundcloud Sally Cronin
After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.
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.
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