Near Drowning

Inspired by Beth Taylor and Faye Benedict to engage in Memoir writing, not to mention some sunny days in the past week and good swimming, I found myself remembering a very different beach. When I was nine years old, my sisters and I were caught by the outgoing tide at Castlerock, in the North of Ireland. Sadly, there are often drownings on this coast, but we were fortunate, all rescued, and forever after have respect for the water.

Near Drowning

I am swimming
There is only me and my body
And water. No-one else.

Each breath is breathed in fear
Salt wet wild water
Does not care where it goes
Following wind and tide it throws
Cold slaps on my eyes and into my nose
My mouth is shut tight against it

I need my arms and hands to swim
I cannot wipe my eyes
I remember to close my fingers
So my palms and hands are wide
to make better paddles.
To push the water.

I count, one, thrust hands arrow forward
Two, turn the palms
Three, pull the water.
All the time kick, then breathe.
My arms are tired.
One, two, three.

Breathe, push, pull, kick
Arms ache. Push, Pull.
So long. So much water to pull
Water in eyes doesn’t matter.
Eyes see a short way to shore. Push
No change, ever the same distance. Pull

Want to see sand. Push
Just water. Pull.
I cannot feel my arms. Push.
I cannot feel. Pull.
There is a man with black hair.
In the water in his clothes. Push.

It is a tweed jacket, tough wool.
Pull. He holds my body
The cloth scrunches rough against my face.
Thank you arms.
Rest now trembling, trembling.
Thank you, man.

I wish I remembered you.
I remember the rough weave of your coat.

It should be added, all I actually remember is all about ME. What I have been told is that my older sister, Veronica who was ten, and could swim a bit, held on to our youngest sister Irene, and so saved her. They were both swept quite far out, before our mother was able to reach them, and bring them both in to safety. I don’t know how to write about Veronica. Today she would be getting one of those children of valour medals.


Helpless Discontent

Alongside the glitter of the sand
where tiny quartzes sparkle
Discontent rides strong
No hiding, it flaunts openly under the sun
As much on display as bikini clad bottoms.

As if this day which should be enough
is wasting, watching and waiting for comeuppance.
Today I cannot stop the tide of shoulds
with their follow-on words be full, gratitude
As if beauty could do a job beyond just being.

Come on rippling water invade the sand,
drop weed, slip tide higher on the beach
take this warm skin, see the air between sea and sky
between colors, green and black and gold.
You don’t tell me of joy and life’s becoming.

Not happening here.
Today I can’t forget the where
There where children have been caged
There where the ill despair and then enraged
Find themselves jailed by bars or poverty.

Sometimes I think I wait with glee
for sea to rise and take this hedonistic summer joy,
drown it with my deep despairing helplessness.
So in  some future now unthought
Creatures will talk of the mythic beings.

The Beachers who lie in dark sand hollows
Watered graves unmarked by quartz or spark of life
Once walked as if they owned the rights.
They chose forgetting, entitlement
Forgot to rise for shame of blames I am remembering.


Emergence, a wreck?


Photo from one of Armagh’s cathedral sites. There are also some of John Hewitt’s words there, a more hopeful and generous perspective.

When I saw the title with South County
My mind reversed the words.
From a childhood place
I see Armagh, the county south
of my own county,
A place of orchards and apples.

Small hills topped by two cathedrals
Both called St. Patrick
Looking at each other across the town
Glaring rather. Or ignoring.
More, I am the high point here,
So long as I pretend you are not there.

Emergent intolerance and ignorance.
Trouble. I wish I saw a change.
I think I see the brittle ribs of hate
Slipped a little while under the sand.
The cathedrals on the hills still stand.
Waiting. Watching. Ignoring their arrogance.


When I write poetry I think I am often simply exercising “free association”. Is this is why prompts enable me to get around to it? The prompt on this occasion, here in USA, was in a “South County news report” with a headline “shipwreck buried under sand emerges on Charleston Beach”



Bees Know

Bees know

No-one told the bees to make honey
but they do.
No-one needs to know how the grass grows
but it does.
When the tree falls in the forest we do not hear
but fungi flourish
We have not asked the sun to rise and shine every time
Morning comes
In a darkened night we lift our eyes to the stars, or sleep
and dream.
Did you hear the rain pitter patter your window, or the wind’s rattle?
Planning permission not required.

Did you hear about the bananas? Dole’d to consumers faffing and Fyffing
Wanting golden skinned
Nations unfed while consumers led to love the bananas
not too soft or black
tons crated from plantations and tonnage tossing over seas,
Hands harvest the hands.
Fair trade or agribusiness. How do you know there are bananas
in your fridge?
Are you bananas? You forget the world will touch you with its gifts
Let your skin take it in
While the bees buzz on busy honey making.

No-one told you: you will get something for nothing every day
No-one told you: you will be born and grow
No-one told you love, or hate or fear or pride or joy
Let them come, as they will, as surely as the sun shines.
See what honey comes.

Inspired in part by ARTIST ROOMS, Joseph Beuys, A Language of Drawing, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 30th July − 30th October 2016

From the Life of the Bees, Joseph Beuys.






A Freezing Sun

Light from the sun is free
It falls regardless of heed or gratitude
Finding its way to wood that once it grew.
Taking a pit-stop aloft on a cloud-driven day
As though alive, knowing, feeling
For once the earth needed its shaft rejected.

Don’t think that Earth replies.
Can’t you see me turning turning?
Daily means diurnal rise.
Not that I spin here yearning for your touch,
You are too hot. Intense. Too much.
I have another side that you can’t see
Called Dark. That too is free.
Within the dark black night away from sun
I dream. Time flies.

Quiet says sun.
Shooting a sunspot glare through upper atmosphere.
I dream too. Dreaming is not just for you.
Timeturned dull Earth, grounded Earth.
Revealing thoughts of deep dark zones I can’t conceive.
Setting, solidity, crystal, flint and quartz
Not here where plasma rules.
All roils. I dream of freezing.
Ice. Frost. The many million shapes of snowflakes
Slipping sideways in my morning rise.

Someday love

I met Jane, and Christine Chu, on Poetry 201. Now Christine has asked me to share my thoughts on “Love” with an axiom of ten lines, using four words in each sentence and each sentence to include the word “love”, and to give my favourite quote on love.

I feel an expectation.

Someday love

Love crosses swords
with love’s crazy words
Love’s duck in tennis.
Love to play cards
Get love in luck
Be unlucky in love.
Love your attention
Love you to mention
Let love be an action
The word’s just a fraction.

I do not have a favorite quote, too many to count on this subject. The following is the last verse of Mary Oliver’s “Someday”

Oh, love lay your hands on me again.
Some of the fruit ripens and is picked and is delicious.
Some of it falls and the ants are delighted.
Some of it hides under the snow and the famished deer are saved.

Facing the Future

Writing 201: Day 10: prompt, form and device are – Future, Sonnet, ChiasmusIMG_6021

Facing the Future

I thought I’d ask the sea to hear my story, bear my rhyme,
Take it as it comes, white caps crashing, splashing high,
Or merging, melding in smooth billowed joyousness,
No sea of tears to wallow in pettiness or bitterness.
The ocean has no time to hear self-pity,
Raging, calm, green-flickered, grey, or black,
Words fall unheard and all around the sound of ocean
Says: Hear my myriad magic voices. I don’t tell tales.

Breathless hush or rush of rage and storm tossed water,
East or West swirling dangerous quarreling harm.
Moon pulled tide will take all tales of difference
with indifference. Uncaring rise and fall and fall and rise.
Ocean bears me. Hears my myriad magic voices.
I don’t tell tales. I keep them deep in my forgetting.

I used some lines from a previous poem for this – a sort of long work in progress [After the Breakup]. I am happy to say I think this is much better. Hope you like it too.