Illustration courtesy of the vintage image treasury that is the Old Design Shop.

Thank you for signing up
for your HP daily updates.
Each day we reveal
your most important task.

Before you had this service,
words and deeds you left
undone, passed over
in your routine haste.

Today’s commission
is to assist a woman lost
on Highgate Hill. She clutches
a page with the address.

These are your clues.
Seek out the rest.


Two sources overlap as inspiration for today’s verse. Firstly, I’ve been invited by a friend to participate in Poem A Day October. (For details and to sign up click here.) Today’s prompt suggests, “write about a technology that doesn’t exist yet”.

I’ve often wondered how you should know what might be your most important deed for that day. Should you invest particular energy into a work-related assignment or stop to help a stranger on the street? Is it that moment when you arrive home frazzled, commute-battered and hungry when you’re called on to exhibit patience with a family member or housemate? Is it the decision to do press-ups before bed and pass on cake? To help with such decision quandaries, I’ve wondered if it might be possible to have updates sent to one. In the days gone by, I fantasized about discovering a guiding note in an envelope under my pillow. Nowadays, an email or text or other similar message (whatsapp, FB message) would suffice. All we need is the service rendered through a communication channel. In fairness, though, this isn’t really ‘a technology’, but perhaps it could draw on science. Maybe someone could work out an algorithm to attune each person’s Highest Priority task.

The second source for today’s verse is a study about which I read. (I’m trying to recall the book. It was possibly a title about human habit and behaviour.) In this study a group of pastors in training were asked to prepare a sermon on the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). They were then sent to a second venue where they were to deliver the sermon at a particular time. En route, ‘a stranger in need’ was placed on their path. Almost none of the pastors stopped to help. The conclusion for this behaviour was that when people are in a hurry and focused on upholding a time-bound commitment they are less attuned to others around them and certainly do not feel at liberty to help.

I too have fallen into this pattern. Many a person in need and distress I’ve passed by, sneered at, dismissed and judged, especially when I am harried and going someplace. Sometimes I wonder, was that moment possibly my true task for the day? If only I had some guidance that could reassure me, if you help this person and are 15 minutes late for the next thing, it will be ok.

However, finding yourself waylead and not being on time are the hallmarks of somebody who most certainly does not have their priorities in order.

Then there is the other matter that sometimes I am just sceptical about helping. But that could be a verse topic for another occasion.

(P.S. I am aware of the tautology of ‘highest priority’. In the poem the acronym serves a double purpose (Highest Priority > Higher Power). The tautology also references the commonplace usage of the expression to mean the item that is absolutely at the top of one’s list of things to do.)

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Another beauty courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

Another beauty courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

My use of maritime imagery predates the well received poem of August, “Tall Ship“. For example, there is also this poem posted last year, “Preceding seafaring that was not to transpire“.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books

Image courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

Image courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

The dark encroaches earlier and the temperatures drop. September heralds autumnal change. This time last year I was already battening down by spending more evenings in with the creaking heating, baking and feeling the quiet life.

Northern (Hen) Harrier.jpg
Northern (Hen) Harrier” by Len Blumin from Mill Valley, California, United States – Northern Harrier. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

a poem written in London on Sept. 26th, 2014

Sky’s signal stopped September 10th.
Three days later, Hope’s did too.
Birds of their kind hunt small mammals.
Birds of their kind are near extinction.
This plight of the birds sparked action
and the hatchlings all were tagged.
Now Sky and Hope have vanished
there’s a reward for word.

In bed after my radio-alarm clock goes off, I listen to an early morning news bulletin. Half-asleep, half-awake is a strange state in which to have the bad, ugly and feel-good filter into one’s mind. In this doze I have half-heard, half-imagined many strange things about the world’s antics. The juxtaposition of the news items can in itself be uncanny, as was the case yesterday. The opening story was the impending Westminster vote about whether or not ‘to go to war’. Later in the bulletin was the item about two rare birds of prey that have disappeared.

I take in a breath when I see magnificent birds of prey in the air. Condors, eagles and falcons soar with a self-assurance that inspires awe. I don’t think I’ve seen hen harriers; they’re found further North of London. Yet the image of sharp-winged birds of prey cut down, whether by game shooters of misfortune, struck me. (Hen harriers are on the brink of extinction due to their unsuccessful breeding rate.)

With the names ‘Sky’ and ‘Hope’, a poet couldn’t have asked for better ready-made symbolic material.

The Westminster vote, the first item of the bulletin, is scheduled to happen today (Friday, 26th Sept.). I have omitted this last line from the poem, “In cabinet they vote on war.”

The line felt too obvious. I hope the smart reader is able to join some literary dots.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Empire state building USA

By Guillaume Lussier-Dulude (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

After inserting the Gherkin at the end of “Now here is something to marvel at…“, I had a whim to write a poem for each season featuring an architectural icon. I have yet to follow through on this idea, but “The Character Building” (posted this time last year) re-engaged with landmark structures.

Like “Now here…“, the poem “The Character Building” is actually about the everyday and picayune that is often passed over for the dazzling and iconic.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books

Image courtesy of the Old Design Sop, a vintage image treasury.

Image courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

In preparation
          for life’s many little pageants

We brush out our hair,
cut the dry, split ends,
straighten out the frizz.
We lather up our legs
and smooth out the bristle.
We take concealer to those rings beneath our tired eyes
and layer over the unhappy spots.
We tint tiny rainbows on our eyelids
and add a flick of Cleopatra’s kohl.
Heeled, contoured, groomed, composed,
we stage a tincture of our most come-hither selves.

Emily, sister and sweetheart of the modern boy, returns. Here she offers some observations about her sisters at their pre-seduction toilette.

This time last year, I gathered together twenty-five poems inspired by Emily, an ego de plume who communicates with the Modern Boy. Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys covers the broad topics of life, work and love. Preview it here.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Kirchner 1913 Street, Berlin.jpg
Kirchner 1913 Street, Berlin“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

John Keats wrote his famous ode ‘To Autumn‘ on the 19th of September 1819. This partially inspired my poem posted this time last year. (This year, we are enjoying a generous bolt of extended warmth. The colder snap is still to come.)

Autumn’s ripened harvest store” offers up the autumn harvest of a modern Northern metropolis. The season is one of sneezes, the onset of black coats and umbrellas, nights that close in earlier and the rise of comfort eating as the cold sets in.

When I first started posting on this blog, I wrote about the autumn memories from my undergraduate days. Soon afterwards I posted an early (lovely) poem which was also born during autumn. Those “brown beacons” on a stark tree struck me as I trudged the streets of a Polish town (where I worked in my twenties). Those beacons have remained with me ever since.

It is the city in autumn, without the associated glow of golden leaves or scattering seedpods, that today’s archive poem captures. Much of my current writing draws on my experience of London – its suburbs and centre.  In looking for an illustration, I hoped to find a scene of men on grey pavements, in black coats, holding up black umbrellas against dreary drizzle. Kirchner’s street scene is in parts too vibrant to fulfill these requirements. However, the people (like others in his city depictions) capture the strident anonymity of urban existence. I decided against cropping the image because the composition is so striking – and who knows, perhaps the woman in purple is the observing poet.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

An illustration of a prawn salad from from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1907.courtesy of the Old Design Shop., a vintage image treasyury.

An illustration of a prawn salad from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1907.courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

 

The orange has been wrung of juice.
The garlic’s lost its tang.
The salad leaves have dropped their wings.
The kitchen now has closed.

 


I do like a good food-related poem. Sometimes it’s more or less simply about the food:

Most versatile
Salad with mackerel

Or the words:

Recipe
Kitchen Alchemy

On other occasions, food is a conduit through which the poem explores a theme:

Just right
Mouse Days
An overdose of summer
At the moment: £2
Let them eat
Supreme ultimate
Tightly Sealed
Packed Lunches
The currency of sugar
London. Is it worth it?
Tumbling After
To the Valleys
Today

These themes include provision, community, comfort through distraction, class/social identity. Perhaps you notice some others? Do leave your thoughts as a comment below.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Illustration courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

Illustration courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

Leo’s Entries” is one of two poems written last year in the format of journal entries by respected (male) authors. The other was “Philip’s Log“.

Both poems were part of a year long project which culminated in a book, In the Ocean: a year of poetry.

Blood letting.jpg
Blood letting“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

From a Stone” engages with the frustrations of bringing forth a poem when it feels like drawing blood from an inanimate source. Like “Glomurelonephritis” this is one of the rare instances where my personal health experiences feature in a poem. For 31 years I have lived with a chronic renal (kidney) condition. The blood drawing analogy in “From a Stone” touches on my real experiences of ‘having bloods done’ (as they say in some hospital lingo). Putting my arm out to have blood siphoned from a vein still feels easier than many pursuits: writing poetry, doing press-ups or following my dreams.

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