It is May, and livelihood is not a golden beast

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I do wonder how one of my ancestors, who lived a life centred around tending her cattle, may see my screen-filled days. It would probably baffle her as to how what I do is work.*

It was from such a wondering that I imagined the scene in Listen to me, you golden beauty. This poem evokes a Beltane tradition:

“One of the practices during Beltane was to usher cattle, beasts that provided the livelihood for the people of the settlement, between two large bonfires. The beasts were sometimes garlanded in yellow May flowers. Ash from the bonfires was considered sacred, so it was swept up and used to mark the cattle. In some instances, it was cooked into food (such as oatcakes).”

I say to myself that I am grateful I do not have to rely on the vagaries of nature for my livelihood as my potato farming ancestors may have done. 2020 reminded me that the job market has its vagaries, too. There are lean seasons and workers must scratch in the earth until the rains return. Our late capitalist world is in many ways, for many of us, a world of prosperity. In the cosmic world, change is the only constant. As such, even in 2021 let this be the petition to the Beltane beauty: may it be a year of abundance, sustenance and providence.

With my hands to the muzzle
I lead the prosperity of my summer yield,
garlanded in cowslips, buttercups and wild daffodils,
through the Beltane flames.

Read the full poem and more about May Day and Beltane here.

*Whenever I hear the word “work” my brain immediately plays Mrs Honeychurch from A Room with a View reciting her immortal line, “To mess about with latch-keys and call it work?”

Published by BeadedQuill

Author of over 300 poems, also books, essays and short stories. Published in the Johannesburg Review of Books, Carapace and Type/Cast. BeadedQuill's titles are for sale via

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