Archives for posts with tag: hope

At the elm spring
five birds sat in the trees
hoping that the
coming year is filled
with All is well.

31/12/16

Other poems about the shift to the New Year
A New Room
in the glow of celebration
Clementi Brings in 2013

By Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

"Midnight Harp" by Esmira, on DeviantArt

Midnight Harp” by Esmira, on DeviantArt

Bell-like, round and clear
Hopeful and transparent 
as a copper bauble,
it lifts the congregation.
From the sanctuary 
the maiden’s voice soars
and plunges
as she elongates the siren call.

 

I am not a groupie. I’d rather spend my days in a hermit’s hut on a mountainside with books, green tea and yoga for company instead of people. I find people politics and inane conversation immensely annoying. But I keep seeking out institutionalised assemblies. In these experiences I find vestiges of tribal inheritances, which seem to inspire my creative work. At least, this is my theory as to why I keep seeking out groups and gatherings which jar with my loner’s soul. Being part of a martial arts academy is one example. Volunteering in various organisations and an ongoing relationship with institutions of learning, such as schools and universities, are others. Then there’s church attendance, which has influenced a few recent poems (Just Punishment, Let them eat).

Attending church takes me back to my childhood and familiar language patterns. My father claimed a deep personal religiosity. When we were children, it was a weekly parental pleasure for him to walk me and my brother to Sunday School. After the morning’s service proceedings we would play outside. He would siphon egg sandwiches, Salticrax with cheese and little cakes from the adult’s tea-table for us. (The Anglican Church to this day offers an excellent post-service tea spread.) He would spend a long time explaining things to us like the flat stones in the graveyard, the gruesome Stations of the Cross and the purple covering-cloths at Lent.

Today’s poem is drawn from a recent church experience during which I was struck by the clear, enchanting voice of the young woman who lead the singing. Her voice was neither trained nor very brilliant, but it moved me. In that moment, a flood of young maidens singing swept over me. I saw maidens with harps in old villages. I imagined maidens next to seas and riverbanks singing as they worked with others or alone to keep themselves company. I saw maidens next to firesides singing with the transparency of youthful hope, watched by audiences of older women and men, who in that moment were reminded of their youthful expectancy. This memory suspends itself like a copper bauble, picks up the fire-light and lifts them in the moment. It was all this that propelled me to write the poem.

The title references the “Libera me” at the end of Verdi’s Requiem. Instead of an awe-inspiring chorus with trained soprano, the single lay voice of this poem rings out unaffected and haunting. The siren call in this context is not entirely destructive. It is hypnotic, but it re-directs its listeners towards hope. The catch is that for many of them this hope is a bauble of the past, but it still frees them.

It only occurred to me years later that our absence from the house on a Sunday meant that my hard-working, music teacher mother could have a morning of quiet respite. At the end of 1987 and in early 1988, my Mum was also pregnant with my sister. Now when I look back at those memories, I add this layer. While we were running around the grounds of Christ the King on Lower Milner Road, stuffing our kiddie faces with egg sandwiches (on white bread! With crusts cut off!) and staring at faux-granite gravestones, my Mum was at home with a growing belly which contained my little sister.

My sister is now big – a maiden herself in her later twenties. She plays the harp and occasionally sings, though not in church. Her siren work with words is in a different field. She is a journalist.

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 

It’s Thursday, 06:15
You wake up to the alarm
knowing you will never 
  win an Olympic medal
  publish a novel
  that would win the Man Booker,
  finish your degree
  or even pay the last R150 you owe
Woolworths.
Your first grandchild will die before 
you and each of those candles you lit
in the cave of the chapel
might have been for your lost
dreams.
	But those little flames did not save you
from the canker fire in your gut and liver
that burned lost dreams and life
in slower motion than every workday Thursday.


This is the second in a set of ‘difficult’ poems.

Woolworths is a South African department store akin to the UK’s Marks and Spencer (rather than the now defunct UK Woolworths).

The described persona of this poem is based on my Dad.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

Over the hills 
in this fulsome of seasons,
the rains trigger migration
of hartebeests in cravats.

With dress suits and readings
of love  patient, love kind,
they sniff over the morning 
for griddle-pan scones,

white-veiled receptions, 
soft hands at their temples. Ah, 
all those summers a-toiling 
they bring back to the valleys

as rings in their pockets
in snapped shut hinged boxes
to find all brides
have left for the sea.

As hinted at last week, here is the poem about grooms flocking to the valleys.  It was spurred by a dictionary explanation of fiancée that read “He went back to the valley to marry his fiancée.” In my accompanying essay to last Thursday’s post, “I do. Do you?”, I explain my wonder at such a contextualising mini-narrative. I also predicted a sprouting poem.

As a companion read, I recommend Liz Berry’s wonderful poem “The Year We Married Birds”. Hereunder my favourite line, no less because of the colon.

“My own groom was a kingfisher:
enigmatic, bright.”

It’s a busy marriage market out there with hartebeests in the valleys and magpies, Trafalgar pigeons and snow buntings in the cities. Too bad the brides have left for the sea.

P.S. The hartebeest is species of antelope.

Still looking for a completely original Christmas gift for a bibliophile? Preview my books of poetry.

Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys – Fresh off the press! 25 poems on life, love and work derived from the field-notes of an observant poetess.

Shining in Brightness – 20 selected poems chronicle twelve years of travel, relationships and growing up. Praised as “jewel-like droplets in a grey, urban landscape”.

Find Beaded Quill on Twitter (as @BeadedQuill) and Facebook.