Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Last Day of the Challenge

Wherein the prompt was barely a prompt: "the______". Yup a fill in the blank that was basically all blank. I got severely distracted by a linguistic distraction earlier in the day, that had nothing to do with poetry writing, and it took me a while to come up with something workable. I resorted to a brisk walk to get my mind working again. This was the result:

 The New Page

Those last few lines I've finally written.
It was harder than I had hoped.
So many, many easier endings,
I had tried - and tried in vain.

But there are other, kinder stories,
Braver tales to be told.
I turn to an undamaged page,
Sharpen my pen and start again.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Inevitable Piping Poem


Well, I guess waiting until day 29 to finally succumb to a piping poem, is really not too bad at all. The prompt was "metric" and the impression I got from the explanation is that anything goes, so long as it address the concept of meter in some way. So I, of course, fell off the bandwagon, and wrote about piping. We all knew it was coming:

Learning the Pipes

To be a piper you must have
The Tunes by heart, and love them well;
Must wear them, as you wear a poem,
With countless tellings, line by line.
And more than music: you must love
Their bones and shaping. You must dwell
Within the heart beat of their form,
Where song and meter intertwine.
Until you speak the dialect,
Of cuts and gracings, and can tell
The tale written in the notes,
And march their measure, line by line.

Friday, April 28, 2017

What Poetry Contest is Complete Without a Haiku?

Well... most of them probably. And I normally don't write 'em myself. But today was a long day, involving a tedious long day of staff training, that was supposed to be fun, and was mostly just sort of vexing, and unnecessarily long for no reason. And far more interactive than I am comfortable being with anyone. 

Today's prompt was 'smell', and I did not intend to do a serious of haikus on the seasons, but I more or less had the idea for all of them before I got to the meeting (over an hour drive away) and I tinkered on them the rest of the day:

Spring smells of melting
Running water and first green
Of hope and new life.

Summer is heavy,
Incensed by sagebrush and pine.
How I long for rain.

Autumn comes, fragrant,
Aspen bitter, tang of leaves;
restless wandering.

Winter smells of frost,
Of cinnamon and Christmas,
Of comfort and joy.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

There Is No Hiccup in This Poem

 Today the challenge was to write a poem that used at least three of the the six words in this unpromising list of words:

  • pest
  • crack
  • ramble
  • hiccup
  • wince
  • festoon
I tried my level best to get all of them in there.... but seriously, hiccup? I mean, unless one is inspired to write very humourous verse (considerably harder than it sounds) how exactly does one casually slip that word into a poem?

This is what I managed.... and it is not all that bad:

I’m not fond of spiders, though I know
Their point and purpose, and rejoice,
At their harrowing of graver pests.
It is not that I fear or loath,
The little hunters, but that their guise –
All long-leggity and shadow-fast –
Evoke a sense of great unease.

And yet, one morning, thick with frost,
When ice cracked at the touch of sun,
I rambling went in wincing cold
And saw a spiderweb strung across
Two fence-posts, wighted and festooned
With rime that glittered, silver-gold.
And for that joy, the spider blessed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Regrets... I've Had a Few

But then again, too few to mention....

The prompt of the day was regret. The thing is, most of my regrets, I've moved passed. I am sorry about some things and sad about others, but no real regrets anymore, per se. Besides, I've never been great about writing introspective poems. I manage an occasional one, but I don't really enjoy the challenge. So, when I woke up before the birds this morning, (because insomnia we have always with us) and the first couple popped into my head (I have not had port and cake in some considerable time) I decided that I was writing a somewhat humourous poem instead:

The Things an Insomniac Thinks About

I regret that I did not take
That glass of port with chocolate cake.

That I have never had the chance
To learn just how ‘The Swords’ is danced,

Nor have I quite yet got enough
Old English for reading ‘Beowulf’.

And Morse Code I still don’t know
(I started learning years ago.)

That I don’t own a pair of spats,
A swordstick cane, or a quizzing glass,

That my car has died… again,
And I’m running low on Jameson.

That I cannot name that gleeful bird,
Whose reveille song I overheard

(At 5 am – the little creep)
..I most regret my lack sleep…

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Day We Got the Dreaded Love Poem.

Apparently, that is a thing on these challenges. The last Tuesday in April gives us the option of a love or an anti-love poem. This happened last time too.... 

Last time, I think I wrote a cheesy little poem about old people still in love with each other. This time, I am not doing Love - as in the romantic love that would be translated into Latin amo. I am doing a Charity poem. Not a poem about donating to charity, but a poem about Caritas - the sort of Christlike love we're supposed to have for each other. 

It took longer than expected to write - no doubt because I spent a good portion of my day explaining large library fines to people who thought that they shouldn't have them, in answering decidedly odd questions, and in throwing out the cell phone cusser with the aggressive service dog. It is rather difficult to write about Christian Charity, when one is fielding complaints from the guy who thinks that all dogs are out to eat him, and is being vulgarly told off for suggesting that loud, offensive phone calls should not be made inside the library. But hey ho. This is what I managed, anyway:

The Greatest of these is Charity
(Caritas: nom. Latin - from Carus: dear, valued: Christian love)

Love is not a paltry thing,
Soft-edged with niceness and pleasantries,
A fragile thing of glass and warmth.
Nor is it yet merely mingling
Of passion, nor capricious heat - 
A flame to madden, woo or charm.
These are but the panoply.
Love is forged of heart and will
Fierce as fire, iron-hard.
Forebears in face of suffering,
Is kind, in spite of enmity,
Sees Christ in all, and knows the worth
Of little deeds done honourably.
Keeps Faith, when firm is failing,
Hopes, in face of long defeat,
Remains, when nothing else endures.
For Love, in lonely chivalry,
Duels with darkness. It is the Light,
That shines when other lights go out.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Faith

Yesterday's prompt was "the last________" and we filled in the blank. I got overly ambitious, wanting to write an epic end of the world poem. It begins, "At the Ending of all Days/ And the World's unravelling" and, after few lines of an apocalyptic nature to set the scene, would go on to list all of the Sleeping Heroes who are supposed to return at the end of the world - you know, Barbarossa, and Arthur, etc - and they would all rise and stand by "The Hero King of the wine-red scars." I worked in it most of the day, and shall continue to work on it. It shall join another overly ambitious poem that I have been plugging away at for a good long while now.... so let it not be said that I got lazy yesterday. I tried to write - and, indeed, managed a good deal - but very little of it struck the right note....

Today's prompt was Faith, and being the complicated little bundle of a person that I am, I ended up writing more about hope than faith. Still, it could have been worse, I think:

The Phoenix

I lost Hope, for it was slain,
A wounded bird, pinned to a tree
That died in fire, blood and pain.

It broke the very heart of me.
Of bitterness I drank my fill.
Yet Hope is a Phoenix, so they say.

That dies in flame, and yet lives still.
To that I hold, in spite of doubt,
Or broken heart, or wavering will.

For Faith remains, though Hope goes out,
And I, in darkness, will Faithful be,
In little things, in deed and thought,

Shall hunt for the holy trinity
Of Faith and Hope and Charity.

I am ever so slightly proud of the rhyme pattern here. It is terza rima, which is what The Divine Comedy is written in. I am attempting (and not managing it too often) to do some of the challenges in a traditional poetic form. 

And on that note, I bid ye all a good night,and hope to see you in this place tomorrow.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Another Triolet

We were supposed to do a fable poem today.... I feel that my Muse is throwing her hands up in annoyance, and refusing to really concentrate on the matter at hand. This is the closest I could get:

Though Winter is bitter, keen and cold,
Wild with wind, and wet and snow,
The littlest birds are brave and bold,
When stronger things hide from the cold.
And through the fiercest weather go
Singing for joy ! If truth be told,
I would that I could be so bold,
And singing go, through sorrow.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Objectivity....

We had to pick an object today - any object - and write a poem about that object. I might possibly be taking the "I will not write about bagpipes" thing a bit far. (Then again, the fact that it tends to be the de facto response to these sorts of prompts probably means I take bagpipes too far.) Having discarded that option, I couldn't settle on pen or sword.... so I did both.

Weapons

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
So goes the saying. It might be true,
But I have held and wielded both –
The Warrior Poet was common once.
For Sword and Pen both cut as hard
At complacency. Both defend
(If Ink and Iron have any worth)
The Sacred and the Simple things.
And Deed is counterpoint of Word:
If Pen be worth the Ink it spills,
Then must Goodness, Beauty, Truth,
Be lived and loved – even to Death.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Two-Thirds of the Way Through

Yep. Twenty days of prompts, eighteen poems, and ten days left to go. Not to shabby eh? Today's prompt was "task". I was hoping for something more Anglo Saxon in feel, but had to settle for mere alliteration:

Starting Over

A task I took unto myself,
At ending of an angry year
To turn from mere monotony,
And Godward set my steps, instead.
To walk the way of wondering,
To bide with Beauty, and to be glad
Of little things, alight with grace.
To hold my heart in happiness.
The moments marking mindfully,
Attending to the need of Now.
Do the good each day demands
With no thought of cost nor thole,
But hunting for Hope, to hold it fast,
While waiting on the Will of God.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday in Easter Week

Today's prompt was a "memory" and I originally though I was going to write a somewhat comic poem about my lack thereof. However, my sister has been reading the Propers of the Mass for each day, since the beginning of Lent. She loves today's Gospel - Christ meeting His Apostles on the shores of Lake Tiberias, and Peter being too impatient to wait for the boat to come about, so he swims to shore. I have a soft spot for that story too, and as a result, the comic poem went to the wayside and we have this instead:

The Sea of Tiberias
Wednesday in Easter Week, 2017

I remember once before,
A morning like this,
And against the sunrise,
A Man upon the shore.
His voice on the water
Bidding, "Cast thy nets again."
And once before,
This miracle of fish,
And water at the gunnels,
As the nets tore.
I let them fall
Stunned with sudden joy
Remembering that once before.
Nor could I bide to wait,
But fast a fish, swam to meet
My Lord upon the shore

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Getting Back Into It

I think, perhaps, whatever was making it so difficult for me to write poetry over the last several days has finally sorted itself out, as I have managed to write something today that I like. (The last two poems I was not very pleased with.) I rather think I might have been a bit heavy-handed with it, but all in all, it feels more like the sort of poetry I like to write, and less like I am going through the paces:


Paradox
Tuesday in Easter Week 2017

Life and Death stand side by side.
We occupy the space between,
Our days are rounded by their watch -
We are comrades of them both.

Nor can we from their kinship hide.
A life, well-lived, has faced its death,
Has walked in Light and suffered much,
And known the Hope that bears defeat.

For God has suffered naught to die,
Unless, from Death Life springs anew,
And every sorrow bears the touch
Of Life emerging from the tomb.

Monday, April 17, 2017

I Missed a Couple Days

But not quite so many as it seems. Good Friday and Holy Saturday did not work out from a poetry point of view. I tried. I scattered pieces of verse everywhere, but nothing came together enough to make it work while. I did manage something on Easter - not the beautiful, hopeful thing I wanted, because the prompt was "system" and if there is a way to turn that into an Easter poem, I never found it. I also managed one today. Neither of them are too good. But I am posting them anyway:

Recovery System

Sorrow can only endure so long
Bitter rage burns out at last
Pain has its measure to mar or make.
And the empty soul at last must stand:
Choose to give back good for wrong,
Hunt for Hope and hold it fast,
Face itself for the soul’s own sake,
Learn to laugh, and take God’s Hand.

I don't think I really mean to call that by that title. It was merely the trigger phrase that meant that I actually had a poem to post. Today's post was "dance". One of my younger sisters loved the song Cherish. Whenever Dad would put it on, she would stop whatever she was doing, and come out to dance with him. The prompter also pointed out that it is Haiku day today. I am not a huge fan of Haiku, but I figured the form worked for this. 

Cherish

When he played their song
At the first notes of “Cherish”
She came out shyly,

Small and expectant.
He swept her up in his arms,
They dance together

Daddy and daughter
In each other’s arms, singing
“Cherish is the word”…

Friday, April 14, 2017

Family

This was a difficult prompt for me, because I have a really great family. And my really great family is going through some difficult times together. There was so much I wanted to get into this poem - sitting around the kitchen table, drink coffee and conversing, they way we sort of adopt people - not just our friends, but people who seem to need a family, the way we can spend hours playing silly games like bananagrams, while listening to music. I couldn't do it, but I hope this is not too bad of an effort, thought it took far longer for this short bit of verse to come than it ought have:

We never had much
Only each other,
Wine and bread,
At family dinners,
Love and laughter,
Song and banter
Walks in all weather,
When wonder was free.
Mother and Father
Sisters and brother
Friends who were family
And Rosary together.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Prompt 12: Guilt

"Guilt" is probably a good prompt for Holy Week, and I thought it would be easier to write than it actually was. Several aborted attempts finally yielded this:

Domine Non Sum Dignus

It is not Thy bleeding feet,
Thy wounded hands nor crown of scars –
Though I dealt them all to Thee,
And left Thee, beaten and alone –
That cause me now such sorrowing,
That leave me hollowed and ashamed,
But that, when I had done the deed,
And fled, a fugitive, in the dark,
Thy Love came searching after me,
Through tangled ways of thorn and stone,
Found me, guilty and cowering,
Looked at me, and called my name.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lo, the Perfidious Muse....

It is a bad sign when I quote a... curious library patron from years and years ago. Especially when the prompt of the day was to write either a sonnet or an anti-form poem. Anti-form and all its antecedents are anathema to me. Even if I should want to write something non-metrical and free form, I cannot do it. So sonnet it was. Only... I couldn't do it. My serious attempt at a sonnet would not go anywhere. About half way through the day, I abandoned it for a sonnet on my inability to write sonnets:

On Being Unable to Write Today

I’ve chosen today to write a sonnet –
I’ve never been able to write free verse –
But though I have laboured the day upon it,
I’ve nothing to show, for better or worse
But a crumpled collection of discarded lines
‘Mid work notes, in pockets, tucked into books.
Crumpled up pieces of terrible rhymes
Mocking the task I rashly undertook.
Farewell to pride and all solemnity
Away with every pretension of skill!
Embrace instead heartfelt humility:
We are made stronger by what doesn’t kill.
                     One can only try, but though I fail
                     Still I’ll try, as long as I am able.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Travelling....

That was the prompt today. A travel poem... The older I get, the less I like the travelling part of travelling. I like cruising well enough - a nice road trip with music and good scenery. Anything more than that - especially if it involves the humiliation of airport travel - and I just want to get to where ever I am going and never get on the plane again. This poem is about that, and the relief that comes with arriving:


Dublin 2016
Centennial of the Easter Rising

I’ve so long been travelling-
Purgatorial timelessness,
Displaced and moorless-
Through hermetical airports,
In pressure-locked cabins,
Efficient and airless,
Purposefully comfortless,
With weather only
a thing through the glass,
That this touch of wildness,
This smell of sweetness:
The sea-smell borne
on the wind, in the rain-
Cuts to the heart of me,
Quickens and blesses –
Balm to my weariness:
I am an exile, returning to home.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday



This is the antiphon for Palm Sunday. It is one of those extraordinarily beautiful songs that the Church composes for its most special occasions. In traditional Catholic services, this is the antiphon that is sung while the faithful process up to receive their palms.

Today's poetry prompt was another fill in the blank prompt, "So (blank)". All of the initial ideas were flippant: "So.... it has come to this". (And very dramatic it is too.) "So, this is how it ends..." (Only I can't think of anything to follow up with.) "So this is how it feels." (I don't do feelings.) 

An idea occurred to me on the way down to Mass... it was supposed to be a two part poem. The last two lines would have involved me lifting palms and singing "Hosanna filio David". So I worried the poem into shape..... and discovered that after a single part, it seems so complete that I could not figure out how to get the second part in. I did not immediately post it, as I really hoped that a second part might take shape. But the more I thought about it, the more the poet instinct told me that it was finished. So this is the poem of the day:

So I, In Darkness Sought Thy Face
Palm Sunday, 2017

Because I saw Thy Glory clad
In home-spun robes, Thy work-scarred hands
Upraised to bless and to command
The Sea be calm and sorrows flee,
Because I saw Thy Chivalry,
So I, in darkness, sought Thy Face,
And saw the Face Thou hid.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Panic


That was the prompt. Panic. And I am not about to write about a panic attack, thank you very much. So I settled with a memory of watching my little sisters play in the water. 

Jacinta at the Beach

She went with cautious confidence,
Her little toes curled on the sand,
And little face amazed and grave
As water rushed around her feet
And broke upon the shore.

While I watched with heart in mouth,
Her joy between lake and land,
Afraid, because she was so brave,
The water would rush up to greet

Forget its strength, and teach her fear.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Yet Another Nature Poem

Today I was supposed to discover something. So I remembered discovering a little nest with baby Stellar's Jays in it. They were astonishing ugly and I was amazed that something as stunning as a Stellar's Jay should have an offspring that looked like that..... but for all that, they were sort of adorable too.... And then mom dive bombed me and I left her family in peace. 

Discovery

I climbed a tree and found a nest,
A little nest of twig and string
With unfledged jaybirds, loud within,
Noisy, new and ravenous.

They were ugly and undressed,
Feeble, blind, unfeathered things,
​Crying mouths, altricial skin,
Timid, weak and tremulous.

And yet I loved their ugliness,
Th​e new life​,​ bare and trembling
The ​plaintive calling​, hungry, thin​,
Fragile, fair and wondrous.

I looked at latent loveliness
The hidden flight in useless wings,
The faint first colour, coming in​:​
Blue and black and lustrous.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The End of the Drought

Today's prompt was "a sound". Being a piper, my mind naturally went to that deep, elemental drone of bagpipes. But I figure the pipes are a good back up subject, and besides, it is too easy to go over the top with rhapsodical praise of the Great Instrument. And then I remembered a morning not too long ago, when the snow started melting, and there were little shorebirds wandering in the meadow rather than by the lake, with the worried-sounding little Killdear, calling from out of the grass and dry wildflowers of last year. So I wrote about that instead.

The Marsh, March 2017

The Marsh is flooded
And the well-known ways
Are rivers now, impassible.
The sound of water is everywhere.
Drought has vanished
Like a dream.

Where once was meadow
The Wood Ducks play
In waves of water and of grass.
The sky reflects a thousand times.
Cloud are racing
In every stream.

The Killdeer from shoreline
Far have strayed
And keen amid the willow breaks.
The Marsh gives back the plaintive sound
Of their crying
Spring! Spring! Spring!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In which the Challenge Becomes Challenging

I don't know about you, but I have never found the Periodic Table of Elements to be poetic. (Unless, of course, one is listening to Tom Lehrer singing it to the tune of the Modern Major General) So when the Elements (as in the ones on the table, and not weather, nor water, wind, earth and fire) was given as a prompt, I was temporarily flummoxed. I did not want to be boring and go for gold or silver. Nor did I want to be goofy, and go on about the benefits of potassium and iron. So I spent a few minutes looking at the Periodic Table this morning, and came across iridium. I had no idea iridium was an element. My whole association with it is as the thing most fountain pen nibs are tipped with, if not made entirely out of. So, coming up with no better inspiration, I composed this. (And yes, I now want to purchase a new Shaeffer Tuckaway :-)

GOLD AND IRIDIUM

 For Purchase:
    Shaeffer Tuckaway
    Lifetime Edition:
    White Dot too.
    In good condition,
    Some slight scuffing:
    Prussian Blue.
    Fine, gold nib tipped
    With Iridium
    Nearly New.
(I Buy it, Of Course.)
    How strange the wedding
    Of the two metals
    Now at hand:
    Softest and densest
    Set to one purpose...
    I intend
    Upon good paper
    To set down poetry
    From that pen.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Early Spring

I am constitutionally predisposed to cool weather. I love autumn and winter, but more to the point, I am comfortable in them. I dislike summer quite intensely, as heat and I are not simpatico. I have, however, a complicated relationship with spring. I do not like early spring time. There is mud, and snow mold, and always the scattered detritus of humanity, which is somehow everywhere now that the snow is gone, even though there was no sign of it before winter came. After winter's chill and enchanted glory, I find it all quite demoralising. But once that bleak period between the white beauty, and wild flower time is past, and we have spring properly - all bright, green grass and gentle sun.... well, in that small margin of time, before the summer heat comes and the words is still soft and cool and alive, then I love spring almost as much as autumn.

We were supposed to write a beginning, or an ending poem today. Or, if you were really ambitious, you could write a beginning-and-an-end poem. I drew a blank most of the day, mostly on account of a poem I have been working on intermittently for months, which is a beginning sort of poem, but still has that one transitional line that will not come out the way I want, and is therefore holding up the rest of it. I ended up setting for a poem about this time of year:

 The In Between Time

Winter is passing
   And burning away
Snow lingers only
   Where shadows lay.

In the bright morning
   I mourn for the loss
Of needle ice
   And white hoarfrost.

But the smell of Spring
   And Blackbirds’ call;
The tiny greeness,
   Impossibly small

The willows budding
   And snow-melt rills
Soothe my winter-heart:
   There is beauty still.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday in Passion Week

Today's prompt was a fill in the blank thing: The (blank) of Love, and we were to decided what word went in the blank, use that as the poem's title and off you go. 

I do not like love poems.... Well, I suppose that is not entirely accurate. I like Robert Burns' love poems well enough, and I fancy if I put my mind to it, there are a number of other poets whose romantic verses have moved my. But I do not like writing love poems. They are not really my thing. Indeed, any sort of highly personal writing is far out of my comfort zone. I write about things, preferably things which can be expressed mythically (if you take my meaning), things that are universal, perhaps even emotional, but in which I am never more than a passing figure. I was not excited about today's prompt, nor did I have much hope for it. But I did manage this:

The Debt of Love
(Passion Week, 2017)

You wrote Your Love against the sky
In iron, gall, and Your own red blood.
I turned and left You hanging there - 
I thought it no more than my due.

I took in stride the dying words
You wrote in pain with blood and wood.
I mouthed my thanks and walked away
And took no farther thought of You.

But in this Dark Night of the Soul,
I read those love notes, writ in blood.
I know the burden of my choice:
Too late, too little have I loved You.

In Which I Despair

The prompt was a "not today" poem. I could have done something heroic. Instead I did this:

Triolet

A day might come when I get some sleep
And wake refreshed to greet the day:
No nightly fears, nor troubles keep
Away the slightest hope of sleep.
At 3 a.m. awake I lay.
I'm weary of counting unnumbered sheep:
A day may come when I get some sleep
 - Today is not that day.

Yes, that is sad. I know it. But day two is done, and maybe tomorrows prompt will not inspire another such sorry excuse for verse.

I am off to try for that elusive sleep......

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Winter's on the Wing...

When last I took the time to write something for this blog, I spoke of the resolution I had made to be hopeful and trust in God, even if things look hopeless and trust is hard. This is, in retrospect, the sort of difficult, foolish resolution that one should only make with the full realisation that God takes you at your word when you do so. I was aware of what I was doing when I made that resolution, but I did not really expect God to test it quite so thoroughly as He has these last couple months. I have no intention of complaining about the hand He is dealing out through His wisdom. Nor, for that matter, to imply that the difficult situations in which I have so unwantedly found myself do not have the faint, curling new-growth of Something Good Coming about them - they do. There is - improbably - Hope in the midst of a decided Vale of Tears; Hope that shines like a single, bright prick of starlight - a solitary guide in the unfriendly darkness. What I do mean to say, is that sometimes, one is so busy being hopeful and trusting (with the full awareness of how often one fails of that resolve) there is not much time for the careful, thoughtful Ideas one longs to write about. I would apologise for this, but instead I merely ask that you bear with me. I want to write about things that matter, nor content myself with babbling.


**************************************************


I saw a young Hawk take a Meadowlark in midair. It was during the first week of Lent, a bright, cold morning, heavy with frost, gilded with the first golden sunlight that means that spring is coming, for all the chill. There was a brief struggle between the two beautiful, dappled creatures; cries of hunger and distress, the flare and beat of wings, and a plunge - Mors et Vita duello...

It has been a wet, long winter here in mountains of the Far west. Heavy storms, one after another, bringing at times, rain, at others, snow. Wild always, with an unmitigated sea-wind driving them; a hard winter for the foolish, hardy thing that make their homes in such high and inhospitable places. 

The Hawk was hungry. It tossed the lovely breast feathers - yellow and grey, soft and warm, so that the air was full of the ghost of the Meadowlark. It keened as it ate, like a small child, humming at its dinner. The other birds, well hidden in the surrounding pines, scolded it at first . Jays, and Junco, Chickadees and Kinglets, called out together - in warning, perhaps, or in fear. Then one by one they fell silent, until the Hawk and the Meadowlark were alone, in a circle of silence. There was a slight ring around them, of pale yellow down, already being blowing away in the cold morning wind, a drop or two of blood, glowing warmly against the snow. 

When the first edge of its hunger was dulled, the Hawk flew into the willows to finish his meal. The willows were ruddy with the first flush of wakening sap. The brilliantly, dappled breast of the Hawk turned him into a creature of snow and shadow, easily lost in the willow shade. He ate in a small storm of flying feathers, methodically now, no longer a hungry child, but as a man might, at the end of a day's hard labour. He would occasionally look out into the solitary silence around it - his fine head like the profile on a coin, his eyes glowing, beautiful both in design and skill.

I went to look at the spot, when he finally flew away with the last of the Meadowlark. Does that sound macabre to you - not only that I should have taken such joy in watching the terrible dance of life and death played out in the morning before me, but that, when it was done, I should go to study the place once it had been left abandoned? There is a solemn beauty about such places - and that little hollow amongst the willow shoots and pine boughs was no exception. There was a sunset of colour there - wing feathers, striped buff and rufus, the astonishing yellow feathers from the Meadowlark's breast, the small spots of bright orange blood, on fire amongst them. I have not seen a great many kills in my life time, but whenever I have come across them, I am always surprised by the littleness of blood, and the diversity of feathers. They were surprisingly alike in colour, the Hawk and the Meadowlark, all bars and dapples. There was a faint, foolish hope that one of those bright feathers had fallen from the hunter. 

Perhaps it was because Lent was newly upon me, or because of the Latin lines from the Easter antiphon that came into my mind at the sight of the birds, but there was a feeling of great content that came with seeing Hawk and the Meadowlark, the hunter and hunted, life and death, in glourious combat locked. There was sorrow for the Meadowlark - sorrow that such a brightly beautiful, singing creature - designed by God to be pleasing to eye and ear - should die in blood upon the snow. But there was joy - even exultation - in the glory and power of the Hawk, in it doing so perfectly, precisely what it was designed to do, and in the one great beauty giving life to the other. There was a sense of splendor, a right ordering of things, the peace of death at the end of life well spent. The Hand of God showed in all of it - the love with which He shaped and shaded His beautiful little creatures, the joy He gave and took in the making. He knows each one of them, more intimately than a mother knows her child, and suffers none of them fall without putting His hand out to catch or bless. And it seemed to me to be a parable - that sometimes, God takes away a good thing in us, that we treasure, not to cause us pain or sorrow, but so that an even better good thing might grow in its place and be nourished by the good that came before. 


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One of my soft resolutions this year - in addition to 'hardening my heart with Hope' was to take a more disciplined approach to my poetry. It has been a rather hit and miss endevour, with only one full poem coming to fruition since the New Year. However, in an effort to force myself into a more serious approach, I decided to go for the Poem A Day Challenge again this year. I intend to write every day, though I might not necessarily post them here as regularly. But in the spirit of getting the month off to a proper start, here is the little thing I did today, in response to the prompt "reminiscence":

I remember when I met you.
You were younger than I'd expected,
With red hair, I'd always fancied -
Though I'd  forgotten, til I met you.

You were easy for me to talk to
- Me, eccentric, shy and silent -
Found delight in conversation,
When I talked and sat beside you.

You were good, but wild also,
Fierce and knightly, faithful, errant,
Who wakened Joy and Hope within me:
My bravest self I was with you.

But we are old now, me and you:
Sorrow between us, our chances spent.
We've traded our Joy for hard-bought peace...
I miss who we were, when I met you.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Twelfth Night



Oh come, all ye faithful........http://www.pinterest.com/annefromla/holiday-christmas/:

This post is later than I intended, as matters (both weighty and enjoyable) intervened, and I was not so efficient with my day as I meant to be. I have an Italian's priority: when I ventured out into the mad,frozen, treacherous world (we had snow, followed by rain, followed by a wee bit more snow, and then a hard freeze) to brave the crowds of  ski-crazy visitors to our fair city, I remembered basil and tomatoes, apple cider and chestnuts. I forgot the sand bags, which can be got for free, and which I should have grabbed in anticipation of yet more rain, on top of yet more snow, in a place already half-flooded from the first taste of such a mix. 

But ah well. It is the last day of the Long Christmas, and it seems good to finish off with another quote from The Christmas Chronicle, this time concerning the Magi:

The ancient "Calendar of Saints" from Cologne offers, for the year 54 AD, the following interesting account of the Magi who visited the Infant Jesus at Bethlehem: "After thy had undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospels, the three Wise Men met at Sewa in the year of Our Lord 54, where they celebrated the feast of Christmas in common; whereupon, after the celebration of the Mass, they died."

Tradition ascribes their deaths to martyrdom. That excellent website, "Hymns and Carols of Christmas" has a good deal of information concerning the Magi in the notes for "We Three Kings." You should definitely scroll down and read it.

Lastly, this antiphon from the Christmas Mass, in the Byzantine Rite:

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has shed the light of knowledge upon the world. Through it, those who had been star-worshipers, learned through a star to worship You, O Sun of Justice, and to recognize in You the One who rises and who comes from on high. O Lord, glory to You!

(Hat tip to Molly for the words!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

To the Professor!


Its that time of year again - January 3rd, the birthday of J. R. R. Tolkien, and then time when all good Tolkienists raise a cup of cheer and toast "To the Professor!"

I had a nice little bit of Whisky, in my nice little Scottish quaich, and after giving the toast promptly at 9 pm, sat me down to drink my drink, and read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as it has become my annual Christmas book - a lovely thing in Middle English (this particular edition courtesy of the Professor) and a modern translation of the original text.


(You can see my Tolkien Society bookmark, one of the old Merry and Pippin bookmarks given me by a good friend for Christmas, many more years ago than I care to remember, the new Tree of Gondor earrings that were a Christmas gift this year, and the clever Elven brooch I made of a soda can, a couple paper clips and a Sharpie.)

Since we are still within the 12 days of Christmas, I thought it might be well to finish off this post, with this video:





A Christmas Chronicle



I very seldom buy things on a whim. Generally, if I am spending money on something, it is because I need it, or (after a good deal of thought) have decided that I would like to own the thing. Books are one of the few exceptions to this - especially of they are selling for a good price. A Christmas Chronicle by Aloysius Horn was one such impulse buy. It was for sale for $7.00 and I figured it was worth that to have some Christmas reading. It was an excellent investment - a rather delightful mishmash of legends, traditions, and historical tidbits about the celebration of Christmas, from the early days of Christendom, to fairly modern times. They are all short little articles - seldom more than a page, often merely a few paragraphs, but they make for fascinating reading. One of the little stories concerned a certain Saint Romanus the Melodist. (First of all - the Melodist?!? How cool a title is that? How can you not like Saint Romanus right off, with that title attached to the end of his name?) I shall give the story in full: 

To the last part of the 5th century and the first part of the 6th belongs St. Romanus the Melodist, who has been called the greatest of the Greek hymn writrs. 80 of his hymns have survived to our day. He was a Syrian Jew who when quite young, converted to the Christian faith. Later, he became a decon in the church of Beirut, and during the reign of  Emperor Anastasius I (491-518) he moved to Constantinople. It was here on Christmas Eve that Our Lady appeared to St. Romanus in his sleep and gave him a roll of paper, saying, "Take this paper and eat it." From what the saint could later recall, it seemed to him that he did what h had been directed to do. Then he awoke and in great exaltation of spirit went to the Church of the All-Holy Mother of God to assist in the Christmas Liturgy. When the Gospel-book was about to be carried solemnly into the sanctuary, he went up into the deacon's ambo or pulpit and extemporaneously recited his new Christmas hymn:


This hymn, said to be the first of its kind, is still sung in the Christmas Offices of the Byzantine rite, and until the 12th century, it was solemnly sung on this festival at the banquet in the imperial palace by the combined choirs of the greatest churches in Constantinople, Santa Sophia and the Holy Apostles.

I can only imagine how incredible that must have sounded, and what a beautiful tradition that was. There is something delightful about hearing a song of such antiquity, composed as it was, in a fever of inspiration, and with such a tradition associated with it, and knowing that it is still sung at Christmas Mass.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Forth and Fear No Darkness

A Welcome to 2017

2016 was an odd year. There was much happiness in it - a marriage; a couple births; a family trip to Disneyland; my trip to Ireland; very good friendships; the curious sense of reprieve and renewed purpose that came after the election. There was also a good deal of strife in it. Battles which were thought to have been won, had only been stalemated, and had to be fought again; difficult decisions, with bitter aftermaths; misunderstands; anger. If I had to summarise the year in one word, I think I might have to fall back on 'discouraging' - or possibly 'disheartening'. However, though some of that strife is following us into the New Year, I find myself standing upon the first day of 2017, with a feeling of hope. Not, mind you, the sort the is brightly optimistic - the sort that takes a good hard look at things and still choose to trust, and wait, and keep courage. 

I would be hard pressed to explain why exactly. It is something that has been sort of perking along deep inside me for the last month or two - a feeling that God is both testing His people, and also showing them great compassion. A sense that, to quote St. Paul, "Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation." It isn't really that I expect a sudden reversal of fortune and all to run smoothly, but rather a sense that things could have been so much worse, and that I had better attempt to be as generous with God as He has been with us. However, there is nothing like a good dose of The Lord of the Rings to make concrete those half thought-out ideas. My family and I finished out the year with a 3 night marathon of Lord of the Rings watching. It is a good movie to end a year. Perhaps and even better way of starting it - which, given that we finished The Return of the King at 5 minute before midnight, we practically did. It is magnificently full of ordinary people doing the right thing, because it is the right thing, and it doesn't matter what happens afterwards, it has to be done. It is full of Hope, bright as stars, sharp as swords, hard as stones - the sort of hope that makes one stay the course, even when it is hopeless, that makes modest Heroes and Knight Errants. It is full of Grace, of Courage, of Purity and Innocence, and Goodness. When was the last time you thought of dying for Beauty? Or faced a battle of any sort, knowing that there was no victory in it and fighting it anyway, because you must, and to refuse to fight would be a worse defeat than death? It is rather amazing that such a story should have been made in our day and age.

It had a good effect on me. It is responsible for the shift from merely wanting to be disciplined, and show God I appreciate is Goodness, to deciding to greet the new year, and all the joys and troubles it brings with it, with Hope. To be like Sam, and see re-crowned kings, and untouched stars in the midst of the black of Moria. To be like Boromir and Faramir, who were willing to die for Beauty and Light and Music. To be like Theoden, who says, "no more dispair" on the eve of a battle he fully expects to lose. To be like Frodo and bear my burden as well as I can, like Merry and Pippin, whose courage is unexpected - like laughter in the dark. I will fall, I expect - Boromir did, and Theoden did, and even Frodo did after a fashion - but falling is not failing, and I hope to be like them in getting back up, and trying again.

I have made New Year's resolutions for the first time in memory. I have toasted in the New Year with good whisky, and a prayer for the grace to be true to this course. There is joy in it, and it is oddly humbling. So here's to 2017!



Enjoy an old New Year's Day song, and a Happy New Year to all!