Fertile Solitude

(Happy hour is a time of transition. Much better spent outside)

Early in the evening is a time that my family calls ‘happy hour’ because it’s anything but, with hectic, tired, hungry kids and adults, all trying to bathe, and do homework, and get food together before bedtime. You know the drill, usually quite tense. I rang my daughter at ‘happy hour’ the other night. I apologised for ringing at that crazy time. She said, ‘It’s ok, everyone is chilled because they’ve done their work and had time to play.’

And I thought that was interesting, because a lot of people, all of a sudden, are not hectic and agitated. (Except when they have to go to the supermarket, of course.) A lot of people have unexpected spare time and some rather unusual solitude.

Distancing solitude with a cuppa.

As an artist, (poetry is just another art form for me), I am a friend of solitude. But I have been happy in solitude since I was a little kid, growing up miles from any other families. Not that I don’t love being with people. I love them. I love interactions, good conversation, and laughter, and just the general caring that happens. But I’m also quite happy on my own.

Of course I was as caught in the rat race as the next person, always feeling that I should be doing something, preferably something that brings money in. So I wasn’t much good at watching ants, for example, or the movement of clouds. I only gave myself time to dream because it was necessary for the incubation of poetry!

(I used to track ants for miles when I was a kid.)

I think our busyness was a great loss. We were addicted to it. It’s like we were on an extended coffee high. Speed freaks. We haven’t given ourselves alone time to evaluate what we actually, in fact, want. We have taken our desires from some great big advertising publication that says: One must be part of all this. Must have this, must have that.

And I can’t help feeling that, as people settle into this new situation of physically distancing themselves from others and realise it isn’t the end of the world, (assuming they have enough toilet paper), there could be major changes for the better.

It has come to this: paper towels cut in half with a good sharp knife.

I wonder how many people will change their lifestyles as a result of having time to think. I’m sure there’ll be quite a few who chose a healthier way to live, even if it means a bit less money or trinkets.

It has got to be good for the earth. Remember her? The earth. We humans are a species whose population is on an exponential growth curve. The earth with all her bounty, is a finite resource.

The Earth, actually, like all of us, she just wants to thrive.

When I have my new-age hat on, I think that this pandemic is just a small warning call to us from The Earth. (She gets capital letters when I have my new-age hat on.) I also think there could be much worse to come, like global starvation if the climate gets too bad for our food production systems or our population gets too large. And that, through means like these, The Earth could shake us off like droplets on a dog. And that she might just do it! That’s when I have my new-age hat on.

But it is just possible that we are in a new-age.


How will we chose to live? What changes will we make?

Mary births Him

Mary is pregnant,
her fist in the small of her back.

Somehow she manages
to heave herself onto the donkey
who lumbers under the weight.

We must remember it’s midwinter and the journey
seems endless. It feels as if the world may end like this,
the long nights, clear, and  filled with stars.

What a blessing is straw,
the scent of summer when one lies back
in the short reprieve between cramps.

Even today there’s not much talk
of Mary’s body, consumed
as it was by tides of pain,

the incredible female power
of her labouring, the bearing down,
that Christ’s first crown

was her taut membrane.
It is agony that pushed
his small face into the world

blue and white and bloody,
neck deep in his mother’s body,
the eyes of bewilderment blinking light.

Soon his shoulders,
and slippery body, all fingers and toes,
his first breath.

And then the sacred act
of severance,
the cutting of connection.

The afterbirth, that vehicle of carriage,
just so much meat.

So here we are in a barn
in the quietness after the storm
held in the eternity of a newborn’s eyes.

He latches onto her breast.
He latches onto his life.
He latches onto his death.





how poems magic themselves onto the paper

I was asked about how I go about writing a poem. I gave some glib answer about bum-on-chair. But it is an interesting question. I think one stalks a poem, feels the first stirrings as interest in a subject, seeks related content, researches, sits with it. All done with no real eye on the prize. I often don’t even know that I am stalking a poem.

Then one day, one sits down and the pen almost goes off on its own. Some of the things one researched come onto the paper with other, seemingly unrelated things and create juxtapositions and take on some strange logic. Odd words appear that one doesn’t realise one knows. (I often get Latin phrases, despite never having learned Latin.) The result is usually a big mess but the raw materials of the poem are there on the paper, and what remains is to give them form, discard dross, pull more from the ether where needed, shift a word here, a phrase there, leave it some time, come back, do more fine surgery, repeat until finished.

Definition of finished: doesn’t make you squirm.

Chook research

I teach my hand about the shape and make-up of animals by playing in 3D. I know quite a lot about chooks because I kept them as a child and had a few pet hens as an adult. I’m working on a book for kids, but first I must know about them, visually.