Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Smell of Fresh Cut Grass by Gaye Gannon


The Smell of Fresh Cut Grass
By
Gaye Gannon

Wherever I am, whatever I do,
There’s one sharp smell that will always break through.
Fresh cut grass
As a child it could mean something lovely or tough.
From a meadow picnic with dolls or the feel of the rough
Meadow just mown which meant only one thing,
Which was days of a ‘meitheal’, a struggle to bring
Home………. Fresh cut grass.
There were endless supplies of fresh beer and cooked fries,
To keep the men happy while fresh cut grass dries,
To be moved into piles and then made into hay cocks,
That were pitched by strong men with muscles like rocks.
That were stored in a shed with precision and skill,
To keep cattle fed and well nourished until,
The following year when the forecast was right,
And the message went out on that very same night,
That a ‘meitheal’ was needed and men came in their droves,
Having me again knee deep in rashers and loaves.
They were times of hard work and good honest toil,
Being rewarded with food and with beer on the boil.
But whatever the year there was one common mark.
The small of fresh cut grass and a fridge full of pork.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

[4 x 4] x4 x Jean

Slip free from them
Snip head from stem
Down that vast well
Down that deep hell

Wrap scar like veil
Worn like aged tale
Life made from hurt 
Life born from dirt

Tear down that name 
Lips ripe with pain
Pull hate from fear 
Burn salt from tear

Heed your deep call
Plan each last pall 
Girl made from mire
Hold fear with fire



Monday, July 13, 2020

Escape - Annette Brown

Poetic piece on a place that's important to you using your senses. 

The rushing, vigorous river straddles the outer perimeter of the estate,
While the silent Castletown House towers over the parklands,
Tall majestic herons perch on slippery rocks patrolling the river,
Ducks bolt down the seedless grapes
scattered by children from the lake side. 
Paddling, gliding while webbed feet hide below,
Dogs on leashes bound and leap with their smiling owners.

This place is special to me, the feeling of space, nature flourishing,
Inside the cocoon of wildlife, outside developers devour green spaces, 
Builders hoardings sprout up, planning permission notices multiply.

While the tree lined avenue invites us inside to saunter and relax. 
To refresh, renew, restore.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Choosing Pen Names - Gerry Hancock




I read recently that a good fountain pen should be heavy in the hand when held flat, but well balanced when gripped so that when the nib comes in contact with paper the words seem almost to form themselves. This was especially true of the pen under discussion in that particular article, which boasted a beautifully styled 15 carat gold nib. Eat your heart out Laszlo Biro! But then I realised I knew all this already…
My maternal grandfather, Charles Forthe , had been in the British Army from 1912 to 1919. His skills it appears lay more in administration than in actual fighting so he began his service in supplies – making endless lists of of uniforms, boots, belts and their sizes and quantities. Later of course following the outbreak of the Great War he would learn to develop more soldierly skills quickly if he were to survive. Thankfully he did and in 1919 he resigned his position in the army and successfully applied for a position back in Ireland with the then Dublin Corporation as a clerk in their Pump House in Ringsend, again ensuring that he was as far away from the literally dirty end of the stick as possible.
He began work there in November 1919 armed only with a Conklin Crescent fountain pen. This he bought in Bristol with the larger part of his army gratuity for 7 years service. To many at the time this seemed an extravagant purchase for a humble clerk but Charles always had a great love of handwriting and indeed his calligraphy skills had often been in demand among his army buddies and later among his co-workers. What may be more surprising is that the pen he purchased was manufactured by an American company – the Conklin Pen Company – which had been established in Toledo, Ohio, in 1898. By 1903 this company had established a firm foothold in the quality pen market and Samuel Clemens, pen name Mark Twain, was a proud owner of several of their products. Clemens praised the Conklin on two grounds: primarily because it was the first pen that had its filler built in so that, as he pointed out with great delight, this eliminated the need to keep safe not only the pen but its filler as well. The the new Conklin pen had a sac inside which filled with ink by pressing on a crescent shaped piece of metal which protruded from the pen’s body. This design feature greatly impressed the aforementioned author not just for its convenience but also, as he put it, for its role as a “profanity saver” as the protruding crescent prevented the pen from rolling off his desk.
The model Charles purchased was new to the market in the United Kingdom in 1919 and was the Conklin 2. It was not the most expensive model however being a black hard rubber 3/4 length body though with a rose gold filled filigree overlay, about 8 inches long and the date 1919 engraved on the cap cartouche. It was obviously a wonderful instrument nonetheless as Charles used it on a daily basis right up to his death in 1986. Indeed my Aunt Mavis, with whom Charles lived for many years following the death of his wife Elizabeth, remarked recently that on Charles’ death the local bookmaker declared that he would “mightily miss” my grandfather’s beautifully scripted betting slips which always stood out among the rest.
On his burial the pen was placed with him in the coffin so that Charles would be as well equipped for whatever role he would play in the next life as he had been on his return to Ireland almost 70 years previously.
I remember seeing the Conklin in my grandfather’s hand on many occasions as he completed his daily Irish Press crossword but never gave it a second thought. Recently I have begun to scour the internet for Conklin Crescents but so far I have found only one or two in what is described as “fair condition” with an asking price usually hovering around the “offers above $500” mark. And so my search continues for that elusive pen in mint condition but at what price I dread to think. Whether or not I ever purchase such a pen will of course depend on two things: most practical of which will be the price but much more importantly will be my ability to live with the extra burden it will impose on me to write and so justify its purchase price. Somehow or other I do not feel that writing betting slips with it will be enough to salve my conscience.

Friday, July 3, 2020

House-hold - a story for Hallowe'en. [response to a prompt given by Gerry I think . . a while back.]

The Death Houses, where the sick and destitute of Georgian Dublin spent their last despairing days, had been pulled down years ago. In truth, the houses were demolishing  themselves without an official action as they crumbled, decayed and declined into grimy, wind-whistling disrepair.

After the demolition the site laid idle, being in the "undesirable" part of town. Weeds began a steady colonisation campaign on the debris of bricks, stones and assorted fractured items not worth salvaging or reclaiming. There was evidence of cider parties, drug use, scattering a sordid confetti over the bleak space. Concerned parents warned their children not to play there: "Never know WHAT you'd catch."  Locals hurried past. People noted you'd never hear birdsong there. But people can often say things. It doesn't mean they're true.

It did seem as if the old site somehow created a wind tunnel as there was often a sudden , angry gust, swirling, a whisper rushing through the weeds, rustling, shaking the buddleia bush, sending fading crisp bags flying. Even on a day that wasn't windy. That's how it was. For years. An unlovely, unloved spot.

Then there was The Boom and in a Boom what was previously seen as ugly and undesirable becomes chic, hip and suitable for gentrification. Profitable. The developers got the site " for a song . . . seriously . . . we're going to make major killing on this . . . " and the diggers and jack hammers appeared.

Then the replacement ones when the first ones, mysteriously, seized up, making strange noises, rasping, gasping almost, and "dying". When the replacements had the same malady the locals were suspected of being vandals and yobs so a security firm was employed. After two nights the guard insisted on having a second person on duty with him. Then they brought along a guard dog. He refused to enter the site, hackles raised in a ridge, whimpering, straining to get his bulky, sharp-toothed self away as quickly as possible. The developers wondered whether the drug users had secret stashes of chemicals somewhere on site that gave off a strange scent, or gas. Or something.

Eventually a team of foreign builders, using lump hammers and brute force, set to work the old-fashioned way. Three of them ended up in hospital when a partial wall, solid enough, seemed to be blown over by a sudden wind gust. Mustn't have been that solid after all. And it was an old wall, of course. Part of one of the original walls.

It took longer than planned, and time IS money, so profit margins were shrinking, but, eventually, a new apartment block stood on the old site. It had a faux Georgian front to keep pesky planning department officials happy and inside was slick, shiny and  mostly compliant with most regulations. The estate agent's glossy brochure highlighted the convenience to public transport, the city centre, numerous bars and restaurants, including an award winning, organic produce-filled cafĂ©, all within easy walking distance.

Viewers traipsed in and hurried out. No-one asked for a second viewing of the state-of-the-art high gloss kitchen and the open-plan sitting/dining area suitable for entertaining. Not one sale. No spark of interest. Locals, walking past, laden with shopping bags, swore they heard noises inside the dark, vacant building. Something like a moan, or a groan, or crying. Hard to describe it really. The developers were watching their profit possibility fading and did a deal with the local authorities for housing. Better to get something back, some return.

Families moved in, then out. Very quickly. One family stayed, the only apartment occupied. They stayed until the father and one of the daughters were hospitalised when the kitchen cupboards fell off the wall on top of them. They moved out after that.

And then it was empty. Vacant. Just standing there, looking less polished, less attractive. Looking more like its neighbours. Until last year.

Hallowe'en.

By the time the smoke was noticed the flames had taken a grip, hungrily licking and tasting what they could reach. The fire-fighters arrived, but too late. Nothing to be done. The flames rose and danced, almost like figures, twisting, writhing, reaching into the night sky with clawed hands and snatching fingers.

Some say it was the shoddy building work. Some say someone must have broken in.  The druggies. Squatters. Someone with a grudge against the developers.

No matter. It's gone now. Rubble, charred bricks, bits of exploded glass like grim glitter sprinkled over the ruined remains. The smell of smoke still lingers, all these months later, in spite of those angry wind gusts that still happen. The weeds are starting to reclaim the plot. Twisting, creeping, covering what they can, and holding it close.


Four By Four Task

Play, read, dare sing
Free song, feel warm,
Live life, love more,
Wipe, wash, dust less.

There Will Be Time [Poetry Day 30/4/ 2020]

These days,
These times.
Calendars cleared,
Diaries deleted,
Plans postponed.
Paused life,
Suspended animation.
These times.
Trying times.
Freeing times?
Must dos now can't dos.
There's time,
Now time.
Time to -
Time for -
Time with.

What's wanted?
Other times.
Free time -
Free from -
Free to -
. . . travel beyond limits . .
. . . be with loved ones beyond reach . .
. . . hold the grieving . .
. . . choose how we use
Time.

There will be time.
Sometime.

Important Place [ response to poetry prompt shared by Gerry]

Carrowniskey.
It has to be Carrowniskey.
A rainy night of pitter pattered windows,
Followed by a sun-struggling morning,
Hazy and warm,
Promises an edible gift of nature,
Worth the walk back to the sea,
Back to the ocean edge,
The rumbling, roaring, tumbling, thundering Atlantic.

Sea salt spray sticking wind-flapped hair,
Stooping to pluck smooth topped mushrooms from the Shruffer's coarse, prickling grass,
Creamy toffee drops sprouting among the rich green expanse.
Fill the bucket and walk the road back again,
Back the road, majestic Mweelra like a cardboard cut-out,
Mauve grey, ridges grooved,
Linking earth to sky.

Back to the range heated kitchen
Where the ancient, buckle-bottomed, black frying pan
Heats, sizzles, spits melting butter
And fry them up,
Rich, dark juice oozing from velvet brown pleated flesh.
Straight to the plate,
With a slice of fresh-made brown cake,
Golden butter melting, dissolving into its warmth.
A pinch of crispy salt.
A china cup of cold milk fresh from the whirring, purring cooler in the cowshed.

Field to fork before it was claimed by advertising.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Let us raise some praise


Let us raise some praise 

 

Let us raise some praise for

those who collect our bins,

disposing the evidence

of our overindulgent sins.

 

Let us raise some praise for

the ever-open hand, 

to welcome, to support, to love

Is it not grand,

 

Let us raise some praise for 

the ever-welcome arms

to hold firm, to protect,

to shield from harm

 

Let us raise some praise for 

those who shout,

to bring attention, 

to what must be brought up and out.

 

Let us raise some praise for 

those who firmly stand,

to stare down an oppressor,

a gun or an immoral man

 

Let us raise some praise for 

those who quietly do,

supporting others,

who go to the wire,

for me and for you.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Time is Write

I'd love to be a writer
and leave behind
the mundane gossip
of the early morning gathering
and leave behind
the snippy comments
of that one colleague
who just can't help herself
and leave behind
the traffic jam
breakfast rush
on the coronary bypass.
I'd love to be a writer -
act on my inspirations
and leave behind
something beautiful -
a forest floor of fallen autumn cones,
a muggy grey sky threatening thunder, 
the rippled mirror of a summer lake,
the longing gaze that came too late
something beautiful
something beautiful
for those who are yet to come.
I'd write novels.
I'd write comedy.
A TV show, a movie script,
an album full of songs and serenades.
Instead I'm writing lesson plans,
action plans,
progress reports,
policies on head-lice,
yard procedures
and who-hit-who investigations.
All of utmost import,
but a famine for the soul.

Someday,
there will be time
to devote to being a writer.
I will stay home and write all day
I will discipline myself.
Up with the sun,
boiled egg and toast
hot cup of coffee.
I will penetrate the page
with polished precision.
I'll take a break to walk in the park
breathe in blossoms of springtime
and eavesdrop on elderly bench-chatters.
Then back to the notepad
to lay down
the brilliance of my imagination.
Someday
when the time is right.