from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 25 February 2013

a small brown bird

The joys of technology. It happens that to get the internet, I either have to come out into my freezing garden shed-study, which I can manage for about ten minutes before my hands numb out, or wait till one of us is using the phone when, for a few brief seconds, I can download emails but not get onto a website or compose an email. Seems we have the wrong kind of wind currently.

Well, it should be good for my writing not to be distracted by the web, but in fact we have both been very distracted by trying to sort the problem out for the last week. (So much for thinking we're people who don't 'do' addictions...) But if you're expecting an email from me, that's why you haven't received one. I'm in the shed now, where I've downloaded 200-odd emails – but am going to simply write this quickly and go back in to light the fire.

In the final straits of the poetry competition judging. Right up until when I woke this morning I thought I knew the winner – from the very beginning, in fact, but at roughly 5.45am I woke with a different poem in my head, so the outsider and the original are now neck-to-neck. Then I have to work out which of the 23 remaining yesses can go.

The red sandstone band of bald soil the Torbay side of Totnes has a sprinkled fizz of new green follicles in a couple of fields. A stand of silver birch has burst into a glory of warm goldgreen catkins and new leaves.

Speaking of leaves, I have remembered from my health journalism days that oleuropein extracted from olive leaves has a good record of success in all sorts of bacterial and viral conditions. Never mind the antibiotics; I fully expect powdered olive leaves coupled with topically-applied propolis from bees (this vegan is letting herself off the hook, from time to time, if there seems no alternative), also anti-bacterial, to do the job that the dentists haven't.

Here in the valley, a trio of egrets sit clean white and eye-catching in the very top limbs of a big old oak.

I've been sad to see that our newly-acquired pair of house sparrows seems to have been reduced to just the male. It's possible that the female is incubating eggs, but the other female finches and dunnocks appear regularly. Who would ever have thought that the iconic and ever-present house sparrow would be endangered? Seems that they're dissuaded from nesting and therefore breeding by radiation from cordless phones (and it may be that ours appeared as a result of our switching back to a corded landline – I can't remember the chronology). We do have a sparrowhawk who sweeps and stoops in a mad rush of ripped air through the courtyard, taking a small bird and exiting in less than a second – maybe that little burst of feathers a couple of weeks ago was the female sparrow.

One of the poems I always remember is this one by Joyce Woodward. This appears in the North magazine online, published by them in 1990; but I've known it for a very long time. (The version I know is slightly different from the North's version.) You'll see why it's relevant:

What I Know 
(after Sujata Bhatt)

That Wednesday is the middle of the week.
That they might have found the crater of the meteor
which buried all the dinosaurs.
You need ammonia to keep marble white.
The dumb cannot speak.
You can clone from any living cell.
We break up our cells so that in seven years you have changed entirely
so now you could meet that cloned self of seven years ago
and need to be introduced.
How firmly would you have to turn your back
not to know that person.
It takes only five years to tip the seesaw of the climate
into an ice age.
The American Indians had civilisations which stretched from the Arctic
to the Antarctic; they are now seen as ineducable.
Camphor held tight in airless cupboards keeps silver
almost permanently bright.
Rosemary is for Remembrance.
Six million Jews were murdered in World War II.
Hiroshima had not been bombed before..
Tuesday isn’t the beginning or the end of the week.
Peace is indivisible.
One church sees abortion as a mortal sin.
Scientifically speaking a bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly.
We exhale CO2. Trees inhale CO2.
The American colonists killed two million Indians
to farm the empty West.
Once there was one continent from which the others split.
They said Malthus was wrong about population,
then the Green Revolution.
Now we just wait for the numbers of people to double
and double.
There is a small brown bird the last of its species
calling every spring for its mate.
Threequarters of a million children die of preventable
At our galaxy’s edge black holes devour stars.
Marble doesn’t grow on Yorkshire hillsides.
They call the white flowers Moonpennies.
Doncaster will be by the seaside
at the turn of the century.
Lithuania wants to be independent.
You need to keep your grass short
to be thought respectable. 
Joyce Woodward 

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