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

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Autumn equinox: dog days, Sirius and Orion...

In my most recent (autumn equinox) Fire in the Head newsletter, I wrote:

Dog Days & mini-competition

I don't know if, like me, you find the summer draining in the end: dry dusty lethargy? I love the warmth, and being outside so much, but there is something about renewed vitality that happens when the equinox comes around, and that slant golden light that pierces the heart. 'September has come, it is hers / Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,' says Louis Macneice – and yes, as an equinox birthday person I claim that for myself.

I was delighted to discover just now that, as I suspected, the phrase 'dog days' is connected with the appearance, once again, of the Dog Star, Sirius, in the night sky – the brightest of all of them in the late summer. I've been wondering if that's Sirius that I've been seeing lately. I'm not sure what this is connected with [in this newsletter] other than dogs; but Sirius was a highly significant star to our ancestors, especially in the Egyptian tradition.

And Homer wrote:

'Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all...'

So what I invited newsletter recipients to do was:

In honour of Sirius (and the equinox), here's a challenge for you:

Send in a short poem (no more than 12 lines) or micro-story (no more than 200 words) that in some way relates to what I've just said, above. You've only a few days to do this: the best emailed poem or micro-story to have arrived in my inbox by 30th September will receive 2 of my books, either poetry or novels, of your choice (or 1 bigger book of either River Suite or Writing the Bright Moment); OR £20 off one of my courses.


Quite a few of my some-time course participants to receive the newsletter responded. It was really hard to choose a winner, as each poem or piece of prose had something to commend it.

In the end, I picked two joint winners. One, Jill Lewis, I chose because I loved the way her piece of writing refused to be boxed in, and also captured the present-moment vitality of descriptive narrative that underpins my newest online course (in which Jill was a participant), WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT – poetry, nature & mindfulness

I also, of course, liked her awareness of and attention to the plight of the more-than-human in our times.

The second piece, by Vicki Morley, is utterly different (from everyone else's), and I chose this because of its left-field originality and, like Jill's, its refusal to be boxed. It also directly referenced Sirius. And I liked the double meaning of its title.

With the permission of both, here are the pieces.


Mo(u)rning pause

 

Equinoxal mist and trails of cow dung splattered dry along the narrow road. Young cows, with yellow-labelled ears, whom I had talked with, gone now.

Ah, last swallow swoops, light coming chill. First Michaelmas breath bitter-kissing blackberries. Slow dawn unfolds petal strands, cream-pinking faded hill horizons. Yarrow white stands singular in bracken brown. Green mugwort flurries crowd the high corn. Here toadflax ripples yellow-shy among new nettle sprouts and laced silhouettes of hogweed stalks stretch a pale morning sky.

Ah, the low hush-pound of seagull wings, rising from night fields of grass to scatter-settle across red striated earth. The beech tree, squirrel-stirred, drips mist drops on damp pocked tarmac. Clustered shoots of lime and brown crackle-leaf sycamores hold sap, sturdy in last flow. But ah, this ash, having known depletion even in full summer sail, its vulnerabilities gnawing at resilience, here, now has gone bare. Already. Stark marker of invalidity: my hand on its trunk in recognition, consolation. And no berries this year on that rowan tree I love.

I mourn damage, plague, neglect, greed, cruelty, indifference. Dawn sifts the air and day begins again as if everything were there for ever… and ever… and ever.

 

Jill Lewis

September 2020

 

 

 

Fetch

my dog bones, all my beloved pets
Palladio, Alexandra, Horatio, Boris, Claude, Francesca

Mr Mole and Antonio.

I’m in the late autumn of my life

prepare my tomb, worthy of Anubis

silver lettering, black onyx

for my eight greyhounds.

Set the glass so Sirius gazes down

starlight floods inside,

their skulls will shine

teeth yellow as mah-jong tiles

put my remains in the centre.

Vicki Morley
September 2020

NoteBrian Sewell, art critic died in 2015 and gave instructions for his tomb.


Two notes from me
: I'm currently taking bookings for the New Year WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT online retreat, mentioned above. Start the year as you'd like to go on! I've had generous and excellent feedback for the August & October ones; you can see some of it if you click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If you would like to sign up for my newsletter, please visit the link above and make your way to the 'Contact' page.


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