Friday, January 29, 2016

Month of Poetry #29: Sevenling for a Red-Letter Day

My eldest girl started high school today. This sevenling is for her.

Three things she loves:
The beauty and surprises of mathematics; coaxing music from her guitar;
The comfortable enfolding of structured days.

Three things I want for her:
Room to grow; stimulus to learn;
A safe passage through the rough seas ahead.

Far away, someone is singing a sad and glorious song.

- Kathy, 29/1/16

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Month of Poetry #26: Australia Day villanelle

It is my habit to write a villanelle each year for Australia Day, or Invasion Day as it should more properly be called. They tend to be fairly grim. This year's is no exception.

I try as far as possible not to reuse rhyme sounds from year to year - so that knocks out "and", "sion/ tion", "ing", "ears", "ace" and "ung". Bit tragic because they are all great rhymes ... but let's see what I can do.

Previous ones are here:


26 January Villanelle

None so blind as those who will not see
This country swims in blood both old and new;
Is this really who we chose to be?

Turning back all those who, desperate, flee,
From war and terror, all faint hope we slew;
None so blind as those who will not see.

Every bit is thieved, from sea to sea
From people here whose ownership we knew;
Is this really who we chose to be?

Our fearless leaders crow aloud in glee
As corporations mount their bloodless coup;
None so blind as those who will not see.

The rich remind the poor that nothing's free
While ever harder pressing down the screw;
Is this really who we chose to be?

One day I think we all will pay the fee
And curse ourselves for every chance we blew;
None so blind as those who will not see
Is this really who we chose to be?

- Kathy, 26/1/16

Monday, January 25, 2016


We came home yesterday from a day out in the city to find a dying Emperor Moth flickering weakly on our garden path. Magnificent, short-lived, beautiful creature.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Month of Poetry #18: Yemaya

Today's poem is about Yemaya. In Yoruba mythology, Yemaya is a mother spirit; patron spirit of women, especially pregnant women; the ocean; and the Ogun river. Her name is a contraction of the Yoruba words "Yeye omo eja" which means "Mother whose children are like fish." This represents the vastness of her motherhood, her fecundity, and her reign over all living things.

I'm trying this one as a pantoum, which is a Malaysian verse form comprising a series of quatrains, with the second and fourth lines of each quatrain repeated as the first and third lines of the next. The second and fourth lines of the final stanza repeat the first and third lines of the first stanza.

I don't mind this one, actually.


The lady moves slowly, calm across water
Over the seas but not supping salt;
Her hand raised high, every woman her daughter
In grip of their birthing, heaven-earth in gestalt.

Over the seas but not supping salt
Her children like fish, darting silver and sly;
In the grip of birthing, heaven-earth in gestalt
Bringing the soil right up to the sky.

Her children like fish, darting silver and sly
In rivers and wellsprings and sea-mouths and pools;
Bringing the soil right up to the sky
Her brown eyes see everything, shining like jewels.

In rivers and wellsprings and sea-mouths and pools
The children of spirit cleave close to the land
Her brown eyes see everything, shining like jewels
The infants are born under her shelter-hand.

The children of spirit cleave close to the land
The lady moves slowly, calm across water;
Her brown eyes see everything, shining like jewels,
Her hand raised high, every woman her daughter.

- Kathy, 18/01/16

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Month of Poetry #16: Rondeau for Ceridwen

Today is challenge day in Month of Poetry, and this week's challenge is to write a rondeau. This is a thirteen-line poem, divided into three stanzas of 5, 3, and 5 lines, with only two rhymes throughout and with the opening words of the first line used as a refrain at the end of the second and third stanzas.

The rondeau consists of thirteen lines of eight syllables, plus two refrains (which are half lines, each of four syllables), employing, altogether, only three rhymes. It has three stanzas and its rhyme scheme is as follows: (1) A A B B A (2) A A B with refrain: C (3) A A B B A with concluding refrain C. The refrain must be identical with the beginning of the first line. The refrain is not included in the line count, which leaves thirteen lines.

It's not the easiest form, but here's my attempt, returning to women of mythology to consider Ceridwen, the Celtic (Welsh) goddess who represents the crone stage of female life and power. She has powers of prophecy, and is the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge and inspiration in the Underworld.

In one part of the Mabinogion, which is the cycle of myths found in Welsh legend, Ceridwen brews up a potion in her magical cauldron to give to her son Afagddu (Morfran).

She puts young Gwion in charge of guarding the cauldron, but three drops of the brew fall upon his finger, blessing him with the knowledge held within. Cerridwen pursues Gwion through a cycle of seasons until, in the form of a hen, she swallows Gwion, disguised as an ear of corn. Nine months later, she gives birth to Taliesen, the greatest of all the Welsh poets.


When moon is full, arise the crone,
To claim birthright, take her dark throne.
Mother-goddess, cauldron clear.
All wisdom brewed, all knowing here,
Her hand stretched out to guard her own.

A finger blessed, child's power grown,
So far from darkest cave-lands thrown;
Consuming back her power dear,
When moon is full.

Belly heavy, new life from stone,
The word's true magic birthed and known;
New life and death, protection, fear,
Transformation whispering near,
When moon is full.

- Kathy, 16/01/16

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Month of Poetry #12: A sevenling for a Starman

I'm sure I won't be the only sad fan writing a poem about David Bowie today ... but for Day 12, here's mine.

A sevenling for a Starman

Three things, above all things, he gave:
A sense of strangeness; trickling sound that itches;
license to perform the fluid self.

Three things he told us, buried in song:
we can be heroes; our spinning world is blue;
the stars never sleep, the dead ones and the living.

The final ship is launched, and the fires burn on.

- Kathy, 12/01/16

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Month of Poetry #10: Saudade

the love that remains when the object of love

is lost and gone away
when all the hours are grey
the ache that assaults the heart

time is lost and all times die
the well of feeling never dry
the picture in your mind

of things softer, sweeter, then,
it will never come back again
it never was really so

less wine and roses, in truth,
than red in claw and tooth
the taste of the past so tart

on the remembered tongue
when everyone is young
and fortune seemed so kind

except it didn't, without the mist
covering in softness every twist
memory lays us low

the love that remains when the object of love
is lost and gone away

- Kathy, 10/1/16

Friday, January 8, 2016

Month of Poetry #8: A sevenling for Pandora

Back to women of mythology today, for one of the best-known of all the Greek myths - Pandora's box. Pandora was, in myth, the first woman, made by Hephaestus from earth and fire under Zeus's command. I've used the imagery from the gifts traditionally given to her by the gods (ie she was clothed by Athena, given beauty by Aphrodite, given music skill by Apollo etc).

A sevenling for Pandora

Three things gifted to the first woman of all women:
Clothes of courage; purity of form and face;
The lyrical rise of a lark in the morning.

Three things only were asked of her:
To be the pet of gods; to acquiesce in her briding;
Never to open the sealed jar in her hands.

Hope alone remains to her when the deed is done.

- Kathy, 8/1/16

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Month of Poetry #7: The Sad Sad Song of the Sickly One

I have one or two or several ongoing health problems that I am managing at any given time. A friend suggested today that I could make a joke poem out of them. Here's my go at that!

So, looks like your immune system eats your gut, a bit, somewhat,
    says the gastroenterologist

I think your lungs will struggle whenever you make snot
    says the pulmonologist

Your heart rattles round like a cranky tin pot
    says the cardiologist

There's days when your brain is convinced you've been shot
    says the psychologist

Look, I'll be honest - your thyroid's not that hot
   says the endocrinologist

On the bright side, if you wanted more babies, you'd have a lot!
   says the gynaecologist

When you get sick, your joints may decide to knot
    says the immunologist

This is all starting to feel like a plot
    says the poor besieged general practologist

I shrug, swallow pills, and decide, on the whole, not
    to spend time waiting for the next thrilling twist.

- Kathy, 7/01/16

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Month of Poetry #5: The Tree of Knowledge

Yesterday's MoP was a fairly sour little spray, so I just posted it to the closed MoP page. No need to whine in public!

Today I'm heading back to the Women of Mythology theme to look at Viviane, the Lady of the Lake and ruler of Avalon in the Arthurian mythos. I'm concentrating on the part of the myth that has Viviane trapping Merlin in the tree after learning all his secrets and leeching his magic from him. I've always wondered how this story could be read counter-intuitively, and here's my take on it.

The Tree of Knowledge

You said, Lady, I am sick with love of you
     just let me, a little, under your kirtle, I must -
And I said no to you, I said, old man, I am here to learn, give me
     your trickery, your sorcerous faint-fingered magic of the stars and seas
     let me take on your knowing let me give me I must -
And you said, woman, I am dying of love, I will die of it
      let me slake myself let me burn let me let me I must -
And I said no to you, I said it, and I pushed away your blue-roped hands
      teach me what I need to know, now, under this harvest moon
      you must, count out to me the runes and bones, I must -
And you said, oh beauty, beauty, the sky is full of golden blood
      let me let me you must I must -

And I did not, I did not
     but you did

The tree knows, its tendrils wound through your heart
     what you did what you said what you gave what you took
The tree claimed its prize

As for me, I put on your knowledge like a cloak woven from midnight and noonday sun
     looked at you, just once, and walked away
     down the dream-road to Avalon.

- Kathy, 5/01/16

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Month of Poetry #3: Ariadne and the Desertion of Theseus

Today's MoP, concerning Ariadne, seems to call for a kyrielle. Ariadne's story is a sad one in many ways, and I felt the melancholy of the kyrielle form would suit it admirably.

Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, King of Crete,and his queen Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of war reparations.

According to an Athenian version of the legend, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms, and were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens to the Minotaur every seven or nine years. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.

She eloped with Theseus after he achieved his goal, but Theseus abandoned her sleeping on the island of Naxos, where the god Dionysus discovered and wedded her.

The key feature of a kyrielle, and the source of its name, is the repetition of the last line of the first stanza as the last line of each subsequent stanza. In this way, the poem follows the pattern of a kyrie-form prayer, which is a prayer in which each section closes with the same words (eg "kyrie eleison": "Lord have mercy on us").

A kyrielle is written in rhyming couplets or quatrains. Each line within the poem consists of only eight syllables.

The rhyme pattern is less challenging than villanelle, because the aa lines don't have to have the same rhyming sound in each stanza (the bb lines do, naturally, to preserve the kyrie as the final line). The main challenge is to find a powerful enough kyrie line to hold the poem together.

Hence ... Ariadne and the Desertion of Theseus.

Seven years the blood-tithe owing
Maids and men from life are going
Monster's lair where none can see -
My mercy not returned to me.

Balled-up thread, a blade for slaying
Promises of debt repaying
Into darkness, love, tis thee -
My mercy not returned to me.

Sleeping sweetly on the island
Waking, lone, on that bleak highland
The night has seen my lover flee -
My mercy not returned to me.

Bride of madness, wine and playing
Every year my heart more fraying
Life is never to be free -
My mercy not returned to me.

- Kathy, 3/01/16

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Month of Poetry #1 and #2: Haiku and Villanelle

One of my favourite things about January, Month of Poetry, kicked off yesterday with the New Year. It's being run collectively this year on a closed FB group, with a smaller number of participants than usual. I think it's going to be a wonderful thing.

My opening salvo was a fairly sour little haiku, written at 2am as the sounds of drunken revellry raged around me. I called it New Year in Hell.

The sky is alight
Frenzied dogs voice their terror
Savage bass pumps on

Today is a challenge day for MoP. Every Saturday in January, one of the members of the group sets a challenge that everyone has a go at fulfilling. It was my turn today, and I challenged the group to write a villanelle (more info about the villanelle form is in this post).

As I have done for the past two years, I've picked a loose organising theme for my MoP efforts. Not every poem will follow the theme, but at least a few will. Last year I did Women of the Old Testament, and the year before I did Narnia. This year, I'm doing Mythic Women. I'm not going to restrict myself to classical myth, either - we'll see how it all goes.

Today's villanelle, and lead-off on my theme, is called Clawed Butterfly. It is a retelling of the story of Ītzpāpālōtl, the Aztec skeletal warrior goddess who ruled over the paradise world of Tamoanchan, the paradise of victims of infant mortality and the place identified as where humans were created.She is the mother of Mixcoatl and is particularly associated with the moth Rothschildia orizaba. She is frequently associated with birds and fire, and appears as a deer. She is also tagged as one of the demons of the stars who eat human souls during solar eclipses.

I'm trying (maybe unsuccessfully) to capture some of the savage strangeness of Aztec myth.

Clawed Butterfly

a demon made of stars and blades of stone
patron of the day and small lost souls
terror-beauty lucid in the bone.

look, up high, where all the birds have flown -
in sky dark-seeded, human hearts like coals
a demon made of stars and blades of stone.

down from heaven, to an earth-bound throne
slicing serpent-gods, red blood in bowls
terror-beauty lucid in the bone.

the sun is gone, the bat comes to her own
eating misery like newborn foals
a demon made of stars and blades of stone.

simalcrum woman, strange and fully known
protector-killer, leeching through the scrolls
terror-beauty lucid in the bone.

the moth that flutters, vicious-queen alone
many parts that make for many wholes
a demon made of stars and blades of stone
terror-beauty lucid in the bone.

- Kathy, 2/1/16