By Eithne Cullen
Welcome to today’s Thoughtful Tuesday page. Here at Write On! we’re continuing our Extra pages on the theme of ‘Hope.’ With the latest lockdown easing, the news of a vaccine and the thought of being able to see more of our family in the near future, it’s a very relevant theme. It’s also a theme that inspires a lot of writers, so I’ve got plenty to share today.
Our own Write On! artist Emmanuel Oreyeni has created this hopeful image for the page.
I hope you’re well.
I hope you’re keeping safe!
I hope your loved ones are all right in the times of pandemic!
I hope my friend can get to see her grandson soon!
I hope the vaccine works!
And I hope we can have some kind of safe, family time at Christmas, too!
I think you’ll agree it’s a word we’ve used a lot in the last nine months and it resonates so firmly in our lives today.
My thoughts turned to the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley, in his poem Ode to the West Wind where he penned the words that have become a proverb or saying in life today: If Winter Comes Can Spring Be Far Behind.
Most people believe this saying to mean that if winter is approaching and everything is dying, there is spring season ahead, to look forward to. Life is a cycle of death and birth. There’s also the meaning behind Shelley’s words, he wishes his poetry would live on after him and have meaning to future readers of his work. Here are a few lines from the ending of the poem, where he is addressing the wind directly:
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
Shelley’s words were in my mind when I wrote this little piece about hope:
comes with faith and love
you’ll come again
it stays fine for you
for the best
I hope so/
I do hope so
© Eithne Cullen, 2020
While we were thinking about the theme here at Pen to Print, lots of people mentioned this poem by Emily Dickinson:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
I featured a piece by Margaret Drummond on my page last month. She’s a member of Brentwood Writers’ Circle and has been published in a variety of magazines and blogs. She’s shared another piece with us, which she describes as a kind of ghost story. For me, I admire the way she’s captured the stillness and cold of this time of year.
I saw her nearly every day in the summer – the dancing girl. Skipping through the trees, weaving amongst the branches and stumbling a little as she tumbled down the bank. Of course, I knew what drew her here. The pool behind the tiny copse beckons on a summer’s day. Sometimes I would watch her as she knelt down in amongst the green. Dragonflies danced about her head as she fished amongst the drifting dots of duckweed for the creatures that lay beneath the brackish water. Water that hid a hundred secrets
Later, as the days grew grey I would hear her footsteps in the rustle of the leaves. The wind bore the cadences of her laughter as she tripped down the steep slope to the swaying reeds. Sometimes I held my breath in anticipation as she gently tiptoed around the soft, slippery edge of the pool, wary and cautious, slowly and deliberately circling the grey, bare pool, unaware of the burgeoning chaos beneath the surface.
Now in the dark days, I hear her again. Snow brings silence, yet her laughter echoes in amongst the bare branches that surround the glassy pool. I look up as she bends down to gently test the ice. I see her dainty foot above my head and then, just like before, the splinter of ice shatters the stillness. The girl flails and writhes like the fish speared by the heron who likes to rest on the stone, now green with moss but still standing at the edge of the pool. My stone. No, now our stone. Beside the pool that gives such pleasure, yet brings such pain. Now, in amongst the reeds and the fishes and creatures of the deep, I swim towards the girl and welcome her.
© Margaret Drummond, 2020
Thank you for sharing this chilling piece with us!
The next poem comes from award-winning poet and writer Maggie Harris.
Praise Song For The Invisible
With thanks to the unseen whose working hands are veiled in mists
present at the last kiss, the last telephone call, the last video goodbye
Praise to the heavy-footed, the light-footed, boarding buses at dawn or midnight
leaving their children heavy with sleep in the care of borrowed aunts or alone
Praise to those with eyes down whose smiles barely waver on a mouth whispering have a nice day
Or the guy with the keys who frisks you having seen the other side
knowing the other side, having been to the other side, his feet still shifting barefoot on these shores
Praise to the unidentifiable, the un-named, the barely-there who wake to winter trees or cement floors
Praise to the eyes that meet yours in a shared moment in a crowded place where words are not allowed to escape or formulate
Where doors slide open consistently with silent sensors welcoming your body heat
and the last of your universal credit
Praise to the one who even back-to-the-wall says no
who even through every body blow feels the conviction from somewhere deep inside where the prophets and the philosophers arm-wrestle
Somewhere where a light is burning, even a small light
a kerosene lamp or a nightlight, a candle-stump or a torchlight
the flicker of a match-light, a sliver of moon in a black night
the remembered shimmer of a firefly
that will run along his arm bringing all the songs with it
all the glory songs from Jerusalem to Jordan, from the cotton fields
to Assam, from Demerara to Louisiana
through the back doors and the gullies
as long as I’m alive as long as I’m alive
as long as I’m alive
as long as I’m alive
there is tomorrow
© Maggie Harris, 2020
Maggie Harris was born in Guyana and has lived in the UK since 1971.
She has been a creative writing tutor for Kent University and International Teaching Fellow at Southampton University, has worked for Kent Arts and Libraries and has been part of several artistic collaborations across the country.
Her most recent collection of poetry On Watching a Lemon Sail the Sea is published by Cane Arrow Press. Her latest collection of short stories, Writing on Water is published by Seren. You can get her compilation spoken word CD, Mother Tongue directly from Maggie. Connect with her through her website: www.maggieharris.co.uk
Maire Buonocore has previously shared some of her writing on the Thoughtful Tuesday page. She contacted me to tell me she’d been successful in a competition (King Lear Prizes). The call-out was for some verse written by blacking out words in a text. Maire used Farzana’s interview with Martina Cole from Write On! for inspiration and created this lovely haiku!
Thinking about winter and the coming cold and harsh conditions remind us to be positive and to always look forward. David Cullen’s character Eco Smith is truly a positive and hopeful creation. She really believes she can change the world and save the planet and she’s starting right here with us! Here’s a piece called The problem with plastic part 1.
And finally, with thoughts of chilly winter, the hope of spring to come and some hope that we’ll be able to see family over the Christmas holiday, I’ll end with a little acrostic I wrote earlier this year, called:
Hope comes in
Opens our eyes
Points the way forward
Eases our anxiety
Stay well, and keep sending your writing to: pentoprint.org.
I think you’ll agree, hope is a word we’ve used a lot in the last nine months and it resonates so firmly in our lives today.