Sometimes poems appear like rare butterflies; you have to swiftly capture them or they fly away again. A poet friend of mine has been known – in the absence of a notebook – to ‘catch’ a poem on the back of a cornflake packet. I am lucky to have had this experience myself; an idea comes into my head and flows via the pen or keyboard into a first draft of a poem on the page. It is hard not be pleased with yourself when you create something that didn’t exist before – especially if it contains an original idea. First drafts are often the most fun to write, with the highest reward-to-effort ratio. But then comes revision.
Grave lilies long dead
but the irises still bloom
in my May garden
Today is Mother’s Day in Ireland. I no longer live in Ireland, nor is my mother still alive, but I remember her today, as I do most days.
I remember your hands busy, busy,
with Tupperware boxes in pastel shades,
or softly pushing back my fringe
for a good-night kiss on your way to a play.
The waft of Chanel from your calming arms,
my fingers lost in the fur of your coat,
the nightlight catching your bracelet’s charms,
‘That will be yours whenever I go.’
I plucked a fleck of lint
from your grey lapel
in a polite sort of way
that day in my office.
One evening, on a sailing holiday in Turkey many years ago, our party of eight caught a ferry from our marina to nearby Fethiye for dinner.
It was nearing the end of a week’s bareboat cruise along the Turquoise Coast and we were in high spirits. As we sat around the dinner table, giggling at how silly we looked in our Fez hats, the challenges of the week (sea-sickness, blocked toilets, a lost anchor) were honed into war stories for the pub. On the return trip we started to sing.
Resolution # 1 was to write more. When I made it, I realised it could only be accomplished by resolution #2. I doubt that there has been a woman who lay on her deathbed wishing she had done more about the house. My mother certainly didn’t wish she had, and she would know; she made a career of it. So if this was to be the year I would spend less time doing chores, the problem was, how?
Love set you going like a fat gold watch…
So begins Sylvia Plath’s poem Morning Song, written in 1961 as a tribute to her baby daughter, Frieda. Read the whole poem here. What a fabulous gift from mother to child? It takes me back to the joy I felt the day I brought my first baby daughter home from hospital. I could hardly believe that they let us leave with her. So tiny and pink with hands like miniature starfish waving their fronds.
You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.