Poem for a Thursday: D.H. Lawrence

This is just a quick post; we celebrated Valentine’s Day by staying up to watch a movie (The Shape of Water) after putting Mabel to bed, so I am very tired!

This poem by D.H. Lawrence is one we included in our wedding ceremony. The sentiment behind it is just beautiful, and the last line is a stunner. (Also, I am a sucker for our wedding memories, so the picture I’ve chosen is from our Save the Date bookmark!)


Man and woman are like the earth, that brings forth flowers
in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than foraminiferae,
older than plasm altogether is the soul underneath.
And when, throughout all the wild chaos of love
slowly a gem forms, in the ancient, once-more-molten rocks
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks,
a man’s heart and a woman’s,
that is the crystal of peace, the slow hard jewel of trust,
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.

Poem for a Thursday: Solmaz Sharif

I am trying to broaden my poetry horizons, so I borrowed The Forward Book of Poetry 2017 from my local library a couple of weeks ago. I decided this week I’d share one from it this week, hopefully something a bit different from previous weeks.

Solmaz Sharif is an award-winning Iranian-American poet, and I thought this poem by her was quite thought-provoking and timely. I hope you agree.

Force Visibility

Everywhere we went, I went
in pigtails
no one could see—

ribbon curled
by a scissor’s sharp edge,
the bumping our cars

undertook when hitting
those strips
along the interstate

meant to shake us
awake. Everywhere we went
horses bucking

their riders off,
holstered pistols
or two Frenchies

dancing in black and white
in a torn-apart
living room,

on the big screen
our polite cow faces
lit softly

by New Wave Cinema
I will never
get into. The soft whir

What is fascism?

A student asked me

and can you believe
I couldn’t remember
the definition?

The sonnet,
I said.
I could’ve said this:

our sanctioned twoness.
My COVERT pigtails.
Driving to the cinema

you were yelling
This is not
you corrected

in the car, a tiny
amphitheater. I will
resolve this
I thought

and through that
a stronger compatriot.

This is fascism.
Dinner party
by dinner party,

waltz by waltz,
weddings ringed
by admirers, by old

couples who will rise
to touch each other

you were yelling
and beside us, briefly

a sheriff’s retrofitted bus.
Full or empty
was impossible to see.

From Look by Solmaz Sharif, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2016 by Solmaz Sharif.

Poem for a Thursday: Alice Oswald

I’m back with another Poem for a Thursday. It is nice to have a reason to seek out poetry, I must say. And it is nice to be back here more regularly as well. Thanks to Jennifer for providing the inspiration; do go visit her blog if you haven’t yet!

This week’s poem is from British poet Alice Oswald. She is a contemporary poet I found a couple of years ago by picking up her most recent book, Falling Awake, in my local independent bookshop. I just skimmed it, but it was so stunning that I had to buy it. It is full of wonderful, evocative poems, but I chose this one because I think there is something magical about dew 🙂

“A rushed account of the dew”

I who can blink
to break the spell of daylight

and what a sliding screen between worlds
is a blink

I who can hear the last three seconds in my head
but the present is beyond me

in this tiny moment of reflexion
I want to work out what it’s like to descend
out of the dawn’s mind

and find a leaf and fasten the known to the unknown
with a liquid cufflink
              and then unfasten

to be brief

to be almost actual

oh pristine example
of claiming a place on the earth
only to cancel

What are you reading?

Poem for a Thursday: WS Merwin

Last week’s Mary Oliver poem turned out to be prescient, as she sadly passed away that very day. I have no doubt that her finely crafted yet accessible poems began their legacy decades ago and while I’m sad she won’t be writing anymore, I look forward to seeing poets continuing to cite her influence.

This week’s poem is by WS Merwin, another American poet. His verse is simultaneously vast and particular, something I love. This poem paints a clear picture; I can imagine both the narrator and the scene. I had a hard time choosing a poem as the whole book was beautiful!

Long afternoon light

Small roads written in sleep in the foothills

how long ago and I believed you were lost

with the bronze then deepening in the light

and the shy moss turning to itself holding

its own brightness above the badger’s path

while a single crow sailed west without a sound

we trust without giving it a thought

that we will always see it as we see it

once and that what we know is only

a moment of what is ours and will stay

we believe it as the moment slips away

as lengthening shadows merge in the valley

and a window kindles there like a first star

what we see again comes to us in secret

And as a bonus, I have decided to be brave and share a draft of a poem I wrote a few years ago, because Merwin’s poem reminded me of it. As yet, it remains untitled.

A second ripples through

the honeyed light,

and when the tick hits

the stone boundary

suddenly, a hundred years

have been captured

like a bubble in amber.

Less than the blink

of an eye, and the fields

have flowered and lain fallow

fifty times over and the sheep

have given a hundred winters of wool.

Poem for a Thursday

Shamelessly stolen from Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness. I hope you don’t mind! As I am grieving a close relative at the moment, I have turned to the wonderful Mary Oliver, who always provides comfort and grace. I chose this poem because I saw these lovely swans on the way to the funeral. And while it isn’t necessarily about death, somehow it rings apt. I hope you like it, too.

The Swan

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating–a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers–
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn’t exist
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband’s company–
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course! the path to heaven

doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
It’s in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those white wings
touch the shore?

– Mary Oliver 

New year, new plans

Okay, maybe my plans aren’t really that new. Every year I seem to think about the same things. I have had a pretty good idea of who I am and what I want out of life for a few years now, though there is always room for improvement. I don’t have the gumption to stick with New Year’s resolutions, but there are a few things I’d like to work on this year. In no particular order:

Poetry  – I have neglected poetry in recent years. Once upon a time I not only read it, but also wrote it, and I feel quite sad that it’s not something I do anymore. This year I’d like to incorporate it into my life again. I’m not sure how, though, as I need to be feeling reflective before I can read or write it. Perhaps I will steal Jennifer‘s idea and post a poem here on a regular basis. I would also quite like to write one poem a month.

Home – My house is, quite frankly, a disaster. I have never been tidy and suppose my home reflects all the tangents my mind takes. But recently it has been bothering me that everything is just so disorganized – the reason there is stuff everywhere is that it has no specific home. This year, I’d like to work on getting more storage and *gasp* maybe even decorate, budget allowing.

Blog – Clearly I have been neglecting my blog. I am also realizing that while I’m happy with Pastry & Purls, it’s not quite what I wanted it to be. I really wanted to be a little reflective and also practice my writing. Finding a balance is hard, though – I don’t want it to be a chore, but I do want to write more meaningful posts. Hmm. Any suggestions?

What are your plans, goals, or intended themes for 2019?

A year of motherhood

Photo by Summer George Photography
Photo by Summer George Photography

Somehow I have made it through an entire year of being a mother. This is nearly as shocking as the fact that the baby I gave roast chicken to tonight has been alive for a whole year.

And what a year it’s been. I would love to wax lyrical, but I am too tired and don’t think I can share anything original. Motherhood has been surprisingly full of cliches: nights of sobbing, the joy of baby snuggles, the indecision of feeding choices, the excitement of watching her explore. But there have been so many little moments and little rituals that we’ve been fortunate to share as mother and daughter, or as a little family. I thought I would record a few here:

  • Watching Mabel see snow for the first time
  • Hobbling down to the dining room in the maternity ward, pushing Mabel in her little bed
  • Lying on the bed, Mabel on my chest, Pippa on my legs, trying to stay awake (and eventually deciding that wasn’t worth it)
  • 11 p.m. family walks to McDonald’s to get her to sleep
  • The words of encouragement from other mums when I fed Mabel in a cafe/public the first few times
  • Reading Little Bee at bedtime, until Mabel decided she’d had enough & started crying every time it came out. Oops.
  • The delight on her face when she squished a strawberry for the first time
  • The overwhelming sense of responsibility and terror when I registered her at the GP
  • Her first wave, at a near stranger in a cafe!
  • Endless night feeding sessions
  • The sobs, clenched teeth, and occasional scream or walk out the door when I couldn’t get her to sleep
  • The agony of her screams with reflux. God, just haunting.
  • Finding my “these are people I would still want to hang out with if I wasn’t a mum” mum group through our local breastfeeding support group

It’s such a cliche, but I do feel so blessed to have Mabel. She’s an excitable, engaged, curious girl full of enthusiasm for the world around her. She may be little, but she is not shy or restrained. I can’t wait to see what will change next year.

Motherhood itself, though, is a whole different thing from Mabel herself. I guess maternal instinct is a real thing, as the urge to spend time with and protect Mabel is pretty overwhelming sometimes. Getting the balance between our needs right and trusting that other people can also meet her needs will take a long time. I still feel like a terrible mum several days a week! Unsurprisingly these feelings still usually revolve around her sleep. She’s always been a rubbish napper but done better at night. But the nights that I can’t get her to fall asleep (Yes, we are naughty and still put her to bed asleep instead of letting her go to sleep on her own. You can’t judge me for this any more than I do. :() are just the worst. In fact tonight I passed her over to her dad crying after trying for 40 minutes. I mean I was crying! She was screaming because something unidentifiable was clearly hurting.
Another surprising thing is the way I still think about the miscarriage. One of Mabel’s middle names is the one we planned to use; it’s the main reason she has 2, as I worried it’d make me think about the baby too much, but R wanted to keep it. It is a lovely name, though, and someone we know (who doesn’t know about the miscarriage or name history) prefers to call her that. I really struggle with it as it feels like a litte pinprick to the heart every time, but equally I don’t feel comfortable sharing the reason behind this with this particular person. How do I find the balance of remembering and moving on? I really didn’t expect I’d still think about it most days and can’t help wondering if it’s normal.

But there are positives, too, like those memories above. I love seeing her face when I come home, and especially love watching her when both her dad & me are around as she is clearly just so happy. I wouldn’t exactly say that cliche of “the smiles make it worth it” (*vomit*) is true, but I have been surprised by just how much fun I have found being a mum. Long may it continue (but let the nighttime sobbing stop now, please).