Tag Archives: T S Eliot

“Sisterectomy”: a new poem from Scottish poet Carole Bone

In the late 1990s Carole Bone turned up in my daytime astrology class: red hair, big eyes, bright mind, very eager to learn, fast talker, very hard to keep her quiet. Irrepressible. A great student to teach. Ten years on, and I was at last emerging  from my 2001-8 retreat. Carole had just left my house, staggering under the weight of a bag full of poetry books…. T.S.Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dylan Thomas, Archy and Mehitabel, e e cummings, Anne Stevenson, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead.….she had kept in touch throughout my time out, sending messages of support, sending me her poems to read. She is a born writer. I remember thinking that day  “She’ll be getting published before long.”

Here is her second published poem,“Sisterectomy”, which appeared in May 2010 in the Poetry Anthology 2010 published by United Press Ltd.

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Sisterectomy

I’ve had a sisterectomy
There’s no wound
or scar to show

No empty sleeve
to neatly fold and pin
in badge of loss

Elusive sibling ache
I carry it somewhere still
In head, in heart or gut

No scale can weigh its pain
No gauge can measure
The depth of its careless cut

Unhealed sorrow
flows through blood
that once ran thick

Its devastation hidden
In fractured bonds
Of severed root and tribe

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(Carole’s submission for the Poetry Anthology 2011 has been shortlisted. Our fingers are crossed, Carole!)

Carole Bone
Carole Bone

(carolebone@hotmail.co.uk)

Carole’s Biog : “…. mother of two magic boys – wife for thirty three years to a Capricorn who is without doubt my rock.  Would be astrologer; this subject has kept me (relatively) sane by helping me to understand the contradictory pulls existing in my nature between the home-loving dreamer and the restless seeker after knowledge. And – a shy Virgo Rising…

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ps….I am delighted to report that ‘Lilith and the Devil’ – the first of Carole’s poems to be published on “Writing from the Twelfth House” in February 2010, was re-published on 16.3.10 on the Write Anything site as part of a fine reflective piece by Carole, offering advice to would-be poets. To read it, and some more comments on Carole’s work, check out

http://writeanything.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/lillith-and-the-devil/

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350 words copyright Carole Bone/ Anne Whitaker 2010

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Guest Slot: a new Scottish poet on the block….Carole Bone

In the late 1990s Carole Bone turned up in my daytime astrology class: red hair, big eyes, bright mind, very eager to learn, fast talker, very hard to keep her quiet. Irrepressible. A great student to teach. Ten years on, and I was at last emerging  from my 2001-8 retreat. Carole had just left my house, staggering under the weight of a bag full of poetry books…. T.S.Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dylan Thomas, Archy and Mehitabel, e e cummings, Anne Stevenson, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochead.….she had kept in touch throughout my time out, sending messages of support, sending me her poems to read. She is a born writer. I remember thinking that day  “She’ll be getting published before long.”

Here is her first published poem.

Lilith and the Devil

My thoughts are dark like Lilith’s night
My dreams like Vincent’s crows in flight
Despair my enemy – my comrade
Are shadows real or just charade

The Devil grins and winks at me
Come dance with me and you will see
Dance with the Devil quick quick slow
Better the Devil that you know

Like an old friend he stands by me
And promises to set me free
Cut my bonds and free my soul
Just pay the ferryman his toll

Pandora’s box of dark delights
Tempt me in the Moon dark nights
Delicious pain won’t let me go
It comforts and torments me so

And when at last released to light
Still feel the teasing sultry night
Call me like a secret love
Iron hand in velvet glove

The Devil laughs and speaks to me
Of all these things to help me see
That angels know these things I know
For as above is so below

(From Wiki: Lilith (Hebrew: ליליתLīlīt; Arabic: ليليثLīlīṯ) is a female Mesopotamian storm demon associated with wind and was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death. The figure of Lilith first appeared in a class of wind and storm demons or spirits as Lilitu, in Sumer, circa 4000 BC. Many scholars place the origin of the phonetic name “Lilith” at somewhere around 700 BC despite post-dating even to the time of Moses.[1] Lilith appears as a night demon in Jewish lore and as a screech owl in Isaiah 34:14 in the King James version of the Bible. In later folklore, “Lilith” is the name for Adam‘s first wife.)

“Lilith and the Devil” was first published in The Mountain Astrologer magazine (USA) – Issue No. 140, Aug/Sept 2008

(Carole’s next poem to be published is “Sisterectomy” – in the Poetry Anthology 2010 published by United Press Ltd – not due out till Spring 2010)

Carole Bone

Carole Bone

carolebone@hotmail.co.uk

Carole’s Biog : …. mother of two magic boys – wife for thirty three years to a Capricorn who is without doubt my rock.  Would be astrologer; this subject has kept me (relatively) sane by helping me to understand the contradictory pulls existing in my nature between the home-loving dreamer and the restless seeker after knowledge. And – a shy Virgo Rising….

**************************

ps….I am delighted to report that ‘Lilith and the Devil’ was re-published on 16.3.10 on the Write Anything site as part of a fine reflective piece by Carole, offering advice to would-be poets. To read it, and some more comments on Carole’s work, check out

http://writeanything.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/lillith-and-the-devil/

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550 words copyright Carole Bone/ Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Brief Book Review: “The Spiral Staircase” by Karen Armstrong

What a wonderfully well-written and stimulating read! “The Spiral Staircase” charts Karen Armstrong’s slow process of emerging from an alienating experience of nun-hood, with her human ability to relate damaged, and without a sense of connection with God as depicted by conventional Christianity.

Spiral Staircase

Spiral Staircase

This is a brave book: it is very honest, humorous, and inspiring. Armstrong also  provides a tough and unsparing critique of the structures of formal religion and conventional psychiatry. I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of an outsider, gradually finding her unique place in the secular world – in a career talking and writing about God….

We all struggle to a greater or lesser extent with the twin challenges of self-acceptance and finding our place. In concluding “The Spiral Staircase” , Karen Armstrong has this to say on those crucial topics:

“My life has kept changing, but at the same time I have found myself revolving round and round the same themes, the same issues, and even repeating the same mistakes. I tried to break away from the convent but I still live alone, spend my days in silence, and am almost wholly occupied in writing, thinking, and speaking about God and spirituality. I have come full circle. This reminds me of the staircase in (T.S.) Eliot’s Ash Wednesday, which I picture as a narrow spiral staircase. I tried to get off it and join others on what seemed to me to be a broad, noble flight of steps, thronged with people. But I kept falling off, and when I went back to my own twisting stairwell I found a fulfilment that I had not expected. Now I have to mount my staircase alone. And as I go up, step by step, I am turning, again, round and round, apparently covering little ground, but climbing upwards, I hope, towards the light.” (pp 341-2)

I derived great comfort, support and encouragement from this book – do read it!

Learning to do ‘slow’….

 

“Loch Duich, Scottish Highlands, UK, summer  2001. What a beautiful morning! Here I am, strolling along a lochside path, savouring sweet fresh Highland air, gazing across the loch to majestic mountains beyond. The subtle smell of gorse is wonderful – like mild coconut. This morning, the scent is drifting on the breeze. Stopping to smell some gorse flowers, admiring their vivid yellow, my attention is caught by an enormous bee, browsing purposefully. For a long time I stand watching it at work. Suddenly, I am overcome with sheer happiness and gratitude at being in this beautiful spot, with nothing to do but watch a giant bee….

This small, perfect moment burned its memory into my consciousness. Back in our busy city life, full of responsibilities and deadlines, it began to appear every so often, like a little bright flag, alerting me to something.

Seven years later, with the wisdom of hindsight, I know full well what that something was: a stark warning that I was stifling what my mind, body and soul desperately needed – space, peace, silence, seclusion – and slowness, to enable me to be receptive to life rather than using my active will to hammer it into what I thought was an appropriate shape. All these precious things came in abundance with my collapse through sheer exhaustion at the end of 2001, a few months after the incident with the bee.The crash was triggered by a long family crisis that year, which totally depleted my energy at the outset of menopause.

However, there are many advantages to a prolonged and severe crisis. The Chinese word for crisis contains two characters. One conveys threat, the other, opportunity. Many opportunities have presented themselves, the most important  being that I have finally learned to do slow!

When you are forced off the treadmill of contemporary living into a quiet, restful life, becoming more like an occasional visitor from another planet than a participant in 21st century society, certain things become very evident. The most obvious one is that the pace of our life is far too fast.

Everything we learn from history, contemporary living and individual experience points to the importance of striving for balance.  At present the signs are everywhere that we are living in an increasingly unbalanced and destructive world, driven by a pathological need for constant rapid change, and perpetual action.

My long crisis taught me that doing “nothing”, doing very little in a slow and leisurely fashion, and  responding to life rather than acting upon it, are all very fruitful modes. After seven whole years of apparently doing very little apart from lying around drinking tea, reading books, keeping journals, and  fine tuning the undervalued art of procrastination, I feel like a warm and happy pile of rich compost. I don’t feel in the least that all those years of my life have been wasted. Quite the opposite. This, let me tell you, is a  profound, pleasant and wholly unexpected surprise.

I used to try and cram as much as possible into every waking hour, considering time doing “nothing” as time wasted. Does this sound familiar? Had someone told me then that my powerful will would be rendered useless by exhaustion, and that I would have to respond to what my body could do, ie almost nothing, for a  long time, I would have been horrified and very, very scared. And at various points I was horrified and very, very scared.

The poet TS Eliot observed that the end of all our life’s exploring returns us to the starting point, where at last we know the place for the first time. From this perspective,  life is a multi levelled process of moving through repeating cycles of  discovery to deeper and deeper levels  of understanding of what we already know.

I now truly see that there are two fundamental modes to being alive. One is being active, the other is receptivity. Day is for activity. Night is for rest and recharging in stillness, quiet and darkness. Without the slow dying and resting of autumn and winter, the earth could not give us the fecund vitality of spring and fruitfulness of summer. Doing needs to be balanced by being. In order to be truly creative as citizens, parents, workers, partners, and individuals we have to be still, to listen, to receive. To enter these modes, there is an essential key. We must slow down.

One of the most profound lessons I have learned over the course of my life is that often the greatest gifts come in the most unappealing packaging! Within our current culture we are taught that ageing and the gradual diminishing of energy which goes with it is a bad thing. But ageing is inevitable. Its accompanying loss of energy can be used wisely, if we read it as a sign that the time has come to slow down, learn to move more easily from active to receptive mode, and to adopt the tenor of the latter more and more as time goes on.

I am not advocating sinking into a vegetable-like stupor as the ageing process advances! But the cycle of life at every level depends on the key stages of conception, germination, birth, maturing, decline, death and renewal.We should try to be co-operative with this process, rather than narcissistically trying to hang on to youth. Carl Jung wisely observed that the second half of life should be spent preparing for the end of it. One of the great ways of beginning to prepare to let go of this life in order to move on to the next great adventure beyond it, is to grant oneself time to contemplate, time to rest, time to read, time to look out of the window and watch the clouds go by.

I have discovered, to my great surprise and joy, that doing “nothing” and doing slow opens up – very slowly, so be patient ! –  all sorts of creative, fertile space in your life. Try it ! Cultures and individuals stuck in fast, doing  mode for long enough, quite simply, burn themselves out.

Some of you harassed busy folk reading this may find yourselves getting annoyed, muttering “It’s all very well for her!” But I have learned the very hard way that if you deny mind, body and spirit what it needs for long enough, especially as mid life advances and your body begins to lose some of its vitality, the price for that denial will duly be exacted, usually through ill-health.

So – learn from me and that bee at Loch Duich in the summer of 2001. Start doing some slow. You won’t regret it !”

(this is an updated, slightly edited version of an article published in Connections Magazine, Scotland, UK, in  February 2006 as part of an ongoing column called “Just let me get old, ok?”)

 

1100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page