Write Around the World Voices
On October 22 & 23, 2016 Writers Around the Globe Gathered to Write.
This event was sponsored by Northampton Cooperative Bank a Division of Greenfield Cooperative Bank, Partners with AWA for over 25 years.
Around the world, workshops gathered to write through the weekend of October 22 & 23. Participants chose one page of writing to be posted on the AWA website. These voices join thousands of writers in: Boston, Toronto, Seattle, Dublin, Malaysia, Chicago, Portland, Vancouver, Houston, Philadelphia, London, Mexico & beyond. The money raised provided scholarships for those who want to be AWA-Trained Workshop Leaders.
WE ARE PROUD TO SHARE THE FOLLOWING SUBMISSIONS
Workshop: St Gabriel’s Writing Group; Eilís Coe Dollymount Dublin
What’s under the bed?
“Plenty of memories” she said
Some precious, held in a box
Some open, some with a lock
The christening robe of her son
Veil of her girl’s First Communion
Pictures of people long dead
Books that her children read
Papers of news long ago
Boxes with button and bow
Recipes for jam, how to cook Christmas ham.
Her son said, “Get rid of that stuff.” She left the room in a huff.
“What harm are they doing?” she said
They’re my memories under the bed.
Soundless, voiceless, tickles, tockless
No one could value this round-faced clock less.
Hands upraised in surprise or shock
Was it’s last beat a tick or a tock?
What great fright, in the night
Caused the works to cease, the hands to freeze
At ten to two? An owl, Whoo Whoo?
A mouse running up its shining glass?
A large white moth that chanced to pass?
The moon so round, so bright, so clear
Appearing to draw near, draw near?
Or was it when it saw my facemask
Of yogurt, turmeric and wheatgrass
To iron out my wrinkles and frown
And make my cheeks as soft as down?
Or was it age and wear and tear
That left my timepiece silent there?
I’ll never know and the clock won’t tell
Its secret it will guard so well.
“Everything begins at the kitchen table” Joy Harjo
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach so what’s on the kitchen table and how it’s set out provides a big percent of assistance on the road. We all begin to talk, walk and regulate our time from the kitchen table. It’s a simple but important starting place, greeting after a day’s work, eating, sharing, complaining, laughing, learning, listening. It’s not a spectacular piece of furniture, just a prop with a plain flat piece of wood on top. It nearly always enjoys the day’s sunlight and the evening sunset. It exudes calmness and power. No architect’s drawing, no fancy etching, it stores memories galore. It’s my favorite place to rest my arms, read, do my crossword, maybe chat when the busy day is over and the house is still. The table’s influence and what goes on there reaches the ends of the earth, pole to pole. Emigrants associate it with Mother, the heart of the home. You’ll find her there when she couldn’t find another quiet place in the house. Maybe a long lost friend or an old school pal has returned from abroad and we sit with them at the table, where in childhood we played games, win or lose. O that kitchen table of my childhood, covered in brightly coloured oilcloth! Now we have moved on to placemats and wipe-clean materials. The scones that were made, the dinners dished out, maybe a spillage and Dad’s shout if you messed up your place. Then, tummies full, places to go and the order “kneel down now and say the Rosary before you disappear.” It’s a quiet place today. Generations grown and gone. No need to protect the surface. It will last like the memories and achievements of the people who once gathered around it.
Recently I was clearing out some old bedroom furniture to make space for a lovely new chair. I was clearing out the drawers and in the smallest drawer, I found a train ticket. The date on it was 1979 and it was from Killester to Phoenix Park, quite an unusual destination. Our Holy Father Pope John Paul 2 was visiting Ireland. What a wonderful occasion! The flags were everywhere and His Holiness was to say Mass at noon at a specifically built altar. Every parish in Ireland had someone to represent them. My daughter and I were to sing in the huge choir. Young sons were altar boys and my husband was one of the many stewards. We boarded our special train at 10am, got to Connolly Station at 10:15 and there we stopped!! Our train could go no further as the tracks were blocked. Someone had a radio, so we knew where the Pope was – he was leaving Italy. We waited. Next we heard His Holiness was in Dublin Airport. Then, the helicopter had reached the Park and we were still on the train in Cannoolly. The train started at last and we reached the Park just in time for the Mass. It was a wonderful occasion and well worth the wait. I laughed when I looked at the ticket and remarked that the Pope flew from Rome to the Park in less time than it took us to travel the few miles from Killester!
Only recently I became aware of the word “dyspraxia.” I am not even sure how to spell it and my old, usually reliable, dictionary let me down for the first time. Too old, like myself, I suppose. A young mother told me that her six-year old son had just been diagnosed with that condition – luckily, on the lower end of the spectrum. It was when she wen on to tell me what the occupational therapist had advised that I suddenly recalled the words, “What’s under the bed?” almost exactly the first words of a skipping rhyme chanted on the streets when I was young. It went: “There’s somebody under the bed. Whoever shall it be?” A list of games and exercises had been prescribed to help the boy with what was called “spatial problems” and as I listened, I realized that our parents who had never heard of dyspraxia or anything affecting our perception of space, had all unknowingly provided us with remedies by just allowing us to play street games. This little boy needs to practice juggling coloured balls against the wall. We were experts at that, though out balls were an ill-matched collection of old tennis balls or anything resembling them. Skipping helped our balance and hop-scotch or “piggy beds” fulfilled the same function. Turning a skipping rope exercised our arms and jumping in and out of the rope as others turned it helped with leg-eye coordination. Running, jumping, marching round and round to the sound of our own voices raised in the well-known chants, not to mention taking our turn and learning to be good losers was occupational therapy, though we did not know these words. Some boys and girls may have grown up clumsy and awkward, but no doubt even these benefitted from hours of careless, happy play.
Everything changed when I stood on the first tee of Royal Dublin Golf Club. I forgot all my little worries. Did I put off the cooker before I left the kitchen? Did I feed the birds before I left the house? Etc. etc. Now all I could see was the green fairway of the first hole stretching out before me. I hit a great shot down the middle and my pals shouted “You are getting better with age.” My two pals and I were off on our four-hour long trip around the links. All the worries of the world disappeared as we concentrated on getting the little white ball into the holes in the least number of shots. Our links is built on a sand base surrounded by dunes. The fairways are narrow and woe betide you if you stray off them into the long grass on either side. It is a course that is highly regarded by the best golfers in the world apart from our own Christy O’Connor, such names as Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros have graced it. It is the favorite course of Bill Clinton, the past President of the United States. Part of the enjoyment of our golf trip is our visit to 19th hole afterwards for a cup of coffee and cookies. Our course was founded by the British Army at the beginning of the 20th Century. During World War 1, it was used as a practice range for the military.
Miriam was thrilled. She had just achieved the dream of her lifetime when she finally out the key into the front door. All her life she had scrimped and saved for this day – a home of her own! It was a brand new little house, exactly what she had longed for over the years. Everything brand new, it would be so easy to keep. The icing on the cake was the lovely little front garden. At least it would be lovely when she got rid of all the junk the builders had left behind. Never mind, she had all her life ahead of her to get it in order, so she started right away, clearing it bit by bit, filling the brown bin. It was not such a difficult task. Miriam’s joy at having this new home was boundless. There was just one snag, something she had never expected – she was lonely! People passed by as she worked in the little garden each day but she did not know any of them. She missed the Camaraderie of her previous neighbors. Her phone was not yet connected and her mobile was out of credit. A peculiar lethargy settled on her. She must shake this off and proceed to dig again and keep herself busy. “I know what I will do,” she thought. “I will plant a little tree in the centre of the garden, a flowery one like a lilac.” Out came her new spade and rake and shovel. She measured and dug and as she worked, she was cheered by the song of a little robin. The task was much more difficult than she had expected and soon perspiration ran down her face.
“That’s a tought jon for a lady like you. I’ll give you a hand.” A sturdy-looking country man was leaning on her wall. Maybe she would not be lonely after all!
Prompt: A broken clock
It sat there on her dresser, silent, hands stopped at 10 to 10
I must get batteries for the clock. Don’t want the alarm to keep going off
I did buy batteries and yes, the alarm just kept going.
I pushed it, pulled it, but it still had a tune of its own.
Sadly the house had to be empty. Everything had to go.
Take what you want, the family said
So I packed a few things in a bag and the silent clock came with me.
We have been living together now. It needs batteries now and then.
I did a good job on the alarm. It was silent all that time.
But this week at the dead of night, the clock alarm sounded.
I fell out of the bed with fright, did not know where I was.
Nothing would stop the alarm, so out came the batteries.
Next morning, the clock and I came downstairs.
I am going to do a job on you again. I slapped it, hit it, rapped it.
And suddenly it clicked into place, returned the batteries and clock is back in place.
I wonder why the alarm went off, did not wait for five years.
Did it hear that the house is to be sold again and is trying to tell me something?
Was the clock happy for me? Was it telling me to visit her grave?
Was it telling me it is happy?
Or is it something I have yet to discover?
Workshop: Iona Writers, Glasnevin Dublin with Eilís Coe
Prompt: A Carton of Eggs
When I was a child and living on a farm in the West of Ireland, my mother, a widow, applied for and was granted a license to run a poultry farm. It was exciting for us children to have more than sheep and cows to tend but all the regulations that came with the new enterprise fell heavily on us children.
We were introduced to the new hen pin, the roosts on which the tidy little Leghorns rested for the night, the door for hens only, the laying boxes padded with golden straw which had to be changed twice a week so that when we were collecting the eggs, all were clean and ready to be packed into the cartons of White eggs for the local shop, where we bartered them for our groceries, which consisted of items needed to supplement our fresh produce from our farm.
Perches and roosts had to be scrubbed each week and for this we had to carry them to the river and steep them to remove the droppings. The dropping boards had to be scrubbed and fresh sawdust spread on them. We had to watch the hens and chicks carefully and if the fox or the hawk got any of them, we would suffer a just punishment, o eggs for breakfast the next day.
The big day was when the Poultry Inspector arrived. Miss Flynne would remove the eggs form their snug little cartons and put them through a fertility test. The hens were given a blood test. All the information was neatly entered in her book. This was all a lot of red tape and Foolology, I thought, about something as simple as a carton of eggs.
Everything changed when I became a teenager. I remember distinctly standing on the first tee of the golf course and telling myself that I was entering a new phase, I which I could choose my own clothes instead of those my mother chose for me. I could stay out a bit longer and maybe I would not be asked questions about my whereabouts. I was twelve years old.
Everything changed when I had to take the bus into town to attend Secondary School and face women in black ad white habits of the Ursuline Order. I had to concentrate on learning History and Geography and other subjects in English, after years of learning as Gaeilge in Junior School. I had to study French for the first time and seriously think about important exams and their results. Everything changed when I attended my first dance on a summer evening and encountered the closeness of the opposite sex ad the joy of being asked up to dance. My dress was more stylish and my haircut too, but the cost of this had to be met by my own efforts at my summer job, but wasn’t it so, so much worth it? What joy there is in youth!
Everything changed, in my later years, when I stopped lighting fires, and stopped my mad dusting.
Everything change when I joined Iona Writers and began to ply the pen to create new pictures in words alone to express my memories, feelings and imaginations, to be in a new place with folk who gave joy to my mornings and expression to my writings.
“I know I stand in line until I think you have the time to spend an evening with me.”
The opening lines to the old Frank Sinatra song so popular many years ago… an old love song to which you used to waltz around the floor and join n the last line as he whispered, “And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid, like I love you.”
A reminder of bygone years, sentimental, yes, but swirling around the floor of the Crystal Ballroom in the heart of Dublin, as the band played, holding someone tight is a great memory to hold onto. True, it’s a long time ago, but “Memories are made of this,” Pat Boone’s old song comes to mind.
My first memory of standing in line, leaving whatever mischief I had been involved in. Ciunas (silence) was the rule at that point, so, quiet as a mouse, we stood in line until our class was summoned by our teacher. As we grow older, we lined out to play matches. Today, in Killaloe, white people line out to say farewell to Anthony Foley, Irish rugby legend, cut dawn at the age of forty-two, people in Syria line out for food and shelter.
Standing in line means order, discipline, organization, silence, desperation and sometimes fear. In the end, though, we are all in line, waiting for the finishing line, death. In the meantime, wit Johnny Cash, “I walk the line.”
Come early Spring the plough was hurried out, coulter sharpened, recently cleaned, buffed until it shone sharp, almost luminous. Nights when tight frosts still lingered, producing rhinestone carpeted fields glitter in wan sunshine. In the stable, Tom and Daisy stood at the ready, coats glistening, evidence of care, munching contently, large mouths frisking straw or hay.
An air of expectancy, of renewal, almost tangible, hung veil-like around. March winds had dried the soggy earth, a new-day pulse, almost imperative, lightened my father’s step, one foot in front of t’other. Collars placed on horses, their gallant heads shook from side to side, manes flying left-right in anticipation. The plough stood to attention, chains were linked to harnesses, then linked to plough, reins tested, eased, tightened, blinkers slapped, tested, tested, all things in right place. New reins were thrown over Dad’s stout shoulders, ready, steady, go, as the plough slice-cut into the grassy sward. Daisy, a little giddy, left off a squeal- Was it delight or resignation? Tom stoically planted well-shod hooves in a straight line, head bowed. Was that a tiny whinnied prayer he whispered in Dad’s ear, or in reprimand, let’s-pull-together type of phrase? Dad settled to the task in hand. With each sliced-cut, brown svelte earth shone like a chocolate river route. Before the Angelus bell pealed its mid-day chime for the church on top of the drumlin, the well field had been opened up. From tall trees laced around our house, crows c awed litanies of applause, cows droned baritone anthems.
Digging a hole…
Or several holes. “To dig I am not able. I know what I will do,” says the astute steward in the Gospel, when he had written off his master’s debt. To dig is not my strongest work. When the ground is moist and soft after a rainfall is the easiest time to dig. Garden sowing season is on target for next Spring. Daffodils, crocuses, tulips and narcissi should all be planted in their winter beds now. I undertook this task in my back garden at the beginning of October. Now there is a good green grass lawn here which Husband mows regularly with his petrol-filled lawnmower. He hates any plants or shrubs to block his path, so the gardener has clear instructions to keep off and stay in the flower bed nestled in the corner in front of the shed. Having purchased two bags of bulbs and equipped with a strong spade, I tackled the bulb-planting. I pushed the spade firmly into the unyielding ground, my foot in its stout shoe assisting me. Holes were dug, bulbs carefully spaced, covered and left to rest I their graves to await a spring resurrection.
I dug holes to plant a rowan tree and a flowering sycamore, presents from the Eucharistic Congress, 2012. All was well until Buddy, my son Paul’s golden Labrador puppy, ate some of the new branches and leaves. Only careful nurturing restored our holy tree. The rowan tree bore bright orange berries this Autumn. It is more perfect for being a rescued tree. To dig I AM able! Look at the green leaves and shoots, saying “I will arise and bloom now, some thirty-fold, some sixty, some one hundred-fold. What a wonderful scene to behold!
Everything changed when her family moved from the cottage on the farm to a house in the town. There were no more stone floors, no more outdoor toilet, no paraffin lamps, no cooking on an open fire, no hauling water for a pump a mile away, no walking up a dark lane on winter nights, every noise setting the nerves on edge – was it a wild animal or a strangler, or maybe a man with a knife? Loose shoe laces striking the shoes would sound like footsteps following, pausing when on paused, resuming when on continued.
Now there were wooden floors, a flushing toilet, electric light, a gas cooker, running hot and cold water, a stairs, street lights, shops nearby. Everything changed.
But there was no more waking to the song of the lark or the piping of the robin, no more cows’ heavy breathing at the back wall, no more wild roses scenting the way to school or damsons or blackberries to pick along the way, no more sliding on frozen pools or bursting the tar bubbled on the road on hot days, no more picking snow-white mushrooms in the dewy morning grass. Everything changed. Life was easier. Labour-saving appliances took the toil out of living. Time was saved, but so much was lost.
Change, change, gain, loss, progress. In writing, I come to terms with life, but my tears flow as I write for those early irreplaceable things. My pen brings them back to my mind, an unchangeable richness.
Workshop: Amherst Writers Ireland
I write because . . .
I write because a river of notebooks holds my life
Words that flow downstream as I row my way
Through turbulent waters and grief
Passing mountains of stanzas, islands of prompts
Moments of madness, named recorded,
Told to a book, saved in the riverbank libraries
Washed with memory ripples, pages and page
Piling to tell, to hear this voice, to hope to read,
be read. A litany, a history, a gift of remembrance.
Anne O’Connell, AWI
I write because . . .
I write because I see
What some around me don’t.
I want to make the seeing strong
Tho’ often fear I won’t.
I write because words come
And dance from under waves:
Silver words, and blue ones
And red words that amaze!
I write ‘cos music beckons
To swell and ebb of sound:
The flow of “L”
The soft of “S”
The roll of “R” around
The kick of “K”
The clear of “T”
The plosive of surprise
The hiss of “C”
The close of “M”
The pulses that arise.
I write because, tho’ roots go deep
And disappear from sight
Into the dark and dense of me,
They hunger for the light.
And so I write and write and write
And write and write and write
‘Cos if I write a world of words
This world may grow more right.
Maire O’Donohoe, AWI
A river of notebooks
Let me catch the river in spate
Bathe in the waters
Savour the sibilant sounds
Sing to the lilting rhythms
Tune in to the Muses.
I write to replenish my river
My Ganges, my Jordan,
My life-bearing flood.
And when my ashes float away on the tide,
Let others hear my voice in the current
And drink deeply from the waters of love.
Eilís Coe, AWI
THANK YOU! to the following AWA Workshop Leaders. You uphold and carry the AWA Method so that voices around the world are supported and strengthened. Your contribution is at the heart of this success.
Desiree Kannel drkannel[at]gmail[dot]com
Peggy Simmons peg.simmons[at]yahoo[dot]com
Maureen Buchanan Jones maureen[at]maureenbjones[dot]com
Kathleen Olesky oleskyk[at]me[dot]com
Patricia Bender yourstrulypatricia[at]gmail[dot]com
Kate Hymes kymes[at]walkillvalleywriters[dot]com
Kate Frank katekatefrank[at]gmail[dot]com
Jennifer Springsteen: PDX Writers jennifer.springsteen[at]pdxwriters[dot]com
Vicki Pinkerton vickipinkerton[at]gmail[dot]com
Sue Reynolds sue[at]writeportal[dot]ca
April Boyington Wall abwall[at]wholesystems[dot]ca
Eilis Coe eiliscoe[at]gmail[dot]com
Antonieta Gimeno agimeno[at]earthlink[dot]net