Themes

A pool of landscape myths for
bringing to culture, renewed;
the Shannon sings her legends
for drinking cattle.
Her stories of place
assimilate Gaelic tales,
creating a mythology for
each part of our country;
bringing these threads,
from the enlightenment, to you;
a sense of belonging
to each place,
of ours.

Howard Fox, 11 August 2019

Themes and Lughnadhsa are two short pieces which emerged from a creative writing class run by Monica Corish, at the Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, County Leitrim on 11 August 2019. Many thanks.

Border Crossings

The Brown Bull of Corracloona
Head down grazes
Then walks along in …
His avenue field;
Lessening my gra
To leave or walk along, undared;
To sally on forth,
Or to sally on through,
Keeping distance always.

When unseen,
I look for him in
his avenue field.
Just once did I pick
A minute to invade,
He being seated a half field west.
Wire fences delimited us in
his avenue field.

Such makes for timid entrances
From our compound on foot:
Too high as risk to consider right
Trespassing unbidden in his avenue field.
I do not know this Brown Bull well,
but he now knows me.
Our caution is pervasive here
Compounded in, by
his avenue field.

The Poetry Salon in Old San Juan

Having arrived, grocery shopped,
I sit on couch with an open mic,
nibble and slug provisions
in Poet’s Passage, a sit down
A stroll from a cruise-ship line,
The air fan buffets the hairs on my bare legs,
Music on the sound system is in Spanish creole.
Wicker chairs for an audience of a Tuesday.
Found this place yesterday Wednesday.
Checked it out online,
a struggle after Hurricane Maria, she wrote.

I am here for a chat with the owner
Running this art shop cum poet’s space for a decade
A living embodiment for me of a place only imagined
Spanish not English the language of choice here
Not far from Marshall’s, in the centre of town.

The Caribbean Literary Salon
A moderated space for Caribbean writers
Posting content on the internet
Joanne Hillhouse of Antigua
Kris Rampersad of Trinidad
Robert McDonald Dixon of Saint Lucia
A place on-line where I started my career in writing
Thinking of getting an article into literary magazines
Like the ‘Caribbean Writer’ or ‘Small Islands’
to address the issues of promoting my line.

Caribbean botany as a cultural creation
and a full engaging mental activity
of exploration of the landscape here,
each mushroom with its latin name
a scientific geography of the Caribbean
with a microscope and a graticule
to measure the spore dimensions,
to bring them a tangible reality.

The geography of site place names
to allow the mushroom species
to be followed in the future
ephemeral transient beings
living in the one place, year on year
after Hurricane Maria, and many storms
from when the botany begins
before the Great Hurricane of 1780.

Nine Worlds

Our very own Yggdrasil fell the other day,
An Ash tree,
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots.
Bourne from the Well of Urd, right here by the Tolka,
snowbound and closed, storm Emma blew
from the East-North-East for three days:
Wednesday ‘til Saturday.

Glasnevin watched over this ‘Waterer’s Variety’ Ash
in the far grounds, number 1888.011023.
This 30 metre tree – some 120 years old, graceful,
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots.

A yellow flame of Chrysothrix candelaris
on its latticed trunk, made it visible from afar.
Honey fungus, at a root buttress,
was noted, 14 September, five years ago,
warning that its time was near.
Armillaria gallica, a honey fungus variety
has rotted out its fifth of the root plate.

Nine Worlds of our very own Yggdrasil were alive here, last week.
Leafy lichens of 20 kinds,
crusty ones and fungi of another 20 sorts.
Nine fungal infections of lichens,
five mat-forming mosses, three cushioned ones,
two liverworts and a 16-spot ladybird, in an Ash tree.

Sixty species crowned this Glasnevin village Ash:
all grown from wild gardener’s spores,
30 years afresh in Mary Harney’s clean air.
Our very own Yggdrasil
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots,
full of cryptogamic spore bark life,
a centre of spiritual cosmos,
right here by the Tolka, the Ash that fell the other day.

Howard FOX, Botanist, 7-8 iii 2018

Handwriting – twin pencils catch the muse

Always to hand,
ink in all its permanence
leaves its pale tattoo,
on a right-hand middle finger tip,
from a hand held fountain pen,
after washing with soap,
while leaks make for
a messy laundered pen pocket.

The capped fountain pen requires tissues,
an ink bottle of south sea blue too,
and a draw fill chamber squeezed –
inhaling ink for handwriting,
patted down for cleanliness
in a grip well above the nib
A leather shod foot to break a fall
might save the nib, if you are quick.

Graphite wood case pencil rounds,,
long handled twin pencils in hand,
from finger clamp to palm side,
pointed by an office topper,
metallic sharpener’s wood turned coils
make for dusty graphite centered shavings
caught by a sea whelk shell’s belly,
twin pencils pared, essential, if a lead breaks,
one pencil left to keep going with.

Pastel A4 paper, so the handwriting can be,
by colour, of ink or paper,
re-found on a cluttered desk top to type up.
Beech wood quartos and bamboo octavos
as writing boards, travel with me.
Filter paper scientifically blots the mess
from emotionally dry sentences,
while sea shells from beach combing
fancy goods of a stationery press
are a scouts’ tools for handwriting.

Fair copy hand typed on a keyboard
lines set for the computer and internet,
a postcard to you and your smart-phone
so as to be ready to be read,
if you have the battery charged,
and you are in the humour, to connect.

With a scouts’ obsession of having tools to hand:
for when the fickle muse calls
and words start to tumble out
some unholy time of day or night,
my trusty twin pencils pared
are always ready to write.

Howard Fox

I do not like squared paper – towards a solution to a science dilemma

Laboratory Books I need to love
on every page have squared paper –
a push away from science.
Title, abstract, introduction,
materials, methods, results,
discussion, conclusions, references
is our way.

Squares for every single letter.
Squares for every single digit.
Obsessively square control
for everything written every time,
every day in a square,
day by day, in laboratory books.

My love of digits in squares faded
with childhood mathematical prowess.
Now I could not do a budget
to save a single round cent,
yet I need to love squares again
to get some science done.

I think I am finding a way.
1000 questions in long hand
writing across square boundaries
as if they do not box me in.
Angle the page so as my hand
follows a horizontal sometime.
Write on every second line
for a page at least.

Are the problems real? The trauma is.

An unethical pharmacology demonstration
in a graph on squared paper
displaying after injection the last of a life.
Traumatic physics assignments,
of metallic springs stretched
beyond their design load.
Laboratory Book marking
turned me to botany,
and on to vegetation quadrats
standing in squares recording plants.
Geographic co-ordinates are
squares set on arcs on the celestial round,
squares undermined by cadastral appeal.

The scientific solution is to add
a compass with pencil arcs
to turn squared paper on the lathe to beauty.
Arcs and curves, sine waves and parabolas –
squares inhibit, if you do not love them.
Rekindle that spirit of botanical inquisition
to understand, model and represent.

Build that scientific model
from the materials to hand
of some phenomenon in the world.
Back of an envelope, they say,
Why not the herbarium folded packet
Latin name, plant geography, date, collector.

Find your voice, find your style,
let your laboratory book be
your window on to that inquisitive life.
For the love of squares, with a compass then,
create arcs of roundness,
and a few tweaks here and now,
terms of reference, ethical concerns,
why this science is good for society,
and why it is right for us to do.
Masking tape to add notes culled from
notes written in undisciplined places,
until I like squared paper in the
Laboratory Books I need to love.

Botanical species: dispensed scripts for posterity.

Quiver of pencils, in a breast pocket, equally sharpened,
with a topper, just in case,
in a pocket with herbarium cards.
Blank white labels to be scribed on
with a front and a back,
designed by Maura – 25,000 printed, in 1978 …

Handwritten or typed words to set questions
in front, answered in bespoken lines,
the back for line drawings
indexed by the
botanical species:
dispensed scripts for posterity.

Ready for readers of a future time, in 2017 …
to be read out loud, or in the mind.
Composed of details direct from a specimen seen,
concepts and ideas with an essence of home truth
that can soothe your decisions, if read in time,
advice from experience of comparative botany
notes from prior identifications,
your own observations and their conjunctions with ours.

Identification efforts made, references checked,
work done, content with the result,
now for a nod or a smile in the end,
that brings you to computerize the
botanical species:
dispensed scripts for posterity.