Betty Stogs on modern life

The legend of Betty Stogs comes from a Cornish folk tale. Betty preferred to visit friends and gossip than stay home with her baby. One evening she returned home to find the baby gone, only for him to be later discovered in the grass, having been washed by faeries, who having been disturbed hid the child and flew off. The shock of the event mended Betty’s ways. Today her name is lent to my favourite beer, but now for dverse she comments on modern life:

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Well, I never, you could blow me over wiv a f’ver,
that be ‘free I’ve seen: “Early Childhood Education Centre”.
You say you cans go leave ‘me all day –
bless me soul, it won’t like this in my day.
I’ves never seen anything like it, I can tell ya,
nippers..to be left wiv all these strangers.
Muvers workin’ – you be pullin’ me leg right?
“Gender equality!”, I’ve ‘eard too much tonight,
and to fink, back in the day, I caused such a furor,
‘coz of that time when the faeries came to my door.

I ‘ears there be these “latch key kids”
coming home alone – well, I never did!
We never even had a latch, you’d just walk right on in.
Mind you, if I’d a latch ‘twould never been the ‘appening:
I’ll give ’em this, those faeries knows ‘ow to wash a baby,
found ‘im in the grass all sweet scented like a ‘oneybee.
Oh I, they did bathe ‘im well, ’twas proper job –
don’t look at me likes I’m a bad ‘un, just shut your gob.

I ’twere a time when fairies came by,
now there’s no sign, not even in the sky.
‘Stead you got perverts and neighbourhood fiends,
well, I can tell you I knew nothing but friends.
The thought of women workin’, makes me rather sad –
I reckons, I waz a good muver, I didn’t do bad.

The poem is a very rough attempt to capture the accent, but you can listen here (though my accent here is more Devonian than Cornish):

Healing Herbs

I offer you:
my lavender forgiveness,
picked freshly, purposefully,
dried in time’s herbed sun.
Place it under your lilac pillow
to bring you chamomile dreams,
or store it in your purple pocket
for heather like luck.
You don’t need to reciprocate,
or offer me a forget-me-not:
sage in my knowledge of
your belladonna ways,
I’ll wear rosemary,
as I forgive..
..but I shan’t ever forget.

A sonnet to Michael Gove

For dverse poets we’ve been asked to write a Miltonic sonnet. Although I live in New Zealand, I still follow the education news in Britain. I’m generally appalled by what the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is doing. Here, I address him regarding his history curriculum (see this Guardian article for more about the issues):

In order you’ll put all our kings and queens,
lining them up to be taught by timeline,
old rulers consigned to junior minds,
where facts will be learnt by human machines.
With less time given to what might have beens,
children will miss important subtle signs,
cramming names and dates, no room to opine,
or deeply understand historic scenes.
To fully grasp how history courses,
don’t just recite and respond flippantly,
we should teach first and secondary sources,
evaluate, question, think critically.
We have to learn from the past: good and bad,
so time to end your education fads.

Listen here (courtesy of soundcloud):

Memory 101

New semester, new faces,
new rooms, new timetable,
new students, new excuses,
new thoughts, new learning,
see new memories forming,

and me..

..not so new.

Curious faces beam at me;
here are Psych majors – READY,
wishing their lecturer would just
guide them through gently.

Motivation.. ..check
Enthusiasm.. ..check
Audio/visual equipment.. ..check
Relevant, humorous examples….check
Simple, straightforward,
plain-speaking explanations..

..Uhm?

It’s all too easy:
these theories now seem obvious,
when once upon a time they taxed me.

I can’t remember,
I can’t remember what was difficult.
I can’t remember,
I can’t remember the feeling of confusion.
I can’t remember,
I can’t remember that Eureka moment of insight.

I feel ancient,
like an oracle that’s never NOT known.
I want to remember,
I want to remember – how else will I relate to them?

I can’t remember,
I can’t remember.
So begins the new semester,
and the irony of teaching Memory 101.

Listen on soundcloud. Entered for dverse poets open link night.

Successful applicant

Today for dverse poets I’ve become involved in some time traveling espionage, and here, in 1907, you find me rehearsing my cover, as an admissions tutor for Vienna’s School of Fine Arts:

“Welcome to the Academy of Fine Arts,
your application has now been accepted,
we are expecting you to make a fine start”.

With a tentative smile, I rehearse my part,
we can’t have Adolf walk away dejected –
“Welcome to the Academy of Fine Arts.”

Try to keep him joyful, ensure a good heart,
make sure that he never once feels rejected:
“We are expecting you to make a fine start.”

Keep him occupied, with no chance to depart,
avoid syphilis, he can’t get infected –
“Welcome to the Academy of Fine Arts”.

His love of architecture as well as art
found me with a new idea impregnated:
“We are expecting you to make a fine start”.

Let’s hope the historical timeline departs
that the holocaust is totally thwarted.
“Welcome to the Academy of Fine Arts,
we are expecting you to make a fine start!”

Note: Adolf Hitler was rejected from Vienna’s School of Fine Arts in both 1907 and 1908. It was suggested that he try architecture instead, but he didn’t have the academic qualifications. Listen on soundcloud

Cameo of John Milton

Due to his long hair and sensitive manner, the great blank verse writer, John Milton (Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained), was known at University (Christ’s College, Cambridge) as the “Lady of Christ’s”. In this poem for dverse poets we hear from the writer’s cameo.

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I do bear his resemblance, you know.
I might not have his words:
blank verse is certainly beyond me,
but I do most certainly look like him.
I’m especially proud of my hair.
Come nearer now and see the fine texture.
Ah, yes, how my hair flows and falls over my collar.

Of course, I am only shell,
carved from an Italian crustacean.
But, then as John recalled,
Adam was only carved from dust,
and, likewise, I also know all about Paradise.

Paradise Lost: created and brought to life
as a brooch over a hundred years ago.
Only to be sentenced to spend most of my time
locked inside my presentation box.

Oh, but Paradise Regained:
My current wearer has adapted me into a pendant.
She has presented me with a gold chain
to match my intricate cabled mount.
And – oh – heavens, when she places me
carefully around her silky, slender neck,
I come to rest at the top of her soft, warm,
and so very curvaceous breasts.
How I love to nestle snugly there
in my voluptuous paradise!

My wearer has taken John Milton as her poetic saint.
Being just a cameo, I can’t speak on behalf of John.
But speaking for myself, I have to confess that I’m
more of a rake, and quite a bit of a devil (winks).

Listen on soundcloud

The scarf

He now discovers a reason to laugh:
trusted with his dirty, drunken laundry,
little girl washes the Irishman’s scarf.
“Just as I am, no, she doesn’t judge me”,
he thinks to himself, as she goes to play
imitating adults’ jobs that she sees.
So she cleans the scarf of its grime like clay,
happy to have helped her neighbour next door,
smiles its return at the end of the day.
Then comes the day he is called up for war:
throughout the battle he never forgot,
sent chocolate rations, no matter how poor.
One day his luck left: he fell from a shot;
although she grew up, she never forgot.

Submitted to dverse poets open link night. Listen on soundcloud

St. David’s Day

“Gwnech y pethau bychain mewn bywyd” (Do ye the little things in life) St. David

March 1st
To and fro spin yellow and green,
his fingers twirling the daffodil.
Over his half-moon glasses,
his eyes stare directly into mine.
From a wry smile come the words:
“A true Welshman, wouldn’t just
carry the leek, he’d eat it – raw!”
His commanding Welsh voice informs,
he’s my form tutor, my authority figure,
every year on St. David’s Day
I give him a daffodil for his desk.
I’m twelve, and my father was Welsh!

A leek: one of the most seemingly benign of onions…
In a leek and potato soup it adds a pale
hue of lime, and is mild and sweet to the taste.
But raw, it is sharp, bitter, and bites the lips.
When cooked, the layers fall harmlessly apart,
rings garnishing meals with greenish gradients.
Raw, it is tough, unyielding, brings tears to the eyes,
and does everything but melt on the tongue.
But I’m twelve, and my father was Welsh!

I resort to nibbling throughout the day,
a little here, a little there, followed up
with lip balm for my stinging lips.
No time for eating a proper meal,
this leek has to be devoured.
End of the day, the leek’s a short stump,
my belly is both hungry and sore.
I go to bed feeling nauseous –
Still, I’m twelve, and my father was Welsh!

Epilogue: St. Patrick’s Day
I arose the next day ashen faced,
and somewhat greenish.
Leeks were in season all month,
the sight of which ensured
I was still green for March 17th.

Written for dverse poets poetics prompt green. Listen on soundcloud