If a mama bear gets angry, imagine the Mother of the Mountains…

The Mother of the Mountains

If a mama bear gets angry, imagine the Mother of the Mountains.
Mess with Her children, She’ll dust off an avalanche;
step out of line, She’ll realign your bones.
She’s a blue-eyed beauty,
and the mountains have their Mother’s eyes: deep lakes.
Gaze into them, you’ll see their thoughts like fish –
quick schools, slow rainbows – look deeper,
and you’ll learn to dream like a stone.
What does She feed them? Rain for breakfast.
Anything else? She peels them the sun for lunch.
And at night? Big helpings of quiet,
then the Mother of the Mountains sings them to sleep with snow.
The trees are Her grandkids; She brings them birds to play with.
Whenever it’s their birthday, She gives them an owl
’cause though She’s a blue-eyed beauty, She’s still kind.
Even soft  . . . even fragile . . .
Wolves howl to Her to show their gratitude. What about you?

Rob Carney

I love this way of looking at the mountain, a true deep personification, the mountain as mother, as provider and as oh so loving.

*  *  *

If a mama bear gets angry, imagine the Mother of the Stars.
Mess with Her children, she’ll scatter white hot embers
and comets that burn
slowly
making Icarus seem like the lucky one.

Step out of line, She’ll set Draco on your trail.

She’s a wild eyed goddess
and the stars have their Mothers smile: radiating luminosity, intensity
burning bright.
Daring you to look and
punishing if you try.

What does she feed them? Diamonds and moon dust,
meteorites and wonderment.
She picks planets as though they were grapes,
offering them out as treats.

And at night? She drapes the sky with lush black velvet
then the Mother of the Stars steps back into the wings and lets her lovelies shine.

The milky way hides her grandkids as they grow;
She brings them tales from the cosmos, millennia old,
to fuel their fires and light the sparkles in their eyes.
Whenever it’s their birthday, she gives them pencils of sunlight
to practice joining dots into constellations.

Down on earth, eyes heavenwards, owls gaze in awe and gratitude.
What about you?

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One Wednesday Night, the Poem

I was talking to a friend about poetry and she’d generously let me read one of her pieces of writing.  When I did, I was reminded of advice that my old English teacher gave me.  He was the first person, offline, that I showed my writing to.  He taught me for four years and, unlike many teachers, he would talk to me like an equal.  It felt like he valued my opinions and we would debate the Shakespeare biased curriculum time and time again.  My stance being that he wasn’t the only playwright and we should get variety.  Anyway, come sixth form, when he was no longer my teacher, we shared poems we’d written and he’d ask for my thoughts on his and offered his thoughts, gently, on mine.  He played an important role in my life and in shaping who I became.

But back to the point.  One piece of advice he would give me time and time again was to use what I’d written but say it in less words.  Strip it back.  See what it becomes.  And in doing so, you learn a lot about what you’re saying, the point you’re making and the language you’re using.

Having offered this advice to my friend, I went through some of my old poetry and tried to find one to exercise brevity on.  But nothing caught my attention, none of the poems I returned to hooked me today.  And then I picked up a copy of One Wednesday Night which I’d printed to critique and that did hook me.  A poem about nosebleeds and tummies would be hard to pull off but I liked the starry sky part of it.  And so I picked out a few words and phrases and started to play with them:

A dusty sky; the stage is set.
Leading role – the crescent moon.
Venus; shining golden in the spotlight.

Before my tired eyes
Dots begin to glow

– the constellations of closed eyes?

The supporting cast step out
From hiding in the wings.
The starry queen holds court;
a dancing bear and timid cub perform.

Street lamps conceal stage hands
and then, like the curtain closing,
the cast, the stars and stage

All fall away.

The play is lost to sleep.


NB, the stars you see when your eyes are closed are called phosphenes.

One Wednesday night…

Picture the scene: It’s Wednesday evening.  I am sitting in bed, watching something unnoteworthy on my laptop.  A glass of wine and a bag of crisps are on the trolley next to my bed.  My nose starts to bleed.  And bleed.  And bleed.  Eventually it stops.  So far there is nothing of note, except perhaps that I only started getting nose bleeds a couple of weeks ago.  Up until then my nose was cooperative.

I look down.

My stomach is covered in bright red fluid.  And more is gushing out of my skin.  The hole in my tummy is leaking quite profusely.  My peg site is bleeding.

The thing to do in this situation is to call the helpline number you are given when you first get your feeding tube.  So I do. They take my details and assure me a nurse will call back within twenty minutes.  I wait and I wait.  So many possibilities are flooding through my mind as I sit nervously looking at the phone.  Eventually it rings and I am told to go to a&e.  Reluctantly I oblige, it is 8.30pm now, I know I’m in for a long wait and a late night.

As I get into my carer’s car, I see a slither of pale gold moon.  It’s been a long time since I saw the moon.  I am hooked up to my feeding tube at 7pm and until 8.30am I am restrained by a 4 foot leash.  The moon does not fit into such man made constraints.  Despite the circumstances, I smile involuntarily.  It’s been a long time since I saw the moon.

After what feels like several days and several nights sitting under the bright lights of the waiting room, we are called in to see a doctor.  My stomach is pressed and I giggle, my tummy is ticklish.  A light is shone up my nose and she peers at the back of my mouth.

A nosebleed from my tummy.  That is her diagnosis.  We laugh.  We exclaim.  And I hurriedly text my closest friends hoping they will share my amusement.

All the way home I am tickled by this.  But I know that I will sleep with a towel, just in case it flares up again.  Blood stained sheets and pyjamas are less funny.

We pull up outside my flat and as I get out, I look up.  The night is scattered with stars.  They weren’t there when we left; the dusky sky had been stage only to the moon and to Venus.  Now, the myriad of dots join to form a bear, or a saucepan, Ursa Major.  My heavy eyes scan the sky looking for other familiar patterns.

It’s been a long time since I saw the moon.  It’s been even longer since I saw the stars.  But I haven’t forgotten.  The Great Bear, the Little Bear and that starry queen, Cassiopeia, are etched on my soul.  The three constellations that I always remember.

For the briefest moment, the blink of an eye, I am transported back to my parent’s driveway.  Staring up at the starry sky, standing next to my dad, trying to figure out what he’s pointing to, attempting to look through his eyes.  It’s a cold, winter’s night and I’ve just got home from Guides.  There were more stars then.

Other creatures hide in the clouds, disappear behind houses and fall away as tired eyes close.  The door opens and I fall into my flat.