Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 133 - The Latest Year of My Life

Here it is - the final found poem for 2009. I'm using the villanelle form, but without rhyming, as that would interfere with the found poem status.

This is taken from my diary entry for the turn of 1980 into 1981. This was a big year for me - first onstage roles in high school where my theatre bug was activated, and of course my first boyfriend, so my first taste of what it meant to be in love.

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The Latest Year of My Life

Looking back, the latest year of my life
I listened to records most of the day
I opened dams, debuted, changed, conquered, loved

I finished Life Before Man, got dressed, packed
I packed to go to Windsor for the night
Looking back, the latest year of my life

We left as soon as we were all ready
We girls had hamburgers and french fries, laughed
I opened dams, debuted, changed, conquered, loved

We girls retired to Julianne's room
The Top 100 on CJCH
Looking back, the latest year of my life

Read magazines, talked about guys, listened
We laughed and laughed and laughed like maniacs
I opened dams, debuted, changed, conquered, loved

We rang in the New Year with screams, kisses
Screams, laughter, kisses and lots of hugging
Looking back, the latest year of my life
I opened dams, debuted, changed, conquered, loved

- Julia Smith, 1980

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 132 - All Morning, Most of the Afternoon

For my second last found poem for 2009, I've returned to my diary from 1980, when I was in grade eleven.
My high school years were wrapped around the Prince Andrew Chorus, and I still cherish my friendships which have continued from this sparkling time in my life.

We used to go caroling at Christmas time, heading towards the home of whomever hosted a party afterwards.

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All Morning, Most of the Afternoon

It took me all morning
Most of the afternoon
To clean all the party mess away

Dad and Michelle had driven me
Up to the portable
Quarter after seven
They'd come inside
We'd waited for everyone to come

I didn't mind it, though
Cleaning the party away
Cleaning gave me the opportunity
To think about last night again

Last night Dad and Michelle
Piled all the munchies people brought
Piled them into the car
And carted them home

Dad was laughing so much
Laughing at how crazy the portable is
I felt so happy
Happy to see him enjoy himself so much

We'd all set out at 7:30
To sing our little Christmas songs
It was absolutely freezing
I'd had two layers of everything on

Cleaning the party away
It took me all morning
I thought about last night again

We'd gone a little ways down Spikenard
Down Farquarson and Shawinigan
Down Guysborough and Mount Edward to Kelly
And then to my house

We'd sung two verses of one song
Then We Wish You a Merry Christmas at every house
At Ted's house where
We'd gotten molasses candy
At this other house where
They'd passed a box of Turtles among us
We'd sung a verse of O Come All Ye Faithful

We'd sung two verses of
Joy to the World
Under the carport at my house
Mom had laughed
At all of us frozen carolers
As she stood in the doorway

Most of the afternoon
It took me to clean the
Party away, but I
Didn't mind
I thought about last night

Everyone had piled in
Had peeled their coats off
Mom had dished out the
Hot mulled wine
I'd scurried to my bedroom
I'd changed into my new dress

I'd danced
We'd all gathered around
The piano

As people wrapped their
Arms about each other to
Sing, how it made me
All warm inside

It took me all morning
It took me most of the afternoon
I cleaned all the party away

I thought about last night
How we'd all set out
How we'd sung our Christmas songs
How freezing it was
How I'd worn two layers

How it made me all warm inside

- Julia Smith, 1980

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 113 - Special Indeed

Fresh on the heels of my step-niece's wedding yesterday, I thought I'd share a memory of my dad from another wedding 16 summers ago. The piece of found poetry is taken from a prose piece in my family history book.

This took place at the pre-wedding breakfast for my cousin, Julianne.

Special Indeed

The morning of
Julianne's wedding

Julianne's wedding to Stephen

The family gathered
Gathered in the dining room for breakfast

Breakfast in the mansion-turned-hotel
The hotel rented out completely
To the wedding party

Dad had arranged
On the morning of
Julianne's wedding
Arranged for a floral delivery
That morning of Julianne's wedding to Stephen

Dad gave all the special women in his life
A beautiful red rose

A red rose for the bride-to-be
A red rose for his daughters
A red rose for Mom
A red rose for Auntie
A red rose for Gram

On the morning of
Julianne's wedding
All the women in Dad's life
Felt very special indeed

- Julia Smith, Aug. 9, 2009 / original text 2000

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 112 - Before They Went Up the Stairs

I have a collection of family stories which I coax out of as many relatives as I can. For today's found poetry, I've taken a prose entry from this collection and turned it into a poem.

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Before They Went Up the Stairs

Great-Grandpa Meuse would take
Two weeks' vacation

Would come home
To see his family
During the 'teens and 20's

"No wonder
The children were born
Every second year,"

Gram chuckled

Eugene Meuse
Travelled throughout Canada
Picking up work
Wherever he could find it

He worked
On a ranch in Red Deer, Alberta
On the Welland Canal construction
In Ontario
In a logging camp
Deep in the winter woods

He worked many jobs
In the days before
Social safety nets
It was find work
Your family starved

He took out insurance
When he travelled on the train
Insurance so his family would be
Taken care of
If anything should happen to him

Once he got home
Gram remembers her parents
Retiring to their room

At the time
She didn't realize
What they were
Up to

"I remember them
Goin' up the steps, you know,"

Gram said
Putting her hand over her mouth
Laughing at the thought

But before that
They would head over to his mother's

Gram remembers seeing them
Walk over, arm in arm

"They went to see his mother
Before they went up the stairs,
I think!"

Gram said

Laughing again

- Julia Smith, Aug. 2, 2009 / original text 2000

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 111 - In His Neighbour's Boat

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For today's piece of found poetry, I'm heading back into my 1980 diary.

That summer I lived the thrill of my first romantic relationship. This is from an afternoon and evening spent at my boyfriend's house. He lived on a lake and was one of seven kids. Coming from a family of two sisters myself, I just adored being gathered into the mob of his large family.

In His Neighbour's Boat

Mr. Savage found me a
Bathing suit

Philip, Barney, Brigie and I
Went swimming

The water was

I stayed for supper
Clam chowder, which was

Pat lent me his
PA High School grey sweatpants
And an orange jacket

I went sailing
With Philip
In his neighbour's boat

While the neighbour
- Peter -
And Philip
Set up the boat

I held onto Hannah
Peter's delightful little baby

Was a lot of fun
We had to
Watch out for

The waves
They made
Were fun

- Julia Smith, July 26, 2009 / original text July 22, 1980

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 110 - Forest Bed

Saturday would have been my friend Pam's birthday, so I was thinking about her all day. She passed away a year ago last week.

Today's found poem is taken from a prose writing exercise from March of this year at my writers' group. We were doing a workshop on color, and I had to write something focusing on the color green.

Who else could I think of for green but my Eco Hero friend, Pam Langille?

Forest Bed

In the Acadian forest
I sit

Under the canopy
of fir trees

Green needles sway
In the breeze
Filtering the light

Through greyed
Brown branches
Emerald green leaves

Poke through the firs
Beech and birch
Bright moist green moss

Coating fallen trunks
Gathered back
Into the soil

Soft feathery green
Lichen clings
To rock

The rock that marks your place
Your place is among the roots
Of the shining ancient hemlock


Needles draped
Your forest bed

- Julia Smith, July 19, 2009 / original text March 2009

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 108 - A Saucer and a Jar

This piece of found poetry is a journal entry from six years ago.

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A Saucer and a Jar

Noticed a loud war whoop outside
Mom called
Said there was fire in the woods
Just behind our house

Brad called it in
We quickly dressed
Put our dog in the kitchen
I grabbed a saucer and a jar

We ran out around the house
To the ball field
A garbage can on its side
Contents on fire

Dead tree
One end in the can
Underbrush smoldering already
Brad and I set to work

Threw sand from the ball field
Onto the fire
I went under the trees
Rolled the can with my foot

Out from the trees
Onto the grass
Kids lurking in shadows
Behind school

Kids called out to us
Said Fuck you
We returned the compliment
Brad told them to come out

So he could kick
Their fucking asses
Cowards I taunted
No one came out

Fire truck
Eventually arrived
Brad sprained ankle
Running to meet them

Three firemen
With foam spray-can
Put out remains of
Smoldering fire

They said they get called
To this area repeatedly

Washed soot
From my arms and face
Put our smoky clothes
In a bag

Put a cold cloth
On Brad's ankle
An hour later
Heard crashing in the woods

I shouted
I wouldn't stay there
If I were you

Heard a bird-type cry

Brad called it in
I got dressed
Stood in front of house
To wait

A mountie pulled up
To talk to me
She drove around the school
Told me doors were bashed in

She said I'll be
Working on that tonight
At any rate

Got a call

Have to act on that
She said
Drove off
I headed inside

Sat on the couch
Brad's sore ankle
On my lap
Our dog all tired out

Next day
Went to ball field
Rolled garbage can
Across the grass

To the brick school
Left it standing on gravel
Appealing to laziness factor
Hope they won't want to move it so far

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text August 2003

Photo by Ralph Maughan

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 107 - Squandered

Continuing on with my year of found poetry, this is a short piece of prose fiction that I wrote as an exercise when I belonged to a writer's group in Yarmouth. I've reworked it here as a poem.

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Terry glanced down
At the worn felt
Yellow, purple, blue monster sitting
On his right hand
Tusks bent for lack of stuffing

Terry had a sudden
Stabbing memory
An especially windy street performance
Wonky torn from his hand and Bill
Had actually chased the puppet
Into traffic
Nearly getting crushed
In the process
He returned with a
Drippy Wonky

Terry had felt
A ridiculous urge to
Hug Bill
For his heroism

Thank God
Bill would have thought
It was just
Terry's creative personality
Effusing over
Normal social boundaries

Terry had often
How he'd ever been
With such a
Conservative straight arrow like

Or how Bill managed
To religiously meet with Terry
For workshop sessions
Bill the editor
To Terry's throw-another-one-out-there style

He supposed
Those afternoons
Were Bill's only forum for

He tried to take it
From the top

One more time

The old routines
Were not
What he was
Looking for

It was hard
To shake himself up
To natter to thin air
How was he to
Bounce things
Off himself?

He supposed he'd have to learn how

Bill was gone

Bill was dead

All he had left
Was a schizophrenic puppet
Who had holes for an identity

Wonky was trying his best
Wasn't he?
But all his ideas
Were duds

- Julia Smith - June 28, 2009 - original text 2001

Monday, June 8, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 104 - I Can't Handle It All

My computer's still in the shop, so my blog schedule is a bit of a challenge right now.

Here's my latest found poem, taken from a diary entry from 1980 when I was in grade ten, my first year in high school. All through the school year I'd had a crush on Philip, a guy one grade level ahead of me. We were both in choir together.

This poem follows a memorable moment for me, one which helped me to decide that he was perhaps as interested in me as I was in him.

I Can't Handle It All

I can see it in his eyes
Can sense it when I'm next to him
So much happened to me today
I can't handle it all

While walking to Math
He saw me
Backtracked through the crowd
Told me he'd see me
The last two periods in the afternoon

At the beginning of Study
He came right out to
The Music portable
To work on Romeo and Juliet
With me

Fate must have been with me

I learned from Mike
That I'd be getting last period off
Phil had last period off
I forgot Romeo and Juliet at home
We got our books and walked
To my house

I didn't have the key
I had to crawl through the window
And run to unlock the door
To let him in

He'd had to carry his sax
All the way to my house
The saxophone is heavy

We listened to Dave Brubeck
He got out his own saxophone
And played along to the record

We went in the kitchen
And worked on Romeo and Juliet
It's going to be funny
I can't wait

My sister came home
He helped her clean the fishbowl
He made himself and me
Some good British tea

He asked me to come see him perform
With the jazz band at 7
So Connie and I went
We came in just as
Phil was doing a solo

The movement caught his attention
His eyes flashed
As he looked around Mr. March
At me

His excitement to see me
Danced all over his face
Over the top of his music

When I waved at him
He gave me a wave back

When the band finished playing
He hurried over
To sit beside me

It's so wonderful

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text June 6th, 1980

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 103 - Taste Life

Continuing with a journal I wrote seven years ago, where I examined positive and negative reactions to people, things and circumstances, here is my latest found poem. I've taken a section of my notes concerning positive emotional reactions, and have reworked them into a poem.

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Taste Life

Any and all kinds
Fill me with
And joy

Shrub cutting
That first tiny green shoot
Dormant buds in spring
Intense thrill
Goes through me

Physical exertion
Being able to
Work my body
Not accompanied by asthma
Makes me feel strong and very happy

When I dance
Get into the dance trance
Extreme feeling
Of empowerment
The funkier the better

When my dog
Cuddles up to me
When we're on
The couch
Deeply-felt well-being

Densely satisfying things
Rice, beans, oatmeal
Lentils and bread
Taste life

Encircled with family love
Being hugged
Having a rub
Husband's sexy voice
Beautiful smile and deep blue eyes

Melt inside
Almost unbearable
Exquisite feeling of being truly alive

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text 2002

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 102 - Does It Ever End?

Last week I turned part of a journal into my latest found poetry. I'm going to continue with the same journal for awhile.

Here's a look at some of my negative emotional reactions to situations and things.

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Does It Ever End?

I often get
Scenes which include
They come to me
In my writing
It's like being haunted

Raw meat
Really hate looking at it
Handling it
Rarely cook meat at home

Flogging scenes
Come to me
Haunted by the
Sounds of it

Human musculature
Really, really hate
Anatomy drawings
As long as there is
Skin present
Dancers, athletes
I'm a big fan of
Well-developed muscles
But not the raw-meat variety

It's like being haunted
By the sounds of it
By the cries of pain
I try to work this out
Through my characters

Circumstance in life
I complain about:
Manager who tries to
Demean me
Put me in my place

Faults I notice most
In others:

Injury or disease
I fear:
Any pain purposely
Re-injuring my knee

I purposely avoid:
Won't beg
Or plead
For anything
Had to learn
To ask for

Still difficult

Not keen
On addressing crowds
Don't really like it
Everyone's looking at me
For me to speak

Experience or activity
I especially fear:
Having to bear
Horrible pain
Loss of the esteem
Of those I love
Truly losing control
When I'm
I fear
Hurting someone

By the sounds of it
By the cries of pain

I try to work this out
Through my characters
They come to me
In my writing
It's like being haunted

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text 2002

Stills are from the Russian film 1612.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 101 - Greatly Enjoy / Great Fear

For today's found poetry, I'm heading into a workbook journal I started in 2002. It's a past life journal, following the exercises in You Can Remember Your Past Lives, a used paperback I picked up when I was out with my husband. We were on our way to see Black Hawk Down, which is something I noted in the journal. Coincidences should always be noted when you're dealing with past life stuff.

I've always believed in reincarnation, even when I was young and hadn't really been exposed to the concept of it. Likely because I've personally had break-through memories come up for which I had no explanation as a child. My recovery of past life info has been a constant thread in my life. I saw a past life therapist while I lived in Toronto and had five sessions with her.

Once I moved back to Nova Scotia, I did personal meditation work and mindful observation of things in my life. When I found this book, it really helped me pull my personal work together into something I could look at and learn from.

My poem today is taken from the results of a rating-system quiz called Reactions to Stimuli. Ratings from 5 to 1 were given to various cultures, people, animals, weather and environments to take stock of my natural attractions and repulsions. This is a beginning marker to see where I have past life issues and strengths. 5 represents greatly enjoy, totally comfortable. 1 represents great fear, distaste, discomfort.

Greatly Enjoy / Great Fear

Greatly enjoy
Totally comfortable
British gentry accents
Scottish accents
Swedish accents
Russian accents

Enjoy kings or queens
Enjoy Catholics
Enjoy liberals
Enjoy teachers

Dancers, musicians greatly enjoy
Writers, directors enjoy greatly

Brunettes, totally comfortable
Blue eyes greatly enjoy
Grey eyes
Toned muscles
Correct body weight
Tall - enjoy greatly
Long hair, comfortable

Babies to 3 years
Enjoy, enjoy
Little girls and little boys
Adults aged 20-40
Total comfort

Enjoy, comfort
Totally great
Enjoy. Great
Comfort - total

Being in water

Being alone outdoors


Total comfort

Crowds, part of the masses

Books and reading

Enjoy greatly

Great fear
Evangelical faiths
Fringe groups

Fear conservatives
Fear fringe political parties
Fear fundamentalists

Bureaucrats - distaste
Corporate executives - distaste
Salesmen - distaste

Thin body types

Bulky muscles

Mice as pests

Arid climates

Loud noises

Great fear - tornado
Great fear - lightening
Great fear - sensation of falling
Great fear - crowds as mobs

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text written 2002

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 100! - Don't Give Him What He's Fishing For

This post feels very special to me. It's my 100th offering on the Poetry Train.

The original Poetry Train was started by a blogger named Rhian/Crow woman. She's a photographer and fine artist who also gathered a lively group of poets around her for a wonderful season of creativity. When her artistic pursuits took her in a new direction, the Poetry Train derailed for awhile.

I chugged along, naming my posts Poetry Monday. I couldn't hop off this thing.

Miracle of miracles, Gautami Tripathy began the Monday Poetry Train Revisited. Bless you, Gautami! Even my poetic words cannot express what the Poetry Train has meant to me.

I'd like to thank all the readers who stop by this blog on Mondays. Your comments are sweet as raindrops to me.

I'd like to embrace all the poets I've encountered on this journey. Your work has never failed to inspire and intoxicate me.

I look forward to the next 100 posts with hunger, passion and awe.

You can check out my previous posts in my archives. Click HERE.

Today's found poem is a writing exercise I did at one of the writer retreats at White Point Beach in Nova Scotia. I've reworked it into a poem.

Don't Give Him What He's Fishing For

"Beep. Beep. Beep.
Mrrm. Mrrm. Mrrm."

Little plastic wheels rolled
Back and forth, back
And forth
Across the cement floor
"Taran, honey," she mumbled
Turning onto her side

The rolling continued
Without sound effects
For some reason
That made it seem worse

Anya flipped the worn blanket

Sat up

Head swirled for a
Long moment
She waited

The spots in her vision
Fizzled away

Taran knelt
Rolling the moon mobile
Around himself
Scooting to keep up with the toy
He wasn't so
Pale this morning

It made her growling stomach
Easier to bear

"What are you doing?"
She asked
As if they were in the playroom
And not
This cell

"My guy is
On his way to
Lunar Space Station 12."

Taran didn't look up

"What's he going to do?"
She asked
Rubbing her arms
Trying to get some
Circulation going

"He's going for help."
Little plastic wheels rolled
Back and forth, back
And forth
Anya's heart hollowed
In her chest

"Is there help
At the space station?"
she asked
Glad her voice didn't shake

"Yeah," Taran said
Hair falling over his eyes
She was glad he didn't look up
Just then

Anya's pulse quickened
The low rumble of the outer lock
Made its way into the

She reached down
Marvelled that Taran
Slipped onto her lap without
A word
He'd never come to her
Without cajoling
Before the soldiers appeared
In her dining room

Echoed down the
Hall. She

Chest rising
Falling rapidly
No air reached her lungs
Anya's grip
On Taran tightened
The inner door unlocked


Martinus stood

Looking at them
An uncomfortable moment

He carried no food
A slave brings bowls
If Martinus appeared
It would be a long morning

He entered, turned
Shut the door. Then
He dug in his pocket
Pulling out a small toy
Anya pressed

Her palms across Taran's
Hoping he would
Absorb the
Warning of danger
Through her

Martinus crouched

His face level with Taran's
He allowed her son a good look

At the toy
Please, Taran, don't
Give him what he's fishing for

She begged silently

"Have you ever
Seen this before?"

Martinus asked

Taran shrugged

"What is it?" Martinus' gaze
Bored into her son's face
Anya held him
As if she could
Make this
All go

"It's a Hoozelie Draw-Engine,"
Taran said

"Is it yours?"

"No. Hoozelie
Is for babies."

"Do you know any
That might like to play with this?"

"I'm five. I don't play
With babies."

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original piece written 2007

Illustration - Azureus Rising - Prison Cell by Hideyoshi

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 99 - Smiles Saved For the Banquet

Here is my latest found poem. I've taken this from a writing exercise I did almost a decade ago, when I found a wonderful writers' group in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

We met at one another's homes, once a month. We would do writing exercises, and then share pieces of writing we'd been working on. I so enjoyed finding this group. They helped me stay sane when I'd moved from the Big City of Toronto to a fishing town of 8000.

This poem visits one of my favorite stories - the King Arthur/Guinevere/Launcelot love triangle.

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Smiles Saved For the Banquet

Turned in the archway
His face shadowed
By the lowering sun

"It is said
You are often found weeping."

"By whom
My lord?"

Guinevere asked
Her tone flat

"By the court.
The servants.
By most,
In fact."

"It is a lonely time
For me, these
Wet months. It
Turns my mind
To my own home."

"So many years away.
It still brings tears?"

Took a step into
The room, still feeling
The heavy distance
Between them.

"A woman's world
Is her home,
My lord.
I have no children
To comfort me
Here. My mind
Turns to those days
When I thought
A child was part of
My future. That
Is all."

"So you
Do weep

"All women weep
In our rooms
When we are left to
We save our smiles
For the banquet
And the garden.
We allow our sighs
When we are
Tis of no

"It is to me,

Walked to his queen
And stood before her.
"I should like
To take you from
These shadows
If they wring such
From you."

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original piece written April, 2000

Painting: Queen Guinevere by William Morris

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 97 - As Prisons Go

This is the next in my found poetry series, which I've been doing since the new year. I've taken it from one of my manuscripts, featuring Jocelyne, Lady Moncrieffe, the Dowager Countess of Kinnoull. It's the early 1820's near Crieff, Scotland.

Guthrie Carmichael is a Highland Scot working on her lowland estate as the gamekeeper. His decision to stop poaching from her estate requires one last delivery of game in town.

I've based Lady Moncrieffe on Canadian actress Neve Campbell. Guthrie is based on English actor Sean Bean.

You can read a previous poem about Jocelyne HERE.

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As Prisons Go

I arranged to be taken into Crieff
Meet up with my sister coming in by coach
First time in four years. Four years!
Disheartening thing - if not for Finlay’s death

Would this visit even take place?

The MacDougal resentments
Only stretched so far, thank Heaven
Whom did I see seated across the square
But the gamekeeper, Carmichael

Soldier stopped before him

Gaze traveled up to the red jacket
Before he had a chance to blink
One of those booted feet kicked
The pipe from Carmichael’s mouth

Scarred hand reached down

Took up the sacks. Carmichael
Kept his gaze trained on the soldier
“What would this be? Eh?
You wouldn’t be the lord of these parts, now?”

Carmichael neither moved nor spoke

Soldier lifted grouse from sack
Dropped the rest into the dust
Dangled bird from taloned feet
Too close to Carmichael’s face

“Name!” the soldier barked

Black boot planted on Carmichael’s hand
“Stop! Stop, I beg you! What is going on here?
Let him be!”
Pulled at red-jacketed arm
Sergeant shook me off angrily

Until he saw who it was

Guthrie snatched hand to chest
Soldier saluted sharply
“This man is poaching from the estate.
I’ve apprehended him for you.”

I recalled these very sacks

Fixed to the back of the gamekeeper's saddle
That morning after the storm
That morning when he'd found me
Wet, bedraggled, desperate

Had seen me safely home

I'd sleepwalked but
He'd found me
Found me with these sacks
Fixed to the back of his saddle

Carmichael hung his head

Cradled his hand
I stared at his crumpled hat
Lying in the dust
“You have made a rather unfortunate error, Sergeant.

This man is my gamekeeper.”

Carmichael looked up
Soldier’s bravado paled
“Can you stand, Mr. Carmichael?”
I extended my hand to him

“Don’t be too concerned, Milady.”

Carmichael's voice so ragged
“Where is your regiment stationed
I asked
"I should like to have a word

With your commanding officer.”

Soldier colored till his face
Was indistinguishable from
Scarlet fullcloth of jacket
Bead of sweat trickled its way

From under black-plumed bonnet

Down his rough-skinned jawline
It vanished in the gap between
Neck and stiff white collar choking throat
“May I speak to you privately, Ma’am?”

“By all means, Sergeant.”

We stepped aside, walked a few paces
Along the wall. Stopped
Bent our heads together
In rapt discussion for some minutes

Soldier broke away abruptly

As though he’d been stung
He saluted, then moped from the square
I turned toward the carriage
Carmichael helped me up the step

My sister waiting for me

Carmichael withdrew his hand
Cradling his sore one
“You had better get in,” I said
“You have been injured, after all.”

He nodded toward his horse

Waiting patiently across the square
“Then be quick about your business.
Make a point of stopping at the castle
When you return."

He opened and closed his mouth

Like a fish in the grass
He nodded his assent. His hand
Moved up to tug at hat that wasn’t there
His fingers hung suspended in midair

For an awkward moment

Then ran through his hair
“Drive on, Willis,” I called out
Old man clucked to the horses
Carriage lurched forward

Carmichael stepped out of the way

Before wheels ran over his toes
I stood, my back to him
In the pale green drawing room
“Thank you for coming,” I said

“Your servant, Ma’am,” he answered

Bowing slightly
“Are you?”
“I am.”

I broke from where I stood

Moving slowly round the edges of the room

“I would question your definition
Of ‘servant’, Mr. Carmichael.
You have been using my late husband
And me to suit your own purposes.”

he croaked

I halted, turned and faced him
“If you were poaching that morning
After the storm...why
Did you come to my aid?”

Carmichael spluttered

As if he’d swallowed a
Gulp of water down the wrong pipe
“I couldn't very well leave you out there!”
“Another man might have done just that.

Well, we are in a fine pickle, are we not?”

“Aye, Milady. We are, that.”
“You should be turned over to
The magistrate, and have done with you."

He returned my gaze, giving himself over to me.

I shuddered

“Why did ye tell that lie for me?”
He asked
“Laird Moncrieffe - he would have
Had me in gaol by now, sure.”

“Perhaps. The man who fancies himself

The new lord of Kinnoull
Would be even more severe than that.
Think hard, now, and consider carefully
What I am going to offer you.

I once offered you a room here

To recuperate from your wounds
But you refused. I’m afraid I must
Make that offer again
And I beg you to accept this time.

I have need of your cottage.

As prisons go, I hope you’ll find
This one to be exceptional.
I, myself, have always considered this
To be a home.

Mr. Carmichael, I possess information

You would prefer me not to pass along.
You likewise hold secrets of mine.
‘Men do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy his soul

When he is hungry.'"

He looked as if he'd just
Dashed the contents of an upset stomach
Extending my right hand, I said
“I believe we must shake on it.”

Carmichael rallied

Taking my hand in his
After one shake for form’s sake
We let go with expediency
“I’ll ring for Kearney,” I said

Picking up the bell to shake it furiously

- Julia Smith, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 96 - Not After That Look

Happy Easter to all who celebrate this springtime holiday.

Continuing with my found poetry series, here's a poem I've taken from my very first attempt at writing a novel. It's my only completed manuscript to date, and it needs a lot of reworking. But as with many writers, since this is the first novel-length character to inhabit my thoughts and my heart, this character will always be the most special to me.

Guthrie is a Highland Scot in the early 1820's, working on a lowland estate as the gamekeeper. The lady he serves is a newly-widowed countess, whom he recently helped return to the castle when he discovered her out on the grounds in only her sodden nightdress after a storm.

A terrible miscalculation has convinced Guthrie he must stop poaching from the estate, as he's been doing to save money for a new life in the Canadas. Guthrie informs his best friend and poaching partner that he won't be taking part in it anymore.

Click HERE for a previous poem about Guthrie.

I've based him on English actor Sean Bean. Lady Moncrieffe is based on Canadian actress Neve Campbell.

You can Ride the Poetry Train by clicking HERE.

Not After That Look

Guthrie left Lundy’s room
Above the storehouse
Headed back over fields
To his own rough cottage

No one about at this late hour

Just as well be noon
All the sleep he was likely to get
Worked up as he was
Paused in the night air

Head back, look at the stars

What he needed was a smoke
Boulder ahead a little ways
Sit himself down, light up his pipe
Collect himself

Smoke rising gracefully into the night

Nice to sit here
Only man awake in all of Scotland
Just God and Guthrie Carmichael
Sitting together and having a smoke

Thoughts like bait in a swollen stream

Sooner or later, these thoughts
Would arrange themselves
An actual plea
For forgiveness

Movement in the distance

Turned slightly
Peered into the gloom
Unholy shiver pure fright
Ran through him head to foot

Liquid movement, gliding paleness

Took pipe from mouth
Slid off the rock
Quiet as the ghostie there
A spirit loose in these parts?

Could well be a brand new ghost

He might be scared witless
If he was the first to see it
Wouldn’t that be something?
Crept along, gained steadily

Could make out a dress, a white dress

He raced ahead
More noise with increased speed
Skin along his neck crawling
Dare not steal a look behind him

Might lose footing in the dark

It would be upon him
In all its ghastly menace
Leaped down a small rise
Close to turf, eyes level to ground

Perhaps he would give this ghostie its name

Figure’s approach inexorable
Guthrie’s winded breathing quieted
Its face
He had to be imagining

It couldn’t be

The ghost was his mistress
Lady Moncrieffe
Had the lady died in the night?
Remorse for the injury he gave her

Flared hotly in his chest

She had mended from that wound
An accident?
He followed again, wondering

Heaviness of her movements

Manner fluid, dreamlike
Guthrie stopped cold
That morning he’d followed her on horseback

The morning after the storm

No one had spoken of it
As if it hadn’t taken place at all
Eventually this path would take her
To the road where they’d first met up

She was sleepwalking. Had to be.

Increased his pace a little
Didn’t take long to catch up with her
Stomach lurched again
Her eyes were wide open

She took several trancelike steps

She slowed and stopped
“Ma’am.” Guthrie touched the edge of his tam
She crossed her arms in front of her
“I don’t think he’ll be coming, after all.”

And she turned to walk back along the path

Guthrie dashed smartly to overtake her
Slowed to a walk
She looked at him
Her gaze traveling through him

Smile flittered across her lips

Eased next to Guthrie
Slipped her hand between his arm and waistcoat
He crooked his elbow
Arm and arm with Lady Moncrieffe

Nearly dragging him along with single-mindedness

The long walk to Kinnoull an unsettling stroll
Her bosom pressed against his elbow
Her hip brushing his thigh
Was she awake or asleep?

How could he be so fortunate among men

Coming across her each time
She took these strange odysseys?
Perhaps this worked as a penance
For not putting an end to his poaching


If the Good Lord meant to show him
What it meant to be a shepherd
Who was Guthrie Carmichael to argue?
He would see his wayward lamb home

No harm done

No one the wiser again if they were lucky
Outline of castle loomed
In faint light of approaching dawn
No word had passed between them

They reached a door he'd never seen before

Could see that it gaped there, still open
Why the turmoil swirling in his stomach?
He led her to the doorway
Opened it a little wider

And passed her through

Extending the arm she’d been clutching
Till she was over the threshhold
He watched her feet
Assuring that she didn’t trip

Then he looked up into her face

Before he knew whether he was up
Down or turned on his ear
There she was - planting her lips on his
Lady Moncrieffe stepped back

Eyes trained on him

In the most unnerving manner
Shining with languorous flame
Before he had a chance to stammer anything coherent
The corners of her lips curled

A provocative smile

“I’ll wait for you,” she purred
Beginning to walk inside
She turned her head to glance at him
Lips closing over invitations unspoken

Lashes dropped to hide desire in her eyes

Then she was gone, swallowed into the shadows
Guthrie stood there for a long while
Unable to move out of the doorway
The words she’d spoken

Commanded him against any will of his own

Like a man from the old tales, her spell cast on him
And nothing he could do to resist her
Come now, lad. She’s dreaming.
That invitation was not meant for her gamekeeper

For whom, then?

Her poor husband, that’s who.
He reached into the darkness of Kinnoull
His fingers groped for the doorhandle
As if reaching into a hive

Crawling with bees

Carefully, he pulled the door shut
He would post himself on watch not too far away
Keep his eye out
In case she wandered again

He’d light up his pipe, finish his smoke

There’d be no sleep
Not for him
Not after that look
Into his ladyship’s eyes

- Julia Smith, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 95 - God Knew Her Pledge

Today's found poem comes from my vampire WIP, featuring a Dark Ages Welsh warrior named Peredur. This poem introduces Tanwen, Peredur's betrothed. She waits for her warrior to return from the fighting against the raiding Irish - only to receive news she does not want to hear.

Ride the Poetry Train - click HERE.

God Knew Her Pledge

Fighter from Peredur’s war band
Stood with Father, talking
In a low voice
The two looked towards her

Tanwen’s pulse stopped

Mother stood near
Tanwen didn’t want her there
Didn’t want to hear words of comfort
Could not bear an embrace

That was not her beloved’s

Horrid shuddering started
Her teeth knocking together
Brother, sisters stared at her
One look in Father's eyes

And she knew

Tanwen turned, walked calmly from them all

Path before her shimmered
Tears balanced on lashes
She knew these dips, rises blind
Feet carried her to crag overlooking the bay

Dampness beaded her hair

Awash in tears, inside and out
Seeped unbroken stream
Thought her heart had broken
If she had a heart left to break

Sea birds glided between coast and surf
Crying out her anguish with their shrieks

Why love such a proud man?
Peredur never listened
She told him he was all she needed

He kept leaving her to fight

To win a name for himself, he’d said
So Father would agree to a match
Where did that leave her?
Betrothed to a corpse

Sobs punched their way through her chest at last

Curled into herself, clutched tight
With arms that could not stop the mourning
Could hear noises, wondered where they came from
Even as her throat ached from crying

She saw nothing except his green eyes
Felt nothing but the whisper of his breath
This couldn’t be real
He was too powerful

Too swift, too expert a fighter

To go down to a spear
The man was mistaken
Peredur was alive somewhere
He couldn’t be gone

Why did she totter on rocks
Slick with mist? Why did she want the
Pain in her chest to stop squeezing? Why
Wasn’t it Peredur arrived at her father’s door

To finally ask for her hand?

Wiping sleeve 'cross her face
Tanwen emerged from the darkness of shock
Felt a presence behind her
Tanwen paused as she turned

Cavan, son of village wise woman

Pale gray eyes gazed upon her
As though he knew
What lay screaming in her heart
Shaking her head, tears starting anew

“It can’t be! It can’t be true!”

Cavan gestured to boulder behind them
“Come and sit with me awhile.”
Cavan helped her to sit
Tanwen’s face felt pummeled

By so much crying

Where could tears come from
When she felt so numb inside?
Cavan turned object in his hand
Her gaze rested on a ring

The ring Peredur’s father had given him

“Where did you get that?”
“Peddler sold it to mother.
She held it in her hand
She saw it all before her.

Everything that happened."

Tanwen fought the urge to grab it
Cavan held it out, dropped it
Onto her outstretched palm

Metal touched her skin
She thought of the ring slipped
From Peredur’s cold hand
Reality ripped a gasp from her throat

Ring nearly tumbled onto scraggly brush

Cavan wrapped solid hands around hers
Ensuring her grip with his own
Tanwen sagged till forehead touched her wrists
If Cavan were not there she would pass out

Crying started again

She could not listen to it
As though
She were someone else
She would not hold her beloved’s ring

If he still lived

She never spoke her pledge of fidelity
Before the village
She’d said it often in her heart
God knew her pledge to be true

He knew that today she became a widow

- Julia Smith, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 94 - Judgement and Acceptance

Today's found poem comes from my vampire WIP. You can read an excerpt HERE. I've used the villanelle form, but once again haven't tried to rhyme anything, as that would interfere with the found poem format.

Peredur is a Dark Age Welsh warrior who becomes a vampire. This poem is taken from two scenes where Peredur struggles with his new state of being. I've based Peredur on Scottish actor Gerard Butler.

Ride the Poetry Train - click HERE.

Judgement and Acceptance

The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes
Filled with dirt. Staggered to his feet - the grave
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

The blood lust took him hard. Had never known
What true need was, when he’d lived as a man
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes

Smell of man came to him on a faint breeze
"Who’s there?" rang out before Peredur leaped
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

Yet how could he grieve when he could not cry?
Let loose an unnerving howl of anguish
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes

Beat fists gainst ground. Saw two feet, hem of gown
Scrambled to knees, bent deeply, head to earth
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

A look held both judgement and acceptance
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

- Julia Smith, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 93 - Her Palm Stung But It Was Worth It

A very special hello today to Gautami Tripathy, who restarted the original Poetry Train when it got sidetracked. Many, many thanks! I hope you know how much that means to me.

Here is a found poem I crafted from a prose scene in one of my WIPs. Last week's poem introduced Scorpius from my dark fantasy story. Today's poem introduces Lady Elysande, whom Scorpius serves as Chamberlain of her keep. You can read an excerpt HERE.

Her Palm Stung But It Was Worth It

He just made it through the doorway
Into the Great Hall
A silver chalice sailed past his face
Bounced noisily onto the flagstones

Scorpius halted

The Master-at-Arms ducked
One arm shielding his face
Lady Elysande stood, knocking her chair over
“Rephrase that, Pahlmot.”

“I cannot recommend the Ball be held, my lady.”

Grabbing another goblet, she dashed
Its contents across the table
Into Pahlmot’s face. Scorpius caught the goblet
Square in the chest.

“The dragon sighting is confirmed. I saw it myself.”

“My guests have already set out.
They cannot backtrack now.”

Scorpius took a step forward. “My lady
The Master-at-Arms merely reports on developments.

As you requested.”

Pahlmot shot Scorpius a look of gratitude
Pulled himself up a little taller.
“I’ll continue to send patrols. Intercept
Guests we find and bring them to safety.”

Scorpius said.

Lady Elysande looked from one to the other
Her chest rose and fell rapidly
Pahlmot bowed stiffly. “If there is nothing further
My lady.”
She simply stared at the Master-at-Arms

Scorpius gave him the slightest of nods

Pahlmot backed away several paces
Turned to exit the hall
A slave picked up her chair
Lady Elysande sat as Scorpius began the

Long walk around the table to join her

Her chamberlain made his unhurried way towards her
For an employee in her household
He had an insufferable arrogance about him.
She wished very deeply he was one of her slaves

He and that stuffed-shirt Master-at-Arms

Their assumptions about what this
Dionysian Ball was really all about
The man had balls. Stepping in for
Pahlmot like that. Nearing her now

As though she wouldn't haul off and slap him

Across that perfect face of his. She waited
Till he sat in the chair beside her
The sound of it rang through the empty hall
Her palm stung, but it was worth it

For the hand print she’d left him

He took a moment to recover
Pulled his chair in
Looked her straight in the eye
His own danced with icy rebuke

His dark hair fell across his brow.
“Lady Elysande,” he said, his voice like silk
“You do have guests en route and
Alternate arrangements to make. I suggest

We address that.”

She reached for another goblet
Replacing the two she’d thrown
A slave filled it for her
And she sipped the dark wine

Entertainment. That’s what he thought of it

Goodness knows he must not suspect
What the nobles were truly up to
Why stage such an outrageous festival
If it wasn’t to distract everyone? Really –

Did handsome men have to be so thick?

“What is the point of throwing
Half of a Dionysian Ball?”
she asked
Petulantly, thinking to herself that
Half was better than none for their purposes

“You forget, my lady,” Scorpius said

“I promised you your debaucheries
Whether any guests showed up.”

A thrill erupted through her. Why would her
Chamberlain’s words give her

Such a reaction? “What did you

Mean by speaking for me
To the Master-at-Arms?”
she asked
Trying to get her mind off the image
Of Scorpius grabbing her for a forceful kiss

Where did that come from?

Scorpius took a breath before answering.
“Forgive me, my lady. I knew the
Urgency of his situation.”
“There is no excuse

For putting words in my mouth

Before another member of this household.”

She turned to look at him
Scorpius kept his head up but
Cast his gaze down. “My apologies.”

He swallowed and braced himself

Elysande’s heart beat painfully
She looked at her dark-haired, blue-eyed
Chamberlain. A delicious plan
Formed in her mind. A plan that

Surprised her by how quickly it excited

The deepest part of her.
“This keep is my home. I have no
Husband to help me run it. I have only
An endless betrothed. He’s been fighting in

Some battle or other far more than

He’s been inside these walls.”

She stared at Scorpius, willing him to
Meet her gaze. After a long moment
He looked up. She saw the dread

Lurking behind the bravado

“We will discuss the plans for the
Ball’s replacement now. But tonight
We will discuss how you will
Make it up to me - your insufferable behavior

Before the Master-at-Arms.”
Scorpius flushed

Though his face registered
Almost no change in expression.
She felt the thrill of recognition
At this discovery. Why had she not

Realized it before? He’d been here all along

Right under her nose.
“Yes, my lady,” he said, the sincere
Regret in his voice coursing through her
Like a drug. She had freed him from bondage

His gratitude made him ripe

For the kind of relationship
She liked best. A besotted chamberlain
Was precisely the ace she needed now
When dragons of all things threatened to

Pull apart a secret

Noble alliance built
Behind the scenes while
Fathers and husbands-to-be

Played at war

- Julia Smith, 2009

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 92 - He Followed His Master

So far, I've introduced four characters from two of my works in progress by creating found poetry from reworked prose scenes. Continuing with this format, here is the main character from a fantasy story I started last summer at my writers' retreat.

You can read a prose excerpt about Scorpius HERE.

He Followed His Master

Fostering relatives' children was common practice among the nobility
The nurses treated Scorpius as they did the others
Some had beautiful mothers scooping up their darlings
Sometimes handsome fathers took their children out for the day

No one ever came for Scorpius

He never asked where his parents might be, didn't want to
Hear the words spoken, words to confirm the gut-gnawing truth
He learned to be a little lord - until the other boys
Transfered to their own Houses. Formal schooling began

No one sent for Scorpius

At last, as babies arrived, a whole new crop of children to the nursery
Scorpius watched a stately man, a man with a scar across one temple
Approach the head nurse. Scorpius saw him glance over. The man with
The scar strode slowly across the courtyard, his movements

Like a great predatory beast

Finally. It was happening. Someone really had come for him
Crouching down so his face was level with Scorpius'
The man looked deeply into his face. Scorpius stayed silent
Returned the gaze without flinching. Hard, piercing glance

Raked across Scorpius' soul

Bowing as he'd been taught. Returned his gaze as was proper
Between family members of the noble classes. The man's expression
Changed, darkened with disapproval. Scorpius dropped his gaze
Fear prickled his back. "I'm the falconer," the man said

"I have need of a boy."

"He's a very helpful young man," the head nurse said, proudly
"Very respectful." Scorpius noticed she stressed the qualities
Of a good servant. His heart seemed to weigh a hundred pounds
"I'll take him off your hands, then." The man rose to his feet

Turned expectantly toward Scorpius

"Come along," the man said, striding off the way he'd come
Scorpius looked up at the head nurse in a panic
Was she releasing him to serve that scarred man? One look
In her eyes and he saw that she was

A sob lodged itself in his throat

He would not give her the satisfaction. All his
Dreams of meeting his parents one day shattered in a
Blinding instant. Forcing his feet to move, Scorpius refused to
Let the nursemaids see how their silence at his fate

Pierced him to the quick

He followed the man who was to be his master
With a swirling mix of emotions. For the first time
In his young life, he would belong to someone
A part of him rejoiced. The other part

Remembered the scar

- Julia Smith, 2009

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