Thursday, October 16, 2008

Belfast Maine 4th Annual Poetry and Art Festival!!




BEGUINAGE REVISITED

by Janet Shea

It is a thirteenth-century beguinage,
a community of holy women--mothers, aunts,
ancestral sisters--tending the sick.
Mary of Oignies, Juliana, Marguerite
shuttle trays of soft food, medicinal tea,
warm milk to the many suffering
souls to be cared for: Old women, children
on cots, restless babies in cribs.
.
Every so often a sister stops to rest, leans
against the banister or door jamb. Mary
of Oignies, weakened by the marks of stigmata,
wipes the back of her hand across her forehead,
swipes a bleeding palm down the sides of her apron.
.
Local friars, arrayed in hooded burlap,
sit on the porch with neighborhood
men in plaid shirts, caps swinging between their knees
all awaiting instructions from the women. The men
were summoned to ward off encroaching disaster,
invasion, a possible flood. Already their boots
are slick with mud. Already the wind howls, rain
pelts the roof, fir trees like old bones creak
in the woods out back.
.
Bonded in time and place, tired of waiting,
the men convene in the cellar. They hammer,
check beams and joists, sandbag the foundation, trace
strategic escape routes on a torn and crinkled
map, vigilant for marauders, heretics, petty thieves.
.
Later, in my grandmother's Victorian, a labyrinth
of hallways and stairs, sisters . . . Patricia,
Virginia, Mary Louise . . . gather at Grammy's
oak table for supper. Overhead, mothers and aunts,
in rooms pungent with the aroma of lavender
and oil-of-wintergreen, settle in bed, side
rails secured, night lights aglow, the Sacred
Heart of Jesus, consoling on the wall. Nearby
children and babies breathe easy, exhaling
in sleep a fragrance of warm milk and honey.
The winds out back coo like a covey of doves,
the rain a soft patter on glass.
.
After supper the eldest cousin retreats
to the pantry, a sudden tumble of disarray.
She puzzles among the monochromatic cache
of mother vessels, dried up and cracked,
chooses a familiar blue bowl, its vanilla
rim chipped, and fills it with pudding.
.
"I enter the circle of holy ones,"
she whispers, returning to the table,
the ancient vessel steady in her hands.
Sisters and cousins, we welcome her with song,
remember in silence the women before us.
.
We tell stories, pass the bowl of abundance,
feast in the mounds of meringue.
White peaks
whipped firm,
but not stiff.

Above is a poem by my good and
delicious friend, Janet Shea, (not a rellie!) which I illustrated with the painting you see at the top of this posting. I decided to make the painting into a shrine to the Sacred Everyday (Sacra Quotidianus) and took some pictorial elements from Janet lovely poem to celebrate this concept. Janet and I decided to call ourselves 'The Two Sheas' and I was so proud to have the painting hung in a gallery here in Belfast with Janet reading the poem aloud to a breathless audience....that was for the very first Belfast Poetry and Art Festival in 2005. With the tireless efforts of Elizabeth Garber, our first Poet Laureate in Belfast and a wordsmith whose poems have been featured not once but thrice on the Garrison Keillor early morning radio spot on NPR, along with the efforts of many other local poets and artists this Festival is now in it's fourth season...do check out the website (see info in righthand column and click there to link to their site) for a listing of venues where this year's poetry will be read and art seen.
The two Angel pictures are from the Belfast Graveyard and I thought they were appropriate to combine with this particular posting. For info on Beguinage click on the title of the poem.
Thank you Janet, you little sweetpea!!!

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