(after Philip Larkin)
All their Facebook friends are going
to the launch of the anthology, are you?
Perhaps, though now the thought
of that elusive quiet night at home
seeps in, I realise I’ve lots to do,
as everyone will understand, so no…
Strange how hard it is to turn away
from the mêlée. I could spend the evening,
leaning in to compensate for deafness,
as confidences loosened by free wine
reveal the worries we keep out of sight –
overlooked for grant or bursary.
Under the glare of artificial light
I feel them slip away, those hours of solitude,
the poems that I now may never write
at home by the fire, watching the slow moon
dip behind the hedge’s silhouette
with a contentment that’s made possible by choice.
That solitude is chosen makes it sweeter,
also harder to achieve. To find the point
where Fear of Missing Out is trumped by Fear of Joining In.
But then there’s reciprocity. If you don’t go
to theirs who’ll come to yours? Can one rely
on interest over quid pro quo?
This is society. Whatever brings
a disparate group to congregate in spite
of reservations; as many motives
to attend as there are guests. Besides,
it’s rare that you won’t stumble into
company, congenial exchanges.
There’s no escape. If you stay home
the tweets and posts will make it sound
much better than reality. Tamp down
anxiety, inhale deep breaths outside,
avoid the wine, which causes paranoia –
it’s possible you’ll find that you enjoy it.
Start as a food source
keeping the bar low
just staying alive
being a mountain
a block to strike chips from
being a rock
just being there
holding the centre
being a canvas
being a sounding board
sometimes a target
always a heat source
the compass’s baseplate
darkness of heartwood
just being there
LEARNING TO CRAWL
How it catches you off-guard,
that once-familiar stretch –
face to the mat, with one knee angled out
you ease it up towards your head,
then twist, and as you turn the other leg,
you understand you’re mobile, little turtle,
bum high, hot breath forming condensation
on the baa-lamb patterned Mothercare;
you’re off now, you’re unstoppable.
It’s said the trick in falling is to flow –
land on one shoulder, roll
the ground diagonally across your spine,
leap up to standing every time.
Why must the shoulders always take first blow?
They’ll remind us in the end.
From crawl to fall to crawl.
Amanda Bell is a poet, writer, and editor with an MA in Poetry Studies. Her first poetry collection First the Feathers (Doire Press, 2017) was shortlisted for the Shine Strong Award. She has a new collection forthcoming from Doire Press in 2021. www.clearasabellwritignservices.ie