Mulling it Over

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A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Mary McCallum decided she would begin hosting poems on her blog.    It sounded like such a fun thing, and as it was around Easter, I suggested that I had a poem she might like.    Well, Mary is a very talented poet and a perfectionist.   I sent her my run-on Easter poem and we chatted via email over the weekend before it was ‘published’.     There were queries about words and line breaks and eventually, my run-on poem became the shape of an Easter cross.    Yes, I can’t take the credit for this, was the clever eye and editing of Mary.    I like the cross, and too, I liked the run-on of the poem when it wasn’t a cross.   It’s interesting how a poem can change shape and yet the meaning more or less remains.   I’m not big on overt symbolism so I worried that my poem wasn’t strong enough to carry the Easter Cross.

I am going to re-post the poem here on my blog, without the shaping, first because  it’s tricky on a blog to get the poem to stay in shape, so hat’s off to Mary, but also because I thought the poem might work in its more or less original form, as a kind of run-on.

Mulling it over

Cinnamon, cardamom, almonds

and wasps, plump imported raisins,

currants;    Uncle’s aluminium pan.

The sunlight is thinner and Maria

who is Greek is fasting; orange peel

floats in the dark pool of wine.

I add sugar and schnapps, watch

the liquid almost boil and ladle it

into warm mugs.  We breathe in

the alcohol, swat at the wasps

remember last Easter and the one

before.  We marvel at the yeasty buns

suck the sticky glaze from our fingers

and lift the pale crosses to our lips

knowing that Pilate will wash his hands,

Veronica will wash his face, a

soldier will lance his side, and that

he will chat to a couple of thieves

just before he dies.   But, it is

the triumph of the empty tomb

we most admire as we raise our

hot mugs of wine in relief, glad.

Although, I’m not religious, I love Good Friday and the poem is about the way we celebrate our Good Friday.   We have friends over to eat my home-made hot cross buns and drink our (top-secret) staggeringly alcoholic mulled wine.   It includes aquavit or schnapps, Muscat de Frontignac (when we’re feeling flush), vermouth and red wine, not to mention cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cardamoms, seedless raisins and almonds.   The red wine is usually run of the mill, or even cask red, as once you’ve added sugar and almost boiled the stuff…. well…  but one year, my daughter-in-law’s sister had just celebrated her summer wedding and there were a spare few bottles of rather nice red left over which were generously donated to the mulled wine.   Many of us, sipping that particular brew, rued the fact, we’d cooked it!    The buns have crosses, but my family get their own bun decorated with their initial instead of a cross, and now I have a granddaughter who has the same initial as her father – they are both the ‘S’ bun.   My youngest son is a ‘T’ bun, which is more or less, a cross I guess, but as he lives overseas, there won’t be a‘t’ this year.

When I say I’m not religious, this does rather omit my Catholic (leaning toward Irish) upbringing.   So, I have fond memories of Good Friday, the three-hour pageantry, the stations of the cross, the kneeling the standing, the drama.   We had handsome Irish priests to lust after, and one passionate local priest, Father Bradford who would hurl himself at the floor in true grief at almost every station, building to a heart-rending finale.   I was glad when Simon came along to help carry the cross, I loved it when Veronica wiped the face of Jesus, and we all fell in unison, once, twice three times, when Jesus fell, down on our knees, urged on by the theatrics of  Father Bradford.   But, I must confess, I was sometimes distracted by the gorgeous outfits of the girls from Waimea West by the time they laid him in the tomb.  You see, Easter was a time of religious fervor and fashion.  It was the between seasons moment when you could wear your new winter outfit, and admire everyone else, including their hats.   We were a small parish and at Easter for some reason, we would collect the surrounding countryside parishes into our church – oh, a host of fabulous fashion, girls my age whom I saw perhaps once or twice a year, and we’d all be wearing our very best brand new Easter outfits.  Yes, I loved the Stations of the Cross, Father Bradford leading us in what was I suppose, our own modest Oberammergau – we were part of the passion play, standing, kneeling, in thrall to his grief, perhaps exploring our own, and peeking, as you do, to see what the girls from Waimea West were wearing.

Postscript:

A curious thing; my links are not working unfortunately, on either this or my last few posts.  I have sent a message to WordPress and hopefully I will find a solution.   So, in the meantime, if you wish to see the poem as an Easter Cross as first published, try this http://mary-mccallum.blogspot.co.nz/2010/03/tuesday-poem-mulling-it-over.html.

Also do check out the Tuesday Poem blog which has now taken off and is a big success – so well done to Mary and all the other contributing poets.  http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/

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7 thoughts on “Mulling it Over

  1. Pennie walser

    Maggie you are a delight. So great to have you as our friend. Thanks for the great Easter poem and thoughts. Happy Easter to you & family. P and G

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  2. marydanae

    Dear Maggie – Thanks for your lovely comments on the Tuesday Poem and our discussions about Mulling it Over. It’s a terrific poem and I remember the discussions well. I also remember how the poem became a cross. I think the new incarnation here lets the language shine – and the social aspect of the poem comes through more strongly rather than the religious aspect. I’d go with this version. Might also try your mulled wine! Happy Easter

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  3. Hi Maggie
    I loved your Easter poem (and the title is great.) One of the most interesting things about the poetry masterclass at the Writers and Readers festival was how they talked about the shape of a poem and the difference that line breaks could make – and where the spaces went, or how much space there was in the poem. Also relished your description of the Good Friday service – I’m sure a short story is waiting in there, esp with Father Bradford and the Waimea West girls. It’s lovely to hear about your family traditions too and the personalised hot cross buns (not to mention the mulled wine) – one of those things that your family will always remember and treasure, whether in NZ or overseas.

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    • Hello Pippa – thanks so much for dropping by to comment on my poem – it’s lovely to have the feedback. Yes, spaces and punctuation in poems – so much inferred from the comma or the line-break and I enjoyed working on-line with Mary when she shaped my poem into a cross, but then too, I liked reclaiming it as a run-on read – but I think it sort of works both ways. Yes, the hot-cross buns and the mulled wine go right back to our pre-children days when we had just come back from living in Europe (Norway for three winters and one summer) and the mulled wine recipe is from a Swedish Time-Life recipe book although it has been modified many times.

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