Heart-Work - Journal
Heart♥Work - Journal by Vivi Steels
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth
|Posted on October 7, 2021 at 4:05 AM|
It is National Poetry Day today and I was watching the news and the awfulness of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, where young girls who were pregnant, or just classed as 'flirty' or 'attractive', were incarcerated in buildings where they worked as slave labour and treated harshly for what was perceived as their sins by the Catholic Church. I wrote this poem in 2004, but wanted to include it here on this special poetry day and also because this has been exposed in the media.
Prayer for the Magdalene Sisters
we, the unconventional & passionate,
flesh & blood,
often dulled into conformity
by a strait jacket
of distorted Catholicism
venting its spleen
we talk too much,
are too enthusiastic,
attractive to men,
and, before we sin,
condemned to asylum workhouses
bearing holy names
slaves in suds
non-beings eternally laundering
dirt out of soiled clothes,
some owned by perverted priests
and embittered nuns,
whose vows to love
mask a heart to hate
when we express ourselves
we are condemned as irreligious,
temptresses of the flesh,
fecund & warm,
rich in spirit & body
our loving & giving
represented as profane
stripped of dignity,
of any personal possession,
our rounded bodies are forced
into identical straight brown shifts
and starched white aprons
Christ spoke to women
loving them when stamped
bringing life in abundance
let us be ourselves
accepting our fertility
of body, mind & spirit
let us remain ‘neat’,
our special gifts
given to us by God
let us never feel
guilty for being ourselves,
for loving life
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on March 10, 2021 at 4:55 AM|
The sea, hissing sibilantly,
wanted me to come in and play,
wrapping its foamy fingers
round my rubber boots, tugging.
“I’m not coming in today. You’re freezing.”
The seals were happy,
lying like furry mermaids on stone sofas,
exposing tummies to be tickled.
The dog otter, sleek and stream-line,
ate his shell-enclosed lunch,
discarding crumbs for hungry fish.
The wind ran along the edge of skittish clouds,
tweaking and puffing them into fluff.
Seaweed squeaked beneath my boots,
sand sank, velvet-wet,
firming itself after the sea’s caress.
“I might come in tomorrow,” I laughed.
“You won’t. I’ll be even colder then.
But I’ll always wait for you,
© Vivien Steels
This is a photograph of me and my lovely older sister, Alison, with our shrimp nets at Bexhill-on-Sea in 1959.
I have been dreaming of going to the seaside during this interminable second lockdown.. The sea and beach has aways held a fascination and lure for me. The poem is written from a child's viewpoint and although this is called 'Sea Friend', I was knocked down and almost drowned by a large wave when at the seaside at Bexhill-on-Sea when I was about seven and that same summer my dear friend Diane was drowned and about which I wrote the poem, 'The Same Sea'.
I entered this poem 'Sea Friend' to The Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary Poetry Competition and was pleased to find in their magazine 'The Healer'- Spring 2021 that it was highly commended and I had won a £10 M&S Voucher!!!
|Posted on February 20, 2021 at 10:40 AM|
Love is putting your best friend to sleep
to end his suffering,
knowing that your suffering
is only just beginning...
Beautiful Mittens Christmas 2015
Pets come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new pet never replaces an old pet, it merely expands the heart.
Don't Leave Me by Vivi Steels
So this is the reason I am here –
this is what they do.
He was kind to me.
He examined my back legs.
I cried and tried to tell him.
She was holding me
and stroking my face,
tears dripping down onto my fur
like rain from leaves on the trees
in my beloved garden.
She signed a piece of white rustly paper,
then he gave me an injection.
I began to feel warm and fuzzy.
The pain in my legs began to recede.
She kept stroking me
and talking to me
but the only words I heard were
“Don’t leave me – I love you.
I’ve loved you every day for thirteen and a half years
and I don’t want to be without you.”
So this is what they do.
She bent over me and whispered.
I didn’t feel the second injection much,
but my beloved garden appeared,
sunlight rustling the leaves.
She was standing by my wooden bench
cuddling me in her arms
and I knew she’d never leave me…
© Vivien Steels
Published in ANIMAL ANTICS 2011 – Forward Press October 2010
Lovely Mittens on his beloved bench in the garden... 01.07.2006 - 19.12.2019
|Posted on January 20, 2021 at 8:15 AM|
drenched in water jewels,
emerging from stream cleansed
to face sun, Giver of Fire, Giver of Life,
offering praise unspoken
to the Great Spirit breathing through
greenness of green,
blueness of blue,
rockness of rocks,
inspired to listen ~
all in abeyance
but spirit itself.
Wind, rain and stars are the Bible
for studying earth’s face,
Peace Pipe, the weapon to war
for a path run closer to God.
Smoke, drawn into lungs,
emerges through nostrils,
rises to mists of clouds
translated into prayer.
immersed in gift of wisdom
blanketing creased body,
feathered with good deeds,
walking amongst the Grandfathers
he talks with God.
© Vivien Steels
Published in The Beehive/Just Words 2001, in Write-Away - Summer 2002
& Panda Poetry No: 16 – October 2003
Illustrated with 'Rocky Bear' - Oglala Chief c.1899 © Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 4, 2021 at 8:05 AM|
I unfurl vast rolls of black velvet
scattered with silvering stars
shooting across midnight skies.
Soft winds blow music from the spheres
into tired eyes and ears
restoring peace and calm.
Perfume of flowers mist
from clouds of dew,
falling onto quiet earth
while spume of dark rivers
press your hands with softness of foam.
Honey-sweet drips onto your lips
as you sacrifice wakefulness,
seduced by sleep.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Write-Away - Spring 2003
& Amber Silhouettes 2 - March 2004
|Posted on October 2, 2020 at 6:45 AM|
Harebells by Vivi Steels
A report from the Royal Botanical Gardens from Kew has said an estimated 140,000, or 39.4%, of plants are under threat of disappearing. This is up 21% from 2016. There are also currently 723 medicinal plants facing extinction. Harebells, along with other Native species such as Chamomile, Juniper, Pennyroyal and wild asparagus are under threat. Harebells are one of my and my mother's favourite flowers and I painted them for her under my maiden name , Gath, in 1985. It would be awful to think that these beautiful and delicate bell flowers could just disappear from our natural landscape...
(Victoria Allen, Daily Mail, Wednesday 30th September 2020)
Harebells © Vivien Steels (nee Gath) - watercolour/pen & ink
|Posted on July 29, 2020 at 8:45 PM|
Teddy was only with us for just over three months. Teddy was slim, more white than black, with amber eyes. He had very large ears, long legs and a long thin black tail. He was quite vocal with a soft, high-pitched squeak. He had a black patch over one eye. Although Teddy loved our garden, he loved to go over into other surrounding gardens, but always came back within a few hours. He was quite shy of other people. Teddy was a lovely-natured, gentle cat. He hated collars and would always gets his lower jaw trapped in one while grooming himself.
He was last seen on the morning of Tuesday 28th July, but the next day after I had put posters up and put him on an animal search website, I received the devastaing news from a lovely lady, Alison, who runs a cat rescue and from whom I got my last lovely cat Mittens and Teddy, that he had been run over by a car yesterday morning on a road round the corner from where we live.
He had gone out that morning after sleeping on the bed and coming up for a cuddle, purring loudly, then wanting his first breakfast, then out into the garden he loved. He was a wanderer, but would always return every hours or so to play and cuddle and have something to eat. Some days he stayed with me all day. Other days he would like to wander a lot in the large gardens that surrounded ours. But yesterday he never reappeared. I looked and called for him. Ian went looking for him too.
And today the most awful news. I went to see if I could collect him, but he wasn't there. Alison rang the council and located his little body. She went to collect Teddy and buried him in the part of her garden where he used to play with his brother. I am so grateful to her for doing this. She is also very upset and loved Teddy dearly. I am making a special memorial for Teddy in my garden too.
I have a lovely memorial plaque and have put it on our Japanese garden where Teddy loved to hide and play, plus have bought a little red Acer tree and a special pot to plant it in to put near him. I will call it Teddy’s Tree and have ordered a small solar garden lantern to light it up. I’ve also got a lovely brass butterfly plaque to put on the bench in the garden where Teddy loved to snooze and I am getting one for lovely Mittens, my last rescue cat, for the chair where he loved to snooze. I am so sad without my lovely cats.
He was such an adorable cat and I will miss him so very much. He was only 10 months old. I always find it amazing how such a small furry animal can have such a big impact on you after so short a time.
He was very, very loved and will be missed greatly.
Bless you, Teddy.
|Posted on May 7, 2020 at 9:25 AM|
Crater Life WW1
You know what it’s like when your Mother,
soft as rose petals, stops your aching ears
with warm cotton wool, don’t you?
The world stops talking.
I am lying in Green Ridge Meadow,
grass tickling my head,
staring at cotton wool clouds,
soft as sheep, sauntering by,
time drifting with them.
Bees drone on about finding flowers,
blue butterflies land on milky lady’s smock,
a lark rises catching up with the blueness of blue sky,
harebells dip and ring round my drowsy head,
singing that song of childhood
I’ll never forget.
I open my eyes.
The world is painted red.
Blood filters my view of all that is broken.
I am floating in a crater of waste.
My body – nothing missing so far –
rests in filthy mud-water,
as though I’m floating in Sixpenny Stream.
The path at the top of Green Ridge Meadow,
past the ramshackle fence,
leads down to Sixpenny Stream.
I take off my heavy boots –
no socks in summer.
If I look up at the sun through slitted eyes
all I can see is red.
The heat drives me in
like a sheep to be dipped.
I lie wrapped in water weed,
lifted and lulled by wet arms
stared at by ducks, tickled by fish -
as I float, caught in summer’s breath,
soft as rose petals.
My stomach coughs and retches bile six times.
I smell cordite, bonfire smoke, gas
and the disinterred mangle of body parts.
That green spring I found a dead lamb
at the bottom of the meadow,
near the Tall Top Oak tree
spreading beauty all round it.
Here was death, reeking,
wriggling with maggots,
dismembered, eyes taken by ravens.
I ran back home
reached for the silver spade handing in Dad’s shed
and ran back to the lamb.
I dug into the flowering turf,
down into the darkness of soil
making a cool, soft manger
to hold that lamb,
whose life had never blossomed.
I lick my lips,
cracked, dry, like sandpaper.
My tongue cleaves to the top of my mouth.
Tears wash down onto my lips,
My Dad loved wood
and loved his wooden shed.
He smoothed down the limbs of my sledge,
ready for winter’s grip.
The top of Green Ridge Meadow
sparkled like an iced Christmas cake.
I dragged my sledge, fat rope handle,
to the misty top,
then the bliss of pure white speed,
snow jewels catching my red lips,
melting ice chips, soft, wet,
the bite of frost crystals
hitting my nostrils.
Can I move?
I lift my leaden right arm.
Yes, I can move it.
My left – more difficult,
tangled with barbed wire,
pinned to my shredded uniform
like a battered medal.
I met her catching butterflies
in Green Ridge Meadow.
I was ten.
She told me she was eleven.
The meadow glowed, light diffused
as though through a chandelier.
Grass and flowers were lit up
with a golden-green sheen.
“Pick a long piece of grass and tickle me,” she’d say,
then lay next to me,
head face down on her bent arms,
while I traced up and down those egg-brown arms
and her cheeks, soft as rose petals.
The third day.
No one knows I am here.
Time and No Man’s Land
have passed me by.
My body is weightless, numb.
My thoughts begin to jangle
like a beaded necklace
jiggled up and down.
I begin to shake.
The dark grass of Green Ridge Meadow
holds my body.
It is evening.
I look up at the stars
shooting their time-lapsed silver
into our Iolite skies.
The blue moon, full and bright,
sends shafts of cool light
down to me.
I hold my breath.
I don’t breathe.
I slip past midnight.
I am running,
running with outstretched arms –
like wings of jade-green gossamer –
down the hill towards Sixpenny Stream,
on over the ramshackle stile,
past Tom Barnstable’s farm,
past Sylvie’s cottage on Cornflower Row,
past the clay-red path to our house,
past Dad in his shed,
sucking his pipe as he looks up
and smiles at me,
past Mum in the garden
collecting a bunch of her beloved roses
for the vase in the long dark hall.
She holds out her hands,
soft as rose petals,
and I am home.
© Vivien Steels
I wanted to post this poem before VE Day celebrations on Friday 8th May to remember all the men and women who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. My Uncle, Walter Gath, my father Reginald's brother, lost his life two weeks before his 23rd birthday in March 1944 in WW2, as Lieutenant of the Laforey, a large fleet destroyer, one of the last Allied Naval ships to be lost in the Mediterranean to submarine attack. I have one framed case of Walter and his medals and one of my lovely father, Reginald and his medals. He served in the war on Motor Torpedo Boats mostly in the Far East. I can always remember my father telling me how he swam with dolphins off the side of his ship - one of the more pleasant things he experienced.
Walter D. P. Gath (my Uncle, whom I never met)
Reginald D. P. Gath (my lovely father)
|Posted on April 8, 2020 at 8:05 PM|
Alter Echo (for Gary Moore)
Deep dark stage -
star-lights pinpoint mastery
of fret set with mother of pearl,
silver strings set with genius
reaching decibels of hard rock blues
played at frenetic pace,
soul in harmony with guitar,
voice in harmony with soul.
Face wet, shining livid,
sweat pours down face, down arms
blurring fingers fast as light,
swagger winding up and down,
throwing self to and fro,
backwards and forwards,
in extremis, mouth open,
caught in the moment.
Deep dark stage –
star-lights pinpoint skin-tight trousers,
electric-blue shirt, luminous hands
fast as dreams, seeking chords
from fluorescent galaxy
far away, in that land of artistry
where man becomes guitar,
dark as jet, light as flame.
© Vivien Steels
Gary Moore was the finest guitarist this country has ever produced and he died far too young. He doesn't get the accolades he deserves with the guitars he could make cry and his fantastic blues voice. As an Aries born on the same day I appreciate the passion and talent he put into his music - he gave all of himself producing an effortless display of mastery on the guitar and powerful, heart-felt emotions. I love to listen to his music at an excessively high volume, especially when I am upset about anything. It takes you out of yourself - just transcendent, brilliant, sublime, authentic... Go to YouTube and listen to Still Got the Blues for You or Still in Love with You along with all his other great songs showcasing that out-of-this-world genius guitar playing.
|Posted on April 4, 2019 at 12:30 PM|
REVIEW FOR NEW POETRY BOOK
*Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees* by Vivien Steels
Review by Patricia Beeton
“I have just read your new book of poems ‘Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees’. What a lovely collection of poems they are. The poems are a pleasure to read. Your words show a heartfelt, philosophical understanding of all aspects of nature and human emotion. Reading your poem 'Honey, about your pet rabbit, brought a tear to my eye. What a lovely tribute to him and a recognisable mixture of emotions for all of us who have lost a beloved pet. When I started to read your poem 'Everlasting' it instantly reminded me of my mother. Sweet peas were her favourite flower and whenever they are seen or mentioned I see her, so it was funny to realise as I read your poem that you too are reminded of your mother. You not only produce such lovely words, but are able to illustrate them with such beautiful artwork.”
'Stonechat on Gorse' by Vivien Steels
*Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees* by Vivien Steels @ Vivi*Press
This is the cover of my latest seventh collection of published nature-inspired poems with artwork, photographs and graphics. It can be bought via my Vivi*Press Poetry page on this my 'Talking Paint' website, or get in touch via the Contact page of this website. This is the cover below.
I do hope you like it.