Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Who would not do without: a poetry post

Yesterday I set you a creative writing challenge, so today I'm sharing what I've come up with. Please do share yours too, stick your link in the comments, or just share what you've come up with.

I rolled a three so got the snippet from Sergio Ortiz' poem, Day of the Dead: "They married. Julia, carried down the aisle / by two old lovers, found the lost bottle of rum"

I was taken with the idea of Julia not wanting to marry, or perhaps she did want to marry but knew it was hopeless. That her former lovers would present her to her husband as if she were theirs to give. I was also fascinated with the merging of the funeral and the wedding.

At the moment I'm interested in writing in the first person plural, so I thought I'd explore the idea of a funerary wedding from the point of view of the bride bearers. I've given you six of them. I initially wrote this in the voice of the bride, but I kind of feel that the point of this is that her voice is irrelevant. That said I haven't gendered any of the others on purpose.

Who would not do without

She kissed we six for one last time,
we smelled her remembered scent,
her lips brushed kisses on our dry cheeks
and we remembered why
we had put her aside
(or learned to do without).

That done, in the peace of the morning
in the Spring breeze of expectations
the music came.
She held her flowers to her breast
and turned her back.

We six took our places, 
head and hips and hoist.
She is not heavy
and yet we find it hard
to carry her.

We six have practiced,
we walk sedate in time,
do not show the burden,
do not trip,
do not trip on her long white train,
we do not trip.

Ahead is the one who
did not put her aside,
who would not do without
and we carry her, calm and strong
to the fire of that love.

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 20/8/17

Tbh I quite like marriage - I think it's very sensible to have a legal contract, and great that the families and friends should celebrate it. It has a problematic past for women, but that's because women weren't respected in patriarchal culture, not because of the institution itself.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Using prompts and dice: a creative writing exercise

It's been a while since I've shared a creative writing exercise with you. Something like this one I shared two years ago, which was inspired by weird lines I was saying for Vocal ID. Right now I'm mainly writing things inspired by other poems (plus lines of dialogue on TV and all sorts of other random nonsense). Today I'm sharing six bits of other poems with you. I'm keeping it to two lines from each poem, although of course, you might want to look into the poems a bit more. However, for this exercise and understanding of context is not really important, it's more about what it sparks.

Here are the six bits:

1) "And before the end comes, the complete / corrosion of all things beautiful..." from Ruin by Joel M Toledo - find the whole thing on And Other Poems here.

2) "that love, that life, that creation / is more than wanting." from Love by me, Cara L McKee. Find the whole thing here.

3) "They married. Julia, carried down the aisle / by two old lovers, found the last bottle of rum..." from On the Day of the Dead by Sergio Ortiz - find the whole thing on Algebra of Owls here.

4) "in winter, the swamp thickening / like the uterine wall..." from Taboo by Jen Hadfield, on the Scottish Poetry Library website here.

5) "Your voice marches on my head / Your death marches in my body" from A poem that is a cat by Sepideh Jodeyri, which is the last poem in the pdf here.

6) "How do you know I'm not / one of those women..." from The Fox Fairy by Pey Pey Oh (one of my favourite poems at the moment) - you'll find the whole thing on And Other Poems here.

Now there might be one of these that really speaks to you, in which case feel free to run with it. Or you could push yourself out of your comfort zone and roll a dice to choose one. That's what I'm doing (I use the dice roller at Random Org, but there are lots available).

Now take your prompt and write it down then spend five minutes seeing what it inspires - you could launch straight into a story or a poem or just find connected things. That's all you need to do just now. 

Hopefully that has inspired something which you can develop. If it's not speaking to you right now then keep your notes, put them in a place where you'll find them again one day, and move on. Maybe when you find them again it'll mean more.

I'd love to know what you come up with. Please comment and share.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Up here: a poetry post

I don't seem to be achieving much at the moment. I'm trying to write a synopsis for the Rose book, and in doing that I'm losing confidence in the story (which is me, not the story). My youngest stressed me out by tumbling all the way down the stairs and hitting her head (she seems fine if sore), and my middlest child is out of sorts, which is constantly worrying me. I am finishing up with very little useful brain. 

Anyway, I saw that Sara at Mum Turned Mom had suggested the prompt 'High' this week, and it reminded me of the song of the same name by New Model Army, which considers how irrelevant all our concerns are when seen from the top of a hill. There are lots of other songs with a similar feel, but I like New Model Army, so I headed to the top of my local hill to see and hear what I could see, singing to myself another one of my favourites by them - I Love the World

I've ended up with a poem inspired by I Love the World (for the structure), and (High for the message), but using my different viewpoint, looking out over the Firth of Clyde on a windy spot with gorse all around me. The bird was there, but to be honest there was neither heather nor bilberries. They're from other high places I've taken to in the past. I've borrowed a few words here and there from New Model Army and other influences (my friends will spot them I'm sure), but this poem is mine.

I was hoping for something uplifting, but I see that what I've written is quite dark in places. The truth is that whatever we do, however much we mess it up, it's ourselves we're hurting. Gaia/Earth will adapt and continue... quite possibly without us, for a very long time.

And I will be getting on with submitting the Rose book... any moment now.

Up here

Up here on high we over-look
our tiny lives. Foes are mistook
for friends. Enmities overlooked.
From here it all seems small.

The little boats we over-see:
the tiny people they carry
to little places 'cross the sea:
they're no concern at all.

And all of our society;
our business and our industry;
the institutions that we need:
just tholtans of power and greed.
Those buildings crumble into dust.
Time turns the metal gods to rust.
Up here there is no might or must.
Up here it all seems small.

And heather blooms and gorse does grow.
The rain it falls and wind does blow.
And up here life goes on the same
in sun, in thunder, and in rain.

A little bird takes to the sky:
a shrill alarm sounds from on high,
distracting from a nest that I
am not concerned about.

And if a god sits overhead
just as my daughter's teacher said;
for us he might as well be dead
for he can't make us out.

And women suffer in childbirth.
Men die without knowing their worth.
And children sicken and are hurt.
And some lead lives with sadness cursed.
But still the gorse will grow its spikes.
Bilberries ripen, small and bright.
And people fall and people rise.
Up here it all seems small.

And if one day should come our end,
to Gaia it's but shifting sand,
up here the life goes on the same
in sun, in thunder, and in rain.

© Cara L McKee 25/5/16

Please note, a version of this poem has also appeared in The Ham magazine. 

mumturnedmom    Writing Bubble

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Potential: a poetry post

Sara at Mum Turned Mom has chosen the word 'potential' as her latest prompt.

To be honest, I was stuck there for a while, but then I was thinking about gravitational potential energy and Wile E Coyote, and I came up with this poem, which I've also done a reading of on Facebook live (click here for that):

The Potential

This poem,

poised on the precipice
has potential
to kill you dead.

To whistle its way down

to a million-mile-away valley floor
landing in its own
mini-mushroom puff.

But it won't.

You'll just beep, and run on by
or maybe pause for a moment

wondering why it's poised just so,

was it put there on purpose?

Or has its context 

been whittled and abridged away?

Perhaps you see my design

in balancing this poem here
with all its potential.

Pause a while longer, 

and you'll see yourself in it.

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 27/4/17


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

You know what it is: a poetry post

Things are not going to plan for me today. I've had a hectic morning (I even forgot to eat breakfast!!!), a very poorly girl (Miss 9, it doesn't seem to be anything serious, but if you'd like to nag her to drink something for me that'd be great) and I do not have the oasis of peace and quiet I'd been desperately looking forward to. Well, that's cheeky, Miss 9 is pretty chilled on her poorly sofa, but I'm trapped here! Anyhow, I've been working through some prompts provided by the lovely promptress Jena Schwartz on Instagram. Here's a poem which she inspired, and I'm pretty sure everyone has an 'it' that it's about.

You know what it is

You know that it's here.
Turn your head, quickly, catch a glimpse,
and there! You've found it.
Your heart is filled full-wide,
your throat closes and
your ribs tighten. There. There.
Now are you ready
to let it hide away?

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 8/8/17

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Web-logging July 2017

My irregular round up of what's going on with me and mine.

Right now I'm:

Sitting on a train into Glasgow (like I was last time I wrote a weblog!). This time I'm off to meet my Dad, and I've bagged myself a table seat. Across the aisle from me is another woman sitting by herself at a table seat. I'm all in black with red hair, she's  colourful and on trend with blonde hair and well shaped eyebrows. Her makeup is way more careful than my slapdash effort, although I'm happy to be wearing my new favourite makeup product - Studio 10 Glow 2 Go Youth Lift Glow-plexion (terrible name, horrible price, great product) and a red eyeshadow. I love red eyeshadow.

Today I don't know anyone on the train, and I spend the whole journey writing.

Currently reading:

I'm coming to the end of How to be a Woman by Cailtlin Moran, which I am mostly enjoying, although I think I must be a different kind of woman.

I've brought my next book on my journey for while I'm waiting in the station, and that's Bitch Doctrine by Laurie Penney because Moran's book has made me get my Women's Studies vibe on again and because feminism remains essential IMHO. I've only read a few pages of it so far, but there was so much to inspire and intrigue in those pages.

Listening to:

Every day on the news there are more people (mainly, but not wholly, men) doing terrible things which I do not have the power to do anything about, so why stress myself with the news? I will trust in those who can take action to do so and I shall keep voting for and talking about a brighter, less-hate-filled future. Meanwhile, I'm very excited about Game of Thrones arriving on Monday and listening to lots of fan chat about that as well as Behind the Scenes stuff.

I've been listening to lots of pop music with the kids being on school holidays. So my brain is full of that nonsense. Our current giggly favourite is Attention by Charlie Puth because of mishearing the line "throwing that dirt all on my name" as "throwing that turtle on my knee". Honestly, check it out!

The most recent tracks that I've downloaded are:

Having fun:

We had a gorgeously lovely day over in Millport - a wee ferry ride away and perfect for an old fashioned beach day. We've been having a chilled summer holiday so far, hanging out with friends, and having family to visit.

On Instagram:

I tried taking part in Allison Sadler's #freeupmyinsta challenge, although I've not managed every day. However, it's been so nice to get back to using Instagram for fun. It was starting to feel like a chore. I'm thinking of just dropping the prompts and doing what I feel... maybe!

and here are three accounts I'm loving at the moment:

  • @mrsconstancehall Constance Hall is a contentious Australian blogger and a Queen (she says so so it must be true), and I think I'm a little bit in love with her. I am definitely in love with her style, her grace, and her attitude 👑
  • @georginagrogan Georgina Grogan runs the fantastic She Might Be online magazine. She's lovely, collaborative, and she has absolutely superb hair. Plus the lass can write.
  • @terribletumbles Em is my favourite fashion blogger because she's tall as well as plus size and she makes everything look amazing, plus she's from Yorkshire so she's just brilliant.
Perving over:

I Love Dick on Amazon. Oh my word! This story raises so many questions and really makes you think, plus it is so very very very sexy. I must admit I've never fancied Kevin Bacon (still don't) but I was certainly caught up in the story arc. Also, Roberta Colindrez was absolutely gorgeous Devon, and that dance at the end! Fabulous.


I have a list of days out which the children refuse to go on, but we're managing so far, and we're getting things in place Miss 6's birthday party next week. After that I'll panic about our holiday in the Lakes.


This month seems to be about rediscovery. Rediscovering:

  • the joy of doing very little
  • Pimms
  • the motivation to do 10,000 steps a day for the prize of a tick in the Google Fit app

We have also been looking after a friend's pets and have discovered a love of guinea pigs. 

A post shared by Cara McKee (@caralmckee) on


  • I Love Dick (see above, and trailer below)
  • Can't wait for Game of Thrones
  • Watched Girl on a Train last night which was actually surprisingly good and interesting, but Jeezo I'd love a film with less 'beautiful' people in it.


I've had a few poems published lately (see an up to date list here), and I'm sticking with the poemy stuff, I might not be following the FMS Photo a Day prompts for photos, but they're still in my calendar so I'm trying to write a tanka a day using the prompt. Today's prompt is 'out the window' and it's making me think of Girl on a Train, so here's my tanka for today:

She watches for them

out of the speeding window,
searches for a kiss,
a kiss she can remember,
one to take her breath away.

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 14/7/17

Why am I equating a kiss with a hit in my head? And will anyone else get that? Do you get that?

I've also been debating with myself about some poems I've written using the idea that God is a fictional and oppressive character. I am worried about causing offence but feel like perhaps I shouldn't censor myself so much. I guess it's because the God I believe in is a fictional character, and not worse for it. Again, what do you think?


Sometimes my kids are awesome. We bumped into my MIL and her friends the other day, and the kids were friendly and polite, impressing everyone (apart from me - I didn't even notice! 

Mostly though I am letting them stay up too late and have too much screen time (because seriously Scotland, you're a lovely place to live, but you could have WAY less rain), anyway, I like staying up late and going on screens - I'm on screens now! But too much screens and too little time equals lots of strops. Sigh.

My lovely husband is away for work a lot at the moment, which makes me realise how much I appreciate his input while he's here, even his annoyingly neat tendencies!

A post shared by Cara McKee (@caralmckee) on

Anyhow, how's it going with you?

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Barcelona: a poetry post

Last summer we gave our neighbours a gift and swapped homes for a little while with a lovely family who lived in Barcelona. They had a great time exploring Scotland and getting to know our neighbours while we enjoyed being hot in Barcelona.

It was incredibly hot, there was a reason the Barcelonians wanted to escape to Scotland, but we enjoyed making friends with their kitten and chilling out in their gorgeous home in the day time, going out in the evening when the heat was more tolerable to explore gorgeous Barcelona.

Things we loved most were: 

Seeing La Sagrada Familia - we didn't go inside because the kids didn't want to, but there's a great play park behind it where we watched parrots fly and admired the building.

Shopping around Las Ramblas - so much fun and lots of silly little shops. The area has a reputation for pickpockets but we were fine with our purses tucked away.

The CosmoCaixa museum - this was a fantastic visit, we adored the museum which had so much to do and to interest the kids and us. BTW it's a science museum with some awesome live animals too.

Anyhow, with all that time that we were hanging out in the house waiting for the temperature to come down a bit I did bucketloads of writing, including writing Sonnet 404 which appeared in the first issue of 404 Ink's Magazine, and writing this poem about our experience of Barcelona which appeared in Allegro Poetry's travel special in December last year.

Cosmo Caixa

Clearly a mistake
to leave the cool green,
admittedly wet,
summer of soggy,
beautiful Scotland.
Exchanging our home for another
in August heatwave-heavy

We lived like vampires.
Hiding in shuttered rooms
from infernal sun.

Emerging at dusk
to a city alive with people:
hearts beating fast
as sweat evaporates
in sweltering dark.

A gorgeous mistake.
Catalonian colour and vibrant lights.
Layers of truths told
in art and architectural splendour.
In the light of the fountain
the kids danced
for wind, for green,
for the rain's sweet kiss.

Thinking about it now, I'm wondering how I managed to get all that writing time. There's always more time when you're in someone else's house! Today I've been trying to write this and get the house tidied up and I've been distracted by one thing or another all day! Tomorrow will have to be the day we get the house tidied up... or I could just pretend that I'd tidied it and the kids have trashed it again - it's going to happen anyway!

I'm sharing this poem with Prose for Thought (I'm afraid I can't find the picture link thing), because I haven't joined in there for ages (for so long that I've lost track of when it is!) and with The Prompt, because although our Barcelona experience was odd, it was very happy indeed, and happy is the word of the fortnight.