Mary Palmer

by Geoff Hall on June 29, 2016

June 2016 – Mary Palmer

The Group logo designed by Barry Dunnage

The Group logo designed by Barry Dunnage

It’s 7 years since our friend Mary Palmer left us. She died from cancer a day after my birthday in 2009. We were both born in that most glorious of years, 1957. I was 10 days older than Mary and indeed still am!

 

I met Mary through some mutual friends and somehow we hit it off. Maybe being born into a year of National turmoil – there was a National Strike in ’57 – meant we shared something in common. It’s interesting that we are both poetic souls.

 

Just before she passed on, to a much better place, I went to see Mary and we talked about sharing a common faith and spiritual grounding, although at that time Mary’s was more mystical and Celtic than mine. It seems I am now being led in the same direction.

 

Our discussions were broad and included being alienated because of our artistic ‘leanings’, seen by some to be worldly & sensual and no doubt devilish too. We talked about filmmaking and part of our conversation appears is in her poem ‘The Way’, published by Awen Publications in her final book, ‘Tidal Shift’.

Mary Palmer, 'Tidal Shift', published by Awen Publications 2009.

Mary Palmer, ‘Tidal Shift’, published by Awen Publications 2009.

Mary left me with an encouraging word, that I should  rise above the naysayers, those who at times undermine our confidence as artists and want us to “stay grounded, forget the sky”. (‘Grace’, p144.) Mary wanted me to soar like the gull. Her poetry eroded the boundaries we allocate to things like spiritual and physical, sacred and secular. She knew there were no such divisions; no duality in her understanding of the world. Mary told me that I ‘had what it takes’, not to forget it and that I should press on regardless.

 

It stirs within me the words of another mystic poet, Rumi,

 

‘As you start out on the way, the way appears. As you cease to be, true life begins. (from The Big Red Book, p408).

 

As a fellow artist, I hid these things in my heart. They have stayed with me, nestled away from the abrasiveness of the ‘daily grind’. We’ll see if Mary’s words are prophetic or not in a year or two!

 

Grace

give us the grace

of gulls

 

soaring

over earthbound lives

 

when caged by fear

release us

 

when tired or sick

restore

 

when headstrong, we fight the wind

and crash

 

give us the grace

to fly once more

 

despite voices

that cry

 

‘stay grounded

forget the sky’

 

Mary’s Celtic spirituality meant that she was connected to the earth as well as transcending it. Her word images are metaphors which point beyond our experience of the world around us, to capture a moment, a brief moment of bliss. They are pointedly sensual and I’ve noticed that mystic poets (St John of the Cross comes to mind) always seem to stir the most sensual images and translate their meaning from the here and now, to an eternity of bliss. This is epitomised in the poem ‘Pomegranate’; the sensual qualities of the fruit were revered by none other than King Solomon in his ‘Song of Songs’. Perhaps at heart, he was another mystical poet.

 

Pomegranate

 

Nipples hard as stars

cusps sharp around

a sticky dust of anthers.

 

Tonight, I will let you

gently tear my chiffon veil

 

reveal the chambers of my heart.

A honeycomb of ivory seed

a casket of ruby crystals.

 

You will prise them out

one by one

amber, rose, crimson

 

bittersweet moments on your tongue

gone before you can savour

memory and myth

 

with each seed

you will almost taste me

yet your thirst is never quenched

for still you do not know me.

 

Spiritual ecstasy delivered through sensual ‘memory’ and myth, but even after such experiences of earthly delight ‘you (still) do not know ‘Me’. It isn’t enough, but one day, in the great reunion, we shall drink wine and eat sensual fruits and sumptuous food, sit and listen to the poets, reveal the love we have for our One and Only.

 

As we celebrate Mary this month, please follow the link above to Awen Publications and support a local independent publisher. I shall leave you with words published in Mary’s first book, ‘Iona’, which is also published by Awen.

 

Blessing of the Road

 

May the hills lie low,

May the sloughs fill up

In thy way.

 

May all evil sleep,

May all good awake,

In thy way.

 

And you can see Mary perform at the Tree House here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4jsYJNVTkk

 

Peace,

 

Geoffx

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