Monthly Archives: November 2014

IRISH THANKSGIVING

DSCF9559I step from one world into another
Like a bather setting my toe in the icy Atlantic on a June day.
It is a painful transition
And yet once the gut is sucked in with a sharp inhale of breath
My horizon shifts and it is palatable.

I step into the damp air of an Irish morning,
Tang of salt and mud off the Shannon estuary,
Strong whiff of cow manure. I know I’m home.

The navy suit and general greyness of the men at the passport desks is expected.
One takes my passport and in a soft Galway accent—
you would be forgiven for thinking the fella had a marble rolling around in his mouth
says to me, Ah you must be David and Sally’s daughter. Tell your parents I was asking for them.

I am at once comfortable with the scale of things:
Four steps to the luggage belt, a few more and you’re out the door
into the waving arms and hurrying faces and cries of delight.

I drive the Shannon to Galway road
Sun at my right elbow shuddering into existence over the horizon to the east.
I think of Dublin 200 kilometers away, my birthplace and rooting of my soul.
Haven’t been there in years,
And like the thought of meeting a childhood friend
it fills me with pangs of horror and awe—
how could you change so much, and not at all?

But back to the driving. In the stone-walled fields along the road
Sheep and cattle, already on the move,
search for the first dollop of creamy winter sunlight to caress them,
stroke the night’s chill out of their bones, and who can blame them.
The long November grass is bowed down with a rime of hoar frost.

Heading north, smoke rises from the odd chimney,
a few cars on the road this Sunday, off to early mass,
but mostly I’m on my own.
Sleeping towns left to the rooks and grey crows, scavenging on the verge.
A pair of swans fit for a ballet, necks kissing reflections on the surface of a lake.
Sheep, and more sheep,
And piebald, shaggy-hoofed horses in rough fields, more marsh than grass.
I have the radio tuned to the local requests show,
still playing the horrendous hits from my 80’s teenage years.
I am a traveler through a strange land of rebuilt memories.
Before my eyes the landscape, the smells, the sounds – that jackdaw-
Are a time lapse photograph.

A scene plays out—corner of my eye—a nativity:
under a bare beech tree the cow stands with her calf and attendants,
burnished like some godlike being, fit to be kneeled in front of.
The old abbey is draped in pearly morning fog,
awash with a light that would do Monet proud.
I remember why this is a fairytale land.

My parents are out on the gravel to greet me before I’ve gathered up my wits,
dogs barking like the half-witted maniacs they are.
We gush through the front door all bags and whisking tails and exclamations.
I step into the bright kitchen, moments of calm reign sipping tea
—ah the taste of a great lump of yellow butter sliding across a piece of toast—
and talking of the journey and the weather and the latest gossip.
My eyes follow the birds fluttering around the feeders,
At once alien and yet ordinary
The greenfinch, blue tit, bullfinch; still remember the names.
My father has the usual complaint,
Bloody magpies, always bullying the others.

My feet crunch the brittle grass and leave dark footprints
On the path to the lake.
I brush past brambles burred with frost,
dried seed heads, orbs of frozen dew, lit up like Christmas baubles by Herself.
Ducks explode out of the reeds with raucous quacking,
beating at the water in panic.
A flash of iridescent blue is the kingfisher
perched in the alder at the end of the pier for a second
before torpedoing on up the bay.

I draw in cold, moss scented air. Re-acquainting myself.

Tomorrow I’ll start the work of clearing out the attic—
blowing dust and dead flies off forty years of family stuff.
But until then, I’ll revel in the familiar, and give thanks.

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THESE HANDS

DSCF9362These hands–
they hold
and push
and pull
and eat
and give
and slap
and dig
and stir
and knit
and write
and carry
and punch
and caress
and grasp
and pluck
and stroke
and grip
and make love
and cling
and release
and wave
and cradle
and wash
and feed
and clap
and hug
and soothe
and let go.

TAMING A ROBIN

European_Robin_Singing-1Ten, and half in love
With a boy in a book.
He had the gift
The gentle way to tame
A bird or timid creature.
Like him, I fancied I could
Win the confidence of a bird.

Common or garden,
The robin did me no favors
His curiosity, age-old
Had him poking his beak
In gardeners’ business
Long before my time.
Still, I flattered myself
He liked the lilt in my voice
And the soft whistle through half grown teeth.

With the patience of a heron
I stood unmoving
In blackberry scented air,
Hand outstretched with
Crumbs for a peace offering.

Cocking his head on one side

He hopped

            And hopped

                        Tossed aside a fallen leaf

            Pretending business

One beady black eye on me
All the while.
He came so close
I could see
The fluttering of his red breast—
And no closer.

He sought me out
The next day and the next.
Down at the beech tree
We grew quite chatty
The pair of us . . . never understanding a word the other said.
I wonder if he boasted
In the hedgerow
Of the strange human child
He’d managed to beguile
With his soft chirps and bright eyes.

SUNDAY MORNING, WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK

DSCF8564Two rings sit
On warm black granite
Bathed in Sunday morning sunlight.
What drama played out
Under cover of darkness—
A broken heart,
A broken dream?
And why not toss those rings
Into the fountain
To symbolize
The end,
A new beginning?

Such curiosity
Would not be
Provoked
By a pair of sneakers,
Or a scarf,
There would be
No need
To recreate the story.
But the ghost
Of Saturday night
Lingers in the air
Like perfume.DSCF8573