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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35 thoughts on “IRISH THANKSGIVING

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Thank you. It’s good to know that my own peculiar viewpoint resonates with others from time to time.

  1. Roger Baker-Utah

    I felt like I was right there with you, drawn into parents’ ecstatic arms, pushing past frantically delighted dogs, feeling the hopes and aches of Celtic centuries in the fog upon the abbey, searching for and finding your past, and your future, as you walk to the lake, your cuffs drenched with dew, but your gaze level, upward. Someday . . .

  2. charissagrace

    Reblogged this on Charissa's Grace Notes and commented:
    I am stunned by this poem.
    The beauty, the longing, it tears at my heart with the things that were, and no longer can be, the things that are and soon will be the things that were and can no longer can be…

    and hidden there, in the borders between the words…the things that are Coming.

    Please, Constance, read this slow and savor it…and then again. Melissa, I am so very grateful for this poem.
    Much love and much respect!

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Charissa, very moved by your response, and glad that it resonated with you. Thank you for letting me know, and for reblogging it.

      1. charissagrace

        So I have read this several times now, and am hearing the harmonics, and resonances are starting. I genuinely admire this poem, and I nearly always find myself enthused with your work.

        This though…so so very very special

      2. charissagrace

        This is even better today… Okay, so are parents and doggies ghosts of Thanksgiving Past you great as you come to administrate the estate? Doesn’t have to be of course, but I read it that way this morning and ohhh wowsa the layers unfolding

      3. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

        One of the highest aims of a writer is to strike a chord with the reader–make a connection with the reader’s own imagination so that the writing takes on a life of its own. I’m very flattered that this poem has spoken to you. I appreciate you letting me know, Charissa.

  3. Argus

    I love those shots. And your wording adds to the whole. My guess is that you were quite alone when you took them—and all was magic.

  4. Judy Pedersen

    Begin forwarded message:

    > From: Cheryl DeVine > Subject: Fwd: Controversial 640MW Power Plant in Our Back Yard > Date: January 6, 2016 at 6:03:35 PM EST > To: PHILIP PODMORE , Lynn Hallahan , Lisa Wolfe , John McNally , Joanne Mannino , Joanne Castagna > > This is IMPORTANT…..for everyone living in Orange Cty. Please forward to every neighbor & friend you know in the area! > > Cheers, Cheryl DeVine > >> >> >> ———- Forwarded message ———- >> From: Elizabeth Knight >>


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