Grieving in May | 1.

May is a lovely month, with lilacs and hawthorn in bloom, and buttercups and other wild flowers blooming in abundance. But for me, it is a lonely month. Three of my immediate family are gone, father, mother and sister. I rarely remember the anniversaries of their deaths, but as two of their birthdays were in May, I think of them every day and try to have a quiet time to think and remember. This poem is for my father, the first to go.

Grey church humped in dusk

We huddle, linked

Wispy rain-curled fringes

Cold fingers

Avoid the avid glances

Of the neighbours

Here is the hearse

The priest in white, hand aloft

Accustomed to the rites

Calls him Gerard – but

His name was Jeremiah

Strange cousins

Twice and thrice removed

Clamour to shake hands

And kiss

Anticipating whiskey

He’d have hated this.

Advertisement

SEASCAPES from Minus One

  1. Midnight, and the pale moon palely     

Lighting up the worm beds on the beach.

We hoked them out, threw them wriggly into buckets.

Damp knees in the damp sand.

Uneasy in the stillness, watching for the yellow hair of fairies,

Hidden in the tide, their voices from another world.

That white beach an other world itself

That sent me home a changeling

Waiting to reclaim myself.

2. Barely rose, pearly in the dawn,

An angry sea throws spray across the wall,

Wrecks the boats tied up beneath the lighthouse on the pier.

Its flashing light lights up the summer picnic island.

Foam spuming flying, keeping all indoors.

Seaweed stranded on the road like giant insects.

And I, an elemental on a swing, lick my salty lips and

And watch the sea for Manaman, its King.

A little Shakespeare for a warm, sunny morning.

On my daily walk along the river, there is a particularly warm spot, whatever way the river turns, or the shelter the trees provide, or the corner of the path – whichever. I always stop there for a moment, and today, this sonnet came into my mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor loose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

I learned this off by heart at school, and still remember it.

ÉALÚ BINN | SWEET ESCAPE from Minus One

When I was a girl, a long time ago, most people had very strict parents, and I remember so well, the feeling of being squashed and kept down – it was just how things were then. Every Summer, we went to an Irish College in Donegal. The first time I went, I was fourteen, I fell in love with everything about those holidays, and Donegal is still my favourite place.

Wet Sunday afternoons

Micheál Ó hEithir full-voiced

My father leaned to hear

Forbidding us to talk

We kept our heads down

Read our Enid Blytons

Visits to relations

Sit straight with ankles neat

Weak tea, not quite hot

Men who would be jolly

Women with their blouses

Buttoned to the nose

Restless, teenage years

Stultified, depressed

Hemmed in by the iron will

Of parents bent on purity

Chips at the harbour wall

A mortal sin

But ah – August in The Rosses

Let loose among na buachaillí*

Blood-red cheeks and sparkling eyes

Mascara thick and black

And lipstick for the céilí –

Bhí gaeilge fíor mhaith againn!**

     *the boys

**We were very good at Irish!

Oscar’s Grief

I hear the river

rushing to the sea

onwards always,

splashing over hidden rocks

and weirs,

foaming down the falls.

I tread the river path,

smell the warming earth

and grass. Wild flowers

compete with lilac’s

nodding heads and

sweetest hawthorn

These things which Oscar mourned,

shut away from light and air,

more precious in his mind

than freedom.

Cloister

Some days I wish I’d been a nun

Cloistered, curtained by the hanging

Green of trees, pale apple green, serene cloak.

Measured days and nights,

Paced from hour to praying hour.

No pride no lust no greed no lies,

No loss no gain no pain no strife,

But peace, pale apple green, serene

Soft poultice on the quick of life.

“My Sorrow” from Minus One

So now I know and

Must accept my fate

The sear of ice is

Burning in my breast

I have tried to quench it

With the gasping taste

Of whiskey

With new distractions

I have tried to warm

My blood

Suicide wouldn’t suit me

I fear the gaping hole

Of hell

But ah, to be old and

Mindless

My wretched mouth

All gums and grins

The ice dissolved at last

In drools and dribbles.

LANDSCAPES from Minus One

1.Tied by mortal feet

to an inland place,

I would be one of

Lir’s unhappy swans

blown across the wintry

straits of Moyle

This bland wind has

no taste, no smell.

It sweeps down fiercely

from the hills

and knocks the heads

off blooms already dead.

2. Heedless of the

grey, polluted air

the whins blazed.

I gazed and saw them

shine above the singing

northern sands.

Some bastard

burned them down.

The skinny twigs are twisted

black and crumbling.

Street-locked and bereft

I am left to suffocate.