|Me and mum at Ardara Show last summer|
The first of these came at a writing workshop in Sligo many years ago. After some pre-reading and discussion, the exercise was to write of a parent-child relationship. Cue my mum and my Aunty Mo, their trips to Lough Derg, fuschia bushes, goats, old cars on blocks, lots of Coole memories melted into one long summer and in the middle the inevitable tumbles on gravel lanes, the nettle stings, the tears as cuts were cleaned and dressed. The first poem is a revised version of the results of that exercise that I have returned to a few times to try and say something of the tremendous, simple lessons of how to love and nurture that my mum has taught me. It’s likely impossible to write the pure love poem I want to write her but I’ll keep trying.
Hands picked us up when we were small,
soft hands with veins we could squeeze,
wearing a wedding ring like a plumber's fitting.
They dabbed cotton wool on our knees, our elbows,
squeezed water clouded with Dettol
over the palms we’d put down to break the fall.
Now wrestling my screeching boys’
wriggling resistance after a tumble,
as I push up grit-torn sleeves and trousers
and tug a little hand or knee under the tap,
I hear my mother’s voice:
It’ll hurt far more if you don’t let me clean it.
And I am stilled for the longest moment,
proud and afraid that I have become her.
Every temperature I take, every hurt I kiss
I do all the better for she showed me the way.
I know what the value is, the worth
of love, of mother, of home.
The second poem came from Garden Room Writers’ homework this spring. The exercise was to write about some favourite thing. It’s an odd favourite but I wrote about my obsession with line and stanza breaks. It’s only a little re-arrranged (deranged) from what came out in the exercise.
I torture my line ending, scream at her.
Where is this going to stop? I yell.
It’s one of two choices, (that’s one choice,
she offers before I stare at her)
And we can spend nights at this before agreeing
only to pick scabs open in the morning
I carry her on my walk and as I empty the dishwasher
What do you want from me? she asks.
Yes, my lines are female,
women’s lines spilling over fashionable waistlines
and the lines of modesty.
My lines are sagging clotheslines
and slack guitar strings that can’t achieve a true note
but twang their own anti-melody.
They squawk and honk
and furl and unfurl like slipped stitches.
And my lines bear in them the held back
and the fucked up. The regret and the letting go.