Ireland in October

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Ireland in October

Post by dedalus » Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:28 am

This is admittedly a rewrite of an earlier poem which can be found at the link on the PG site below. Poems need to be shoved into a drawer for a few years to age and mature like good (Irish) whiskey. Then you pull them out again and see what can be done. Especially if you believe in them ... in+October

Fierce rain
lashes hard against the windows
and so we pull across the curtains,
letting the evening draw in,
add a few more sods of turf
to the warming fire, nurse
our generous drams of single malt.
Then we listen to, for no human soul can ignore
the half-human shrieks
of the wild Atlantic winds.

I stand there silent, pensive, a visitor.
How I loathe this godawful place!
And I don't really know, says Uncle Liam,
how much of it you understand.

Upstairs, follow me,
here in this whitewashed cottage,
planted, perversely,
on the edge of nearly nowhere,
sits a four-poster bed
with sagging springs
in a room no longer used
nor visited, occupied now
by dust and sepia photographs,
wherein the procreative urge
unleashed five generations.

The pounding rain, the heartless wind,
now as in all times past
and in all the coming times to be,
derides aspirations,
mocks any faltering
sense of connection.

On the bedroom wall
housed in an ancient frame
is a faded stitching sampler:
"God Bless Our Happy Home",
piously, and it would seem, uncertainly
accomplished, but by her own hand,
by Emily May MacCarthy
on October 20, 1843.
She was the fifth of eleven children
and one of the six
who starved.

In later photographs, dapper
gentlemen with large moustaches
stare into the unforgiving lens
with set expressions
of puzzled defiance; they pose
quite stiffly, among rather tasteful studio
backdrops: a small side table,
a pillar or two, some potted palms.
James Boyle Roche. Photographer.
15 Bridge Street. Ennis
is stamped within an oval
in the corner: the building
still exists, the ground floor
is now a fast-food restaurant.

Wedding couples,
equally unrelaxed, stare
sightlessly from the past;
their eyes view mine across a canyon
of mutual incomprehension:
I could not even begin
to understand these people.
He sits, she stands,
and she places a tentative
pleading hand
upon his rigid manly shoulder.

There is another
strangely out-of-place picture
of my great-great-uncle Marteen,
shot dead in the civil war.
A cocky 24-year-old
with a cheeky grin:
he is brandishing
an enormous revolver
and smoking a jaunty cigarette.
I can tell from the look of him
we could have had a drink,
could have easily cut through
the damp lace-curtain piety,
the respectability, the fear.

But the rain will have none of it:
it comes down in buckets, cascades:
you will never never
never be free, it says:
not in this country, you will
never be free.

Liam is uncharacteristically
subdued, even embarrassed:
he shifts from foot to foot, in front
of the warm and blazing fire.

Upstairs. no need to return,
there are so many old photographs
here and there on the dresser,
even more on the sideboards:
cloche hats on smiling elegant women,
baggy suits on the gents, all caps and hats;
they grin and squint into the harsh sunlight
of long forgotten days, sporting
fashionable, very shortened neckties:
my unknown, my all but unknowable
dead ancestors.

A flicker of sympathy,
not recognition, slips through:
a threnody of regret.

Listen, I think I'm going to bed,
it's been a really long day, I say.
Liam frowns. An awkward
silence ensues: Emmmm ...
Listen to me. There's something
I really need to tell you.
It's about the family ....


It will keep for another hundred years
Last edited by dedalus on Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ireland in October

Post by ennui » Thu Feb 06, 2014 2:16 am

I love the atmosphere you create in s2-4. Awkwardness, still musty dust, and that rain being brought back into focus the way it happens when we forget to hear it for awhile. I think the 'we' in the first few lines of the poem contradicts the outsider sense that we later get of the narrator that makes that atmosphere even better. I wouldn't like this idea if it were my poem, but I think it would make more impact if its heart were to be the atmosphere I described earlier and it were cut shorter to let that speak and then hang in the air. I see two poems in it - the photographs standing on their own. Starting with 'a flicker of sympathy' I like the end, but alternately think I would like it without the last two lines as well.

There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen

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Re: Ireland in October

Post by nottslinnet » Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:32 am

Ah, Coleridge's Dejection transposed to Ireland. Interesting stuff.

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Re: Ireland in October

Post by dedalus » Sun Feb 09, 2014 6:50 am

Dear ennui & nottslinnet,

I don't believe we've "met" before, so ... Hello! Many thanks for the comments. Yes, it still needs a bit of work!!

Best wishes,
dedalus (Brendan)

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Re: Ireland in October

Post by David » Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:49 am

I think you got it right last time, Bren. I know the changes you've made aren't sweeping, but all they do (I think) is diffuse the power of the original. (I've been comparing them closely.)

The original, as you'll see from that thread, I thought was great.



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Re: Ireland in October

Post by dedalus » Mon Feb 10, 2014 6:10 am

Maybe so, Dave. Always tinkering (with the good ones, anyway).
Cheers, Bren

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