Wednesday, August 03, 2005

But is it poetry?

Well, I know it is "free verse". I got to thinking of my mother yesterday. I think of her most days, she has been dead since April 16th, 1971. A long time. She was fifty seven, had been ill with the effects of a malignant melanoma for six years. Having talked to other motherless wains, I don't think we ever get over a mother's death. I write some free verse now and again, but my writing basically is articles for a magazine every couple of weeks or so and the three novels I have written. Well, one completed, on 2/3 of the way there and one about 1/3.
So my poem about my mother is meant to be read aloud, in my voice. It sounds better than it reads, like most songs.


A Bit of Mutton


My mother told me many things,
When breathing deeply of the morning air
As we walked together to First Friday Mass
So our souls would be saved at the last minute.
No matter what we did in between.

Our Lord had promised this, you see.
If we made nine of these First Fridays in a row.
And we did. I don’t remember the masses
I remember our walking and talking
And how we would breathe together.

She would swing her arms and look to the still
Early sky. Breathe, she said, breathe.
It’s good to get the early oxygen into the blood
And leave all the men in the house behind us.
It’s a change for us women to be alone together.


She believed and carried me on the wings
Of her belief in Our Lady first and Our Lord second.
Until the great man behind the red curtain
Told her it was a sin to eat meat on Friday
Even though she was expecting her last.

She was forty-three then, saying she was thirty-nine
And had an irresistible craving for the meat.
She was outraged she told me, that this
Young pup of a priest could tell an aging
Expecting woman her soul was damned.

Forever, she said to me, in spite of the
Nine First Fridays, for eating a piece of meat.
She would burn in hell for all eternity.
How could he know, this young pup,
Of varicose veins and a tired swollen body?

Life is a terrible mystery, girleen,
I don’t know what to make of it at all
I just can’t make sense of him telling me that,
Me old enough to be his mother, that I was
Now damned and going to hell for a bit of mutton?

I got up and walked out of that box so I did.
I did not want the penance or the forgiveness
For this great sin. I walked all the way out the door
And came straight home this past Saturday
And I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.

MM - August 1st, 2005

For me, the poem captures the idiocy of the Catholic Church in Ireland at the time, the precious moments spent between the mother and daughter but most of all the spirit of my mother, dimly realizing something is drastically wrong here and entrusting this knowledge to her fourteen year old daughter. This could not have been shared with a man.

I am struggling with a poem about hearing one's own voice for the first time, shedding the voices of parents and children, siblings and lovers, partners and friends. It is coming together, I continue to work on it.

I have a fear of poetry, mine I mean, as so many people write really bad poetry and insist on giving it to one, not for a critique per se but applause. And the poetry is usually dreadful. And you don't know what to say to them. So I hesitate to offer it, but maybe on a blog someone willl see it and be honest with me.So over and out from The Rock, where each star hovers overhead in its own starlight and that airplane crash in Toronto seems far away, but miraculous nevertheless.

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