'Will You Taste Some Irishness?' II (2003)

Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 10:57 pm
Oh, I see. When I got to that database query page I was sure I was lost. This time I clicked on ... LIFE (I think) and got somewhere.
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New Haven
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2003 07:29 am
1000 years of Irish Poetry!

How different the world would have been without the Irish! God bless and keep the Irish for always! Mr. Green
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Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2003 09:00 am
New Haven

Amen to that.
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Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2003 09:26 am
For today, March 11 2003
a poem by Frank O'Connor a.k.a. Michael O'Donovan:

'On The death of His Wife'

I parted from my life last night,
A woman's body sunk in clay:
The tender bosom that I loved
Wrapped in a sheet they took away.

The heavy blossom that had lit
The ancient boughs is tossed and blown;
Hers was the burden of delight
That long had weighed the old tree down.

And I am left alone tonight
And desolate is the world I see
For lovely was that woman's weight
That even last night had lain on me.

Weeping I looked upon the place
Where she used to rest her head -
For yesterday her body's length
Reposed upon you too, my bed.

Yesterday that smiling face
Upon one side of you was laid
That could match the hazel bloom
In its dark delicate sweet shade.

Maelva of the shadowy brows
Was the mead-cask at my side;
Fairest of all flowers that grow
Was the beauty that has died.

My body's self deserts me now,
The half of me that was her own,
Since all I knew of brightness died
Half of me lingers, half is gone.

The face that was like hawthorn bloom
Was my right foot and my right side;
And my right hand and my right eye
Were no more mine than hers who died.

Poor is the share of me that's left
Since half of me died with my wife;
I shudder at the words I speak;
Dear God, that girl was half my life.

And our first look was her first love;
No man had fondled ere I came
The little breasts so small and firm
And the long body like a flame.

For twenty years we shared a home,
Our converse milder with each year;
Eleven children in its time
Did that tall stately body bear.

It was the King of hosts and roads
Who snatched her from me in her prime:
Little she wished to leave alone
The man she loved before her time.

Now King of churches and of bells,
Though never raised to pledge a lie
That woman's hand - can it be true? -
No more beneath my head will lie.
(FRANK O'CONNOR - translation from the Irish-)

For more on Frank O'Connor go to:

and . . .

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Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2003 10:33 am
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Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2003 11:40 am
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Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2003 01:20 pm
The Irish in Australia:

Most of the early poets in Australia were of Irish descent, and wrote of their longing for the home country. Others wrote with quite a good eye and wit, of Australia and the differences they found. This rhyme, was written by the Irish/Australian priest who lived in the area that my family came from, and was an acquaintance of my grandfather. This is a bit different to jjorge's poems, but quite typical of that era in Australia.


- P J Hartigan ("John O'Brien")

The bishop sat in lordly state and purple cap sublime,
And galvanised the old bush church at confirmation time;
And all the kids were mustered up from fifty miles around,
With Sunday clothes and staring eyes and ignorance profound.
Now was it fate, or was it grace, whereby they yarded too
An overgrown two-story lad from Tangmalangaloo?

A hefty son of virgin soil, where nature has her fling,
And grows the trefoil three feet high and mats it in the spring;
Where mighty oaks uplift their heads to pierce the welkin's rim,
And trees sprout up a hundred yards before they shoot a limb;
There everything is big and grand, and men are giants too -
But Christian Knowledge wilts, alas, at Tangmalangaloo.

The bishop summed the youngsters up, as bishops only can;
He cast a searching eye around, then fixed upon his man.
But glum and dumb and undismayed through every bout he sat;
He seemed to think that he was there, but wasn't sure of that.
The bishop gave a scornful look, as bishops sometimes do,
And glared right through the pagan in from Tangmalangaloo.

"Come, tell me, boy," his lordship said in crushing tones severe,
"Come, tell me why is Christmas Day the greatest in the year?
How is it that around the world we celebrate that day
And send a name upon a card to those who're far away?
Why is it wandering ones return with smiles and greetings, too?"
A squall of knowledge hit the lad from Tangmalangaloo.

He gave a lurch which set a-shake the vases on the shelf,
He knocked the benches all askew, up-ending of himself.
And oh, how pleased his lordship was, and how he smiled to say,
"That's good, my boy. Come, tell me now; and what is Christmas day?"
The ready answer bared a fact no bishop ever knew -
"It's the day before the races out at Tangmalangaloo."

There is a John O'Brien festival happening this weekend in Narrandera, the town where he was long the parish priest, and the source of much of his writing.

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Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2003 01:44 pm

Thanks for the poem and the link. Fascinating!
I liked the poem. It's very 'musical'.

The festival sounds like a great time. I'll be right over! (I wish)
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Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2003 02:47 pm
How interesting, Margo, Irish-Australian poetry. Great humor there. I like saying that place-name, Tangmalangmaloo. Fun.

Jjorge, I'm still not over the Tuesday poem. What a sad, sad thought, but then I read O'Connor had a widow; he wasn't a widower. Wonder where all that emotion came from?
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Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2003 06:00 pm
Fairies and Doyle:

In July 1917, two young Yorkshirewomen played a practical joke which was to have far-reaching consequences. Their photographs of themselves with 'fairies' were accepted as genuine by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and were the subject of speculation for over 60 years, until the two women revealed the truth.

Elsie Wright was 16 in the summer of 1917. A former art student who had worked as a photographer's assistant, she lived with her parents in the village of Cottingley, near Bradford. Her 10-year-old cousin, Frances Griffiths was staying with the Wright family for a summer holiday, along with her mother. Young Frances was repeatedly told off for coming home with her clothes wet after playing in a stream which ran through the woods near the Wright's home. When her mother asked her why she spent so much time there, she replied that she went there to play with the fairies.

Intrigued by her cousin's story, Elsie borrowed her father's camera one afternoon. When she helped her father Arthur develop the pictures she took, his first comment was, "You've been up to summat"(1), for the first picture apparently showed Frances with five fairies. In September Elsie borrowed the camera once more, and Frances took a picture of her with a 'gnome'. Not surprisingly, Arthur refused to lend the girls the camera again.

The family regarded the photos as a joke until 1919, when both girls' mothers attended a Theosophist meeting in Bradford. The lecturer mentioned fairies, and Frances' mother, Annie told her about the photographs, asking if they could possibly be genuine.

This was the heyday of 'spirit photography', a bizarre phenomenon in which unscrupulous photographer made large amounts of money by producing photographs of the sitter accompanied by a other-worldly 'spirit' or the 'ghost' of a relative who had died in the war. Popular knowledge of photography was limited at this time, and most people did not know that such pictures could be produced by a simple double exposure. Many Spiritualists were led to believe that the camera could 'see' what the human eye could not.

Against this background, a wide range of people began to take Elsie's photos seriously. Eminent Theosophist Edwin L Gardner took up the case, and submitted the photos to several photographic 'experts', including Kodak, who refused to give a certificate of authenticity, commenting that, "they must have been faked somehow"(2). In their eagerness to prove that the negatives had not been tampered with, Gardner ignored the possibility that it was the 'fairy' figures themselves which might be fakes.

In June 1920 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle heard of the pictures, and wrote to Gardner asking permission to use them for an article in the Strand Magazine, and offering the girls money. They eventually received £20, a considerable sum in 1920. At this point, Doyle claimed to be 'on his guard' about the photos (3). There was talk of getting Elsie to sign affidavits or swear on the Bible that the photos were genuine. Understandably, she refused to do either.

A supposedly clairvoyant friend of Gardner's, Geoffrey Hodson visited Cottingley in July and August 1920 in the hope of seeing the fairies. Both Frances and Elsie later said they had enjoyed teasing Mr Hodson by taking him for woodland walks during which they pointed out non-existent 'fairies' - which he then claimed to have seem as well! (4) The young women produced three more 'fairy' photographs, all taken when no-one else was present. Gardner did not regard this as suspicious, believing that the fairies were shy and would not show themselves in the presence of an adult male (5). Elsie later said that one of these photos took her by surprise. It was an unintentional double exposure and was so effective that even she could almost believe it genuine.

Doyle's article, accompanied by photographs, appeared in the Strand in December 1920, prompting a cynical reviewer in John O'London's weekly to remark that "It is easier to believe in faked photographs than fairies".(6) However, for years after the article appeared, Doyle and Gardner were inundated with letters from other people who also claimed to have seen fairies.

Both men were widely ridiculed for their credulity. One of Doyle's biographers comments that "even those who had kept an open mind about spiritualism and Doyle's involvement in it were driven to speculation about Doyle's mental state when in 1920 he became the prime propagandist in the cause of fairy folk."(7) Even the girls' own families were skeptical. Elsie later said that "My poor Dad was very much disappointed in his favorite [sic] detective writer, Conan Doyle. I heard him say to my mother, 'May, how could a brilliant man like him believe in such a thing?'"(8)

Doyle and Gardner both wrote books about the photographs. With belated caution, Doyle began his book by commenting that its contents, "represent either the most elaborate and ingenious hoax ever played upon the public or else they constitute an event in human history which may in the future appear to have been epoch-making in its character"(9).

The truth was revealed over 65 years later when an author, Fred Gettings, accidentally stumbled across almost identical pictures of the 'fairies' (shown above) illustrating a poem in a 1915 children's anthology, Princess Mary's Gift Book, which by a strange coincidence also contained a story by Conan Doyle himself. Another illustration to the poem showed a young girl playing with a fairy, and may well have been Elsie's inspiration. Ironically, the book's publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, later published Conan Doyle's book on the Cottingley Fairies, but no-one in the firm seems to have spotted the similarity between the illustrations.

In an interview given to The Times in April 1983, Elsie then explained how she had produced the photos. Waiting until her parents were out, she had copied fairy pictures from the book and mounted them on cardboard. For the photographs, the figures had been fixed in place with hat-pins.

Why was Conan Doyle so easily fooled? In many ways, he was a victim of his own assumptions about age, class and gender. He told the eminent spiritualist Sir Oliver Lodge that "two children of the artisan class" were incapable of such "photographic tricks" (10). He was wrong on all counts. Elsie, the prime mover in the hoax, was not a "child": she was a young woman old enough to have children of her own, and had been earning her own living for some time. She was an artist, not an "artisan", and the "tricks" were later proved to involve no photographic skills whatever.

Doyle seems to have regarded intelligence and trickery as the prerogatives of middle class males, and was unprepared to find such attributes in two working-class women. He had not investigated the girls' backgrounds closely, and was unaware that Elsie had worked as a photographer's assistant until the Westminster Gazette gleefully revealed the fact in 1921(11).

The fact that the girls were young and pretty undoubtedly helped the hoax. It was a commonplace of spiritualism that adolescent girls and young women were often 'psychic'. Victorian spiritualism abounded with personable young women who enjoyed lucrative careers as mediums, attracting a clientele who were largely middle-aged, middle-class and male (12). Doyle was a victim of his own prejudices.

Fortunately, not everyone was as credulous as Doyle and Gardner. One contemporary commentator, J.E. Wheelwright, put objections into verse:

"If you, Sir Conan Doyle, believe in fairies,
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Reply Thu 13 Mar, 2003 02:10 pm
For Thursday 3-13-03, two poems by Valentin Iremonger:


Talking to her, he knew it was the end,
The last time he'd speed her into sleep with kisses:
Achilles had it in for him and was fighting mad.
The roads of his longing she again wandered,
A girl desirable as midsummer's day.

He was a marked man and he knew it,
Being no match for Achilles whom the gods were backing.
Sadly he spoke to her for hours, his heart
Snapping like sticks, she on his shoulder crying.
Yet, sorry only that the meaning eluded him.

He slept well all night, having carressed
Andromache like a flower, though in a dream he saw
A body lying on the sands, huddled and bleeding,
Near the feet a sword in bits and by the head
An upturned, dented helmet.
(Valentin Iremonger)


'Clear View in Summer'

Heavy with leaves the garden bushes again
Sun, and the trees admire them, lazily.
Cabbages and carnations, drills and beds of them, droop tiredly
And far away the hills, like dry dogs, crouching, squeal for water.
Love, who is it whispers everything is in order
On this summer afternoon, when nothing moves, not even the
flis, strangely,
as we relax by the lawn, here under the pear-tree, watching idly
The leaves declining, the shadows surely lengthen.

But it won't be always summer - not for us; there are bad times
When you and I will look with envy on old photographs,
Remembering how we stood, there in the sun, looking like gods,
While the days of our lives, like fruit, swelled and decayed,
And how, by the lake,
Its surface, one August evening, unchipped, walking, we laughed
As love slipped his arms through ours and we gladly followed
The path he showed us through life's valley running.

There'll be much to recall then, when, like wet lake summer
The days under our tread don't rustle, no other summer waiting
Around the turn of a new year with rich clothes to grace us
Whose subtle beauty will have long since languished;
And Nature's flashing greenness will stitch up our hearts with
Each day when August with sunlight riddles the branches, the
leaves taking
Voluptuously the south wind's caresses
Year after dying year.

And yet the declension of each following season, each day's
defection, splits open our hope only and not our courage, safe
and sound
In the deep shelter of our awareness; the bushes and tall trees
Flourish and go down unconsciously in defeat
While full-grown man, whose pride the angels weep,
Watches love itself gutter out some dull evening, nobody around,
Winter moving in, no fuel left, the lights not working, the lease
Unrenewable, summer a seldom-remembered scat-phrase.
(Valentin Iremonger)

For more on Valentin Iremonger go to:
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Reply Thu 13 Mar, 2003 11:16 pm
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Reply Fri 14 Mar, 2003 04:07 pm
Two 'bonus' poems for Friday 14 March 2003:


Still south I went and west and south again,
Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,
And far from cities, and the sights of men,
Lived with the sunshine, and the moon's delight.

I knew the stars, the flowers, and the birds,
The grey and wintry sides of many glens,
And did but half remember human words,
In converse with the mountains, moors, and fens.

For more on J.M. Synge go to:


'She Walked Unaware'

Oh, she walked unaware of her own increasing beauty
That was holding men's thoughts from market or plough,
As she passed by intent on her womanly duties
And she passed without leisure to be wayward or proud;
Or if she had pride then it was not in her thinking
But thoughtless in her body like a flower of good breeding.
The first time I saw her spreading coloured linen
Beyond the green willow she gave me gentle greeting
With no more intention than the leaning willow tree.
Though she smiled without intention yet from that day forward
Her beauty filled like water the four corners of my being,
And she rested in my heart like a hare in the form
That is shaped to herself. And I that would be singing
Or whistling at all times went silent then,
Till I drew her aside among the straight stems of beeches
When the blackbird was sleeping and she promised that never
The fields would be ripe but I'd gather all the sweetness.
A red moon of August would rise on our wedding.

October is spreading bright flame along the stripped willows,
Low fires of the dogwood burn down to grey water --
God pity me now and all desolate sinners
Demented with beauty! I have blackened my thought
In drouths of bad longing, and all brightness goes shrouded
Since he came with his rapture of wild words that mirrored
Her beauty and made her ungentle and proud.
Tonight she will spread her brown hair on his pillow,
But I shall be hearing the harsh cries of wild fowl.
(*Patrick MacDonogh 1902-1961)

* I'm sorry that I have not been able to find a biographical link for this poet
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Reply Fri 14 Mar, 2003 04:29 pm
Great, Jjorge... amazing poems -- so much depth of thought. That Six foot drop really gets ya, doesn't it??

And the last of the bonus poems? What a story in that!
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2003 07:35 am

Glad you're enjoying the poems. I've saved some of the best for last.

Stay tuned. jjorge
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2003 07:54 am
Your 'Taste of Irishness' for today is from John Hewitt. (two poems)

'The Ram's Horn'

I have turned to the landscape because men disappoint me:
the trunk of a tree is proud; when the woodmen fell it,
it still has a contained ionic solemnity:
it is a rounded event without the need to tell it.

I have never been compelled to turn away from the dawn
because it carries treason behind its wakened field:
even the horned ram, glowering over the bog hole,
though symbol of evil, will step through the blown grass with

Animal, plant, or insect, stone or water,
are, every minute themselves; they behave by law.
I am not required to discover motives for them,
or strip my heart to forgive the rat in the straw.

I live my best in the landscape, being at ease there;
the only trouble I find I have brought in my hand.
See, I let it fall with a rustle of stems in the nettles,
and never for a moment suppose that they understand.
(John Hewitt)


'Substance and Shadow'

There is a bareness in the images
I temper time with in my mind's defence;
they hold their own, their stubborn secrecies;
no use to rage against their reticence:
a gannet's plunge, a heron by a pond,
a last rook homing as the sun goes down,
a spider squatting on a bracken-frond,
and thistles in a cornsheaf's tufted crown,
a boulder on a hillside, lichen-stained,
the sparks of sun on dripping icicles,
their durable significance contained
in texture, colour, shape, and nothing else.
All these are sharp, spare, simple, native to
this small republic I have charted out
as the sure acre where my sense is true,
while round its boundaries sprawl the screes of doubt.

My lamp lights up the kettle on the stove
and throws its shadow on the whitewashed wall,
like some Assyrian profile with, above,
a snake, or bird-prowed helmet crested tall;
but this remains a shadow; when I shift
the lamp or move the kettle is gone,
the substance and the shadow break adrift
that needed bronze to lock them, bronze or stone.
(John Hewitt)

For more on John Hewitt go to:

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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2003 11:57 am
These last two are some of the best! I particularly love "The Ram's Horn" as it reflects the way I feel. I did look at the links and found John Hewitt's notes on buying art to be so amusing, it was worth sharing them here. Hope you don't mind that they aren't poetry, Jjorge!

Notes on the Art of Picture Buying

Never buy a picture because it reminds you of a place where you once
spent an enjoyable holiday. A photograph is cheaper.

Buy pictures to feed your soul, as Hafiz** nearly said.

Avoid the derivative repetitive artist. If he's not perpetually enriching
his own experience he can't possibly enrich yours.

If an artist solves your imaginative or aesthetic problems you ought
to solve his financial problems.

Reproductions are referential data for students.

Wouldn't you like to have been the first to buy a Monet or a Matisse?
Take a chance now!

What was good enough for your father is just too bad.

Buy a picture before its painter becomes famous.

Sculpture lasts.

Have something in your house made by a human being for a human

** Who is Hafiz? A poet!
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2003 03:42 pm

I too loved 'The Ram's Horn'. My appetite is whetted by a taste of Hewitt.

This Irish sojourn has introduced some wonderful poets.I started with four anthologies, but liked the individual poets so much I've already ordered and received three new volumes*.

Thanks for pulling out Hewitt's 'Notes On The Art of Picture Buying'. I had passed over it. I'm glad you didn't.

And Hafiz! . . . . . Great detective work!
I had never heard of him but I followed the link and read every poem. So now, we've got ANOTHER poet to taste and savor! (anguished delight)

PATRICK KAVANAGH, 'Collected Poems' The Norton Library, New York, 1973.

EAVAN BOLAND, 'An Origin Like Water', Collected Poems 1967-87.
Norton and Co. New York 1996.

SEAMUS HEANEY, 'Collected Poem's 1967-1987', Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 1990.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2003 04:11 pm
'Bonus Poems' for 3-15-03:

"The Sightseers"

My father and mother, my brother and sister
and I, with uncle Pat, our dour best-loved uncle,
had set out that Sunday afternoon in July
in his broken-down Ford

not to visit some graveyard -- one died of shingles,
one of fever, another's knees turned to jelly --
but the brand-new roundabout at Ballygawley,
the first in mid-Ulster.

Uncle Pat was telling us how the B-Specials
had stopped him one night somewhere near Ballygawley
and smashed his bicycle

and made him sing the Sash and curse the Pope of Rome.
They held a pistol so hard against his forehead
there was still the mark of an O when he got home.
(Paul Muldoon)

For more on Paul Muldoon go to:




He would drink by himself
And raise a weathered thumb
Towards the high shelf,
Calling another rum
And blackcurrant, without
Having to raise his voice,
Or order a quick stout
By a lifting of the eyes
And a discreet dumb-show
Of pulling off the top;
At closing time would go
In waders and peaked cap
Into the showery dark,
A dole-kept breadwinner
But a natural for work.
I loved his whole manner,
Sure-footed but too sly,
His deadpan sidling tact,
His fisherman's quick eye
And turned observant back.

To him, my other life.
Sometimes on the high stool,
Too busy with his knife
At a tobacco plug
And not meeting my eye,
In the pause after a slug
He mentioned poetry.
We would be on our own
And, always politic
And shy of condescension,
I would manage by some trick
To switch the talk to eels
Or lore of the horse and cart
Or the Provisionals.

But my tentative art
His turned back watches too:
He was blown to bits
Out drinking in a curfew
Others obeyed, three nights
After they shot dead
The thirteen men in Derry.
PARAS THIRTEEN, the walls said,
BOGSIDE NIL. That Wednesday
Everyone held
His breath and trembled.


It was a day of cold
Raw silence, wind-blown
Surplice and soutane:
Rained-on, flower-laden
Coffin after coffin
Seemed to float from the door
Of the packed cathedral
Like blossoms on slow water.
The common funeral
Unrolled its swaddling band,
Lapping, tightening
Till we were braced and bound
Like brothers in a ring.

But he would not be held
At home by his own crowd
Whatever threats were phoned,
Whatever black flags waved.
I see him as he turned
In that bombed offending place,
Remorse fused with terror
In his still knowable face,
His cornered outfaced stare
Blinding in the flash.

He had gone miles away
For he drank like a fish
Nightly, naturally
Swimming towards the lure
Of warm lit-up places,
The blurred mesh and murmur
Drifting among glasses
In the gregarious smoke.
How culpable was he
That last night when he broke
Our tribe's complicity?
'Now, you're supposed to be
An educated man,'
I hear him say. 'Puzzle me
The right answer to that one.'


I missed his funeral,
Those quiet walkers
And sideways talkers
Shoaling out of his lane
To the respectable
Purring of the hearse...
They move in equal pace
With the habitual
Slow consolation
Of a dawdling engine,
The line lifted, hand
Over fist, cold sunshine
On the water, the land
Banked under fog: that morning
I was taken in his boat,
The screw purling, turning
Indolent fathoms white,
I tasted freedom with him.
To get out early, haul
Steadily off the bottom,
Dispraise the catch, and smile
As you find a rhythm
Working you, slow mile by mile,
Into your proper haunt
Somewhere, well out, beyond...

Dawn-sniffing revenant,
Plodder through midnight rain,
Question me again.
(Seamus Heaney)

For more on Seamus Heaney go to:


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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2003 05:53 pm
One last bonus poem for today:


I would not write a lament for you.
A requiem for you, a song for you,
I would not twine a remembrance for you.
I do not think sweetly of you, of your
Past kindness, past pleasures, past lies.

I am not biding my time for you, not repining
For you, you cause me no more the sleepless nights.
For I have killed you. I have dried you up.
Anger I have for you.
With anger I have washed our pain.
Sweet healing hanger opening my eyes on you.
Seeing you, without the love blur in them.
Tears now pillars of salt.

Could call curses on you, spit on you,
Laugh at you, but I just smile at you,
Leave you alone. Climbed free of you
Away from the power of you the hold of you
The grip of you the hurt of you from
Feeding the need of you, filling you.
Bringing gifts to you. Bringing strengths
To you. I turn my power on you,
I shine that fierce light on you, you cannot
Move or run. Caught in my full beam
Only I can unleash this moving thing.
You cannot understand it you cannot know it
But you can feel it under your brain;
Rabbit you, caught in my glare.

Clear of you, clean of you
Swept of you, no more bereft of you,
My kisses not for you
No words for you
No sweet looks for you
No look over my shoulder for you.
Turn my heel on you, my back to you.
I have no lack of you. It is you
That is to be pitied now.
(Anne Le Marquand Hartigan)

For More on Anne Hartigan go to:

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