The heather like pork belly cracked
underneath my feet –
The horizon like nougat,
meltedits pastel line at the heat edge
blue fading to white light.
We stacked rows of little
houses for bog fairies –
wet mulchy sods
evaporating under our small palms.
Crucifixtions of dry brittle crosses
formed the skeleton –
my narrow ankles parallel to them.
Coarse and tough like the marrow of the soul,
like the skeltons crucified under the peat.
The turf will come good
my father said
when the wind blows to dry it.
We dragged ten-ten-twenty bags
with the sulphury waft of cat piss,
along a track dotted
with deep black bogholes,
over a silver door,
like a snail’s oily trail
leaving a map for the moon,
for bog fairies to dance on the mushy earth.
And behind the door once upon some time
old women sat in black shawls
bedding down Irregulars
and putting kettles on to boil
for labouring girls.
But I was gone.
I was dragging Comrades from the Somme
I was pulling Concords in line with Swedish giants
I was skating on the lake in Central Park
I was crouched in the green at Sam’s Cross
I was touring Rubber-Soul at Hollywood Bowl
I was marching on Washington with John Lewis
I was in the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe,
he was squatting on my lap with his lens,
swearing to God to Janis Joplin I could find her a shift,
nothing is impossible when you blow like that girlfriend.
I sang Come As You Are in Aberdeen with union converse,
petrol blue eye liner and mouse holes in my Connemara jumper.
I was anyone but me
I was anywhere but here
We rushed to hurry before the summer light would fade
because animals needed to be washed and fed –
And turf needed to be stacked –
And all the code talk of our youth
would be said behind our hands.
Because light was the ruler as it closed in around us,
like the dark on the workmen deep in the channel tunnel that night.
The black light killed the purple heather –
Yet I danced on the crackle in the dusk –
I crackled on the dust in the heather –
My dance on the heather turned to dust.
Mass will be said for no more bad language and gambling and wanking that the Athenry boys are doing, down the back of the castle, down the back of the couch, all the punching and hitting and groaning, moaning at the Turlough boys, the Clarinbridge boys, the boys from Killimordaly, down the back of the Presentation grounds.
There will be mass when you lose at the Galway Races
and for the saving of your soul if you take the boat to Cheltenham.
There will be a mass for when the horse runs, and when the horse dies, and for the bookies who win and the punters who win,
and the bookies who lose and the punters who lose.
There will be mass for hare coursing and flask-filling.
There will be mass for your Inter Cert and your twenty-first,
There will be a filling-out-your-CAO-form mass.
Mass will be held in the morning before the exams, mass will be held in the evening for your bath.
There’ll be a special mass on Saturday afternoon for your Granny. There will be a mass for your Granny’s boils and aches and black lungs and ulcers and spots and diabetes and psychosis.
There’ll be a mass for the anointing of the bollix of the bull above in the field near the closh over the railway bridge.
Mass will be held before the College’s Junior B Hurling Final, it will be held for the Connaught Cup Junior A Regional Final
in wizardry and sarcasm.
Mass will be held on top of the reek for the arrogant and meek, and the bishop will arrive by eurocopter. There will be a mass to get him up in one piece and back in one piece.
Masses will be held in the outhouse.
Mass will be held for the safe arrival of new lambs and the birthing of ass foals.
Mass will be held in your uncle’s sitting room but his neighbours will be envious and later stage a finer mass.
There will be a mass to find you a husband, and a few masses to pray he stays.
There will be a good intentions mass. Your intentions if they’re good will come true. Mass will be held for your weddings and
wakes and when you wake up.
Mass will be held for the Muslim conversion.
Mass will be held for George Bush.
Mass will be held for the war on terror.
Mass will be held for black babies and yellow babies and the yellowy black babies.
Mass will not be held for red babies. They have upset Pope John Paul.
Mass will be held for your brother when he gets the meningitis from picking his nose. Mass will be held for your cousins when they stop going to mass.
Mass will be held for the harvest and the sun and the moon and a frost and a snow
and for a healthy spring and red autumn, for a good wind and no wind, and for a good shower and a dry spell, and for the silage and the hay and the grass and the turf.
There will be a saving-of-the-turf day. There will be a saving-of-the-hay day. There will be a saving-my-soul day.
There will a mass for the fishing fishermen.
There will be multiple masses for Mary around August when she did all the appearing.
There will be a good mass when the statue cries rusty tears. There will be a good mass and a great collection.
Mass will be held for the cloud people.
Mass will be held for apparitions and anniversaries and weddings and baptisms.
Mass will be held to church your sinned body after giving birth, there will be mass to wash your unclean feet.
Mass will be held for all your decisions so you don’t have to blame yourself.
There will be mass for the poor dead Clares.
There will be mass for the Black Protestants if Paisley allows it. Mass will be held for the De Valera’s and the Croke Park goers.
There will be a mass for the conversion of the Jews (and their collection).
There will be a mass for the communion class, there will be a mass for the no-name club non-drinkers. There will be a giving-up-smoking-the-Christian-way mass.
There will be a mass for the Christian Angels, only Christian ones.
There will be no mass for your freedom, but the air will be pea sweet and the sky will clear.
Mass will not be held for the souls of your gay sons.
Mass will not be held for song-and-dance makers, the apple cart topplers.
There will be no women’s mass.
There will be no mass solely by women for women. Your daughters will not hold mass.
There are strict rules for these masses.
The Radio Was Gospel
I had a Granny who used to tell me
with large fat sweaty hugs,
that I was her favourite,
she loved the long limbs of me.
But all of us were and none of us were
and children can smell that love and lies.
These are dangerous lessons.
Our mother’s lessons took
longer to learn.
Early in September
she walked us home,
small children by the hand,
miles and miles and miles
taking a long road to Mountain North –
with its marshes and branches,
we thought she had gone mad.
I rushed and picked blackberries
before they would rust and shoved them deep to the cave
of my tupperware beaker.
Her radio was gospel, the
mechanical throat in our kitchen.
the sea-weather, the promise –
knots and winds and waves
from Carnsore to Oranmore,
from Mizen and Malin.
Gay and Nell and all the
Mondays at Gaj’s females
sat at our kitchen table
and saved mothers
from multiple labours.
And while they’d still cook the dinner –
they’d educate their daughters.
And when I was pregnant
and asked about labour,
she weeded out my flowerbeds,
washed my windows,
changed the beds,
for that stretching could snap the red
cord around a small neck.
When I married she gave
me jam-jar advice on sex.
Nothing is easy, as I am a mother
balancing on a
fulcrum of rage and love,
and loss and ends.
A brittlehoneycombed foundation.
When I would die from brainclotfear,
she swore if I stroked,
she’d help me to sleep
deep in Switzerland,
dressed in decent clothes.
My daughter is sick,
she would say
but she will be ok,
she would say.
And all the weeds
choking the roses,
the endless sheets of polythene plastic,
covered over by fresh chipped
bark in our front garden.
Now I sit on her bed
and trace my finger over her books
and clothes and bits of ends,
photos of her grandkids.
She’d love good rings, she tells me.
But she has virtue
in powerful proportion,
and diamond rings
and emerald things
come at some cost.
We salted the guts from the blackberry fruits,
then made blackberry tarts.
And busy insects ran wild in the red red water.
These days together,
are her chattels,
they are her rings
and diamond things.
This is our love.
Copyright © Elaine Feeney 2013