Rory Brennan Books Ireland
Susan Roney O’Brien Poet
Ethna McKiernan has been twice awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board grant in poetry. Her first book, Caravan, was nominated for the Minnesota Book Award and her work has been widely anthologized, including in The Notre Dame Book of Irish American Poetry, 33 Minnesota Poets, and more. McKiernan holds an MFA from Warren Wilson Program for Writers. Her fourth book, Swimming With Shadows, was published by Salmon Poetry (Ireland) in 2019. McKiernan works in Street Outreach for a non-profit serving the Minneapolis homeless population. In an earlier life, she was CEO of Irish Books and Media, Inc., a school bus driver, and a grape picker in France.
What to praise but the ordinary –the ant burrowing in sidewalk sand,kitchen faucet that no longer drips,pink bee balm from the gardenfringed like spiky fireworks,all the words on the page of this book,the halleluiah clouds floating in today’s sky,that sharp garlic smell wafting from the pan,red postage stamps with jazz notes and poets,the eagle’s nest on my street by the river,a pealing laugh heard anywhere;your arms, which once circled minein benign sleep; the sunrise that beckons usto wake daily and begin again.
It’s August and we’re hurtlingtoward November, even asthe glory burst of fall colours lies ahead.Light rolls slowly backward nowwhile days shorten. Shadows grow.
Eyes closed now,the constellations areeveryone I’ve ever loved –family, friends, poets dead and alive,the child next door, my homeless clientson the Greenway in their tents, even the freckled guyat the grocery store with the kind smile.They are my relatives, my light –
One day you finally left,Sailing your boat straight into the caveOf America’s open arms;Feeling the wind no monsterThere, after such lean dreamsAs you had culled from Irish soil.
Mama Mór, I stand here nowWhere you once stood,The unchanged land beneath my feet,Certain that my bones are formedFrom that same airThat made your bones first stir.But the old heritage breeds a different pain in me:A stranger to both countries,I cannot make my roots take hold;Can only stand and hear the seaReturn the poems that you’d willed itAs a child, while the windRaises ghosts behind me.
At daybreak they leftfor the hour-long coffee they sipped at Denny’s,then the library, warm,where she played Solitaireas he searched on Craigslist once againfor jobs. Later, a bus ride to the terminaland back on the 16Afor a nap.Come eveningdread raised its whip again,Can’t do it no more.
Honey, hold on, hold on,we have socks and glovesand we’ll be back tomorrowwith bus tokensand another Band-Aidfor your sorrow.